Keith Hunt - Search for the Apostles - Lazarus - Page Twenty-one   Restitution of All Things

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Search for the Apostles #20



by McBirnie Ph.D.



     Dr.Trever has furnished in ISBE a thorough biography of St.
Lazarus up to the time following his being raised from the dead:

"LAZARUS, laz'a-rus (Lazaros, an abridged form of the Hebrew
name Eleazar, with a Greek termination): Means 'God has helped.'
In the Septuagint and Josephus are found the forms Eleazar, and
Eleazaros. The name was common among the Jews, and is given to
two men in the New Testament who have nothing to do with each
"The home of the Lazarus mentioned in John 11:1 was Bethany. He
was the brother of Martha and Mary (John 11:1,2; see also Luke
10:38-41). All three were especially beloved by Jesus (John
11:5), and at their home He more than once, and probably often,
was entertained (Luke 10:38-41; John 11).
"As intimated by the number of condoling friends from the city,
and perhaps from the costly ointment used by Mary, the family was
probably well-to-do. In the absence of Jesus, Lazarus was taken
sick, died and was buried, but, after having lain in the grave
four days, was brought back to life by the Saviour (John
11: As a result many Jews believed on Jesus, but
others went and told the Pharisees, and a council was therefore
called to hasten the decree of the Master's death (John
"Later, six days before the Passover, at a feast in some home in
Bethany where Martha served, Lazarus sat at a table as one of the
guests, when his sister Mary anointed the feet of Jesus (John
12:1-3). Many of the common people came thither, not only to see
Jesus, but also the risen Lazarus, believed in Jesus, and were
enthusiastic in witnessing for Him during the triumphal entry,
and attracted others from the city to meet Him. (John
12: ("The Intertional Standard Bible Encyclopaedia,"
G. H. Trever, p.1860)


     On the island of Cyprus there is a very firm and ancient
tradition that Lazarus fled from Jerusalem about the year 60 A.D.
     It would seem that this is an unnecessarily late date
although we have little more than tradition to go on in
determining it.
     A pamphlet published by The Church of St.Lazarus in Larnaca,
Cyprus, written by A.Patsides, records the local tradition:

"We do not know the names of his parents, because the Holy
Scriptures mention nothing on this point. The only thing we know
from them is that Lazarus had two sisters, Martha and Mary. Our
Lord visited many times their home in Bethany and it is known
that true friendship existed between him and his family. The
feelings of Christ towards Lazarus are described in the Gospel of
John, where we learn that, when our Lord was informed about his
illness and the death of his friend, He hastened to Bethany and
raised Lazarus from death, giving by this action joy to the
unfortunate sisters, who received such a severe blow by the death
of their brother.
"On account of this incident the Jews searched for Lazarus in
order to kill him, because many people believed in Christ.
Lazarus, to avoid their revenge, was compelled to visit Cyprus
and Citiurn about 60 or 63 A.D., according to an old tradition,
which can be relied upon.
"In Citium, Lazarus became the spiritual leader of the town,
where he was bishop for thirty years. According to the same
tradition Lazarus died in Citium, where his tomb is preserved up
to the present day.
"When Leo the Wise was emperor of Byzantine, the dead body of St.
Lazarus was found and carried to Constantinople (890 A.D.)."
("St.Lazarus and His Church in Larnaca," Ch.A.Patsides, p.2)
     A guidebook about Cyprus, by Robin Parker, which is both
well written and comprehensive, affirms: "According to tradition
St.Lazarus, after he was raised from the dead by Christ, came to
Cyprus where he became the first bishop of the See of Kitium. The
empty tomb, in which the relics of the saint were covered, has
been preserved and may be seen in the floor of the bema."
("Aphrodite's Realm," Robin Parker, p.108 )
     When the author visited the tomb of Lazarus in Cyprus, the
Greek priest there explained that the body of Lazarus had
sometime in the past been moved to Marseilles in France. He did
not seem to know the details nor the date. It is probable, as
Patsides said, that the bones of Lazarus were indeed removed from
Constantinople in the 9th century and taken to Marseilles. The
relics have since disappeared from Marseilles, but there is some
documentation that at one time they were there.
     So firm indeed is the tradition that it opens a question as
to whether Lazarus might not have traveled from Cyprus to
Marseilles and have ministered there? This is not to say he could
not also have eventually returned to Cyprus and died there, but
there is more than a little indication that Lazarus spent some
time preaching in Marseilles. Knowing the typical moving about of
those who lived in the Apostolic Age, one can scarcely raise a
serious objection to Lazarus having ministered in Cyprus, as did
Paul and Barnabas, and then having gone on to Marseilles. But, it
is also not impossible that he may have returned to Cyprus to
retirement and death.
     Later his bones were most surely removed to Constantinople,
and still later returned, not to Cyprus but to Marseilles, with
which he had an early association. J.W.Taylor, who is a
fascinating writer, describes the story of Lazarus in Marseilles
as follows:

