Three Mirrors for Two Biblical Ladies: Susanna and the Queen of Sheba in the Eyes of Jews, Christians, and Muslims
Pennacchietti, Fabrizio A.
Piscataway, N.J.: Gorgias, 2006 pp. 146. $50.00
Description: The biblical episode relating the encounter of the Queen of Sheba with Solomon and the apocryphal tale of Susanna, a Jewish aristocrat in exile in Babylon, slanderously accused of adultery by two notable judges and saved by the prophet Daniel, then a mere stripling (Daniel 13), have always inspired narrative and figurative art, becoming part of the collective imagination in West and East. The figures of these two Old Testament women have been adapted in time and space to meet the expectations and changing cultural horizons of the Jewish, Christian, or Muslim community to whom it is addressed. Like mirrors, various periods and modes of late-Ancient and medieval Judaism, Christianity and Islam have each, in their own way, reflected the characteristics of the great Queen and of the chaste Susanna.
The Queen of Sheba has become part of a cycle of popular legends about the magical and miraculous powers attributed to Solomon. On the one hand, she has taken on the ambiguous features of a witch or a demon; on the other, she has been transformed into a sibyl who foretells the Passion of Christ.
In the case of Susanna, there lies half-hidden behind her story an ancient myth about the fall of the angels. In the Samaritan and Arab-Islamic version, as well as in Boccaccio’s reworking of the story, Susanna has been transformed into a disarmingly lovely, naive young girl, who has chosen to become an ascetic in the isolation of the desert. Reminiscences of the cycle of the Wood of the Cross, into which Christian narrators have inserted the figure of the Queen of Sheba, can also be found in an Arab-Islamic version of the tale of Susanna.
Subjects: Methods, Historical Approaches, History, History of Interpretation
Review by Carole R. Fontaine
Citation: Carole R. Fontaine, review of Fabrizio A. Pennacchietti, Three Mirrors for Two Biblical Ladies: Susanna and the Queen of Sheba in the Eyes of Jews, Christians, and Muslims, Review of Biblical Literature [http://www.bookreviews.org] (2009).
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