In 2018 Samson, the latest screen version of the biblical hero and judge of Israel, was released. It purports to bring the story of Samson to life for the big screen. But it fails miserably, because it does not stick to the biblical account. In typical filmmaking tradition, those who made this movie felt that they could improve on the Bible. Essentially this was saying, “The account in God’s Word is good, but we can do better. We can flesh it out, add lies to the truth, and basically re-tell the story in a more exciting and believable way.” Of course the filmmakers did not actually utter these very words or anything like them, but in essence this is what they did.
Pure Flix Entertainment was the production company which released the film. This has become a well-known and very popular professedly Christian filmmaking company – or rather, as so many prefer to say these days, a “faith-based” company. Not strongly, uncompromisingly Christian. Not outright Evangelical. Certainly not Protestant. Not Bible-based either. Just “faith-based.” It could mean anything.
There is no need to see the film to know that it is an inaccurate portrayal of the life and times of Samson. The website, and the trailer on the website, provide sufficient information to be able to judge.
Isn’t it amazing that, almost inevitably, within the first couple of sentences of any review or description of “faith-based” films like these, including those released by the production company itself, we are told which big-name “stars” acted in the film? This is always so important to the producers, even though they profess to be Christian – they are so “starstruck”, so in awe of the actors and actresses who they were able to entice to act in their movie. They describe them as if they are somehow above mere mortals, men and women who should be held in great esteem because of their previous illustrious careers in the film industry. The official Samson website does this very thing: it gives a description of the main actors and actresses in the movie, listing their previous roles in other movies – Hollywood movies. If the writers of these “praise pieces” were speaking instead of writing, one would not be surprised to hear them utter the names of the “stars” in hushed, awed tones.
But why do the makers feel the need, on the official website of the Samson movie, to rattle off the previous roles of these Hollywood “stars”? Should this be even remotely important to professing Christians? Since when are they to make idols out of anyone, let alone men and women who have earned their living acting in vile Hollywood movies which Christians should not be watching anyway?
And why do the film’s makers feel the need to hire such “stars” at all? Why is it so vital?
The answer is all too obvious: drawing power. Today’s professing “Christians” are so immersed in the cesspool that is Hollywood, so taken with movies and actors and all the rest of it, that they salivate over the details of who is acting in a movie. The makers want their movie to succeed at the box office, and they know that in order for it to do so, it needs the draw card of certain big-name “stars”. This brings in the crowds, and crowds bring in more money.
Money. The bottom line. Always.
Two examples will suffice, from the official website’s synopses of the “stars” in the movie. The virtual reverence with which they are described stands out clearly. Example one: “Iconic actor Rutger Hauer has worked with world-class filmmakers”, who are then named. Again: why should professing Christians care? And iconic? Is this actor an icon to them? Should he be an icon to them? Apparently so, according to the makers. And even if the filmmakers with whom this actor worked previously are “world-class” to the worldly, what is that to those who love Christ and are called to separate from the world (2 Cor. 6:14-18)? It just goes to show that the majority of today’s professing “Christians” are Christians in name only. They are as much in love with the world and its “heroes” as the people of the world are. There is no difference. The actors’ details matter to them, because they are part of the world – and, sinfully, they love the world (1 Jn. 2:15-17).
Example two: “[Jackson] Rathbone is best known for his role as Jasper Hale in the film TWILIGHT, based on the best-selling novel by Stephenie Meyer.” But no true Christian should care two hoots that Stephenie Meyer is a “best-selling” novelist, considering that the Twilight story is a vampire story! Why is the official Samson website, supposedly created by professing Christians, playing up the fact that one of the main actors in their supposedly biblical movie was best known for playing in a vampire movie? Why are professing Christians in the least bit interested in who played in a vampire movie?
The answer is obvious. They watch this garbage. They make no distinction. They derive their entertainment from movies, whether about vampires or Bible heroes. It’s all the same to them.
The Film’s Purpose
What is the purpose of the Samson film? According to Pure Flix’s CEO, Michael Scott, “If you’ve ever faced adversity and wondered if God was big enough to see you through it, this is your film.” Well, if you are a true Christian, you don’t wonder if God is big enough to see you through adversity; you know He is. But this is very typical of today’s psychologised “Christians”, always more interested in making everything about themselves and their own feelings and (often very) petty problems.
