Uncommon Sense

May 5, 2021

The Good Samaritan Story and What Everyone Misses

Filed under: History,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:41 am
Tags: , ,

A recent post on the Medium.com website addressed why Christians aren’t, well, Christians any more (Let’s Stop Pretending Christianity Is Even “Christian” Anymore by Benjamin Sledge). One passage really stuck out. Here it is:

“Here’s something to consider. A core tenet of Christianity is called ‘The Greatest Commandment.’ In it, Jesus commands Christians to “love God and your neighbor as yourself.” He explains everything hangs on this simple, yet profound command. A religious expert then challenges him and asks, ‘Well, who’s my neighbor?’

“Jesus tells a follow-up story that’s now become a pop culture reference entitled “The Good Samaritan.” The story goes that a man is traveling down a road, gets robbed, beaten, and left for dead. A priest and religious man pass him by, but a Samaritan stops and cares for him. Most people assume a Samaritan is someone who stops and does the right thing when others don’t. What everyone misses, however, is that a Samaritan was someone the Jews of antiquity reviled and hated. If we were to recreate the story in America today, it would be the equivalent of a white Klansman stopping to help an African-American member of Antifa. When Jesus asks ‘Which proved to be the neighbor?’ the religious expert is so appalled he can’t even say the word ‘Samaritan.’ Instead he says, ‘The one who showed mercy.’”

Hmm, “what everyone misses . . .”

If one were unaware of the fact that Samaritans were Hebrews, too, but despised by those wedded to the Jerusalem Temple, one hadn’t read much. The Samaritans went so far as to build another temple, when the first temple was torn down by the Babylonians and was not allowed to be rebuilt. When the Jerusalem temple was rebuilt (ca. sixth century BCE), the Samaritans didn’t want to give up their temple and so a war ensued. There was also some animosity between the Samaritans, who were Jews who didn’t get carted off to Babylon, and the “returnees” who wanted the positions their ancestors had when they were carted off. (This is more complex than I have portrayed here, but I suspect you know that, too.)

So, “what everyone misses. . . ?”

The real interesting part of this story is the question “Well, who’s my neighbor?” We all think “our neighbor” is just a stand-in for “our fellow human being” but it was not. You see, the Biblical commandments were for the Hebrews and the Hebrews alone. They did not apply to the other people, so numerously spread out around them. Any Phoenician you came up to and insisted they follow one of the biblical commandments would laugh at you. They had their own religions and their own rules. Hebraic rules did not apply to them.

So, the question “well, who’s my neighbor?” is not a gullible one and did not require the questioner to be “a religious expert” to ask it, because Jesus was implying through this story that God’s commandments applied to more than just the Hebrew people. Remember this is the same Jesus who said “For most certainly, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not even one smallest letter or one tiny pen stroke shall in any way pass away from the law, until all things are accomplished.” But “the law” applied to Hebrews only and here Jesus was making a really big change, claiming they applied to all peoples. The poor guy in the audience was probably thinking “Good luck with enforcing that!”


  1. There are some serious script/continuity blunders in the dear old book.

    But then again, you ask most Christians (evangelicals, at least) and they’ll say Jesus started Christianity.


    Comment by john zande — May 5, 2021 @ 2:52 pm | Reply

  2. That Christianity stopped being actually Christian, that is based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, is something I’ve been pointing out for years now. Take a wander over to The Friendly Atheist or Right Wing Watch sometime and look at some of the things these “preachers of the gospel” are saying and you’ll quickly see what I mean.


    Comment by grouchyfarmer — May 5, 2021 @ 10:36 pm | Reply

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