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Bailey Sadler Class
SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON STUDY GUIDE – Spring 2016
Study Theme: Love
What This Lesson Is About:
focus of this lesson comes from Jesus’ parable of the “Good
Samaritan” in Luke’s Gospel where our Lord calls us to a higher
standard: a standard of love that goes the extra mile.
Love Gets Involved
for God includes a costly love for others.
We Can’t Love God Without Loving Others (Luke
Others Means Taking Action (Luke 10:29-32)
Of God and Others Knows No Limits (Luke 10:33-37)
The passage of Luke 10:25-37, usually referred to
as “the parable of the good Samaritan,” occurs in Luke’s Gospel
shortly after Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Messiah (9:18-20) and
Jesus’ transfiguration (vv. 28-36). After
these events, Jesus turned toward Jerusalem, knowing that in Jerusalem He
would be betrayed, crucified, and then rise from the dead (9:51; see vv.
21-22,43-44). Early in this
final journey to Jerusalem, an expert in the law confronted Jesus with a
question about eternal life in order to test Him (10:25).
In the dialogue that followed, Jesus told the powerful story of The
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; LifeWay
Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza,
Anyone can be nice, and the world applauds
random acts of kindness. Random
acts of kindness are a good thing, but are they enough? It’s
easy to be nice and kind when we feel like it, but the needs of others are
not always convenient. Jesus
called us to a higher standard: a standard of love that goes the extra
mile. He shared a parable to
illustrate what loving compassion looks like.
SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs
Commentary; Family Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1
LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.
Can’t Love God Without Loving Others (Luke 10:25-28)
25 Just then an expert in the law stood up to test Him, saying,
“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26
“What is written in the law?” He asked him. “How do you read it?” 27
He answered: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your
soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as
yourself.” 28 “You’ve answered correctly,” He told him.
“Do this and you will live.”
Others Means Taking Action (Luke 10:29-32)
29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus,
“And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus took up the question and
said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the
hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him up, and fled, leaving him
half dead. 31 A priest
happened to be going down that road. When he saw him, he passed by on the
other side. 32 In the same way, a Levite, when he arrived at
the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
is the implication for the believer by the statement: “Loving others means
do you think the lawyer felt a need to justify himself?
did he ask Jesus (v. 29)?
do you think prompted the lawyer to ask this question (v. 29)?
do you understand the intent of his question, And who is my neighbor?
you think the lawyer wanted to know how far Jesus would go in demanding love for
a neighbor? If so, why?
you think we may be guilty of the same attitude?
Why, or why not?
did Jesus answer the lawyer’s question (vv. 30-32)?
does this statement meant to you: “Love for God includes a costly love for
Do you think it is easy to justify your actions
when deep down you know you’re not pleasing God?
Do you think we are sometimes guilty of asking the same
question in an effort to place people into a “love,” “not love”
are some neighbors we try to avoid in our culture?
What are some things that prevents us from
taking action to love others rather than just talking about it?
What are the implications for us that the ones who
passed by were religious people?
you believe there is such a thing as “minimum obedience”?
Why, or why not?
you think the priest and the Levite in this parable represent the majority of
“religious” people today? If so, why?
you think these people think they can be religious and please God whether they
show love or not? If so, why?
you think these attitudes describe many so-called “religious” people today: (1)
Indifference to the needs of others is fine as long as I attend church and
tithe. (2) Ignoring those who suffer won’t matter in the long run as long as I
don’t worship idols, lie, cheat, steal, or kill. If
Lessons in Luke 10:29-32:
is easy to justify our actions when deep down we know we’re not pleasing
and indifference are mutually exclusive.
is not an emotion; it is an act of the will.
Of God and Others Knows No Limits (Luke 10:33-37)
33 But a Samaritan on his journey came up to him, and
when he saw the man, he had compassion. 34 He went over to him
and bandaged his wounds, pouring on olive oil and wine. Then he put him on
his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35
The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and
said, ‘Take care of him. When I come back I’ll reimburse you for
whatever extra you spend.’ 36 “Which of these three do you
think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the
robbers?” 37 “The one who showed mercy to him,” he said.
Then Jesus told him, “Go and do the same.”
may have been some reasons the priest and the Levite did not stop to help the
would a Samaritan be considered an unlikely hero?
would you describe the relations between the Samaritans and the Jews?
(See Digging Deeper.)
would you compare the Samaritan’s attitude to that of the priest and Levite?
does it mean that the Samaritan had compassion for the wounded man?
did the Samaritan prove his compassion (vv. 34-35)?
question did Jesus ask and to whom was he addressing (v. 36)?
was the response to Jesus’ question (v. 37)?
then what did Jesus say (v. 37b)?
would you summarize the lesson Jesus taught through the story?
Why does Jesus call us to a higher standard than
acts of random kindness that may cost us no more than the few bucks we may have
in our wallets?
How do we move from random acts of kindness to
an intentional lifestyle of costly love?
How would you describe the higher standard to
which Jesus calls us?
How does Jesus’ story
does this statement meant to you: ”Failure to act is failure to love, and
failure to love is sin” (see Jas. 4:17)?
are some limits we are likely to place on our acts of compassion for others in
Lessons in Luke 10:33:37:
action when it sees someone in need.
that we love our enemies and treat them as we would our loved ones.
what is best for its object.
The priest and the Levite saw the injured man, but
they did not see an opportunity to act.
Even if they felt sorry for him, apparently that was not enough to
move them to action. The
Samaritan’s exercise of compassion required a personal investment on his
part in at least three ways. First
was I the investment of time. He
interrupted his own journey, took personal time to provide immediate care
for the man, and planned to provide follow-up care.
Second was the investment of
resources. And third was
the investment of personal effort. He
treated and bandaged the man’s wounds, transported him to a place of
refuge, and provided additional care for him once they arrived at the inn.
He did not assign the work to someone else.
What a model for becoming involved in ministry to others this Samaritan
is! Ministry is more than a
feeling, a word, a good thought, or an organized church program.
It is seeing an opportunity and being moved by love, going into
action to bring relief to someone in distress or need.
So, where do you stand when it comes to acting with compassionate acts
of love? Is your compassion so
strong that your cannot help but to take action?
Are you more like the priest or the Levite; or are you more like
the Samaritan? On a scale of 1
(the priest, or Levite) to 10 (the Samaritan), were do you stand with it
comes to acts of loving compassion for the well-being of those in need
regardless of who they are or what the need may be?
As God to help you become more like the Samaritan!
He will you get these, if you are sincere.
What are the implications of
these truths for your life? THE
CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!
the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.
Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the
Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources
of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville,
SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza,
Focal Passage from three different translations of
English Standard Version: Luke
Luke 10:25-37 (ESV)
25 And behold, a lawyer stood
up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit
eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law?
How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord
your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength
and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he
said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” 29
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my
neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem
to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and
departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going
down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So
likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other
side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and
when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up
his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and
brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he
took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of
him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which
of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among
the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And
Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
International Standard Version:
Luke 10:25-37 (ISV)
25 Just then an expert in the
Law stood up to test Jesus. He asked, "Teacher, what must I do to inherit
eternal life?" 26 Jesus answered him, "What is written in
the Law? What do you read there?" 27 He answered, "You must
love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your
strength, and with all your mind. And you must love your neighbor as
yourself." 28 Jesus told him, "You have answered correctly.
Do this, and you will live." 29 But the man wanted to justify
himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is
my neighbor?" 30 After careful consideration, Jesus replied,
"A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he fell into the hands
of bandits. They stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead.
31 By chance, a priest was traveling along that road. When he saw the
man, he went by on the other side. 32 Similarly, a Levite came to
that place. When he saw the man, he also went by on the other side. 33 But
as he was traveling along, a Samaritan came across the man. When the Samaritan
saw him, he was moved with compassion. 34 He went to him and bandaged
his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal,
brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took
out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take good care of him.
If you spend more than that, I'll repay you when I come back.' 36 "Of
these three men, who do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the
hands of the bandits?" 37 He said, "The one who showed
mercy to him." Jesus told him, "Go and do what he did."
New International Version:
one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher,"
he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 26 "What
is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?" 27
He answered: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with
all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love
your neighbor as yourself.'" 28 "You have answered
correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live." 29 But
he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my
neighbor?" 30 In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down
from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped
him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A
priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he
passed by on the other side.
32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.' 36 "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" 37 The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."
(NOTE: Commentary for the
focal passage comes from four sources: “Believer's Bible Commentary,” “The Complete Biblical Library Commentary,” “The College Press NIV
and “The Moody Bible Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)
Lesson Outline — “Love Gets
Involved” — Luke 10:25-37
We Can’t Love God
Without Loving Others (Luke 10:25-28)
Loving Others Means Taking Action (Luke
Love Of God and Others Knows No Limits (Luke
Bible Commentary: Luke 10:25-37
The Lawyer and the Good Samaritan (10:25-37)
10:25. The lawyer, an expert in the teachings of the Law of Moses, was
probably not sincere in his question. He was trying to trick the Savior, to put
Him thoroughly to the test. Perhaps he thought that the Lord would repudiate the
law. To him, Jesus was only a Teacher, and eternal life was
something he could earn or merit.
10:26-28. The Lord
took all this into consideration when He answered him. If the lawyer had been
humble and penitent, the Savior would have answered him more directly. Under the
circumstances, Jesus directed his attention to the law. What did the
law demand? It demanded that man love the Lord supremely, and his neighbor
as himself. Jesus told him that if he did this, he would live.
At first, it might appear that the Lord was teaching salvation by
law-keeping. Such was not the case. God never intended that anyone should ever
be saved by keeping the law. The Ten Commandments were given to people who were
already sinners. The purpose of the law is not to save from sin, but to produce
the knowledge of sin. The function of the law is to show man what a guilty
sinner he is.
It is impossible for sinful man to love God with all his heart,
and his neighbor as himself. If he could do this from birth to death, he
would not need salvation. He would not be lost. But even then, his reward would
only be long life on earth, not eternal life in heaven. As long as he lived
sinlessly, he would go on living. Eternal life is only for sinners who
acknowledge their lost condition and who are saved by God's grace.
Thus Jesus' statement, "Do this and you will live," was
purely hypothetical. If His reference to the law had had its desired effect on
the lawyer, he would have said, "If that's what God requires, then I'm
lost, helpless, and hopeless. I cast myself on Your love and mercy. Save me by
of that, he sought to justify himself. Why should he? No one had accused
him. There was a consciousness of fault and his heart rose up in pride to
resist. He asked, "Who is my neighbor?" It was an evasive
tactic on his part.
10:30-35. It was
in answer to that question that the Lord Jesus told the story of the good
Samaritan. The details of the story are familiar. The robbery-victim (almost
certainly a Jew) lay half dead on the road to Jericho. The Jewish priest
and Levite refused to help; perhaps they feared it was a plot, or were
afraid that they too might be robbed if they tarried. It was a hated Samaritan
who came to the rescue, who applied first aid, who took the victim to an inn,
and who made provision for his care. To the Samaritan, a Jew in need was
10:36, 37. Then the Savior asked the inescapable question. Which of the three
proved neighbor to the helpless man? The one who showed mercy, of
course. Yes, of course. Then the lawyer should go and do likewise.
