Monday, July 4, 2016

A Neighbor is One Who Nurtures the Wounded Enemy

Below is a rough translation and some initial comments regarding the well-known passage of Luke 10:25-37. Your comments are welcomed. One thing that I find amazing about this story is that Jesus had just been denied entry into a Samaritan village. James and John, in fact, wanted to call down fire and invoke a Sodom-like punishment on that village. We often hear that by making a Samaritan a hero in this story, Jesus is pushing back against cultural prejudices of his day. We could say, just as strongly, that by making a Samaritan a hero of this story, Jesus is pushing back against his own right to anger against Samaritans. It makes me wonder if all of our illustrative stories (and, in this case, I think that is the role the parable plays) should be filled with unexpected heroes and heroines, deliberately drawn from those against whom we have every reason to harbor anger.

I have an essay on this text at the Politics of Scripture blog, that you can read here.

25Καὶ ἰδοὺ νομικός τις ἀνέστη ἐκπειράζων αὐτὸν λέγων, Διδάσκαλε, τί ποιήσας ζωὴν 
αἰώνιον κληρονομήσω
And behold a certain lawyer rose up testing him saying, “Teacher, I will inherit life eternal having done/fulfilled/acquired what?”
ἰδοὺ: An aorist middle imperative of εἶδον (to see) which serves as a particle to call attention. Some dictionaries will not list it as a verb.
ἀνέστη: AAI 3s, ἀνίστημι, 1) to cause to rise up, raise up  1a) raise up from laying down  1b) to raise up from the dead  ...  2) to rise, stand up 
ἐκπειράζων: PAPart nsm, ἐκπειράζω, 1) to prove, test, thoroughly  2) to put to proof God's character and power 
λέγων: PAPart nsm, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
ποιήσας: AAPart nsm, ποιέω, 1) to make  1a) with the names of things made, to produce ...  1e) to acquire, to provide a thing for one's self  
κληρονομήσω: FAI 1s, κληρονομέω, 1) to receive a lot, receive by lot  1a) esp. to receive a part of an inheritance, receive as an  inheritance, obtain by right of inheritance
1. I want to be very specific in how I approach this originating question. First, it is a test, not a genuine question. Second, the lawyer is not an attorney of the secular law, but an authority (in some way) of the biblical law. The reason I make both of those obvious observations is because Jesus’ answer seems specifically tailored toward this question and the questioner, whose motives are suspect now that Luke has identified the question as a ‘test.’
2. In most translations, the lawyer asks, “What shall I do ...?” However, ‘to do’ is only one possible translation of the verb ποιέω. It can mean ‘to make,’ ‘to fulfill,’ or ‘to acquire’ among other things. While it is a very versatile word, I am going to use “do/fulfill/acquire” because by holding these three possibilities together consistently we can see several meaningful directions that the question and subsequent answers can take.
3. The question itself is hard to translate literally. ποιήσας (do/fulfill/acquire) is an aorist participle, which suggests a completed action of the past. κληρονομήσω (inherit) is a future verb. The rough translation may be awkward, but the refined translations seem to lose the nuances that Luke’s tenses may suggest.
4. I’ve seen commentators who feel that the lawyer’s question exposes a sense of entitlement, using the word “inherit.” Perhaps that is so, but perhaps it also shows awareness that eternal life is a gift, even as one participates in doing/fulfilling/acquiring it somehow.
5. I do not hear this as a question about ensuring that one gets to heaven and not hell, but a question about the whole matter and purpose of life itself. This is a “what is the meaning of life?” or “what is the chief end of humanity?” sort of question.

26ὁ δὲ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτόν, Ἐν τῷ νόμῳ τί γέγραπται; πῶς ἀναγινώσκεις
Yet he said to him, “In the law what has been written? How do you read?”
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
γέγραπται: PerfPI 3s, γράφω, 1) to write, with reference to the form of the letters
ἀναγινώσκεις: PAI 2s, ἀναγινώσκω, 1) to distinguish between, to recognise, to know accurately,  to acknowledge  2) to read 
1. I love, love, love that Jesus asks both, “What has been written?” and “How do you read?” Together they imply that the Scriptures are living texts of interactive possibility. They are not, on the one hand, stagnant words that simply say what they say to whoever reads. Nor are they empty pages onto which we can pour opinions willy-nilly. Literalists beware: There is the written and there is the reading of the written.

27ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπενἈγαπήσεις κύριον τὸν θεόν σου ἐξ ὅλης [τῆς] καρδίας σου καὶ 
ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ ψυχῇ σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ ἰσχύϊ σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ διανοίᾳ σου, καὶ τὸν πλησίον σου ὡς σεαυτόν. 
Yet the one answering said, “You will love your lord God out of all [the] your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your strength and with all of your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
ἀποκριθεὶς: APPart nsm, ἀποκρίνομαι, 1) to give an answer to a question proposed  
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
Ἀγαπήσεις: FAI 2s, ἀγαπάω, 1) of persons  1a) to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly
1. The lawyer cites Deuteronomy 6:5, which is often called “the Shema,” based on the Hebrew word for “Hear” that begins v.4 and the recitation, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one...”
2. Rather than an imperative, this “command” to love (Ἀγαπήσεις) is future indicative. That is how the verb from Deut. 6:5 is represented in the LXX and that is the same tense and mode that all of the “10 Commandments” in Deut. 5 have in the LXX.
3. Notice that it says “out of” all of your heart, then “with” all of your soul, strength, and mind. I don’t know what to make of that difference but to observe it.
4. The man adds Leviticus 19:18b to Deut. 6:5 here, just as they are merged in Mt.22 and Mk.12 discussions of the “greatest command.”

28 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ, Ὀρθῶς ἀπεκρίθης: τοῦτο ποίει καὶ ζήσῃ
Yet he said to him, You answered well; this do/fulfill/acquire and you will live.”
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
ἀπεκρίθης: API 2s, ἀποκρίνομαι, 1) to give an answer to a question proposed  
ποίει: PAImpv 2s, ποιέω, 1) to make  1a) with the names of things made, to produce ...  1e) to acquire, to provide a thing for one's self  
ζήσῃ: FMI 2s, ζάω, 1) to live, breathe, be among the living
1. Now we have the imperative voice, “Do/Fulfill/Acquire this ....” It is a direct response to the framing of the initial question, “What must I do/fulfill/acquire ...?”
2. Jesus basically says, “Do what you know to do. You know the law, do the law.” He does not say, “Ah, but it is not works righteousness that gives life, only faith.” Nor does he say, “Now you have to believe in me and not just the law.” Jesus does not say what many people presuming to speak in his name often say. Hmm…

29ὁ δὲ θέλων δικαιῶσαι ἑαυτὸν εἶπεν πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν, Καὶ τίς ἐστίν μου πλησίον; 
Yet he wanting to justify himself said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
θέλων: PAPart nsm, θέλω, 1) to will, have in mind, intend
δικαιῶσαι: AAInf, δικαιόω, 1) to render righteous or such he ought to be  2) to show, exhibit, evince, one to be righteous, such as he is  and wishes himself to be considered
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
ἐστίν: ἐστὶν: PAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
1. Remembering that the first question was a test, the follow up question is an attempt to justify himself. While the parable that follows has long been a favorite for many of us, what significance is there that the questions evoking the parable were disingenuous and defensive? Could it be that some of the best expressions of grace arise out of words that were intended for ridicule or testing?

30 ὑπολαβὼν ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Ἄνθρωπός τις κατέβαινεν ἀπὸ Ἰερουσαλὴμ εἰς Ἰεριχὼ καὶ 
λῃσταῖς περιέπεσεν, οἳ καὶ ἐκδύσαντες αὐτὸν καὶ πληγὰς ἐπιθέντες ἀπῆλθον ἀφέντες ἡμιθανῆ. 
Having taken him on Jesus said, “A certain man went down from Jerusalem into Jericho and fell among robbers, who also having stripped him and having inflicted blows went away leaving him half dead.
ὑπολαβὼν: AAPart nsm, ὑπολαμβάνω, 1) to take up in order to raise, to bear on high, 1a) to take up and carry away  2) to receive hospitably, welcome  3) to take up  3a) follow in speech, in order either to reply to or controvert or  supplement what another has said  4) to take up in the mind  4a) to assume, suppose 
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
κατέβαινεν: IAI 3s, καταβαίνω, 1) to go down, come down, descend
περιέπεσεν: AAI 3s, περιπίπτω, 1) so to fall into as to be encompassed
ἐκδύσαντες: AAPart npm, ἐκδύω, 1) to take off  1a) to strip one of his garments  
ἐπιθέντες: AAPart npm, ἐπιτίθημι, 1) in the active voice 1a) to put or lay upon 1b) to add to
ἀπῆλθον: AAI 3p, ἀπέρχομαι, 1) to go away, depart 
ἀφέντες: AAPart npm, ἀφίημι, 1) to send away  1a) to bid going away or depart  1a1) of a husband divorcing his wife  ...  3e) to go away leaving something behind 
1. I may be overreaching to interpret ὑπολαβὼν as “having taken him on,” but it is not the common verb for “answering.” It means, literally, ‘to take up.’ In fact, this is the only instance in the NT where that word is commonly translated “answered.” It is, however, the word that one finds in the Septuagint throughout the conversations in Job, where Job and his interlocutors answer one another (2:4, 4:1, 6:1, 9:1, 11:1, 12:1, etc.) on the question of Job’s suffering. I have supplied ‘him’ as the object of the verb. Young’s Literal Translation supplies ‘the word.’
2. I’m thinking that “having stripped” is less a matter of clothing and means that the man was completely robbed.
3. I’m going to follow the Greek ἡμι/θανῆ and start using “hemi-dead” more often. And I’m going to find a copy of “The Princess Bride” and dub into Miracle Max’s line, “He’s not dead. He’s only hemi-dead.”

