Monday, March 27, 2017

Book of Daniel: Supplemental

Did you feel like twelve chapters was not quite enough Book of Daniel for your taste?  Well, you might be in luck! 

When I was looking for images to go with my last post, I kept running across paintings of incidents I hadn't read about.  After a bit of research, I found out that this is because I happen to have a Protestant Bible.  If I had a Catholic or Orthodox Bible, there would be three additional episodes in Daniel.

One, the "Song of the Three Holy Children," is at the end of Chapter 3, and consists of prayers and songs from Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, the three young men from the fiery furnace.

Another, "Bel and the Dragon," is Chapter 14 of the expanded Daniel.  It's the first detective story on record!  There is an idol, Bel, which is given rich offerings every night in a sealed chamber.  Every morning, the offerings are gone, so Bel must have eaten them, QED.  But Daniel scatters ash on the chamber floor one night, and in the morning there is a trail of footprints to the secret door where the priests haul out the loot.  Good story.

Then there's Chapter 13, which is the story of "Susanna and the Elders."  It might be the first courtroom drama on record!  Susanna, a nice woman bathing in her garden, is being spied on by some dirty old men.  They threaten to accuse her of consorting with a young man unless she, well, lets them screw her.  She won't do it, they follow through on their threat, and she is about to be executed for adultery when Daniel happens along and suggests that it might be a good idea to question the accusers separately about what they saw.  Since their accounts don't line up, it's clear that Susanna was falsely accused, and so the men are put to death instead of her.  It's a good tale, a victory for virtue and due process alike, and so naturally it has been a favorite subject of painters over the centuries.  Here's Artemisia Gentileschi's version.

Here's Carlo Francesco Nuvolone:

Paul Serusier:

Thomas Hart Benton:


Or, if you like, here's Alan Macdonald's 2009 The Elders Surprised by Susannah:

Anyway, Daniel stands out as a Book rich in stories -- richer, perhaps, than any since the accounts of King David, back in the day.  On strictly literary grounds, it's a shame that Susanna and Bel are missing from the Protestant Book of Daniel.  But, I suppose it's not just about the stories.  Right?

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