A Question I Was Asked:

Is There a Fuller 'Good Samaritan' Meaning?

The Question:

Isn't there more to the Good Samaritan parable than is usually brought out these days? We all know that Jesus slammed the Jewish religionists through this parable and was also teaching that there are fine, godly people among all nations. No problem there, but I have heard that earlier allegorical expositions went deeper.

UK Apologetics Reply:

Okay, let us consider this.

There is little doubt that detailed allegorical explanations of parables can be a mistake, leading one into all sorts of errors. Mostly, Jesus only seemed to have perhaps 1-3 points to make in most of His parables. Having said that, it can be illuminating to look at how such parables were once viewed. Today allegorical explanations are considered theological 'old hat,' but maybe we are sometimes too swift to reject them without a closer look.

In the case of the Good Samaritan parable (Luke 10:30-36), it is said that Origen and Ambrose, for instance, believed that:

a. The man who fell among robbers represents Adam and all his descendants.
b. Since Jerusalem is the only place of peace, going down to Jericho was symbolic of going down into sinful inclinations/behaviours/practices.
c. The robbers symbolised the devil and his fallen angels who were so keen to strip the man of his natural/supernatural? abilities and marred him in his relationship with God. Man is now left 'wounded' in some of the gifts/abilities which he might have enjoyed.
d. The priest and Levite symbolise the uselessness of the Mosaic laws in truly helping Man. It is one thing to clearly illuminate sin, but quite a different thing to make a man righteous!
e. The Samaritan, on the other hand, represents Christ and his beast represents His willingness to humble Himself and to live as a man.
f. The wine with healing properties represents the wine of Christian communion, and the oil represents His mercy.
g. The inn symbolises the church in which those who have been attacked by Satan's wiles can begin the healing process.
h. The innkeeper symbolises Peter and his successors, including bishops and elders as leaders of the church.
i. The coins represent the Gospel and/or sacraments.

I simply state this early 'fuller' view of this parable for what it is worth, I might just say that I think there is something in many of these points although maybe there is a danger of stretching things too far.
Robin A. Brace. August 20th, 2011.