Neo-Platonic influence in rejecting a more literal approach to Song of Solomon

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Puritan Board Senior
Are we adopting a neo-platonic view?


I prefer the more literal view. We seem to shy away from the more corporeal aspects of this life. The puritans did not shy away from excommunicating thos ewho failed to fulfill their marital obligations (have sex frequently with their spouse) - have not heard of it comming up at church meetings recently though.

I am always wary of taking things allegorically. What are the rules for identifying an allegorical passage?

The New Testament, does it quote Song of Solomon? If so does it do so allegorically? If as some propose it is a metaphor/allegory for the CHURCH I would expect that it is quoted profusely AND in that context.

It is a falsifiable proposition - I'm off to check out if it holds water (Concordance etc...)

-----Added 4/16/2009 at 09:36:48 EST-----

NT References


8 references?
1. SS 2:1 use of the word "lily" in Luke 12:27 evokes a reference to "lily of the valley" BOTANICAL REFERENCE

2. SS 2:7 "daughters of Jerusalem" in Luke 23:28 is also found in Isaiah, Zephaniah and Zechariah AN ALLUSION?

3. SS 2:16 Pauls emphasis on the reciprosity of sexual relations recalls the mutual belonging in Song of Solomon SEXUAL

4. SS 8:6 Reference to "Hades" found in the OT SS one of a dozen sources dozen CULTURAL/Theological

5. SS 4:4 use of the term "one thousand" in Revelation may be temporal or non-temporal as in a thousand shields (along with 12 other reference) NUMERICAL

6. SS 5:4 "hand" being a euphamism for the male genitalia (also Isa 57:8) SEXUAL

7. SS 5:7 the removing of the cloak was a serious affront Luke 6:29 recalling the Song of Solomon verses CULTURAL

8. SS 8:2There is a parallel in John 14:3 the groom taking the bride to be with him and the SS bride taking the groom to be with her mother???? ALLUSION

In short I can find no direct quotations at all. SS helps understand the culture non-temporal use of numbers etc...

The only "allusion" which might serve as allegory (No.8) has role reversal at it's root - so forgive me if I say the evidence does not support the hypothesis and the proposition is falsified!

Unless of course somebody knows of a direct quotation :worms:
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Puritanboard Amanuensis
Unless of course somebody knows of a direct quotation :worms:

Only a direct quotation of Psalm 45, a song of loves, in Hebrews 1:8, 9, "But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows."


Arbitrary Moderation
Respectfully, brother, but I don't see how the above falsifies anything.

Perhaps consider the following propositions, and let me know what you think:

1. Simply because a type or allegory of the OT is not specifically cited in the NT does not invalidate it; for instance, Joseph being handed over unto bondage and death by his own brethren, descending into the land of death (Egypt), then rescued from death, exalted and given rule over all the land, by which he is able to save his people (Israel) -- this seems pretty typological of Christ; and yet the NT does not mention this. Should we thereby conclude it is an invalid type?

2. The quotes which you brought forward, consider if they are really as strong as you think. Is the fact that a few similar words occur in the NT without allegorical emphasis truly substantial grounds for saying, "Ergo, etc."

3. If so, then I could bring forth any NT case wherein the relationship between Christ and the church is described by marital terms, and say this is founded in the Song of Solomon; or Christ standing at the door and knocking (see Song 5:2); or perhaps, as Durham notes, the drawing of his church unto himself in John 6 (see Song 1:4). All of these are at least equally strong (though I would say much stronger) than the allusions you brought forth. Also, concordances don't tell us everything; thematic parallels are often stronger than identical word usage.

4. Is there any other basis than NT use by which we could judge a piece of scripture to be allegorical? I think evidence internal to the book itself (that is, if external evidence is lacking) should be our starting point. The lack of external evidence proves nothing; the case must be made exegetically in the book itself.

5. As a reassurance, interpreting this book allegorically does not lead to a Neo-Platonism, or a neglect of the corporeal aspects of this life. For instance, you noted the puritans and their emphasis upon sexual relations within marriage -- in fairness, it should be noted that the allegorical interpretation of the Song was the standard among Puritan divines.

