Song of Solomon - is it allegorical or not?

Discussion in 'OT Wisdom Literature' started by C. Matthew McMahon, Oct 13, 2003.

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  1. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    What do you think? Is the Song of Songs primarily about marriage, or Christ and the church?
     
  2. SolaScriptura

    SolaScriptura Puritan Board Doctor

    Primarily about marriage, but since marriage itself is a picture of Christ's relationship with his Church, it is legitimate to see glimpses of that aspect as well.
     
  3. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    I think your question is too limited. I think it refers to both :) Either way we can glean principles for marriage and for our spiritual marriage to Christ. I think it is an actual historical event recorded, but I think it is given to illustrate spiritual elements.
    And I tend to favor James Durham's approach in his commentary on the Song of Solomon, that it applies to Christ and the believer, rather than the entire church, though I don't think their is much of a difference in principle.
    :wr50:
    Puritan Sailor

    [Edited on 10-13-2003 by puritansailor]
     
  4. KayJay

    KayJay Puritan Board Freshman

    A different perspective...

    I heard an interesting perspective on the book from a professor I had at Bible college. He believed that it was about the faithfulness of the Shulammite woman. Is that wierd? I liked it because it has always seemed strange to me that we'd think the book is about Christ and the Church when I think Solomon is not exactly of upstanding character when it comes to marriage(s). It is odd to compare him to Christ in this way.

    [Edited on 10-13-2003 by KayJay]
     
  5. Ianterrell

    Ianterrell Puritan Board Sophomore

    I'm hoping to resurrect this thread.

    Historically the Song of Songs was included in the Jewish canon because it was conjectured that the book was a love song between God and Israel allegorized in the relationship between Solomon and the Shunnamite woman. Christian scholarship took it the same way though qualifying that it was a love song sung from the Groom to the Bride.

    Now I'm not sure if everyone is aware of this but it is to say the least a significant opinion among biblical scholars today that the Song of Solomon is actually a collection of love poems many of which were written by Solomon, and that it is not really a spiritual allegory between God and the Church. This is my opinion as well. You see for a time the book was kept far away from such ideas until recently when love poems of the same structure and content were found in the Middle East dating around the same time as the Song of Solomon. The Song of Solomon shares in their form and content many similarities.

    The Song is broken up into about 30 short poems, and there is no consistent narrative. There is certainly no consistent figurative narrative to be drawn out. It is decidedly romantic in its language and since it is romantic language between husband and wife it is undoubtably analogous to the Christ-Church romance on a certain level. But it cannot be said that the author of the book had a specific allegory in mind as there appears to have been at least a few other authors such as we see in Solomon's book Proverbs.

    :wr50:
     
  6. smhbbag

    smhbbag Puritan Board Senior

    I would find it almost impossible to establish that the primary (or even a main) perspective of the author is to comment on God and Israel, or Christ and the Church.

    This is a passionate, God-honoring, sacred account of the love between a man and wife....obviously that has plenty of secondary implications about Christ and the Church etc., but first and foremost, this is just a man and woman exulting in their God-given love. It is truly beautiful.

    [Edited on 6-16-2004 by smhbbag]
     
  7. Dan....

    Dan.... Puritan Board Sophomore

    How Song of Solomon portrays Jesus Christ is by no means a "secondary implication". Christ is primary in scriptures. The scriptures are the Revelation of Jesus Christ. They testify of Him.
     
  8. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    [quote:4dccec4fe2][i:4dccec4fe2]Originally posted by smhbbag[/i:4dccec4fe2]
    I would find it almost impossible to establish that the primary (or even a main) perspective of the author is to comment on God and Israel, or Christ and the Church.
    [/quote:4dccec4fe2]
    Why do you say that?
     
