Samson and the upcoming Bible mini-series

For just over a month now, the History Channel has been releasing a series of clips and trailers to promote their mini-series The Bible, which premieres March 3. The promotional campaign started, appropriately enough for mid-December, with a couple of Christmas-themed ads, and it has since moved on to clips and images from other parts of the Good Book.

Today my fellow Patheos blogger Rebecca Cusey posted one of the first images of Samson, who is played by British actor Nonso Anozie. And, as you can see, this Samson looks a little different from the Samsons you might have seen in earlier films or TV shows.

Casting an actor of African descent as an Israelite hero is interesting, to say the least — especially in a series that features a lot of other ancient Israelite characters who are played by actors of a more conventional sort of ethnic background. (The actor playing Jesus, for example, is Portuguese, while the Virgin Mary will be played by series co-producer Roma Downey, who was born in Northern Ireland.)

But it is particularly interesting that the producers decided to make this character stand out from the rest.

The biblical Samson comes from the tribe of Dan, and there has long been speculation that the tribe of Dan might not have been Semitic, historically, like the rest of the Israelite tribes, but might instead have been a basically European ethnic group that was assimilated into the ancient kingdom of Israel.

According to this theory, the tribe of Dan might be related to the Danaoi who appear in Homer’s Iliad, as well as to the Denyen who were among the “Sea Peoples” that attacked Egypt and then settled along the eastern Mediterranean coast in the 12th century BC. (One of the other “Sea Peoples” was the Philistines.)

In support of this theory, it is sometimes pointed out that Samson often comes across less like a Hebrew judge and more like the sort of mythical strongman that we encounter in the Greek legends about Hercules, etc. And, of course, it is the Philistines — one of the other “Sea Peoples” — with whom Samson does battle.

So the mini-series seems to concur with the idea that Samson and his tribe were somehow different from the other Israelites, but, while there has been a fair bit of speculation that the tribe of Dan was a European group that got assimilated into the Israelite nation, the mini-series seems to be pulling them in an African direction — making Samson a descendant of Ham rather than Japheth, so to speak.

Of course, it’s possible that the mini-series doesn’t mean to suggest anything historical whatsoever; it could be that the producers are approaching the Bible the same way that, say, Kenneth Branagh approached Shakespeare when he cast Denzel Washington and Keanu Reeves as brothers in Much Ado about Nothing (1993). The play’s the thing, and anyone can play any part in it.

But if that is the approach they are taking, then it means this series is less concerned with realism or authenticity than many Bible films have been of late.

Or, alternatively, it could be that they are taking a different aesthetic approach for each episode — similar, perhaps, to how the series Testament: The Bible in Animation (1996) featured different forms of animation in different episodes. The diversity of portrayals in that case did not undermine the unity of the series as a whole, and something similar could be going on here, too.

For more on this general topic, see the article on ethnicity in Jesus films that I wrote several years ago, around the release of The Nativity Story (2006).

As for the upcoming mini-series, here are some of the clips that have been released over the past few weeks, and which I have neglected to blog — until now!

First, here is the original trailer for the mini-series:

Next, here is one of the music videos that was released just before Christmas:

Incidentally, my friend Matt Page has suggested that the bits depicting Christ’s passion are very reminiscent of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2004). In that vein, I would add that the bit in the trailer where Moses parts the Red Sea reminded me instantly of the DreamWorks cartoon The Prince of Egypt (1998).

Moving on, here are two more music videos, one of which was released just before Christmas, the other of which was released just a couple of days ago:

And, finally, here is a clip of the Nativity — which, as you can see, follows recent films in depicting Mary going through labour pains as she gives birth to Jesus:

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his film column, which won multiple awards from the Evangelical Press Association, the Canadian Church Press and the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) and Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005).

  • Pingback: The Bible: first episode, first impressions

  • Pingback: The Bible: second episode, first impressions

  • Jacob Obadiah

    Praise you Almighty God Jesus, the Christ for this
    opportunity to speak truth to the children of men..

    This is going to be interesting.. Before I begin… I
    invite any Bible believing Christian in love to challenge
    anything I write. No offense will be taken.. If Jesus
    were a Caucasian – I would love him the same. In fact
    when I was a younger man and thought he was
    white – I loved him then….
    Praise the Lord.

    Not only was Samson black, but From
    Adam to Jesus the Bible is black with
    exception to the non-indigenous white
    Greeks and Romans. I can prove this
    if you are willing to look at the scriptures
    with an open mind and forget what history,
    tradition, folklore, theologians and the
    television tells us what the race of the people
    in the Bible were.

    The Bible not only substaniates that Cush ( Gen 10:6
    / Strong’s # 3568 ) the progenitor of Ethiopia,
    and the grandson to Noah by his youngest son Ham
    was black, but all 8 people on the ark.

    There were no people on the Earth besides the
    8 people who got off the ark.

    Noah was Cush’s grand father, therefore, he
    had to have been black as well. Think about
    this for a second. Cush was black, therefore
    all his brothers who had the same mother and
    father ( Ham ) were black as well. Remember,
    besides Noah’s wife, there were 3 other women
    on the ark who I will prove had to have been
    black as well.

