Allegorical Reading of the Bible

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Deuteronomy 30:10-14

Moses said to the people: "If only you would heed the voice of the LORD, your God, and keep his commandments and statutes that are written in this book of the law, when you return to the LORD, your God, with all your heart and all your soul. "For this command that I enjoin on you today is not too mysterious and remote for you. It is not up in the sky, that you should say, 'Who will go up in the sky to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?' Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, 'Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?' No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out."

Colossians 1:15-20

Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.

Luke 10:25-37

There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said, "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus said to him, "What is written in the law? How do you read it?" He said in reply, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." He replied to him, "You have answered correctly; do this and you will live." But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied, "A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn, and cared for him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, 'Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.' Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers' victim?" He answered, "The one who treated him with mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

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.

Posted: July 10, 2016

Edmond Lo

As a Catholic speaker, writer and RCIA Catechist, Edmond is very active in promoting and defending the Catholic faith. He has a MBA, a CPA-CMA, and a MTS (Master of Theological Studies) from U.T., St. Augustine's Seminary. Having worked many years as the CFO of a non-profit organization, he retired at 55 to follow his special vocation of evangelization. The activities he conducts include the CMCC Bible Study Program, the Catechism Revisited Program, the FLL Spiritual Formation Program, Living in the Holy Tradition, RCIA, family groups and retreats, etc. Edmond is a member of the FLL Core Team. He writes Sunday Mass reflections regularly for the weekly FLL NewSpiration. His personal blog:

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