« Prev Language and Style. Next »



As with the Three, so here, the question at once arises, Is the Greek of the LXX more probably the original language or a translation? The acceptance of a Semitic original seems on the whole to be more in the ascendant than formerly; but still, the greater part of those who have expressed an opinion 131on the subject incline to Greek as the language chosen by the author.

The Hebraic style is somewhat less strongly marked than in the other two fragments, nor has an Aramaic text of this one yet been discovered. Still, the Greek can be rendered into Hebrew rather more easily than most Hellenistic Greek. The Greek of the “rest of” Esther differs much more in style and tone from that of the canonical book to which it is attached than does the Greek of Susanna from that of the canonical Daniel; and, so far as this fact goes, it points to a closer linguistic connection in this case than in the other (see Streane, Age of Macc. p. 160; Bissell, p. 203). Delitzsch (op. cit. pp. 31, 101) says that ”particulæ quædam citantur a Nachmanide“ (entitled מגלת ששן as well as of Wisdom. The citations of the latter book are discredited by Farrar (Speaker’s Comm. p. 411) however, and probably those of the former are in a similar position.

The early place of verbs in the sentences is here also, as in the other pieces, to some extent noticeable as conforming to the theory of a Semitic original. If the etymology of the name רניאל is supposed to be drawn from his ‘judgments’ in this story, such an original is probably involved in the 132supposition (cf. ‘Title,’ p.104). The Hexaplaric marks mentioned by Bugati (op. cit. 156), as occurring at the beginning of Cod. Chisianus ( Α, Σ, Θ), are strongly suggestive of translation (cf. Song, ‘Language,’ p. 49).

The controversy which was started by Africanus with Origen (and resumed by Porphyry3737Adv. Christ., Bk. XII. with Eusebius of Cæsarea, and by Rufinus with Jerome) as to the famous play upon the names of the trees (vv. 54–60) is still unsettled. Some see in the paronomasiæ conclusive proof of the originality of the Greek; others still contend with Origen that they are no certain evidence as to determination of language. But few will think the analogous case which he (Origen) gives from Gen. ii. 23 a very convincing one (D. C. B. art. Heb. Learning, p. 858b.). Still we must remember that the Hebrew language was fond of paronomasiæ, and that Daniel employs the figure in the canonical book (v. 25–28). In other O. T. instances of its use it is, however, difficult to to see that the LXX made any attempt to reproduce the word-play, e.g. Isai. v. 7, Mic. i. 10; nor does either Greek version in Dan. v. 25–28.3838For similar instances of word-play see accounts of Melito’s pseudo-Clavis, D. C. B. iii. 897b, and Muratorian Fragment, line 67. But 133ἄνεσις and ἄφεσις in I. Esd. iv. 62 looks like a word-play in what may not be original Greek; though a Semitic original of that section of I. Esd. (iii. 1 to v. 6) is by no means proved.

It has been shewn, however, in the case before us, how an adequate play might be produced in Aramaic, as also in English (Hastings’ D. B. art. Sus.). A. Scholz, too, in his Commentary attempts this, with only moderate success, in Hebrew3939Jerome in his Prol. gal. shews how it might be done in Latin; and in the Vulgate some attempt is made to reproduce it in vv. 54, 56 (‘schinus, scindit’). Luther tried after rhymes in German, ’Linden,’ ’finden,’ ’Eiche,’ ’zeichnen.’ In the French version of Martin no play is attempted; but in the Arabic, according to Delitzsch (op. cit. 102), an easy one is produced.; and Delitzsch (op. cit. 102) gives some Aramaic possibilities of it from Plessner. As the precise punishments named were not carried out, this passage in the original, whatever it may have been, was clearly constructed with a view to introduce their names.

It is interesting to compare and contrast the account of the Woman taken in Adultery (St. John viii.) with that of Susanna, the one truly, the other falsely, accused. There are, as might be expected, some verbal parallels, but not sufficient to prove that the N. T. writer was influenced by the History of Susanna, nor to give us material assistance in deciding its 134original language (cf. III. ‘Language,’ p. 49). Notwithstanding the general inclination towards Greek, this must at present be left in doubt, and a verdict of ’non liquet’ given.