According to Bruce MacDonald, the movie’s director, “Most people know that Samson had long hair, Delilah cut it off, and that he lost his strength. But there’s so much more. Samson was an unwilling hero, and his journey to regain his faith – the whole story – is relevant in 2017.” But where exactly are we told in Scripture that Samson was “an unwilling hero”? That is fantasy, not fact. Yes indeed, “there’s so much more” to Samson than his long hair, Delilah, and the loss of his strength, and I used the same words in my book about Samson, published in 2013, entitled The Life and Ministry of Samson the Strong. But the wonderful biblical account of Samson teaches us so very much more than what this movie’s makers realise or appreciate. To quote from my book: “When most people think of Samson, even most Christians, they only think of two aspects of his life: his great strength, and his great sins. Mention his name, and these are the two things that immediately come to mind. But to narrowly focus only on these two aspects of his remarkable life is to miss out on the immense blessing the child of God can receive from a proper study of the life of this amazing man. There is so much more to Samson! He was one of God’s ministers, a man who loved the Lord, a man of faith, a man uniquely raised up by the Lord to be a great Judge of Israel!” And: “[Samson] was a true believer, a regenerated and converted man, a minister of the Lord, and a man of great faith!”
Changing the Meaning of “Redemption”
The film was advertised with the following words: “Passion, Betrayal, Redemption.” At other times: “Chosen. Betrayed. Redeemed.” Such words were obviously employed for their eye-catching appeal. Passion and betrayal: standard fare in countless movies, because filmmakers know these are the things that grip moviegoers. But redemption? This is a subtle, but very inaccurate, use of the word when applied to Samson in this way. The meaning the filmmakers are seeking to put across is that Samson redeemed himself, at the end of his life, thereby making up for all the evil things he had done. The idea behind the word’s use, here, is along these lines: “Samson committed serious sins (or would they prefer “faults”? – it’s less harsh), but in the end he redeemed himself by destroying the Philistines.” This is the common usage of the word today.
But the biblical meaning of redemption is very different! All men are sinners, and enter this world in bondage to sin. Biblically, to redeem someone means to purchase the spiritual freedom of one who was in bondage to sin, a slave to sin, a prisoner to sin. A ransom is the price paid to redeem; and our Lord Jesus Christ paid the ransom for the redemption of His elect! And the ransom which He paid to purchase their liberty was His own blood. As He Himself said: “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). Christ Jesus paid the price of the redemption of His chosen people, to deliver them from all their enemies: bondage to sin, bondage to Satan, the curse of God’s broken law, eternal death, and the wrath of God. He took their place! He purchased His people with His own blood (Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 6:20; 1 Pet. 1:18,19). He died for them, His blood was shed for them, and by His blood He redeemed them.
Clearly, the biblical meaning of redemption was not what the makers of Samson meant when they used the word in their advertising.
Many Errors and Inaccuracies in the Movie
The movie contains many errors and inaccuracies. Here are some of them.
* From the official Samson website: Samson was “renowned for the prodigious strength that he derived from his uncut hair.” Wrong! It is precisely such stupid, unbiblical statements as this which cause so many unbelievers to mock the Bible. As I wrote in my book, The Life and Ministry of Samson the Strong: “For what made him strong? This is where many have gone astray. They attribute his great strength to some magical powers supposedly in his hair! This is such a superstitious notion, and no wonder atheists and liberals reject the Scriptures when they hear foolish statements like this. It was not Samson’s hair that made him strong, but his faith in God!” Again: “It was not that Samson’s strength was in his hair! That would be absurd, and yet it is astounding how many people believe it. His great strength was not in his hair, it was in his consecration, and obedience, to the Lord; and the badge of that was that no razor had come on his head. The Lord had forbidden him to cut his hair…. To cut it off would be an act of rebellion against the Lord, and God would remove his strength from him.”
With the official website of the movie making ridiculous and unbiblical statements such as this, it is obvious that the film cannot be biblically accurate or doctrinally sound! The makers themselves don’t know the truth – how possibly can they convey it to others via their film?
* The synopsis went on: the film will inspire audiences to “realize that life’s failures need not define their future.” Life’s failures? Samson sinned. He fell into great sin. But evidently that would be a word too harsh for worldly, modern moviegoers. Rather talk of “life’s failures”! As for saying that people will “realize that life’s failures need not define their future”, let’s look at this biblically, not as defined by modern “Christianity’s” feel-good, warm-and-fuzzy emotion-driven fluff. The following is from my book on Samson: “Samson suffered terrible chastisement from the Lord for this sin…. his capture, the loss of his eyes, and even ultimately, his death.” He had to repent of his sin, and he did. His life story is not about picking oneself up after “life’s failures” and forging a “future” for oneself after doing so; it is teaching believers about the Lord’s chastisement for their sins, and the need for repentance.
