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The Blinded Hero: The Evolution of the Samson Stories

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posted on 2023-07-16, 00:00 authored by Mark Lackowski

In this dissertation, it will be argued that the Samson stories were gradually composed by scribes in concert with the broader textual developments of the book of Judges and the Deuteronomistic History (DH). It will be shown how the figure of Samson evolved from a border-crossing warrior clashing with Israel’s enemies (Judg 14–15) to a tragic figure foreshadowing the downfall of Judah (Judg 16) to a demythologized Nazirite under the care and control of Yhwh (Judg 13). Furthermore, it will be argued that these supplemental developments in the Samson stories were a response, in part, to the shifting geopolitical and socioreligious landscapes affecting the kingdom of Judah during the Neo-Assyrian, Neo-Babylonian, and Persian periods. Yet rather than separate and read these layers in isolation from one another, this study will demonstrate how each major supplement—principally the addition of an ending (Judg 16) and then a beginning (Judg 13) to the literary core of the text (Judg 14–15)—reshaped the form and function of the entire composition. The diachronic investigation will therefore be in service to a synchronic reading of the text in its final forms. This dissertation will attempt to overcome, then, some of the diachronic and synchronic issues often dividing biblical scholars working on the DH by reading the different textual layers together, recognizing that the DH is a polyphonic corpus of literature. Lastly, by focusing on the evolution of the Samson stories and its relationship to the larger textual developments of the book of Judges and the DH, it will be shown how Samson is an integral part of both, functioning in many ways as a symbol of Israel itself, not only through his providential birth (cf. Israel’s election) and strict religious vow to God (cf. Israel’s covenant with Yhwh), but also in his pursuit of foreign women (cf. Israel’s idolatry) and in doing what is evil rather than what is good in the eyes of Yhwh. In this way, Samson embodies both the story of Israel’s deliverance and demise in his promising rise and tragic fall.

History

Date Modified

2023-07-29

CIP Code

  • 39.0601

Research Director(s)

Abraham Winitzer

Degree

  • Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Level

  • Doctoral Dissertation

Alternate Identifier

1391380419

OCLC Number

1391380419

Program Name

  • Theology

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