Ecclesiastes 9:5 (KJV)

5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.

Luke 16:19-31 (KJV)

19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: 20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. 25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. 26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. 27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: 28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. 29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. 30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. 31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

The rich man in Luke 16 has feelings, can talk, and has the ability to remember, think, and reason. How is this possible in light of Ecclesiastes 9:5?

11 Answers 11


There are those like me who see Luke 16:19-31 as an historical account, not a parable. Many of those, again like me, also hold to the original textform of Scripture to be by inspiration of God and thus inerrant. It is just such a combination that requires an answer of whether the Luke passage might contradict Eccl 9:5.

It need not be viewed as a contradiction.

Clearly from the Luke 16 passage, as the OP notes, there is a "knowing" that is occurring in the case of the rich man. Important to the discussion here is to notice that all the knowledge he has is of his present condition after death and what he knows of his past condition (i.e., that he had five brothers) prior to death. There is no direct reference to him knowing anything about the present condition of things happening on earth.

So when Eccl 9:5 states in its second clause (my translation laid out in parallel for the four words with numbers to discuss):

1. וְהַמֵּתִ֞ים But the ones being dead,
2. אֵינָ֧ם   not of them [or themselves, see below]
3. יוֹדְעִ֣ים [are they] knowing
4. מְא֗וּמָה  anything

Grammatical Discussion

  1. The first word is a waw conjunction (here "but" since context shows it is a contrast to the first clause about those who are living) prefixed on a plural participle form of the verb "to die" that has the definite article. The participle is acting in a substantive role of indicating the subject of the clause, hence the translation "the ones being dead."

  2. The second word is the Hebrew particle that expresses the idea of "nothing" or a negation of "not." Here it is in construct with its suffix that is a 3rd plural, giving the idea "of them." But because Hebrew does not have a dedicated reflexive pronoun,1 and because this word is followed by a participle itself, we are left with various interpretive decisions. First, looking strictly at the pronominal suffix, does the "of them" (a) act reflexively, meaning "nothing [or not] of themselves" or (b) act normally, meaning "nothing [or not] of them [i.e., the living]" (since the living are the previous antecedent that is not reflexive in view). Then additionally, because a participle follows, (c) the suffixed pronoun can be the subject of the participle;2 so "nothing [or not] they are knowing" (which would still be a normal use of the pronoun referring not reflexively, but directly back to the subject). Bear in mind that grammatically, thus far, any of these could be the idea.

  3. The third word is also a plural participle absolute, here without a definite article, so it is the verbal component of the clause, and since there is no other verb for this clause (i.e., a verbless clause), it must be functioning as a verb showing repeated/continuous action.3 Hence translating an "are" (adding in a form of English "being" verb as is proper for translating a Hebrew verbless clause). English wants a "they" to redirect the fact that the plural participle is tying back to the subject, "the ones being dead," as it is confusing to translate the 2nd and 3rd words as "nothing of them[selves?] knowing" and awkward to translate "nothing of them[selves?] are knowing." Hence, "nothing of them[selves?] are they knowing" conveys the idea properly in English. But remember, the Hebrew might be considered supplying the "they" directly if the suffix on the 2nd word was intended so.

  4. The fourth word is a Hebrew absolute noun that conveys the idea of "something" or "anything," but is often put in context with a negative, and then means "nothing at all."4 However, in the contexts where the word is used for expressing nothing more directly, the word is not separated from an אַיִן by any verb.5 So the word here should be taken in its normal meaning of "something" or "anything" as the direct object of "knowing". Because this word is a direct object, then the 2nd word must be taken adverbially, as "not," rather than substantively as "nothing."

Particularly because of the flexibility of the second word's interpretation, we are left with essentially the following possible ideas:

  • (A) But the ones being dead are not of themselves knowing anything. Which could be interpreted either as:
    • (1) Not knowing anything from themselves (that is, simply not knowing anything)
    • (2) Not knowing anything about themselves (that is, about their condition)
  • (B) But the ones being dead are not of them [the living] knowing anything.
  • (C) But the ones being dead, they are not knowing anything.

So A.1 and C are equivalents in meaning, so we can reduce this to:

  • (A) But the ones being dead are not about themselves knowing anything.
  • (B) But the ones being dead are not of [the living] knowing anything.
  • (C) But the ones being dead, they are not knowing anything.