"If you land at Marseilles and go by the Quai de Ia Joliette to
the bottom of the Rue do la Cannaiere, and then take any of the
lower turnings on the right, you will find that you are skirting
the older quay of Marseilles, and that as you bear again to the
right and follow the Rue Saints at some little height above the
sea, directly in front of you, on an eminence, is the old church
of St.Victor.
"It has rather the appearance of some old dungeon or fortress
than that of a church, but the church you enter is only of
secondary importance. It conceals something far more interesting
underneath it. A door on the south side of the nave leads down to
a subterranean church, large and lofty, which dates from the
fourth Century. This was built by the Cassianite monks, and from
its position has been untouched and could not well be destroyed
through all the centuries since.
"All this vast fourth-century church has been visibly built
around a still older natural cave or grotto known as the original
first-century church or refuge of St.Lazarus.
"Near the entrance to this is a carving of vine-leaves dating
from the fourth century, and grouped near are old chapels
dedicated to St. ssian, St.Victor and other saints. The bodies of
the saints, however, have been removed. Two sarcophagi stones,
said to date from the second century, were too solid to be rifled
of their contents and still remain.
"The great height of this underground abbey church, its darkness,
its stillness, the few scattered but perfect round pillars
supporting the roof, and the first-centiury chapel which is
enshrined by it, all combine to produce a picture of early
Christian life and architecture, striking and irresistible.
"No explanation that I know of has been, or can be, offered other
than that offered by tradition - that here was the place where
Lazarus of Bethany lived preached and ministered and died, and
that therefore within some two hundred or three hundred years 
afterwards this church was built in honour of his menory and to
enshrine his body which was then present here.
"And all through the ages ever since this faith has been firmly
held, and lives as strong today as ever. If we come back from the
crypt or subterranean church into the (upper) church of St.
Victor, at the west end of the nave, under the organ-loft, we
find a life-sized statue of St.Lazarus, his left hand holding
the crosier, his face upturned to heaven, and underneath the
statue two pieces of stone removed from the old sepulchre at
Bethany out of which our Saviour raised him." ("The Coming of the
Saints," J.W.Taylor, p.188-189)

"Some further reference may be needed to St.Lazarus and to
Restitutus - the man born blind, of St.John's Gospel (John 9).
There was at one time (as we are told by Rabanus) a Life of St.
Lazarus very analogous to that of St.Mary and St.Martha, but
no complete copy of it exists, some fragments only of his "Life"
(which were formerly incorporated in the Office for St.
Lazarus' Day at Marseilles and Autun) Wing been preserved.
"These appear to have been taken from a "Life" which, was written
by the monks of the Abbey at Bethany, a church and monastery
having been erected at Bethany before the ravages of the
Saracens, to guard the tomb from which our Lord was said to have
raised St.Lazarus.
"The extracts, according to Faillon ("Monuments Inedits," vol.
ii, p.114, etc.), read as follows:

