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21. AMPLIFICATION OF THE STORY OF LAZARUS ON THE BASIS OF LK.

But instead of instituting general inquiries into such a tradition, we will at once show by examples how we may very easily think of the matter. We do not by any means assert that it must really have so happened; it is quite sufficient if it may have so happened. We will start again with the most instructive story in the Fourth Gospel, that of the Raising of Lazarus. His name reminds us of the parable in Lk. (xvi. 19-31), in which a Lazarus appears by the side of a rich man. At first sight the two narratives seem to be radically different: in Lk. we have before us a figure in a parable, in Jn. a real person; in Lk. a poor and sick man who after his death is compensated for his sufferings, in Jn. a man for whom neither sufferings nor compensation come in question. But the two figures have at any rate one point of contact. The rich man in Lk. (xvi. 27-31) in his torment wishes Abraham to send Lazarus back to earth to warn the brethren of the rich man. Abraham 113answers, “they have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.” The rich man objects: “Nay, father Abraham, but if one go to them from the dead, they will repent.” Abraham, however, decides that “if they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one rise from the dead.”

Let us now imagine this parable to have been discussed in a sermon. It is not difficult to conjecture what may have been said. The brothers of the rich man who have Moses and the prophets are, of course, the Jews. The preacher had thus a most excellent opportunity of proving the truth of Abraham’s concluding words, to the effect that even one who had risen from the dead would not induce them to repent. Jesus had actually risen, and, notwithstanding, the Jews, with trifling exceptions, had rejected his preaching, though so many heathen had accepted it. Now if Lazarus, in answer to the request of the rich man, had been sent back to earth to preach to his brethren, he would have been made to do in the parable what, according to the belief of Christians, Jesus in reality did by his resurrection. If the preacher reckoned on his hearers possessing some intelligence, he may perhaps, with raised finger, have continued the parable thus: “as a matter of fact, Lazarus has risen, and the brethren of the rich man have not listened to him.” Some hearer who had not understood the delicate meaning of this turn it may even have been a woman hearer—then went home, we may further imagine, and said: “To-day the preacher said that Lazarus has arisen.” “Really, such a thing I have never heard.” “But he said so without a doubt.” “Who awakened him then?” “He did not say that. But who should have awakened him, if it was not Jesus himself?”

In this way the kernel of the narrative in Jn. was 114provided: Lazarus has been awakened by Jesus. And without any idea of deception or forgery, without even any censurable indulgence in phantasies, but purely from a very excusable misunderstanding! We need not go on describing further how one little feature after another may have, now and again, been added. Let it suffice that this may very well have happened; and again without any idea of deception, but purely with the idea that the thing cannot well have happened in any other way. For instance, what was more natural than that Lazarus, before his death, should have been ill, and that Jesus should have been informed of this? If we only imagine a sufficient number of people contributing to the story, and adding one detail after another, the Fourth Evangelist in the end need only have dotted the i’s, so to say, in order to get the story in due form into his book.

This consideration is by no means unimportant. It relieves him of the charge of having himself invented the whole narrative. Certainly we could not shrink from making this charge, if the attempt we have made above, to explain the matter differently, might not be considered successful; for the fact that Lazarus was not awakened, we do not now, after all that has been said, need to prove. In fact, we should have to ask ourselves whether this reproach of having invented the whole narrative would really be a reproach, since quite certainly we could not reproach the preacher in question with it, if, relying on the intelligence of his hearers, he carried the parable of Lk. a step further and said, Lazarus has arisen. But we have preferred our own theory because it has enabled us to assume that the raising of Lazarus was “delivered” to the Fourth Evangelist as a real miracle, and because we can understand better how, at least in many passages of his book, he could 115attach so much importance to the fact of this and the other miracles having really happened (p. 20 f.).

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