  9. smhbbag

    smhbbag Puritan Board Senior

    PS - All I meant by that statement was that......when a man is praising and glorying in the beauty of his wife and their love for each other......his primary concern is not, "ok, so I want to make sure that anyone who reads this will be able to understand some intricacies of the relationship between God and Israel" - He wasn't preaching a sermon to people out of one side of his mouth and praising his wife with the other. His focus is singular - praising God for His glorious creation of their love. It is inspired and holy and teaches a lot, but it is not a pastoral epistle!
     
  10. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    [quote:a27eec59f7][i:a27eec59f7]Originally posted by smhbbag[/i:a27eec59f7]
    PS - All I meant by that statement was that......when a man is praising and glorying in the beauty of his wife and their love for each other......his primary concern is not, "ok, so I want to make sure that anyone who reads this will be able to understand some intricacies of the relationship between God and Israel" - He wasn't preaching a sermon to people out of one side of his mouth and praising his wife with the other. His focus is singular - praising God for His glorious creation of their love. It is inspired and holy and teaches a lot, but it is not a pastoral epistle! [/quote:a27eec59f7]
    Ok. I know that's what you think. I'm asking why you think that?
    It's not uncommon for God to use these illustrations as a model of his relationship to His church. We see it in Hosea, Ezekial, Ephesians, and Revelation. But, what hermenuetic principle are you using to rule out the analogy possibility here?
     
  11. Scot

    Scot Puritan Board Sophomore

    I believe that the focus of all scripture is ultimately Christ and the gospel message. I think we need to look for the gospel message or theme in all of scripture no matter what book or passage. We can learn about marriage in The Song of Solomon but ultimately I think it's pointing to Christ and His bride.

    Scot
     
  12. New wine skin

    New wine skin Puritan Board Freshman

    I agree that its about both man and women but points beyond to Christ and His bride (church)... other examples of this use of metaphor is Hosea taking a prostitute for a wife, the prodigal son parable, Noah's ark as a shadow of Christ and on and on... I would argue that to the Christian these things are visible, but to the non-believer they are hidden (Yes the Van Tillian in me). Even Jesus said he spoke in parables so that the truth might be hidden except to His children the truth be revealed.
     
  13. Ianterrell

    Ianterrell Puritan Board Sophomore

    Okay the "Christ-centered" hermeneutic argument is being brought up here. I think some people here are confusing types with allegories. All moral marriages are evocative of the Christ-church dynamic. The question is whether or not the author specifically had a messianic spark while he wrote about Noah's Ark, or Isaac and Esau. Those who are arguing for the Allegorical position on Song of Solomon, do you all feel that the story of Solomon and The Shunnamite woman is as allegorical as Ps 45? Is the narrative between the Man and his wife a secondary interpretation?

    You see this is my problem with the Allegorical Position it seems to say that the historical narrative is not as important as the picture of the Christ and his church. If I was forced to view ever "jot and tittle" as being [b:fec77d1750]primarily[/b:fec77d1750] a picture of Christ it seems like Abraham and Isaac, Joseph and his brothers, David and etc would all have to take a back seat to a spiritualized hermeneutic. My question is I guess where do you draw the line with such an interpretation. Why is it so offensive to take the Song of Solomon as poetry about love? Most modern scholarship seems to take it this way along with several big names like Sproul, WIllard.

    I've seen some really bad attempts at using a consistent Christrocentric hermeneutic. One of my former pastors took this approach, and took every little step David takes as an allegory. I feel that Allegory Principle people do this with Song of Solomon unnecessarily. Honestly, I don't see why beautiful sexual desire between husband and wife has to be [b:fec77d1750]obscured[/b:fec77d1750] by a hermeneutic that in my opinion cannot sustain itself througout the book. There is no continuous narrative. There is ambiguity in who is speaking in the book at different times. It is widely accepted among modern biblical scholars that there are several poems in the book and not just one.

    Interpretation that looks like this I cannot take seriously: The bride's two breasts = Old Testament, New Testament. This is honestly how many have interpreted the very mention of breasts, why? Could there be some unspoken hesistance to just have a man pleased by his love's breasts.
     
  14. JonathonHunt

    JonathonHunt Guest

    Modern writers this, modern writers that...