Contextual Clues

The immediate context of the verse is Eccl 9:1-6 (NKJV):

1 For I considered all this in my heart, so that I could declare it all: that the righteous and the wise and their works are in the hand of God. People know neither love nor hatred by anything they see before them. 2 All things come alike to all: One event happens to the righteous and the wicked; To the good, the clean, and the unclean; To him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As is the good, so is the sinner; He who takes an oath as he who fears an oath.3 This is an evil in all that is done under the sun: that one thing happens to all. Truly the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead. 4 But for him who is joined to all the living there is hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. 5 For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. 6 Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; nevermore will they have a share in anything done under the sun.


  • v.1-3a is a commentary that whether righteous or wicked, to the clean or unclean, to the one who sacrifices or who does not, to the good or the sinner, to the oath taker or not, any of them might experience the same types of events. This leaves one wondering: What does it matter how one lives?
  • v.3b-4 declares that all the living people having hearts of evil and madness, then die; but one thing they have over the dead, is that the living still has hope. Hope of what? That is what v.5-6 answers, but in a contrast of what the dead do not have:
    • v.5a Hope of dying (escaping the evils of the world)
    • v.5b [our verse, we will get back to this]
    • v.5c Hope of a reward
    • v.5d Hope of a remembrance
    • v.6a Hope of expressing themselves to others (love, hate, and envy)
    • v.6b Hope of a part in anything done under the sun (i.e., among the living)


So now we need to fit our possible meanings of Eccl 9:5b into the idea of a contrasted hope for the living. But what we find is that any of the three could be fitted there logically:

  • (A) Hope of knowing about themselves
  • (B) Hope of knowing those living
  • (C) Hope of knowing anything (i.e., having knowledge at all)

That does not help much. But we do have a clue that all the hopes relate to what can be done or gained while living. This theme is continued in the following greater context of Eccl 9:7-12, where the Preacher is commanding the living, but still makes some references to the dead (NKJV):

7 Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has already accepted your works. 8 Let your garments always be white, and let your head lack no oil. 9 Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going. 11 I returned and saw under the sun that—

   The race is not to the swift,
   Nor the battle to the strong,
   Nor bread to the wise,
   Nor riches to men of understanding,
   Nor favor to men of skill;
   But time and chance happen to them all.
   12 For man also does not know his time:
   Like fish taken in a cruel net,
   Like birds caught in a snare,
   So the sons of men are snared in an evil time,
   When it falls suddenly upon them.

So the point of the text is for the living to live life while they can; enjoy that life, despite the events and evils that come. But do live the life righteous and wise (v.1), for their works are accepted by God (v.7), so let them remain clean (v.8) amidst the struggles of life. For once dead, no more works can be done. One's fate is sealed.

Verse 10 helps understand v.5b. The focus is not necessarily knowledge ceasing to exist for those being dead, but rather that there is no more partaking in the things of life—no more knowledge being gained of what is occurring in life.

So context favors either (B) or a modified (C):

  • (B) Hope of knowing those living
  • (C) Hope of knowing anything [about life's occurrences]

That is, (C) may be more broadly speaking of life's continuing occurrences generally, not just knowing of those people who are living.

Wrapping it Up

So does either (B) or (C) fit Luke 16:19-31? Yes, both would. Indeed, the whole context of Eccl 9:1-12 does.

The rich man is not noted to have any awareness of what is currently happening among the living. He is only aware of the past and his present state among the dead. Further, he has no chance to work or do anything to change his state post-death: no more hope of reward, doing deeds to be remembered, expressing love, etc. This seems to be the typical state of the dead.6

So in conclusion, there need be no reason to see a contradiction between Eccl 9:5 and Luke 16:19-31.


1 Ronald J. Williams, Williams' Hebrew Syntax, 3rd ed. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010), 54 #130.

2 Ibid., 146, #407b.

3 Ibid., 88 #213.

4 Ludwig Koehler, Walter Baumgartner, M. E. J. Richardson, and Johann Jakob Stamm, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament [HALOT] (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000), s.v. מְאוּמָה.

5 Ibid. HALOT specifically places Eccl 9:5 as meaning "(something) or other."

6 In 1 Sam 28:8-16, assuming Samuel is indeed called back to the world of the living by the witch of Endor (and that it is not a demon taking Samuel's form), then Samuel's knowledge of the living has at least two possible explanations:

  1. He knew the events transpiring as past knowledge, since he was a prophet and God had already revealed to Samuel about Saul's demise and David's ascension to the throne.
  2. He was immediately granted by God, upon his manifesting to the living, the knowledge that Saul sought, continuing his prophetic role.

