The parable of the Good Samaritan is a literary masterpiece. A “Covenant literary analysis” uncovers some pure gold in the structure of Jesus’ words, including some delicious ironies.
So that you do not get overwhelmed, we will first look at the overall structure. Then we will zoom in to see this same structure in each of the parts.
(Initiation – Sabbath – Genesis – Ark)
(Delegation – Passover – Exodus – Veil)
(Presentation – Firstfruits – Leviticus – Altar/Table)
(Purification – Pentecost – Numbers – Lampstand)
(Transformation – Trumpets – Deuteronomy – Incense)
(Vindication – Atonement – Joshua – High Priest)
(Representation – Booths – Judges – Shekinah)
The parable follows the matrix structure, so it not only hints at the dominion pattern in the first seven books of the Bible, but also Israel’s entire history until its end in AD70.
Architecturally, it works from the Garden (Adam as High Priest), to the Land (through the Levite priesthood to all Levites, who were the “firstfruits” of the Land), to the World, or at least those on its border, the Jew-Gentile hybrids of Samaria. It is this faithful outsider who brings the Jew back to safety, not to the old desecrated Sanctuary but to a new one. Trumpets represents the apostles’ testimony to Jew and Gentile, and Atonement the end of the Temple and its sacrifices. The compassion of the outsider rescues the Jew abandoned by his keepers. The Jew-Gentile Church would bring healing to all those oppressed by the “kings of the earth,” the rulers of the Land: the Herods and the Pharisees.
So, there is a great deal more going on here than a simple call to love the unloved. Although that message is a good application, a faithful interpretation understands that Israel’s purpose as a blessing to the nations and the imminent abolition of the Jew-Gentile divide are at the heart of the story.
Now, through a closer analysis, we can see that each of the seven sections of the story images the structure of the whole, playing a similar tune on a smaller scale. At this level, we can see that Jesus’ words are as barbed and ironic as any of the Old Testament prophets. His use of the Covenant-literary template highlights the failure of Israel to represent her just and merciful God to the nations.
Luke 10:30-37 (NKJV)
CREATION (Sabbath defiled):
(Initiation – Sabbath)
(Delegation – Passover)
(Presentation – Firstfruits)
(Purification – Pentecost)
(Transformation – Trumpets)
(Vindication – Atonement)
(Representation – Booths)
- For this Stanza, I have put the Bible Matrix terms on the left, and the sacrificial “praxeme” and festal calendar underneath. All three descriptions are required to communicate the multi-layered richness of the structural allusions.
- “Man” refers to an Adam, in this case, a Jew. “Men” in the Revelation refers to the Jews, those who were considered by God as fruit of the Land, like Adam, who were given Sanctuary access, like Adam (Genesis 2:5-6). The fall might represent the average Jew betrayed by the brood of vipers in the Sanctuary.
- Jerusalem and Jericho represent the separation between Jew and Gentile initiated in the promise and “ascension” offering of Isaac, expanded upon in the Levitical law as “first fruits.” Jericho was the firstfruits of the Land, a city whose inheritance was possessed entirely by God, just like the Levites.
- Serpents and dragons, birds and beasts, appear at the center of the Stanza, to test the faithful Man. Pentecost refers to the giving of the Law. Here, the Adam is not the thief but the victim of thieves. Once again, the Creation motif is apparent in this initial Stanza, since Satan intended to steal the inheritance promised to Adam, leaving him naked before God. Since whole burnt offerings were transformed by fire and ascended in glory with new “clothing” of flames and fragrant smoke as a testimony before God, we have a reference to the requirement for and the means of the covering of Adam’s sin.
- At Conquest, we have a reference to the blessing/cursing inherent in the Lord’s two-edged sword, as Israel’s redeemer/avenger (ga’al). On the Day of Atonement (Coverings), this is symbolized in the division of the two goats. Here, the Jew is the first goat, slain before God like Abel, and the thieves are the second goat, carrying their own sins into the wilderness, like Abel, an expansion of the process of atonement of Adam’s sin.
- Through obedient faith, Adam would have entered into God’s Sabbath, representing Him not only Physically (Genesis 1), Socially (Genesis 2), but also Ethically. Here, like Adam, the Man is left half alive, half dead. Instead of becoming a father, a shelter, a tree of righteousness, Adam remained a child who required covering.
DIVISION (human delegation – un-Passover):
(Hierarchy – Delegation)
(Ethics – “eyes opened”)
- It seems that this is a five-point stanza, which indicates a Covenant duty that is unfulfilled, a “scroll” that is unopened, a mission unfulfilled. The Ethics have not become “incarnate” in the Priest. He has heard the Law, and seen the Man, but not acted.
