Many years ago I was a religious nutcase. I read the Bible obsessively and summarized most of it studying an average of about three hours a day and I did it for a couple of years. During that time in my life I watched hundreds (perhaps thousands) of sermons, interviewed a Wiccan, studied the nearby Cherokee myths, attended humanist meetings and read some of the Quran. Why I took on such an undertaking seems crazy to me now. I do love finding the commonality between completely different cultures through their myths and legends so that may have been much of my motivation.
Below are some of my original writings from March 2010.
Samson is depicted as the strongest man in the Bible, and he is described by Wikipedia as having Herculean strength. I think that is a funny phrase that he had “Herculean strength” we all know what it means but it is strange to use Hercules as a comparative of Samson’s strength. Why don’t we say Samsonian strength instead? I’m writing a comparison of Thor, Hercules (Heracles in Greek) and Samson because they are all described as strong men. My favorite story involving Thor is when he wrestles with an old woman called Grandmother and he loses. It is later revealed that he was wrestling with old age and the myth represents growing old is a fight that no mortal can win.
Thomas Bulfinch wrote this in “The Age of Fable” about theories on where various Greek myths came from. “The Scriptural theory; according to which all mythological legends are derived from the narratives of Scriptures, though the real facts have been disguised and altered. Thus Deucalion is only another name for Noah, Hercules for Samson, Arion for Jonah, etc. Sir Walter Raleigh, in his “History of the World” says, “Jubal, Tubal, and Tubal-Cain were Mercury, Vulcan, and Apollo, inventors of Pasturage, Smithing and Music. The Dragon which kept the golden apples was the serpent that beguiled Eve. Nimrod’s tower was the attempt of the Giants against Heaven.” There are doubtless many curious coincidences like these, but the theory cannot without extravagance be pushed so far as to account for any great proportion of these stories.”
I read a little bit about Thomas Bulfinch (1796-1867) tonight, because he is a main source that I use when I read about Greek or Roman mythology. I found that I really like him as a person. He wrote this book in the 1850’s and he wanted to make myths available for everyone to be able to read and understand. Bulfinch was well educated but not rich. He worked as a bank clerk so he didn’t have a high social standing. He was a parishioner of King’s Chapel and a member of the Boston Society of Natural History. Writing and studying ancient literature were his hobbies not his job, and his room was described as having volumes of Latin, Italian, German and English classics piled on chairs. His first literary work was “Hebrew Lyrical History” where he rearranged Psalms so that they would be more of a narrative of Jewish history. In “The Age of Fable” he uses a similar method by connecting the myths in a logical way so they are easier to understand, but he doesn’t make them text-book fashion he keeps their charm and appeal. His goal was to make myths more accessible to the general public so that everyone could understand the symbolism used in British and American poetry.
Summary of Samson from March 2010 found in Judges 11-17.
The Birth of Samson – Samson was of the tribe of Dan, and his father was named Manoah from Zorah. Samson’s mother is described as barren, but an angel came to her and said she would have a son. The angel told her not to drink wine or strong drinks and not to eat any unclean thing. She is told that no razor should touch his head because her son would be a Nazarite and would deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines. Remember the Nazarites? The ascetics mentioned in Numbers that any man or woman who makes the vow of a Nazarite should not drink, or eat kernels or shave his head. Manoah asked God to send the angel again to teach them what they should do when the child would be born. Then angel went to the mother in a field so she went to find her husband. Manoah asked the angel “How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him?” The angel told him the same thing that he said to his wife but he told Manoah to sacrifice a kid. During the sacrifice a flame went toward heaven and the angel ascended in the flame of the altar. That was the last time they saw the angel.
The Marriage of Samson – He saw a Philistine woman in Timnath that he wanted as a wife. Samson asked his parents if they would get her for him. His parents asked him if there were no women from his own people that he could marry instead of from the uncircumcised Philistines. Samson and his parents went to Timnath and to the vineyards when a young lion roared at them. Samson killed the lion as easily as he would have killed a baby goat with his bare hands. He then went to talk with the woman he desired to marry. When he returned home he saw the carcass of the lion had a swarm of bees in it. He took the honey and gave some to his mother and father but did not tell them he had gotten it out of a dead lion. Samson’s father went to find the woman and Samson made a feast for 30 of his wife’s people. Samson gave a riddle to them that they had to figure out during the 7 days of the feast. He would give them a reward of 30 sheets and 30 garments. If they could not solve the riddle then they would have to give him 30 sheets and 30 garments. Here is the riddle, “Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness.” When they could not solve it in 3 days they told his wife that they would burn her and her father’s house if she could not entice Samson to tell her the answer. She cried to him but Samson said that he did not even tell his mother and father. He told her on the 7th day and she told her people. Samson was angry that she had told them and seems to refer to her as a heifer. He went down to Ashkelon and killed 30 men and took their garments and gave them to the men who had answered his riddle. Samson’s wife was given away by her father to a companion that he considered a friend.
The Revenge of Samson – Samson visited his wife with a baby goat as a sacrifice. Her father would not let him see her and told him that he had given her to his friend. The father says why don’t you take her younger prettier sister instead. Samson then went and caught 300 foxes and attached a fire to their tails, and he then let the foxes go through the fields of the Philistines. They knew Samson had set the fire because his wife was given to another so they went and burned the woman and her father to death. Samson then killed many Philistines and afterward he went to live on top of rock Etam. The Philistines went to find him and bind him. Three thousand men went to find him and tell him that they are his rulers. When they had carried Samson to Lehi and the spirit of God was in him and the cords were loosened. He found a jawbone of a donkey and killed a thousand men with it. Samson cried to God that he was thirsty and would die from it but God put water in the hollow of the jaw bone.
Samson and Delilah – Samson traveled to Gaza and saw a harlot. The Gazites had heard Samson was in the city so they waited for him at the gate of the city with the intention of killing him. Samson rose at midnight and took the doors of the gate and carried them up the hill near Hebron. He fell in love with a woman named Delilah who lived in the valley of Sorek. The Philistines told her to entice him and find where his strength laid. If she did that they would pay her a large sum of money. Delilah said to Samson, “Tell me, I pray thee, wherein thy great strength lieth, and wherewith thou mightiest be bound to afflict thee?” He told her that if he is bout with 7 green boughs then he would be as weak as other men. Samson had lied to her about this and broke the boughs. She then asks him again how he is weakened and he said with new ropes but he broke those as well. He then tells her that if she weaved 7 locks of his hair with a web but his strength was still with him so he had lied to her again. Finally he told her that if his head is shaved he would be weak. This time she saw that he was not lying. She told the Philistines who gave her money. When Samson was asleep with her holding him on her lap she called men to shave his head. He awoke and had not realized his strength was gone because his head was shaved so he went out to revenge the Philistines but they overpowered him and took his eyes out.
Samson’s Revenge and Death – The Philistines were grateful to their god, Dagon, that Samson was imprisoned. They were happy and wanted to make a sport of him. He was called and placed between pillars. Samson took one of the two middle pillars and broke it so that the roof of the building collapsed killing 3,000 people along with Samson.