Sunday, June 24, 2007

Bible Story: Susannah and the Elders

The Bible Story for this week is one of my favorites: Susannah and the Elders.

The story is one that is very popular in European painting (not least because it gave Renaissance artists an excuse to paint a woman in the nude, or nearly nude), but it is not a very well-known Bible story any more, since it has been consigned to the "apocrypha" in the Protestant Bible. Susannah's story is, however, included in the Catholic and Orthodox Bibles, where you will find it in the Book of Daniel. You can read more about the canonical and deuterocanonical portions of the Bible in this wikipedia article.

Susannah's story is a simple one, and provides a profound parallel to the story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife. Recall that Potiphar's wife falsely accused Joseph of trying to commit adultery with her because he refused to sleep with her. Well, in Susannah's story, there are two elderly judges who have become infatuated with her, and who threaten to accuse her of adultery if she refuses to sleep with them. Like Joseph, Susannsh insists absolutely on preserving her chastity. The judges then accuse her of adultery, and based on their testimony she is about to be put to death... when a young prophet Daniel shows up on the scene to save the day! I will not give away the ending of the story, but it is very sly - worthy of Arthur Conan Doyle or Agatha Christie.

So, please read the story for yourself to find out what happens. Since I include this story in one of the units for my Mythology-Folklore class, you can read the story online, with accompanying images (just click on the small images to see a larger version).

In addition to being a parallel to the story of Joseph, you can also see the story of Susannah paired with the story of Mary in the painting of the Annunciation by Andrea del Sarto, discussed in a previous blog post.

For anyone out there who does Latin, I also included the story of Susannah in Latin at my AudioLatin blog! :-)

There are so many paintings of Susannah's story that I could include here as an illustration, making it hard to choose. In honor of the great female artist Artemisia Gentileschi, I finally decided to include her rendition of the scene, painted in 1610:

No comments:

Post a Comment

To minimize spam, comments are restricted to Google accounts only. You can also contact me at or at Twitter: @OnlineCrsLady. Comments on older posts will be moderated.