The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) is perhaps one of the most well-known of Jesus’ parables. The origin of the parable derives from an exchange between Jesus and an expert in the Law. The scribe asked Jesus, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responded to his question in a very Jewish manner with another question, asking the scribe to summarize the Law. The scribe responded by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5, “You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul…” and Leviticus 19:18, “and your neighbor as yourself.”
Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 are two of three passages within the Old Testament that begin with the phrase וְאָהַבְתָּ (ve’āhavtā; “and you will love”). Jewish interpreters, like Jesus and Paul, connected biblical passages due to shared language between the two verses. The hermeneutical method was known as gezerah shevah. Language, not theology, drove the hermeneutic. Ancient Jewish interpreters assumed that God, who inspired the biblical writers, intended connections between passages that had shared vocabulary even if the passages came from different books. In their handling of Scripture, when they found passages that had shared vocabulary, language drove the hermeneutical method and by bringing the passages together the theological idea was birthed. Quite often, one passage was viewed as esoteric or abstract and the other passage provided a tangible, practical way to interpret the first passage. Loving God with all one’s heart, soul, and strength is abstract. Ancient Jewish interpreters would understand that the shared language between Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 pointed to Leviticus 19:18—“Love your neighbor who is like yourself”—providing a tangible, practical way one loved God: by loving the one created in God’s image (see Gen. 1:27). The second passage interprets the first.
Deuteronomy 6:5 is part of the Shema (“Hear, O Israel”), which was recited daily by Jews in the first century (m. Berachot 1.1). Some believed that by reciting the Shema one accepted upon oneself the kingdom of heaven (m. Berachot 2.2). The second passage, Leviticus 19:18, played a central role in the developing humane spirit within ancient Judaism. Certain circles identified Leviticus 19:18 as the great summary of the Torah (Rom. 13:8-10; Gal. 5:14; James 2:8; Avot de Rabbi Nathan version B, 26; Sifra Kedoshim 45). Jesus Himself identified these two passages as the great commandments of the Torah (Matt. 22:34-30; Mark 12:28-34; see Didache 1:2).
In this video Marc Turnage discusses the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
To answer his question, Jesus told a parable based upon the third Old Testament passage that begins with וְאָהַבְתָּ (ve’āhavtā; “and you shall love”) Leviticus 19:34: “And you shall love him (the foreigner) as yourself….” This exchange demonstrates the erudition and Torah learning of Jesus, and that He functioned at the highest level of Jewish academic training. It also betrays His incredibly creative genius.
The Parable and its Spiritual Setting
Jesus’ story relates the common occurrence of a man traveling the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Walking along the road, passing through the wilderness, the man fell among robbers, who beat him and left him “half-dead.” Jesus’ description of the man as “half-dead” indicates that he was on the threshold of dying. The man’s status as “half-dead” seems inconsequential to modern readers, apart from the fact that he was in desperate need of assistance. However, Jesus’ original audience would have immediately understood that in addition to the man’s dire need, his state raised concerns of ritual purity. The beaten man’s status as “half-dead” introduces the tension within Jesus’ story.
Ritual purity was a major issue within ancient Jewish spirituality. It stood at the heart of many of the debates and differences of interpretation between the various streams of Jewish piety, i.e., Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes. The New Testament mentions that Mary and Paul both participated in acts of ritual purification due to their impurity (Luke 2:22; Acts 21:24, 26; 24:18; see also John 11:55). Anytime we find Jesus, His followers, or His family at the Jerusalem temple, we can assume that prior to ascending onto the temple platform they ritually immersed, which was required by Jewish law. Archaeological excavations near to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem have uncovered a small clay seal with the inscription “Pure for the Lord.” The archaeologists have suggested that this seal represents a “ticket” that pilgrims received after immersing themselves in the ritual immersion pools (mikva’ot) around the Temple Mount for them to show the guards of the temple, proving their purity in order to enter onto the temple platform and into the sacred area.
Within ancient Judaism, ritual purity had nothing to do with sin. It primarily pertained to the temple, its holy things, and eating “sacred” foods. One contracted ritual impurity within the course of daily life: a woman’s menstrual period, a man and his wife after sexual relations, childbirth, contact with leprosy, and coming in contact with a corpse. None of these things were sinful; they simply made one impure so that they could not enter the sacred area of the temple and participate in certain religious ceremonies while they were impure. The Torah outlines that different actions cause different levels of ritual impurity. For example, a man and his wife after sexual relations had to bathe and were purified at sundown (Lev. 15:16-18; Deut. 22:10-12). A person who came into contact with a corpse was unclean for seven days and could only be purified by water mixed with the ashes of a red heifer (Num. 19:11-19).
