So our 2nd theory about Samson and Hercules is that they are both based on a common figure, and put their own spin on the story. But that also doesn’t quite match up. The spin they should put on the story is that reflecting what their own culture values. Odysseus’s greatness was readily acknowledged by Muslims, but they needed to reframe it to be beneficial to their own culture.
But Hercules and Samson are the opposite. Samson has more in common with Odysseus than Abraham. The same is true for Hercules, who submits to authority, is humble, and is repentant. It’s like they crossed the streams—"Egon! You said crossing the streams was bad!”
So what’s going on?
For all the cultural differences, the Mediterranean is actually a very tiny place. It’s a short sail from Greece to Israel, even hugging the coast. It’s even closer than Egypt! This isn’t to suggest that they were big-time trading partners. But the stories that would spread because of trade all around the Med are the point.
Word of a super-strong warrior (blessed by the gods) would have spread. Israel would have heard this story, and had to contend with its cultural ramifications. But warrior heroes are not the way of Israel’s culture. Sure it has its appeal, but in the end, combat is not their way. They value heroes like Abraham, Joseph, and Moses, all of which share common traits within the culture. Theirs is the role that needs to be emulated, not a muscled-bound oaf who fornicates and murders. The Israelites use the story of Samson to demonstrate that such a path does not work. Did he kill the enemies of Israel? Yes. Did he do so in a way that reflected the values of the culture? No. And, besides, Moses had a much higher body count, got out alive, and rescued hundreds of thousands of Hebrews all by following God. Samson really only made more trouble.
What about Hercules? Next week.