I understand that many respectable modern scholars hold a literal view; and I appreciate much of the work that has gone into their conclusions. I simply disagree:

1. Though this is entirely subjective, my primary reason is that I hear the voice of my shepherd calling to us so plainly in this book. This doesn't mean that it has no application for you and your wife: the very fact that Christ is willing to describe his relationship to the church in such glowing language of love and sexuality automatically raises the value and dignity of such relations with your wife. And,

2. Objectively, I think that the internal evidence bares the evidence better. For one, as Rev. Winzer has noted in another thread, if this is understood literally, how do we account for the lack of monogamy? Or, as beautiful as the love between a man and woman is, considering the lofty topics of other songs in scripture, would this really deserve the title "The Song of Songs," if the meaning were thus restricted? Other examples could be brought forth.

I hope this can be the start of some fruitful dialogue, brother, and that others will join in.


Puritan Board Doctor
Why can the Song of Songs be not both? I have come to understand it as a literal record of a literal relationship that God has given us that also represents the relationship of Christ and his church. We can learn much about our marriages from reading it. And, we can also glean much of value in reading it as an allegory. It seems that most people hold that it can only be one or the other.


Arbitrary Moderation
Pastor Underwood,

In principle, I agree with your statement. I think Mr. Durham has some good things to say on the matter, however, when it comes to the Song.

I grant that it hath a Literal meaning, But I say, that literal meaning is not
immediate, and that which first looketh out, as in Historical Scriptures, or others
which are not figurative, but that which is spiritually, and especially meant by
these Allegorick and Figurative Speeches, is the Literal meaning of this Song: So
that its Literal Sense is mediate, representing the meaning, not immediately from
the Words, but mediately from the Scope, that is, the Intention of the Spirit, which
is couched under the Figures and Allegories, here made use of: For, a Literal
Sense (as it is defined by Rivet out of the School-men) is that which floweth from
such a place of Scripture, as intended by the Spirit in the words, whether Properly
or Figuratively used, and is to be gathered from the whole complex expression
together, applied thereunto, as in the Exposition of Parables, Allegories, and
Figurative Scriptures is clear; And it were as improper and absurd to deny a
Figurative Sense (though' Literal) to these, as it were to fix Figurative Expositions
upon plain Scriptures, which are properly to be taken.

For there is a Two-fold Literal Sense of Scripture. 1. Proper and
Immediate, as where it's said, Solomon married Pharaoh's Daughter. The Second
is Figurative and Mediate, as when it is said, Matth 22.2. A certain King made a
Marriage to his Son, &c. Both have a literal meaning. The first Immediate,
fulfilled in Solomon: The second is Mediate, setting out God's calling Jews and
Gentiles unto Fellowship with His Son; and so that Parable is to be understood in
a Spiritual Sense. Now we say, this Song (if we would take up its true sense and
meaning) is not to be understood the first way, Properly and Immediately, but the
second way, Figuratively and Mediately, as holding forth some Spiritual thing
under borrowed expressions, which will further appear from these things.

Pardon the lengthy quote. Also, I think the distinction he raises in his Key to the Song between Typology and Allegory is helpful in understanding this book.


Puritan Board Doctor
Simply put perspicuity is the understandability, clarity, or lucidity of the text. The perspicuity of Scripture is a hallmark of the Reformation. It is understandable by the common man. A priest rendering understanding on behalf of the church is not required.


Puritan Board Senior
Why can the Song of Songs be not both? I have come to understand it as a literal record of a literal relationship that God has given us that also represents the relationship of Christ and his church. We can learn much about our marriages from reading it. And, we can also glean much of value in reading it as an allegory. It seems that most people hold that it can only be one or the other.

I think this is a great point, Pastor Underwood. The Old Testament is full of literal historical episodes that are types or representations of our relationship with Him: the exodus is a historical fact but also symbolizes His freeing us from the bondage of sin; the story of Ruth and Boaz is historical and also symbolizes the concept of Christ as our kinsman-redeemer. The Song of Songs is just another example of a real human romance that teaches us not only about marriage, but also about God's desire for an intimate relationship for us.

So to answer the OP, we should take the Song of Songs as a literal story that teaches about sex and marriage, but also understand it as an allegory for Christ's love for His church.
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