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The Good Samaritan in Ancient Christianity

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image of Vigiliae Christianae

For modern readers the parable of the Good Samaritan clearly has an ethical meaning. Although in ancient Christianity this tenor was not fully neglected, the parable was usually interpreted allegorically, the Samaritan being seen as Christ the Saviour of sinners, who had been robbed by the devil. The present article gives a survey of the various interpretations and elaborations of Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, an anonymous presbyter, Origen, Gregory Thaumaturgus, the Gospel of Philip, Ambrose, Augustine, and Ephrem the Syrian. It concludes with some remarks on Christian charity in the first centuries C.E. which may in part have provided the hermeneutical context of the allegorization of the parable. It is argued that before Christians were ready to identify themselves with the Samaritan, they first, before their conversion, had identified themselves with the wounded man helped by the Samaritan, who was represented by other Christians.


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