Part 1 of “Person of Interest’s God/Anti-God Allegory in Season 4” covers some show background, a description of the series, and an overview of the God and Anti-God allegory found in this latest season (and developed in season 3). Please see that part for those topics. This part includes an answer to the questionable name given to the antagonist, “Samaritan.” It also includes a section on the biblical verses related to the show’s allegory.
It seems really odd that the metaphor for God is “The Machine” and the anti-God is “Samaritan.” We normally think of “the machine,” when the expression is used, as something cold, mechanical, and all that is opposite of human concern and empathy; as such, the result of its machinations tend to be against our best interests. I don’t fully know why the creator of this series chose name The Machine for this role, but there are two considerations I can immediately think of. One, the AI’s creator, Finch, has doubts about his creation and chooses not to give it any other name. Two, since the metaphor grows to allegory in seasons 3 and 4, perhaps the show’s creator and writers didn’t have the it all fully conceived earlier on. The first two seasons were much more about solving crimes before they happened, and corruption in law enforcement and government, than about massive dueling AIs.
Jewish Considerations of “Samaritan”
So if “The Machine” was a received name for a more fully developed God metaphor/allegory, why was “Samaritan” chosen as the name for the anti-God? Perhaps it comes of the ancient Jewish hate for Samaritans. In ancient biblical times, Jews came to avoid and despise the related Samaritan peoples.
Samaritans are descendants of Israelites who were deported into Assyria in the 700s BC (or, as some now believe based on more ancient documents, they stem from a 300s or 400s BC sect). They worshiped God at Mt. Gerizim (where Abraham was tested and almost sacrificed Isaac) instead of Jerusalem, and follow only the first five books of the Old Testament, or Torah/Pentateuch. They viewed/view changes to the ancient Israeli faith, coming after the time of the last judge and high priest, Eli (who died in 891 BC), to be heretical. Because the Samaritans rejected worship at Jerusalem and much of the Jewish scriptures, the Jews were/are against them. It would not be hard to imagine that in Person of Interest, where even the last episode is entitled YHWH (the Jewish “name” for God), “Samaritan” eludes to the false religion of the Samaritans.
At first glance it might even seem to be a slap (even an avenging one) at Christianity to use “Samaritan” as the anti-God metaphor, but I don’t think that’s the case at all and will argue against it. You might ask, “Why would it be anti-Christian?” Well, in an important parable that many people have always recognized, Jesus Christ told of how a “good Samaritan” helped a dying man along the road. The Samaritan compassionately paid for the man’s healing, in contrast to Jews who passed the man by, considering him unclean or simply not worth any effort or compassion. This parable showed the heart of God, which is for mercy and compassion more than ritual: man-made rituals, including personal cleanliness before God, aren’t as important as helping one’s fellow man, who is an image of God (no matter where s/he is at spiritually). This angered the ritual-loving Jews of Jesus’ time (remember, though, that Jesus was also a Jew).
This parable, and other positive entries involving Samaritans in the New Testament, opposes the view we are given of “Samaritan” in Person of Interest. After all, we have “Good Samaritan” laws and many hospitals have used the name. So what is going on here? Is it really anti-Christian, or simply a Jewish thing, or something else? Considering that JJ Abrams’ Fringe used the Bible–that is, the scriptures that Christians use that include the Jewish writings–very positively, and that Abrams is married to a Catholic, I’m inclined to think that the story is respectful of both religions. Which means that the “Samaritan” in Person of Interest represents one of the related end-times actors (an “anti-Christ” element). Besides, Samaritan isn’t just acting like a Jew short on scripture; it’s acting like Christian end-times prophecy says Satan’s minions are going to act.
“Samaritan” as a Pertinent Anti-Christ Element
If Samaritans can represent the anti-religion to Jews, someone pretending to be God or the returned Christ might choose “Samaritan” as a good name indeed. Unlike the unsuspecting general population, the viewer can see that the show’s “Samaritan” is a tremendous murderer and liar, illustrating that it is the spawn of Satan. In prophetic verses found in both the Old and New Testaments, we know that Satan will raise an entity up at some point (the time is commonly referred to as the “end times”) that will pretend to be the world’s peace maker and savior, fooling most of the world into following him. This is exactly what Samaritan is doing in Person of Interest.