Of those things that caused ritual impurity, corpse impurity was one of the more serious. According to the Torah, corpses make those who touch them and those under the same roof impure (Num. 19). As previously stated, corpse impurity was not wrong and had nothing to do with sin. Burial of the dead was considered one of the principal acts of piety within Judaism (Deut. 21:23; Tobit 1.17-20; 2.1-9; Josephus, Apion 2.211; Matt. 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42). The Law of Moses, however, decreed that priests could not defile themselves for any dead among the people except for their closest relatives (Lev. 21:1-4). The Levitical command continues that a priest cannot enter where there is a dead body, even for his father and mother (Lev. 21:11; see Ezek. 44:25-27).
As Judaism developed and different streams of Jewish piety emerged, the biblical laws of purity evolved within each group, e.g., Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes, and between the groups. For example, the humane spirit that emerged within Pharisaic Judaism caused the sages to question the biblical injunction that forbade a priest and a Nazirite from burying a neglected corpse.
A high priest or a Nazirite may not contract uncleanness because of their [dead] kindred, but they may contract uncleanness because of a neglected corpse (מת מצווה; mēt mitzvāh). If they were on a journey and found a neglected corpse, Rabbi Eliezer says: “The high priest may contract uncleanness but the Nazirite may not contract uncleanness.” But the sages say: “The Nazirite may contract uncleanness but the high priest may not contract uncleanness.” Rabbi Eliezer said to them: “Rather let the priest contract uncleanness for he needs not to bring an offering because of uncleanness, and let not the Nazirite contract uncleanness for he must bring an offering because of his uncleanness” (see Num. 6:19). They answered: “Rather let the Nazirite contract uncleanness, for his sanctity is not a lifelong sanctity, and let not the priest contract uncleanness, for his sanctity is a lifelong sanctity.” (m. Nazir 7.1)
It should be recognized first of all that the debate between Rabbi Eliezer (second century AD) and the sages sets aside the clear biblical command that priests cannot have contact with a corpse that was not a part of their immediate family (Lev. 21:1-4, 11; Ezek. 44:25-27). The argument assumes that care for the dead (one created in the image of God; Gen. 1:27) superseded the biblical command. This debate also shows that the actions a priest should take who came upon a corpse were not self-evident at the end of the first and beginning of the second century AD. A difference of opinions existed as to how the priest should respond in this situation.
Josephus describes the Pharisees as being “naturally lenient in the matter of punishments” (Ant. 13.294). He says this in the context of describing a debate between the Pharisees and Sadducees in which the Pharisees took a more lenient stance in the application of penal law. Instead of calling for the execution of the offender, they felt he should have been beaten and imprisoned (Ant. 13.293-98). Josephus relates that the Pharisees “passed on to the people certain regulations handed down by former generations and not recorded in the Laws of Moses, for which reason they are rejected by the Sadducean group, who hold that only those regulations should be considered valid which were written down (in Scripture), and that those which had been handed down by former generations need not be observed” (Ant. 13.297). Josephus here outlines a key difference between the Pharisees and Sadducees. The Pharisees accepted the Written Law (the Old Testament) and the Oral Law (the traditions of interpretation on the Written Law orally passed down). The Sadducees, however, only accepted the Written Law, and therefore interpreted the biblical text quite literally and conservatively. Due to their more humane approach, the Pharisees tended to be more lenient regarding purity and penal laws than the Sadducees (Josephus, Ant. 20.199). In other words, as we saw with the discussion about the neglected corpse, the Pharisees could set aside the written Law with an oral law (see John 7:53-8:11). This was unacceptable to the more literal Sadducees who were stricter with regard to purity and punitive laws (Ant. 13.293-298; 20.199).
