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THE QUESTION OF THE 'LAWYER.'
truth, when everything became matter of dialectic subtlety, and nothing was really sacred. What we require to keep in view is, that to this lawyer the question which he propounded was only one of theoretic, not of practical interest, nor matter of deep personal concern, as it was to the rich young ruler, who, not long afterwards, addressed a similar inquiry to the Lord."
We seem to witness the opening of a regular Rabbinic contest, as we listen to this speculative problem: "Teacher, what having done shall I inherit eternal life?' At the foundation lay the notion, that eternal life was the reward of merit, of works: the only question was, what these works were to be. The idea of guilt had not entered his mind; he had no conception of sin within. It was the old Judaism of self-righteousness speaking without disguise: that which was the ultimate ground of the rejecting and crucifying of the Christ. There certainly was a way in which a man might inherit eternal life, not indeed as having absolute claim to it, but (as the Schoolmen might have said: de congruo) in consequence of God's Covenant on Sinai. And so our Lord, using the common Rabbinic expression what readest thou?' (n), pointed him to the Scriptures of the Old Testament.
The reply of the 'lawyer' is remarkable, not only on its own account, but as substantially, and even literally, that given on two other occasions by the Lord Himself. The question therefore naturally arises, whence did this lawyer, who certainly had not spiritual insight, derive his reply? As regarded the duty of absolute love to God, indicated by the quotation of Deut. vi. 5, there could, of course, be no hesitation in the mind of a Jew. The primary obligation of this is frequently referred to, and, indeed, taken for granted, in Rabbinic teaching. The repetition of this command, which in the Talmud receives the most elaborate and strange interpretation,' formed part of the daily prayers. When Jesus referred the lawyer to the Scriptures, he could scarcely fail to quote this first paramount obligation. Similarly, he spoke as a Rabbinic lawyer, when he referred in the next place to love to our neighbour, as enjoined in Lev. xix. 18. Rabbinism is never weary of quoting as one of the characteristic sayings of its greatest
a St. Luke
31 a, about the middle
b Yalkut i.
.(כלל גדול בתורה) summary of the Law
teacher, Hillel (who, of course, lived before this time), that he had summed up the Law, in briefest compass, in these words: What is hateful to thee, that do not to another. This is the whole Law; the rest is only its explanation.'a Similarly, Rabbi Akiba taught, that Lev. xix. 18 was the principal rule, we might almost say, the chief Still, the two principles just mentioned are not enunciated in conjunction by Rabbinism, nor seriously propounded as either containing the whole Law or as also Ber. R. securing heaven. They are also, as we shall presently see, subjected to grave modifications. One of these, as regards the negative form in which Hillel put it, while Christ put it positively,c1 has been previously noticed. The existence of such Rabbinic modifications, and the circumstance already mentioned, that on two other occasions the answer of Christ Himself to a similar inquiry was precisely that of this lawyer, suggest the inference, that this question may have been occasioned by some teaching of Christ, to which they had just listened, and that the reply of the lawyer may have been prompted by what Jesus had preached concerning the Law.
e St. Matt. vii. 12
If it be asked, why Christ seemed to give His assent to the lawyer's answer, as if it really pointed to the right solution of the great question, we reply: No other answer could have been given him. On the ground of works-if that had been tenable-this was the way to heaven. To understand any other answer, would have required a sense of sin; and this could not be imparted by reasoning it must be experienced. It is the very preaching of the Law Rom. vii. 7 which awakens in the mind a sense of sin.d Besides, if not morally, yet mentally, the difficulty of this way' would soon suggest itself to a Jew. Such, at least, is one aspect of the counter-question with which the lawyer' now sought to retort on
Whatever complexity of motives there may have been-for we know nothing of the circumstances, and there may have been that in the conduct or heart of the lawyer which was specially touched by what had just passed-there can be no doubt as to the main object of his question: But who is my neighbour?' He wished 'to justify himself,' in the sense of vindicating his original question, and showing that it was not quite so easily solved as the answer of Jesus
1 Hamburger (Real Encycl., Abth. ii. p. 411) makes the remarkable admission that the negative form was chosen to make the command 'possible' and 'practical.'
It is not so that Christ has accommodated the Divine Law to our sinfulness. See previous remarks on this Law in Book III. ch. xviii.
'WHO IS MY NEIGHBOUR?'
seemed to imply. And here it was that Christ could in a 'Parable' show how far orthodox Judaism was from even a true understanding, much more from such perfect observance of this Law as would gain heaven. Thus might He bring even this man to feel his shortcomings and sins, and awaken in him a sense of his great need. This, of course, would be the negative aspect of this Parable; the positive is to all time and to all men.
That question: Who is my neighbour?' has ever been at the same time the outcome of Judaism (as distinguished from the religion of the Old Testament), and also its curse. On this point it is duty to speak plainly, even in face of the wicked persecutions to which the Jews have been exposed on account of it. Whatever modern Judaism may say to the contrary, there is a foundation of truth in the ancient heathen charge against the Jews of odium generis humani (hatred of mankind). God had separated Israel unto Himself by purification and renovation-and this is the original meaning of the word 'holy' and 'sanctify' in the Hebrew (p). They separated themselves in self-righteousness and pride-and that is the original meaning of the word 'Pharisee' and 'Pharisaism' (ID). In so saying no blame is cast on individuals; it is the system which is at fault. This question: Who is my neighbour?' frequently engages Rabbinism. The answer to it is only too clear. If a hypercriticism were to interpret away the passage which directs that idolators are not to be delivered when in imminent danger, while heretics and apostates are even to be led into it, the painful discussion on the meaning of Exod. xxiii. 5b would place it beyond question. Baba Mez. The sum of it is, that, except to avert hostility, a burden is only to be unloaded, if the beast that lieth under it belongeth to an Israelite, not if it belong to a Gentile; and so the expression, the ass of • Ex. xxiii. 5 him that hateth thee,' must be understood of a Jewish, and not of a
.(שונא ישראל ולא שונא א"ה ) Gentile enemy)
a Ab. Sar.