- “He-passed-by-on-the-other-side” is a single Greek word. Placed at Sanctions/Atonement, it means that this Priest has not borne this Man’s curse, but judged him as unworthy of mercy. His eyes are not the “lights” of the Lampstand, but the “eye and tooth” of unrighteous vengeance.
- Consequently, the last line is missing. There is no refuge, no “Booths” shelter offered by the Israelite. The man with Sanctuary access in the Garden offers no sanctuary in the Land. The one who covers the sins of men with the blood of animals is unwilling to be a covering for a bloodied man.
ASCENSION (Covenant Head – un-Temple):
- The third Stanza replicates the second, but the passer-by is a Levite. The responsibility has moved from an actual priest to the priestly tribe, from covering of sin in the Garden to service of the House in the Land.
- The word “place” is topos, which nicely combines the idea of the Land as the seat of sacrifice for the nations.
- The Priesthood and the Temple have themselves become idols which usurp justice and mercy. The priest and Levite wished to remain ceremonially clean. But their lack of mercy made them unclean before God.
- Unlike the Priest who “passes over,” the Levite does draw near, alluding to the Ascension as a “nearbringing.” As the Priest was no covering, the Levite is no living sacrifice. The Law remains unfulfilled in love.
- Again, a five-point stanza. Again, no healing Atonement; just a passing by. Again, there is no refuge.
TESTING (True Kingdom):
- The name Samaria means a watch-mountain or a watch-tower, which corresponds to this Stanza being the “Lampstand,” the eyes of God watching over Israel. The irony is that God’s eyes are here found in a Samaritan who incarnates the Law. The Samaritan is like Naaman and the widow of Sidon, a believer who shames the faithless Jew.
- This Stanza is a deliberate three-and-a-half. The Samaritan not only draws near and sees, but has compassion. Where the Priest and Levite were circumcised only outwardly, the Samaritan is ironically the true Jew.
- As the “Numbers” of the passage, this act of compassion indicates the death of old Israel in the wilderness. The external Law ends in the fire on the Altar—the Ethics brought to life by the Spirit.
MATURITY (brothers / Gentiles / resurrection of the body):
(the new Israel)
(delegation by Spirit)
(a better covenant)
(faithful Gentile donkey/peacemaker)
(Burden borne, coverings)
(Shelter and rest)
- Jesus’ words once again follow the Covenant pattern, but it is finally sevenfold, reversing the sin of the murderers.
- Not only is the Samaritan loving his enemy, the fulfilment of the Law in love makes the ceremonial distinctions redundant.
- As the High Priest carried Israel into the House of the Lord, so the Samaritan carries the dying Jew that his stripes might be healed.
- The reference to the donkey might seem strange, but as a symbol of believing Gentiles (beginning with Ishmael) and of peacemakers, donkeys often appear at Step 5 in the process, just as warhorses and mustering armies do. The fundamental theme at Maturity is unity of Spirit.
CONQUEST (Day of Coverings):
gave them to the innkeeper,
and said to him, (Firstfruits)
- Israel’s festal calendar comes to the fore in this Stanza. The suffering Jew is put in the care of an unnamed innkeeper, which highlights the fact that every house of faith would soon be considered holy without being “Levitical.”
- This is emphasised by the three-level process at Firstfruits, a new Holy Place constructed in the actions of the Samaritan: sacrifice, covering and commission. Two days’ wages is given to the owner of this house in place of the Levitical tithe. I trust you can see how important the analysis of the Covenant structure can be in understanding the depths of the text and its connection with the Old Testament.
- The denarii might represent the nations bringing their glory into the Church, as we see when the Gentiles Churches raise money to support the saints in Jerusalem during a famine.
- The command to take care of the Man appears at Pentecost, perhaps alluding to the coming of the Comforter.
- At Trumpets we have a reference to plunder, in this case a multiplication of the silver coins given at Firstfruits.
- At Atonement we have a reference to Jesus’ return for the firstfruits martyrs, and possibly the blessing of the nations who blessed the children of Abraham (Matthew 25).
- The final Stanza is a commission to be fulfilled. It consists of a Forming (Jesus’ words) and a Filling (the enlightened response).
- Being neighbourly at Hierarchy tears down the elitism assumed by the Jews in their Circumcision.
- Making the Man the victim at Ethics hints at covering the sins of others as a fulfilling of the Law.
- At Sanctions, we have blessing instead of cursing, mercy instead of condemnation.
- These wonderful words would be fulfilled in the willing death of Christ Himself, for the beaten Man (Adam), the despised brother (Abel), and the Gentile householder (Noah), mercy flowing from a new Temple to construct a house of all nations.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)