Josephus’ portrayal of the Sadducees as severely strict with regard to penal law and their adherence to a literal and strict interpretation of Scripture is remembered in the rabbinic commentary to Megillat Ta’anit, an ancient list of fast days:
“Upon the fourth of Tammuz the Book of Decrees became defunct.” For a Book of Decrees was written down and deposited with the Sadducees: “These are to be stoned, these are to be burnt, these are to be decapitated, these are to be strangled.” Were one to ask them during the session, then they showed the book; were one to ask for argumentation…then they knew not how to answer. The Sages said to them: “Is it not written, ‘According to [literally: to the mouth of] the Torah which they teach you’ (Deut. 17:11)—that teaches us that halakhot are not to be written down.” Another interpretation: “The Book of Decrees.” For the Boethusians (a group attached to the Sadducees) were accustomed to saying: “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” (Exod. 21:24)—if someone hits another’s tooth out, then he must hit one of his out; if someone makes another’s eye blind, then he must make his eye blind, so that they are equal. (Scholion to Megillat Ta’anit, 10 Tammuz)
Instead of reading the biblical commandment “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” literally as the Sadducees, the Pharisees interpreted these verses in a lenient manner, referring to financial compensation equal to the physical injury.
In the first century, prior to the destruction of the temple (AD 70), the majority of the priests and Levites belonged to the party of the Sadducees (see Acts 5:17; Josephus, Ant. 20.199; t. Parah 3.6-7). The Sadducees focused upon the temple, its worship and priesthood, and a more strict understanding of purity and penal law based upon their literal, conservative interpretation of Scripture, which led them to reject the more humane spirit developing within Pharisaic circles. This Sadducean concern for purity over human life appears in a story preserved in rabbinic tradition.
Our Rabbis taught: It once happened that two priests were side by side as they ran to mount the ramp [to the altar in the temple]. When one of them came first within four cubits of the altar, the other took a knife and thrust it into his heart. Rabbi Zadok stood on the steps of the Hall [leading to the interior of the temple] and proclaimed: “Our brethren of the house of Israel, listen carefully! Behold it says, ‘If one be found slain in the land…then your elders and judges shall come forth’ (Deut. 21:1). On whose behalf shall we offer the heifer whose neck is to be broken, on behalf of the city or on behalf of the Temple?” All the people burst out weeping. The father [also a priest] of the young man came and found him still in convulsions. He said: “May he be an atonement for you. My son is still in convulsions and the knife has not become unclean.” [His remark] comes to teach you that the cleanness of their vessels was of greater concern to them even than the shedding of blood. Thus it was also said: “More over Manasseh shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to the other (2 Kings 21:16).” (b. Yoma 23a; t. Yoma 1.12)
Rather than assist the dying man, the concern of his father, a priest, centered on the purity of the knife to perform the temple service. The spirit of this tale fits with what we have seen regarding the Sadducean concern for purity and biblical literalness instead of a humane concern. It also fits the tension of Jesus’ story: the man, half-dead on the side of the road, presented a purity concern for the priest and Levite, both of whom most likely belonged to the party of the Sadducees.
The man on the side of the road was not a corpse, yet. He was “half-dead.” Pharisaic oral tradition permitted the violation of almost any commandment for the preservation of life (פִּיקוּחַ נֶפֶשׁ; piqūaḥ
Whence do we know that the duty of saving life supersedes the Sabbath laws? Rabbi Ishmael answered, “even shedding of blood, which defiles the land and causes the Shekinah to remove, is to supersede the laws of the Sabbath, how much more should the duty of saving life supersede the Sabbath law!”…Rabbi Akiva says: “If punishment for murder sets aside even the Temple service, which in turn supersedes the Sabbath, how much more should the duty of saving life supersede the Sabbath laws (see Matt. 12:1-8)!” (Mekhilta de Rabbi Ishmael on Exod. 31:12; see also b. Yoma 85a)
This oral tradition, however, did not fit the biblical literalness of the Sadducees and their strict concern for purity, especially for priests (Lev. 21:1-4, 11). The Hebrew term behind Luke’s Greek phrase “half-dead” was גוֹסֵס (gōsēs). This refers to someone whose condition is so bad that death is most likely imminent (b. Arakhin 18a; and b. Gittin 28a). Pharisaic tradition afforded the same legal status to a dying man (גוֹסֵס; gōsēs) as to a living man (Semahot 1.1). The Sadducees and their concerns for purity, however, would not have embraced this humane spirit that saw in the dying man the image of God.
This explains the priest’s and Levite’s avoidance in helping the man. If they helped him, and he died, they would have become ritually impure from contact with a corpse, which was forbidden according to the Law of Moses (Lev. 21:1-4, 11; Ezek. 44:25-27). Herein lies the tension of the parable: purity and the Law of God versus the needs of the human individual.