In the following observations on specific points in the language, instances telling in both directions have been included:

v. 3 Οʹ, Θ. The Use of κατά after διδάσκω, instead of a double accusative, suggests a translation of למד followed by ב or מן, with either of which it is sometimes constructed.

v. 5 Οʹ, Θ. If Aramaic be the original language, ἐδόκουν may well represent צְבָא as in IV. 14, as in V. 23 and elsewhere.

v. 6 Οʹ, Θ. Scholz deems κρίσεις and κρινόμενοι to be based on a confusion between משפטים and נשפטּים.

v. 7, 15, 19, 28 Θ. καὶ ἐγένετο is suggestive of ויהי.

v. 8, 14, 56 Οʹ, Θ. The use of ἐπιθυμία in a bad sense, and of ἐπιθυμέω in a perfectly innocent one in v. 15 , seems careless, and may point to translation from an original, where different roots were used, e.g. אהב ,חמד ,אוה. Cf. LXX of Deut. v. 21 (18) for a rendering of two different Hebrew roots by the 135same word, ἐπιθυμέω, though in that case they are both employed in a bad sense.

v. 15 Θ. καθὼς ἐχθὲς καὶ τρίτης ἡμέρας looks like כִּתְמוֹל שִׁלְשֹׁם as in Gen. xxxi. 5 and II. Kings xiii. 5. ”Wörtlich hebräisch,” as Reuss notes in loc. If Aramaic were the original, it might be וּמִדְקָדְמוֹהִי כְּמֵאֶתְמָלֵי

v. 17 Θ. σμήγματα, “exprimere voluit Heb. בורית“ but תמרוק (Esth. ii. 3, 9, 12) seems quite as likely as this suggestion of Grotius: Both roots are Aramaic as well as Hebrew.

v. 11, 30, 39, 63 Θ. An instance similar to that given above (vv. 8, 14, 56) is the use of συγγενέσθαι in a bad sense in vv. 11, 39, and στγγενεῖς innocently in vv. 30, 63.

v. 19 Οʹ. συνθέμενοι = זמן either in Aramaic or Hebrew, as in ii. 9, while ἐξεβιάζοντο = כבש, as in Esth. vii. 8.

v. 22 Θ. Στενά μοι πάντοθεν occurs also in David’s choice, II. Sam. xxiv. 14 (closer than I. Chron. xxi. 13). The certainty of its being a translation in the one place increases the probability of its being so in the other, suggesting a common original, unless we suppose a Greek author borrowing a Septuagintal phrase.


v. 23 Οʹ, Θ. On the other hand, the participial clause in this verse in both versions seems un-Hebraic in form; as also the phrase ὁ τῶν κρυπτῶν γνώστης in v. 42 Θ, which is not very like a translation from the Hebrew. There is a certain resemblance to Dan. ii. 28, 29 (Οʹ, Θ), ὁ ἀποκαλύπτων μυστήρια, however; but the latter contemplates God as revealing mysteries to others, the former as knowing secrets Himself.

v. 26 Θ. Scholz’ idea that πλαγίας = קרי (as in Lev. xxvi. 21, etc.) would suit either Aramaic or Hebrew.

v. 27 Θ. Adduced as Hebraism in Winer’s G. T. Grammar (E. T. 1870, p. 214); apparently, but not very clearly, on the strength of the phrase πώποτε οὐκ ἐρρέθη.

v. 36 Θ. The genitive absolute is Greek in character, but does not occur in Οʹ.

v. 44 Θ. Εἰσήκουσεν . . . . τῆς φωνῆς. A Hebraism, as in Gen. xxi. 17, and often.

v. 53 Οʹ, Θ. The quotation is exact in both versions from the LXX of Lev. xxiii. 7. This fact may be thought to tell slightly in favour of a Greek original. In the canonical Dan. ix. 13 there is a reference, without precise quotation, to Moses’ law, 137so that this mention is not out of character. The phraseology of the verse in Θ has a distinctly Hebraistic look, much more so than in Οʹ.

v. 55 Οʹ, Θ. ψυχήν, κεφαλήν = נֶפֶשׁ Isai. xliii. 4.

v. 56 Οʹ. The epithet μικρά, as applied to the ἐπιθυμία of the Elder, is inappropriate, and suggests an error of translation. Now טמאה is rendered by μικρά in Josh. xxii. 194040Μιαρά for μικρά would yield good sense, but evidence for such a reading is absent., and this word would yield a very good sense in a Semitic original here, supposed to lie in the background.

v. 57 Οʹ, Θ. If an animus against Israel, as Judah’s inferior, is really shewn here it would point to a Babylonian, and therefore Semitic, original, inasmuch as the enmity between Israel and Judah does not appear to have been so strong at Alexandria. The use of ‘Israel,’ however, in v. 48 seems to include all in the first instance, and to be employed of Susanna specially in the second, who was presumably of Judah. The Syro-Hexaplar omits what was most likely deemed an invidious reflection. The reference to Hos. iv. 15 in the Speaker’s Comm. (note) does not seem apposite as to its mention of Israel and Judah in the LXX; only in the Hebrew.