"If a Samaritan could prove himself a true neighbor to a Jew by showing
mercy to him, then all men are neighbors."
It is not difficult for us to see in the priest and Levite a picture of
the powerlessness of the law to help the dead sinner; the law commanded
"Love your neighbor as yourself" but it did not give the power to
obey. Neither is it difficult to identify the good Samaritan with the Lord Jesus
who came to where we were, saved us from our sins, and made full provision for
us from earth to heaven and through all eternity. Priests and Levites may
disappoint us but the Good Samaritan never does.
The story of the good Samaritan had an unexpected twist to it. It started
off to answer the question "Who is my neighbor?" But it ended by
posing the question "To whom do you prove yourself a neighbor?"
Bible Commentary; by William MacDonald; Copyright © 1995, 1992, 1990,
1989 by William McDonald. Database © 2014 WORDsearch.
Complete Biblical Library Commentary: Luke
10:25. At some point, possibly as the group was traveling
to Jerusalem, a religious leader confronted Jesus with the question, "What
shall I do to inherit eternal life?" While he may have asked a good
question, it was not an honest one. He wanted to test Jesus' theology while
It is possible that this man was sent out by the scribes and Pharisees to
trap Jesus in some blasphemous statement. It would appear that this incident is
unlike the one when a rich young man asked almost the same question. The rich
young man came in earnest, even though he went away saddened.
This lawyer was probably a scribe who because of his close association
with the Law was also called a "doctor of the law" (nomodidaskalos).
The origin of the position of scribe or lawyer stems from the Exile. Because
temple worship ceased, the study of the Law gained emphasis. This gave rise to a
new order of men in religious life, the scribe. He not only copied the Torah,
but because of his close and constant association with it, he was regarded as an
expert in the Law.
Many of the scribes sat as judges in all questions of interpretation.
They were the official exegetes of both the Torah and the traditions of the
fathers. Scribes were also teachers of the Law. They often conducted classes in
halls or rooms in the outer court of the temple. Jesus at 12 years encountered
some of these "doctors" in the temple (2:46).
The question of this "certain lawyer" gives an insight into the
religious thought of the day: that eternal life could be earned by performing
some heroic act or great sacrifice, a once-for-all event. This was contrary to
the teachings of Jesus. It is not a performance of some act which brings eternal
life; rather, it is being in a right relationship with God. This right
relationship begins with accepting God's rule in the person's life at the new
birth, and continues, not just as a one-time event, but rather as a manner of
life on a day-by-day basis.
10:26. Jesus, in a typical fashion, turned the question on
the lawyer. "What is written in the law?" Note that the written Word
of God is the authoritative basis for the answer to the question. With "How
readest thou?" Jesus chided this man. Here was a man trained to understand
and keep the meticulous details of the Jewish religious life, yet he had asked a
10:27. The lawyer
answered by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5, the command to love the Lord God, and
Leviticus 19:18, the command to love others. The Lord gave the same answer to an
expert in the Law who was attempting to entrap Him. This episode is also
recorded in the Gospel of Matthew 22:35-40). It should be noted that our love
for God should permeate every aspect of our being.
10:28. Jesus told this expert in the Law that if he (and
anyone) does these two commands on a continual basis, eternal life is assured.
Doing these things means more than just observing them. Paul wrote to the
Galatians (2:15, 16): "We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners'
know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus
Man, in his own strength and fallen state, is unable to keep these
commands. The vicarious death of Christ was thus necessary for mankind to carry
out these commands. A life in the Spirit gives the enablement.
The eighth chapter of Romans addresses this issue. The believer needs to
have a lifestyle and mindset which are directed by the Spirit of God. It is in
this way that a person can be reconciled to, and honor God.
10:29. The man may have felt uncomfortable at Jesus'
words. He came back on the defensive by asking, "Who is my neighbor?"
Why did the lawyer ask this question? Luke says he wished to "justify
himself"; that is, he wanted to keep on regarding himself as righteous in
God's eyes. His own answer to his question may have made him uncomfortable. He
knew he did not have the kind of love the Law required. Too, he may have been
trying to find some way to justify his lack of love without confessing his sin
of omission. He was guilty of giving intellectual assent to the truth but
unwilling to do anything about it. Like so many, he knew to do right but did not
obey the laws of God. So, seeking to justify himself, he asked Jesus, "Who
is my neighbor?"
In Jewish thought, only Jews were neighbors. All others, Gentiles and
Samaritans, were not neighbors, but dogs of the earth. This belief system was
not only a Jewish thought, but is a common Oriental one. This can be seen in the
present time in the Near East. It was and is held that one is not obligated to
treat people of other religions or sects with any kindness or humanity.
However, this is not to excuse the belief system, especially for the
Jews. Leviticus 19:34 and Deuteronomy 10:18, 19 show that even aliens living in
Jewish lands were to be treated and loved with no bigotry.
10:30. Jesus replied with a story, now known as the
Parable of the Good Samaritan. The road between Jerusalem and Jericho, about 20
miles long, was often called the "Bloody Way" because of the frequent
robberies. Thus, the setting of the story probably was based on a true and
"A certain man" does not clearly identify the victim. Some have
concluded the man was a Jew since the road connects Jerusalem and Jericho. They
surmise he was returning from a pilgrimage to the temple. Because, they contend,
this man was a Jew and the one who helped him was a Samaritan, the point of
loving one's neighbor is strengthened. But Jesus does not say he was a Jew.
Palestine was the crossroads of commerce, and many travelers could be found
within its borders. What Jesus wished to stress was the man's desperate need,
not his race or creed. Just as the "certain lawyer" (verse 25)
remained anonymous, so the "certain man" in Jesus' story became an
appropriate representative of all those who are in need.
10:31, 32. As the unknown victim was lying by the roadside,
three men came along the way. The first and second, a priest and a Levite, saw
the battered man and "passed by on the other side" as they were either
going to or coming from Jericho, a city where many priests lived. The third, the
Samaritan, stopped to give aid and comfort.
The motives of the two religious leaders must be determined from
inference. Several factors are involved which in some combination would explain
their lack of action. There was the possible danger that the robbers were still
lying in ambush. There was the possibility of ceremonial defilement to the
priest and Levite if the man was dead. There was also the attitude that those in
trouble or need deserved their problems because they were not following the Law
and teachings. Anyone who was in need or had problems was under God's judgment.
Any of these could have led them to avoid the man.
10:33. The Samaritan felt sympathy for the man when he saw
his plight. "Had compassion on him" means the Samaritan was filled
with tenderness or pity. This was a spontaneous reaction. His motivation to help
must have been the kindness of his heart.
Samaritans, who ordinarily tried to impede Jews, were
descendants of the northern ten tribes of Israel. They had intermarried with
foreigners brought into the land during the Assyrian rule of Palestine. At this
time one of the controversies between Jews and Samaritans was where to worship
(see John 4:20). Neither expected kindness from the other, which makes Jesus'
story even more pointed.
10:34. This man, whose heritage made him an outcast in the
Jewish land, acted out his sympathy by giving the man medical treatment and
putting him on his own pack animal, slowing himself down considerably. Then he
took the sufferer to an inn. Tradition places this inn on the old Roman road
about halfway between Jericho and Bethany. Ruins of a fairly large building are
found at this site.
The Samaritan exemplified great compassion in these actions. He saw the
need and responded. His response was practical, timely, and unselfish.
The contrast between the religious leaders and the Samaritan must have
been a sharp barb to this lawyer. Yet the Master wanted the parable to be
redemptive, not a slap in the face.
10:35. After the Samaritan had taken care of the man
overnight, he gave the innkeeper two denarii to cover the expenses of the man as
he recovered. This was an act of generosity and of trust. He was generous to the
recovering man and trusting of the innkeeper. Innkeepers of the day were
notoriously dishonest and had a low reputation. Roman law dealt severely with
such, indicating the frequency of the problem.
Inns were practically unknown in Old Testament times. In the East
hospitality was personal as evidenced by Abraham's entertaining the angels
(Genesis 18:1-8) and the Shunammite woman's providing a room for the prophet
Elisha (2 Kings 4:8-10). The pandocheion (verse 34) had a
"host" who took responsibility for the needs of his guests. In many of
these inns bazaars and markets were set up where animals and meat were sold, as
well as wine and other foods.
This parable provides two lessons to believers. First, it reminds
Christians to act on opportunities to show kindness to others on a daily basis.
Second, this parable indirectly illustrates Jesus' own ministry. He saw the
plight of man and, because of His love and compassion, ministered to his
10:36, 37. At the conclusion of this story, Jesus asked the
lawyer which of the three men exemplified the command to love his neighbor. The
expert responded, "He that showed mercy," not even able to admit aloud
that the one was a Samaritan. He was left without any of the excuses or the
vindication he wanted. Some commentators have pointed out that while the lawyer
asked, "Who is my neighbor?" the question had become, "What sort
of neighbor am I?"
Jesus makes a personal appeal for the lawyer to depart from his current
lifestyle and go to a new lifestyle as the Samaritan in the story had
illustrated. "Go, and do thou likewise" applies to us today. At least
three truths stand out. (1) We are to help anyone in need, no matter if his
trouble is circumstantial or of his own making. (2) Any person, regardless of
race, color, creed, or financial status is to receive our help. (3) We must
respond with active compassion, not just pity (cf. James 2:15, 16).
James 2:14-26 tells us that deeds will be an outgrowth of one's faith.
The Lord's Sermon on the Mount expands the theme to include those who borrow,
one's enemies, et cetera.
The lawyer found it difficult to admit that his neighbor included all
people. Many today have the same difficulty. The practice of showing mercy and
compassion to others is needed in the community of the world.
Complete Biblical Library Commentary - Luke. Copyright ©
2009 WORDsearch Corp.; World Library Press, Inc.
The College Press NIV Commentary: Luke
After thanking God for hiding kingdom matters from the wise and learned
and for revealing them to those least esteemed (“little children”), Jesus
now has an opportunity to demonstrate the lesson. He not only tells a story
which shows the lack of understanding on the part of those reputed to be wise,
but he also tells the story to one who is supposed to be very wise. The hero in
the story is, of course, one of the unlearned and even despised.
25-27. The questioner is simply called an expert in the
law (of Moses), because what is important is that he is known as being very
learned. His question is a common one in Jewish debate, one which called for the
respondent’s opinion regarding what is most important to God. Jesus’ answer
here and his answer to the same question in 18:18 refers the questioners to what
is written in the law. Jesus points his hearers to the Law, because the Law
reveals the will of God. (See the supplemental study on the “Law.”) The
expert answers Jesus’ question correctly, suggesting that the Law can be
summarized by two commands: “Love the Lord your God,” and “love
your neighbor.” The first command (concerning love of God) is from the Shema,
the words of Deuteronomy 6:4-5, which was quoted twice a day by faithful Jews.