The tension between Jews and Samaritans in the first century is well known (War 2.232-49; Ant. 18.29-30; 20.118-36; Luke 9:52-53; John 4:9; and m. Rosh Hashanah 2.2). Samaritans at times waylaid and harassed Galilean pilgrims to Jerusalem (Ant. 20.118-36; Luke 9:52-53). Interpretations of Jesus’ parable usually focus only on these cultural tensions for understanding the appearance of the Samaritan in Jesus’ parable.
A question as to the legal status of Samaritans existed within ancient Judaism. Were Samaritans considered Jews, half-Jews, or Gentiles? Differences of opinion existed within Judaism (Ant. 11.341; t. Terumot 4.12, 14; see also Ben Sira 50:26; b. Hullin 6a). Jesus belonged to those Jews who viewed Samaritans as Gentiles. Luke records an event where Jesus healed ten lepers, one of whom was a Samaritan (Luke 17:11-19). Of the ten, only the Samaritan returned to thank Jesus. Jesus responded, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner (ἀλλογενὴς; allogenēs)” (Luke 17:17-18)?
Jesus’ description of the Samaritan as a “foreigner” indicates that He viewed Samaritans as equal to Gentiles. Within the Jerusalem temple, the outer court was separated from the sacred area by a low wall, the balustrade, and on this wall, were inscriptions in Greek and Latin that warned foreigners, Gentiles, not to pass that point or they would forfeit their lives (War 5.193-94; Ant. 15.417). Paul was arrested due to a riot that broke out in the temple because it was believed he took Trophimus the Ephesian past the barrier (Acts 21:26-36; see also Eph. 2:14). Archaeological excavations in Jerusalem in 1871 and 1935 uncovered two copies of the Greek inscription from this wall, which begins “No foreigner (ἀλλογενὴ; allogenē) is to enter within the balustrade….” This inscription used the same Greek term to describe all foreigners that is used in Luke to describe the Samaritan who returned to give thanks. Jesus’ identification of Samaritans as Gentiles becomes an important detail to the thrust of His story.
To the lawyer’s summary of the Torah, citing Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, Jesus told a story in response to the lawyer’s follow-up question, “And who is my neighbor,” built off the third verse that begins “and you will love”: Leviticus 19:34, “And you shall love him (the stranger) as yourself.” In the parable, the Samaritan behaves according to the Leviticus 19:34 passage. The Samaritan, a foreigner, acts to save the life of the half-dead man, a Jew. The Samaritan loved the foreigner (the man on the road) as himself. His actions stand in stark contrast to the priest and Levite, whose concern for ritual purity led them to pass by the one dying on the roadside.
The rhetorical punch of Jesus’ story is not simply the tensions between Jews and Samaritans. Rather, He portrays even a Gentile knowing and acting in a manner to save human life, something the religious elite would not do because of their strict concern for purity. The Samaritan, a Gentile, behaved in accordance with the Torah (Rom. 2:14), while the priest and the Levite missed the heart of the Torah.
Jesus would often use Gentiles in both positive and negative ways for rhetorical contrast in His teachings (Matt. 5:47; 6:7; Luke 7:9; and 12:30). When He taught in the synagogue of Nazareth (Luke 4:16-30), He used two examples of God showing mercy to Gentiles, those outside the covenant community (Luke 4:25-27), as a means of demonstrating that God does not distinguish to whom He shows mercy, and neither should Jesus’ listeners (see Matt. 5:45-48). In this parable, the Gentile Samaritan, not the priest and Levite, exemplified Leviticus 19:34.
The parable came as a response to the lawyer’s question, “And who is my neighbor?” He wanted Jesus to draw a circle defining who is inside, and therefore the neighbor I must love, and who is outside. Jesus, by using Leviticus 19:34, ingeniously turned the lawyer’s question on its head: “Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” Jesus refused to allow the man to draw a circle defining insiders and outsiders. His response: be the neighbor. Jesus viewed God as showing no partiality to His creation in His mercy:
For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust…. You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matt. 5:45-48).
For Jesus, God does not distinguish in His mercy, and neither should we!
Theology of the Parable
In the centuries leading up to the first century, Judaism experienced a theological revolution that evolved into a new sensitivity of the value of the human individual. Two biblical verses stood at the heart of this revolution: Leviticus 19:18, which came to be read, “Love your neighbor who is like yourself” and Genesis 1:27, “In the image of God created He them.” Human beings bear the image of God and, therefore, have intrinsic value. Moreover, in the manner in which I treat a person created in the image of God, who is like myself, God will respond to me.
