Jesus Christ, the Parable of the Good Samaritan, and Adam Smith's Wise, Virtuous, Just, and Noble Person: A Comparison of Jesus Christ's System of Virtue Ethics with that of Adam Smith's
17 Pages Posted: 5 Sep 2015
Date Written: September 5, 2015
Jesus Christ can be viewed as the ultimate teacher of ethics and moral philosophy. However, his teaching approach, the parable, requires later readers of these parables to have understood or be able to grasp through historical analysis a very significant amount of the missing background knowledge that is usually overlooked by someone reading the parables.
This is due to the oral tradition of Jesus’s time. This background information would have been readily understood by individuals listening to Jesus as he used his parables to teach virtue 2000 years ago.
A reexamination of his Parable of the Good Samaritan demonstrates Jesus’s awareness that a virtuous person’s character is developed in a process that is occurring, in general, over time in different stages of a person’s life. A person needs to develop a proper understanding of moral behavior over time. This is why the parents and school teachers are so important - they help build the character of the young person growing up.
Only two laws are needed - Love your God and love your neighbor. The wise and virtuous man or women, who has properly developed their character, would be able to apply these two rules of conduct to the many different kinds of situations that they would face in their lifetimes.
Adam Smith developed, in much greater detail and length, a similar type of virtue ethics in his The Theory of Moral Sentiments in 1759 that, however, leads to the same conclusions concerning moral development that a complete and full understanding of Jesus’s Good Samaritan parable, and other parables (The parable of the talents), leads to.
This paper will examine the overlooked background information that is contained in the Good Samaritan Parable. This overlooked background information, that Jesus took for granted would be known to his listeners, is not made explicit in the Good Samaritan parable itself. It needs to be explicitly grasped before a complete comparison can be made between Jesus and Adam Smith on the issue of the development and attainment of virtue over time.
Keywords: ethics, Good Samaritan, Jesus Christ, Adam Smith
JEL Classification: B10, B12, B20, B22
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation