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David Bell
David Bell

Christadelphian Hymn Book Pdf 42



Probably no other book in all the Bible has given rise to such aplethora of interpretations as the Song of Songs. Saadia, a medieval Jewishcommentator said the Song of Songs is like a book for which the key has beenlost. Over one hundred years ago, the noted Old Testament scholar FranzDelitzsch remarked,




Christadelphian Hymn Book Pdf 42


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The Song is the most obscure book of the OldTestament. Whatever principle of interpretation one may adopt, there alwaysremains a number of inexplicable passages, and just such as, if we understoodthem, would help to solve the mystery. And yet the interpretation of a bookpresupposes from the beginning that the interpreter has mastered the idea ofthe whole. It has thus become an ungrateful task; for however successful theinterpreter may be in the separate parts, yet he will be thanked for his workonly when the conception as a whole which he has decided upon is approvedof.[1]


Delitzsch correctly pointed out that the challenge lies inconceptualizing the idea of the whole, and yet it is precisely the uniquefeatures of this book that make this such a formidable task. More recentlyHarrison addressed this very issue.


Few books of the Old Testament have experienced as wide a varietyof interpretations as the Song of Songs. The absence of specifically religiousthemes has combined with the erotic lyrics and the vagueness of any plot forthe work to furnish for scholars an almost limitless ground forspeculation.[2]


Understandably these problems led to the allegorical treatment ofthe book by Jewish as well as Christian scholars. This particular method, whichheld sway up through the nineteenth century, is now losing its following. Yetdespite the multitude of alternative suggestions, no other interpretive schemehas gained a consensus among Old Testament exegetes.


The interpretive perplexity of the book is even reflected by itsoriginal placement in the Hebrew canon, though this matter is obscured byEnglish translations. The Song of Songs () appears in the sacred"writings" of the Jewish canon as one of the five Megilloth (along with Ruth,Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther).[3] In factthe Song appears first in this section, and it is read at the first Jewishfestival of the year, namely, Passover. The connection with Passover, however,is not accidental. The Jewish Targum interpreted the Song as a picture of thehistory of the Hebrew nation beginning with the Exodus, an event most naturallyassociated with the Feast of Passover (Exod 12). So Passover was an appropriatetime for the reading of the Song of Songs, and it was read on the eighth day ofthat festival. In the Septuagint, however, the Song was placed afterEcclesiastes, a decision which in turn influenced its place in moderntranslations.


This will serve as an appropriate foundational study for aninterpretation of the book that is most consistent with agrammatical-historical-contextual hermeneutic. A second article ("The Messageof the Song of Songs") will set forth an interpretation of the Song thatfollows the "literal-didactic" approach and yet which offers a uniqueinterpretation of the whole.


In this article a discussion of the date and authorship of thebook will not be pursued, but the matter of the book's unity is a more relevantissue.[5] A number of scholars have denied anyessential unity in the book and have concluded that the Song is simply acollection of love poems (with multiple authors).[6]However, in light of the abundant repetition of words and phrases,[7] the repeated refrains and themes, and the intricatestructuring of the book,[8] it is more likely that asingle author or editor is responsible for the present work.[9] "The repetitions that occur leave the impression of asingle hand, and there is greater unity of theme and style than would beexpected in a collection of poems from several hands and from widely separatedsources."[10] Deere provides a helpful summary ofthe arguments in favor of the book's unity.


(1) The same characters are seen throughout thebook (the beloved maiden, the lover, and the daughters of Jerusalem). (2)Similar expressions and figures of speech are used throughout the book.Examples are: love more delightful than wine (1:2 ; 4:10 ), fragrant perfumes(1:3, 12 ; 3:6 ; 4:10 ), the beloved's cheeks (1:10 ; 5:13 ), her eyes likedoves (1:15 ; 4:1 ), her teeth like sheep (4:2 ; 6:6 ), her charge to thedaughters of Jerusalem (2:7 ; 3:5 ; 8:4 ), the lover like a gazelle (2:9, 17 ;8:14 ), Lebanon (3:9 ; 4:8, 11, 15 ; 7:4 ), and numerous references to nature.(3) Hebrew grammatical peculiarities found only in this book suggest a singleauthor. (4) The progression in the subject matter points to a single work, notan anthology.[11]


The notion that the Song of Songs should be understood in itsplain normal sense has been firmly resisted throughout most of history.Advocates of the allegorical view have been adamant that there must be some"spiritual" message to the book that exceeds the supposed earthly theme ofhuman sexuality.[12](12) As a result, theallegorists have stressed a spiritual meaning that goes beneath the surfacereading. The outcome of this method, however, has been a host ofinterpretations as numerous as those who follow this approach. Jewishinterpreters understood the text as an allegory of the love between God and thenation of Israel, and Christian interpreters have suggested that the bookdepicts love between Christ and His bride, the church. The interpretation ofthe details, however, became quite varied and fanciful.


and by the medieval Jewish commentators Saadia, Rashi, and IbnEzra. The Targum on the Song interpreted the book as expressing the graciouslove of God toward His people manifested in periods of Hebrew history from theExodus until the coming of the Messiah (these historical periods weresupposedly discernible in the Song of Songs).[14]


Not surprisingly, Origen became the grand champion of theallegorical interpretation of Song of Songs. In addition to a series ofhomilies, he produced a ten-volume commentary on the book.[17] Origen was influenced by the Jewish interpretation andby his elder contemporary Hippolytus, but he was also a product of several


Jerome (331-420), who produced the Latin Vulgate, praisedOrigen and embraced most of his views. As a result, he was instrumental inintroducing the allegorical interpretation into the Western churches. Bernardof Clairvaux (1909-1153) preached eighty-six sermons on the Song of Songs,covering only the first two chapters. He was given to obsessive allegoricalinterpretation in an attempt to purge it of any suggestion of "carnal lust."Many others throughout church history approached the book allegorically,including John Wesley, Matthew Henry, E. W. Hengstenberg, C. F. Keil, and H. A.Ironside.[21]


The bride as the state under Solomon's rule. Whilerejecting the normal allegorical interpretation, Martin Luther was still notable to embrace the literal erotic sense of the book. So he "propounded thetheory that the bride of the Song is the happy and peaceful State underSolomon's rule and that the Song is a hymn in which Solomon thanks God for thedivine gift of obedience."[23]


a prophetical narrative of the transactions andevents that are to happen in the Church. The divisions of the book correspondto the periods of the history of the Church and to the seven trumpets and theseven seals of the Apocalypse of John…. The exposition becomesparticularly full and detailed with the Reformation and culminates with thefuture triumph of Protestantism.[24]


Proponents of the allegorical method claim that Scriptureelsewhere uses an allegorical method (e.g., Ps 45 and Isa 51:1-17 are saidto have allegorical overtones). Also they say Scripture elsewhere uses themarriage relationship to depict a greater spiritual truth, as in the prophetswhere the marriage relationship bears an analogy to Yahweh's position towardIsrael (Isa 54:6; 61:10 ). Bullock points out that because the book is profusewith symbolism and figures of speech, it lends itself readily to a nonliteralinterpretation. This can be illustrated from the perceptive analysis of Gordison 2:4-5 : "When, for example, the maiden, in 2:4f., announces that she isfaint with love and asks to be sustained with raisins and apples, she iscalling for concrete food, to be sure, but at the same time, by herchoice of fruits that are symbolic of love, she is indicating that only thesatisfaction of her desires will bring her healing."[28] Bullock concludes, "Such extravagant symbolism tends topush the interpreter in the direction of allegory or typology, because therichness of the symbols seems difficult to exhaust by means of a literalinterpretation."[29]


speech does not permit interpreters to veer into unrestrainedallegorical treatment of the text. Kinlaw notes that this little book does nothave a clear progressive story line one usually expects in allegory.[30] Rather, the book seems to speak of a historical episodein Solomon's life that should be understood literally. As for symbolic use ofthe husband-bride picture elsewhere in Scripture, one should observe theuniqueness of such instances. "A fundamental objection to allegorical method,based upon other Old Testament Scriptures…is that when the male-femalerelationship is employed allegorically it is clearly indicated as such, whereasin Canticles there is no hint of an allegorical approach."[31]


The typical view is given abundant scripturalsupport. Both in the Old Testament and the New Testament the relationship ofthe Lord's people to the Lord is illustrated under the figure of marriage.Israel is the wife of Jehovah (Hos 2:19-23), in her sin and unbelief nowdivorced, but yet to be restored (Isa 54:5; Jer 3:1; Hos 1-3 ) in mostwonderful grace and glory, which we believe is the aspect of the mutual lovethat is highlighted in the book. On the other hand, the Christian church ispresented as a virgin espoused to Christ (2 Cor 11:2; Eph 5:23-32; Rev19:6-8) and is also typically reflected as a part of the redeemed.[36]


In the early nineteenth century Ewald, a German critical scholar,popularized the view that the key to understanding the Song was to recognizethree main characters in the book: Solomon, a Shulammite maiden, and a commonshepherd.[37] Ewald said the Shulammite maiden wasin love with her shepherd companion, and tension in the book stems fromSolomon's attempt to take her for himself. Ewald "suggested that the king hadcarried off the maiden by force to his harîm, but that when sheresisted his advances he permitted her to return to the locale of her rusticlover."[38] Jacobi suggested that the purpose of theSong was to celebrate the fidelity of true love and that the Shulammite maidenis the heroine of the book for remaining true to her humble shepherd husband.Pope explains the position of Jacobi: "King Solomon was smitten with her beautyand tried to persuade her to forsake her husband and enter the royal harem,tempting her with all the luxuries and splendors of his court. She, however,resisted every temptation and remained true to her humble husband."[39] 350c69d7ab


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