The scribe Jesus ben Sira, writing at the beginning of the second century BC, stated, “Forgive your neighbor the wrong he has done, and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray. Does anyone harbor anger against another, and expect healing from the Lord? If one has no mercy toward another like himself, can he then seek pardon for his own sins?” (Sir. 28:2-4). In the book of Jubilees, written around the same time as Ben Sira, we find, “And among yourselves, my sons, be loving of your brothers as a man loves himself, with each man seeking for his brother what is good for him, and acting together on the earth, and loving each other as themselves” (Sir. 36:4). Rabbi Shimon ben Eleazar said, “This word: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ has been proclaimed with a ‘great oath’: I—the Lord, have created him (i.e., your neighbor). If you love him, I can be relied upon to reward you, but if you do not love him—I can be relied upon to visit my judgment on you” (Avot de Rabbi Nathan version A, 16).
Although this humane spirit began to emerge in the centuries prior to Jesus, it was not wholly embraced within Judaism. To many, this new sensitivity would have seemed like heresy. Judaism eventually came to accept this humane approach as the heart of its moral philosophy, but that only came after three devastating and tragic revolts in the first and second centuries AD. Jesus embraced this emerging Jewish humanism and its emphasis upon the value of the human individual, as well as God acting toward us in the manner we act toward others. He stood on the cutting edge of this developing new sensitivity, and in a time of great ethnic, social, and religious tension, He exhibited the boldness to make the radical leap: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27).
The question of the lawyer in Luke 10:29 sought to further clarify who is my neighbor. Jesus answered this question by building a parable upon Leviticus 19:34 and making the hero of the parable a Samaritan, someone outside of the Jewish community, who showed mercy (Luke 10:37) towards one like himself. In response to Jesus’ question, “Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” the lawyer replied, “The one who showed (literally, did) mercy with him.”
The new sensitivity created a certain tension because of the emphasis it placed upon the value of the “one” to God (Luke 15:1-10; m. Sanhedrin 4.5). The needs, then, of a single human being can run in conflict with religious obligation, like ritual purity and Sabbath. This is the tension of the parable of the Good Samaritan. For Jesus, the needs of the one created in the image of God supersede the commands of purity. A similar tension, although concerning the Sabbath, is reflected in the story of Abba Tahnah, the Hasid:
Abba Tahnah, the Hasid, was entering his city on the Sabbath-eve at dusk with his bundle slung over his shoulder, when he met a man afflicted with boils lying at the cross-roads. The latter said to him, “Rabbi, do me an act of charity and carry me into the city.” He remarked, “If I abandon my bundle, from where shall I and my household support ourselves? But if I abandon this afflicted man I will forfeit my life!” What did he do? He allowed the Good Inclination to master the Evil Inclination, and carried the afflicted man into the city. He then returned for his bundle and entered at sunset. Everybody was astonished and exclaimed, “Is this Abba Tahnah, the Hasid?” He too felt uneasy in his heart and said, “Do you think that I perhaps desecrated the Sabbath?” At that time the Holy One, blessed be He, caused the sun to shine, as it is written, “But unto you that fear My name shall the sun of righteousness arise (Mal. 3:20).” (Ecclesiastes Rabbah 9:7)
Abba Tahnah acted mercifully to the one hurt along the side of the road, and, therefore, God extended the day so that he would not break the Sabbath. This is indicative of the new sensitivity. But not everyone accepted this humane spirit in the first century. The Sadducees, with their literal reading of Scripture and strict adherence to ritual and penal laws, did not embrace the value of the “one.” And this is the contrast of Jesus’ parable. The priest and Levite acted to rigidly protect their ritual purity; the Samaritan, a Gentile, acted in a humane manner.
Shimon the Righteous, a sage who lived in the third century BC, stated, “On three things the world stands: on the Torah, on the Temple service, and on deeds of loving-kindness” (m. Avot 1:2). The order of the three indicates their priority according to Shimon, so for him, Torah study was preeminent but the temple service superseded deeds of loving-kindness. The attitude reflects that of the priest and Levite in Jesus’ parable: their ritual duty, their calling, was more important than the needs of the human individual. For Jesus, however, something greater than the temple existed (Matt. 12:6): the needs of the human individual and our need before God to show mercy towards others like ourselves.