There is nothing clear in other passages about the dead (The Book of Revelation has a number of them who are in heaven) being directly aware of events occurring on earth, just those occurring in heaven (or in the case of Luke, in Hades).


There is no direct contradiction. The saying in Ecclesiastes 9:5 reflects an early post-Exilic Jewish beliefs about death. The story of the Rich man and Lazarus, found in Luke 19:19-31, can only contradict this if it demonstrates that reality is quite different to what the Preacher has said. However, the story of the Rich man and Lazarus is a parable and was intended make a moral point, not to portray reality.


Many still believe that the parable of the rich man and Lazarus as told by Christ in Luke 16:19-31 is a literal representation of heaven and hell after death. This view has some serious problems, for example:

  1. If this parable is understood literally, are we to interpret all parables literally? Did the trees in Judges 9:8-15 really hold a political conference? Is the shrewd (and dishonest) manager a real model of behaviour in Luke 16:1-8? Will the angels actually use scythes to gather the righteous “harvest” into the kingdom as explained in Matt 13:24 - 30? Will we all wear “wedding garments” in heaven, and will there be a few who accidentally get in who shouldn't have as in Matt 22:1-14? Rather, parables must be understood as teaching by analogy (that is the meaning of the Greek word parabole). In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus the point of the story is given in the text, “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” Luke 16:31.
  2. If this parable is understood literally, will it really be possible for the suffering of those in hell to be relieved by a single drop of water (Luke 16:24)? Do the saints actually live in “the bosom of Abraham,” (Luke 16:22)? Are heaven and hell so close that it is possible to have a conversation between the inhabitants of each despite the chasm between? Will the bliss of heaven be somehow enhanced by the spectacle of a numberless mass writhing in agony? It is at this point that a literal interpretation collapses under the weight of its own absurdities!
  3. There are yet more problems with the literal understanding of this parable. The word for hell here is hades (Luke 16:23). All other references to hades in the New Testament show hades to be a place of unconsciousness and darkness; never with fire. Gehenna is the place of fiery destruction. This provides another clue to the correct allegorical interpretation.
  4. A literal interpretation of this parable would have people receive their reward immediately at death. This contradicts the teaching of Scripture that man receives his reward at the resurrection, see Rev 22:12, “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.” Luke 14:14 says: “Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” 2 Tim 4:8 says: “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” See also 1 Cor 15:51-54.

In short, as Dr William Smith (Dictionary of the Bible, vol 2, p.1038) insists: “It is impossible to ground the proof of an important doctrine on a passage which confessedly abounds in Jewish metaphor.”

I agree - this parable does not teach us about the condition of man in death - it teaches about the importance of understanding the message of Scripture. Thus, there is no contradiction between this parable of the Rich man and Lazarus, vs, Eccl 9:5.

  • 1
    A literal interpretation of this parable would have people receive their reward immediately at death - Unless you see it as an intermediate state (not the final reward).
    – user38524
    Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 13:07
  • 1
    @SpiritRealmInvestigator - the Bible no where depicts an intermediate state. Even "the bosom of Abraham" in Jewish mythology is synonymous with heaven. Hades is not an intermediate state. Where does this parable depict an intermediate state?
    – Dottard
    Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 19:58
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    @SpiritRealmInvestigator - "Hades" is a Greek NT word and so does not occur in the OT. Indeed, apart from this case, Hades only occurs 9 other times in the NT: Matt 11;23, 16:18, Luke 10:15, Acts 12:27, 31, Rev 1:18, 6:8, 20:13, 14. It is the direct equivalent of She'ol in the OT which is called the pit and is a place of darkness and quiet.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jan 14, 2022 at 11:04
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    Dottard, if there is a delay between physical death and bodily resurrection, doesn't that mean there is an intermediate state between the two? Something must happen in between, right?
    – user38524
    Commented Jan 14, 2022 at 16:00
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    @SpiritRealmInvestigator - that is true and that state is unconsciousness as per Eccl 9:5. People die, they remain unconscious until the resurrection.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jan 14, 2022 at 20:22

