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Bailey Sadler Class

SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON STUDY GUIDE – Spring 2016

 

Study Theme:  Love Gets Involved

What This Lesson Is About:

Week of:

Lesson Title:

The 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.

 

 

 

X

July 28

Love Gets Involved

 

 

 

 

LIFE IMPACT:

Love for God includes a costly love for others.

FOCAL PASSAGE:

Luke 10:25-37

LESSON OUTLINE:

I.    

II.

III.  

We Can’t Love God Without Loving Others (Luke 10:25-28)

Loving Others Means Taking Action (Luke 10:29-32)

Love Of God and Others Knows No Limits (Luke 10:33-37)

THE SETTING:  

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 Good Samaritan.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

INTRODUCTION:

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.

I.

We 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.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.   What it mean to you that “Love Gets Involved”?

2.   Who were the “experts” in the law?

3.   What do you think is meant that the lawyer was an expert in the law?

4.   How would you describe the implications this phrase places on the believer?

5.   What question did the young lawyer ask of Jesus (v. 25)? What do you think was his intent?

6.   What false assumption is contained in the lawyer’s question?

7.   Even though the lawyer was trying to test Jesus, was his question an appropriate one?

8.   If so, why was this an appropriate question for a student of the law of Moses?

9.   How did Jesus respond to the lawyer’s question (v. 26)?

10.   Why do you think Jesus turned the question back on the lawyer?

11.   Why do you think Jesus gave the expert in the law questions that he was sure to know how to answer?

12.   What two Scripture passages did the lawyer quote in answering Jesus’ question (v. 27)? (See Deut. 6:5; Levit. 19:18.)

13.   Do you think these two commands are greater than all the others?  If so, why?

14.   How did Jesus respond to the lawyer’s answer (v. 28a)?

15.   What did Jesus say as a follow-up to the lawyer’s answer (v. 28b)?

16.   What do you think Jesus meant by His follow-up statement: “Do this and you will live.”?

17.   How does Jesus’ statement connect to love and not to salvation?

18.   Why do you think it’s easy to be nice and kind when we feel like it, but not so when we don’t feel like it or it is not always convenient?

19.   What is the relationship between loving God and loving others?

 

Lasting Lessons in Luke 10:25-28:

1.  Loving God and loving our neighbor are the two greatest commandments.

2.  All of the other commands in Scripture are related to and extensions of those two commandments, even the Ten  Commandments.

3.  We can’t love God without having faith in Jesus first.

 

II.

Loving 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.

1.   What is the implication for the believer by the statement: “Loving others means taking action”?

2.   Why do you think the lawyer felt a need to justify himself?

3.   What did he ask Jesus (v. 29)?

4.   What do you think prompted the lawyer to ask this question (v. 29)?

5.   How do you understand the intent of his question, And who is my neighbor?

6.   Do you think the lawyer wanted to know how far Jesus would go in demanding love for a neighbor?  If so, why?

7.   Do you think we may be guilty of the same attitude?  Why, or why not?

8.   How did Jesus answer the lawyer’s question (vv. 30-32)?

9.   What does this statement meant to you: “Love for God includes a costly love for others”?

10.   Do you think it is easy to justify your actions when deep down you know you’re not pleasing God?

11.   Do you think we are sometimes guilty of asking the same question in an effort to place people into a “love,” “not love” category.

12.   Who are some neighbors we try to avoid in our culture?

13.   What are some things that prevents us from taking action to love others rather than just talking about it?

14.   What are the implications for us that the ones who passed by were religious people?

15.   Do you believe there is such a thing as “minimum obedience”?  Why, or why not?

16.   Do you think the priest and the Levite in this parable represent the majority of “religious” people today? If so, why?

17.   Do you think these people think they can be religious and please God whether they show love or not?  If so, why?

18.   Do 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 so, why?

 

Lasting Lessons in Luke 10:29-32:

1.  It is easy to justify our actions when deep down we know we’re not pleasing God.

2.  Love and indifference are mutually exclusive.

3.  Love is not an emotion; it is an act of the will.

 


III.

Love 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.”