It provides a good summary of the first four of the ten commandments. The
references to heart, soul, strength, and mind refer to different
aspects of human nature. It is tempting to interpret them in modern terms such
as the emotional, the spiritual, the physical, and the intellectual; however,
the intent is simply that one love God with all of one’s being. The second
command (concerning love of one’s neighbor) is taken from Leviticus 19:18 and
provides a summary of the last six of the ten commandments.
28-29. Jesus responds that this expert has answered
correctly. However, the expert has the problem of most experts: he is proud of
himself and wants to justify himself. He therefore asks Jesus to define
the term neighbor so that he can prove (to himself?) that he is keeping
the Law. Jesus answers the question with a story which functions to change the
question from, “Who is my neighbor?” to, “What does it mean to be a
30-32. The ancient road from Jerusalem to Jericho
was about twenty miles long, and it dropped over three thousand feet in
elevation. The rocky and mountainous terrain made it a perfect place for robbers
to hide, waiting on unsuspecting travelers. After the robbers beat and left the
man to die, both a priest and a Levite separately went down the
same road and saw the man, but both passed by on the other side. Priests
were regarded as the most holy men among the Jews, because they offered the
sacrifices at the temple and constantly avoided ritual impurity. Levites were
next in holiness to priests, since they also served at the temple. Jesus makes
it clear that the most highly regarded may not be those who understand most
clearly the will of God. In fact, those who are “wise and learned” as a rule
cannot understand the most important aspects of the kingdom of God (10:21).
33-35. Any Samaritan was despised by most Jews for
racial, nationalistic, and religious reasons (see supplemental study on
“Samaritans”). Samaritans also despised Jews. This Samaritan, however, took
pity on the beaten man, just as Jesus “took pity” on the widow whose son
died in 7:13. The Samaritan did everything he possibly could for the man,
providing medicinal help (bandaging and pouring on oil and wine), putting
him on his own donkey, taking him to an inn, caring for him there,
then giving two silver coins... to the innkeeper, and even promising to reimburse
the innkeeper for any extra expense. The astute reader recognizes that
this Samaritan is acting just as Jesus has acted: he has compassion, he touches
the “unclean,” he heals (to the extent he can), and he uses his possessions
for the benefit of the needy.
36-37. In keeping with one of the major reasons for using
parables (see supplemental study on “Parables”), Jesus calls on his hearer
to make the point. “Which of these... was a neighbor?” The expert
knew only too well the correct answer, as do all readers of Luke’s Gospel. “Go
and do likewise,” Jesus tells the expert, Luke’s first readers, and all
who will ever read this demanding story. The question remains, however, “Will
the wise and learned be able to understand?”
SOURCE: The College Press NIV Commentary: Luke; New
Testament Series Co-Editors: Jack Cottrell, Ph.D., Cincinnati Bible Seminar;
Tony Ash, Ph.D., Abilene Christian University; College Press Publishing Company,
Moody Bible Commentary: Luke
A Lawyer with Questions; Parable of the Good Samaritan (10:25-37)
The Lawyer's Questions (10:25-29)
10:25-29. Luke provided no background for this exchange.
Apparently Jesus was teaching in a public setting when a lawyer (10:25a)
(a scribe schooled in the law of Moses) asked Jesus a question, attempting to
find a flaw in Jesus' teaching (put Him to the test, 10:25a). While the
question itself is a good one—what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
(10:25b), clearly he "was thinking of some sort of salvation by works and
had no understanding of divine grace" (Morris, Luke, 187). Jesus'
question in response was not intended to be evasive—What is written in the
Law? (10:26a)—but meant to limit the discussion so as to eliminate from
the outset fruitless exchanges and debates involving human speculations (cf. Ti
3:9). In His next question—How does it read to you?—Jesus was not
asking for the lawyer's own relativistic take on the law but was conducting a
counter-test. There was a right and a wrong answer to this question. When the
lawyer quoted Dt. 6:5 ("love the Lord your God") and Lv 19:18
("love your neighbor as yourself") (both cited in Lk 10:27), Jesus
acknowledged that he had answered correctly (10:28a). However, Jesus'
quotation of Lv 18:5—do this and you will live (Lk 10:28b)—brought
home the devastating point that perfect obedience to the law was not possible.
At this point the lawyer should have realized the inherent error of "works
righteousness" implied in his opening question. The lawyer was not ready to
give up and so wishing to justify himself (10:29a) he evasively asked
another question—And who is my neighbor? (10:29b). The lawyer was
attempting to "limit the commandment" so as to make it possible for
him to obey it sufficiently enough to merit eternal life. To justify may
carry the same sense of "justification" in Paul's writings since Luke
was one of Paul's missionary companions and would be steeped in the apostle's
theology. Jesus exposed the fallacy of this tactic, and He answered the lawyers'
question in the parable of the Good Samaritan.
The Good Samaritan (10:30-37)
Several important features of this parable (mostly lost on those who are
familiar with its traditional title, if not its specific contents) would have
been "contrary to expectation" for the initial audience. The setting
(on the road traveling away from Jerusalem to Jericho), the indifferent
characters (a priest and a Levite), and especially the hero of the but—in
Samaritan—were all contrary to the expectations of a Jewish audience. Such a
morality tale would be expected to have the characters moving toward Jerusalem,
the initial audience would have expected that the respected religious leaders
would be the heroes and the despised Samaritan a scoundrel.
10:30-37. The scene Jesus drew was credible—the 17-mile
road between Jerusalem and Jericho (10:30a) had a reputation as a dangerous road
(Josephus, Jewish War, 4.8.3. §474)—and it was tragic. A man was set
upon by robbers and beaten and left half dead (10:30c). The
appearance by chance of a priest (10:31) offered a ray of hope
into this awful scene, but alas the priest passed by the broken figure.
Perhaps he had concluded that the man was already dead and did not want to risk
ceremonial defilement. Likewise a Levite (one who assisted priests in the
affairs of their ministry) passed by the man (10:32). Depicting these religious
authorities as callous and unfeeling would no doubt have scandalized the
audience. They would have bristled at the notion that these respected
authorities could be so unsympathetic. However, the appearance of the Samaritan,
cast in the role of hero would have perplexed Jesus' audience even more. The
Samaritans and Jews despised each other (for the reasons for the hatred, see
comments on John 4:4-6). Although the hatred ran both ways, Jewish people
thought "such people were unclean and were to be avoided" (cf. Bock, Luke,
1031). "Jesus' introduction of the
Samaritan was thus devastating" (Morris, Luke, 189-90). The actions
of the Samaritan were compassionate, selfless, and costly (Lk 10:33-35). (None
of the elements of this parable is to be taken allegorically.)
Jesus concluded with a final question to the lawyer, one that he could
not evade (10:36). The point of Jesus' parable (in answer to the lawyer's
question, 10:29c) was this: anyone in need is my neighbor, anyone who helps
another in need is my neighbor, and anyone who helps me is my neighbor. Jesus
indicated that one's neighbor was anyone in need that an individual could help,
and that the help that should be rendered must be lavish and extensive if one
wishes "to justify himself" before God as this lawyer did. But the man
would not be capable of always fulfilling the law at the level required, and
would not be able to "justify himself" by keeping it. When it comes to
works righteousness, God is a maximalist with respect to obeying the law. A
minimalist approach, as assumed by the lawyer, is unacceptable to Him. For this
reason, because of humankind's inability to live the law, justification must be
by grace through faith.
SOURCE: The Moody Bible Commentary; by Michael
Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham; © 2014 by The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Database
© 2015 WORDsearch.
Love (v. 27)—The complete devotion of one’s entire being to God, not only in
feelings, but in the actions of one’s life toward God and other human beings
Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources
of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.
loyal, and benevolent concern for the well-being of another. In 1 Corinthians
13, Paul described “love” as a “more excellent way” than tongues or even
preaching. The New Testament maintains this estimation of love throughout. The
King James Version uses the word charity instead of “love” to
translate the Greek word Paul used (agape). The word charity comes
from the Latin caritas which means “dearness,” “affection,” or
“high regard.” Today, the word charity is normally used for acts of
benevolence, and so the word love is to be preferred as a translation of agape.
Nevertheless, the reader who comes to the agape of the New Testament with
the idea of benevolence in mind is better off than the reader who comes with the
idea of physical pleasure and satisfaction.
In the Old Testament: In the Old Testament, the verb “to love” has a range of meanings as
broad as the English verb. It describes physical love between the sexes, even
sexual desire (Judg. 16:14; 2 Sam. 13:1-4). It describes the love within a
family and among friends (Gen. 22:1-2). Love as self-giving appears in the
significant commandment that Israelites love the stranger. The basis for such
selfless love is God’s act of redemption (Lev. 19:33-34).
Hosea used the
image of married love to teach us to understand both the faithlessness of Israel
and the faithfulness of God. Israel’s love is “like a morning cloud, and as
the early dew it goeth away” (6:4). God desires steadfast love, but Israel had
been unfaithful. His own relationship with an adulterous wife allowed Hosea the
insight that God had not given up Israel in spite of her faithlessness. The Shema
(Hebrew for “hear”) of Deuteronomy 6:4-6 is echoed in Paul’s declaration
that love is the fulfillment of the law (Rom. 13:10).
In the Teachings of Jesus: In Jesus’ teachings in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the Shema of
Deuteronomy (the command to love God) is united with Leviticus 19:18 (“Thou
shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”) (Matt. 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34; Luke
10:25-28). Just before the parable of the Good Samaritan, a lawyer quoted the
two commands to love and then asked Jesus: “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke
10:29) Jesus gave the story of the Samaritan who took care of the man who fell
among robbers to illustrate the selfless love which is to be characteristic of
citizens of the Kingdom.
5:43-48, Jesus gave the radical command to love one’s enemies and to pray for
those who persecute. Loving only those who love you is, according to Jesus, no
better than those who are not His disciples. The love that Jesus’ disciples
have for others is to be just as complete as God’s love (Matt 5:48; compare
teachings, of course, the selfless love is a response to God’s prior activity.
It is a way of living expected of those who are citizens of the Kingdom. The
teachings of Jesus on love of enemy, it will be noted, are a part of the Sermon
on the Mount which is directed to Christian disciples.
In the Teachings of Paul: In the poem on love in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul associated love with the
all-important biblical words of faith and hope (see also 1 Thess. 5:8; Gal. 5:6)
and declared love the greatest. The context for this poem on love is Paul’s
discussion of relationships within the church. First Corinthians 13:1-3 indicate
that the gifts of the Spirit (ecstatic speech, wisdom, faith, and
self-sacrifice) are good for nothing without love; only love builds up. The
Spirit distributes His gifts for the common good (1 Cor. 8:1; 12:7). First
Corinthians 13:4-7 characterizes love: Love is patient and kind, not jealous or
boastful, not arrogant or rude. Love is not selfish, irritable, or resentful.
Love does not rejoice at wrong but in the right. Love bears, believes, hopes,
and endures all things.
