Losing the plot: Martyn Kelly says we’ve been reading the Parable of the Good Samaritan all wrong

‘Jesus turned the question around.’

‘The point of the parable is that the people the audience expected to act as neighbours were unable to fulfil their obligations.’ | Photo: The Good Samaritan, after Delacroix, by Vincent Van Gogh, 1890

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but a man was walking down a street when he started to feel feverish. He slumped onto a bench, doubled over, and coughed several times. An infectious disease consultant from the local hospital also happened to be walking down the same street. Seeing the man on the bench, and hearing him cough, she made sure that she gave him a wide berth. If she’d had her protective equipment with her, or if she didn’t need to ensure her colleagues and patients were not indirectly exposed, then she may have acted differently. A few minutes later a staff nurse from the same hospital also walked by. She saw the man and she also saw the consultant pass by. But the nurse also lacked protective equipment and, as her partner was in a clinically-vulnerable category, she did not want to risk infection either.

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