* Dialogue is included in the movie which is definitely not found in the four chapters in the book of Judges which cover the life of Samson. Characters and scenes are also added who are not found in those four chapters. This movie is, therefore, unbiblical.
* From the official website: “According to the Bible, Manoah and his wife Zealphonis were the parents of Samson.” Manoah and – who? Manoah was his father, yes; this the Bible tells us (Judges ch. 13). But what was his mother’s name? The Word of God does not say! One will search in vain for any name given to Samson’s mother, let alone the name “Zealphonis”, either in the book of Judges or anywhere else in Scripture! Where, then, did it come from?
It was an ancient Jewish tradition that this was her name. But Jewish tradition, however ancient, is not equal with divinely inspired Scripture. This name does not appear anywhere in the Word of God, yet the website says that “according to the Bible” this was her name! How can we trust the filmmakers to tell us the biblical truth when they cannot even get a small point like this right?
* Again: “‘Samson’ is based on the powerful, biblical champion chosen by God to deliver Israel. His supernatural strength and impulsive decisions quickly pit him against the oppressive Philistine empire.” So far, not too bad. But then: “After being betrayed by a wicked prince and a beautiful temptress, Samson is captured and blinded by his enemies.” Really? Where in the Bible does it speak of Samson being betrayed by a wicked prince? Delilah, yes – she betrayed him to the Philistines for money (Judg. 16:5). But who was this “wicked prince”? The Bible says that “the lords of the Philistines” came to Delilah and told her to entice Samson and discover the secret of his great strength. Not a word is said about any “wicked prince”. This is an addition to what the Bible actually reveals. It is fantasy, not fact.
* In the movie, Samson’s brother mounts a rebellion. In the Bible, no brother of Samson is even mentioned, let alone leading a rebellion. Was the Bible account just not exciting enough for the producers, that they had to add to God’s own Word? Apparently so.
* One of the movie’s main characters is a king called Balak. In the description given of this character on the official website, it states: “Balak was a king of Moab…. His story is in the context of the time of the Israelites’ journey to the Promised Land.” This is correct – see Num. 22. So why, then, does a king of this name appear in the Samson movie, when Samson lived centuries after the Exodus and thus centuries after King Balak? By tying the character to King Balak of the time of the Exodus, which occurred centuries before, this just creates confusion in the minds of most people, whose knowledge of the Bible’s timeline is limited at best, and non-existent as far as most of the world is concerned.
On the official website for the movie, under “Free Resources”, one finds the following things listed:
Movie Event Guide;
Social Media Memes;
Ministry Event Information Brochure.
To all which we simply ask: why? The answer, of course, is that they have to attract people to see the movie; and to do that they have to make it attractive enough for people to go and see it. Offering a whole lot of “free stuff” always helps to do just that.
To all of this we say: even if this movie was biblically accurate (and it’s not, as we have seen), it is still just a movie! Even if a movie is biblically accurate, do Christians really need to spend hours poring over a “discussion guide” of it? Here’s a novel idea: study the Bible directly! In the case of Samson, study Judges 13 to 16, where the life of Samson is recorded by divine inspiration! Discuss what God’s Word teaches, not some movie!
Catering to Roman Catholics
On the official website, under “Event Resources”, there is the following advertisement: “Catholic Discussion Guide PDF download.” This is an obviously ecumenical gesture, designed to attract Roman Catholics to the movie. But why are Roman Catholics singled out like this? Why are they shown this singular favouritism? If the movie is not a specifically Roman Catholic movie, then why are the makers catering to Roman Catholics at all? And if the movie is actually a Roman Catholic movie, why are the makers not being forthright and saying so?
The Roman Catholic Discussion Guide starts like this: “The following four-session Discussion Guide is designed for small groups and classes that want to go deeper in learning and applying the rich lessons found in the biblical story of Samson. As well as in the motion picture about this amazing man: Samson.” Note how those Roman Catholics who will use this Guide are being told that the Bible’s account, and the movie, will both teach and apply “rich lessons”. The movie version is being placed on an equality with the biblical account! But there is actually nothing unusual in this for Roman Catholics, as Rome has always claimed that the Bible is only a part of the revelation of God to man: Tradition is considered of equal authority with Scripture.