Corinthians 13:8-13 contrasts love with preaching and knowledge, on the one
hand, and faith and hope, on the other. All of these (with love) are important
aspects of our lives here and now. Love in contrast to these, however, is not
only for the here and now; it is forever. Love, therefore, is “the greatest”
of the most significant realities we experience as Christians.
understanding and discussion of love make love a central theme, and his use of
the noun agape makes that term almost a technical term. Prior to Paul, in fact,
the Greek term agape was little used. Instead of using a word for love
already filled with meaning, Paul took the seldom-used term and filled it with
Christian meaning. This love of which Paul wrote is somewhat different from the
love we normally experience and speak about. Christian love is not simply an
emotion which arises because of the character of the one loved. It is not due to
the loving quality of the lover. It is a relationship of self-giving which
results from God’s activity in Christ. The source of Christian love is God
(Rom. 5:8), and the believer’s response of faith makes love a human
possibility (Rom. 5:5).
love does not begin in the human heart, the believer must actualize love. In
Paul’s admonition to Christians to love, the nature of love as self-giving is
manifest (Gal. 5:13-15). The Christian walk is to be characterized by love so
that Paul could even speak of “walking in love” (Rom. 14:15). The Christian
is to increase and abound in love (1 Thess. 3:12).
Love is vitally
connected with faith in that the believer’s faithful response is one of love.
Love is also connected with hope. In his prayer for love to increase and abound,
Paul indicated that this increase of love has the end that the hearts of
Christians might be established “unblameable in holiness” before God when
Jesus returns with all his saints (1 Thess. 3:13). Paul also wrote of the hope
we have of sharing the glory of God and declared that this hope does not
disappoint us, because our hearts have been filled with God’s love through the
Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:2,5). Christian love is evidence of and a foretaste of the
goal of God’s purposes for His children.
In the Writings of John: The Johannine writings magnify the significance of love as forcefully and
fully as any other writings. John’s writings account for only one tenth of the
New Testament but provide one third of the references to love.
The key text in
the first half of the Gospel of John is John 3:16. This passage indicates the
relationship of the Father’s love to the work of Christ and of both to the
life of believers. These themes are repeated throughout the Gospel of John. The
second half of the Gospel of John emphasizes the ethical dimension of love among
Christians. The key passage is Jesus’ new commandment in John 13:34-35 (sec
also John 14:15,21,23,24; 15:9,12,17).
This command of
Jesus to love one another gives us insight into the nature of Jesus Christ for
the church and the nature of Christian love. What is commanded is not an
emotion; it is the disciplined will to seek the welfare of others. Jesus speaks
with the authority of the Father, the only One with authority to make such
demands of men and women. Jesus speaks as the incarnate Word (John 1:1,14). He
has authority to give conditions for discipleship. The relationship of this
commandment to Leviticus 19:18 should be noted. Both command love, but Jesus’
commandment includes the clause: “as I have loved you.”
overall importance of love in the Gospel of John is seen, the dialogue between
Jesus and Peter concerning Peter’s love for Jesus and Peter’s tending the
sheep (21:15-17) becomes more significant. Our love for Jesus Christ is closely
related to our fulfillment of the pastoral task.
The Letters of
John make explicit statements about the ethical implications of love. Our
appreciation of these letters and the command to love is increased when we
realize that John’s opponents claimed that they loved God in spite of their
unlovely temper and conduct. They claimed enlightenment and communion with God.
(They were Gnostics or “Knowers.” John’s distress at the gap between
profession and practice is seen in his repeated admonition to love. The “old
commandment” which John saw as basic for Christians is belief in Jesus and
love for one another (1 John 3:23). This love is be manifested in deeds (1 John
3:18). John left no doubt about the relationship of love and belief in God.
Whoever hates his brother is in the darkness (1 John 2:9). Whoever does not do
right and love his brother is not of God (1 John 4:20). First John 4:8 is the
climax: “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”
In 2 and 3 John
this command to love is repeated in direct and indirect ways. Second John 5-6 is
addressed to the church, and they are explicitly reminded of the command from
Jesus to love one another. Third John 5-6 speaks of the love of the “Beloved
Gaius” in terms of giving service to Christian brothers. Diotrephes, however,
will live in infamy, for he put himself first, refused to welcome the brethren,
stopped those who wanted to welcome the brethren, and put them out of the church
(3 John 9-10).
Love and Judgment: The judgment account in Matthew 25:31-46 illuminates and is illuminated
by the New Testament teachings on love. The account depicts not only what
happens at the end. The narrative makes plain that what happens at the end is
what happens here and now. Christians love because they have been loved. In such
love, God’s eternal purposes are being experienced and carried out by his
people (Matt. 25:34-36).
SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary;
General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.
Priest (v. 31)—A class of male Jews descended from Aaron who
were in charge of the sacrifices, offerings, worship, and maintenance of the
Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources
of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.
charge of sacrifice and offering at worship places, particularly the tabernacle
in the Old Testament primarily involved sacrificing at the altar and worship in
the shrine. Other functions were blessing the people (Num. 6:22-26), determining
the will of God (Ex. 28:30), and instructing the people in the law of God (Deut.
31:9-12). This instruction included the application of the laws of cleanness
(Lev. 11-15). Some of these functions, like blessing and teaching, would not be
reserved for priests alone, but sacrificing and the use of the Urim and Thummim
were theirs exclusively. (See Urim and Thummim, below)
If the main
characteristic of priesthood was sacrificing, the office is as old as Abel. Noah
sacrificed; so did Abraham and the patriarchs. We may say that they were family
priests. Jethro, the priest of Midian, brought sacrifices to God and worshiped
with Moses, Aaron, and the elders of Israel (Ex. 18:12). God promised that
Israel, if it were faithful, would be a “kingdom of priests, a holy nation”
(Ex. 19:6). This may have meant that Israel was called to mediate God’s word
and work to the world—to be a light to the nations (Isa. 42:6).
God purposed to establish the nation, He chose Moses to organize the army, to
set up a system of judges, to build a house of worship, and to ordain priests to
serve therein. The formal priesthood goes with the formal worship of an
organized nation of considerable size. On Mount Sinai, God gave Moses
instructions to build the tabernacle. On the mount, God told Moses to appoint
Aaron and his four sons to serve as priests, that is, to serve at the altar and
in the sanctuary (Ex. 28:1,41). Their holy garments are prescribed in detail and
their consecration ritual is given in chapters 28 and 29. As to the work of
these priests, most of Leviticus and some of Numbers and Deuteronomy give
details. Aaron and his descendants of the tribe of Levi served in the tabernacle
and Temple as priests. Members of the tribe of Levi not related to Aaron
assisted the priests but did not offer sacrifices. Priests were supported by
offerings and Levites by tithes (Num. 18:20-24).
SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary;
General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.
Urim And Thummim (yoo’ rihm uhnd Thuhm’ mihm)—Objects
Israel, and especially the high priest, used to determine God’s will. Little
is known about the Urim and Thummim. They are first mentioned in Exodus as being
kept by the high priest in a “breastplate of judgment” (Ex. 28:15-30).
Later, Moses gave the tribe of Levi special responsibility for their care (Deut.
33:8). After Aaron’s and Moses’ death, Eleazar was to carry and to use the
lots to inquire of the Lord (Num. 27:18-23). They apparently were two objects
that served as sacred lots. That is, they were used to determine God’s will or
to receive a divine answer to a question. Saul called for their use, for
instance, in determining who had broken Saul’s vow in a battle with the
Philistines (1 Sam. 14:41-45). This text also hints as to how the objects were
used. They were “given,” perhaps drawn or shaken from a bag. One object gave
one answer. The other lot gave another answer. Probably, whichever lot came out
first, that was understood to be God’s answer. The Urim and Thummim were not,
however, automatic or mechanical. God could refuse to answer. Saul sought the
spirit of Samuel through a witch because God would not answer Saul through Urim
or dreams or prophets (1 Sam. 28:6-25).
fate of the Urim and Thummim is unknown. In Nehemiah’s time, expectation
continued that someday a priest would arise with Urim and Thummim (Ezra 2:63;
Neh. 7:65). This probably refers to the ability to receive an answer from the
Lord, however, rather than a return of the lots given to Aaron.
SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary;
General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.
Levite (v. 32)—Descendants of Levi, the lowest of the three orders in Israel’s
priesthood, whose role was to assist the priests in their duties at the temple.
Levites (v. 32) (lee’ vitess)—The lowest of the three orders in Israel’s priesthood. In the earliest
biblical records, sacrifices were offered by the chief of a tribe, the head of a
family (Gen. 12:7,8; 31:54) or possibly by a priest at a temple (Gen. 14:18).
Originally, Israel’s priests and Temple personnel were to be drawn from the
firstborn of every family in Israel (Ex. 13:11-15). Later, God chose the tribe
of Levi to carry out this responsibility for Israel (Num. 3:11-13). The tribe of
Levi was appointed because it was the only tribe that stood with Moses against
the people who worshiped the golden calf (Ex. 32:25-29; Deut. 10:6-9). The
Levites were not given a tribal inheritance in the Promised Land (God was their
inheritance) but were placed in 48 Levitical cities throughout the land (Num.
18:20; 35:1-8; Josh. 13:14,33. The tithe of the rest of the nation was used to
provide for the needs of the Levites (Num. 18:24-32). Since the Levites were
dependent on the generosity of others, families were encouraged to invite the
Levites (as well as widows, strangers, and orphans) to join them in their eating
and their celebration of the joyous national feast (Deut. 12:12,18; 16:11,14).
These factors point to the total dedication of the Levites to the work of the
Lord rather than the earthly concerns of making a good living.
The tribe of
Levi included at least three separate families: Gershon, Kohath and Merari (with
the families of Moses and Aaron being treated somewhat separately from the rest
of the tribe of Gershon). During the wilderness journey they were in charge of
taking the tabernacle down, transporting it, setting it up and conducting
worship at the tent where God dwelt (Num. 1:47-54; 3:14-39). In some passages
(Deut. 17:9,18; 18:1; 24:8), the terms priest and Levite (or
Levitical priests) seem identical, but in Exodus 28 and Levitcus 8-10 it is
clear that only the family of Aaron fulfilled the priestly duties of offering
sacrifices in the tabernacle. Because there appears to be a different way of
handling the relationship between the priests and the Levites in these texts,
interpreters differ in the way they understand the Levites. Although it is
possible that the role of the Levites changed or that the distinction between
the priests and Levites was not maintained in each period with equal strictness,
the interpretation which maintains a general distinction between the priests and
Levites seem to fit most texts.
were consecrated to God and given by God as a gift to Israel in order that they
might perform the duties at the tabernacle (Ex. 29; Lev. 8). Their work made it
possible for the people to come to the tabernacle and offer sacrifices for the
atonement of sins. The Levites assisted the priests in their responsibilities
(Num. 3:5-9; 16:9) by preparing grain offerings and the show bread, by purifying
all the holy instruments used in the Temple, by singing praises to the Lord at
the time of the morning and evening offerings, by assisting the priests with
burnt offerings on sabbaths and feast days, and by being in charge of the Temple
precinct and the chambers of the priests (1 Chron. 6:31-48; 23:1-13,24-32;
25:1-6; 2 Chron. 29:12-19). Because of their work, the holiness of the Temple
was maintained; and the glory of the Lord dwelt among Israel. During David’s
reign, the Levites were integrated into the administration of the government,
including the keeping of the gates, judges, craftsmen, musicians, and overseers
of the royal treasury (1 Chron. 9:22-28; 23-26) In Jehoshaphat’s time the
Levites were involved with teaching the people the word of God (2 Chron.
