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Lazarus of Bethany, also known as Saint Lazarus or Lazarus of the Four Days, is the subject of a prominent miracle attributed to Jesusin the Gospel of John, in which Jesus restores him to life four days after his death. The Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions offer varying accounts of the later events of his life.
In the context of the Gospel of John, the narrative of the Raising of Lazarus forms "the climactic sign... Each of Jesus' seven signs illustrates some particular aspect of his divine authority, but this one exemplifies his power over the last and most irresistible enemy of humanity—death. For this reason it is given a prominent place in the gospel."
The name Lazarus (Latinised from the Hebrew: אלעזר, Elʿāzār, Eleazar—"God is my help") is also given to a second figure in the Bible: in the narrative of Lazarus and Dives, attributed to Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. Also called Dives and Lazarus, or The Rich Man and the Beggar Lazarus, the narrative tells of the relationship (in life and in death) between an unnamed rich man and a poor beggar named Lazarus. While the two characters named Lazarus have sometimes been conflated historically, they are generally understood to be two separate characters. Allusions to Lazarus as a poor beggar taken to the "Bosom of Abraham" should be understood as referring to the Lazarus mentioned in Luke, rather than the Lazarus who rose from the dead in John.
In referring to John's account of the resurrection of Lazarus, the name Lazarus is often used to connote apparent restoration to life. For example, the scientific term "Lazarus taxon" denotes organisms that reappear in the fossil record after a period of apparent extinction; and theLazarus phenomenon refers to an event in which a person spontaneously returns to life (the heart starts beating again) after resuscitation has been given up. There are also numerous literary uses of the term.
- 2 Additional traditions about Lazarus of Bethany
- 3 Liturgical commemorations
- 4 Conflation with the beggar Lazarus (of Lazarus and Dives)
- 5 Order of Saint Lazarus
- 6 Lazarus as Babalu Aye in Santería
- 7 In culture
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
The biblical narrative of the Raising of Lazarus is found in chapter 11 of the Gospel of John. Lazarus is introduced as a follower of Jesus, who lives in the town of Bethany near Jerusalem. He is identified as the brother of the sisters Mary and Martha. The sisters send word to Jesus that Lazarus, "he whom thou lovest," is ill. Instead of immediately traveling to Bethany, according to the narrator, Jesus intentionally remains where he is for two more days before beginning the journey.
When Jesus arrives in Bethany, he finds that Lazarus is dead and has already been in his tomb for four days. He meets first with Martha and Mary in turn. Martha laments that Jesus did not arrive soon enough to heal her brother and Jesus replies with the well-known statement, "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die". The narrator here gives the famous simple phrase, "Jesus wept".
In the presence of a crowd of Jewish mourners, Jesus comes to the tomb. Over the objections of Martha, Jesus has them roll the stone away from the entrance to the tomb and says a prayer. He then calls Lazarus to come out and Lazarus does so, still wrapped in his grave-cloths. Jesus then calls for someone to remove the grave-cloths, and let him go.
The narrative ends with the statement that many of the witnesses to this event "believed in him." Others are said to report the events to the religious authorities in Jerusalem.
The Gospel of John mentions Lazarus again in chapter 12. Six days before the Passover on which Jesus is crucified, Jesus returns to Bethany and Lazarus attends a supper that Martha, his sister, serves. Jesus and Lazarus together attract the attention of many Jews and the narrator states that the chief priests consider having Lazarus put to death because so many people are believing in Jesus on account of this miracle.
The miracle of the raising of Lazarus, the longest coherent narrative in John aside from the Passion, is the climax of John's "signs". It explains the crowds seeking Jesus on Palm Sunday, and leads directly to the decision of Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin to kill Jesus.
It is notable that Lazarus is the only resurrected character in the Bible (besides himself) that Jesus personally refers to as "dead." The Daughter of Jairus, whom he resurrected at another time, was said by Jesus to have been "sleeping."
A resurrection story that is very similar is also found in the controversial Secret Gospel of Mark, although the young man is not named there specifically. Some scholars believe that the Secret Mark version represents an earlier form of the canonical story found in John.