Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Lazarus is used as a symbol in the bible in relationship to the believer of Christ. Lazarus if he is the ‘Beloved Disciple’ then a possible interpretation on the symbolism of Lazarus is that he represents the mature Christian. Another way of saying this is that he represents what God wishes us to become. Wardlaw deals with arguments concerning the resurrection of Jesus and the dead in his book. In it he suggests that the transformation of the Christian is part of the resurrective process of life. Here resurrection is a state of becoming. (See Chapter 4 in this book for more details).#
Lazarus is used as a witness for Jesus and is used in the context of the other Gospels as a major facet in the cause for Jesus being crucified. As already discussed, this issue is sometimes misinterpreted. Another issue that goes hand and hand with this one is the issue of the ‘Beloved Disciple’ as mentioned above. If Lazarus was that important and was the so called ‘Beloved Disciple’ then why did it take so long for Jesus
# - Wardlaw, 128ff. (Loosely Paraphrased)

to arrive on the scene? In the NIV Bible Commentary there is a statement that says that Jesus took four days to arrive on scene and resurrect Lazarus.# This leads into the main viewpoint of which Lazarus is seen as symbolizing in which the majority of scholars have taken but seem to differ on the way they see it.
Lazarus is also viewed as a symbol of Christ’s resurrection. Also, in conjunction with Lazarus being used as a symbol of Christ’s resurrection , Lazarus is also viewed as a symbol of the resurrection of believers or eternal life. Fairhairn discusses the Greco-Roman views of resurrection on pages 338-339 in Typology of Scripture. In this book, it is evident that Lazarus is used symbolically in a way to illustrate true resurrection as opposed to the heretical interpretations of resurrection taught in John’s day. Ramsey and his co-author’s say that: “before his death Jesus and his disciples were spared the Problem that has bothered men ever since, even down to the recent publication of a teacher in this (Niebuhr’s) school, the relationship of a resurrection conceived as a historical event to future theological belief.” # Lewis goes on to put the theme of Lazarus in a different light: “the Raising of Lazarus differs from the Resurrection of Christ Himself, because Lazarus, so far as we know was not raised to a more glorious mode of existence, but merely restored to the sort of life he had before.”#
Lazarus’ effect on culture beyond the biblical context can be found in the
# - Barker, 324. (Loosely Paraphrased)

# - Ramsey, 91.

# - Lewis, 180.

relationship between the readers and their interpretation of the text. This is an extension of the biblical context and leads into the context of application of the biblical text. The Lazarus figure is a symbol outside of his biblical usage which is particularly evident in poetry and in the way we view are Christian life. An example of Lazarus being utilized as a way of viewing our Christian life is how we have nothing to fear about death because Christ has been there and conquered it and will be there for us when it is our time to face death. This is one of the reasons why Lazarus (the symbol) was important in his day as well as ours.
The symbolic figure of Lazarus was important in biblical times and is just as important in today’s time, because of this device’s effect on the readers and those who heard the Lazarus narrative. The usage of this device varies from biblical times compared to our times though with not much difference in the main emphasis of the symbol. The Lazarus narrative is mainly seen as a metaphor for the resurrection of the dead on both sides of the time spectrum---meaning the past and now. One way that Lazarus as a symbol is expressed now is through the literary, musical and visual arts.

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