31κατὰ συγκυρίαν δὲ ἱερεύς τις κατέβαινεν ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ ἐκείνῃ, καὶ ἰδὼν αὐτὸν 
ἀντιπαρῆλθεν
Then by chance a certain priest was going down in that road, and having seen him went by oppositely;
κατέβαινεν: IAI 3s, καταβαίνω, 1) to go down, come down, descend
ἰδὼν: AAPart nsm, ὁράω, 1) to see with the eyes  2) to see with the mind, to perceive, know
ἀντιπαρῆλθεν: AAI 3s, ἀντιπαρέρχομαι, 1) to pass by opposite to 
1. The word συγκυρίαν  appears only here in the NT. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed before that Jesus uses a word here meaning “accidental” or “by chance.” What is the significance that the travelers (since traveler #2 ‘likewise’ comes) are there by chance?
2. The verb ἀντιπαρέρχομαι is a delightful construct of ἀντι – against; παρα – by/alongside; and έρχομαι – to go. Something about the very deliberate prefixing of this verb captures the very deliberate ‘going against by’ of the non-neighborly. It only appears here and in the next verse in the NT.

32ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ Λευίτης [γενόμενος] κατὰ τὸν τόπον ἐλθὼν καὶ ἰδὼν ἀντιπαρῆλθεν
Then likewise also a Levite having [begun to] come to the place and having seen went by oppositely.
γενόμενος: AMPart nsm, γίνομαι, 1) to become,
ἐλθὼν: AAPart nsm, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come  
ἰδὼν: AAPart nsm, ὁράω, 1) to see with the eyes  2) to see with the mind, to perceive, know
ἀντιπαρῆλθεν: AAI 3s, ἀντιπαρέρχομαι, 1) to pass by opposite to 
1. The [γενόμενος] is not in many of the earlier manuscripts and I would omit it in a refined translation.

33Σαμαρίτης δέ τις ὁδεύων ἦλθεν κατ'αὐτὸν καὶ ἰδὼν ἐσπλαγχνίσθη
Then a certain Samaritan who was traveling came to him and having seen was moved with compassion,
ὁδεύων: PAPart nsm, ὁδεύω, 1) to travel, journey 
ἦλθεν: AAI 3s, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come  
ἰδὼν: AAPart nsm, ὁράω, 1) to see with the eyes  2) to see with the mind, to perceive, know
ἐσπλαγχνίσθη: API 3s, σπλαγχνίζομαι, 1) to be moved as to one's bowels, hence to be moved with compassion
1. The Samaritan was traveling and did not come upon the wounded man “by chance.”
2. It seems to me that ἐσπλαγχνίσθη is the critical turning point in this parable. Jesus describes the first two travelers with ἰδὼν ἀντιπαρῆλθεν, “having seen went against by.’ For the third traveler the second word in the order changes dramatically: ἰδὼν ἐσπλαγχνίσθη, “having seen was moved with compassion.” Luke uses this verb on two other occasions. It describes Jesus’ response when he sees a mother processing to bury her son (7:13) and it is the father’s response when he sees his lost son returning home (15:20) in another striking parable.