This article is just one chapter of Marc Turnage’s, Windows into the Bible: Cultural and Historical Insights into the Bible for Modern Readers (Springfield, Mo.: Logion, 2016). If you enjoyed this chapter, be sure to check out the entire book!
-  David Flusser, “A New Sensitivity in Judaism and the Christian Message,” in Judaism and the Origins of Christianity (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1988), 469-89; and Marc Turnage, “Unless Your Righteousness Exceeds That of the Scribes and Pharisees” in Windows into the Bible: Cultural and Historical Insights into the Bible for Modern Readers (Springfield, Mo.: Logion, 2016). ↩
-  Shmuel Safrai, “Religion in Everyday Life,” in The Jewish People in the First Century (2 vols.; ed. Shmuel Safrai and Menahem Stern; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1976), 2:828. ↩
-  See Eli Shukron, “Did Herod Build the Foundations of the Western Wall?” in City of David Studies of Ancient Jerusalem. The 13th Annual Conference (Jerusalem: Megalim, 2012), 13-26. ↩
-  Thomas Kazen, Issues of Impurity in Early Judaism (Coniectanea Biblica New Testament Series 45; Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 2010), 146. ↩
-  Vered Noam, Megillat Ta’anit. Versions, Interpretation, History with a Critical Edition (Jerusalem: Yad ben-Zvi Press, 2003), 78-79, 211-14 [Hebrew]. ↩
-  Menahem Stern, “Aspects of Jewish Society: The Priesthood and Other Classes,” in The Jewish People in the First Century (2 vols.; ed. Shmuel Safrai and Menahem Stern; Philadelphia: Fortress), 2:596-612. ↩
-  See Brad Young, The ParablesParables: Jewish Tradition and Christian Interpretation (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1998), 113. ↩
-  Young, The Parables, 111-13. ↩
-  Gedalyahu Alon, Jews, Judaism and the Classical World (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1977), 354-73. ↩
-  See Cotton, Di Segni, Eck, et al., eds. Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae. Volume 1, Jerusalem, 42-45. ↩
-  See also R. Steven Notley and Jeffery P. Garcia, “Hebrew-Only Exegesis: A Philological Approach to Jesus’ Use of the Hebrew Bible,” in The Language Environment of First-Century Judaea (Leiden: Brill, 2014), 362-66. ↩
-  There is a certain irony in the parable, for although Jesus considered Samaritans as Gentiles, they had the Five Books of Moses as their Bible with certain Samaritan readings. The Samaritans, more or less, had the same Bible as the Sadducees, yet only the Samaritan acted in accordance with Leviticus 19:34. ↩
-  “Be merciful as your Father in heaven is merciful” Luke 6:36. ↩
-  Flusser, “A New Sensitivity,” 469-89; Marc Turnage, “Unless Your Righteousness Exceeds That of the Scribes and Pharisees” in Windows Into the Bible; idem, “Who’s Image?” Enrichment Journal (Summer, 2011): 116; idem, “The Three Pillars of Jesus’ Faith,” Enrichment Journal (Fall, 2001): 100. ↩
-  Many interpreters of Matthew 12:6 assume that, when Jesus’ spoke about “something greater” than the temple, He referred to Himself, particularly in light of His statement, “The son
of man is lord of the Sabbath.” There are two problems with this interpretation: (1) the Greek of Matthew 12:6 for “something greater” is in the neuter case, and therefore, cannot refer to Jesus, which would have been in the masculine case. Charity towards others fits the neuter case. (2) Jesus’ statement about the “son of man is lord of the Sabbath” does not refer to Jesus either as the parallel in Mark makes clear: “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.” The son of man in this instance is the common use of the term in Hebrew meaning “a human being” (see Psalm 8). In the Gospels, Jesus used the term son of man in three ways: (1) meaning a human being, the everyman, (2) as part of the Passion predictions, and (3) to speak about the future end-of-days judge. Quite simply, the only one of these three meanings that makes sense in the context of Matthew 12:6 is “the everyman.” The son of man is not a messianic title. Moreover, we find an exact parallel to the Markan statement, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath” in the earliest rabbinic commentary on Exodus, the Mekhilta de Rabbi Ishmael, which verifies my reading of the sentence that “the son of man (i.e., a human being) is lord of the Sabbath.” This statement, too, is not about Jesus; see “One Is Here Greater Than the Temple” in my Windows into the Bible, 387-98. ↩