17:7-9). This responsibility probably continued into the postexilic period of
Ezra (Neh. 8:9-12).
Samaritan (v. 33)—Considered “half-breeds” by the Jews, from
intermarriages between the remnants of the Northern Kingdom of Israel (Samaria)
and Gentile foreigners imported by the Assyrians after Samaria’s conquest.
Compassion (v. 33)—The Greek term is
related to the noun for a person’s “inward parts,” the seat of one’s
emotions. An attitude of mercy toward others that should characterize the
33) (ssuh may’ rih uh,
ssuh mehr’ ih tuhn)—Place name of mountain, city, and region meaning,
“mountain of watching,” and the residents thereof. Forty-two miles north of
Jerusalem and nine miles northwest of Nablus, a hill protrudes from the broad
valley which cuts across the central highlands of Israel. There lie ruins of
ancient Samaria near a small village called Sebastiya. Samaria was the capital,
residence, and burial place of the kings of Israel (1 Kings 16:23-28; 22:37; 2
Kings 6:24-30). Following the Northern Kingdom’s fall to Assyria (721 B.C.),
exiles from many nations settled Samaria (Ezra 4:9-10). Later, the Greeks
conquered the region (331 B.C.) and hellenized the area with Greek inhabitants
and culture. Then the Hasmoneans, under John Hyrcanus, destroyed the city (119
B.C.). After a long period without inhabitants, Samaria lived again under Pompey
and the Romans (63 B.C.). Finally, Herod the Great obtained control of Samaria
in 30 B.C. and made it one of the chief cities of his territory. Again, the city
was resettled with people from distant places, this time mercenaries from
Europe. Herod renamed the city Sebaste, using the Greek word for Augustus, the
emperor. When the Jews revolted in 66 A.D., the Romans reconquered the city and
destroyed it. The Romans later rebuilt Samaria, but the city never regained the
prestige it once had.
is the only major city founded by Israel, the Northern Kingdom. Omri, the sixth
king of Israel (885-874 B.C.), purchased the hill of Samaria for his royal
residence. Shechem had been the capital of the Northern Kingdom until Jeroboam
relocated it at Tirzah.
Ahab, Omri’s son, became king of Israel, he built an ivory palace at Samaria.
Amos denounced him for doing this (Amos 6:1,4; 1 Kings 22:39). Jezebel
influenced Ahab, her husband, to make the city the center for Baal worship (1
Kings 16:29-33). Jezebel also had many prophets of Yahweh killed in Samaria (1
two occasions, Benhadad, the king of Syria, besieged the city of Samaria; but
both times he was unsuccessful (1 Kings 20; 2 Kings 6). Naaman, a Syrian leper,
had come to Samaria to be healed by Elisha a short time prior to Ben hadad’s
attack (2 Kings 5).
Elijah destroyed the messengers of King Ahaziah, who were seeking the
consultation of Baalzebub. He, likewise, prophesied of King Ahaziah’s death (2
Kings 1). Later, Jehu killed Ahab’s seventy sons in Samaria (2 Kings 10).
Finally, Samaria fell to Assyria in 721 B.C. after a three years’ siege (2
Kings 17:5, 18:9-12). This destruction came after many prophecies concerning its
sins and many warnings about its doom (Isa. 8:4; 9:8-14; 10:9; 28:1-13; 36:19;
Jer. 23:13; Ezek. 23:1-4; Hos. 7; 13:16; Amos 3:12; Mic. 1:6).
the term Samaria was first identified with the city founded by Omri, it
soon became associated with the entire region surrounding the city, the tribal
territory of Manasseh and Ephraim. Finally, the name Samaria became
synonymous with the entire Northern Kingdom (1 Kings 13:32; Jer. 31:5). After
the Assyrian conquest, Samaria began to shrink in size. By New Testament times,
it became identified with the central region of Palestine, with Galilee to the
north and Judea to the south.
name Samaritans originally was identified with the Israelites of the
Northern Kingdom (2 Kings 17:29). When the Assyrians conquered Israel and exiled
27,290 Israelites, a “remnant of Israel” remained in the land. Assyrian
captives from distant places also settled there (2 Kings 17:24). This led to the
intermarriage of some, though not all, Jews with Gentiles and to widespread
worship of foreign gods. By the time the Jews returned to Jerusalem to rebuild
the Temple and the walls of Jerusalem, Ezra and Nehemiah refused to let the
Samaritans share in the experience (Ezra 4:1-3; Neh. 4:7). The old antagonism
between Israel to the north and Judah to the south intensified the quarrel.
Jewish inhabitants of Samaria identified Mount Gerizim as the chosen place of
God and the only center of worship, calling it the “navel of the earth”
because of a tradition that Adam sacrificed there. Their scriptures were limited
to the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. Moses was regarded as the
only prophet and intercessor in the final judgment. They also believed that
6,000 years after creation, a Restorer would arise and would live on earth for
110 years. On the Judgment Day, the righteous would be resurrected in paradise
and the wicked roasted in eternal fire.
the days of Christ, the relationship between the Jews and the Samaritans was
greatly strained (Luke 9:52-54; 10:25-37; 17:11-19; John 8:48). The animosity
was so great that the Jews bypassed Samaria as they traveled between Galilee and
Judea. They went an extra distance through the barren land of Perea on the
eastern side of the Jordan to avoid going through Samaria. Yet Jesus rebuked His
disciples for their hostility to the Samaritans (Luke 9:55-56), healed a
Samaritan leper (Luke 17:16), honored a Samaritan for his neighborliness (Luke
10:30-37), praised a Samaritan for his gratitude (Luke 17:11-18), asked a drink
of a Samaritan woman (John 4:7), and preached to the Samaritans (John 4:40-42).
Then in Acts 1:8, Jesus challenged His disciples to witness in Samaria. Philip,
a deacon, opened a mission in Samaria (Acts 8:5).
small Samaritan community continues to this day to follow the traditional
worship near Shechem.
By Robert A.
Weathers is pastor of the First Baptist Church, Shallotte, North Carolina.
N AN APRIL
NIGHT IN 2010, a surveillance camera captured a
chilling scene. A man lay dying on a
Queens, N.Y. sidewalk, bleeding from a stab wound.
Ninety minutes passed before anyone called 911.
During this time, over 20 people passed Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax without
lifting a finger to help him. In a
twisted irony, Tale-Yax was knifed while trying to stop a woman from being
accosted on a nearby street. The
headline from ABC News read: “Good Samaritan Left for Dead on City
Jesus’ parable from Luke is so
embedded in our culture that we associate those who selflessly help others, as
well as those who selfishly ignore the suffering, with the story of the “Good
Samaritan.” But our contemporary
cultural understanding of this famous parable barely scratches the surface of
its significance. For that, a closer
look at the Samaritans in Jesus’ day, and His interaction with them, is
Who were the Samaritans?
At the time
of Jesus, the Samaritans “were regarded by the Jews as despised
Samaritans likewise detested the Jews. Their
mutual contempt arose from a long and checkered history.
In 922 BC, King Solomon died, and
his son Rehoboam inherited the throne (1 Kings 12).
Unlike his father, Rehoboam was a foolish leader who listened to unwise
advisors and initiated a series of events that so angered the people that the
kingdom disintegrated. The ten
northern tribes rebelled and formed their own kingdom.
The capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel became its best-known city,
Samaria’s location made it
vulnerable to hostile nations. In
722 BC, the Assyrians swept in, conquered Israel’s capital city of Samaria,
and carried leaders and prime citizens into exile.
Then, to weaken the morale of the citizens and prevent a future uprising,
the Assyrians carted non-Israelite people into Samaria and interspersed them
among the remaining Israelites. Over
time, these groups intermarried, creating a mixed race, the “Samaritans,”
impure in the minds of their Judean neighbors.3
In addition to the intense racial
prejudice, a religious dispute that left enduring scars aggravated the animosity
between the Jews and the Samaritans. In
the sixth century BC, the Jews in the Southern Kingdom suffered their own exile
at the hands of the Babylonians, who invaded Judah and destroyed the Jewish
temple in Jerusalem (2 Kings 25). But
in turn, the Persians conquered the Babylonians and in 538 BC, allowed the Jews
to return to their homeland. When
they arrived, the Samaritans offered to help them rebuild the temple.
The Jews rebuffed their despised neighbors.
Snubbed, the Samaritans applied their energy to hindering the Jews’
efforts to build (Ezra 4—5; Neh. 2—4). An
action that further deepened the chasm between the two peoples, the Jews, under
the leadership of Ezra, enacted strict segregation policies against anyone of
mixed backgrounds, including Samaritans.4
The Samaritans eventually built
their own temple on Mount Gerizim, and they accepted only the Torah as
Scripture. So, clearly, when Jesus
arrived on the scene, the hostility between Samaritans and Jews was deeply
ingrained in their cultures.5
Jesus and the Samaritans
familiar territory for Jesus. It was
positioned on the main road between Judea and Galilee, known to the people of
the area as “the ancient way of the patriarchs.”6
His life intersected with the Samaritans as He traveled through the area,
a trek that usually took three days. Most
Jews preferred to take an alternate route through Gentile territory rather than
cross paths with the Samaritans. But
not Jesus. He did not bypass the
Samaritans’ territory when He traveled, implicitly rejecting the animosity
encounters with Samaritans show that Jesus’ saving grace punctures the
confines of the deepest social prejudices.
the two groups. In addition to the
parable of the good Samaritan in Luke 10, the Gospels record four events in
which Jesus’ ministry intersected with the Samaritans.
Mark and Luke summarized Jesus’ instructions as He prepared His disciples for
their first evangelistic outing (Matt. 10:1-14; Mark 6:7-13; Luke 9:1-6).
Matthew alone records Jesus’ instruction: “Do not go among the
Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans.
Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel” (10:5-6, NIV).
Was Jesus revealing His bias against
the Samaritans? No.
Instead, knowing His disciples were new to evangelism, He instructed them
to avoid the groups that would be the least receptive to the message of these
Jewish men, namely the Gentiles and the Samaritans.
Having success with a receptive group would encourage the disciples to
evangelize, and it would prepare them to be more effective when time came for
them to reach non-Jews.
occasion, Jesus, heading “resolutely” toward Jerusalem, again passed through
Samaria. He intended to stay there
overnight and sent His disciples to find lodging in one of the Samaritan
villages. The local Samaritans,
though, “did not welcome him, because He was heading for Jerusalem”
James and John offered “to call fire down from heaven to destroy them” (v.
