Good Samaritan

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Vincent van Gogh : The Good Samaritan

The parable of the good Samaritan is one of the best-known stories of Jesus in the New Testament . The parable is handed down in the Gospel of Luke ( Lk 10 : 25–37  EU ) and is an appeal to active charity .


In exegesis , the story is generally viewed not as a parable but as an example narrative . It is sometimes assumed that it developed from a parable. An example narrative represents - unlike a parable - an unusual occurrence. It invites "the listener to identify and understand ... The picture demonstrates the intended matter in a concrete practical case". The example narration is thus a special form of the parabola ; in the case of the parable, however, “the thing” itself is not the subject of the picture (“counter-determination”).


Codex purpureus Rossanensis : The Good Samaritan

A scribe asks Jesus what needs to be done to acquire eternal life . Jesus asks him what the Torah says in this regard . The scribe then quotes the Shema Yisrael as the central Jewish creed with the call to love God ( Dtn 6,5  EU ) and connects it with the commandment to love one's neighbor ( Lev 19,18  EU ):

“Hear Israel, the Eternal is God, the Eternal is only. (Deut 6: 4) Praise be to God's glorious rule forever and ever! (mJoma 6: 2) Therefore you shall love the Eternal your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might. (Dtn 6: 5) "

- The Jewish prayer book; Hsgb. v. J. Magonet and W. Homolka; Gütersloh 1997

“You shall not take revenge, nor hold anger against the children of your people. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. I, the Eternal. "

- Lev 19:18

"You should love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul, with all your strength and all your thoughts, and: You should love your neighbor as yourself."

- Lk 10:27

At Jesus' invitation to do so in order to live, the scribe asks him who his neighbor is. Then Jesus unfolds the example narration:

A man on the way down from Jerusalem to Jericho came under the robbers who plundered him and left him badly injured. A passing priest saw the injured man and went on, just as a Levite ignored him . Finally a Samaritan saw the injured man, took pity on him, tended his wounds and transported him to the inn on the mount. There he gave the landlord two denarii the following morning and commissioned him with the further care, combined with the promise of his return and the reimbursement of further costs.

Then Jesus asks which of the three was next to the victim. The scribe recognizes the facts and replies that it was the Samaritan. Jesus then asked him to act like him.


The parable belongs to the Lukan special property . The structure of the parable corresponds to the Midrash introduction of Pharisaic Judaism , generally the traditional Jewish interpretation of religious texts:

  • introductory question to a written text (verses 25-27 EU : Dtn 6.5  EU , Lev 9.18  EU )
  • second written text (verse 28 EU : Lev 18,5  EU )
  • Interpretation using example narration (verses 28–36 EU )
  • Conclusion, with allusion to the source text and often with an invitation to do something (verse 37 EU )


Aimé Morot : The Good Samaritan, 1880
Rembrandt: The Good Samaritan

The story takes place in a real place: on the arduous, about 27 km long, desolate section of the then main trade route between Africa and Asia, which lies between Jerusalem in the mountains and Jericho in the Jordan Valley . The above-mentioned descent of more than a thousand meters made it difficult for traders and easy for robbers. Nevertheless, the path was used a lot.

For priests there was a provision in the Torah that they were not allowed to contaminate themselves on the corpse of a member of their tribe, apart from the closest relatives ( Lev 21.1 ff.  EU ). If the man had been dead, touching the priest would have profaned himself for violating this commandment.

The Levite was also on his way down to Jericho. According to the Torah ( Num 19.11  EU ), a possible touching of a dead person would have meant seven days of tame (ritual impurity) for him, so he would not have been allowed to perform any ritual acts at the destination of his journey in his home country.

