Luke 10:31: KATEBAINEN

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at
Fri Jul 23 13:09:44 EDT 1999

At 5:00 PM +0000 7/23/99, Mark Goodacre wrote:
>It occurred to me recently that the way we read the Good Samaritan
>(Luke 10.25-37) depends partly on whether or not we see the priest
>walking towards Jerusalem or away from Jerusalem.  If he is on his
>way to Jerusalem he might be passing by on the other side because he
>is attempting to avoid corpse impurity -- he thinks the man may be
>dead and since he is on his way to the temple, he does not want to
>risk corpose impurity (Lev. 21.1-3).  This, at least, is the way that the
>parable is read by E. P. Sanders and others.
>B-Greek is not, of course, the place to delve into possible meanings at
>a pre-Lucan stage but I am interested in whether Luke's text as we
>have it makes it clear that the priest is not walking towards Jerusalem,
>as the above interpretation would require.  Clearly the man in the ditch
>was on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho (KATEBAINEN APO
>IEROUSALHM EIS IERIXO, v. 30).  It is then said that the priest
>KATEBAINEN the road (v. 31).  My instinct is to read this as
>implying that he, too, is going down from Jerusalem to Jericho.  Is this
>necessarily the case, in which case we can rule out the interpretation
>involving corpse impurity and the temple?  Or might KATABAINW
>be used more casually of travelling on a road?

One curious factor of interest here involves, if my memory serves me right,
a significant difference between Greek and Hebrew usage. Doesn't "go down"
in Hebrew refer specifically to movement away from the hills/Jerusalem and
"go up" refer specifically or commonly to the journey TO Jerusalem? Yet in
classical Attic Greek, ANABAINW means "to leave home"--while KATABAINW or
KATERCOMAI means "to come home." I would not suppose that the classical
Attic usage has any bearing here. I just mention it as a fact of some
interest. But doesn't Hebraic usage enter into these words in this passage?

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad at

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