The Story of the Samaritan and the Innkeeper (Luke 10:30-35): A Study in Character Rehabilitation

in Biblical Interpretation
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  • 1 1Baylor University


The aphorism 'context is everything' has been a guiding principle in many studies of Jesus' parabolic sayings. This is true, for instance, of studies attempting to recover a parable's significance in relation to the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, or in relation to its literary placement and function, or in relation to its polyvalent potential. It is also true of this study, which examines Jesus' narrative of the Samaritan—usually referred to as the 'parable of the good Samaritan'. It suggests that, when the Samaritan story is placed within a certain contextual configuration, its narrative features align themselves in ways that have either been conspicuously neglected or consciously avoided in the history of the story's interpretation. Rather than neglecting or avoiding the significance of these narrative features, this essay seeks to exploit their interpretative significance in a fresh manner, entertaining possibilities of meaning beyond the Lukan interpretative framework. In particular, consideration is given to the relationship between the Samaritan and the innkeeper as representing an exceptional partnership that testifies to the reign of God in making each party vulnerable to loss while promoting goodness towards others.

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