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Good Samaritan

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Good Samaritan

"Good Samaritan" redirects here. For other uses, see The Good Samaritan (disambiguation).

The parable of the Good Samaritan is a 19:18 says should be loved.

Portraying a Samaritan in a positive light would have come as a shock to Jesus' audience.[2] It is typical of his provocative speech in which conventional expectations are inverted.[2]

Some Christians, such as Augustine, have interpreted the parable allegorically, with the Samaritan representing Jesus Christ, who saves the sinful soul.[3] Others, however, discount this allegory as unrelated to the parable's original meaning,[3] and see the parable as exemplifying the ethics of Jesus.[4]

The parable has inspired painting, sculpture, poetry, and film. The colloquial phrase "good Samaritan", meaning someone who helps a stranger, derives from this parable, and many hospitals and charitable organizations are named after the Good Samaritan.

Narrative

In the Gospel of Luke, the parable is introduced by a question, known as the Great Commandment:

Behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested him, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"



He said to him, "What is written in the law? How do you read it?"

He answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, with all your mind, [Leviticus 19:18]."

He said to him, "You have answered correctly. Do this, and you will live."

But he, desiring to justify himself, asked Jesus, "Who is my neighbour?"

— Luke 10:25–29, World English Bible

Jesus replies with a story:

Jesus answered, "A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who both stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. By chance a certain priest was going down that way. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite also, when he came to the place, and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he travelled, came where he was. When he saw him, he was moved with compassion, came to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He set him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, and gave them to the host, and said to him, 'Take care of him. Whatever you spend beyond that, I will repay you when I return.' Now which of these three do you think seemed to be a neighbour to him who fell among the robbers?"



He said, "He who showed mercy on him."

Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

— Luke 10:30–37, World English Bible

Historical context


Road from Jerusalem to Jericho

In the time of Jesus, the road from Jerusalem to Jericho was notorious for its danger and difficulty, and was known as the "Way of Blood" because "of the blood which is often shed there by robbers".[5] Martin Luther King, Jr., in his "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech, on the day before his death, described the road as follows:

I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho. And as soon as we got on that road I said to my wife, "I can see why Jesus used this as the setting for his parable." It's a winding, meandering road. It's really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, which is about twelve hundred miles, or rather, twelve hundred feet above sea level [actually about 2100 feet or 640 metres[6]]. And by the time you get down to Jericho fifteen or twenty minutes later, you're about twenty-two feet [7 m] below sea level [actually 846 feet (258 m)[7] or 258 metres]. That's a dangerous road. In the days of Jesus it came to be known as the "Bloody Pass." And you know, it's possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it's possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking, and he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the priest asked, the first question that the Levite asked was, "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?"[8]


However, King continues:

But then the Good Samaritan came by, and he reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?"[8]

Samaritans and Jesus

Samaritans were hated by Jesus' target audience, the Jews,[9] to such a degree that the Lawyer's phrase "The one who had mercy on him" may indicate a reluctance to name the Samaritan.[10] The Samaritans in turn hated the Jews.[11] Tensions were particularly high in the early decades of the first century because Samaritans had desecrated the Jewish Temple at Passover with human bones.[12]

As the story reached those who were unaware of the oppression of the Samaritans, this aspect of the parable became less and less discernible: fewer and fewer people ever heard of them in any context other than as a description. Today the story is often recast in a more modern setting where the people are ones in equivalent social groups known not to interact comfortably. Thus cast appropriately, the parable regains its message to modern listeners: namely, that an individual of a social group they disapprove of can exhibit moral behavior that is superior to individuals of the groups they approve. Many Christians have used it as an example of Christianity's opposition to racial, ethnic, and sectarian prejudice.[13][14] For example, anti-slavery campaigner William Jay described clergy who ignored slavery as "following the example of the priest and Levite".[15] Martin Luther King, Jr., in his "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech, described the Samaritan as "a man of another race",[8] while Sundee Tucker Frazier saw the Samaritan more specifically as an example of a mixed-race person.[16] Klyne Snodgrass wrote: "On the basis of this parable we must deal with our own racism but must also seek justice for, and offer assistance to, those in need, regardless of the group to which they belong."[17]

