My childhood church once had a preacher who was a big surprise to us. He was from Alabama, had a deep southern accent, and an outgoing gusto that was a bit much for my conservative congregation. We adapted and soon came to like him. He had another surprise for us. He was a super scholar in Aramaic acquired at Hebrew Union. You never know.
There are Christian scholars who can outdo Jews in the study of their texts, and reveal the true content of their agenda. Dr. Michael Hoffman is such a one. I came across him while seeking references to Babylonian- Jewish influences on the story that Jesus told about Lazarus and the rich man.
I have come to believe that this story--a condemnation of the rich and their treatment of the poor--is not a parable of Jesus and is not so labeled in the Bible. Rather Jesus used a rabbinic story originating years before His earthly ministry began. It's structure is a mirror held up to the corrupt Jewish people of His day. People who later would crucify Him. It is not a map of hell, or a guide to a mythical afterlife.
I am presently writing to a man of faith who fervently believes that the bodies of the unsaved dead are taken to hell upon death, based on this story. He has passages in double caps--his version of shouting on the Internet--to make his point. In reply I asked if he believes that the graves of the wicked are empty, as their bodies are being tormented in hell. Can a human body be in two places at one time?
I believe in Biblical literalism, but there are times when it does not apply. Walter Martin asked if, when God is said in the Bible to be a mother bird spreading His wings over his people, are we to take this literally? The Babylonian captivity as origin of the story in Luke answers the problem of literal-versus-nonliteral interpretation. This is a side issue in Dr. Hoffman's debate--one that I have raised.
My best friend asked if Jesus would quote such a Babylonian source. I thought of Paul quoting pagan poets (Acts. 17:28).
The evil, murderous content of the Babylonian Talmud shows us the true nature and intent of the Talmud writers and teachers. My beloved True Torah Jews, now a tiny remnant, retain the real heart of Judaism. Some day God will open their eyes and reveal Himself to them. The others--those who would dominate and kill--are revealed by the good Dr. Hoffman.