1.   What may have been some reasons the priest and the Levite did not stop to help the fallen traveler?

2.   Why would a Samaritan be considered an unlikely hero?

3.   How would you describe the relations between the Samaritans and the Jews?  (See Digging Deeper.)

4.   How would you compare the Samaritan’s attitude to that of the priest and Levite?  

5.   What does it mean that the Samaritan had compassion for the wounded man?

6.   How did the Samaritan prove his compassion (vv. 34-35)?

7.   What question did Jesus ask and to whom was he addressing (v. 36)?

8.   What was the response to Jesus’ question (v. 37)?

9.   And then what did Jesus say (v. 37b)?

10.   How would you summarize the lesson Jesus taught through the story?

11.   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?

12.   How do we move from random acts of kindness to an intentional lifestyle of costly love?

13.   How would you describe the higher standard to which Jesus calls us?

14.   How does Jesus’ story challenge you?

15.   What does this statement meant to you: ”Failure to act is failure to love, and failure to love is sin” (see Jas. 4:17)?

16.   What are some limits we are likely to place on our acts of compassion for others in need?

 

Lasting Lessons in Luke 10:33:37:

1.  Love takes action when it sees someone in need.

2.  God demands that we love our enemies and treat them as we would our loved ones.

3.  Love seeks what is best for its object.

 

CONCLUSION:

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!

REMEMBER, the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.

 

Lesson Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the following sources:

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

 

FOCAL PASSAGE: 

Focal Passage from three different translations of God’s Word:

English Standard Version:  Luke 10:25-37

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

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:   Luke 10:25-37

 Luke 10:25-37 (NIV)

25 On 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 Commentary,” and “The Moody Bible Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)

 

Lesson Outline — “Love Gets Involved” — Luke 10:25-37

I.

II.

III,

We Can’t Love God Without Loving Others (Luke 10:25-28)

Loving Others Means Taking Action (Luke 10:29-32)

Love Of God and Others Knows No Limits (Luke 10:33-37)

COMMENTARY:

 

Believer's 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 Your grace!"

10:29.  Instead 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 his neighbor.

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?"

SOURCE: Believer's Bible Commentary; by William MacDonald; Copyright © 1995, 1992, 1990, 1989 by William McDonald. Database © 2014 WORDsearch.

 

The Complete Biblical Library Commentary:  Luke 10:25-37

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 justifying himself.

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 foundational question.

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 Christ" (NIV).

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 current event.

"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 brokenness.

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.

SOURCE: The Complete Biblical Library Commentary - Luke.  Copyright © 2009 WORDsearch Corp.; World Library Press, Inc.

 

The College Press NIV Commentary: Luke 10:25-37

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 neighbor?”

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, Joplin, Missouri

 

The Moody Bible Commentary:  Luke 10:25-37

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.

 

DIGGING DEEPER: Key Word(s)

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 as well.

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

Love (v.27)—Unselfish, 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.

In Matthew 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 Rom. 5:8).

In these 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.

Finally, 1 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.

Paul’s 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).

Even though 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.”

When the 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 temple.

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

Priests (v. 31)—Personnel in charge of sacrifice and offering at worship places, particularly the tabernacle and Temple.

Functions: Priesthood 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).

Later, when 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).

The ultimate 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.

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

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.

The Levites 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).

SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.

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 Christian’s life.

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

Samaria, Samaritans (v. 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.

Samaria 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.

When 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 Kings 18:2-4).

On 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).

Here 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).

While 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.

The 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.

The 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.

In 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).

A small Samaritan community continues to this day to follow the traditional worship near Shechem.

SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.

 

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND READING:

 

Jesus And The Samaritans

By Robert A. Weathers

Robert A. Weathers is pastor of the First Baptist Church, Shallotte, North Carolina.

O

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 Sidewalk.”1

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 helpful.

Who were the Samaritans?

At the time of Jesus, the Samaritans “were regarded by the Jews as despised half-breeds.”2  The 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.

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

Samaria was 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

His encounters with Samaritans show that Jesus’ saving grace punctures the confines of the deepest social prejudices.

That divided 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.

The Excluded Samaritans—Matthew, 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.

The Rude Samaritans—On another 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” (9:51-53, NIV).

Infuriated, 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

The Sinful Samaritan—John chapter 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                                                                                                Bi

1.  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; Weekend/dying-homeless-man-stopped-mugging-sidewalk/story?id=10471047.

2.  Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A in The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1006), 199.

3.  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.

