LXX Susanna, Part 2: Susanna’s Voice And The God Who Knows…

Continuing on with a look at characterization and participant reference in Susanna, here’s another excerpt from my paper (apologies for the lack-luster intro):

In the additional introduction of Susanna θ’, God is initially introduced as κύριος whom Susanna feared.  As noted above, Susanna’s parents instructed her according to the law of Moses which would clarify κύριος as the God of Israel.  If we assume a Hebrew Vorlage*, perhaps we can read κύριος in place of the divine name, as is common throughout the Septuagint, and thus κύριος is likely the preferred referential device for God.

Overspecification** is used in referring to God twice and both occurrences function as thematic highlighting devices and constrain the reader to view God in a particular way.  This first instance of overspecification occurs in a prayer spoke by Susanna which is placed a different points in the discourse in each text.  In the OG text the prayer is placed after the elders place their hands upon her head but prior to their testimony about her sexual encounter with the young man.  In the Theodotion text the prayer is placed after the testimony of the elders as Susanna cries out in a loud voice.  In the OG text Susanna instead prays to herself.

Verses 42 through 44 of Susanna θ’ read:

42 ἀνεβόησε δὲ φωνῇ μεγάλῃ Σουσάννα καὶ εἶπεν Ὁ θεὸς ὁ αἰώνιος ὁ τῶν κρυπτῶν γνώστης ὁ εἰδὼς τὰ πάντα πρὶν γενέσεως αὐτῶν, 43 σὺ ἐπίστασαι ὅτι ψευδῆ μου κατεμαρτύρησαν· καὶ ἰδοὺ ἀποθνῄσκω μὴ ποιήσασα μηδὲν ὧν οὗτοι ἐπονηρεύσαντο κατʼ ἐμοῦ.  44 Καὶ εἰσήκουσε κύριος τῆς φωνῆς αὐτῆς.

42 But Susanna cried out with a loud voice and said, “O eternal God, who knows that which is hidden*** and who is aware of all things before they come to be; 43 you know that they have testified falsely against me.  See I am about to die though I have done none of these things which these men maliciously intended to do against me.”  44 And the Lord heeded her cry.

The fact that Susanna cried out with a loud voice (ἀνεβόησε δὲ φωνῇ μεγάλῃ) in the Theodotion text instead of praying to herself highlights her more active role in the story.  She does not remain silent, but rather declares her innocence and demonstrates her righteousness by trusting in the Lord.  Through the mouth of Susanna, the reader is given more information than necessary about God.  This information is not necessary to identify which god she is referring to as we already know that Susanna worships the God of Israel and thus this functions to highlight the theme of hidden things being revealed.

This theme is one of the most prominent themes through the story of Susanna: the elders are hidden in the garden during Susanna’s bath (only in Susanna θ’), the elders lust for Susanna is initially hidden from one another, and Susanna is uncovered before the crowd and thus what was once hidden is exposed.  From Susanna’s perspective, the Lord she fears is God who knows all that is hidden, i.e. the truth about what happened in her husband’s garden.  This information also serves to foreshadow what is to come, namely the revealing of the truth which the elders have kept hidden.  And so the Lord sends forth the wise young man Daniel to uncover that which is hidden.  Daniel is the final participant to be introduced into the narrative, initially introduced as a young boy whose holy spirit (τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον) is stirred up by God.

*Side note: I’ve not done extensive research on this particular topic and opinions are mixed as to whether Susanna was originally written in Hebrew or Greek.

**Overspecification: The description of individuals or ideas that is more specific than required to identify the intended referent. – Steve Runge

***The phrase “that which is hidden” is not present in the OG text.

LXX Susanna, Part 1: Getting To Know All About You…

Last fall my Greek professor courageously led our class through the topic and texts of the Septuagint.  For my term paper I decided to write on the two texts of Susanna, an apocryphal addition to the book of Daniel.  The text has survived in two different textual traditions, the Old Greek (OG) version and the Theodotion (θ’) version.  I was initially inspired by Kristin de Troyer’s article in A Feminist Companion to Reading the Bible: Approaches, Methods, and Strategies titled Septuagint and Gender Studies: The Very Beginning of a Promising Liaison in which she looks at some of the differences between the Esther texts (in the ways they portray the characters) while asking gender-specific questions.  I decided to look at the story of Susanna since it was a text that was essentially new to me, it has a female protagonist, and it is a text with two distinct traditions.  Here’s a quick summary from my paper for those of you who are new to Susanna’s story:

