Discussion of the Parable of The Good Samaritan

Shlomoh and friends

Back in March of 1992, I had a discussion with several people on the parable of thr Good Samaritan found in the New Testament.
This discussion took place in the Religion Conference on the RIME BBS.
I've always felt that there is an antisemitic element ot the story, making the Jews look bad so that their arch-enemies, the
Samaritans, can look good, as prototypes of early Christians.

Below are snippets of interchanges between me and Judy Stein and Grace Harris.

 BBS: City People BBS
Date: 03-28-92 (18:58)             Number: 9
From: SHLOMOH SHERMAN              Refer#: 18660
  To: JUDY STEIN                    Recvd: NO  
Subj: Things Jesus never said        Conf: (9) Religion


Judy Stein: Re Matthew 23 [addressed to Grace]:

Shlomoh: Anyone that believes in the Jewishness of the historical Jesus and believes he actually said these [antiJewish] things is pretty foolish in my book. Its obvious that they were later Christian additions [to the NT text]

Shlomoh: The churches have recognized them as blanket condemnations. Your desire to make some esoteric judgments on them, such as that they represent a condemnation of a certain "type" of relgious leader is merely a late 20th century view that tries to rationalize away the blatant anti-Jewish sentiments.

Judy Stein: I agree that the more anti-Semitic the verses, the less likely Jesus said them.

Judy Stein: Denouncing Bet Shamai may have been CHUTZPAH [on Jesus' part], but that isn't a good enough reason to maintain he wouldn't have done it, that I can see.

Shlomoh: You have to realize a few things since you are responding to my response Shlomoh: to Grace. She has [her own ideas about Jewish history from a Christian point of view.]    Many people of non-Jewish origin make statements about Jewish history out of sheer ignorance, an ignorance which is not their fault. Grace claims to be enlightening herself on these very issues yet she appears to retain the [a certain] religious bias from her Christian upbringing. She has her beliefs about Jesus being either  pro- or anti- Shammai. As a matter of fact, his [Jesus'] ruling on divorce is very much according to the school of Shammai. As Jack Nussbaum [another participant in this thread] pointed out to Grace - Bet Shammai NEVER was in control even though we say that in the age of the messiah we shall interpret Torah according to the school of Shammai rather than the school of Hillel because then we shall be in a stronger spiritual position to do according to his school of thinking.

Judy Stein: The Good Samaritan parable, as I read it, does not deal with the question of "Who is my neighbor?" but rather turns the question around to ask, "To whom am *I* a neighbor?"--to whom should I behave in a neighborly way?  It isn't really responsive to the question asked at all but suggests, in fact, that it's irrelevant, that we are all considered neighbors of each other.

Shlomoh: The story of the Good Samaritan has a hidden dimension. The commandment to "love your neighbor as yourself" appears in the same chapter of Leviticus as the commandment to "love the stranger within your midst". Therefore we have two commandments - one to love the neighbor and one to love the stranger. IF the stranger means the gentile, then the neighbor must mean the Jew. The author of the story of the Good Samaritan knew exactly what the commandment to love the neighbor meant, and he used a typical Jewish story form to re-interpret it for Christians. There are many current Jewish stories which use the format of Kohen, Levite, and ordinary Israelite. They usually point up the fact that an ordinary Jew can be quite capable of being as good as a Levite or a Kohen, and in some instances better. This is to cool the pride of those Jews who are hereditarially born as Kohanim or Leviim. The author of the story heard a Jewish tale of an Israelite who helped a poor wayfarer in distress after this wayfarer was not helped by both a Kohen and a Levite. He changed the story around and substituted Samaritan for Israelite. Here is why he did it: The story entered the gospel very early, during the separation of Christianity from Judaism. At that time, the early Christians believed that they somehow were still part of Israel, a new improved Israel. The author knew that the commandment to love the neighbor meant to love the fellow Jew. He therefore wished to expand it to include all who believed in the G-d of Israel. The author knew a Christianity which included both Jews and gentiles. They were now all part of the new Israel so they all had to be thought of as "neighbors". He uses the Samaritan as the SYMBOL OF the Christian. Why? Simple. The Samaritans considered themselves to be the true Israelites, the Jews considered them as impostors. Therefore the Samaritans were the perfect PARADIGM for the new Christians. They were not Jews but they believed in the G-d of Israel and called themselves Israel. Just as - the Church. It believed in the G-d of Israel and called itself by the name of Israel while not being Jewish at all. Therefore the author of the Good Samaritan shows that one doesnt have to be a Kohen, Levite, or even a Jew to now be considered as a "neighbor". One more thing is important to know. The Hebrew word REYA which the KingJames translates as "neighbor" really has a much broader meaning, and doesnt really mean "neighbor" at all. There is another word, SHOKHEN, which means "neighbor" more properly. REYA means "one who is of the same ethnic group"; its REAL English translation is "kinsman". So the story of the Good Samaritan makes sense only from a Christian viewpoint. From the Jewish viewpoint, it can only be seen as a tale carrying the seeds of antisemitism. While not EXACTLY antisemitic, it comes close in that it shows two prominent Jewish clergy ignoring a man in need while a gentile commoner comes to his aid.