Samaritans appear elsewhere in the Gospels. In the Gospel of Luke Jesus

The model for the Samaritan's kindly behavior in the parable might be

Priests and Levites

In Jesus' culture, contact with a dead body was understood to defile one.[12] Priests were particularly enjoined to avoid uncleanness.[12] The priest and Levite may therefore have assumed that the fallen traveler was dead and avoided him to keep themselves ritually clean.[12] On the other hand, the depiction of travel downhill (from Jerusalem to Jericho) may indicate that their temple duties had already been completed, making this explanation less likely,[22] although this is disputed.[9] Since the Mishnah made an exception for neglected corpses,[9] the priest and the Levite could have used the law to justify both touching a corpse and ignoring it.[9] In any case, passing by on the other side avoided checking "whether he was dead or alive".[23] Indeed, "it weighed more with them that he might be dead and defiling to the touch of those whose business was with holy things than that he might be alive and in need of care."[23]

Interpretation

Allegorical reading


Origen described the allegory as follows:

The man who was going down is Adam. Jerusalem is paradise, and Jericho is the world. The robbers are hostile powers. The priest is the Law, the Levite is the prophets, and the Samaritan is Christ. The wounds are disobedience, the beast is the Lord’s body, the [inn], which accepts all who wish to enter, is the Church. … The manager of the [inn] is the head of the Church, to whom its care has been entrusted. And the fact that the Samaritan promises he will return represents the Savior’s second coming.[24]

John Welch further states:

This allegorical reading was taught not only by ancient followers of Jesus, but it was virtually universal throughout early Christianity, being advocated by Irenaeus, Clement, and Origen, and in the fourth and fifth centuries by Chrysostom in Constantinople, Ambrose in Milan, and Augustine in North Africa. This interpretation is found most completely in two other medieval stained-glass windows, in the French cathedrals at Bourges and Sens."[25]

The allegorical interpretation is also traditional in the Orthodox Church.[26] John Newton refers to the allegorical interpretation in his hymn "How Kind the Good Samaritan," which begins:

How kind the good Samaritan
To him who fell among the thieves!
Thus Jesus pities fallen man,
And heals the wounds the soul receives.[27]

Robert Funk also suggests that Jesus' Jewish listeners were to identify with the robbed and wounded man. In his view, the help received from a hated Samaritan is like the kingdom of God received as grace from an unexpected source.[28]

Ethical reading

John Calvin was not impressed by Origen's allegorical reading:

The allegory which is here contrived by the advocates of

Francis Schaeffer suggested: "Christians are not to love their believing brothers to the exclusion of their non-believing fellowmen. That is ugly. We are to have the example of the good Samaritan consciously in mind at all times."[30]

Other modern theologians have taken similar positions. For example, G. B. Caird wrote:

Dodd quotes as a cautionary example Augustine's allegorisation of the Good Samaritan, in which the man is Adam, Jerusalem the heavenly city, Jericho the moon - the symbol of immortality; the thieves are the devil and his angels, who strip the man of immortality by persuading him to sin and so leave him (spiritually) half dead; the priest and levite represent the Old Testament, the Samaritan Christ, the beast his flesh which he assumed at the Incarnation; the inn is the church and the innkeeper the apostle Paul. Most modern readers would agree with Dodd that this farrago bears no relationship to the real meaning of the parable.[31]

The meaning of the parable for Calvin was, instead, that "compassion, which an enemy showed to a Jew, demonstrates that the guidance and teaching of nature are sufficient to show that man was created for the sake of man. Hence it is inferred that there is a mutual obligation between all men."[29] In other writings, Calvin pointed out that people are not born merely for themselves, but rather "mankind is knit together with a holy knot ... we must not live for ourselves, but for our neighbors."[32] Earlier, Cyril of Alexandria had written that "a crown of love is being twined for him who loves his neighbour."[33]

Joel B. Green writes that Jesus' final question (which, in something of a "twist,"[34] reverses the question originally asked):

... presupposes the identification of "anyone" as a neighbor, then presses the point that such an identification opens wide the door of loving action. By leaving aside the identity of the wounded man and by portraying the Samaritan traveler as one who performs the law (and so as one whose actions are consistent with an orientation to eternal life), Jesus has nullified the worldview that gives rise to such questions as, Who is my neighbor? The purity-holiness matrix has been capsized. And, not surprisingly in the Third Gospel, neighborly love has been concretized in care for one who is, in this parable, self-evidently a social outcast[35]

Such a reading of the parable makes it important in liberation theology,[36] where it provides a concrete anchoring for love[37] and indicates an "all embracing reach of solidarity."[38] In Indian Dalit theology, it is seen as providing a "life-giving message to the marginalized Dalits and a challenging message to the non-Dalits."[39]