   While there are substantial differences between Susanna OG and Susanna θ’, the basic premise of the story remains the same.  There is a man, Joakim, living in Babylon with his wife, Susanna.  Susanna is very beautiful and enjoys taking long walks in her husband’s garden.  The story’s antagonists are two elders, who are also judges, meant to govern the people.  They quickly prove to be lawless men as they become enthralled with the beautiful Susanna with the hopes of gratifying their mutual lust.  The two elders approach Susanna, but she refuses them.  The elders then bring her to court with accusations of adultery with a fictional young man; the crowd believes the elders and Susanna is condemned to death.  So Susanna prays to God and he intervenes.  Now enters our hero: the young man, Daniel.  Daniel accuses the people of an unfair trial and declares that he will interrogate the two elders individually.  Daniel’s wisdom is demonstrated in his ability to establish the two elders as liars by their own admission and the story ends with Susanna’s life being spared and the two elders being utterly destroyed.

Susanna and the Two Elders

Susanna and the Two Elders

For my paper, I set out to apply a discourse-functional approach to participant reference (see Steve Runge’s Discourse Grammar of the New Testament and dissertation) in the double-text of Susanna.  As noted above, there are some interesting differences between the two texts, especially in how Susanna is portrayed.

Here’s another excerpt from my paper on the characterization of Susanna:

The way in which a participant is initially (re-)introduced to a discourse serves as our mental representation of that participant until we are constrained to see her or him in a different way.  Some of the major participants are not named but rather are identified by an epithet or anchoring expression, while there are two minor participants that are named but remain flat characters throughout the narrative.  In Susanna θ’, the protagonist Susanna is initially introduced as Joakim’s wife.  She is referred to by name, her default and unmarked referring expression, nine times throughout the narrative.  The Septuagint’s introduction of Susanna is considerably shorter.  Some scholars argue that the first five verses have been lost, while others read “περὶ ὧν ἐλάλησεν ὁ δεσπότης” (Concerning that which the Lord said…) as an acceptable introductory statement or heading.

The text as we have it provides us with less information about Joakim as he is mentioned merely in passing and almost always in relation to Susanna; she is his wife and he is her husband (v7).  Although more information is given concerning Joakim in Susanna θ’ (he is wealthy and well-liked by the people), he functions as a plot device in both texts and thus we understand him to be a minor character.  Both texts introduce a garden that belongs to Joakim and when the elders would watch Susanna, she would be walking ἐν τῷ παραδείσῳ τοῦ ἀνδρὸς αὐτῆς, in the garden of her husband (v7).  Thus the author/translator signals to  the reader to keep in mind Susanna and Joakim’s relationship as husband and wife as the reader learns of the two elders lust for this married woman.  The reader soon learns that the elders attempt to force themselves on Susanna within her husband’s own domain (v19).

Additional information about Susanna is provided with her introduction to the story, namely, that she is a very beautiful woman (καλή σφόδρα) (v2).  As we noted earlier, it is atypical that a biblical character receive such a detailed physical description.  The fact that Susanna is very beautiful is important to the plot of the story and this important information is reiterated later on in verse 31 as Susanna’s speedy trial is about to begin.  In her introduction, Susanna is also referred to as one who feared the Lord (φοβουμένη τὸν κύριον) (v2) as her parents instructed her according to the law of Moses (κατὰ τὸν νόμον Μωυσῆ) (v3).  This information is not necessary to identify Susanna from other possible referents, rather it is additional information that tells us something more about Susanna.  This piece of information is important to the development of the plot as Susanna’s character serves as a foil to the lawless elders who are eventually prosecuted and punished κατὰ τὸν νόμον Μωυσῆ (v62).

I will follow up with two more posts with additional excerpts from my paper. I am always look for feedback and I am thankful for opportunities to learn so please feel free to comment, correct, etc.  Many thanks to Steve who was a big help to me via Twitter during my paper-writing frenzy.

The Abominable Pain of Becoming Like Christ…

Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself. – C.S. Lewis

Three Things About Grace…

© Amilevin | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Lk 15.20 (NIV)

There are at least three things we should catch on to in light of the father’s interaction with the younger son in The Parable of the Father and His Two Sons (Luke 15.11-32):

Grace takes the initiative.  The father takes the initiative running out to his son and embracing him.  Notice that the father doesn’t wait to hear whatever it is the son has to say, instead he rushes out because he has found his son who was lost.  This is radical!  What does our culture teach us about reconciliation?  Usually, we expect the offender to seek reconciliation and make amends.  Jesus turns our expectations on our head and shows us that God–the one who was offended–seeks reconciliation.  This is the heart of God–for “…God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners [while we were still a long way off], Christ died for us,” (Rom. 5:8).  God doesn’t require a transformation before we are reconciled to him, rather it is our reconciliation with God that starts the process of transformation.  It is reconciliation with God that brings us from death to life!

