Was the Historical Samson Black?

As millions tuned in to the second part of the miniseries "The Bible" on The History Channel on Sunday night, some were intrigued by the casting choice for one of the characters.

Samson, the Ancient Near East judge known for superhuman strength and long hair, was portrayed by a black actor, leading many online to ponder aloud what Samson must have looked like.  On the discussion board for Internet Movie Database entry for "The Bible," someone posted the question and got five pages worth of responses for and against the idea.

On Yahoo Answers, at least three people posted questions pertaining to Samson's race in response to the episode, with a combined amount of over 20 responses.

The Christian Post asked its Facebook fans what they thought of Samson and received over 400 comments, many addressing the question as to whether or not Samson really looked that way.

Dr. Andrew Vaughn, executive director of the American School for Oriental Research located at Boston University and an expert in the Hebrew Bible, told The Christian Post that while Samson was probably not black it is a minor issue. "Historically, the Bible describes Samson's parents as Israelites from the tribe of Dan, so it is unlikely that the historical Samson would have been so dark skinned. However, for the purposes of the mini-series, I did not find the skin color to be important," said Vaughn.

"I do not think that it is important whether or not the person playing Samson in 'The Bible' mini-series is Caucasian or African. Indeed, the historical Moses most likely did not look like Charlton Heston, but that fact does not make 'The 10 Commandments' an ineffective movie. Likewise, I found the character of Samson in the mini-series 'The Bible' to be very successful in portraying Samson."

Vaughn also told CP that ASOR would be writing up a series of blog entries on the subjects and issues brought up by the miniseries.

"I am impressed with the production quality and the effects. It looks like an entertaining drama that is loosely tied to historical details," said Vaughn.

"I'm confident that it will generate an interest in the historical background of the Bible, and that will be very positive."

Produced by LightWorkers Media and airing on The History Channel, "The Bible" is a miniseries comprised of five, two-hour parts that go through the events of the Old and New Testaments.

According to Inside TV, the first part of the miniseries garnered 13.1 million viewers and scored a 3.3 rating among the demographic of adults aged 18 to 49.

"The success of The Bible has catapulted History into one of the most powerful brands across media landscape and we could not be more thrilled and more proud," said Nancy Dubuc, president of A&E Networks, in a statement.

"An enormous debt of gratitude goes out to everyone and the amazing effort put forth to drive us to this amazing win. Clearly the passion for this project has resonated with our viewers and across the nation. We are thrilled, and the story is only just beginning."

This would not be the first time a major production about the Bible opted to cast an African-American actor to play a character whose skin color is not specified in the Scriptures. For the star-studded 1965 film "The Greatest Story Ever Told", Sidney Poitier played Simon of Cyrene.

To read the summary of "The Bible" Episode 2, click here.  

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