I am new to this exchange so I apologize if my answer does not meet the criteria. I do not study hermeneutics per se and I am very cautious not to “define doctrine” with a heavy emphasis on word studies of the ancient languages, for which I must rely on human scholars who constantly refine and correct their scholarship. (And scholarship is a very good thing—do not mistake my caveat here.) There are very few sayings of the sacred text which can be properly understood without attention to a larger literary context (much of the book of Proverbs might be an exception). In that way, Bible Hermeneutics is very much an ordinary hermeneutic. We should read the Bible like we read most other literary works, with attention to genre, historical/social/cultural context, and literary context, as well as with attention to literary devices and figures of speech such as metaphor, hyperbole, metonymy, sarcasm, personification, idiomatic expressions, etc. Are these not the first rules of hermeneutics and exegesis?

Several books in the Old Testament collection must be read and understood as a whole—the books of Job and Ecclesiastes are good examples. Taking statements out of these books will almost certainly result in “finding contradictions.” This is not a forum for doctrinal discussions or opinions about the teachings we ought to learn, but I submit that Ecclesiastes 9:5 is but one statement in a long essay in which the Preacher evaluates temporal life through two worldviews. Studying the statement out of its context or using it against/in parallel with other statements in other contexts is a mishandling of the text. This violates the rules of hermeneutics and exegesis from the get-go, does it not? The Preacher has a message to communicate to us. He is reaching toward a conclusion as he walks us through his wise reasonings and helps us think about life from God’s perspective. ScottS’s “Contextual Clues” section is very helpful here.

Jesus’s parable, on the other hand, is an entirely different kind of literature with a very definite focus and purpose. He is castigating the Jewish religious leaders whose misuse of their spiritual riches as God’s chosen people had become that which would condemn them in the end. The unclean beggar who could not enter the temple to offer even one of the sacrifices or keep one of the feasts was welcomed by Abraham. It was a graphic, thought-provoking teaching for all who heard him but it does not—and it was not intended to—tell us anything specific about what happens after mortal death.

No, there is no contradiction. Neither context sets forth objective truths about the state/journey/residence of the soul in between death and the resurrection. If the questioner is trying to decide whether the Preacher or Jesus had the right understanding of the state of the soul after death, the question itself is misplaced and therefore unanswerable by any lexical or contextually isolated studies.

If the questioner is trying to understand whether there is an intermediate state of consciousness or not, a comparison of the metaphor of “sleep” for bodily death (1 Kings 2:10; Psalm 90:5; Matthew 27:52; John 11:11ff; Acts 7:60; 13:36 1 Corinthians 15; 1 Thessalonians 4:13ff; 2 Peter 3:4; etc. in their contexts) with the lack of any recorded testimony by those who experienced death and were raised up again (those raised by Elijah and Elisha, the widow’s son in Nain, Jairus’s daughter, Lazarus, those raised at Jesus’s death, Dorcas, Eutychus, and even Jesus himself, who said nothing about his experience after death) might provide anecdotal considerations. If any of these had experienced conscious spiritual bliss, could they have resumed mortal life with any sense of normalcy? Why bring Dorcas back to sew more beautiful clothes if she was in Abraham’s bosom? She would have to endure death again eventually. We might also think about other glimpses of the realm of the dead (such as in 1 Samuel 28 and Matthew 17, the prophecies of Daniel, and the visions of John in the Revelation) but in the end, what generally happens to us at death—whether followed by instant glory with the angels, an unconscious sleep of 10,000 years, or an intermediate state of semi-conscious peace/torment awaiting resurrection—does not seem to be settled directly.

  • 1
    Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange! Just wanted to say, very well done on this answer. You raised some incredibly valid points that I'd never even thought of before, e.g. "If any of these had experienced conscious spiritual bliss, could they have resumed mortal life with any sense of normalcy?" And Lazarus was dead for four days! He would have had 4 whole days in total bliss in paradise, and yet, not a single mention of any such experiences to anyone. If I went to heavenly paradise for even just a few minutes... Let alone 4 whole days! Once again, amazing job!
    – Rajesh
    Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 18:46
  • @Rajesh and ABN22, I think you may find the answers to this question of interest: How do believers in the dead being conscious explain the absence of reports about afterlife experiences by Lazarus and other resurrected individuals?
    – user38524
    Commented Jan 14, 2022 at 15:56
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    @Spirit Realm Investigator. Thanks for the suggestion. Thinking about that question is interesting but ultimately inconsequential. I suspect the truth of the matter—since it was not revealed and cannot be discovered—will surprise every one of us, regardless of what opinion we hold. Faithful teaching preserves ambiguity: it does not eliminate certain interpretive possibilities but encourages investigation and meditation to promote spiritual maturity. What would we fight about if all of us stopped defining doctrines more precisely than God does? Sigh.
    – ABN22
    Commented Jan 19, 2022 at 16:12

Is there a contradiction between Ecclesiastes 9:5 & Luke 16:19-31 ?

