Thursday, December 13, 2018

letter to the editor of CT on Samson article (unpublished)

In response to Fred Smith's highly-critical article on Samson in CT...

Judges was one of the first Bible studies that I led. At the time, I used two commentaries. They usually provided different insights but saw their subjects in a similar light. But on Samson, they were remarkably different. One took a decidedly negative approach to Samson in every aspect of his life, casting blame even where the Bible did not provide clear detail. Matthew Henry took an amazingly positive approach (except for chapter 16's clear moral failing), refusing to read between the lines and assessing Samson as charitably as possible.

For example, on Judges 14:10, the former judged Samson as a party animal who was violating his Nazirite vows. In contrast, Henry praised Samson for throwing a party despite his personal vow. In a word, why shouldn't Samson follow custom and good sense in throwing a joyous celebration. Don't let legalism harm others. Don't let your personal standards become a dogmatic killjoy.

These two takes on Samson have been an important reminder to me about many things: the overlap (but potential gaps) between reputation and character; the damage caused by both legalisms and false tolerance; the complexities of understanding others and even ourselves; and the beauty and intricacies of our Scripture. May we read the Bible critically and may we judge others cautiously, as we live in Christian community with our gracious God.


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