Judy Stein: Your post is a most valuable contribution to the entire understanding of messiah. Thank you very much, Shlomoh, I've had some excellent teachers on this conference!   I agree with Grace and disagree with you, to some extent, that Jesus wasn't primarily concerned about attracting followers and avoiding any appearance of conflict with the Jewish authorities.

Shlomoh: I point out in the JESUS THE NAZARENE AND HIS JEWISH FOLLOWERS essays on my website, that he WAS against the authorities, THE SADDUCEES, NEVER the Pharisees. This can be proven by reference to other verses. But since I have already addressed that in JESUS THE NAZARENE, I do not wish to reiterate it here. Both you and Grace have a copy of it. I don't know if she has as yet read it.

Judy Stein: The key to Jesus' attitude is, IMHO, in Matthew 23:23: "You pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the Law--judgment, mercy, and faith: These ought you to have done, AND NOT TO LEAVE THE OTHER UNDONE" [emphasis added].

Shlomoh: These verses are so blatantly the work of some overzealous later anti-Jewish Christian editor that I cannot take them as anything but an insult to our religious teachers. Jesus did not come to attack the Pharisees. He was in agreement with them as were other Zealots, a group with which he fully identified. He disliked the Sadducees because they were in league with the Romans while the Pharisees comforted the common people, something he would have also identified with him. Remember that when he was cotemplating the journey to Yerushalayim, it was the Pharisees who warned him that Herod was looking to have him killed. Why would they do that if he insulted them? No, you guys have it wrong. Dont trust the NT when it comes to ANYTHING that even smacks of antipathy to Pharisees. Jesus did not condemn all Pharisees and although he may have condmened SOME Pharisees.

Judy Stein: I think the primary thrust of Jesus' message is missed if you throw out the whole of the Seven Woes speech.

Shlomoh: I believe that speech is completely unhistorical.


In 2008, I established another thread on the Good Samaritan on my YAHOO group, ExOrthodoxJews. The exchanges are below:

From: "Kate Gladstone" [handwritingrepair@gmail.com]
To: exorthodoxjews@yahoogroups.com
Re: The Story Of The Good Samaritan
Sunday, March 23, 2008 6:32 PM

Shlomoh tells the story of the Good Samaritan...

  A Jew is traveling along a road and is   waylaid by bandits who beat him up and rob him,
  leaving him on the road for   dead. But he is not dead. Along comes a KOHEN and the man  
  cries out to him   for help. The KOHEN ignores him and passes him by. Next comes a LEVI and he
  too passes him by. Lastly comes a Samaritan who takes pity on the wounded Jew and helps him.  ...

One thing to note about the "Good Samaritan" story (Luke, Chapter 10) — he victim gets mugged on the road from Jerusalem towards Jericho. The story may imply that the Kohen and Levi passed him by because they committed the sin of worrying more about TUMAH than about PIKUACH NEFESH (especially if the Kohen and Levi were possibly going the other way, towards Jerusalem: they didn't want to take a look at the guy lying by the side of the road, because if they found him dead they'd have to bury him and then eventually go through the time and trouble of getting purified of the TUMAH from the dead body once they got to Jerusalem for their Temple duties).

