Jesus as Samson – Luke’s crazy idea?

Posted: September 13, 2012 by J in Bible

The evidence we’ve seen is overwhelming: Luke models his Gospel on the story of Samson. This much is clear. But this leaves us with some questions.

Is this just Luke?

Well, no – but it is mainly Luke. While the other Gospels obviously contain narrative elements analogous to the Samson stories, Luke is the one pursuing the connection consciously and consistently. He deliberately includes elements in his story which emphasise the analogy with Samson. As an example, only Luke records the angel’s visit to (childless) Zechariah and the Nazirite instructions he gives for the child. Luke shows that he is aware of the analogy with Samson at this point, by using the characteristic phrase from the Samson story, ‘not to drink wine or strong drink’ (Luke 1:15).

Luke also strengthens the link with Judges by altering the language of stories he borrows from Mark. Mark records that two bandits were crucified with Jesus ‘one on his right and one on his left’. Luke takes this from Mark, and changes the word for ‘left’ from the more common euonumos to the rarer aristeros.  This latter is the word used in Samson’s death scene in Judges, and is a more common word than euonumos in the Greek Septuagint version of the OT. In this way Luke adapts Mark’s language to make a connection with the OT, and in particular with the Samson story. Having changed this phrase he then highlights it by adding an emphasising construction (men…de).

Luke is also unusual in making use of rare vocabulary from the Samson narratives. For example, in the Septuagint the word ugros meaning ‘green’ is unique to Judges 16, where it occurs twice. Luke uses this rare word at Jesus’ crucifixion (23:31), its only use in the NT.

Tomorrow: So what?

  1. Alan Wood says:

    The question I have (in response to “Is this just Luke”?) is, “Is this just Samson?” or could I find a comparable set of echoes and allusions for David, or Moses, or…

    Is Luke’s LXX-driven approach to the story of Jesus something that throws up a lot of allusion? Was it designed to say that ALL God’s promises (including each of the not-quite-good-enough saviours who came before) are “Yes” in Christ?

    • Jonathan says:

      Alan, I’m so happy someone is asking these questions. If only the commentators were asking them, we might all be enjoying a richer reading of Luke/Acts than we currently are.

      NTWright finds a Jesus/Samuel analogy in the synoptics in general. The Moses theme is definitely there, yes – but how extensive? Who’s done the work? Davidic theme, yes, there in MArk as well as Luke, but what shape does it have in the story?

      Your comment is the central point here:

      Is Luke’s LXX-driven approach to the story of Jesus something that throws up a lot of allusion?

      Trouble is we don’t know our OT very well let alone our LXX, so as J Sanders says, we tend to ‘miss important points Luke intends to score’.

      So Alan we need people like you to do the hard yards and explain to us what’s there to find.


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