Some interpreters suspect that, in view of the anti-clerical tendencies, the audience at the time would have expected next an Israelite layman who would have placed mercy over possible ritual uncleanliness and helped the injured: the details of caring for the wounded man were perfectly realistic for the time. However, there is no evidence of anti-clerical tendencies in the Gospel of Luke. The unexpected Samaritan with his compassion, his constant care from the wound care to the patient transport (up the mountain), the accommodation, the advance payment, the announcement to come back - all this detail of the affection gives the parable an encouraging and even shocking effect. It is not stated whether the wounded man was a Jew, and the trade route was international. In the foreground is neither an activity that overcomes borders, nor a temple scolding against priests and Levites. Love for God becomes concrete in love for human beings, which answers the Pharisee's serious initial question.

The Samaritans were regarded by the Jews of that time, such as Josephus , on the one hand as religious relatives ( 2 Chr 28.11  EU ), but also equated with the syncretistic descendants of the Northern Empire ( 2 Kings 17.24–41  EU ), viewed and viewed as enemies deeply despised ( Sir 50.25-26  EU ). With the neighbor the national comrade was meant. The people formed a solidarity community. On the other hand, Scripture called for love for strangers, remembering that Israel had lived the existence of a stranger in Egypt itself. The scribe's question could be answered quickly in the tradition of the halachic midrash: They are all Israelites and all full proselytes. Shortly before, in the years 6 and 9 AD, the Samaritans had defiled the temple square in Jerusalem in the days of the Passover festival by scattering human bones, so they could not be neighbors. Jesus now asks the Pharisee provocatively about the relationship between deed and perpetrator with the example story: The question of what the Torah in Lev 19:18 means by the term neighbor cannot be answered by determining the object, the person in need. Conversely, who is my neighbor is decided by the subject: the helper (Samaritan) becomes the neighbor to the needy.

Allegorical interpretations

George Frederic Watts : The Good Samaritan

Even in early Christianity, the parable was of central importance. It was interpreted allegorically , according to which one understood by the fallen among the robbers the human being (Adam). The city of Jerusalem was considered Paradise, and Jericho the world. The robbers were the enemy demonic powers. The priest embodied the law, the Levite the prophets and the Samaritan Christ. Disobedience could be seen in the struck wounds, the body of the Lord in the mount, the church under the inn, which welcomes everyone who wants to enter, in the innkeeper the head of the church and the protection and care of the guests was responsible. In the promised return of the Samaritan, the promised reappearance of Christ.

Impact history

Sicard: The Good Samaritan

Due to its drama, the parable of the Good Samaritan soon left its early Christian and inner-Jewish context. Not least because of this story, charity became a universal virtue ; Charity and Samaritan service became synonymous down to the proverbs .

The Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund and the Schweizerischer Samariterbund appear as a prominent legacy of this name in the German-speaking area.

In the English-speaking world, the organization Samaritan's Purse uses the allusion to the Samaritan's purse ( Lk 10.35  EU ) to carry out aid projects all over the world.

In the Anglo-Saxon area of ​​law, the “Good Samaritan Law” is known, which regulates the law for those providing help .

At the Vatican , the Good Samaritan Medal is the highest medal for work in health care.

Visual arts

The Good Samaritan is a very popular subject in religious painting. He was represented in the Codex purpureus Rossanensis (6th century) and in the Gospel of Henry the Lion (12th century), by Jost Ammann (16th century), Master of the Good Samaritan (1537, emergency name ), Rembrandt van Rijn (1632 / 33), Johann Carl Loth (1676), by Luca Giordano , George Frederic Watts , Gustave Doré , Gustave Moreau , Van Gogh (1890), Maurice Denis (1898), Aimé-Nicolas Morot (1850–1913) and Paula Modersohn- Becker . A statue of François Sicard stands in the Tuileries Garden in Paris.

In Chartres Cathedral , the third right window of the nave depicts the parable of the Good Samaritan.


Sculpture by Ulrich Henn "The Good Samaritan" in front of the Erlöserkirche in Stuttgart

In 1958 Johann Nepomuk David created a gospel motet for four-part mixed choir a cappella to the pericope with the title Der Barmherzige Samariter .

