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Susanna

daniel tree story image

The story of Susanna forms an apocryphal addition to the Old Testament book of *Daniel (located as the thirteenth chapter of Daniel in the Vulgate). This short text tells how the chaste and beautiful Susanna (married to the wealthy and honored Joakim and living in Babylon) was falsely accused of adultery by two elders who hid themselves in the garden and surprised her while she was bathing. She refused their advances, and they retaliated by charging her with having committed adultery under a tree with a young man. She was condemned to *death, but her prayers to *God were answered; God inspired the youthful Daniel to question the two elders separately, and when their stories differed (concerning the type of tree under which they had spied Susanna in her alleged act), they were convicted of bearing false witness and were put to death. This story of faith, salvation, answered prayers, and justice is illustrated in early Christian sculpture and catacomb frescoes, sometimes in the symbolic form of a lamb between two wolves or paired with the image of Daniel flanked by lions; the enthroned Daniel judging wisely may also be paired with the *Judgment of Solomon. Illustrations are found through the Gothic period although the image of the partly clothed or nude Susanna in her bath becomes most popular in the postmedieval period.

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