I emailed the following provisional research proposal to N. T. Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org on 6 Nov 2010, 7:08 PM. In the body of the email I wrote:
“Dear Dr. Wright,
Your work on the restoration of Israel having been personally formative, I was pleased to meet you on your November 2007 visit here to Asbury Theological Seminary.
I’m writing because I would like to work with you at St. Andrews in New Testament studies. I’ll be submitting my proposal (attached) and the rest of my application soon. But, because I’m primarily interested in studying with you, I would love to hear any feedback you have on my proposal before sending it.
My idea is this: I think that an argument can be made that, properly understood, the Second Great Commandment (Matt 22:35–40) should be read as referring to reciprocal love among the covenant people. This is indicated by a reading of the Parable of the Faithful Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37) utilizing, among other considerations, a hermeneutic developing the widely prophesied but relatively disregarded reunification motif of messianic restoration. Such a reading shows the primarily theological nature of the parable that challenged not ethics but exclusivist Judaean sectarian ecclesiology. Thus, rather than universalizing the Second Great Commandment, Jesus maintains continuity with the biblical definition while challenging unrighteous restriction of its scope.
Like you, I’ve got a heart for the global church, whose sufferings motivated this line of inquiry. And I think this project can have the added benefit of strengthening loving Christian solidarity at all levels, more firmly establishing our identity (as per Eph 4:13) and kindling eschatological hope that the best days of earth lie ahead, a spiritually empowered, loving hope so necessary when growing pressures threaten to dismember Christ’s differentiated communitarian Body, the corporate image of the Trinity for the world.
If you care to read more, please see the provisional sketch of my research proposal (attached in both Word.doc and .pdf formats).
I understand that your schedule is very busy. If a short conversation would be more convenient, I am available to meet with you in Atlanta during ETS or SBL. If you could be so kind, please advise me of any time and place you may wish to meet for coffee or something, and I will accommodate.
I attached the following material to this email:
Sketch of My Research Conception for N. T. Wright
by James T. Mace (6 Nov 2010)
How should we define the Second Great Commandment (2GC)? Is it inclusive of all humanity (and even creation), or is it limited to the Church? The key to this lies in reassessment of the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37) exploring verification of the hypothesis that Jesus reaffirmed the 2GC as pertaining only to the covenant people. The ecclesiological (not ethical) question the Judaean theologian asked provoking the parable reflected the heated debates re possession of status as the true Israel. He asked what the scope of Israel was in order to justify his definition of neighbor/Israelite as one who adhered to the Judaean temple cultus centered in Jerusalem (vs., e.g., Samaria or Qumran), with orthodoxy as prescribed by hierarchs like him. Contrary to some other interpreters, I say Jesus directly answered the ecclesiological question. My thesis is: Jesus teaches in the Parable of the Good Samaritan that Judaean Israelites are to recognize that faithful Samaritans are their fellow Israelite covenant members (or perhaps that Samaritans enjoy something like proselyte status as resident alien sojourners submitted to and worshipping Yahweh).
The parable follows a two-three form, the traditional triad Kohen, Levi, Israel, that would lead hearers to expect the third person to be a simple, unlearned Israelite (which self-designation the Samaritan claimed but the Judaean denied) held up to advantage vis-à-vis the two cultic functionaries.
Cultural, socio-religious context.
Study of the history of northern Israel, the Samaritans and of the intertestamental and nt milieu of various mutually exclusive Israelite sects vying for status as the elect remnant of Israel reveals that Samaritans should be considered as fellow Israelites (as are, e.g., the Qumran sectarians).
Jesus is teaching within the national context of 1st-century mission to His own people. Perhaps every parable of Jesus deals with the restoration of Israel, and I think that, if my hypothesis is wrong, this would be the only parable of Jesus even containing a non-Israelite performer (apart from a single oblique reference in Luke 15:15). He is the Prophet like Moses (Deut 18:15–19) to divide and purge Israel in order to restore the faithful remnant into covenant and destroy the chaff rejecting restoration (cf. Luke 3:17; Acts 3:22f). He is the messianic Son of David, the Shepherd King to reunite true Israel and ascend to rule Her from a heavenly throne.
The Gospel of Luke is to be read with fulfillment and ecclesiological hermeneutics. Luke uses the parable to show Jesus is the Messiah fulfilling all things written about Him in the prophets (cf. Luke 10:24; 24:27) and to further his theme of messianic inclusion of all Israelites by reconciling issues of legalistic theological purity (combined here with Judaean racist exclusivity) vs. adulterated Samaritan Yahwists descended from Israelites and foreign converts.
Exegesis of the Parable of the Good Samaritan via reintegrating Old and New Testaments.
Jesus knows He is the messianic Son of David (Luke 9:20;18:38f) fulfilling the restoration of Israel. Relation of this parable to 2 Chr 28:8–15 (of which it seems a virtual retelling) reveals the theme of covenant faithfulness (see below re “mercy”) by Samarians towards Judaeans out of a sense of the unity of the two kingdoms as the common people of Yahweh. Such a parallel theme in the Parable of the Good Samaritan would explain the preparatory reference to the fulfillment anticipated by “many prophets and kings” in Luke 10:24 immediately preceding the pericope of this parable.