In 1963 Benjamin Britten composed the Cantata misericordium op. 69 for soloists, choir and chamber orchestra.

In 1987 Candlemass created the song Samarithan on their album Nightfall , which applies the problem to current times.

Bob Dylan has the good samaritan perform in the 12-minute song epic Desolation Row from 1965. He locates the failed charity in the race riots of 1920 in his father's home village.


See also the sections in the relevant commentaries (Bovon, Bock, Eckey, and others) and general literature on Jesus' parables .

Web links

Commons : The Good Samaritan  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Alexander Foitzik: A merciful church. In: SWR2 Wort zum Tag. SWR , October 13, 2011, accessed on August 11, 2019 : "And Jesus answered with the parable of the good Samaritan - probably the best-known Bible text on the subject of mercy."
  2. For example Jürgen Roloff: Arbeitsbuch zum New Testament ; Evangelische Verlagsanstalt Berlin 1984, p. 101; Heinrich Zimmermann : New Testament methodology. Presentation of the historical-critical method . Katholisches Bibelwerk Stuttgart 1982 7 ISBN 3-460-30027-2 , p. 146.
  3. Hans Klein: Mercy towards the poor and outlawed , p. 76.
  4. Jürgen Roloff: Arbeitsbuch zum New Testament , p. 101
  5. ^ Kurt Erlemann:  Parables (NT). In: Michaela Bauks, Klaus Koenen, Stefan Alkier (eds.): The scientific Bibellexikon on the Internet (WiBiLex), Stuttgart 2006 ff., Accessed on June 12, 2012.
  6. Jonathan, Rabbi (eds.), In collaboration with Rabbi Walter Homolka; Translation from the Hebrew, Annette Böckler Magonet: [Seder ha-tefilot] = The Jewish prayer book , Dt. First edition. Edition, Gütersloher Verlagshaus, Gütersloh 1997, ISBN 3-579-02216-4 , pp. 87 ff.
  7. W. Gunther (Ed.). With an introduction by Walter Homolka. Authorized translation and editing by Annette Böckler Plaut: Wajikra = Ṿa-yiḳra = Leviticus. , 3rd edition, 1st edition of the special edition. Edition, Gütersloher Verlagshaus, Gütersloh 2008, ISBN 978-3-579-05494-0 , pp. 194 ff.
  8. a b Craig Blomberg : The parables of Jesus. Your interpretation in theory and practice , The ten virgins ; Witten: R. Brockhaus, 1998; ISBN 978-3-417-29428-6 ; Pp. 167-170
  9. Jeremias: Parables . P. 135
  10. Dietfried Macht: The "Good Samaritan": To Luke 10: 25-37 ; EvTh 38 (1978), pp. 403-417
  11. Schottroff: Parables , p. 174.
  12. Schottroff: Parables. P. 173f
  13. See also Strack / Billerbeck I, p. 538 f.
  14. Strack / Billerbeck I, p. 353: “By then the AT Lv 19,34 u. Dt 10.19 only includes the stranger (גֵּר, who has taken residence under Israel) in the group of those whom Israel should meet with love, it shows that love for the neighbor רֵעַ does not require general human love, but only that Love for the national comrade. "
  15. Joachim Jeremias : The parables of Jesus. 9th edition. Göttingen 1984, p. 135.
  16. Homilies 34.3, Joseph T. Lienhard, trans., Origen: Homilies on Luke, Fragments on Luke (1996), 138.
  17. Vatican Medal Awarded to English Bishop ( Memento from December 22, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  18. Robbers attack the man and on the way to the inn
  19. Rembrandt
  20. ^ Johann Karl Loth
  21. ^ Paula Modersohn-Becker ( Memento from February 10, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  22. Vitraux de Chartres ( Memento of April 3, 2013 in the Internet Archive )