Again we see this equality between the Bible account and the movie being stressed when the Guide states: “We would urge the members of the group to read the story of Samson in the Bible for themselves” – one would think this would be obvious and would not need to be said! But of course, very few Roman Catholics are avid readers of the Bible, and even though Rome no longer officially forbids the reading of it, it does not exactly massively encourage Bible reading either.
“Also, it would be highly beneficial for your entire [Roman Catholic] group to see the Samson movie together at some point before, during, or after using this Discussion Guide.” Note the equality between the Bible account and the movie which is being stressed! And considering that for many, many centuries the biblical account of Samson has been highly beneficial to those who have read it – before there was ever such a thing invented as the motion picture! – it is very arrogant to claim that watching the movie will be “highly beneficial”. Ah, but there is one group for whom it really will be highly beneficial if large numbers of Roman Catholic groups and classes go and watch it – and that group is the movie’s makers! They will keep on raking in the money. No wonder they were pushing entire Roman Catholic groups to go and see the movie!
The bottom line. Again.
On page 4 of the Roman Catholic Discussion Guide, on the left-hand side of the page, there is, firstly, a quote by C.S. Lewis – an Anglo-Catholic, immensely popular author whose teachings were extremely unbiblical, as I have shown elsewhere; then, secondly (note that –secondly), there is a quote from the Lord Jesus Christ in Jn. 10:27; thirdly, a quote by the Roman pope, Francis I; and fourthly a quote from Jeremiah (Jer. 1:5).
On page 5 of the Discussion Guide it says: “If you know the story of Samson, you know that he resisted God’s calling for much of his life.” That is an outright falsehood. We see nothing in the Bible to indicate that Samson resisted God’s call!
On page 7, after describing what it calls Samson’s “betrayal of himself” and mentioning that others do the same thing, the Guide poses the question: “Have you brought this to the sacrament of Reconciliation and the Eucharist for the grace to overcome this pattern of sin?” This is a direct reference to these two unbiblical and antichristian Roman Catholic “sacraments”, whereby Roman Catholics actually believe they earn their own salvation.
On page 9, it says: “Have any of you had the opportunity to lead someone else into making that decision [of “trusting in Christ’] or to help them through the catechumenate and reception into the Church?” – again, a very Roman Catholic statement, and an encouragement to Roman Catholics to go out and make proselytes to their false “church”.
And on page 11 it says: “In the sacrament of Confirmation, we are given the sanctifying gifts of the Holy Spirit…” Confirmation is yet another unbiblical “sacrament” within the Roman Catholic religion. It is very evident that a trained Roman Catholic, very likely a priest, prepared this Roman Catholic Discussion Guide. If so, this is another indication of the level of Roman Catholic involvement in this movie.
And yet another excellent reason to shun it.
The Samson movie is inaccurate and unbiblical. It is an attempt, by the makers, to take the well-known, exciting account of this man of God, keep the general outline of his life, but make additions which, clearly, they believe will make the story even more exciting for moviegoers. If a Gospel minister added to the biblical account in this way as he was preaching through the life of Samson, and made the kinds of errors and inaccurate statements which are to be found in this film, he would be justifiably reproved by all who love God’s Word.
We ask, in conclusion: why should filmmakers be held to a lower standard?
Available from Bible Based Ministries
Shaun Willcock is a minister, author and researcher. He runs Bible Based Ministries. For other articles (which may be downloaded and printed), as well as details about his books, audio messages, pamphlets, etc., please visit the Bible Based Ministries website; or write to the address below. If you would like to be on Bible Based Ministries’ email list, to receive all future articles, please send your details.
. “Pure Flix Releases Official ‘Samson’ Trailer.” Christian Post, January 5, 2018. www.christianpost.com.
. “Pure Flix Releases Official ‘Samson’ Trailer.”
. The Life and Ministry of Samson the Strong, by Shaun Willcock. Bible Based Ministries, 2013. See the website for ordering details.
. The Life and Ministry of Samson the Strong, pg. 5.
. The Life and Ministry of Samson the Strong, pgs. 11, 204.
. “Pure Flix Releases Official ‘Samson’ Trailer.”
. The Life and Ministry of Samson the Strong, pg. 190.
. “Pure Flix Releases Official ‘Samson’ Trailer.”
. “The Chronicles of Narnia”: Occult Fantasy of a Closet Roman Catholic, by Shaun Willcock. Bible Based Ministries, 2005. Available on our website as a free download.