Martin Luther King, Jr. often spoke of this parable, contrasting the rapacious philosophy of the robbers, and the self-preserving non-involvement of the priest and Levite, with the Samaritan's coming to the aid of the man in need.[40] King also extended the call for neighbourly assistance to society at large:

On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life's roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.[41]

Authenticity


The unexpected appearance of the Samaritan led Joseph Halévy to suggest that the parable originally involved "a priest, a Levite, and an Israelite",[42] in line with contemporary Jewish stories, and that Luke changed the parable to be more familiar to a gentile audience."[42] Halévy further suggests that, in real life, it was unlikely that a Samaritan would actually have been found on the road between Jericho and Jerusalem,[42] although others claim that there was "nothing strange about a Samaritan travelling in Jewish territory".[10] William C. Placher points out that such debate misinterprets the biblical genre of a parable, which illustrates a moral rather than a historical point: on reading the story, "we are not inclined to check the story against the police blotter for the Jerusalem-Jericho highway patrol. We recognize that Jesus is telling a story to illustrate a moral point, and that such stories often don't claim to correspond to actual events."[43] The moral of the story would still hold if the parable originally followed the priest-Levite-Israelite sequence of contemporary Jewish stories, as Halévy suggested.

The Jesus Seminar voted this parable to be authentic,[2][44] with 60% of fellows rating it "red" (authentic) and a further 29% rating it "pink" (probably authentic).[44] The paradox of a disliked outsider such as a Samaritan helping a Jew is typical of Jesus' provocative parables,[2][9] and is a deliberate feature of this parable.[42] In the Greek text, the shock value of the Samaritan's appearance is enhanced by the emphatic Σαμαρίτης (Samaritēs) at the beginning of the sentence in verse 33.[9]

Bernard Brandon Scott, a member of the Jesus Seminar, The Oxford Bible Commentary notes:

That Jesus was only tested once in this way is not a necessary assumption. The twist between the lawyer's question and Jesus' answer is entirely in keeping with Jesus' radical stance: he was making the lawyer rethink his presuppositions.[34]

As a metaphor and name


The term "good Samaritan" is used as a common metaphor: "The word now applies to any charitable person, especially one who, like the man in the parable, rescues or helps out a needy stranger."[49]

The name has consequently been used for a number of charitable organisations, including Samaritans, Samaritan's Purse, Sisters of the Good Samaritan, and The Samaritan Befrienders Hong Kong. The name Good Samaritan Hospital is used for a number of hospitals around the world. Good Samaritan laws encourage those who choose to serve and tend to others who are injured or ill.[50]

Art and popular culture


This parable was one of the most popular in medieval art.[52] The allegorical interpretation was often illustrated, with Christ as the Good Samaritan. Accompanying angels were sometimes also shown.[53] In some Orthodox icons of the parable, the identification of the Good Samaritan as Christ is made explicit with a halo bearing a cross.[54]

The numerous later artistic depictions of the parable include those of Rembrandt, Jan Wijnants, Vincent van Gogh, Aimé Morot, Domenico Fetti, Johann Carl Loth, George Frederic Watts, and Giacomo Conti. Sculptors such as Piet Esser and François-Léon Sicard have also produced works based on the parable.

The parable of the Good Samaritan is the theme for the Austrian Christian Charity commemorative coin, minted 12 March 2003. This coin shows the Good Samaritan with the wounded man, on his horse, as he takes him to an inn for medical attention. An older coin with this theme is the American "Good Samaritan Shilling" of 1652.[55]

Australian poet Henry Lawson wrote a poem on the parable ("The Good Samaritan"), of which the third stanza reads:


"He's been a fool, perhaps, and would
Have prospered had he tried,
But he was one who never could
Pass by the other side.
An honest man whom men called soft,
While laughing in their sleeves —
No doubt in business ways he oft
Had fallen amongst thieves."[56]

John Gardiner Calkins Brainard[57] also a wrote poem on the theme.

Dramatic film adaptations of the Parable of the Good Samaritan include Samaritan,[58] part of the widely acclaimed[59] Modern Parables DVD Bible study series. Samaritan, which sets the parable in modern times, stars Antonio Albadran in the role of the Good Samaritan.[60]

See also

References

External links

  • Biblical Art on the WWW:
    • The Expert in the Law
    • Assault and First Aid
    • The Inn
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