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Letters to the Editor |

Samson Was Heroic, Exhausted, Depressed, and in Love, but He Does Not Have Antisocial Personality Disorder

Roger Ryan, MA
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2002;59(6):564-565. doi:.
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The 6 criteria for antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) that Altschuler and his colleagues suggest1 for Samson requires a more careful reading of the biblical text, Judges 13 through 16. The following will provide such.

  1. It is not generally accepted that social norms will be conformed to in wartime. Samson is at war, as is almost everyone in the book of Judges. The burning of enemy fields and food stocks is a skillful act of the guerrilla fighter that is described as a military tactic in the writings of the ancient historians Herodotus and Livy.

  2. Samson is not deceitful to his parents. He does not tell them about the lion, which he has killed, because he neither wished to trouble them with concern for his safety nor to boast about what he had been able to do. Eating honey from the carcass of an "unclean" animal only makes the family ceremonially "unclean"' until evening, if at all, which is no serious violation of dietary laws.

  3. Burning the Philistine's fields and food stocks required careful planning, timing, and preparation—hardly an impulsive act.

  4. Samson engages in 3 fights with his enemy, the Philistines: he kills 30 and takes their clothing, in a judicial act he slaughters others "hip and thigh," and on his own he is able to kill 1000. He kills an attacking lion in self-defense; when blinded and imprisoned, he is able to pull down a Philistine temple on top of his enemies and himself. All these conflicts are either acts of self-defense or proactive acts of war, not irritability or aggressiveness.

  5. Is it not an act of heroism to single-handedly kill 1000 armed and armored enemy troops with no weapon but a dog's dinner, a bone? No recklessness here except the kind of heroism for which he would have received regimental honors in recent wars. Moreover, a close reading suggests Samson and Delilah are in love and he is playing a lover's game as lovers do. He is at ease in her company and unaware that she has a hidden agenda and hidden Philistines awaiting their opportunity. No recklessness or disregard for personal safety here either, just the type of games lovers play when at ease in each other's company.

  6. Judges 15:16 is a victory song; Samson has survived against overwhelming odds. Victory is a time for celebration, not remorse.

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