The good Samaritan, part one: Luke 10:25-30

Verse 25: As this law-expert would know, students normally sat to listen to teachers, but might stand to ask a question or (normally only for non-students) to issue a challenge. How to inherit eternal life was a common subject of discussion in early Judaism.

26: Teachers frequently answered questions with questions. Rabbis often asked,”How do you read?”

27: Some other Jewish teachers gave answers like this (see also Jesus in Mark 12:29-31). Using the ancient Jewish interpretive principle of linking texts based on a common key word, it was natural for Jewish scholars to link Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 (both beginning with, “You shall love”).

28: Various passages in the law promise long life on the land for those who keep the commandments (Leviticus 18:5; Deuteronomy 4:1, 40; 8:1; 16:20; 30:6, 16-20). Many later Jewish interpreters reapplied this promise to involve eternal life, as here (cf. Lk 10:25).

29: Jewish people typically applied “neighbor‚” to “fellow Israelite.” While this was the immediate context of Leviticus 19:18, the rest of the context applies the principle to all non-Israelites (Leviticus 19:34).

30:  Jesus’ story deliberately confronts his audience’s values, forcing identification with a solitary merchant or a Samaritan, while Israel’s religious elite side with the bandits by default. Parables usually have a central point (though sometimes also some subsidiary points), so some details are present simply for the story’s setting, not communicating any symbolic meaning.

Jerusalem was higher in elevation than Jericho (thus the man goes “down”). Robbers were not uncommon on the steep, 17-mile downhill road; they naturally targeted especially those traveling alone. Although clothes were a valuable commodity, completely stripping him treated him like a corpse on a battlefield. In ancient texts, “half-dead” meant that, insofar as one could tell, the person was dead.

(Adapted from Dr. Keener’s personal research. Used with permission from InterVarsity Press, which published similar research by Dr. Keener in The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Buy the book here.)