As Jesus intimately knew the Scripture (Luke 2:46f) and His own royal genealogy, perhaps He composed this parable to indicate He is the greater son of David making an applicative update of an event during the life of His royal grandfather King Ahaz (2 Kgs 16:1, 20; 2 Chr 27:9; 28:27; Isa 7:1; Matt 1:9) preparatory to the Great Passovers of grandfathers Hezekiah (2 Chr 30:25–26) and Josiah (2 Chr 35:17–18) that reunited the whole ἐκκλησία of Israelite Yahwists with Judaeans (as Jesus’ own unitive body and blood would soon also accomplish).
Restoration of Israel includes many messianic prophecies re the reunification of Judah and Israel, a theme greatly underappreciated by nt scholarship. A hermeneutic appreciating the ot prophetic theme of the messianic reunification of north and south Israel helps demonstrate this parable’s eschatological ecclesiological intent. Restoration of Israel includes the related theme of the Davidic Shepherd regathering the scattered flock of Israel, as seen elsewhere in Luke. And the theme of division and purging of Israel for the kingdom of God is seen in the immediately preceding pericope of Luke 10:1–24. Isaiah 11 may be paradigmatic for Jesus’ self-intent for messianic reunification (an agenda further informed by Hosea, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, etc.). Isaiah 7:1, 6 record warfare between Israel and Judah in the attack by Pekah upon Ahaz (cf. Isa 9:21), which serves as preparation for the reunification prophecy in Isa 11:13 and indicates why Jesus might allude in His parable to a parallel account in 2 Chr 28 of the same warfare preceding unitive loving faithfulness. Jesus is the Davidic Messiah healing hateful divisions between parts of Israel.
Proper exegesis reveals Jesus is maintaining continuity with Lev 19:18 and subsequent usage of the term neighbor; it is still limited to fellow covenant members in this teaching of Jesus, who is not changing the understanding of the Second Great Commandment (2GC) to include all human beings. Within the context of mutually exclusive sects struggling for status as the sole true Israel, the question re “neighbor” is seen as ecclesiological not lexical. The Judaean theologian’s question is not to be understood in a minimalist sense of limitedly defining the term neighbor (esp. not simply concentrating on moral behaviour); rather, the phrase, ”who is my neighbor,” expresses the concept of “how widely does Israel extend.”
In answer to Jesus’ question to identify which of the three characters qualifies as a fellow covenant member, the theologian saw that the Samaritan obeyed the stipulation of covenant love, but the Judaean used a descriptive term instead of naming the hateful word, “Samaritan,” as the one who fulfilled the 2GC instead of the Jerusalem hierarchs. The language of doing mercy (ἔλεος Luke 10:37) is here a technical term (from Hebrew חֶסֶד; lxx ἔλεος; cf. Hos 6:6; Mic 6:8; 2 Sam 22:26) for practicing covenantal faithfulness; it is not merely ethical but largely theological. The Judaean theologian grudgingly admits the faithful Samaritan showed himself to be a vital member of the covenant people.
Jesus commanded him to likewise show covenant love to fellow Israelites (among whom he must count Samaritans in the messianic renewal of all Israel); this command reflects back to His previous command re the Judaean’s prescription of the 2GC: “And He said to him, ‘You have answered correctly; DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE’” (Luke 10:28 nasb95; cf. Lev 18:5; Ezek 20:11; Matt 19:17).
The Book of Acts confirms this exegesis by juxtaposing the reunification of all Judea and Samaria (καὶ ἐν πάσῃ τῇ Ἰουδαίᾳ καὶ Σαμαρείᾳ Acts 1:8; cf. 8:1–17, 25; 9:31) and by distinguishing them from the subsequent mission of restored Israel to the Gentiles (Acts 10:11–16, 45; 11:1–18). See similar tenets in Justin Martyr (ca.100–165), a native of Flavia Neapolis, the ancient Shechem.
The Judaean theologian’s second question to Jesus is not improper, and there are more than ethical concerns here. A proper understanding of the parable shows that Jesus does indeed answer (and not avoid nor supersede) the ecclesiological question of who is the Judaean’s fellow covenant member towards whom he must exercise love. Jesus’ basic answer is that, while many claim to be the elect people of God, only those (including even Samaritan Yahwists) who faithfully observe the stipulations of the covenant (esp. 2GC intra-ecclesial, communitarian love) constitute the renewed messianic Israel.
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–––––. “‘Good Samaritan’ — a Good Israelite?” Pages 472–85 in Wer ist wie du, HERR, unter den Gottern?: Studien zur Theologie und Religionsgeschichte für Otto Kaiser zum 70 Geburtstag. Edited by I. Kottsieper. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1994.
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 “For all the other human races are called Gentiles by the Spirit of prophecy; but the Jewish and Samaritan races are called the tribe of Israel, and the house of Jacob. . . . For all the Gentiles were ‘desolate’ of the true God, serving the works of their hands; but the Jews and Samaritans, having the word of God delivered to them by the prophets, and always expecting the Christ, did not recognise Him when He came, except some few” (“The First Apology of Justin,” ch. 53; ANF 1:180).