The phrase τὴν νόσον ὑμῶν comes in strangely, as Θ, by omitting it, apparently thought. It is suggestive of a translation, perhaps of חָלִי, which seems to be used of moral disease in Hos. v. 13, and is there rendered by νόσος.

v. 59 Οʹ, Θ. Why ὑμᾶς? In LXX it comes in very awkwardly, where σε would naturally be expected.

Scholz, not improbably, suggests that μένει (Θ) and ἕστηκεν (Οʹ) have been caused by reading קוה and קום respectively, renderings which are actually found of those words elsewhere in the LXX, e.g. Isai. v. 2 and Dan. ii. 31. That confusion sometimes occurred between ה and the final ם is known.

v. 61 Θ. Τῷ πλησίον, though referring to Susanna, may be a translation of רֵעַ, a word apparently regarded by Gesenius as epicene; so in Gen. xxiii. 3, 4, 8 τὸν νεκρόν is the rendering of מֵת, meaning Sarah’s corpse, ”sine sexus discrimine“ (Ges.). But πλησίον may be used here of ‘neighbour’ collectively without exclusive reference to Susanna.

v. 62 Οʹ. Φάραγξ, a frequent translation of גַּיְא or נַחַל. As it does not appear that there are any natural ravines in Babylon, this might refer to a deep moat outside the wall.


v. 64 (62) Οʹ. Scholz says, ”Εἰς ist sclavische Uebersetzung von ל das der Hervorhebung des Objektes dienen soll.“ This is probable, though ’sclavische’ seems an unnecessary epithet.


The style is that of a clearly-told narrative, with little of a strained or rhetorical character about it; indeed there is less of this than in much of the canonical Daniel. Ideas are well expressed and the story well proportioned. There is nothing superfluous; everything bears on the main theme. Nor is it unnatural that Daniel is made to use a play on words out of the Elders’ own mouths in order to render his sentence of condemnation more strikingly emphatic.

There is high literary skill in the simple yet effective way of narration. The story is a practical example of the saying, ”Ars est celare artem,” a fact which will be best appreciated by any who will try to tell the tale as well in their own words.4141 “And that which all faire workes doth most aggrace, The art which all that wrought appeared in no place.” Spenser, Faery Queene, II. XII. 58. Holtzmann calls it, ”besonders von der Kunst vielfach gefeierte Novelle“ (Schenkel’s Bibel Lex. 1875).


The lack of spontaneity and original freshness sometimes charged4242I. Macc., Fairweather and Black, Camb. 1897, p. 14; Streane, Age of Macc., Lond. 1898, pp. 247, 248.fs against the apocryphal books is by no means conspicuous here, nor, though perhaps less decisively, in the next addition, Bel and the Dragon. The exciting interview between Daniel and the Elders is so drawn as to arouse much interest. By the first incident the whole current of Susanna’s life is abruptly changed, and her destiny is made to hang in the balance for some time in a natural, but very effective, manner. The writer has a deep knowledge of the principles and actions of human feeling, and a thorough grasp of the art, by no means so easy as it looks, of telling a short story in a very engaging style. Plot, surprise, struggle, unfolding of character, and much else which is regarded as contributing to excellence in such a composition, we find here.

In the so-called Harklensian (W2 of Salmon = Churton’s Syr.4343I. Macc., Fairweather and Black, Camb. 1897, p. 14; Streane, Age of Macc., Lond. 1898, pp. 247, 248.) various details are added, such as the judgment chair brought out, which Daniel refuses, standing up to judge; Susanna’s chains (27, 50); her tears (33, 42); and her condemnation to death at the ninth hour (41). These are obviously 141designed to heighten, by the introduction of more detailed particulars, the effect of the narrative. The tale is so interesting and so true to nature that its popularity is easily explained. That it became a favourite story, in an age not given to prudery, for reading and for oral repetition, is not surprising. Like all such, it was subject to changes of form and gradual accretions. Oral repetition, as well as non-canonicity amongst the Jews will, to a considerable extent, account for the divergences between the LXX and Theodotion’s recensions. The latter, in Reuss’ opinion (VI. 412), ”ist reicher an Einzelnheiten und auch besser stilisiert.“ With this view, in the main, most will feel themselves in accord.

« Prev Language and Style. Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |