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It seems clear that in at least some parables there is an analogical correspondence between some character in the parable and Jesus. For instance, in the parable of the tenants in Luke 20, most would interpret the character of the son in reference to Jesus.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37, two characters stand out as potential analogies to Jesus. The man attacked by robbers has clear parallels to Jesus as the one who suffers and who is rejected by the priests. But also the Samaritan seems to have analogy to Jesus in the gospel as the one who brings salvation and who bears the costs of the other.

Obviously the parable has meaning on the ethical level in relation to the "who is my neighbor" question. But does the parable also have an analogical meaning? And if so, does one of these characters fit better into that level of meaning?

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    This would seem to be a question about a particular method of interpretation quite separate from exegesis. Nothing in the text itself requires analysis. Is this an appropriate question for this forum? – Schuh Jan 27 '16 at 10:39
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    @Schuh I might not be clear in my question. Of course people can willy-nilly create whatever analogical correspondences they would like. I'm asking whether Luke intends the parable to be understood at a level beyond the merely ethical in relation to the characters of his broader narrative and if so, whether one of the characters in the parable is particularly supposed to draw comparison to Jesus. – Soldarnal Jan 27 '16 at 18:45
  • The only clarification that might help is whether you mean something technical by "analogical meaning" (e.g. dbts.edu/2013/07/12/…). Or are you asking for an allegorical interpretation, as several responses below assume you meant? But if you just mean analogy, then I don't see how an answer could be proven. Wouldn't all proposals be 'primarily opinion-based'? – Schuh Jan 27 '16 at 19:08
  • @Schuh An allegory is a type of analogy. So if someone were to demonstrate that the parable were an allegory that would answer my question. But there are other types of analogy besides full blown allegory. For instance, The Lion King is not an allegory, but it seems pretty provable that Simba intentionally corresponds to the character of Hamlet in the eponymous play. – Soldarnal Jan 27 '16 at 20:27
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One commentary notes:

Probably no parable has been allegorized more often than this one. The most famous allegory is that of Augustine.49 The irony of Augustine’s and similar allegorical interpretations is that the parable is introduced (10:29) and concludes with (10:36) questions about what it means to be a neighbor, whereas the allegorical interpretations do not deal with this issue at all. Clearly, Luke’s main point in retelling the parable must have been what it means to be a neighbor. Jesus and Luke sought to illustrate that the love of one’s neighbor must transcend all natural or human boundaries such as race, nationality, religion, and economic or educational status.[Stein, R. H. (1992). Luke (Vol. 24, pp. 318–319). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.]

Parable's are not allagories of salvation, though some may be teaching soteriological themes and as such they might have characters in them who can be directly equated to the Lord Jesus Christ. That is to say we shouldn't always be looking to find Jesus in that direct fashion in every parable.

Furthermore contrary to the opinions of some, one cannot read any hostility towards the Samaritans in Jesus' character. It is reading a lot into Matt 10:5 to assume that means that Jesus is hostile to Samaritans, especially when we consider other things that Jesus does and says, for example:

1) We have the incident with the Samaritan women in John and

2) We also have his instruction to the same disciples in Acts 1:8 to go to Samaria.

Furthermore, in this writers opinion, it is exegetically untenable to link Matt 10:5 with the parable of the good Samaritan1.

However returning to the parable of the good Samaritan it is important to understand the context of what is being said.

A 'lawyer' has come to Jesus with a question about how to inherit eternal life (v25) and Jesus has responded with a question of his own (v26) the lawyer responds by reciting Deut 6:8 and Leviticus 19:18 and Jesus agrees with him and tells him to do those things, the men then asks, 'who is my neighbour' (v29) and Jesus answers that question with the parable.

In the Parable a man (presumably Jewish) is set upon and left for dead. Two respected men who have positions of responsibility in society and who might be expected to offer some aid ignore the man's plight however another man, who is a Samaritan does stop and does help the man.

What is remarkable about this story is that if the roles were reversed it is incredibly unliekly that the Jewish man would help him, and he probably knows that but he doesn't care. Rather he sees a man in need and he goes out of his way (at some personal expense) to help that men.

After telling the story Jesus then asks the lawyer another question.

"So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?" (Luk 10:36 NKJ)

To which the man replies:

"He who showed mercy on him." (Luk 10:37 NKJ)

Then we read:

Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." (Luk 10:37 NKJ)

The good Samaritan is a fictional character, however the direct application of what Jesus is saying is that if this lawyer wants to gain eternal life through his own efforts this is what he will have to be like.

See for example:

All that remains is that men should put this into effect. With authority Jesus commands the lawyer to go away and begin to follow the Samaritan’s example; the command in v. 28 cannot be evaded.[Marshall, I. H. (1978). The Gospel of Luke: a commentary on the Greek text (p. 450). Exeter: Paternoster Press.]

Now, in regards to the Lord Jesus Christ one might go from the parable to the character of Jesus and find many parallels between him and the good Samaritan in the light of such passages as Phil 2:5-9 but that is not the same as saying Jesus was speaking about himself, he wasn't, he was speaking about the lawyer.


Notes 1 The only reason this writer can see to link the two passages together is in an effort to set scripture against scripture for the purpose of showing contradictions or errors.

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    Ninety per cent of this entirely avoids the question, discussing a whole range of other issues the writer seems to find interesting. I'm not even sure the last paragraph actually addresses the question as put. – Dick Harfield Jan 26 '16 at 9:36
  • @DickHarfield I disagree, and sadly it seems little has changed in my recent absence - I posted a separate answer because you don't want me commenting on your answers and this is what we agreed - I guess it doesn't work both ways! Now, in regards to the question it is about if the parable is an allegory and if so which character we can identify as Jesus. In addressing the context and meaning of the parable that question is answered clearly in my opinion. – Jonathan Chell Jan 26 '16 at 14:15
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    @DickHarfield - I also disagree based on the quoted commentary. It's just a long "No, Jesus is not a character in the passage" Jonathan Chell - I do not think it is untenable to link Matt 10:5 with the parable. It's just ironic placement. This maximizes the impact of the parable because, in spite of what just happened, Jesus still chose to use the Samaritan to illustrate his point. – James Shewey Jan 26 '16 at 16:12
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Since our purpose is to seek answers, rather than just discussion, I would say the answer is NO, the good Samaritan does not represent Jesus, even if some early church fathers and medieval preachers (who typically over-used allegory) interpreted it that way.

(BTW, the reason for this overuse of allegory was that the Greeks were famous for it, and so it was quite ingrained in the literary culture of the times. Obviously Jesus' parables were, many of them, allegories, and so it's safe to say it was Jewish as well. Allegorical interpretations are still often meaningful and good, but this hermeneutic is quite out of favor in our times, or so it seems from hermeneutical works of the last century.)

Of course, it won't do to just answer yes or no. So here are some reasons why I would never use that allegorical interpretation for this parable:

  1. Jesus didn't. This parable has been allegorized often, but allegory where it isn't intended is bad hermeneutics. Had Jesus started off, "The kingdom of God is like ..." we might be justified in treating this as allegory, but He didn't. He used it as an illustration of his teaching that every man is our neighbor, if we take the commandment "love your neighbor" seriously, and that there is no room in God's people for prejudice or avoiding our duty to help others in distress.
  2. Jesus was not a Gentile nor Samaritan. I don't think the Lord was prejudiced either, but that's beside the point. He came (as Paul often repeated) "first for the Jew, then for the Gentile". THAT meaning is implied here, if you wish to expound on it. I think even "They are not all Israel that are of Israel" [Ro 9:6] could be brought out here.
  3. The literary mode of the parable is not allegorical, and this should be a guide to us in our interpretation. When the speaker or writer's intent isn't allegorical, allegorical interpretations MUST be eisegesis, which usually leads to a forced or even silly interpretation, if not also an erroneous (heretical) one, though not always.
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The question is whether the author known to us as Luke intended to portray Jesus by analogy as either of the characters in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Unfortunately there's no way of knowing the author's intent in this case.

The New World Encyclopedia reference to Parable of the Good Samaritan offers some allegorical opinions, saying that according to John Welch the parable can be read as an allegory of the Fall and Redemption, with evidence that this was a popular interpretation in medieval times. Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria both saw the good Samaritan as symbolising Christ Himself saving the fallen victim, wounded with sin. Origen reported an elaborate interpretation that somewhat syncretised both interpretations. He stated that this interpretation came down to him from earlier Christians:

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.

The ease with which multiple meanings can be read into this popular parable suggests eisegesis, rather than an exegetical interpretation of Luke's intentions. The parable has meaning on the ethical level in relation to the "who is my neighbor" question, but only has further analogical meaning if we choose to read one of these possibilities into the passage. Some of those who have done so have viewed Jesus as the Samaritan.

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Yes, Jesus is also a "Good Samaritan". Though we are the ones that are supposed to learn from this parable. It's for our sakes he told it.

Remember that God is "I Am", which is to say He is everything good and complete. This includes roles as a good neighbor and even a servant. If being a good neighbor is something good (which it is) then it's source is God.

"But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. - 1 Corinthians 8:6

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