Sunday, March 22, 2020

Importance of Comparison

Things don’t happen in a vacuum. Things happen in a place and location. When one situation occurs, relatively speaking, other situations are affected. Many situations interact with one another, though not necessarily noticeably. From this type of situation, important information can be verified, if factual, or exposed if not. As an example, when the parable of the Good Samaritan is given—which was a story told by Jesus to the Jews that was, in brief, a teaching incident about a traveler who is stripped of clothing, beaten, and left half dead alongside the road. First a priest and then a Levite come by, but both avoid the man. Finally, a Samaritan happens upon the traveler.”
The isolated Jericho Road from Jerusalem down to Jericho in the area of the West Bank

In the time of Jesus, the road from Jerusalem to Jericho was notorious for its danger and difficulty, and was known as the "Way of Blood" or “Bloody Pass,” because of the blood which is often shed there by robbers. In fact, the way from Jerusalem down to Jericho is a winding, meandering road which one traveled with a certain trepidation or fear of being attacked by robbers. It is certainly possible that when the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground, they might well have been concerned about the robbers still being around, and hurried past the area; or even that the man on the ground was a plant, faking his injury, to lure some unsuspecting traveler to approach and let down his guard—so it might have been that the first question in the minds of the priest and Levite would have been: “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?"
    But that has little to do with the purpose of mentioning the story. The main part has to do with the Samaritan—an unknown man in the parable, but one with a side story among the Jews to whom Jesus was addressing.
    First of all, a Samaritan was a Samaritan Hebrew which originated from the Israelites (Hebrews) of the Ancient Near East, inhabiting Samaria, an area now known as the West Bank. According to Samaritan tradition, the split between them and the Judean-led Southern Israelites began during the biblical time of the priest Eli when the Southern Israelites split off from the central Israelite tradition. In the Talmud, they are called Cutheans (כּוּתִים‎, Kutim), referring to the ancient city of Kutha, geographically located in what is today Iraq.
The area between Jerusalem and Jericho, the ancient Kutha, is half mountain and half desert, as the road drops from Jerusalem at 2474’ down to Jericho -864’ below sea level, or a total drop of 3338’

In the biblical account, Kuthah was one of several cities from which people were brought to Samaria, after the Ten Tribes had been led away, who worshiped Nergal—a solar deity, sometimes identified with Shamash, known at times as the God of war and pestilence. He was also associated as the god of the underworld, and the Babylonians related him to the planet Mars, as did the Greeks (Ares).
    Just prior to the time of Christ, the Samaritans were hated by the Jews (even today), they have a stand-alone status in Israel. During the time of Jesus, they were part of the province of Judaea and the Herodian Kingdom. According to Josephus, the Samaritans were willing to rename their temple in the Greek fashion as Zeus Hellenios, and were considered aliens by the Hebrews who would not accept the Hellenistic Olympian Zeus.
    At this time, Samaria was largely divided between a Hellenizing faction based in Samaria (Sebastaea) and a pious faction in Shekhem and surrounding rural areas, led by the High Priest. Samaria was a largely autonomous state nominally dependent on the Seleucid Empire until John Hyrcanus, the Hasmonean ruler of Judea, destroyed the Samaritan temple and devastated Samaria.
    The point is, the parable was meant to show that while the priest, and similarly a Levite, represented the more righteous of the Jews who passed by a severely injured man without stopping to see to his needs and care for him, while a hated Samaritan showed compassion and love.
    Key expressions that had to be accurate to an area: “Down to Jericho,” “Robbers on the Road,” and “half dead injured man.” The point is, Jerusalem is above Jericho in elevation, a point which can be verified, so to go down to Jericho is a correct statement. The road from Jerusalem was filled with robbers anciently. It was called “The Way of the Blood” or “Blood Pass,” another point that can be verified. Leaving the attacked man half dead was also a common sight on this road anciently, and again, the reason for the nickname of the road, another point that can be verified from ancient writings.
    It is interesting that many people feel the geography of the Book of Mormon is of no importance. And certainly, it is not the major emphasis of the book, which is a second testament of Jesus Christ; however, it can add to the experience of study and make much more clear than at first glance.
The ancient road to Jericho was from Jerusalem down the mountain to the plains where stood Jericho

As an example, as much as we know about the Bible Lands, two scholars have written a book on the geography of these lands, claiming the words and events of the Bible are far more understandable and meaningful, when understanding the geography involved. In fat, their comment is: “delivers fresh insight by paying attention to an often overlooked component of the Gospel stories—their geographical setting—grasping the geographical context of these passages and scores of others is vital to understanding the text” (Barry J. Beitzel and Kristopher A. Lyle, Lexham Geographic Commentary on the Gospels, Lexham Press, Bellingham Washington, 2018). Barry J. Leitzel is a doctorate Professor Emeritus of Old Testament and Semitic Languages at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. His publications on Near Eastern geography have appeared in a variety of monographs and journals, from Biblical Archaeology Review and The Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research to Iraq: The British Institute for the Study of Iraq.
    In the Book of Mormon, a narrow and small narrow neck of land had to be narrow and small. A Land Northward and a Land Southward had to be to the north and south. An event that “did shake the whole earth as if it was about to divide asunder” is a severe earthquake; an isle is an island; four seas are four seas; a narrow pass is a narrow pass; the Land Southward was nearly surrounded by water except for the small neck of land means exactly that; mountains “whose height is great,” means very high mountains were raised all over the Land of Promise; roads and highways from city to city, from land to land, and place to place,” again means exactly that—the entire Land of Promise had a road system that covered the entire land; stone walls around the entire land of promise means that stone walls were built and should be evidenced today; Land on the west seashore of the Land of Promise means exactly that and verification of where Lehi landed; and numerous other scriptural points mean exactly what they say and do no n3ed o be interpreted as something else.

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