Why say that a proverbial rich man had five brothers?
In the first century parables were a well developed art form. Each word used in a parable, especially in its original language, was carefully chosen to pack meaning into the fewest number of words to facilitate memorization and repetition.
The parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31) is no exception to this rule. Lazarus, whose name derives from a common Hebrew name meaning God Helps, had lain under the rich man’s table with the dogs, hoping to grab a scrap of bread, bread perhaps discarded after wiping grease from a diner’s hands. The rich man remains unnamed throughout the story to facilitate the hearers filling their names into the story. That the rich man still has not learned his lesson becomes evident in his request for Abraham to send Lazarus to bring him a drop of water.
The version of the parable that Jesus told and as recorded by Luke uniquely adds a third scene with few lines of dialog between the rich man and Abraham about sending Lazarus to warn his five brothers. To which Abraham laments that they would not even listen to someone rising from the dead. Obviously an oblique reference to what Jesus would soon do and yet fail to convince everyone.
With so much packed into these few words why mention that the rich man had five brothers seems to be an inconsequential detail. Why not say a brother or some brothers? Or is this detail critical?
I will have more to say about Luke 16:19-31 at 8:15 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, September 25th, 2016 at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
Robert Shaw, Pastor
When I was a teenager I had asked my dad to find a particular record album for the local stores did not yet stock it. While some songs on that album I really liked, others not so much. Today it sits on a shelf with other records gathering dust.
On the other hand, the teddy bear that my grandmother gave me when I was born has a place of honor on my dresser.
Our first lesson this Sunday (1 Timothy 6:6-8) teaches that religion makes our lives rich by making us content with what we have.
What treasure from your childhood still makes you content? Have you told its story with your children?