This study employs an array of cognitive linguistic (cl) models to reveal some of the details in how contemporary readers understand and interpret characters in a New Testament parable, the one often tagged “The Good Samaritan.” It also uses cognitive narrative analysis to explore how Luke constructs and develops the dialog partners in the pericope and the characters in the parable. The larger goal is to use cl to reveal some of the ways in which meanings are evoked, constructed, constrained and opened up. The parable is embedded in a larger narrative and immediate co-text, its characters selected from the stock of Lukan personae. The study explains how narrative spaces are built up; how characters serve as anchors and links to the larger narrative; and how viewpoint shifts proliferate as the story unfolds.
The Lukan narrator makes Jesus’ viewpoint clear: “Do this, and you will live!” Readers are implicitly invited to identify with the compassionate character of the parable and emulate him. But the opening question and closing dialog shape the parable’s point, expanding its trajectory beyond mere moral rule revision or definitions of “neighbor” or even of “good” character. This parable allows readers to imagine with Luke a way of life lived in the light of the new epoch Jesus is announcing and inaugurating.