Is it reasonable to believe in "magical" stories in the Bible?


If you can believe in Samson, the man with the magical hair …
I suppose you can believe in Eve having a conversation with a
snake with arms and legs.


Where do you get the idea that the serpent had arms and legs? Maybe I misread that passage…


Well, the Serpent had at least ONE set of appendages, or Yahweh’s curse against him and
his kind would be completely meaningless:

Genesis 3:14
“And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life…”

One of the goals of this story is to offer a commentary on how snakes came to be.

George Brooks

Sorry Kathryn — for whatever reason the link wouldn’t load for me, so my comment was directed at George’s observation.


I guess you’re right about the belly thing — most artistic renditions don’t depict a serpent with legs however. Michael Heiser makes the observation that in Ezekiel 28 it retells the same garden scene… Except the serpent is encrusted with jewels and walks “on the stones of fires” … The same word for serpent, “nachash” also means “the shining one”.


Here’s a Michelangelo with the Serpent having arms …
but only an “implied thigh” that is actually part of the
serpent’s coil.

Clever working of the different anatomies !

Ahh I must have forgotten about the painting. I can see your reasoning behind it, but if you tell that to someone that takes the story literally they’ll probably scoff at you.

Didn’t Gilgamesh in the Babylonian Epic have an adventure that involves a serpent while on a quest for a plant that could give him eternal life, while he was taking a bath? In that story it seemed to be explaining how a snake came to shed it’s skin. The aborigines had a creation story that involved a rainbow colored serpent.

Seems the popular figure to me!

I think the explanation for “How things are” expressed in stories, is a bit overlooked when it come to the Bible.

Can you explain earlier what you meant by Samson being an allegory? I was intrigued. There also seems to be a similar motif in the story of Hannah beseeching God for a son, and then making a promise that the razor will never come across his head. In Samson, it’s the wife of Manoah that beseeches God for a son, and then makes a promise that the razor will never come across his head. Only with Samson he ends up having Herculean strength because of his hair … With Samuel he had no such abilities.


Yes… very interesting themes!

I could suggest that it was the story of Manoah that might have inspired the story of Samson. Certainly the reverse seems
unlikely. After reading the story of Samson, it would be a poor writer who decides that he’s going to make a LESS interesting

As for Samson as an allegory of a solar god … this was not an idea I formulated. I read it somewhere, and I think
it makes pretty good sense. And then when I read about two different synagogues, one having a mosaic with a
clear depiction of a solar god on a solar chariot … and the other having a BLAZING SUN on a solar chariot …
well, it would make sense to me that Hebrew scribes would be motivated to take a pagan story and change it
to fit Hebrew sensibilities and “co-opt” some successful Pagan myth.

This is certainly the strategy adopted by early Christianity when entering a pagan territory. All of a sudden,
the fertility rabbit who lays EGGS (what?!) … is no longer pagan, but is a harbinger of Jesus for Easter!

Here’s a link …

So, the general trajectory of the solar allegory runs like this:

As long as the Sun shines brightly, the solar god is powerful.
Samson is the sun… because his long hair is a classic ancient
representation of a solar god’s appearance.

Also: “Samson’s Hebrew name is Shimshon meaning sunlight”

When Samson’s sunlight/hair is cut back … he becomes impotent…
and even blinded. He has no more solar power.

But, like all comparisons, there are limits to the parallels, and the story
has to be a good one on its own.


I know some Christians that don’t like Easter because of that fact … It’s pagan origins (like Christmas and the worship of Saturnelia).

I was intrigued by your link … And it does seen to make some good sense. For a rather short telling story (Judges 13 - 16) it’s amazing how many incredibly far-fetched stories take place. The miraculous birth … The magical hair … Killing 1000 with the jawbone of an ass … The beehive in the carcass of a lion … The riddle and the strange Delilah scene. And on and on.

Like Peter Enns writes there’s two different directions people go with his. The Atheist who can now say that the Bible is a lie, and for that matter the Christian that can now say it.

Or you can say that my perceptions of the Bible were a lie. And that history often got dressed up in “mythic clothing”…

I prefer the latter explanation but it is more difficult a position to defend.


Is it me or does A&E look like they’re on steroids in that painting :smile:


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