Sampson a superhero

When reading the Old Testament stories of Sampson is there any reason to believe that it’s supposed to be literal and true or is there reasons to view it as hyperbolic or even mythological. Obviously the super strength and hair cutting as his kryptonite sounds a lot like modern superhero fiction. It’s even similar to older stories like the heel of Achilles or even sort of similar to stories of gods becoming drunk on wine and revealing occult knowledge. Even Sampson was told to avoid wine or it would break his covenant with Yahweh.

Any thoughts and resources? If it’s all fake, I think it should be because of its literary genre or known tropes of that time and not solely because of the supernatural since I believe many of us here believe in a literal resurrection and so on.

Legend/Clearly fiction. Don’t break your vows. Philistines bad.

Power tied to his hair. Ripping a lion in half. Riddle making the town want to kill him. Killing 30 men. Those poor foxes. The ropes melt off his hands. He kills a thousand men with the jawbone of a donkey. Samson tells two lies to Delilah and fights the Philistines shortly after each and clearly must know what she is doing before. Then he asks God for strength so he can avenge his eyes and the pillar scene.

Can it be any clearer that this is fiction without God opening the heavens and telling us so directly? Just because we believe miracles can happen, we are under no obligation to entertain legends and fairy tales as historical. Was there a historical kernel? Maybe. Maybe not. But does it really matter? That is not what the account is about or what God inspired.

1 Like

What is it about? What did God inspire?

Well a list of extraordinary claims is not what makes me take parts of the Bible as hyperbolic. It’s the patterns. It’s the contradictions between all being destroyed and then they are still around that leads me to supporting hyperbolic beliefs and so on. The craziness of the gospels is far more crazy to me than the story of Sampson.

So for me to take Sampson as hyperbolic, or as fiction it would require it to be evident based off of its style, known tropes of the day and so on. Like with Jonah. The story of Jonah is not that crazy compared to the gospel. A man disobeyed god, a man swallowed by a fish and die to only be thrown up and resurrected and then he’s still hard headed about preaching is not crazy compared to the rest yet I still take it as satire because of its style and literary techniques.

With Sampson, I’m not to familiar with it in the same way. But merely listing the events, that I mentioned in the OP, and saying it’s clearly fiction because of that does not lead me to agreeing, which was also laid out in my OP.

I’m not sure what the creative explanation that those subscribing to accommodation have for this one. If apologetics has taught me anything, it is that there is no lack of ingenuity or imagination and that someone has probably written 100 pages explaining the non-literal richness of the account. The story does nothing for me honestly. I’m too far removed from the author’s worldview to find it inspiring in any way. But I am open for possibilities.

Explanations about “we too can receive God’s strength” do nothing for me. This narrative’s strength is all physical. A lot of people have prayed in foxholes during war. Prayer and receiving God’s strength doesn’t stop bullets anymore that it allows a man to kill 1000 men with the jawbone of a donkey or to successfully fight a lion bare-handed. It allows us to cope, to persevere, to love, to sin less and give more. God’s strength is spiritual, not magical.

1 Like

We don’t think Samson was God incarnate. For me that is the ONLY reason to suspend some skepticism in regards to things Jesus may have done in the Gospels. But I am not one of those who thinks accommodation only applies to the Old Testament. It very much applies to the Gospels as well which are very much theological and blend fictional creativity with history, faith and the voice of the ever present, transforming and risen Jesus. This is clear over and over again to me as I read the Gospels. In many cases it amplifies the message for me. So the “whataboutism” in regards to the Gospels isn’t relevant to me.

You say it has to be based on known tropes, etc for you to reject. But I think this is just a retreating position that fails to let go. We would be justifiably and rightly laughed at for taking all these similar ancient, fanciful and magical non-Biblical stories as historical in today’s modern world. I reject all the other ancient stories and comparable myths and legends outside the Bible. I dismiss them largely out of hand based on my present background knowledge. Maybe you don’t. I would hope you dismiss them as well but none the less, I reject the historicity of the Samson story for the same reason I reject the historicity of all those “literary tropes” you refer to. Rejecting the historicity of the Samson’s account because its a “literary trope” is just the nice, muddled apologetical way of saying, “I reject it because it’s like all these other clearly non-fictional and ridiculous stories when taken literally.” You are just trying to dress it up in a fancier package. I don’t see the functional difference between our postures. None of them are history. At any rate, for me the more important questions are: What does this account mean today? Why is it in the Bible?


1 Like

Has nothing to do with me struggling to let go of anything. Insisted my position 100% accurate and honestly. Being laughed at by the world is not a issue. That opens up as soon as you make it clear that you believe in God.

I don’t believe in any miracles now days associated with laying on of hands or apostolic powers. I believe they all ceased. There is nothing particular about the gospels that makes me take them as hyperbolic or ahistorical.

My question is exactly what it is.

What literary patterns, tropes, or myths was around that we could associate with the story of Samson , or word play in the original language, to make someone take the story as non literal. If within the narrative there is no reason for me to take it as non literal, I’ll continue to take it as literal. If the opposite is shown, then I can easily take it as non literal.

As far as dismissing other crazy stories I don’t .

I believe in very crazy stories in the Bible.

