In the current Biblical ArchaeologyReview magazine (Jan/Feb 2012), Amy-Jill Levine discusses “The Many Faces of the Good Samaritan – Most Wrong”.
She tells of sermons she’s heard regarding the Good Samaritan over the years and how some have likened the story in very strange ways. Some view the robbers that hurt the traveler as “freedom fighters.” Some have taught that the parable teaches the importance of providing “free medical services to foreign nationals.”
One that many LDS try teaching is that the Levite and priest walk past the injured because they do not want to be unclean. However, the Torah and Mishnah teach the importance of helping others, and even the high priest should “attend a neglected corpse.”
She explains that the focus is on a common Jewish hero story, where first comes a Levite and priest. But the true hero is the common Israelite, who comes to the rescue after the first two. The surprise comes, when instead of telling of the hero Israelite, Jesus brings in the Samaritan, who is an enemy of the Jews (see Luke 9:54, John 4:9). Here we have an enemy treat the injured, and being the hero of the story.
How often do we over-do Nephi’s teaching to “liken the scriptures unto us”, and in so doing take the teaching into an entirely different direction? In my lifetime, I’ve heard people explain that Jesus was a communist, or libertarian. Many members read the stories in the Book of Mormon and believe that all kings are evil, that the Nephites under judges were libertarians, etc. For decades, many taught that entrance into the Telestial or Terrestrial kingdom was akin to hell, even though D&C 76 tells us otherwise. Others have tried to interpret the scriptures to explain the curse of Cain, justifying either slavery and Jim Crow laws, or at treat many as second class citizens.
How do we get the members of the Church to lessen up on the “likening unto us”, and seeking more the real intent behind the scriptures?