Grace is costly.  Forgiveness has its price–but it is the one who forgives, not the one being forgiven that must pay the price.  The father forgives the son at the cost of his honor and reputation so that they might be reconciled.  Likewise, God’s grace toward us is costly.  As Tim Keller says, “Salvation is absolutely free for us, but it’s unbelievably costly for him.”  At the cost of his honor, reputation, and even his life, God became a crucified-Christ “to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness,” (1Cor. 1:22).  For again, “…God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” (Rom. 5:8).

Grace is restorative.  The father goes beyond what is expected of him because he desires reconciliation over penance (that is, some hardship or penalty in order to compensate for wrongdoing).  The father restores the son to his proper place in the family; he does not accept anything less than right relationship with his son.  He is clothed, he is fed, and he is celebrated.  Likewise, God’s grace is restorative, moving beyond the forgiveness of sins towards reconciliation.  For we too “once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” (Eph. 2:3-6).  The son who was lost was dead, but now that he is found the son is alive.  He has, in a sense, been resurrected from the dead!  We, too, are no longer dead but alive in Christ–through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection we are restored to our place as daughters and sons of God.  And we look forward to our future bodily resurrection in which our restoration finds its ultimate fulfillment.

As we strive to be the hands and feet of Christ our Lord in this world, and to live as people who walk in the freedom and power of the Spirit, let us take the initiative that grace necessitates, let us bear the cost the grace requires, and let us seek the restoration that grace demands.

United In The Spirit…

The more I read Cyril, the more I think, “I really like this dude.”

Cyril of Alexandria on the Holy Spirit and unity within the Church:

“All of us who have received the one and the same Spirit, that is, the Holy Spirit, are in a sense merged together with one another and with God.  For if Christ, together with the Spirit of the Father and himself, comes to dwell in each one of us, even though there are many of us, then it follows that the Spirit is still one and undivided.  He binds together the spirit of each and every one of us […] and makes us all appear as one in him.  For just as the power of the holy flesh of Christ united those in who it dwells into one body, I think that, in much the same way, the one and undivided Spirit of God, who dwells in us all, leads us all into spiritual unity.”*

 

*Quote taken from The Christian Theology Reader, edited by Alister McGrath

Forthcoming book blog tour

the archives near Emmaus

61Dirz1lajL._SY300_Timothy Michael Law’s When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible is scheduled to be released by Oxford University Press on July 19th and this blog will be the coordinating hub for a book blog tour. I am excited about this book. Law has described it as a “…narrative history of the Septuagint’s origins and influence in early Jewish but especially Christian history,” which means it “does not attempt to be another introductory textbook…but narrates the story in an original way.” Since the Greek Bible proved to be very influential for incipit Christianity this study should be attractive to readers of this blog.

Tentatively, this is the schedule for the tour, i.e., what chapters will be reviewed, by whom, and when:

BRIAN LePORT (Friday, July 19th)
Introducing the blog tour

JOEL WATTS (Sunday, July 21st, http://unsettledchristianity.com/)
1 Why this Book?
2 When the…

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Strangers To The Desire For Domination…

Desert Mothers

“The same Amma [Theodora] said that a teacher ought to be a stranger to the desire for domination, vainglory, and pride.  A teacher should not be fooled by flattery, nor be blinded by gifts, conquered by the stomach, nor dominated by anger.  A teacher should be patient, gentle and humble as far as possible; successfully tested and without partisanship, full of concern, and a lover of souls.”

– Theodora 5, in Laura Swan, The Forgotten Desert Mothers

Is Gender A Part of Being Created Imago Dei?

As I was preparing to present an argument for Egalitarianism at my church’s Elephant in the Room series (last night’s topic was gender roles in the Church and home), I came across this quote from N.T. Wright’s paper Women’s Service in the Church: The Biblical Basis from CBE’s conference in 2004:

Many people have said, and I have often enough said it myself, that the creation of man and woman in their two genders is a vital part of what it means that humans are created in God’s image. I now regard that as a mistake. After all, not only the animal kingdom, as noted in Genesis itself, but also the plant kingdom, as noted by the reference to seed, have their male and female. The two-gender factor is not at all specific to human beings, but runs right through a fair amount of the rest of creation. This doesn’t mean it’s unimportant, indeed it means if anything it’s all the more important; being male and being female, and working out what that means, is something most of creation is called to do and be, and unless we are to collapse into a kind of gnosticism, where the way things are in creation is regarded as secondary and shabby over against what we are now to do with it, we have to recognise, respect and respond to this call of God to live in the world he has made and as the people he has made us. It’s just that we can’t use the argument that being male-plus-female is somehow what being God’s imagebearers actually means.