I believe in prophets for telling the future.
I believe that supernatural forces allowed Balaams donkey to talk.
I believe in solomon and the goetia messages of controlling a supernatural force with music.

I believe in the stories laid out about Moses.

I believe in the story of Elijah.

I currently believe in the story of Sampson.

I believe Jesus was the son of God snd given all power snd and authority and that he foretold the future.

I believe that the apostles had supernatural powers that made them unaffected to snake bites from venomous snakes, that Peter’s shadow healed the dying, and ect….

If you don’t that’s fine.
If you don’t have answers to my questions that’s also fine.
I’m going to sit back a bit and wait and see if anyone has any suggestions on the potential literary techniques or cultural myths that can be used to give a reasonably position of rejecting Sampson as literal.

I see a logical fallacy brewing. Why not just take them all as literal history? If there are many stories of men of renown possessing magical powers and legendary strength embedded in absurd stories in antiquity, and clearly the OT espouses polytheism (something extremely obvious I believe you deny), why not just take them all as literal? Why “literary trope” over literal? Maybe Enkidu really did help slay Humbaba and the Bull.

1 Like

Why not take them all as literal?

I’ve already answered it. Because of the literary style and techniques being used by the writers. The reason why genesis 1-11 is mythological, as opposed to lies, is because of its literary style. Jonah is fictional satire not because we want it to be, but because of its genre and how it’s told snd all the funny things in story through word use on purpose and so on.

I don’t call it fake because it’s unnatural snd hard to believe. If that was the case I would toss out the entire Bible because none of it really seems even remotely true and lacks almost all evidence.

1 Like

Given the similarity to an earlier hero in the Epic of Gilgamesh I think the story of Samson was written as a warning to the dangers of marrying foreign women. A problem that was all too common in those days.

1 Like

I’ll have to go back and read through it to note similarities. Thanks. I’ll probably read that and then I’m focusing on similar ones with Hinduism and Judaism by reading four volumes of Vedic texts. I’m really curious about how could god have spoken through Hinduism to those people just like he spoke to the Jews through the Tanakh. If he did in both ways.

Since Hebrews 11 includes Samson with many other people who trusted God, thereby God did mighty things for and through them, I must say that scripture is true and not a fairytale. All who oppose it are either deceived or liars.
By destroying scripture, a person destroys the foundation that God has provided for mankind to have trust in Jesus to save them from the power of sin and the devil. By the way, the devil is not a fairytale either.

Hebrews 11 is mentioning characters of stories. Some of those people were real. Some of those people are just characters used in mythologies. Those characters used in mythologies could have been real people in a hyperbolic fantastical tale or purely fictional people within a fictional tale. It has no bearing on what earlier styles was being employed.

1 Like

Who told you they were myth? I dont see God saying that.
Was Melchisedek a fairytale too? He was the one that the priesthood of Jesus is associated with.

Contextual analysis. Literary genre. Tropes. Biblical hermeneutics. Hyperbolic language within a story. All of those play a role in determining what something is.

For example, even if psalms never said it was psalms when reading it we could tell it’s not the same literary style as numbers. When we read Song of Solomon we can tell it’s not written the same as Luke. When we read revelation we can tell it’s not the same as 1 corinthians. So as far as I can tell, God did let us know because he influenced the man to write it as such. If he wanted it to be literal, and historical, he would have taken another approach to those tales.


The author of Hebrews clearly refers to these “ancients” as if they were real people. By Faith Jack and Jill went up the hill. By faith Cinderella cleaned every day and went to the ball. By Faith Sam carried Frodo up Mount Doom to destroy the ring. This all sounds very silly to me. None of this Biblical narrative makes sense if the characters aren’t real or at least the author thought they were real. I wouldn’t tell anyone to have the courage of Aragorn from the LotR. You can certainly appeal to shared traditions to drive a point but the manner in which this is used assumes the historicity of these figures. It is only bad liberal apologetics that tries to render OT references from the NT as non-literal. Because then the real horror starts. We have to come to grips with the fact that Jesus wasn’t omniscient (clearly gleanable from the Gospels) during the incarnation and could have made intellectual mistakes or appeared to non-historical people too. This is just theological safe-guarding. Samson was as real as Abraham or Moses to the author of Hebrews — two other figures that very well may not have existed either.

We have to come to grips with the notion that accommodation applies to the NT as well. If the OT can pass on so much divine violence then the NT can be excused for some mistaken history at times.

1 Like

All of that would lead to straight to thinking the author of Hebrews thought these were real people.

I mean, they are literally referred to as ancestors.

1 Like

Plenty of people refer to fictional characters as a form of encouraging them. Just today someone did. It’s very common.

1 Like

Again all I can do is repeat it.

Referring back to a character from a story has no bearing on being real or not. When someone refers back to a mythology, it’s not changing that mythology to being real. Jonah is referred to for example as a sign of what Jesus would face. That does not change the fact Jonah was a satirical fictional story.

Anyways from this point on I’m ignoring whatever is not relevant to what I’m asking as sources specifically for Samson. The other stuff can be talked about on a thread designated for how to read the Bible or something. The Bible Project has some great series on this subject of how to read the Bible and how to understand biblical patterns and ect….

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

This is a place for gracious dialogue about science and faith. Please read our FAQ/Guidelines before posting.