    Cush other brother ( Gen 10:6 ) Mizraim
    was the father of the Egyptians.. Mizraim
    had the same mother and father as Cush, so
    did Phut who became the progenitor of the
    Lybians. And last but not least was the fourth
    son, Canaan born of Ham and his mother who
    was also on the Ark… Now if you accept how I
    am explaining the Bible, you must accept that
    the Philistines (Gen 10:13-14 ) are black b/c they
    are descendants of the Mizraimites who I already
    proved are black according to the Bible..

    Now explain to me how Ham could be black if
    Noah, and his wife weren’t black? People…
    think… Noah’s son Ham was the father of the
    African race.. Yeah, I will believe Noah was a
    white man the day George W. Bush could
    have a biological son with Laura Bush that
    could be mistaken for Flavor Flav or any of
    the Jackson 5 before plastic surgery.

    You can’t explain how two non-black people
    on the ark can have a biological son who became
    the progenitor of the African race….. Noah and
    all three of his son’s were black.. The white race
    came about by the curse of Canaan ( Lev 13:3-4,
    13, 43 )….

    It’s as simple as that…..

    Now that you know Noah and his three
    son’s were black you now know that
    Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were also
    black.. Joseph was mistaken ( Gen
    42:7 ) for an Egyptian by his brothers…

    So what do we have here? We have the
    black descendants of Shem (Joseph)
    way beyond Abraham – being mistaken
    for a descendant of Ham’s 2nd son
    ( Mizraim Egypt /
    Strong’s # H4714 ) Mizraim.

    Follow me.. 2 of Noah’s sons descendants
    of Shem ( Joseph / Gen 42:7 ) and Ham
    are mistaken for the same race. And
    descendants of Japheth in the Apocrypha
    ( 1 Maccabees 12:21 ) are called brethren
    to the Israelites. And I am expected by
    “society” to think that the entire (95%)
    of the Bible is not black ? I can’t fooled
    anymore with the man’s “his-story”..

    Moses, Apostle Paul & all the sons of
    Israel were mistaken for ( Gen 50:11
    / Exo 2:19 / Acts 21:38 ) Egyptians
    as well…

    The Bible says Jesus had wooly hair,
    [ Daniel 7:9 KJV ] feet in color to brass
    burnt in an oven [ Rev 1:13-15 ] , and
    compared his complexion to a birthstone
    [ Rev 4:3 ] which comes in many colors
    including one the tone of Chris Rock..

    Job said he was black as well as
    Solomon.. ( Job 30:30 / SOS 1:5-6 )
    God said Judah was black
    [ Jeremiah 14:2 KJV.. Lam 4:8 ], and
    that Jacob would never become white..
    …Isaiah 29:22..

    If we are willing to shut the voices of
    history ( Jeremiah 16:19 ), tradition,
    and the television out of our minds,
    we can see that everyone in the
    Bible except the Greeks and Romans
    were black… And even the ancient
    sons of Japheth were the first
    Europeans, so whites are not even
    native to Europe…

    How could I forget…Those Arabs in the Middle
    East and North Africa are the children of rape.
    The Romans and Greeks [ Zec 9:6 ] mixed a lot
    of vanilla in them chocolate Africans which are
    now carmel Arabs. They are too ashamed to
    bring it up in conversation, and whites have
    buried this history to the point that the Arabs
    themselves have forgotten how they came to be a
    new people. Add to that blacks are the most undesirable
    ( Zep 2:1, 1:17 / Deu 28:37 ) people. If blacks
    hate themselves more than the Klan ever hated
    them and pass for being white when they can,
    why is it a surprise to anyone Arabs would hide
    the fact that they are the children of rape between
    blacks and Caucasians ? Try getting a very
    heterosexual and macho prison inmate to admit he
    was sexually assaulted in jail, and then you will
    understand the Arabs denial of how they came
    to be light skin..

    I almost forgot about the people of Sodom
    ( Gen 10:19 ) being black, as well the
    Phonecians ( Gen 10:19 / Sidon …..
    Strongs # H6721 ) who we get most of our
    English alphabet from…

    John 8:32

    • fidza

      well said, its funny how people want to ignore clear scriptures and stick to their pre-european views of how israelites should look, and prop up the fake ashkenaz jews who are not even descendents of israel but are from japhet Gen 10 (it even mentions that ashkenaz was grandson to japhet, and by the way no ashkenaz jew can directly tell you which lineage they are from i.e either from tribe dan, benjamin etc). For those who insist that israelistes were white please take a look at the images in the egyptian tombs which clearly show them as black skinned people and the only difference you can tell between an egyptian and a hebrew is the clothing, they have the same skin tone etc. Even angels are black skined Dan 10:6 ” his arms and legs were like polished bronze…” Now if you know bronze you will know its brown in colour, same as my skin tone and not white like europeans. The messiah fled to egypt where there were people of the same skin tone and not to europe, paul was mistaken for an egyptian, and besides he was sent to the gentiles (and if you look at all his 3 journeys he only went to europe – romans, ephesians, galatians etc and never, i mean NEVER did he go down to africa or asian at all but only europe which means caucasians are the gentiles mentioned in gen 10 who are descendents of japhet. Did the bible say jerusalem will be trodden by gentiles? and who are in control of it now? gentiles….


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X