4.  Borchert, John 1-11, 199.

5.  Stein, Luke,318.

6.  Borchert, John 1-11, 199.

7.  Bock, Luke, vol. 2:9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996), 970-71.

8.  Stein, Luke, 433; Bock, Luke, vol. 2, 1403.

9.  Bock, Luke, vol. 2, 1403, 1405.

10. Borchert, John 1-11, 200-209.

11. Ibid., 210.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Spring 2012.

 

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.

T

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

The 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” (Lev. 19:33).

Now one 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

The 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

Although the 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

A 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

Likewise the 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.

The Samaritans 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

The Jews 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 rebuked them.

The Good Samaritan

An “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.

The scribes 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 

Instead of 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.

Jesus asked 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).

In 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.  Bi

1.  All Scripture quotations are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB).

2.  Merrill F. Unger, “Neighbor” in The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary  (Unger’s), ed. R. K. Harrison, rev. ed. (Chicago: Moody, 1988), 915.

3.  R. L. Thomas, “Neighbor” in The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, gen. ed. Merrill C. Tenney (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), 4:408.

4.  Ibid.

5.  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.

6.  Heinrich Greeven, (πλησίον[1] preposition with genitive case near; [2] 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.

7.  “Samaritans” in Unger’s, 1118.

8.  Ibid.

9.  Ibid.

10. Trent C. Butler, Luke,  vol. 3 in Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville: Holman Reference, 2000), 172.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 39, No. 3; Spring 2013.

 

The Jewish Lawyer

By James E. Carter

James Carter is director, Church-Minister Relations Division, Louisiana Baptist Convention, Alexandria, LA.

L

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 a lawyer.

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

1.  H. E. Dana, The New Testament World  (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1937), 125-26.

2.  W. D. Davies, “Law in First-Century Judaism,” in The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible  (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1962-76), 3:89.

3.  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.

4.  Davies, 3:91.

5.  Frank E. Hirsch, “Lawyer,” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia  (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1s949), 3:1859.

6.  F. F. Bruce, New Testament History  (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1972), 80.

7.  W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words  (Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1940), 331.

8.  Vine, 326-329.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Winter 1991.

 

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, Florida.

J

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.

Jericho 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.

The 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.

Jericho in 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.

These 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 attractiveness.

New Testament 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.

Excavators 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

Herod was 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, 15.3.2-3). 

Herod built 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 separate palaces.

Herod’s most 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.

Three large 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.

The northern 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

Another of 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

Jericho of 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

Following 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.

Jericho played 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).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Bi

1.  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.

2.  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.

3.  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.

4.  Ibid., 2:687-88.

5.  Ehud Netzer, “Roman Jericho (Tulul Abu el-‘Alayiq)” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 3:739.

6.  Ibid.

7.  John Bartlett, Jericho in Cities of the Biblical World (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 20.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Spring 1998.

 

Eternal Life In First-Century Thought

By Mark R. Dunn

Mark R. Dunn is associate pastor of First Baptist Church, Duncanville, Texas.

“W

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.

Elsewhere, 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.

Jesus’ 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

One 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.

Having 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.

The 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 after death.”7

Stoic 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.

Immortality 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 shadowy wandering. 

Eventually 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 underworld.

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.

Other 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 afterlife.”14  Eventually, the devotee “would be absorbed into the divine.”15 

For 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

1.  Bell, Jr., Exploring the New Testament World (Nashville: Nelson, 1998), 127.

2.  Jeffers, The Greco-Roman World of the New Testament Era (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1999), 90.

3.  Bell, Exploring the New Testament World, 127.

4.  Cumont, After Life in Roman Paganism (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1922), 33.

5.  Jesus means “The Lord saves.” Emmanuel means “God is with us.”

6.  Burkert, Greek Religion, trans. Raffan (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1985), 197.

7.  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.

8.  Bell, Exploring the New Testament World, 127.

9.  Ibid.

10. Nash, The Gospel and the Greeks: Did the New Testament Borrow from Pagan Thought? (Richardson: Probe Books, 1992), 115.

11. Klauck, The Religious Context of Early Christianity: A Guide to Graeco-Roman Religions, trans. McNeil (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2000), 104.

12. Cumont, After Life in Roman Paganism, 33.

13. Jeffers, The Greco-Roman World, 96-97.

14. Vos, Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Manners & Customs: How the People of the Bible Really Lived (Nashville: Nelson, 1999), 481.

15. 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.

 

BIBLE CHARACTER TRIVIA

 

(3.153)  What 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 visions? Answer: John, the author of Revelation; Revelation 4:2.