What Is the Underlying Meaning of the Parable of the Good Samaritan?

Two of the most common interpretations of The Parable of the Good Samaritan revolve around the role the Samaritan plays in the story. In the more literal interpretation, the Samaritan is a man who loves his neighbor as himself, regardless of race, ethnicity or religion. In the other, more allegorical interpretation, the Samaritan is Jesus, who comes to save mankind after Adam’s fall from grace, and who leaves but shall return.

The parable is Jesus’ response to a lawyer’s question, “Who is my neighbor?” In his answer, Jesus expounds upon the commandment to love one’s neighbor. In the metaphorical interpretation, Jerusalem and Jericho, endpoints of the road to travel, are paradise and earth. The man travelling the road is Adam, or mankind, who is set upon by thieves, or Satan. The man is left naked and alone, as though cast out from the Garden of Eden.

The priest and the Levite are the Law. The Samaritan is Jesus, who comes to the aid of man, healing him and taking him to the inn, which is the church. There, Jesus, who must leave, asks the innkeeper to take care of man, then promises to return.

May argue that Jesus would not place the focus on himself. The more literal interpretation of the parable relies on knowledge that Samaritans and Jews were sworn enemies. The injured man, being stripped and unconscious, could be a Jew or a Samaritan.

A priest then a Levite — both Jews — see the man, and rather than stop and help, cross the road to pass him. The Samaritan, seeing a man in need, stops to help, giving aid and shelter to the injured man. In doing so, he shows the type of love Jesus is exhorting all to give others.