Unmanned, yet again

Samson, you will recall, had a certain-and ultimately fatal-attraction to women of suspicious, namely Philistine, pedigree as well as a reputation for roughhousing. When he finally hooked up with Delilah and her sneaky shears, he had already spread destruction and chaos far and wide. There was that juvenile stunt of setting fire to the tails of 300 foxes. Then he picked up the jawbone of an ass and slew a thousand Philistines. Incorrigible. By the time Delilah weaseled the secret of his strength out of him, Samson seemed ripe for a rude comeuppance. Still, Samson was blessed, and even his weaknesses fit neatly into God’s plan.

Not so fast, say the authors of a recent letter to the Archives of General Psychiatry. Far from blessed, Samson’s acting out conforms to the classic pattern of "antisocial personality disorder," at least as that malady is defined by the American Psychiatric Association’s official diagnostic manual. "It’s pretty straightforward, pretty cut and dried," Dr. Eric Altschuler told the New York Times (February 20). Samson’s storied behavior, it seems, conforms to a "pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood."

Where would that leave wayward souls like Jacob and David?

The moral and religious question seems to be: Why weren’t these difficult

Published in the 2001-03-09 issue: 
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