Now, I had read this paper before but somehow I missed this point.  It really stuck out to me when reading over it again this past weekend.  So, what do you think?  Does Genesis 1:28 demonstrate that male and female are part of what it means to be created in the image of God?  Or is Wright right (ha!) in his observation that (from this passage at least) one cannot argue that maleness and femaleness are specifically unique for God’s imagebearers?

Further along in his paper, Wright states:

When humans are renewed in the Messiah and raised from the dead, they will be set in authority over the angels (6.3). In worship, the church anticipates how things are going to be in that new day. When a woman is praying or prophesying (perhaps in the language of angels, as in 13.1), she needs to be truly what she is, since it is to male and female alike, in their mutual interdependence as God’s image-bearing creatures, that the world, including the angels, is to be subject. God’s creation needs humans to be fully, gloriously and truly human, which means fully and truly male and female. This, and of course much else besides, is to be glimpsed in worship.

This is something I am still working through as I attempt to solidify my understanding of gender roles.  While I agree that men and women are different, and that being female is different from being male, I also recognize that some women are different from other women, and some men are different from other men.  This is in large part because of my own personal experience.  Surprise, surprise, I do not always easily identify with what is typically characterized as ‘Biblical womanhood’.  Nothing aggravates me more than being told that men want most to be respected and honored while women want most to be loved and cherished.  I, along with Aretha Franklin, heartily disagree.  And isn’t Don Draper’s big life question “Am I loved?”  It’s frustrating to be told women are more emotional (with the implication that this is a weakness) and social than men while men are more goal-oriented.  Have you ever met a female introvert? We aren’t really that social. I also know lots of women that are goal-oriented and very good at achieving said goals. Sorry to burst your stereo-typical gender bubble!

I think qualities like bravery and the desire to protect are not masculine traits, nor is nurturing a feminine trait.  They are human traits that humans naturally have to a varying degree, both male and female, and that all Spirit-filled people should work to develop in themselves as the Spirit works in them.

What do you think?

Here’s a video with highlights from Wright’s lecture:

Graduation… Now What?

Hello blogosphere! It’s been almost four months since my last post. Geez, how did that happen?

Jimmy & Jessica at graduation.

Jimmy & Jessica at graduation.

The mood to blog has resurfaced so I will hopefully be posting more often now that summer has arrived.  In the meantime, I thought I’d give a little update on what has happened over the last four months and how I am doing on my 2013 goals.

Celebrating with family and professors (who are also family!).

The most exciting development is that I, along with my husband Jimmy, graduated on May 11 with our Masters of Arts in Biblical Languages!  It took me 3.5 years (while working full-time) but I made it through and finished well.  I am so thankful for the experience and the training I gained while in the MABL program.  I will especially cherish the relationships.  I was blessed with wonderful professors who invited both Jimmy and me into their lives and their homes (and their kitchens!), as well as wonderful sisters and brothers to work alongside in our academic journeys.  God was as he always is, faithful.

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Dr. Will Rutherford, Jimmy, Jessica, and Dr. Phillip Marshall.

TAK Induction Ceremony April 2013

We were also inducted into Theta Alpha Kappa, the National Honor Society for Theological Studies, in April.  Hurrah!

Now that we’ve graduated, a lot of things are up in the air and we will hopefully have some bearing on what direction we will be heading in the next couple of months.  Our long-term goal is PhD work, but we missed the application deadline for admittance this fall since we thought we would be going to South Africa.  Since our plans have changed, we have at least a year to continue studying on our own and get applications ready.

Tigers Game

Me and Dad.

As far as my 2013 goals, I am still working on most of them.  I did preach again back in March at my home church over Luke 15.  I find I really enjoy the process of writing sermons.  We also started a German group up at school and we made some progress until the end of the semester came around and everything got crazy with projects, papers, and (for us) graduation.  I am planning to keep working through April Wilson’s German Quickly over the summer.  Additionally, I am hoping to work through Randall Buth’s Living Biblical Hebrew and Living Koine Greek in the next couple of months.  Lots of language skills to build up!

I have yet to run a 5K… and it’s now almost June in Houston which means I won’t even attempt this until the fall.  In case you didn’t know, it’s pretty miserable outside in Houston from May to September.

My dad came down for graduation and we had a bit of mini-vacation which was much needed!  We saw the Tigers pummle the Astros (Go Tigers!) and spent some down time in Galveston.

It’s nice to have a bit of a breather after grad school, but I definitely already miss being in class with my professors and classmates.  Is it time to go back to school yet?

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Graduation 2013.