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Information on Susanna

James King West writes: "This story is a literary masterpiece. Although the two recensions in the LXX and Theodotian differ in some details, the essence of the story in both versions concerns Susanna, the young wife of Joakim, whose remarkable beauty incites the lustful passion of two elders appointed as judges for the Jewish community in Babylon. Having accidentally disclosed to each other their common passion, they plot to seduce Susanna. When they surprise her alone in her garden she refuses to yield to them, whereupon, in a development similar to the story of Potiphar's wife in Genesis 39:6b-20, they accuse her of committing adultery with a young man who has escaped unrecognized. Being the judges, they condemn her to death on their own testimony. As Susanna is being led to execution, however, Daniel is inspired to intervene. Insisting that they have not learned the facts, he asks each of the judges under what kind of tree he had been standing when he saw the alleged affair; since their stories do not agree they are exposed and executed, Susanna's life and honor are spared, and Daniel earns 'a great reputation among the people' (13:64)." (Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 458)

Robert Doran writes: "In the LXX version of the story the leaders of the people are contrasted with the youth to whom a spirit of insight has been given (v. 45). While Theodotion speaks of God rousing the Holy Spirit already in the youth, the LXX has an angel injecting the Spirit into the youth. The leaders of the people are viewed with suspicion. As the statement in v. 51b (found only in the LXX) indicates, one should not believe the elders simply because they are elders. Insight belongs not by right to those in authority; it is given. The conclusion, formulated to draw the moral of the story, states that the education of the youths is to be carefully guarded—they will live reverently and a spirit of insight will be in them. Such a conclusion seems an attempt to assert control over the youths, for the thrust of the story itself leads in the opposite direction, to a critique of institutional authority and a distinction between institutional office and the spirit of insight." (Harper's Bible Commentary, p. 865)

Louis F. Hartman writes: "The Theodotion form of this story, on which the CCD is based, is told in a more dramatic form than in the shorter LXX version. Although the latter seems to be, in general, an abridged recension, it has perhaps preserved a few passages that seem closer to the original than the corresponding passages in the other form. One of these is Daniel's question to the false witnesses, which, according to the LXX, reads: 'Under what tree and in what part of the garden did you see them together?' It seems to imply that the original Semitic story involved a question, not about trees, but about the locality, in some other sense, of the supposed crime. The Gk pun on the names of the trees (see comments on vv. 55, 59) could then by considered a new element added in the Gk form of the story and thus no argument against the presumed Semitic language of the original." (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 1, p. 459)

J. Alberto Soggin writes: "The story of Susanna, which R. H. Pfeiffer somewhat irreverently but aptly compared with a detective story, in all probability echoes the content of a popular tale, adapted by Israel to its beliefs and used to celebrate divine omniscience and conjugal virtue. Julius Africanus (Migne, PG 11, 44f.) already expressed his doubts on the Hebrew origin of the story in a letter to Origen, since it is full of word-plays which are only possible in Greek. However, the question has yet to be resolved. Of course it is futile to discuss its historicity, given the novelistic character of the narratives and the liturgical character of the poetical compositions, or to consider its relationship with the proto-canonical book of Daniel." (Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 442-443)

Daniel J. Harrington writes: "The great turning point in the story comes with God's response to Susanna's protestation of innocence: 'The Lord heard her cry' (v. 44). And Daniel emerges as the human instrument by which Susanna's innocence is proven and she is delivered from death and restored to her family. The message of the Susanna story is that God will vindicate the innocent sufferer. The episode illustrates the power of trust in God and of prayer in the midst of suffering, as well as God's use of the human wisdom displayed by Daniel." (Invitation to the Apocrypha, p. 116)

Louis F. Hartman writes: "Superficially, at least, the primary purpose of the story is to show that virtue (here in the form of conjugal chastity) triumphs, with God's help, over vice (here in the form of lust and deceit). Inasmuch as this story belongs to the 'Daniel Cycle,' it also offers another example of this hero's God-given wisdom. Exegetes, however, have sought deeper meanings in the tale. For some exegetes it is a sort of parable. The two wicked elders ('offspring of Canaan,' i.e., idolators) would symbolize the pagans and the apostate Jews, especially at the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who tried to make the Jews, here symbolized by Susanna, fall into the sin of apostasy from Yahweh—the sin that the prophets often called fornication and adultery. The 'daughters of Israel'—i.e., the Samaritans—might indeed by seduced by the alluring pagan Hellenism, but not the 'daughter of Judah' (v. 57)—i.e., the good Jews. Susanna's heroic statement, 'It is better for me to fall into your power without guilt than to sin before the Lord' (v. 23), would then be a fine expression of the sentiments of the Maccabean martyrs when offered the choice between apostasy and death. Still other exegetes would see in this story an indictment by some writer of the Pharisees against the worldly minded Sadducees who acted as 'elders' or leaders of the people. In this case the story would be a midrash on the pseudo-biblical quotation of v. 5 (cf. R. A. F. MacKenzie, 'The Meaning of the Susanne Story,' CanJT 3 [1957] 211-18)." (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 1, p. 459)

David A. deSilva writes: "It is difficult to determine the date of this story. While Daniel's name may only have come to be included later, the story itself resonates well with the condition of Jews throughout most of the Persian and Hellenistic periods. The Jewish community envisioned in the story has a high level of self-governance within Gentile domination, which was true of several Diaspora communities as well as Judea during much of the intertestamental period. The probability of a Semitic original would also suggest a provenance in Palestine or the eastern Diaspora. The hint of the superiority of a daughter of Judah, who bravely resisted the elders' constraint, to the daughters of Israel (i.e., the northern tribes), who yielded to the elders in the past, suggests that the author would have regarded himself as a Judahite (Collins 1993: 438)." (Introducing the Apocrypha, p. 233)

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