|Good Samaritan mural, St. Catherine's Monastery (4th century)|
Can you find the Good Samaritan's "animal" (Luke 10:34) in the above mural? The answer is below.
I guess I'll finish with a discussion of the one parable interpretation of Augustine that virtually everyone knows: the parable of the Good Samaritan. Before I get to his famous allegorical interpretation, however, I'll briefly talk about some of his other readings of the parable. I will also discuss the above 14th century mural of the Good Samaritan at the end of this post, because it shares Augustine's allegorical understanding of the parable.
Many visual representations of the parable of the Good Samaritan reinforce the allegorical interpretations of Irenaeus, Origen, Augustine, and others that the parable symbolizes fallen humanity, Satan’s attacks, the Law’s inadequacy, and Jesus’ mercy. See, for example, my earlier discussions of the 12th century stained-glass windows in the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Chartres. Similar allegorical interpretations in stained-glass windows can be found in the Cathedral of St. Etienne in Bourges, the Cathédrale Saint-Étienne in Sens, and the Canterbury Cathedral (see also my earlier posts about the Rossano Gospels).
Likewise, a 14th century mural in St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai (the image at the top of this post) labels the Samaritan as “Jesus Christ” (IC XC). Just as in Augustine's allegorical interpretation, Jesus (as the true Good Samaritan) attends to the wounded man (i.e., Jesus restores fallen humanity to a right relationship with God, which the old dispensation--symbolized by the priest and Levite--cannot provide) and brings him to the "inn" of the church.
The above mural takes the allegory even further, because, as you can see above, Jesus himself (as the Samaritan) carries the wounded man (fallen humanity) to the inn (the church), instead of placing the man on an animal. This action emphasizes the sacrifice of Jesus; he is the “beast of burden” who bears upon himself the salvation of humankind.
The mural also includes other interesting elements, such as Moses on a mountaintop holding the Ten Commandments. Perhaps I should devote an entire blog entry on this mural sometime soon.
For those of you who read German, an excellent book on this subject is: Ayado Hosoda, Darstellungen der Parabel vom barmherzigen Samariter (Petersberg 2002).