This is a popular parable. Along with its popularity comes many traditional ideas.
This article strips away those traditional ideas and takes a look at the naked truth of this parable.
The best way to do this is to ignore what has been said about this parable and to take a long look at it in the Bible.
But doing so brings most people face to face with another set of traditions: the traditional wording and errors in the King James Version (KJV). They are unknowingly ingrained into everyone's mind. They are even in today's most contemporary Bibles.
The KJV has several errors in this passage. The Greek Notes sections below point them out. One of the errors actually hides the moral of this parable. See if you can find it.
Check out your Bible with the errors mentioned below. Does it follow tradition (the KJV) or the Greek text?
The Bible text used in this article is the Breakthrough KJV (BKJV). It is a detraditionalized, more literal, more accurate, and more modern translation (breakthroughversion.com) of the Textus Receptus that is closest to the KJV (Scrivener 1894). The BKJV's partner, the Breakthrough Versions (BV), is from the Critical Text.
When the legal expert answered, he said, "You will love the Master, your God, from your whole heart, from your whole soul, from your whole strength, and from your whole mind, and the person near you as yourself."
[Greek Notes - in Greek "he" in the KJV really is "the" in Greek (this is also in the third verse and the last verse). In English you have to add "legal expert" or "lawyer" for it to make sense. Greek has a word for "he," it is not here.]
[Greek Notes - in Greek the prepositions in this verse are all "from" (ek), not "with" as the KJV has.]
[Greek Notes - What most Bibles translate as "neighbor" in this verse is "near" (plesion) in Greek. It is an adverb (neighbor is a noun). "You will love the person near you as yourself." The KJV translates three different Greek words as neighbor: plesion, perioikos, and geiton. Only one of them means neighbor. Plesion (the Greek word here) is not it. The KJV translates plesion correctly once (as "near") in John 4:5. Everywhere else it translates it incorrectly as "neighbor". It should have translated it consistently and correctly every time.]
He said to him, "You answered correctly. Do this and you will live."
But the legal expert, wanting to show himself to be right, said to Jesus, "And who is near me?"
When Jesus took it up, He said, "A certain man was walking down out of Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into being surrounded by bandits who both stripped him and put wounds on him. They went away after leaving him half dead (which he was obtaining).
[Greek Notes - Most Bible versions use the verb "answer" in the beginning of this verse. That is not what is in the Greek. The Greek word for "answer" is apokrinomai (it is in verse 27). It is not here. The Greek word here is hupolambano (to take up).]
[Greek Notes - It is "was walking down" in Greek, not "went down". This verb is imperfect (was walking, was going) in Greek, not past (walked, went) as in the KJV. The KJV translates three different Greek words as "go" or "come": erchomai, -baino, and poreuomai. Erchomai means to go or come (it is in verses 32 and 33). The other two mean something more than go or come. This is one of them. The root of this verb (-baino) means to go by foot, to walk or to step. Here it has the prefix of kata which means down, to walk down (it is also in verse 31). The other verb incorrectly translated as go in the KJV means to travel (poreuomai - it is in verses 37 and 38). In the KJV, there is no way to tell which of these Greek words is used. That is not good.]
[Greek Notes - The KJV translates peripipto (to fall into being surrounded by) as "fell among" which is also how it translates empipto eis (to fall into) in verse 36. These are not the same in Greek and so they should be translated differently, not the same as they are in the KJV.]
[Greek Notes - The Greek text that the KJV was translated from (the Textus Receptus) adds a verb in this verse (tugchano - to obtain) at the end, but the KJV does not translate it.]
By coincidence a certain priest was walking down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
Likewise, when a Levite also happened by the place, after he went and saw him, he passed by on the other side.
But as a certain Samaritan was on a trip, he went by him, and when he saw him, he had sympathy.
And when he came forward, he bandaged up his wounds dumping olive oil and wine on them. After loading him on his own animal, he took him into an inn and took care of him.
[Greek Notes - "inn" here is the Greek word, pandocheion. It only appears here in the New Testament. But in Luke 2:7 (the story of Jesus' birth), the KJV and most Bible versions also translate another Greek word as inn (kataluma - guest room). Kataluma is not an inn, it is a guest room (or the older word for guest room, guestchamber) which is how they translate it in Mark 14:14 and Luke 22:11.]
And on the next day, when he left, after he took out two denarii (fifty-dollar coins), he gave them to the innkeeper and said to him, 'Take care of him, and anything more that you spend, I, during the time for me to be coming back, will give it back to you.'
So which of these three does it seem to you to have become near the man who fell into the bandits?"
[Greek Notes - the Greek word for "become" is ginomai. It means become, not "was". To become near and to be near are not the same thing. The KJV translates it wrong as a verb of being here ("was") and 254 other times in the New Testament. Ginomai is not the verb of being, a different Greek word is (eimi). The KJV translates ginomai correctly as "become" 47 times. Another problem with ginomai in the KJV is that it is translated 40 different ways. That is terrible translating.]
The legal expert said, "The one who showed the forgiving kindness with him." So Jesus said to him, "Travel, and you must do likewise."
[Greek Notes - The KJV says "show mercy on him". The Greek word for "on" is meta. Meta is not on. It is "with".
[Greek Notes - it is "travel" in Greek, not go. This implies going some distance whether it is down the street, across town, or across the country. See the Greek Notes above for verse 30.]
The command central to this parable is "you will love the person near you as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18).
The lawyer wanted to justify himself (show himself to be right) so he asked, "And who is near me?"
Think about this question. Forget about this parable right now.
How could Jesus have answered this?
He could have said that a person's family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, or acquaintances are who is near him. The lawyer would most likely answer that he loved all of these people.
Jesus could also have said that a person should make sure that the people near him are good people. The people near the lawyer were the best people in the Jewish community: the priests and Levites.
Jesus did not give the standard answers. He told this story and asked who became near to the injured man.
Did the priest become near him? No, he walked by on the other side of the road.
Did the Levite become near him? No, he also walked by on the other side of the road.
What did the Samaritan do? First he looked, then he had sympathy, and then he went up to him. He became near him.
Remember, this is about loving the person near you. What do you have to do to love him? Get near him.
Loving the people near you is not about who is near you. It is about where you will place yourself. Whom you will place yourself near to.
Do you want to obey the second great command? First, you need to hit the road. Go looking for someone who needs your love. When you find him, have sympathy, get close to him, and love him.
This is what the Samaritan did. It is what Jesus demands each of us to do.