Here are some things Jesus said (from the New International Version) about the end times that the show parallels, at least to a degree:
“Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many.“ (Mark 13:5b-6).
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold” (Matt 24:9-12a).
“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. . . . If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:15-16, 22-24).
Jesus is not the only one to have prophesied about the end of times in the Bible. As Jesus mentioned, Daniel had visions concerning these times. In Daniel, chapter 12, he relayed that the coming end time will be marked by “many [who] will go here and there to increase knowledge” (verse 4b). It would be almost an understatement to say that there’s been an increase in both knowledge and travel in our times, and the AIs in Person of Interest are one result of this increase. Samaritan even says that the AIs need continual information input in order to survive. Samaritan is the great pretender and imposter, seeking to take control of the world through deception, and daring to call itself God: “He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4).
“The wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand” (Daniel 12:10b). “What I [Jesus] say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!'” (Mark 13:37).
Individual Human Worthiness
Perhaps a good place to start is Psalm 139 and here are some of its verses (3, 13, 16) and : “You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways . . . . For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. . . . Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
Another Old Testament scripture that I believe shows God’s value of humans as individuals is found in the covenant He made with all people through Noah (remember, Noah lived in a time long before Israel was formed). Genesis 9:5-6:
For your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being. Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed;
for in the image of God has God made mankind.
“Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism” (Acts 10:34).
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).
Free Will and God’s Intervention
I know this innocent sounding subsection can attract those who like to argue, so right now I want to say, there’s no point. Discussion of scriptures, doctrine, etc., is fine, but arguing and fighting and name-calling amongst Christians is not fine and is anti-biblical. If anyone wants, they can check out this article to know what I’m talking about. If anyone makes argumentative, disrespectful comments, they won’t be posted.
It’s actually a bit hard to pick out verses relating to free will in the Bible since every time something is written about someone deciding to do something, or having done something, it is telling us the person chose. It isn’t telling us God made them do whatever it is, but that the person chose and the consequences are his or hers. If God is to judge someone by their actions, then obviously the person must be free to choose them. In the creation account in Genesis, Adam is given the opportunity to express himself by choosing the names of animals. That probably had few, if any, consequences. But then we get to The Fall of man. There, Adam and Eve freely chose to disobey God, resulting in a ton of unpleasant consequences (it ruined nature besides affecting every human being born). Israel’s King David was a warrior prophet/poet, yet he made quite a few bad decisions that led to consequences that made his later life (and others’ lives) sad and difficult.
God’s most obvious intervention is the group of activities, past and present, that He accomplishes in order redeem man and all creation. Perhaps I should say most “obviously known” since they are described in the scriptures. His plan is to redeem everything so that it is brought back to a state like the original creation (Isaiah 11; 2 Peter 3:9; Revelation 22:1-5). Since His concern isn’t that people “progress” or “evolve” or “be wealthy” or whatever human concern you can think of, it makes it perhaps harder to point out His intervention to persons with those worldly concerns.
In relation to Person of Interest, the issue is whether or not God allows us to be free agents. Yes, He does. He might coax us in a certain direction and He might even tell people who are willing to listen what to do, both of which The Machine does in the series. He doesn’t eliminate people because they question Him or disobey Him, as Samaritan does. An interesting and entertaining example of God’s more direct intervention can be read in the record of Balaam (Numbers 22-24), including Balaam’s demise due to his disobedience. Despite his encounters with God, he still chose to practice divination; God didn’t force Him to quit.
Additional End Times Scripture
This article is not meant to cover all the end times issues, which could easily take a book-length treatment, but only those parallels between “Samaritan” and the future false prophet/s. As I provided verses for this in the main body of the article, I’ll simply list a few more linked scriptures regarding the end times here for your reference.
Sources not already linked
American Bible Society. (n.d.). Samaritans: Then and Now. Retrieved January 2, 2016, from American Bible Society (Resources): http://bibleresources.americanbible.org/resource/samaritans-then-and-now
Walvoord, J. F. (1999). Every Prophecy of the Bible. Colorado Springs: Chariot Victor.
Zondervan. (2005). NIV Archaeological Study Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan (pp. xxii, 699-700, 1727, 1737).