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Crotch Examined 02

Why don’t the synoptic gospels mention Lazarus?


Ryan Leasure is a Frank Turek wannabe and contributing author on the latter’s website CrossExamined.org. While we are by no means saying that Frank Turek is the most intelligent Christian apologist around, Ryan Leasure can only aspire to be half as smart. In his article under the above title question, Leasure tries to counter the skepticism towards the bible’s alleged inerrancy… and fails.


Right from the start, his title shows how little even “well read” Christian apologists know about their holy scribblings. His article is so obviously wrong, that taking it apart is like stealing candy from a kid. Let’s start with his opening statement (numbers added):

“Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead is one of the most well-known stories in the Gospels. (1.) Yet, for some reason, Matthew, Mark, and Luke don’t mention it. (2.) This head-scratching absence has raised a lot of doubts about its historicity. After all, this story seems too significant to leave out. (3.) As you can imagine, skeptics think John made it up. (1.) But could there be a good reason that the earlier Gospels left it out?”


  • (3.) Yes, and for good reason. We will see why right away as we count down to point one. Rest assured, it will be a short ride.

  • (2.) It certainly has and again, for good reason. But Ryan will be scratching his head a lot more when we go for the kill in point 1.

  • (1.) Lo and behold, one of the synoptic gospels mentions Lazarus. In Luke 16, verses 19 to 31, Lazarus is a character in one of Jesus’ parables. The closing statement in this parable, verse 31 is a very tantalizing topic in its own right, but we will come back to that in a different article.

Has Ryan Leasure followed any of the research published in the field of biblical history the last hundred years? Or is he simply ignoring what the scholars have to say about all aspects of the New Testament; its history, composition and development? Has he even read his own bible? If he did, then he must have put on some very specific blinders that conveniently made him oblivious to the passage in Luke that contradicts his ‘question’ from the get-go.




We already referred to the raising of Lazarus in both Luke and John in our post “https://www.isalahat.com/post/nothing-special-about-jesus”, but let’s address the point here briefly.

The gospel of John is quite dissimilar from the other three in its narrative. It hardly devotes any attention to Jesus’ physical life or Jesus having become a human being, but is completely centered on his being god (Mark is the other end of that spectrum, where there is but the slightest hint of Jesus being divine). The later the gospels, the more embellished and fantastical they become. The resurrection of Lazarus in "John's gospel" is a clear example of that. While in Luke’s gospel the character of Lazarus is but the object of a possible resurrection by intermission of Abraham with god, John juxtaposes Jesus with Abraham who is a defining character of Judean identity. In the parable given by Luke, Abraham doesn’t even contemplate raising Lazarus from the dead (whether given authority and power to do so or not). In John however, Lazarus is turned into a “real person” to illustrate that Jesus is not only capable of raising the dead back to life, but that he himself is the authority to allow and enable such a miracle. He doesn't need anyone's permission: not Abraham's and not even his own Father in heaven.


If you cannot see the myth building that goes on here, and it is but one example, then it is because you don’t want to see it. This willful blindness is of course a prerequisite of being a Christian: you have to ignore the evidence to sustain belief.


After his opening statement, Ryan goes into a lengthy argumentation as to why none of the other gospels mention this miracle. His case is solely built on the idea of protective anonymity. To condense this argument in a few words: the others gospel writers leave this miracle out because Lazarus was in a witness protection program. By the time John composes his epic fantasy, that protection is no longer needed because Lazarus had died for the second time. His entire article already “Titanic’d” with the title, but we can shorten Ryan’s end struggle by giving a few coups de grace.


“If we are right to believe that the pre-Markan passion narrative intentionally kept people anonymous for their protection, we could understand how it would leave Lazarus out of the story altogether. […] Lazarus was a thorn in the side of the Jewish leaders because he was convincing Jews to become Christians by simply walking around. Because Jewish leaders continued to persecute the early church for decades, this early passion narrative had to leave him out of the story altogether for his own protection.”


  1. Note that in his entire article, Ryan doesn’t mention the parable in Luke at all. Evasive tactics, lying by omission, or is Ryan trying to protect John from Luke?

  2. If Lazarus needed to be left out for protection in Mark, Luke and Matthew, why do the same three authors do not leave out the resurrection of Jair’s daughter? Wouldn’t she be a thorn in the authorities’ side by simply walking around?

We could elaborate, but it’s clear that we sunk Ryan’s Titanic twice over already. Of the three Abrahamic religions, it isn’t always clear which house is built by which piggy. Either way, you can blow all three houses in by using their own bible as bellow. In this article, Ryan Leasure clearly features as the first little piggy that tries to build a house of straw but doesn’t even know what to cut the straw from. Sometimes Christians try to confuse you with scientific sounding word games, philosophy and sophistry. They wield fancy titles and unintelligible philosophical constructs that fly over most people's heads. Yet Ryan Leasure’s apologetics is so pathetic that other Christian apologists should apologize for making them all look foolish.


Richard Dalet PHD, June 15, 2021

 

Notes, sources, references:




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