Recently in my Advanced Greek class at Creighton University we were reading portions of the Samson story from the Septuagint (a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible). For some reason, this reminded me that I haven’t drawn any expressions from this tale since I wrote about Delilah.a How about, I asked myself, a column on “the jawbone of an ass” (Judges 15:16)?
Psychoanalysts have had a field day with Samson. With specific reference to our chosen expression, he has been diagnosed with “impulsive behaviour—picking fights with passing Philistine armies, once using the jawbone of an ass singlehandedly to kill a thousand men [after which] he gloated over it, showing no remorse” (The Express and The Daily Telegraph). On the basis of this and other incidents, he is described as “reckless, aggressive and clearly dysfunctional” (The Guardian). Moreover, “his choice of weapon—the jawbone of an ass—also fits the criterion of ‘cruelty to animals’ ” (The Washington Times). Perhaps this psychoanalysis-at-a-great-distance should be characterized as cruelty—to serious readers of the Biblical text, that is.