Yes that can happen but the context and nature of the discourse in Hebrews makes it very unlikely. You have to want to believe that. You can reference them but you don’t call Aragorn or the prodigal son an ancestor.
It’s not a matter of wanting to believe it or not.
It’s the very basic principles of checking the references made in the hyperlink and looking at the literature it came from. The literature that Adam, Moses, and Jonah ( in the big fish story )came from is not literal. Ancient Jewish would have recognized the literary design of that as well. The author of Hebrews is simply referring back to characters. The stories sensors characters came from determines their nature. Not the other way around.
Great post! I had seen the opera Samson et Dalila by Saint-Saëns at the Met a long ago. But recently the Met has been streaming free operas and I had a chance to watch it again and took the opportunity to look up the story in the Bible. It turns out that Samson was a randy spiritual lightweight, more interested in his romantic pursuits and fighting than anything else. Not to mention that he doesn’t seem too bright. I totally agree that the story seems more legendary than historical. However, as entertainment /operatic material it’s hard to beat this tale, and it’s also a favorite Sunday school story, if you clean it up. And I think it might have been just the right story the Hebrews needed to hear at the time.
(The joke about the opera is that in the final scene, the tenor who sings Samson brings the whole house down!)
I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve used fictional characters as illustrations/analogies for biblical virtues in sermons. Sam and Frodo have featured many times, along with references to Marvel superheroes, characters/events from the Harry Potter series, and other books/films.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Personally, I have no issue with the characters in the OT being real people. However, that they are alluded to in Heb 11 or are mentioned by Jesus or Paul, etc, neither proves nor disproves a biblical characters historicity in and of it itself. As @SkovandOfMitaze had said many times, good hermeneutics and understanding a text in context is what answers the question of real vs. fictional in the same way it does with any of piece of literature we might read.
Additionally, I should point out that the idea that a Biblical event must be literally, historically true for it have value has more in common with secular enlightenment principles than the Jewish worldviews of the biblical authors.
Haha love it!
Jesus used parables which were not literally true.
Nathan the prophet told a story to David to confront him about his adultery.
Did you refer to them directly as your ancestors? We’re there family trees floating around your church tracing everyone’s lineage back to the Third Age of Middle Earth that included many of these characters?
That is certainly true and I know I am not disputing the value of parables or referring to fictional stories. Just what I perceive to be the remnants of apologetical delusion some more liberal interpreters haven’t seem to shed yet. Never saw the prodigal son in a genealogy nor did Jesus explicitly refer to him as one of his ancestors. True or false, this is text-book eisegesis is all I’m saying.
I definitely lean more towards Samson being fictional, or hyperbolic. But if I used the same standard for other things like the gospel I would have to draw the same conclusion. My skepticism is because of the supernatural element of it. It’s not because of the way the story is written such as with genesis 1-11 or Jonah. It’s not the same contradictions resulting in me be living its hyperbolic like the war stories throughout the Torah. So I have no reason to treat Samson as legend other than I am skeptical about it being realistic.
I would definitely like more evidence than skepticism to draw that as a definite conclusion. Like if I could find other stories of that timeframe that are very similar and so on. Or I would like to see multiple variations of the story in different Jewish collections that range from more mundane with the later edits being the more legendary versions.
Eventually I’ll have time to dig into it on my end note and see what articles and books show up. It’s on the back burner to studying out a few other things first.
Do you see the scene with Delilah as being realistic? Samson tells her two things and he is attacked but prevails yet still goes and tells her the third? Did he not realize what was happening? Intrinsically it looks like a fable. It lacks verisimilitude.
I don’t think 99% of the Bible is realistic. I don think the entire gospel is realistic. It all seems like hyperbolic myths to me that are no different from any other faith or even from good anthologies like the work of Lovecraft or Marvel.
He could be a historical figure but with legends told about him that found their way into the Bible. Legends that encouraged the Hebrews as they fought against the Philistines. There were legends told about George Washington.
The other joke about Samson is this:
Samson killed one thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass. Every day thousands of sales are killed using the same weapon.
I’m sorry Vinnie, you’ve lost me. I’ve already said that I have no issue with the OT characters being historical people. What have I missed?
The point I was fumbling to make is that a fictional story can still be instructive in matters of faith. As countless preachers demonstrate with their sermon illustrations every Sunday. (I should say, many of the ‘factual’ illustrations preachers use turn out to be fictional when fact checked! A topic for another time perhaps? )
Again, in the first century many were well aware of intertestimental works like 1st Enoch, etc. It is doubtful whether anyone believed they were literally true in a word for word sense, and yet the NT makes many, many direct references and illusions to them. (I can provide examples if you would like?)
The 2nd temple Jewish worldview seemed to have a much more nuanced view of what’s factual and fictional then the post-Enlightenment worldview that many theologically conservative Christian (myself included) grew up with.
Apologies for not being clearer in my initial post, I hope that clarifies what I was trying to say.
As for genealogies, we know that Matthew and/or Luke’s genealogies are intended to be read more as theological-history than factual-history given that they contains so many omissions, differences, variations, and chronological telescoping. But I suspect that the function of genealogy in Jesus’ day was more about identity than a perfect, literal, historical record.
Oh I have no doubt the genealogies served a theological role. The majority if not every verse of all four Gospels serve theological roles. Some happen to be historical as well. My gripe is that despite all the omissions and “chronological telescoping” these were in all likelihood still thought to be real people. David was real and so on. The point came up that Hebrews doesn’t have to think the characters it cites were real. In general a literary reference could go both ways as it’s impossible to read an author’s mind. I am only disagreeing on exegetical grounds with those who think the author of Hebrews isn’t intending to mention real people here since they are explicitly called ancestors and many do show up elsewhere in genealogies. Doubting the genuineness of this requires such a high degree of skepticism as to render most biblical interpretation impossible on any issue.
Fair enough. Thanks for clarifying for me - I appreciate that.
Out of interest, do you have the verse reference(s) for Hebrews were it talks about ancestors? I can’t see it but it might be due to different versions or because I’m being a bit blind… Probably the latter.
NIV says ancients. I use the text most critical scholars use (NRSV) and it reads ancestors.
Verse 11:2 Indeed, by faith[a] our ancestors received approval.
That’s sets the whole stage for the material that follows. He starts listing examples of their ancestors and their faith. Samson comes down a ways lumped in with David and Samuel amongst others. I have trouble seeing how these characters are not intended to be real people. In some cases correctly, in others mistakenly.
Perhaps in the time of oral transmission only - you would. I have no talent in that direction but I admire those that can tell a good story, especially one that makes you see something new in life or just makes you more glad for life.