54, NIV; see 2 Kings 1:10-14).
Jesus rebuked the disciples, and the group continued on their way to
Jerusalem. In this, He extended to
the Samaritans grace they would not normally receive from the Jews, and He
taught His disciples that judgment belonged to God.
Not even the Messiah’s own disciples had a right to respond to
rejection with judgment.7
The Grateful Samaritan—Luke alone records the story of the 10 lepers who called to Jesus and
requested healing (Luke 17:11-19). Jesus
instructed them to show themselves to the priest; while in route to carry out
Jesus’ orders, each was cleansed of the disease.
Yet, one of the men returned
“praising God in a loud voice” (v. 15, NIV).
This man was a Samaritan. Earlier
the Samaritan shouted to Jesus from a distance; but once he was healed, he
approached Jesus to announce his gratitude.8
Jesus applauded the Samaritan’s faith and told him his faith had
delivered him. The episode
confronted the Jews with their own lack of faith, and challenged them “to be
like this most surprising foreigner.”9
four reports one of the best-known of Jesus’ encounters with a Samaritan, the
woman at the well. Again traveling
through the region, Jesus rested by a well while His disciples went to find
food. A woman came to draw water,
and Jesus engaged her in conversation. This
in itself would have been unusual, since Jewish men did not customarily speak to
women in public, but the story takes a startling turn when John reports that the
woman was a Samaritan.
When Jesus turned the conversation
to the woman’s moral and spiritual condition, she tried to dodge these
personal issues by raising the well-worn arguments about religion and the temple
that served as the hub of the hatred between Samaritans and Jews.
But Jesus was not easily deflected. He
treated her like a person in need of a Savior, and not a despised half-breed.
In the end, she realized that He was from God, perhaps the Messiah, and
she desired the “living water” that He possessed.
She retrieved men from her village to hear Jesus’ message too.10
Samaritans Are People Too
Coupled with the parable of the good Samaritan, these encounters show that
Jesus’ saving grace punctures the confines of the deepest social prejudices.
Against the social conventions of His day, Jesus demonstrated that the
Samaritans could share in the grace offered in the gospel, and that they, like
all people, needed Him. Along with
His disciples, the Samaritans learned that “His message was for everyone,
those of every culture and standing in society.”11
Davis, Milberger, and Santichen, “Good
Samaritan Left for Dead on City Sidewalk,” ABCNews
[online], 25 April 2010 [accessed 1 Aug. 2011].
Available from the internet” http://abcnews.go.com/GMA;
Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A in The
New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1006), 199.
Ibid., 200; Stein, Luke, vol. 24 in The
New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992), 318: Lea and
Black, The New Testament: Its Background
and Message,2nd ed. (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2003), 87.
Borchert, John 1-11, 199.
Borchert, John 1-11, 199.
Bock, Luke, vol. 2:9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996), 970-71.
Stein, Luke, 433; Bock, Luke,
vol. 2, 1403.
Bock, Luke, vol. 2, 1403, 1405.
Borchert, John 1-11, 200-209.
Who Is My “Neighbor”?
By David E. Lanier
David E. Lanier is professor of New Testament
at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, North Carolina.
HE QUESTION WAS SIMPLE ENOUGH; “Who is my
neighbor?” (Luke 10:29).1 Jesus’
response was totally unexpected and ran contrary to traditional thinking.
In The Old Testament Era
original meaning of neighbor was “associate” (Hebrew, rea). In Leviticus
19:18, the term clearly referred to a fellow Hebrew: “Do not take revenge or
bear a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as
yourself; I am Yahweh.” Here the
parallel for “your neighbor” is “members of your community.”
The Israelites were to treat such persons fairly and kindly and were not
to cheat or rob them.2 Further,
they were to extend the same kindness to the foreigner dwelling among them:
“When a foreigner lives with you in your land, you must not oppress him.
You must regard the foreigner who lives with you as the native-born among
you. You are to love him as
yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt; I am Yahweh your God”
treated a neighbor was important in determining righteousness in Israel.
To refuse to treat one’s neighbor justly was a cause for national
disintegration and invited God’s judgment (Isa. 3:5; Jer. 9:4-9; Mic. 7:5-6).3
Old Testament almost always used the word “neighbor” to describe fellow
Israelites—with few exceptions. For
instance, Exodus 3:22 and 11:2 use the word to describe Egyptians living close
by, from whom the Israelites were to ask gold and silver jewelry on the eve of
the exodus. In Ezekiel 16:26, God
reminded His people of their idolatry and spiritual adultery by using the term:
“You engaged in promiscuous acts with Egyptian men, your well-endowed
neighbors, and increased your prostitution to provoke Me to anger.”4
Law demanded Hebrews to be neighborly to one another and to foreigners dwelling
among them, enemies were a different matter.
The imprecatory psalms gave scriptural warrant to hate one’s enemies:
“Lord, don’t I hate those who hate You, and detest those who rebel against
You? I hate them with extreme
hatred; I consider them my enemies” (Ps. 139:21-22; see Matt. 5:43, “You
have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy”).
In the New Testament Era
narrower interpretation of “neighbor” arose, one the Qumran community and
the Pharisees espoused. People
living at Qumran defined “neighbor” as someone who was part of their
separatist community. Everyone
outside that community dwelled in darkness and was to be shunned in order to
avoid spiritual contamination.5 Although
the people at Qumran were to hate the “children of darkness,” or the “men
of the pit,” they did not tolerate taking personal vengeance.6
Pharisees separated themselves from contamination, which they believed
non-observant Jew transmitted. When
the temple police returned from monitoring Jesus at the temple and praised His
teaching, the Pharisees rebuked them: “Are you fooled too?
Have any of the rulers or Pharisees believed in Him?
But this crowd, which doesn’t know the law, is accursed!” (John
7:47-49). This separation applied to
fellow Israelites. How much more
would the Jews have shunned the hated Samaritans, a group that had no advocates
among the Jewish people.
dated back to 722 BC, when the hated Assyrians had exiled all but the poorest
among the northern ten tribes of Israel. In
their place were Elamites and Assyrians, who interbred with the poor Israelites
left in the land, resulting in a half-breed race stigmatized wit idolatry and
uncleanness. They were called
“enemies” in Ezra 4 when they attempted to help rebuild the temple and the
city of Jerusalem.7 The
hostility between the Jew and Samaritan was legendary.
The Samaritans built their own temple on the slopes of Mount Gerizim.
They had their own scriptures, the Samaritan Pentateuch, having rejected
the writings and the prophets as authoritative.
Samaritans showed hatred and hostility to Jews traveling to Jerusalem, so
much so that many Jews preferred to bypass the region of Samaria entirely and to
pass on the east side of the Jordan. Further,
the Samaritans started false signal first to throw off the Jewish pilgrims who
were traveling from the Euphrates region to keep the Passover.8
responded by publicly cursing the Samaritans in synagogue services and refusing
to accept their witness in court. When
the Samaritans pleaded with Alexander the Great to release them from required
tribute payments because they had let the land rest (as Moses commanded),
Alexander refused their request after determining they were not true Jews.
He afterward besieged and destroyed the capital city of Samaria.9
Even James and John, the “sons of thunder,” wanted to destroy a
Samaritan village by fire (Luke 9:51-55). Jesus
The Good Samaritan
“expert in the law” approached Jesus and asked what he should do to inherit
eternal life (Luke 10:25). Jesus
responded by asking him to summarize the law, which he did by quoting
Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18—“Love the Lord your God with all your
heart, . . . soul, . . . strength, and . . . mind; and your neighbor as
yourself” (v. 27). Jesus told him
that was correct and added, “Do this and you will live” (v. 28).
The scribe then attempted to justify himself by asking, “And who is my
neighbor?” (v. 29). This would
have been key in the interpretation, for if a person omitted some group that God
intended, he would have violated the Law.
prided themselves in defining relationships.
They applied the Law of Moses to every conceivable situation involving
individuals and groups. To them the
lines were clear. The scribes’
rulings dictated to the Pharisees and to all observant Jews parameters for
permissible relationships. This
issue was foundational for the Jews’ self identity.10
answering the question directly, Jesus told the scribe how to be a neighbor to
anyone in need. He used a hated
Samaritan as the hero of the parable. Both
a priest and Levite returning from Jerusalem had ignored a wounded Jew on the
treacherous Jericho Road, thus preventing defilement and avoiding responsibility
for a fellow Jew. A hated Samaritan put his life at risk by stopping, treating the Jew’s
wounds, placing him on the Samaritan’s own animal, and taking him to a nearby
inn. There he negotiated with the
innkeeper for the man’s care, giving him two denarii (two days’ wage) and
promise to pay more, if needed.
the scribe, “Which . . . proved to be a neighbor?”
The scribe avoided the hated word “Samaritan” and replied, “The one
who showed mercy to him.” Jesus
responded, “Go and do the same” (vv. 36,37).
this encounter, Jesus redefined “neighbor” broadly and inclusively, a
violation of Jewish tradition and understanding.
The term now included the least expected. The Samaritan had kept the Law
of God intended by loving his “neighbor” as he loved himself.
All Scripture quotations are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB).
Merrill F. Unger, “Neighbor” in The
New Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Unger’s),
ed. R. K. Harrison, rev. ed. (Chicago: Moody, 1988), 915.
R. L. Thomas, “Neighbor” in The
Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, gen. ed. Merrill C. Tenney
(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), 4:408.
A. R. C. Leaney, The Rule of Qumran
and Its Meaning (London: SCM Press, 1966), 121.
This sentiment is especially evident in the Manual
of Discipline. “Neighbor”
refers exclusively to those within the Qumran community itself and appears in
texts commanding proper behavior.
Heinrich Greeven, (πλησίον
preposition with genitive case near;  ὁ π. fellow
man, neighbor) (plesion,
neighbor) in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard
Friedrich, trans. and ed. Geoffery W. Bromiley, vol. 6 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
1968), 316, n. 41.
“Samaritans” in Unger’s, 1118.
Trent C. Butler, Luke, vol.
3 in Holman New Testament Commentary
(Nashville: Holman Reference, 2000), 172.
The Jewish Lawyer
By James E. Carter
James Carter is director, Church-Minister
Relations Division, Louisiana Baptist Convention, Alexandria, LA.
AWYERS ABOUND IN OUR DAY and often are the
subject of jokes and jests; but in reality they are no joke.
The services and expertise they provide in legal matters are essential
for many of the normal functions of life.
The law and lawyers were very much a part of life
in New Testament times. However, the
lawyers in the time of Jesus were experts in the Mosaic law since it way the
rule and guide for Jews more than any civil statutes.
Common folks were expected to abide by the law, but they could not know
all the intricacies of the law. Thus,
the lawyers were necessary for proper interpretation.
