Canceled: "Jah’s Warrior: Samson as Moral Exemplar in Rastafari”

Ariella Werden-Greenfield
Mar 2, 2023 at - | Cohen 237

This event has been canceled due to unforeseen circumstances. 


Because of Samson’s Nazarite identity and physical attributes, including his pleated hair, Rastafari understand him as an unsullied and dreadlocked Rastaman living in a corrupt world. As a prototypical Rastaman, Samson’s election as a Nazarite confirms Rastafari appointment by Jah while his violence against Philistines ensures all Rastas revolutionary power against oppression. Yet, throughout his biblical narrative, Samson violates purity regulations of the Israelite people and of Rastafari. That Samson overlooks dietary and death-based dictates of Nazirites and Israelites does not diminish his importance for Rasta readers even as the directives Samson breaks are essential to the movement.

Ariella Werden-Greenfield considers Rastafari’s engagement with the Hebrew Bible and confirmation of Israelite identity, turning specifically to the elevation of Samson as a dreadlocked Rastaman and moral exemplar. Looking to the reggae cannon to establish his significance in the movement, Werden-Greenfield suggests that despite his violent behavior and impure conduct, Rastafari interpret Samson as clean, both spiritually and physically, in a hermeneutic move that confirms the righteousness of the Afro-Caribbean or otherwise-dominated self.

Ariella Werden-Greenfield is Associate Director of Temple University’s Feinstein Center for American Jewish History. She serves as Temple's Special Advisor on Antisemitism. Ariella holds a Ph.D. in Religion, also from Temple University. Her research centers on contemporary music and religion.