But to the Samaritan, Jerusalem is just another city — nothing special, nothing holy; although Samaritans have Jewish ancestry as I recall, Samaritans don't practice Judaism as we know it: they sacrifice on Mount Gerizim and don't care about Jerusalem one bit, so they have no special reason to get particularly upset over any possible consequences of arriving tameh in Jerusalem during Temple times. This lack of a reason to get upset — lack of the worry about TUMAH that tempted the Kohen and Levi to pass by — freed the Samaritan to help.

In other words ... the Kohen and Levi incorrectly let themselves put their work above their ethics (they fell prey to a temptation to avoid the bother of arriving tameh in Jerusalem for their two annual weeks of Temple service or whatever other reason they might go there), while the Samaritan avoided that particular temptation (and he could help) because a Samaritan heading to Jerusalem didn't care one way or the other if he got there TAMEH.

The story MAY mean — at least, it very obviously meant to me, the first time I heard it — that you can make a big mistake by putting anything above PIKUACH NEFESH (not your work, and certainly not your spirituality). The storyteller may have intended to teach that a person hould not allow himself/herself to fall into sin for even the "holiest"-sounding of reasons (such as avoiding TUMAH) , let alone allowing himself/herself to into sin just because doing the right thing would make life inconvenient (the way that becoming TAMEH, especially on the road to Jerusalem, would have really inconvenienced a Kohen or a Levi in Temple times).

A modern "update" of the story might go like this:

    A Jew gets run over by a car (and pinned under its wheels) on SHABBAT —
    a rabbi and a ROSH YESHIVAH pass by instead of helping (they don't
    want to risk touching a car on SHABBAT because it's MUKTZEH)
    and then a non-Jew (or someone of Jewish ancestry who doesn't know
    and/or doesn't practice Orthodox Judaism)
    rolls up his sleeves and rescue the guy because he (unlike the rabbi
    and ROSH YESHIVAH) doesn't even think about the possibility of Jewish
    rituals vs. saving a life. (This doesn't mean that the non-Jew would
    act equally nobly under other circumstances — e.g., if on another day
    saving someone's life happened to conflict with/present inconveniences
    re some teaching of the non-Jew's own reiigion.)

As I see it, the story says (among other things), "Don't let your holiness and purity make you stupid: don't let your holiness and purity make you neglectful of the things that matter even more than holiness and purity."

Comments? Send yours to kingsolnew@yahoo.com  Subject=GoodSamaritan


From: "Kate Gladstone"  [handwritingrepair@gmail.com]
To: exorthodoxjews@yahoogroups.com
Re: [exorthodoxjews] The Parable of The Good Samaritan as subtle antisemitism
Monday, March 24, 2008 10:19 AM

Ironically, the "Good Samaritan" story has featured in psychological experiments (conducted by Christian theological colleges upon student-preachers) that say some pretty sad things about Christians' ability to follow their own "Good Samaritan" message.

       The experiments aimed at discovering whether the "Good Samaritan" story really did, or didn't, help people to put ethics above their own personal convenience and priorities. To test the power (or powerlessness) of the "Good Samaritan" story, the colleges had the students in a "how to preach" class each sit (one by one) alone with a faculty member to spend 90 minutes reading, discussing, and studying a New Testament passage (half of the students studied the "Good Samaritan" story, the other half studied something unrelated such as a genealogy passage) and then the students would have to go (one by one) directly down the road to the auditorium to take turns giving all the rest of the faculty a 10-minute "demonstration" sermon on the message of the story that the student had just studied. BUT ...

        /1/ each student, on the road from the study hall to the auditorium, met an "injured, immobilized fellow student" (actually an actor) halfway between the study hall and the auditorium: this "injury victim" pretended to have suffered a serious fall on the way to give the practice sermon & begged the student to call Campus Security for an ambulance ... and

      /2/ right before leaving the study hall, each student had heard one final comment from the faculty member s/he had studied with. Some students had heard: "The auditorium is 5 minutes away, but between me and you it will be over an hour before they get to your name on the list, so you don't have to rush to get there" while other students heard "The auditorium is 5 minutes away,  they will call your name just under 10 minutes from now, so you'd better make sure to get there on time or you will lose a lot of points off your grade for 'blowing' your demonstration sermon"  —

      so ...

