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Thursday, March 3, 2022

Class Assignment: Reflection Paper: Levine, "The Good Samaritan"










Reflection Paper: Levine, "The Good Samaritan"






The King’s University, Southlake, Texas

The New Testament and Second Temple Judaism (BIBL2325ONL1)

Professor: Dr. Vered Hillel



By Darrell Wolfe


The Good Samaritan

This is a reflection on “The Good Samaritan”, a reinterpretation by Levine.[1] The following are my observations:

Identification: The character with whom we identify changes our understanding of what the story means for “here and now” (hermeneutics). Most western readers identify themselves as the Good Samaritan (myself included, before this article). Levine puts it this way, “‘we Samaritans’ help ‘them’” which she defines as “the sick, the poor, foreign nationals, and so on.” (Levine, 3/35). Some cultures read themselves as the abused man who receives help, which changes the dynamics of the parable considerably.

Prejudice/bias reading: Levine sees moderns defining the Levite and Priest characters as prejudiced against Judaism, or even against Jews. I suppose, this antisemitic reading is true for many modern readers, which is why westerners often use “Pharisee” as a pejorative. For me, these characters in the gospels represented “the establishment” leaders of any era. Whether that establishment is an apostate King or Emperor, a Jewish Sadducee interrogating Jesus, a Catholic Priest in the middle ages selling indulgences, a Baptist Pastor saying, “you have to be baptized our way or you’re not going to heaven”, a Word of Faith/Pentecostal televangelist, or a best-selling Christian author… the theme I see is “the establishment” insiders from “the church” often need to be replaced with authentic relational leadership. For my part, I did not see this as a Jewish issue, I see this as an issue within all leadership of Yahweh’s people in all iterations of those peoples.

Pearls: Levine makes the case for understanding scripture in its original contexts, including the literary context (verses surrounding the verse in question) (Levine, 11/35). In quoting, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18; Luke 10:27), the entire context of the sentence is intended to be implied and understood by the hearer. In first-century Israel, the average synagogue goer would have heard the Torah spoken aloud many times and recognized the context. This process, of quoting a sentence, or even a partial sentence, and implying the remaining unspoken context is known as “casting pearls”.[2] For many western Christians, there is a lack of familiarity with the Tanakh (due to improperly relating it to the “old”, by extension unnecessary). This unfamiliarity results in a lack of awareness about how often this pearl-casting occurs in the Second Writings (Gospels and Epistles). Familiarity with the Tanakh is a vital component for biblical interpretation.

“Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). Levine contrasts the Hebrew words rooted in the Leviticus passage quoted by the attorney (Levine 12-13/35). The Hebrew root (ger) is translated in the Greek Septuagint as the word which is translated as proselyte. Rather than a convert, Levine says it means “one who comes forward” and the inference is “one who does life together” (Levine, 12/35). The Abridged BDB lists the following for these lemmas, גֵּר (ger) “sojourner, temporary dweller, new-comer” (Leviticus 19:9); II.רֵעַ (rea) “friend, companion, fellow” (Leviticus 9:13).[3]A Logos Bible Word Study search identifies that the LEB translates II.רֵעַ (rea) as “neighbor” over in over half of the 184 instances.[4] Mounce ads the word “associate” in his lexicon.[5] By contrasting the words from the original passage, and contextualizing those words/phrases with their original audience, one finds more depth in the exchange between Jesus and the attorney than a simple “love your neighbor”. Jesus is subverting and deepening the given understanding.

Subversion: Levine draws an important conclusion, “Those who want to kill you may be the only ones who will save you” (Levine, 30/35). Throughout the biblical narratives, one discovers the theme of subversion. Jesus frequently subverts his hearers’ preconceived ideas. Often, parables have this subversion feature. Going back into the literary and cultural contexts can shed light on the subtext of the text and provide ample room for seeing the subversion that was previously hidden to western eyes.

[1] Amy-Jill Levine, Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi (Harper Collins, 2014), Chapter 2, The Good Samaritan (Note: Page numbers missing from this PDF copy, citing PDF page refence instead).

[2] Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg, Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith, Updated edition (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2018).


[3] Wilhelm Gesenius et al., The Abridged Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon of the Old Testament: From A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament. (Boston; New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1906).


[4] The Lexham English Bible (LEB), Fourth Edition, Logo Bible Software, Harris, W. H., III, Ritzema, E., Brannan, R., Mangum, D., Dunham, J., Reimer, J. A., & Wierenga, M. (Eds.) (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2010),; Logos Bible Software 8.17 SR- (Faithlife Corporation, 2000),


[5] William D. Mounce, ed., Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2006).


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