Today in the V&A I happened to be passing the stained glass corridor when I spotted the two panes below. I hadn’t heard the story of Susanna and the Elders before and was quite intrigued. This, then, is the story.
Susanna was a faithful but incredibly sexy looking wife of some guy who isn’t mentioned. One day she was having a strip wash, indoor plumbing having not reached her neck of the woods at this stage, enjoying the sun, the birds and the shade of a nearby tree. Little did she know that she was not alone.
Hiding nearby but with a clear view of her ablutions were two old pervs. They were Elders and particularly lascivious. As happens quite often with addiction, these chaps weren’t satisfied with just watching the object of their enraged passions. On her way home they accosted her, telling poor Susanna that they would say they’d seen her having a bit of illicit with her young stud muffin if she didn’t do nasty things with them.
To say that Susanna was a bit shocked by this is probably an understatement but, sadly, the text doesn’t elucidate being far more interested in the men. What the text does say is that Sophie told them to go to Buggery (a small naval outpost near Sodom) and went home to, presumably, her husband.
The thwarted Elders, wanting to exact a bit of pre-ABC televisual revenge, reported her to the head of the judiciary…or whatever was the judiciary around their parts. It occurs to me that it was probably a bunch of other Elders who were all dressed in bejewelled robes with ermine trim and funny hats, exacting revenge whenever they could and laughing about it at tea parties.
Anyway, they decided the two pervs were right and Susanna was guilty as sin (this was before Jesus died for them so they were not as good as they are these days). She was sentenced to death…probably in as painful way as possible because that’s the only way they knew how to do it before the Enlightenment. (Actually things were pretty unenlightened in the so-called Enlightenment when it came to death sentences. Still…)
But then, up popped Daniel to save the day. Now, I have no idea if this is the same Daniel with the lion or Boone or Radcliffe but it would seem that he held some sway over the Elders. He questioned the two rascally Elders having separated them first (clever boy) in order to hear the two versions of the same story. Everything was the same except for one, seemingly unimportant detail.
Daniel asked each of them what type of tree was growing behind Susanna while she was allegedly enjoying her young lover.
Now (I reckon this is the most interesting bit of the story) the men did not agree on the species of tree. I’m not surprised that two sexually frustrated Elders, in the midst of enjoying the view of a nymphette like Susanna at her bath, would fail to recognise the species of tree, let alone agree but it’s not that. No, they both claimed it was a particular species only not the same one.
Of course, the case was thrown out of court and the two Elders were both killed for being liars and giving false evidence in order to make them feel better about their appeal to unavailable women.
And the puns? This is where the story gets quite odd. It seems that in the ancient Greek in which this story was (possibly but not definitely) first written, the words for the two species were puns. The puns aren’t very funny but one implies cutting someone in two and the other implies sawing, both instances by angels. I guess humour wasn’t that refined in the 3rd century BC.
And that’s the bible study class for today.
Before I leave off, I accidentally came across a letter in the nominal store today while looking for something else.
It might be a bit diffcult to see who it is from so I’ve taken a detail of the signature and put it below.
How cool is that? Far more amazing than Susanna and the stupid Elders!