Yes. Of course there is. Why wouldn't it be ? Hasn't Christ already plainly stated that he is greater even than Solomon himself ? (Matthew 12:42; Luke 11:31). After all, Solomon was wise, but Christ was Wisdom itself (1 Corinthians 1:24; Colossians 2:2-3). Christ already criticized (constructively) certain aspects of the Law (Matthew 5-7; John 8:3-11), given by the great Prophet Moses himself. Why would he then spare Solomon (so to speak) ?

Before anyone might feel tempted to say that Solomon might not have been the (sole) author of Ecclesiastes (or Proverbs, and Wisdom, and the Song of Songs), ultimately such discussions are irrelevant to the scope of this question, since the pious authors of these books (as well as their pious readers) have desired, out of a spirit of deep humility and reverence, to dedicate these books to him, instead of taking any personal credit for their authorship (which they undoubtedly would have gotten, since each of these precious works is marvelous in its own right). Even Sirach, whose authorship is neither pseudepigraphical nor under doubt, is counted among the Five Books of Solomon within the Septuagintal canon.

the living know that they shall die

No, they don't. In fact, they act as if they are going to live forever. (Luke 12:16-21).

the memory of them is forgotten

No, it's not. If it were, then why did Christ ostensibly (and repeatedly) mention Lazarus by name, but left that of the (unmerciful) rich man (and his equally worthless siblings) unmentioned ?

Solomon spoke sincerely and truthfully, from the (limited) perspective of human life on earth. Certainly, corpses neither think nor feel, and one doesn't have to study Scripture to know this. But what if there is more to us than this body ? And what if even this body can be restored ? (Romans 7:24). According to the teachings of Christianity, the answer to this eternal and all-important human question lies in embracing the absurdity of the resurrection (Matthew 9:24; Mark 5:39-40; Luke 8:52-53, 24:11; John 11:11-15; Acts 17:32).


Here is the grid of possibilities:

A. Lukan parable set in reality B. Lukan parable not set in reality
1."Under the sun"=affairs of this life No Contradiction No Contradiction
2. "Under the sun" includes afterlife Contradiction No Contradiction


The setting of the parable

"Is the parable of the rich man and Lazarus a true story" is, I believe, the wrong question to ask. It would be like asking if the story of the Good Samaritan is a true story (for the record, I don't know). The point is that the Good Samaritan is an instructive story set in reality. The story would be much less impactful to a Jewish audience if it didn't involve a Samaritan between Jerusalem & Jericho.

It is a noteworthy feature of Jesus' stories (unlike, say, some of Isaiah's) that they are set in the real world. Jesus spoke about ordinary events of life and used them to teach spiritual and ethical principles. He used common events & items (weddings, fields, seeds) that were familiar to His audience.

It would be a striking departure from His practice, then, if Jesus were to set a parable in a mythical place, and just as strange for Him to offer a parable validating a common contemporary view (the conscious separation of the righteous & wicked in Sheol) if that view were in fact false. The value of the story diminishes quickly if His audience thinks He's endorsing apostate doctrine.

The far clearer explanation is that, as with His other parables, Jesus set the story in reality, using known features of Sheol that did not have to be painstakingly described anew to His audience.

This neither requires accepting the story as an account of real, historical events, nor claiming the parable is devoid of metaphor. Rather, it is an acknowledgement that Jesus' parables are not set in fictional universes--or long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away.


Under the sun

I suggest that the phrase "under the sun" should be read as a description of the activities/affairs/interests of this life - this is the focus of Ecclesiastes 9 - death brings about the end of the vanities of this world.

I find much to agree with in ScottS's response to this question. I have also argued here that both verses 5 & 10 refer to this world. In the afterlife there will be no knowledge of worldly things, no continuation of worldly activities or worldly agreements, and so on. The preacher is stressing the transient nature of the obsessions of this world (vs. the eternal nature of the divine) (see also my comments on Psalm 146).