34καὶ προσελθὼν κατέδησεν τὰ τραύματα αὐτοῦ ἐπιχέων ἔλαιον καὶ οἶνον, ἐπιβιβάσας δὲ αὐτὸν ἐπὶ τὸ ἴδιον κτῆνος ἤγαγεν αὐτὸν εἰς πανδοχεῖον καὶ ἐπεμελήθη αὐτοῦ. 
And having come he bound up his wounds pouring on oil and wine, then having lifted him on his own beast he led him into an inn and cared for him.
προσελθὼν: AAPart nsm, προσέρχομαι, 1) to come to, approach  2) draw near to  3) to assent to 
κατέδησεν: AAI 3s, καταδέω, 1) to bind up 
ἐπιχέων: PAPart nsm, ἐπιχέω, 1) to pour upon
ἐπιβιβάσας: AAPart nsm, ἐπιβιβάζω, 1) to cause to mount  2) to place upon
ἤγαγεν: AAI 3s ἄγω, 1) to lead, take with one  1a) to lead by laying hold of, and this way to bring to the  point of destination: of an animal 
ἐπεμελήθη: API 3s, ἐπιμελέομαι, 1) to take care of a person or thing
1. The participle προσελθὼν of this traveler (having come) seems to be the opposite reaction to the ἀντιπαρῆλθεν (went against by) of the first two travelers.
2. I wonder if the emphasis that the beast (Ox? Mule? Noble steed?) was the Samaritan’s “own beast” (ἴδιον κτῆνος) means to say that it is the beast on whom the Samaritan was riding, now he is walking as he leads the wounded man to the inn.
3. Incidentally, the word for “inn” here (πανδοχεῖον) is not the same as in the birth narrative (2:6) where Luke uses κατάλυμα.

35καὶ ἐπὶ τὴν αὔριον ἐκβαλὼν ἔδωκεν δύο δηνάρια τῷ πανδοχεῖ καὶ εἶπενἘπιμελήθητι αὐτοῦ, καὶ ὅ τι ἂν προσδαπανήσῃς ἐγὼ ἐν τῷ ἐπανέρχεσθαί με ἀποδώσω σοι. 
And on the morrow having taken out two denarii he gave to the innkeeper and said, ‘Care for him, and whatever you may spend I in the returning myself will give to you.’
ἐκβαλὼν: AAPart nsm, ἐκβάλλω, 1) to cast out, drive out, to send out
ἔδωκεν: AAI 3s, δίδωμι, 1) to give
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
Ἐπιμελήθητι: APImpv 2s, ἐπιμελέομαι, 1) to take care of a person or thing
προσδαπανήσῃς: AASubj 2s, προσδαπανάω, 1) to spend besides
ἐπανέρχεσθαί: PMInf, ἐπανέρχομαι, 1) to return, come back again
ἀποδώσω: FAI 1s, ἀποδίδωμι, 1) to deliver, to give away for one's own profit what is one's  own, to sell  2) to pay off, discharge what is due 
1. This is the only dialogue in the whole parable. It is enough, eh?
2. We remember that the man was robbed before being beaten, so the Samaritan’s purse is as important as his medicines and care.

36τίς τούτων τῶν τριῶν πλησίον δοκεῖ σοι γεγονέναι τοῦ ἐμπεσόντος εἰς τοὺς λῃστάς; 
Which of these three do you think to him who had fallen among robbers had become a neighbor?”
δοκεῖ: PAI 3s, δοκέω, 1) to be of opinion, think, suppose
γεγονέναι: PerfAInf, γίνομαι, 1) to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being 
ἐμπεσόντος: AAPart gsm, ἐμπίπτω, 1) to fall into  1a) to fall among robbers  1b) fall into one's power
1. This question seems to correspond to the question “how do you read” in v.26.
2. This question circles back to the lawyer’s self-justifying question of v.29, “Who is my neighbor?” But, there is a turn from “who is my neighbor?” (v.29) to “who has become a neighbor?”
3. The word πλησίον (neighbor) is rooted in the adjective for “near” (πλησίος). It is only used in this parable (3x) in Luke’s gospel.
4. The full quotation from Lev 19:18 is, "You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord." What Jesus has done with this parable – assuming that the wounded traveler is a Jew – is to revise the understanding of neighbor as “of your own people” (still the most popular way of understanding ‘neighbor’) to “the one who is wounded but not of your own people.” And Jesus does so by making a Samaritan the exemplar of being a neighbor.  