"'Tradition states flat St.Lazarus, after the ascension of Jesus
Christ, remained for a time in the company of the Apostles, with
whom he took charge of the Church which was at Jerusalem. After
this he went to the Island of Cyprus in order to escape from the
persecution which arose about Stephen. [This would indicate an
earlier date for Lazarus having come to Cyprus than A.D.60. -
"'Having filled there for several years the office of a
missionary priest, he entered into a ship, and traversing the
sea, by the grace of God arrived at Marseilles, the most
celebrated town of Provence. Here, exercising the functions of
his priesthood, he served God, to whom he had entirely
consecrated his life, in righteousness and true holiness. He
preached the work of Life to those who had not yet received it,
and gained many converts to Jesus Christ ... We, who occupy his
old house at Bethany--that is to say, his former tomb - and
perform our religious duties at the place of his first
interment, humbly pray to Jesus Christ, by the merit of St.
Lazarus, our patron and His own especial friend, that He would
deign to lead us by His goodness, so that we may rejoice in His
help during this present life and be associated with Him in the
joys of eternal life hereafter.'" (Ibid., p.121-22)
"There is no doubt that this tradition, much as it is given in
the Life of Rabanus, was accepted by the whole Latin Church for
over a thousand years. For proof of this we have only to turn to
the Breviary of St.Martha's Day, July 29th. There we find a
lection for the second nocturne which tells how Mary, Martha and
Lazarus, with their servant Marcella, and Maximin, one of the
seventy-two disciples, were seized by the Jews, placed in a boat
without sails or oars, and carried safely to the port of
Marseilles. Moved by this remarkable fact, the people of the
neighbouring lands were speedily converted to Christianity;
Lazarus became bishop of Marseilles, Maziminus of Aix, Mary lived
and died an anchoress on a high mountain of those parts, while
Martha founded a convent of women, died on the fourth day before
the kalends of August, and was buried with great honour at Tara-
scon. [The date of this tradition is not the first or second
century since a reference to an elder as a "priest", or to Mary
as an "Anchoress" is at the earliest, 3rd century. - ED.]
"The oratory and cathedral at Arles (1152), which commemorates
St.Trophimus - the Church of St.Martha at Tarascon (1187-1192),
and the crypt of the old Abbey of St.Victor at Marseilles,
dating from the fourth century, which forms a lasting memorial to
St.Lazarus, all hear witness to the faith and devotion of those
who built them. (Ibid., p.106-107)

"Roger de Hovedon (730-1200) in his third volume dealing with
events which happened between 1170 and 1192, gives a good
description of Marseilles, and writes:

"'Marseilles is an episcopal city under the dominion of the King
of Arragon. Here are the relics of St.Lazarus, the brother of
St.Mary Magdalene and Martha, who held the bishopric here for
seven years after Jesus had restored him from the dead.' ("Roger
de Hovedon," edited by W.Stubbs:, Longmans, 1868, vol. iii, p.
"Another is from old Church literature. In 1040, in the bull of
Benedict IX (relative to the establishment of the Abbey of St.
Victor, at Marseilles, after the expulsion of the Saracens), we
find the history of the foundation of the Abbey of St.Victor in
the time of the Emperor Antonine, of its building by St.Cassien,
and of its enshrining the sufferings and relies of St.Victor, his
companions, Hermes and Adrian, and St.Lazarus, who was restored
from the dead by Jesus Christ.'" (Ibid., p.108)

"The ancient church records and Lyons confirm the same facts:

"'Lazarus returned to Gaul from Britain to Marseilles, taking
with him Mary Magdalene and Martha. He was the first appointed
Bishop. He died there seven years later.'
"He was the first Bishop of Marseilles and built the first
church, on the site where the present cathedral stands. In the
few years, he lived to teach at Marseilles he founded other
churches. His zealous preaching and kindly disposition left a
deep impress in Gaul, to such an extent that he is better
remembered in France than is Philip, regardless of the
latter's long sojourn in Gaul. In many quarters he is regarded as
the Apostle of Gaul and his relics are greatly treasured to this
day. At Marseilles, Lyons, Aix, St.Maximin, La Sainte Baume and
other places there still remain numerous monuments, liturgries,
relies and traditions to his immortal memory. He was the first of
the original Bethany band associated with Joseph to die. As the
records state, he died a natural death seven years after
returning to Marseilles ... which would place the date of his
death between A.D.44 and 45." ("The Drama of the Lost Disciples,'
George F. Jowett, p.163,164)

     The dates suggested above are not compatible with the other
traditions, which have greater acceptance among students of
     The information furnished by Taylor and Jowett is not
generally accepted by church historians but since it contains
some valuable documentation not to be easily found elsewhere, the
above is quoted for what it may be worth.
     Whatever else may be true, the very least of what may be
said about Lazarus is that he is firmly associated with both
Cyprus and Marseilles, France.


To be continued

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