Following the restoration of Israel to the land after the exile, the
law was regarded highly and a strict observance of the law became a part of
Jewish life. One writer has
observed, “As seen in its historical perspective, Law observance was
practically a synonym of Judaism.” He
also felt that “An adequate comprehension of New Testament life is entirely
conditioned upon a proper understanding of this supreme position of the Law.”1
This dominant position of the law made the lawyer, a person skilled in the study
of the law, a significant figure in first-century Jewish life.
The law came to signify not only the written code found in the first five
books of the Bible, but also the body of interpretation that had grown up around
the law.2 For this, the lawyers in their interpretation of the law
and the rabbis in their teaching of the law primarily were responsible.
By definition, the word translated lawyer
meant one learned in the study of the law, especially the Mosaic law as
found in the Old Testament Scriptures.3 In classical Greek the term
was used only as an adjective. In
Titus 3:9 it was used as an adjective also.
The other New Testament usages are as a noun, as in Luke 10:25 when the
man who questioned Jesus about the most important commandment was identified as
Luke used the title more than any other New
Testament writer with six references: 7:30, 10:25, 11:45, 11:46, 11:52, and
14:3. Matthew used the term in 22:35
in a passage that is parallel to Luke 10:25.
In its noun form it is found in Titus 3:13 with reference to Zenas, who
was identified as a lawyer. The
adjectival form of the word occurs in Titus 3:9.
From the Gospel references, the definition of the term refers to those
Jewish leaders who were skilled in the study of the law as well as its
interpretation and administration.
The duties or responsibilities of the lawyers fell into three
categories: to study and interpret the law, to instruct the young people in the
law, and to decide questions about the law.
As scholars, the lawyers studied the law.
However, any study of law also involves interpretation.
Over a period of time the lawyers developed a large body of
interpretation, primarily oral interpretation.
In the first century the term “tradition” was preferred to “oral”
when referring to this body of interpretation.4 No written law can
cover all the possibilities, so traditions or customs developed to deal with
those matters not specifically covered by the law.
Tradition or custom also dictated how particular matters were handled
that were mandated but not detailed in the law.
These traditions were not written but were committed to memory.
A great deal of detailed study was necessary to learn the law and its
interpretation. One had to be a
scholar in order to be a lawyer.
The law had universal application for the Jews.
For this reason, the opinion of an individual scholar was not sufficient,
so several students of the law would meet for discussion.
Out of these meetings or authoritative groups, centers of learning
(called “schools”) often developed. Obviously,
these were in large population centers, especially Jerusalem.
The discussions usually were theoretical, but often practical, and
particular questions were directed to them.
Questions usually were referred to the nearest lawyer.
If he needed help, the query was referred to the nearest group of
lawyers. Then it might go to the
Sanhedrin, the official ruling body of the Jews.
Their decision on that question then became authoritative.
Thus the law students became the law makers.
Particularly after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and the end of
the Sanhedrin, the decisions of these authorities often were recognized as
absolute in matters of the law.5
The lawyers also were teachers of the law.
The more renowned scholars drew a group of students around them to whom
they taught their understanding of the law.
A discussion often was staged between lawyers, to which the students
listened and asked questions as Jesus did in Luke 2:46.
These schools of law developed in synagogues and especially at the temple
in Jerusalem. Places in the temple
may have been designated specifically for this purpose (see Luke 2:46; 20:1;
Matt. 21:33 fro instance). During a
lecture the students sat on the floor while the teacher taught from a raised
platform, so literally one was “sitting at the feet of” the teacher (Luke
2:46; Acts 22:30).
Renowned lawyers could so influence the interpretation that their names
became attached to a school of thought or a method of interpreting the law.
Hillel [HILL-lehl] and Gamaliel [guh-MAY-lee-ul] were of this stature.
In the New Testament times the schools of Shammai [SHAM-eye], who
followed a strict interpretation of the law, and Hillel, who was a loose
constructionist, were dominant. The
lawyers in the Gospels who placed heavy burdens on the people likely were
followers of Shammai.6
The lawyers also had a place in court.
They were called upon to decide cases in court or to act as advisors.
In many cases a judge might be elected who had little knowledge of the
law himself. In matters related to
the law, he could call upon a lawyer who was obligated to give his services
without pay. In many courts,
particularly in the large courts in municipal areas, a group of lawyers would be
on hand to discuss and to decide points of law that might arise.
Obviously, the lawyers themselves were the judges in many instances.
So in a practical way, the whole court system and the administration of
the law was in the control of the lawyers.
When one considers the Jewish lawyer, some attention must be given to
the distinction between lawyer and two other terms that occur in the New
Testament with reference to the study, transmission, and teaching of the law.
These other terms are doctor of the
law and scribe.
Literally, the word that is translated “doctor” is “doctor of the
law” and it refers to one who teaches. The
word that normally is translated “teacher” is translated “doctor” in
Luke 2:46. However, the work itself
is referred to in Luke 5:17 and Acts 5:34, where the reference is to teachers of
the Mosaic law. In 1 Timothy 1:7 the
reference is to those who went among the Christians claiming to be teachers of
the law.7 While it is true that lawyers were teachers of the law by
function, the word seems to refer also to a more specialized activity.
All doctors of the law were lawyers, but apparently not all lawyers were
“doctors of the law”.
By derivation the term scribe
refers to a person of letters. It
usually is considered to be one who copied the law, and thus became an authority
in the law due to exposure to it. In
the Gospels the scribes are mentioned frequently in connection with the
Pharisees. Since the Pharisees were
a party within Judaism it is possible that a scribe or a lawyer could be a
Pharisee. Their functions regarding
the law were to teach it, develop it, and use it in connection with the courts.
They copied the sacred writings, both the historical parts and the
commentary. Their interest primarily
was on the external formalities.8 The distinction between the scribes
and the lawyers seems to rest on the primary responsibilities of the scribes to
copy the law.
Some people think that the three terms—lawyer, doctor, and scribe—are
synonymous. They feel that there is
no real distinction between the terms. From
the New Testament usages there seems to be subtle distinctions.
Literally, a lawyer could be a scribe, a doctor, or a teacher.
However, the specialization seems to indicate that the lawyer mainly
interpreted the law, the scribe copied the law, and the doctor taught the law.
One individual conceivably could perform more than one of those
functions, but not necessarily so.
With the exceptions of Luke 10:25 the lawyers in the New Testament
appear in a bad light. That is not
due to their knowledge of the law, but to their insistence on the external
formalities that placed heavy legal and psychological burdens on the people.
They rejected the teaching of John the Baptist (Luke 7:30), placed heavy
burdens on people (Luke 11:45-46), opposed Jesus’ Sabbath healings (Luke
14:3), and even complained that Jesus insulted them (Luke 11:45).
Since Luke used the term more than any other New Testament writer, he may
have been making a point.
In the time of the New Testament, lawyers were no joke, as they are no
joke in contemporary times. They
were persons who were knowledgeable and authoritative in the law.
At a time when the law was very important to Jewish people, lawyers
became very important people Bi
H. E. Dana, The New Testament World
(Nashville: Broadman Press,
W. D. Davies, “Law in First-Century Judaism,” in The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible
(Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1962-76), 3:89.
Alexander Souter, A Pocket Lexicon
to the Greek New Testament (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1916), 167. See
also Gerhard Kittel, ed., Theological
Dictionary of the New Testament, 10
vols. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1967), 4:1088.
Frank E. Hirsch, “Lawyer,” in The
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
(Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1s949), 3:1859.
F. F. Bruce, New Testament History (Garden
City, NY: Anchor Books, 1972), 80.
W. E. Vine, An Expository
Dictionary of New Testament Words (Westwood,
NJ: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1940), 331.
Jericho In Jesus’ Day
By William F. Cook, III
William F. Cook, III is Associate Professor of
New Testament and Greek, Florida Baptist Theological College, Graceville,
ERICHO IS KNOWN as the city where “the walls came
tumbling down.” Archaeologists
suggest that the city was first inhabited between nine and eleven thousand years
ago.1 Next to Jerusalem,
Jericho may be the most familiar city in the Bible.
Strangely, Jericho is not mentioned many times in the Bible, although a
number of memorable events took place there.
The history of Jericho, however, is much richer than just the occasional
references in the biblical account.
is located in the southern Jordan Valley. The
city is 740 feet below sea level, the lowest inhabited city in the world.
The lowest point on the face of the earth, the Dead Sea (1,300 ft. below
sea level), is about eight miles south of the city.
To the west of Jericho rises Mount Quarantana, the traditional site of
Jesus’ forty-day fast and temptation. Five
miles east is the Jordan River and the traditional site of Jesus’ baptism.
Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, is located about
eight miles south of the city on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea.
Jerusalem is approximately thirteen miles southwest of Jericho.
Old Testament Jericho (Tel es Sultan) is located two miles north of New
Testament Jericho. The Old Testament
site was not inhabited in Jesus’ day.
temperature in the valley can be hot in the summer.
However, the average temperature for January is 59 degrees Fahrenheit,
while it is 88 degrees Fahrenheit in August.
Less than seven inches of rain falls annually, mostly between November
and February. One wonders with
conditions like this how Jericho became a place desirable for settlement.
Jesus’ day was an oasis in a barren land; God provided the city with water,
good soil, a moderate winter climate, and a strategic location.
Fresh water is provided by springs near the foot of the western hills.
The major spring is known as Elijah’s fountain (Ain es Sultan).
Flowing eastward the stream waters the heart of the oasis.
Water from other nearby springs (Ain Duk and Ain Nueima) brought in by an
aqueduct enlarged the oasis. The
combination of water availability and the rich alluvial soil made Jericho an
attractive place for settlement.
conditions made Jericho suitable for farming.
Grapes, pomegranates, wheat, and vegetables thrived there.
The area was also famous for its sycamore and balsam trees.
Josephus (Wars, 4.8.3)
and Strabo, the Roman geographer (Geography,
16.41), both commented on Jericho’s famous groves.
The Jericho balsam was renown for its medicinal qualities and for its use
in perfume. These factors, along
with the mild winter climate, made Jericho an attractive location for the winter
capital during the reigns of the Hasmoneans and Herod the Great.
That it was culturally and politically aloof from Jerusalem added to its
Jericho, also called Herodian Jericho (Tulul Abu el ‘Alaiq), had its beginning
in the period following the retrun from Babylonian exile.
When the Ptolemies and Seleucids controlled Palestine, they considered
Jericho to be royal property.2 This
royal setting continued in the first century BC.
have unearthed extensive remains at New Testament Jericho.
Today two large mounds distinguish the site.
The earliest building project was a Hasmonean complex located north of
the Wadi Qelt. The palace complex
covered over six acres and became the pleasure resort of the Hasmonean kings.3
especially fond of Jericho. The city
gave him a place of repose from Jerusalem’s demands.
He captured Jericho in 37 BC from Antigonus, a Hasmonean descendant.
Josephus described how Herod had his brother-in-law, the high priest
Aristobulus, drowned in the swimming pool at the site of the Hasmonean palace (Antiquities,
extensively at Jericho, transforming the city into something of a garden.
