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§ 250. The Parable of the Good Samaritan. (Luke, x., 25, seq.)

We here deviate a moment from chronological order, to introduce a similitude germane to the conversation just set forth. It is remarkable that Luke omits that conversation and gives the parable of the good Samaritan,671671   This parable, like that mentioned p. 216, note, is peculiar in this, that the truth of the higher sphere is not illustrated by a fact from the lower, but the general truth, by a special case from the same sphere, which may in itself have been matter of fact. which is obviously akin to it in import, and is, in turn, omitted by the other Evangelists. Perhaps in this, as in other cases already mentioned,672672   Cf. p. 315, note, and p. 358. the Evangelists divided the matter among them, in view of this very congeniality of meaning.

The parable introduces a man asking Christ what he must do to inherit eternal life. We might infer from Luke’s statement that his motives were bad; but the narrative does not confirm this view, although Christ’s reply does not place him beside the man who was “ near” the kingdom of God. He was one of the νομικοί (lawyers), who, as we have said (p. 247, note), differed from the Pharisees in occupying themselves more with the original writings of Scripture than with the traditions. In this respect they stood nearer to Christ than the Pharisees. The Saviour does not prescribe, as the lawyer, perhaps, expected, any new and special command, but refers him to the law itself, which he had made his particular study: “What is written in the law? How readest thou?” The lawyer quoted in reply (as did the scribe referred to in the last section) the all-embracing commandment to love God and one’s neighbour. “Do this,” said Christ, “and thou shalt live;” implying, what, indeed, is the doctrine of the whole New Testament, that if a man were really capable of a life wholly pervaded by this love, he would lack nothing to justify him before God.

The lawyer was probably ill-disposed to dwell upon the requisites of this perfect law; and Christ, therefore, sets vividly before him in the 364parable the nature of a genuine and practical love, shown in the Samaritan, in contrast with that obedience to the law which goes no further than the lips, illustrated by the priest and the Levite. And in conclusion, he told him, “Go thou and do likewise, and thou shalt fulfil the law.” The contrast between true and pretended love is thus made prominent in the parable in opposition (1) to the hypocrisy, and (2) to the narrow exclusiveness of the Pharisees.673673   It has been supposed, since Christ’s reply is not precisely an answer to the question in v. 29, that the parable may have been separately transmitted, and at a later period put into this connexion, a connexion imitated from Mark, xii., 28, seq.; the two verses of this passage (29-31) being transferred in Luke from Christ’s mouth into the lawyer’s. But even if we admit that the connecting link in the dialogue is not fully given in Luke, x., 29, the historical order is so obvious, that we are thrown upon no such forced explanations.

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