37ὁ δὲ εἶπεν, Ὁ ποιήσας τὸ ἔλεος μετ' αὐτοῦ. εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Πορεύου καὶ σὺ ποίει ὁμοίως. 
Yet he said, “The one who having done/fulfilled/acquired the mercy to him.” Yet Jesus said to him, “Go and you do/fulfill/acquire likewise.”
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
ποιήσας: AAPart nsm, ποιέω, 1) to make  1a) with the names of things made, to produce, construct,  form, fashion, etc.  1b) to be the authors of, the cause  1c) to make ready, to prepare  1d) to produce, bear, shoot forth  1e) to acquire, to provide a thing for one's self
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
Πορεύου: PMImpv 2s, πορεύομαι, 1) to lead over, carry over, transfer  1a) to pursue the journey on which one has entered, to continue on  one's journey
ποίει: PAImpv 2s, ποιέω, 1) to make  1a) with the names of things made, to produce, construct,  form, fashion, etc.  1b) to be the authors of, the cause  1c) to make ready, to prepare  1d) to produce, bear, shoot forth  1e) to acquire, to provide a thing for one's self

1. Now we circle back to the originating question, “What must I do/fulfill/acquire” of v.25. If we interpret ποιέω as “do,” then we must do works of mercy to those who are wounded, even if they are among despised people to us. If we interpret ποιέω as “fulfill,” then to fulfill the law is to exercise mercy. If we interpret ποιέω as “to acquire,” then we are to acquire mercy, even to those who are wounded and enemies.

14 comments:

  1. I love the idea of how do we make a neighbor, rather than who is our neighbor. How do we become a neighbor is expansive, invitational, and gives us a place to go.
    Thanks!

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  2. Thanks, Marci! I'm delighted that you are visiting the blog.

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  3. One resource I would recommend to anyone preaching this text this week is James Gustafson's book, "Can Ethics Be Christian?", particularly the opening scenario that initiated his interest in writing the book.

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  4. I never noticed before that Jesus frames his response as both 'what does it say?' and 'how do you read it?'. Thank you for bringing this out in the text. Very helpful.

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  5. I never really saw that before this time around either, Rita. It is fascinating. My text study group was saying how it is a nice way of telling extreme fundamentalists, "It's not just about what is written, it is also about how one reads it," and of telling extreme liberals, "It's not just about how you read it, it is also about what is written." It seems to include both the discipline of letting the Scriptures have their own voice and the necessary interaction that comes with interpretation.

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  6. I've read that a good number of the priests lived in Jericho -it being something like a close suburb. Could Jesus be using "by chance" as mock surprise...?

    Gosh...who would have expected them to be travelling that way?

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  7. I love, love, love (smile) the "out of" ... breaking boundaries of the heart, moving "out of" mind sets ... "out of" that which deadens us.

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  8. Thank you for helping me get back to the Greek texts on a weekly basis. "What does it say?" and "How do you interpret it?" are questions with special resonance here. Relying solely on the received translations lead me sometimes to miss something crucial. Here, as someone already noted, the parable doesn't convict us of not being a good neighbor so much as it provides a path to become one. I also love the attention to the "commandments" being in fact not imperatives but future indicatives: these "commands" are in fact promises that as we follow Jesus we will learn to be what God intends us to be. Hallelujah!

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  9. One little note: "stripped" is *absolutely* literal as well as figurative. Bear in mind that this is a pre-industrial society where every piece of clothing was manufactured entirely by hand from beginning to end. They took his clothes because those were as valuable as his purse, if not more so. (Cf. the soldiers casting lots for Jesus' cloak.)

    Which also lends extra significance to the binding of wounds--the Samaritan may well have had to damage his own garments in order to dress the wounded man.

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    1. Hi Fellmama,
      Thanks for the note. The word about the value of garments is helpful and I'll remember it the next time that I go about editing this entry. I'm not quite as comfortable with the word 'absolutely' as you are, but I take your suggestion very seriously.
      Thanks again for responding. Blessings on your work.

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    2. I think it's solid enough to stand behind the "absolutely." The passage doesn't support a metaphorical reading of the verb, and I think one would have to be pretty deep into metaphor to dissociate ἐκδύω from its literal roots. (H.L. Mencken did famously derive ecdysiast as a fancy word for, well, you know.) I should mention that, while I'm an internet random, I'm also an internet random who an MA in ancient history, so I do know something of what I speak!

      Thank you for your blog! I have a priest friend who links me here frequently, and I always enjoy a look at the upcoming readings.

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  10. This is my first time here, and I thank all of you for this beautiful conversation! In my prayer I never cease giving thanks, and now I am thanking the Holy Spirit for you. I have gained insight which I needed to learn, and which I will share.

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