Monday, February 25, 2008

The death of Samson and the omniscient narrator...

Sorry for the ridiculously long title for this posting, but something struck me when I was thinking about the story of Samson the other day. This is how the book of Judges records the death of Samson:
Judges 16v25-30
While they were in high spirits, they shouted, "Bring out Samson to entertain us." So they called Samson out of the prison, and he performed for them. When they stood him among the pillars, Samson said to the servant who held his hand, "Put me where I can feel the pillars that support the temple, so that I may lean against them." Now the temple was crowded with men and women; all the rulers of the Philistines were there, and on the roof were about three thousand men and women watching Samson perform. Then Samson prayed to the LORD, "O Sovereign LORD, remember me. O God, please strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes." Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, Samson said, "Let me die with the Philistines!" Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.
What I found myself wondering was how anyone knew exactly what had happened, what Samson prayed and what he said. According to the story, he destroyed the temple and everyone in it, presumably including the servant who led him to the pillars and anyone who might have heard what he said.

We have the situation of an omniscient narrator here - someone who apparently knows what happened, even though they couldn't have been there. Unless there was direct revelation from God to the author of Judges, this must be pure speculation...


Anonymous said...

Interesting post - but if everyone inside died, then there could have been people running out the door as they saw it collapsing or people peering in the windows from outside?

Also just noticed that the translation you quoted from says:
"down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it"

...i.e. it didn't necessarily kill all the people in it.

Just a thought.

Enjoying the blog.


Anonymous said...

There are many instances in the Bible of an omniscient narrator. Think of the conversations between God and Abraham, and Moses, and Elijah, and Jonah where there was no third party to witness the conversation. Either each of these human beings lived to tell it, or God revealed it. However, when God said, Let there be light, there was no human being to hear it. In Deut. 34, God speaks to Moses, but Moses never returned and died afterward.
Regarding Samson - there is the story of Masada when all the Jews committed suicide, but supposedly there were a few that escaped and told the story. There were ones who survived the sinking of the Titanic so we know what happened on board. We could assume that not all died in Samson's story, and lived to tell what happened. But the Bible does not tell us that. In fact, the Bible often does not tell us that the writer of the story was an eyewitness.
To amplify the difficulty, how much do we believe about history even though we do not know who were the eyewitnesses?