I thought it was about time to revisit the parable of the good Samaritan. There is a true point in this story, that we should be like the Samaritan. But before Jesus gets to make that point, he actually has to deal with all the garbage that is there before the point can be seen. The Lawyer (scribe) comes to Jesus in order to test Him. What must I do to inherent eternal life? Jesus turns it around and says “You’re a lawyer, you should know. You tell me”. And the lawyer answers right! But then the text says he had to justify himself. (The Law already defines neighbor as first Israelite and stranger living in your midst (who must obey public Jewish laws)). If Jesus answers “as the law says” then he will come back and say “why have you been eating with so and so” but if he redefines neighbor then we will seen as disregarding the law, so he only answers by telling a story. The man is half-dead which means someone that is out cold and looks dead.Why does a lawyer not come by in the story? Because Jesus is using this story to make a point about Torah-keeping and so uses the best and most applicable examples. First to come is a high priest and Levite. Neither of these men are permited by law to touch a dead body except by ‘corpse of obligation’ which only works in desolate places where no one is likely to walk by. Interestingly enough, Jesus puts it on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho which was a major road. The question that is raised in the story is, “will you love God at the expense of loving your neighbor?” It calls into question the law as ultimate. There is an antinomy. A Samaritan worshiped at the wrong temple and other things, but he fulfills the law of neighbor. The Levite and High Priest fulfills the ceremonial law but doesn’t keep the law of neighbor. And these cannot be brought together. Jesus is saying ultimately, you need me to bring the two together. I am ultimate, not Torah. [Courtesy of Steve Taylor lectures from Fall 2005]
Wrestling with Bultmann’s affirmation of “decision” as the main goal of the teachings of Jesus, I wonder if he is not mostly right in this observation. He did tack on the whole “therefore getting back to the Jesus of historie is not important nor obtainable” thing, but do we have to have all or nothing? Hardly anyone denies that Jesus’s teaching did bring some sort of bifurcating process (e.g. “You are either for me or against me”, “I did not come to bring peace but a sword, dividing…”, “you cannot serve God and money”), it often brought people to a point of decision.
I realize that Bultmann brings with his idea of “decision” a whole car full of baggage of theological existentialism and realized eschatology but I am also struck by Ridderbos’s words in The Coming of the Kingdom, “Jesus’ commandments not only place man in the crisis but also beyond it. The Sermon on the Mount especially, mentions, not only a continually repeated decisive moment of conversion, but even more, a continuous and persevering life proceeding from such a decision…” (248). So maybe we can’t agree with Bultmann’s end, but it seems that it can be a part of our process in obtaining the full nature of the Jesus’ proclomation of the Kingdom.
One more thing. Talking about this with fellow students one critique of Bultmann, viz., his focus on the individual’s relationship to God being ultimate as opposed to a community of faith, was well grounded. However, I think we also cannot go too far the other way but must have a balance. I think we should affirm the individual’s responsibility before God while also not negating the equally important relationship of the individual in community. This fundamentally brings us back to the two great commandments, Love God and Love Neighbor. It must be both.
This blog is mainly for me to get out all of the technical philosophical and theological ideas and language so that I no longer bore and frustrate my lovely wife with it all. However, since I am in school for now, I very well might not post anything for a while but who knows.