Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Friday, December 08, 2006

Theodotion's Text: Susanna with poem by William Shakespeare, from the Merchant of Venice

Daily Readings
Isaiah 47, III Maccabees 1, Susanna, Luke 4

Daily Text: Susanna

Theodotion’s Text
Susanna has often been considered as the first chapter of Daniel even though in the Greek text it is the 13th. The early church substituted Theodotion’s version of Susanna for the Greek or Septuagintal text early on. Moore [544:92] suggests that it may have been because God is named rather than an angel and Daniel is more prominent in Theodotion’s text. For whatever reasons, this is one of the more delightful tales in the Apocrypha.

Susanna is placed in a position of moral tension by the two judges for they threaten her that if she does not have sex with them they will call witnesses that she was with a young man and they interrupted and caught them. If she consents to their coercion she sins against God and man. If she refuses to be coerced by them, she will die at the hand of the congregation. She chooses to obey God rather than save her own life and calls out for help in the garden.

The judges are even more brazenly hypocritical in the court scene for they lay their hands on her head and swear in the biblical fashion, Leviticus 24:14, that she has been a blasphemer by her betrayal of her marriage vows.

Daniel’s intervention serves to build the young prophet’s reputation among the Jewish community before he becomes famous in the Babylonian court. This story fits in with others in Daniel 1-6, though it is totally within the Jewish community, unlike the stories in the canonical text of Daniel. His intervention is directly linked to God’s action in response to the righteous Susanna’s prayer.

How often ordinary mortals find themselves in ethical and moral situations that require the truth and a damaged reputation or a lie and an unblemished public reputation. Perhaps, in addition to the subject material of Susanna, this has contributed to the popularity of this story. Generally, it is assumed that this story was originally written in Hebrew, although no such original text survives.

from The Merchant of Venice, iv.i.222
William Shakespeare

A Daniel come to judgment! yea a Daniel!
O wise young Judge, how I do honour thee!

Collect for the Day
O Lord, who has taught us that to gain the whole world and to lose our souls is great folly, grant us the grace so to lose ourselves that we may truly find ourselves anew in the life of grace, and so to forget ourselves that we may be remembered in your kingdom.

[286:119:393 Reinhold Niebuhr, 1892-1971]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You say something that really struck me in the article, that its a species of blasphemy to break ones marriage vows, I was curious if you could elaborate further on this subject. I find the concept fascinating.

12:32 PM  

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