Despised neighbours

One of the great challenges in understanding a parable like the Good Samaritan is recapturing the original impact it would have had to those who first heard Jesus tell this short story. The first problem is that we are over familiar with the basic story. The second is that the word Samaritan has lost its original negative meaning and now has only (mostly) positive associations with Christian aid agencies and organisations. The impact of the Samaritan community was driven home to me when I heard a guest lecturer, an eminent Jewish professor from the USA, give a lecture when I was a student at Sydney University. He spoke about this parable. He shared about the structure of Jewish society at the time, and how the community was broken into three tiers – Priests, Levites, and faithful (a little like our Catholic experience of Ordained, Religious and Lay). So the natural structure of a story like this would feature the priest failing, the Levite failing, but the faithful and dedicated lay Jew coming to the rescue. He argued that it was Luke who changed the story to include the Samaritan because he didn’t understand the structure of the day. But I think this misses the point, and perhaps reveals the continuing discrimination of some areas of Jewish academic work against the still existing Samaritan community (now only numbering in the hundreds). Note the lawyer is not even able to name the Samaritan hero of the story!

Sunday 15, Year C.

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