If Ecclesiastes 9 is read to refer to the afterlife, verse 6 offers a stinging rejection of the belief in the resurrection:

"neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun."

This is a pretty innocuous statement if "under the sun" refers to the things of this life, but forever is quite extreme otherwise.



Will it really be possible for the suffering of those in hell to be relieved by a single drop of water?

Note that this is a desperate belief held by the rich man, but is never attempted nor acknowledged as true.

Are heaven and hell so close that it is possible to have a conversation between the inhabitants of each despite the chasm between? Will the bliss of heaven be somehow enhanced by the spectacle of a numberless mass writhing in agony?

I am not arguing that the events/conversations/actions are historical or literal, only that the setting of the story is reality.

The word for hell here is hades

That's correct; this story is set in Sheol, and is therefore pre-resurrection. Contemporary Jewish beliefs about Sheol held that the "wicked" section of Sheol was not a pleasant place. More discussion on Sheol here.

A literal interpretation of this parable would have people receive their reward immediately at death

A division in Sheol between righteous and wicked does not imply that final judgement has been made or that final rewards have been given. Sheol was an intermediate step. God gives many intermediary blessings/punishments--in fact all blessings & punishments in this life are intermediary if there is an afterlife.



The Lukan parable is set in reality & "under the sun" refers to the affairs of this life--that's cell A1 in the grid above, in which there is no contradiction.

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    It would be a striking departure from His practice, then, if Jesus were to set a parable in a mythical place, and just as strange for Him to offer a parable validating a common contemporary view (the conscious separation of the righteous & wicked in Sheol) if that view were in fact false. - I fully agree with this (+1). In fact, I independently came to the same conclusion and felt prompted to ask this question on the Christianity site. Check it out!
    – user38524
    Commented Jan 17, 2022 at 2:03
  • 1
    @SpiritRealmInvestigator great minds think alike! I'm reminded of that one time you independently discovered Molinist free will =) Commented Jan 17, 2022 at 2:29

We can find a similar saying in the Psalm 146:

His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; In that very day his thoughts perish

While a scholarly explanation might be that the Old Testament writers held different beliefs about death, this seems somehow unsatisfying theologically. The Church Fathers recognized Ecclesiastes, Psalms and other Old Testament books as canonical - to be read and understood along side the New Testament Scriptures (see, e.g., John of Damascus, Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, IV.17).

That the state of the soul after death is conscious and not unconscious is clear from the Scripture you cite (Luke 16:19-31), as well as others in both Testaments. In Hebrews we read, It is appointed men once to die, but after death judgment (9:27). Christ told the repentant thief, Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise (Luke 23:43). Sirach wrote that in the day of death the Lord will reward a man according to his ways (11:26). These accounts of particular judgment would not make any sense were the soul not conscious after death.

Dorotheus of Gaza, a 6th century monk, explains that the knowledge we "lose" after death is of insignificant, temporal things:

As the Fathers tell us, the souls of the dead remember everything that happened here - thoughts, words, desires - and nothing can be forgotten. But, as it says in the Psalm, In that day all their thoughts shall be brought to nothing. The thoughts he speaks of are those of the world, about houses and possessions, parents and children, and business transactions. All these things are destroyed immediately when the soul passes out of the body, none of this is remembered or considered. But what he did against virtue or against his evil passions, he remembers, and nothing of this is lost.

Discourses and Sayings (tr. Cistercian Studies, 1977), p. 285


Not at all! For the Ecclesiastes speaks from the perspective of the living people about the deceased, which is evident from the phrase "memory of them is forgotten", that is to say, the living people will forget them. One can forget even Lord Jesus Christ, as He is in fact, by and large forgotten by the post-Christian Western society, but this does not imply at all that the Lord is not sitting on His Throne and sustaining the universe, in fact, those very post-Christian apostates also, into existence.

On the contrary, the Lord in the parable speaks from the divine perspective on the entirety of all reality which includes also the other-this-worldly reality, like the angels (Luke 16:22) and the departed historical persons (Ibid.), who survive their death, and whose bodiless essences that retain life, memory and care for the still living relatives (Ibid. v. 28) are carried by angels, for in God's perspective all are alive (Matthew 22:32).

