“Another Look at the parable of the Good Samaritan”

Cook, James I. in Saved by Hope: Essays in Honor of Richard C. Oudersluys ed. James I Cook

Eerdmans, 1978

pp. 109-119

Interprets the parable ingeniously as addressed not to the hard-heartedness of the interlocutor, who then needs to become more compassionate as the merciful Samaritan was, but to his pride. The interlocutor is self-justifying–like the Pharisee in Luke 18–and needs humility. He thinks he’s got the first commandment–to love God above all–cased by his rituals, and he’s ready to go along with the second one too, but poses a trap question for Jesus: “Who is my neighbor,” hoping to snare Jesus in the current debates whether they had to love the common people of the land, the despised Samaritans, or the occupying Romans as well as other good Jews. We may assume that the traveller was a Jew, on his way, part of the regular traffic from Jerusalem down to Jericho. The question, “Who is my neighbor?” is forced back into the mouth of the interlocutor for answer when he has to admit that the answer to the question, “Who proved neighbor to him?” can only be that the merciful Samaritan had. The merciful Samaritan is “the one who showed [a Jew] mercy.” This means that the Samaritan (not the traveler) is the one identified as the neighbor whom the interlocutor must love, and this is humiliating to him.