d Baba Mez. 32 6, line 4
It is needless to follow the subject further. But more complete from bottom rebuke of Judaistic narrowness, as well as more full, generous, and spiritual world-teaching than that of Christ's Parable could not be imagined. The scenery and colouring are purely local. And here we should remember, that, while admitting the lawfulness of the widest application of details for homiletical purposes, we must take care not to press them in a strictly exegetical interpretation.'
As to many of these allegorisations, Calvin rightly observes: Scripturæ major habenda est reverentia, quam ut
germanum ejus sensum hac licentia trans-
a Jer. Ber. 3a; Shabb. 134 a
Some one coming from the Holy City, the metropolis of Judaism, is pursuing the solitary desert-road, those twenty-one miles to Jericho, a district notoriously insecure, when he fell among robbers, who, having both stripped and inflicted on him strokes, went away leaving him just as he was,' half dead.' This is the first scene. The second opens with an expression which, theologically, as well as exegetically, is of the greatest interest. The word rendered 'by chance' (σvyκupía) occurs only in this place, for Scripture commonly views matters in relation to agents rather than to results. As already noted,3 the real meaning of the word is 'concurrence,' much like the corresponding Hebrew term (pb). And better definition could not be given, not, indeed, of 'Providence,' which is a heathen abstraction for which the Bible has no equivalent, but for the concrete reality of God's providing. He provides through a concurrence of circumstances, all in themselves natural and in the succession of ordinary causation (and this distinguishes it from the miracle), but the concurring of which is directed and overruled by Him. And this helps us to put aside those coarse tests of the reality of prayer and of the direct rule of God, which men sometimes propose. Such stately ships ride not in such shallow waters.
It was by such a concurrence,' that, first a priest, then a Levite, came down that road, when each, successively, when he saw him, passed by over against (him).' It was the principle of questioning, 'Who is my neighbour?' which led both priest and Levite to such heartless conduct. Who knew what this wounded man was, and how he came to lie there; and were they called upon, in ignorance of this, to take all the trouble, perhaps incur the risk of life, which care of him would involve? Thus Judaism (in the persons of its chief representatives) had, by its exclusive attention to the letter, come to destroy the spirit of the Law. Happily, there came yet another that way, not only a stranger, but one despised, a semi-heathen Samaritan.1 He asked not who the man was, but what was his need. Whatever the wounded Jew might have felt towards him, the Samaritan proved a true neighbour.' He came towards him, and beholding him, he was moved with compassion.' His resolution was soon taken. He first bound up his wounds, and then, taking from his travelling provision wine and oil, made of them what was regarded as the common dressing for wounds.
In the Greek, ver. 33 begins with A Samaritan, however,' to emphasise the contrast to the priest and Levite.
THE GOOD SAMARITAN.
'set' (lifted) him on his own beast, he walked by his side, and brought him to one of those houses of rest and entertainment, whose designation (πavdoɣɛîov) has passed into Rabbinic language (P). These khans, or hostelries, by the side of unfrequented roads, afforded free lodgment to the traveller. But generally they also offered entertainment, in which case, of course, the host, commonly a non-Israelite, charged for the victuals supplied to man or beast, or for the care taken. In the present instance the Samaritan seems himself to have tended the wounded man all that evening. But even thus his care did not end. The next morning, before continuing his journey, he gave to the host two dinars— about one shilling and threepence of our money, the amount of a labourer's wages for two days, as it were, two days' wages for his St. Matt. care of him, with this provision, that if any further expense were incurred, either because the wounded man was not sufficiently recovered to travel, or else because something more had been supplied to him, the Good Samaritan would pay it when he next came that way.
So far the Parable: its lesson the lawyer' is made himself to enunciate. 'Which of these three seems to thee to have become neighbour of him that fell among the robbers?' Though unwilling to take the hated name of Samaritan on his lips, especially as the meaning of the Parable and its anti-Rabbinic bearing were so evident, the 'lawyer' was obliged to reply, 'He that showed mercy on him,' when the Saviour finally answered, 'Go, and do thou likewise.'
Some further lessons may be drawn. The Parable implies not a mere enlargement of the Jewish ideas, but a complete change of them. It is truly a Gospel-Parable, for the whole old relationship of mere duty is changed into one of love. Thus, matters are placed on an entirely different basis from that of Judaism. The question now is not Who is my neighbour?' but Whose neighbour am I?' The Gospel answers the question of duty by pointing us to love. Wouldst thou know who is thy neighbour? Become a neighbour to all by the utmost service thou canst do them in their need. And so the Gospel would not only abolish man's enmity, but bridge over man's separation. Thus is the Parable truly Christian, and, more than this, points up to Him Who, in our great need, became Neighbour to us, even at the cost of all He had. And from Him, as well as by His Word, are we to learn our lesson of love.
2. The Parable which follows in St. Luke's narrative closely connected with that just commented upon. It is also a
b St. Luke xi. 5-13