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Vemkar Live Session Sheds New Light on a Familiar Parable

In a riveting online discussion, Dr. Roberta Ervine of St. Nersess Seminary offered viewers a fresh look at one of the most famous parables in Scripture, under the provocative title, “And You Shall Love: Being a Samaritan on the Road Less Taken.”

Dr. Ervine’s talk was part of the “Live Sessions” series of online broadcasts, presented by the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America as a feature of its new educational initiative, Vemkar. Some 50 viewers from local parishes throughout the Diocese took part in the event broadcast on Wednesday, September 23, 2020.

In an insightful “close reading” of Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, and its dramatic setting of a dialogue between Jesus and an unnamed questioner, Dr. Ervine explained that many gospel stories are so familiar that people underestimate how deep and complex they are. Thoughtful reappraisals of such stories, however, can reveal new depths and areas to explore—which may even overturn long-held notions.

Her analysis of the Good Samaritan placed special emphasis on the way key terms had been translated and understood in classical Armenian. One consequence of this approach, she said, would be to render the term typically translated as “neighbor”(in English editions) as “companion” (based on the Armenian term used, unger).

She led listeners on a consideration of each of the characters involved in the passage, which is found only in Luke’s gospel. These included not only the figures in the story—the man left beaten on the road, the priest and Levite who pass him by, the Samaritan who rescues him, and the innkeeper who tends to the man’s recovery—but also the figures of Jesus as the teller of the story, and the “student of law” whose question about inheriting eternal life prompts the dialogue.

Like all of the recent Live Sessions, this talk went forward under the theme of Vemkar’s inaugural education module, “Christ as Healer”—a theme well-suited to a discussion of the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Dr. Ervine’s conclusions drew on the Armenian patristic traditions surrounding the parable. “The Armenian fathers said that Jesus entrusts the wounded and bleeding to our care,” she said, explaining that each facet of the story of the Good Samaritan parallels a role to which Christians are called. “We are the questioner. We are the audience. We are the wounded man; we are the Samaritan. We are the inn, and we are the innkeeper.”

The Eastern Diocese’s Communications director Christopher Zakian moderated a lively question and answer session, which allowed Dr. Ervine to build on some of the insights in her talk.

You can watch a recording of Dr. Ervine’s presentation on the Vemkar.us website. To access this and other Vemkar Live Session recordings, click here.

There you can also find the schedule of upcoming Live Sessions, and links to register. Vemkar is the major educational component of Building Up the Body of Christ, Diocesan Primate Bishop Daniel Findikyan’s vision for the Eastern Diocese and its parishes.

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