Allegorical Reading of the Bible

by Edmond Lo
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Deuteronomy 30:10-14

Colossians 1:15-20

Luke 10:25-37

The Divine Author of the Bible used allegory to help the reader to “acquire a more profound understanding of events by recognizing their significance in Christ”, according to the Catechism (CCC 117). As a result, when we read the Bible, don’t lose sight of the allegorical meanings that many of its stories carry – meanings that point us directly or indirectly to Christ himself.

How do we understand the Good Samaritan story in today’s gospel allegorically? What is its significance in Christ? According to Pope Benedict XVI, the answers to these questions can be obtained by understanding the story in the following manner (see Jesus of Nazareth – From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration, pp. 200-201):

  • "A man fell victim to robbers” (v. 30) – “Man” is to be understood as Adam or man in general; in other words, “humanity”.
  • “Robbers” refers to the force of evil.
  • “They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead” (v.30) – A picture of humanity in tatters, bereft of grace and wounded by sin. What we have is a fallen human nature.
  • “Priest” and “Levite” (vv. 31-32) symbolize history, culture, and religion. None of them are the ultimate solution to humanity’s problem.
  • The “Samaritan traveler” (v. 33) was distant and foreign to the man. Since the victim was a Jew, the Samaritan traveler was foreign to him. In fact, Jews and Samaritans didn’t get along. The Samaritan traveler refers to Jesus, who is distant and foreign to us because he is transcendent, holy and divine.
  • “He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them” (v.34) – Jesus heals our wounded human nature using the Sacraments (oil and wine).
  • “Took him to an inn and cared for him” (v. 34) – Jesus instituted the Church (inn) to care for man.

The theme of this allegory, as it relates to Christ, is love: man in general is wounded (human nature is wounded due to sin); every one of us is in need of redemption which we will receive from Jesus (the Samaritan in the story); we should love our neighbors the way the Good Samaritan loved the victim, helping the victim generously even though he was his enemy (because the victim was a Jew). The story also confirms the importance of the Church and the Sacraments (“inn” and “oil and wine” in the story), both of which were indispensable in the healing of the victim.