Further, he constructed a number of public buildings: an amphitheater,
hippodrome, gymnasium, parks, gardens, pools, villas, a fortress, and most
impressive, a large palace complex. His
magnificent winter palace was built in three stages and may be considered three
extensive project was the third palace covering over seven acres.
This palace was planned and built following exceptional architectural
standards. Since the palace was
constructed on both sides of the Wadi Qelt, its residents could enjoy the
seasonal flow of water.
wings of the palace were built south of the wadi on the southern mound.
At the top of the mound was a rectangular building with a flight of
stairs descending to the wadi. To
the right of the mound was a large swimming pool, and to the left of the mound
was a majestic sunken garden with a double colonnade at each end.
wing of the palace consisted of various palatial rooms, two courtyards
surrounded by colonnades on three sides, a luxurious bathhouse, a few small
reception rooms, and two greeting halls. The
larger hall (29 x 19 meters) accommodated a great number of guests and is one of
the most impressive structures in the entire site.
A broad opening provided a view of the Wadi Qelt and the sunken garden.
The other hall was built on the eastern side of the structure.
This hall opened onto a courtyard surrounded on three sides by colonnades
with a garden in the center. The
east courtyard contained the entrance to an elaborate Roman-style bathhouse.4
Herod’s building projects was a complex accommodating horse races, athletics,
boxing, theater, and musical shows. It
was unique in the entire Greco-Roman world.5
Jesus’ day was probably spread over the irrigated areas of the plain like a
garden city; homes were side by side with royal villas.
Many of the Jerusalem aristocracy used the city as a winter resort.
Evidence of an extensive population in this period is found in
excavations of a huge contemporary cemetery.6
Herod’s death at Jericho in 4 BC his palaces began to decline.
After the removal of Herod the Great’s son, Archelaus, Roman prefects
ruled Judea (with the exception of AD 41-44).
The perfects ruled from Caesarea on the coast rather than Jerusalem and
vacationed outside Palestine. Although
the palaces may not have been as well maintained, the city remained impressive
and important. Under Roman rule
Jericho also remained an important town for travelers coming from Galilee
(around Samaria) and the Transjordan to Jerusalem.
a notable role in the Gospels on Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem.
As He approached Jericho, He would have seen a beautiful city, the
magnificent hippodrome, a large palace complex, winter villas, large
plantations, and a bustling community. At
Jericho, on this final journey, two memorable events took place.
He gave sight to the blind beggar Bartimacus and invited Himself to the
home of Zaccheus, a chief tax collector (Luke 18:35—19:10).
The presence of a chief tax collector in Jericho is understandable since
the city was on the main road from the Transjordan to Judea.
The sycamore tree that Zaccheus climbed is not like our sycamore but more
like our mulberry tree, with mulberry-like leaves and fig-like fruit.7
After the Jewish revolts of AD 66-70 and AD 132-135, Jericho’s
importance greatly disminished. However,
for New Testament students, Jericho will always be remembered as the site where
Jesus said, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your
house” (Luke 19:5, NASB).
Kathleen M. Kenyon, “Jericho” in The
New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, ed. Ephraim
Stern (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), 2:675.
Gideon Foerster, ”Jericho: Hellenistic to Early Arab Periods:
History” in The New Encyclopedia of
Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, ed. Ephraim Stern (New York:
Simon & Schuster, 1993), 2:681.
Ehud Netzer, “Jericho: Exploration Since 1973” in The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land,
ed. Ephraim Stern (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), 2:681.
Ehud Netzer, “Roman Jericho (Tulul Abu el-‘Alayiq)” in The
Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday,
John Bartlett, Jericho in Cities
of the Biblical World (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 20.
In First-Century Thought
By Mark R.
Mark R. Dunn
is associate pastor of First Baptist Church, Duncanville, Texas.
HAT MUST I
DO TO INHERIT ETERNAL LIFE?” a Jewish legal expert asked Jesus (Luke
10:25, HCSB). Through his question,
the lawyer showed a level of spiritual understanding well beyond pagan
perceptions. Despite their vast
assortment of gods, shrines, and rituals, the pagan religious practice of the
first century was more occupied with managing life in this world than focusing
on the afterlife. Historically pagan
expectations regarding eternity had been undeveloped.
Eventually, creative approaches fed interest in the afterlife.
a rich, young ruler asked Jesus the same question (Mark 10:17).
The story concludes with the young man both declining Jesus’
instruction to sell everything and follow Him and abandoning his quest for
eternal life. The incredulous
disciples remarked that they had left everything to follow Jesus.
“’I assure you,’ Jesus said, ‘there is no one who has left house,
brothers or sisters, mother or father, children, or fields because of Me and the
gospel, who will not receive 100 times more, now at this time—houses, brothers
and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and eternal
life in the age to come’” (Mark 10:29-30, HCSB).
The Lord’s magnanimous words contain all the spiritual elements for
which the pagans of His era blindly groped: (1) blessings for life in this
world, (2) personal relationships with God, and (3) a satisfying afterlife.
promise of a 100-fold replacement of all that His disciples had sacrificed to
follow Him bespeaks an unparalleled generosity.
Pagans pursued god-enhanced living in this world because the gods offered
no hope of a pleasant afterlife.1
They had only one chance to live, therefore, much of their religious
effort focused on gaining the gods’ attention and winning their cooperation
for life in this world.2
Christian hallmark is the experience of a dynamic personal relationship with
God. In stark contrast, although the
pagans had access to the gods, they carefully minimized such contact.
Prayer was dangerous because the gods could be spiteful.
Some myths tell of gods granting requests while fully knowing of the
disastrous results to follow. Other
myths speak of supplicants inadvertently offending the gods who frequently
objected to traits that approached godly dimensions, especially in things such
as a person having wealth, power, or physical attributes.3
In such cases, prayer unleashed divine displeasure.
no access to spiritual truth, pagans unwittingly built their reluctance for
personal relationships with the gods into their religious observances.
Their state religions appeared safer by providing prosperity for society,4
but little was offered to the individual—and the afterlife was ignored.
Jesus’ life and ministry hardly could have been more
dissimilar to pagan religious expectations.
His name points to God’s personal involvement.
The theme of His earthly life was emphasized in the name Immanuel.5
Jesus called people to follow Him. He
healed and taught people. He walked
and ate with them. He traveled
extensively meeting people and proclaiming the good news.
He died and was resurrected for people.
The Jews were not expecting such personal divine treatment and the pagans
never imagined it.
Greeks, like other pagans, had no uniform expectations regarding existence after
death. They knew that the earlier
gods, the Titans, had been consigned to Tartaros, the place of eternal
punishment. Generally, humans were
not assigned to Tartaros, though those swearing false oaths were punished there.6
Homer popularized Hades as the common place of the dead.
Hades was not associated with punishment, but its description hardly
seems better: “the cheerless underworld where faceless souls wandered drearily
philosophy became popular among upper-class Romans who simply denied conscious
existence after death.8 Their
view, based on the available data and philosophical ideas, demonstrated that
thoughtful pagans could not determine anything certain about an afterlife.
They focused, therefore, on worldly
living and supported the state religion, which deified the emperors.
was not found in the state religions. Many
sought immortality by raising sons in their names or by achieving glory in the
military, politics, or the arts.9
Others were divided on whether a successful afterlife included absorption
into the divine or the ability to overcome the imprisonment of the soul in
the urgency to avoid an unappealing afterlife led to the development of mystery
religions. Since the gods were aloof
and marginally helpful in this life, people came to believe they would have to
find their own way to eternal bliss. Mystery
religions answered this need and became the most influential first-century
religions after Judaism and Christianity.10 Promises
of a better destiny in the afterlife made the mysteries widely attractive.11
These cults claimed to reveal the secret knowledge of immortality.12
Adherents would be enabled to transcend the entrapment of the underworld
and experience meaningful lives united with their god.
Thus the mysteries provided a type of salvation: deliverance to an
afterlife greater than this world and more attractive than the shadowy
The cult of Demeter, goddess of agriculture, demonstrates
how the mysteries derived. Greeks
explained the earth’s seasons by telling how Pluto, god of the underworld,
kidnapped Persephone, Demeter’s daughter.
Demeter mourned her lost daughter and agriculture died.
Zeus commanded reconciliation each year, during which agriculture would
flourish. Persephone’s annual
return from the underworld suggested ideas for navigating out of the underworld.
From these arose the once-popular Eleusinian Mysteries, possibly the
oldest of the mystery religions,13 in which adherents were taught the
mysterious secrets to attaining a blissful afterlife.
popular mystery religions were the Orphic mysteries; Isis and Osiris from Egypt;
Cybele, the Great Mother; and Mithra from Persia.
“Each of the mystery religions was centered about a god who died and
was resurrected. Each had a ritual
through which the initiate participated in the experience of the god and was
rendered a candidate for
immortality. Each guaranteed its
devotees an ultimate escape from the miserable world about them into an immortal
the devotee “would be absorbed into the divine.”15
mystery adherents, absorption into the divine provided safety from the
underworld. In contrast, Jesus
assured His followers that they would live with Him forever (Mark 10:30; Luke
23:43; John 14:1-6). While pagan
views of eternity differ in detail from the biblical view, non-believers’
theology clearly showed they longed for resolution of the same eternal issues.
Thus pagan religious practice supports the observation of Ecclesiastes,
“He has also put eternity in their hearts, by man cannot discover the work God
has done from beginning to end” (Eccl. 3:11, HCSB).
Only in Jesus can one truly find a satisfying and safe eternal life. Bi
Bell, Jr., Exploring the New Testament World (Nashville: Nelson, 1998), 127.
Jeffers, The Greco-Roman World of the New Testament Era (Downers Grove:
InterVarsity, 1999), 90.
Bell, Exploring the New Testament World, 127.
Cumont, After Life in Roman Paganism (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1922),
Jesus means “The Lord saves.”
Emmanuel means “God is with us.”
Burkert, Greek Religion, trans. Raffan (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press,
Hubbard, “Greek Religion,” in The
World of the New Testament: Cultural, Social, and Historical Contests, ed.
Green and McDonald (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013), 121.
Bell, Exploring the New Testament World, 127.
Nash, The Gospel and the Greeks: Did the New Testament Borrow from Pagan
Thought? (Richardson: Probe Books, 1992), 115.
Klauck, The Religious Context of Early Christianity: A Guide to Graeco-Roman
Religions, trans. McNeil (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2000), 104.
Cumont, After Life in Roman Paganism, 33.
Jeffers, The Greco-Roman World, 96-97.
Vos, Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Manners & Customs: How the People
of the Bible Really Lived (Nashville: Nelson, 1999), 481.
Jeffers, The Greco-Roman World, 99.
SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay
Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234;
Vol. 42, No. 4; Summer 2016.
Is The Answer To & Where In The Bible Is This Week’s Trivia Question
Found? What grandson of Noah was cursed for his father’s
sins? Answer Next Week:
Last week’s question: What
“seer” described himself as “in the Spirit” when he received his
John, the author of Revelation; Revelation 4:2.