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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Samaritan, the Good

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SAMARITAN, THE GOOD (Luke 10:25-37).—Jesus had bidden His last farewell to Galilee, and was travelling to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51). He had passed through Samaria and reached Judaea, and in some town on the route, probably Jericho, He visited the synagogue,* [Note: The scene was evidently a synagogue, since His hearers were seated (cf. v. 25).] as He was wont (cf. Luke 4:16), and discoursed to the congregation. It was customary for the hearers, when the preacher had concluded, to ask him questions,† [Note: Lightfoot arid Wetstein on Matthew 4:23.] and so it happened on this occasion. One of those whose business was the interpretation of the sacred Law, rose and asked, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit “eternal life”?’ He was no anxious inquirer. He thought to display his superior knowledge, and humble Jesus before the congregation; and his question was a foretaste of the dialectical warfare which awaited Jesus in Jerusalem, and which reached its climax in that succession of encounters with the rulers in the Temple court during the Passion week. Nor was Jesus deceived. ‘What stands written in the Law?’ He asked, ‘how readest thou?’ Glad to display his theological proficiency, the lawyer glibly replied, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength, and with thy whole mind, and thy neighbour as thyself.’ Jesus accepted the answer: ‘Thou hast answered rightly. This do, and thou shalt live.’ The lawyer was an astute controversialist, and he perceived a new opening for disputation. ‘Neighbour’ was defined both by the Law and by the Rabbis as a fellow-Israelite, ‘a son of thy people,’‡ [Note: Leviticus 19:18; Lightfoot on Luke 10:29.] and he expected that Jesus would give the word a larger significance, thus exposing Himself to a charge of heresy. He clutched at the opportunity. ‘And who,’ he asked, ‘is my “neighbour”?’ Jesus answered with a parable.

The road from Jericho to Jerusalem had a very evil reputation. It wound up barren and rugged hills, infested by brigands, who assailed travellers, robbing and sometimes murdering them; and from those deeds of violence it derived a ghastly name—the Ascent of Blood.§ [Note: Joshua 15:7. Jerome, Ep. xxvii, ad Eustoch. Virg.: ‘Locum Adomim, quod interpretatur sanguinum, quia multus in eo sanguis crebris latronum fundebatur incursibus’; on Jeremiah 3:2 : ‘Arabas, quae gens latrociniis dedita usque hodie incursat terminos Palaeestinae et descendentibus de Hierusalem in Hiericho obsidet vias.’ Hence, probably, the two brigands who were crucified with Jesus. Cf. Lightfoot on Luke 10:30; G. A. Smith, HGHL p. 265.] It was much frequented. It was the highway between the capital and the prosperous City or Palm-trees; and, moreover, since half of the officiating ‘course’ lodged at Jericho, where provision was abundant,|| [Note: | Lightfoot on Luke 10:30.] there were continually priests and Levites passing to and fro. Jesus told how a man, travelling down the Ascent of Blood, was set upon by brigands, plundered, maltreated, and left half-dead. Presently a priest came down the road, and, when he spied the wretch, he ‘passed by on the other side.’ Next came a Levite, and he behaved with like inhumanity. Then came one riding on an ass, a merchant probably, who often passed that way in the prosecution of his business.¶ [Note: He was known to the innkeeper, and had good credit (cf. Luke 10:35).] Since the holy men had ‘passed by on the other side,’ it would have been no marvel had he done the like, especially since he was a Samaritan, one of that hated race with which the Jews had no dealings. But he was moved by the piteous spectacle, and, dismounting, he dressed the sufferer’s wounds, according to the medical prescription of that day, with oil and wine;** [Note: * Cf. Wetstein.] then he mounted him on his beast, and conveyed him to an inn and tended him. Those offices of humanity detained him from his journey, and he rose betimes ‘toward the morrow’ (ἐπὶ τὴν αὔριον), to push forward. But ere he set out he handed the host two denarii, and bade him see to the unfortunate man until he should be fit for the road. Since a denarius was a day’s wage,* [Note: For a vinedresser (Matthew 20:1-16); for a Roman soldier (Tac. Ann. i. 17).] the two would probably suffice; but in case of need he enjoined that no expense be spared, undertaking to settle the account on his return journey.

‘Which of these three,’ says Jesus, ‘seemeth to thee to have proved “neighbour” to the man that fell in with the brigands?’ Only one answer was possible. The lawyer should have replied, ‘The Samaritan’; but he could not endure to utter the odious name, and he reluctantly faltered out, ‘The one that took pity on him.’ ‘Go thy way,’ said Jesus; ‘do thou also likewise.’ It was a masterpiece of dialectic. He had avoided entanglement in an unprofitable and perilous controversy, and had forced His adversary to pronounce judgment on himself. See also art. Neighbour.

Literature.—The standard Comm.; the works of Trench, Bruce, Dods, and Taylor on the Parables; Edersheim, Life and Times, ii. 234 ff.; Vinet, Vital Christianity, p. 508 ff.; Expositor, 1. vi. [1877] 186 ff.

David Smith.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Samaritan, the Good'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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