Those who, clinging to their biases, say that this is just a moral parable that has nothing to do with ontology are in a grave error, for it is hardly possible that the Lord could use in His parable an ontological impossibility; quite the contrary is true! - the Lord gives the glimpses of the divine perspective to humans. To think otherwise, will amount to affirmation of a fact that the Lord lies about angels, ascribing them an activity that they do not, in fact, perform, which will make the Lord a liar (and in fact who can know the activities of angels better than their Creator who is Christ alongside with God-the Father? /cf. John 1:1-3 or Colossians 1:16). This being absurd, we can freely and confidently conclude the only possible answer that human souls/personalities survive their physical death and that the way of life here in a historical life accounts to the condition in the afterlife.

Thus, to return to the question per se: no contradiction whatsoever.

  • 1
    @Down-voter My dear anonymous pal, when you down vote, I guess you have reasons for that, and, I guess, you know where my, what you think to be, an error lays; yes? If yes, then don't you feel it proper to help me out of my error? To down-vote anonymously is a morally bad act both in case you have reasons and moreover if you have not them; his is said to you by somebody who cares not for points, but yourself will sooner or later necessarily be pinched by your own conscience for acting in such an improper and cowardly way. I never downvote anybody, but when I see error, I write openly about it. Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 18:12

Is there a contradiction between Ecclesiastes 9:5 & Luke 16:19-31?

My opinion is that there is no contradiction based on the "fixed gulf" statement in Luke.

Jesus illustrated in His parable in Matt 5:26 that during this life there is no "fixed gulf" between Hell (the prison) and the kingdom of God. During this life, we can enter the kingdom through obedience and enter the prison through disobedience

Mt 5:26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

Moses however said that after physical death there exists a "fixed gulf" between Paradise and Hell.

Jesus said the following -

Mt 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Through His statement, Jesus illustrated that being in Hell after physical death is not a static condition.

A person's state upon arriving in hell is that of an intact individual, however, it can result in the destruction of the soul and body.

Taking this concept further - Paul tells us that when Jesus' followers are absent from the body they will be present with Jesus, 2 Cor 5:8.

2Co 5:8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. (KJV)

The rich man had apparently had His physical body buried and was not occupying it during the record of Luke 16:19-31.

Hell can be seen to be a place where we enter with some form of awareness that may not be eternal.

The soul and body can be destroyed in Hell. In the case of the rich man, this had not yet occurred.

This does not suggest that it would not eventually happen as He remained in Hell and on the wrong side of the Fixed Gulf".


The answer to your question is: Yes there is a contradiction. Ecc teaches that the dead have no consciousness, while Luke teaches the opposite. The answer to your dilemma is what Gabriel told Daniel: "knowledge will increase". (Dan 12:4)

  • "Knowledge will increase" doesn't mean "knowledge will contradict what you have learned in inspired scripture." -1
    – Rajesh
    Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 18:51
  • It means that later revelations take precedence over earlier. There are many examples in the Bible about this. The truth is always the truth. The difference is that in the earlier contradictory example the truth was kept behind a veil. Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 23:30
  • So basically, "knowledge will contradict what you have learned in inspired scripture." All you're doing is euphemizing it. If a later inspired revelation contradicts an older inspired revelation, then you have two inspired revelations contradicting each other. That's impossible, by definition of inspirations, unless of course, God contradicts Himself(or unless, of course, you want to admit that the older revelation was never inspired by God in the first place). I do not accept either of the propositions, so back to the drawing board. Try to think of a better solution, I'm sure you can.
    – Rajesh
    Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 23:31
  • See Lucian’s excellent answer. Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 23:54

To avoid any playing with words, I shall rephrase your question to

Is Luke 16:19-31 in alignment with the principles laid out in Ecclesiastes 9:5 and Daniel 2:2?

Absolutely not in alignment.

Daniel 12:2
  • ורבים מישני אדמת עפר
    • Then many from sleep of soil of ground
  • יקיצו אלה לחיי עולם
    • shall arise those to life eternal
  • ואלה לחרפות לדראון עולם
    • and those to be spited to eternal disgrace.

Daniel 12:2 supports Eccl 9:5 in saying that

from those sleeping in the soil
  • those who shall arise = to eternal life
  • those to be spited = to eternal disgrace

========== Inserted 2016/11/10 ===========

  1. In the whole Bible (except for the Aramaic chapters of Daniel and Ezra), {אלה} is translated as "these". How then can we justify an exception to Daniel 12:2?