... what, as it turned out, made the difference between whether a student stopped or didn't stop to help an "injury victim"? NOT whether the student had the "Good Samaritan" in mind (from studying/preparing to preach about this subject) ... NO, whether the student decided to help (or decided to just ignore the "injury victim") turned out to depend overwhelmingly on whether the student thought he could stop and help without "blowing" his grade-point average.

        Students who thought they had over an hour to get to the auditorium almost always stopped,  got the student out of the road, and called Campus Security for an ambulance, regardless of whether they'd studied the "Good Samaritan" or something else —

       students who thought they had fewer than five minutes didn't stop, didn't help, and usually just ignored the "injured student" or just called back  an excuse as they ran off ("Sorry, I can't stop or I fail my sermon course") ... again, the students who'd heard they "must hurry" refused to help even if they'd just come from an hour and a half studying the "Good Samaritan."

By the way: when a student stopped to help, the "injury victim" said: "I'm actually an actor: you are being watched with binoculars, and by your behavior you have just gotten an 'A+' on your demonstration sermon" — when a student DIDN'T stop to help, the "injury victim" just kept pleading for help as the student ran away, but at the door of the auditorium the sermon-course teacher met the student and said "We were watching you with binoculars, and by your behavior you have just failed your demonstration sermon."


From: "Smoo lee" [smoolee37@hotmail.com]
To: "exorthodoxjews@yahoogroups.com"
Re: [exorthodoxjews] The Parable of The Good Samaritan as subtle antisemitism
Monday, March 24, 2008 12:07 PM

The split that occurred between Jerusalem-oriented Israelites and the Samaritans was as much a political one as it was religious. Gabriele Boccaccini in Roots of Rabbinic Judaism (highly recommended by the way) describes how the Zadokite line of priests assumed political and religious control of Judah once the monarchic line ended. With the ideas of Ezra and Nehemiah, they established (and thus legitimized) that only certain lineages were eligible for the priesthood. Those priests who had remained in the land during the Babylonian exile and had been the core of faith for the population found themselves suddenly disenfranchised.
Even so, political and economic control was still in the hands of the Samaritans. The Sanballats managed to infiltrate the Zadokite line through intermarriage but later Nehemiah managed to strengthen the Zadokites enough to 'divorce' the powerful Sanballats. Sanballat's son-in-law was grandson of the Zadokite high priest, Eliahib", and was chased away" (Neh 13:28). Sanballat promised him priesthood and would build him a temple on Mt. Gerizim (Ant 11:310). The five books of Moses never specify the location of where the temple should be, so "a member of the dominant priestly family was just what was needed to give equal legitimacy to a religious schism and to a rival temple..." (Boccaccini p.85).
Thus, power, prestige, and their basic right to serve as priests in the Jerusalem temple was wrestled away from them through the consent of the Persian rulers who had close ties with the returning exiles. Unwilling to submit to the Zadokite priestly rule and failing to achieve some accommodation or recognition on par with their political and economic influence, they established their own temple to be the "rightful" leaders of the cult of YHWH as they had been prior to the arrival of exiles. There is no indication that at the time they were any less Jews or had different modalities of worship than the Zadokites but they did have a different vision for the direction of leadership of Israel and rejected the Zadokite call to conform to the new Zadokite order.
During the evolution of Judaism there have been many schisms and branches. Some like Sapiential (wisdom literature) have been reconciled while others like Enochic (forerunners of Christianity) have not.
Power as much as theology has determined the direction of our religion. And the winners get to tell their story.

From: "Shlomoh Sherman" [kingsolnew@yahoo.com]
To: exorthodoxjews@yahoogroups.com
Re: [exorthodoxjews] The Parable of The Good Samaritan as subtle antisemitism
Wednesday, July 16, 2008 7:06 PM

Kate -
No doubt you have heard of the "Pious Fool", the Chasid who will not jump into the water to save a drowning woman because he is afriad to touch her since she might be in NIDAH  

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