CONFLICT: THE PARABLE OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN JESUS AND THE REDUCTION OF INTERGROUP IN THE LIGHT OF SOCIAL IDENTITY THEORY

In: Biblical Interpretation
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  • 1 1St Mary's College, University of St Andrews

Abstract

This article explores the Parable of the Good Samaritan in its immediate context (Luke 10:25-37), a central New Testament passage, both to assess its meaning for Luke's audience and also to suggest its pertinence to contemporary interest in reducing intergroup tension and conflict, especially between ethnic groups. The article first discusses social identity theory, which was developed by Henri Tajfel et al. and which deals with how groups provide their members a valued sense of identity through (often violent) differentiation from other groups. After next describing the violent history of the intergroup relationship between Judeans and Samaritans, as reflected in New Testament passages such as Luke 9:51-55, the article then presents an analysis of Luke 10:15-37 aimed at determining how Jesus uses the parable to subvert the connection between Judean group identity and the Mosaic law and to propose a new approach to moral behaviour. These exegetical results are then analysed in the light of three approaches to reducing intergroup conflict (crossed categorization, recategorization and decategorization) and the latter is found to be most analogous to the approach taken by the Lucan Jesus. The conclusion suggests the relevance of the parable to contemporary efforts to eliminate intergroup conflict.

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