    One must refrain trying to accommodate Hebrew into the English "these, those, some". {אלה} is a direct reference, whether for near or far subjects, but it must reference to definite direct objects, not indefinite or indirect objects.

    Translating {אלה} to "some" would be twisting its usual meaning and intent.

  2. Observe that each participle as the infinitive preposition:

    • לחרפות (feminine plural = participle) for discrimination
    • לדראון (masculine plural = gerund) to be-disgraced, to be reproached in disgrace
    • how would you be able to justify the meaning {לחרפות לדראון} as {to reproaches and abhorrence}. There is no conjunctive vav between the two words.
    • It would have to be {לחרפות ודראות}.
  3. For example (as referenced by someone in comments) Joshua 8:22, on the meaning of {אלה}

  • ואלה יצאו מן העיר
    • and those exiting the city
  • לקראתם ויהיו לישראל
    • to meet them and they becoming towards Israel
  • בתוך אלה מזה
    • between those from this/here
  • ואלה מזה
    • and those from this/here
  • ....

Therefore, the passage Daniel 12:2 is

  • ורבים מישני אדמת עפר
    • Then many from sleep of soil of ground
  • יקיצו אלה לחיי עולם
    • shall arise {a definite-reference} to life eternal
  • ואלה לחרפות לדראון עולם
    • and {a definite-reference} for discrimination to eternal disgrace.

============ End of Insertion ============

Therefore, those who are not wanted by Almighty, will never rise, will never have eternal life.

Eccl 9:5
  • כי החיים ידעים שימתו
    • because the living know that they shall die
  • והמתים אינם ידעים מאומה
    • and then the dead know nothing
  • ואין עוד להם שכר
    • and no longer are they paid wages
  • כי נשכח זברם
    • because they shall be forgotten

Eccl 9:5 says there will be no wages/recompense for the dead.

As I recall, according to Pauline doctrine, the dead has already paid the price. Rom 6:23 - for the wages of sin is death.

So the dead will not pay any further price, will not suffer in hell/hades. There will be no gnashing of teeth or weeping by the dead.

Therefore, the supposed parable of Jesus as transmitted by a certain Luke does not agree in principle with the doctrine set forth in Daniel 12:2 and Eccl 9:5.

Furthermore, for all the books written prior to the time of Malakhi/Ezra, there is no concept of hades/hell. Whereas hades/hell is included from Hellenists, Persian and eastern mythologies, by the initiators/purveyors of the doctrines of Jesus.

The following grammatical explanation is to preempt any attempt at correlating she-ol with hell/hades.

In both Arabic and Hebrew:

  • {سأل Sa'AL}{Sh'AL שאל} = ask/question.
  • {ShA'UL שאול} = Paul's name = passive participle asked
  • {ShE'OL שאול} = passive verbal-noun = unknown, mystery.

Therefore the concept of afterlife in Luke (and in Christianity) is in total alignment with all the cultures and religions surrounding Israel, but is not in alignment with the Hebrew part of the Bible.

  • Is someone stalking me, downvoting my answers that do not align with christianity?
    – Cynthia
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 0:21
  • 2
    I don't know who the 1st downvote was, but I was definitely the 2nd. Not to make much mention of your inaccurate translation of Dan 12:2 and your even more inaccurate interpretation of it (since it very clearly states that both classes will rise), and your misapplication of Rom 6:23.... Your attempt to disassociate Sheol from death is amazing, considering David directly associates it with death in 2 Sam 22:5-6 (just to name one example).
    – user6503
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 1:58
  • "your inaccurate translation of Dan 12:2"? Both classes will rise? Explain the Hebrew to me. Have you thought that your translation is at fault?
    – Cynthia
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 4:29
  • 3
    (-1) The OP's question was about Ecclesiastes 9:5 and Luke 16:19-31, but you wouldn't know that from this answer. 95% of it comprehensively fails to handle the two passages side by side, avoids exegesis, and instead adds a variant translation of Daniel 12:2 to muddy the waters. I'm struggling to find translators agreeing with the proposed interpretation. "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to reproaches and everlasting abhorrence." (JPS 1917)
    – Steve can help
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 8:31
  • 1
    I did not write in spite, your translation really doesn't make any sense. Also note how אלה is used in Joshua 8:22 to designate a group different from the ones already struck down in verse 21. "The others [אלה]" who came out of the city were then struck down just like the group in v21 had been. So your statement that אלה is always translated as "these" is false.
    – user6503
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 15:57

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