    Any input as to what the older writers said? The reformers, the puritans?

    Obviously Ian has raised some extreme over-allegorisation of the book, and that is something to be guarded against, but it doesn't discredit the notion that there is allegory in the book.

    Also I would say that I don't see a marriage anywhere in the book.
     
  15. Ianterrell

    Ianterrell Puritan Board Sophomore

    Old Writers this, Old Writers that. The Reformers also thought Paul was the author of Hebrews that doesn't mean we have to do. And if we are going to go this route perhaps

    John, even if there isn't a marriage, that doesn't mean that it isn't about a man and a woman primarily. I'm not against using the text as an allegory [b:2871ee1691]at all[/b:2871ee1691] I'm against sweeping the poem's authors intent away as a secondary narrative.
     
  16. Irishcat922

    Irishcat922 Puritan Board Sophomore

    [quote:7f6c27d30c][i:7f6c27d30c]Originally posted by Ianterrell[/i:7f6c27d30c]
    Old Writers this, Old Writers that. The Reformers also thought Paul was the author of Hebrews that doesn't mean we have to do. And if we are going to go this route perhaps

    John, even if there isn't a marriage, that doesn't mean that it isn't about a man and a woman primarily. I'm not against using the text as an allegory [b:7f6c27d30c]at all[/b:7f6c27d30c] I'm against sweeping the poem's authors intent away as a secondary narrative. [/quote:7f6c27d30c]

    I agree with you on this Ian, I think sometimes we read to much into scripture. I think The Song Of Solomon has a duel meaning. Some commentators even believe it may have been a play that King Solomon commisioned.
    Never the less it obviously gives reference to Christ and The Church.
     
  17. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    The point to be asked Ian, is why was this book written? And why was it included in Scripture? It is the Word of God and as such it is binding on our conscience. And it's not a narrative text. It's all poetry. So much of it can't be taken literally. I agree we can't over allegorize but that doesn't mean we can't allegorize at all. The text demands it. And how does this text point us to Christ? Christ tells us the OT points to him. How does this book fit in that context? What was Solomon (or the author if not him) trying to convey when he wrote it? The older Christians felt Solomon wrote this as a means to illustrate the relationship of God to his people. If it's just a love story between two people, then how can it have any binding force upon our conscience as the Word of God? :wr50:
     
  18. Ianterrell

    Ianterrell Puritan Board Sophomore

    Patrick, respectfully, if this passage is about a love relationship it will have a lot to do with christian living and biblical worshiip. The same question could be posed about a lot of literal interpretations of texts. What does the rape of Dinah have to do with Christ? The death of Rachel? They all fit of course! They just aren't allegories.

    Look I'm not ruling out any allegory but I'm convinced from the structure and content of the book that the primary intent of the author/authors was romantic poetry. Yes therein lies ample pictures of Christ and the church.

    The book of Hebrews was included because the church thought that Paul wrote the book. Today almost nobody even within the Reformed church believes that Paul wrote the book. We have no idea what apostolic authority is behind the book. Yet we know it is scripture. It is sound and inspired.

    The Song of Songs almost excluded from the Jewish canon much like the book of Hebrews was originally. They questioned the author's intent and considered it scandalous romantic literature. So to respond to Jonathan there are your Old writers right there. Those that composed the Jewish canon felt that it was romantic literature. Eventually it became their opinion that it was allegorical. That's why it was included. The popular opinion today [b:116ec56e69]among biblical scholars[/b:116ec56e69] is that their original suspicion was right. And that that's ok. It's still the word of God. It does picture Christ and the Church but it also includes wonderful romantic poetry. The Bible is diverse and varied in its forms and genres. Isn't it great to have a book like Song of Solomon to keep us from Prudishness?
     
  19. smhbbag

    smhbbag Puritan Board Senior

    I've been pretty busy lately and never got around to answering PuritanSailor's question about my hermeneutic.....but just as I was about to do so - Ian does it for me almost word for word. So.....

    :ditto:
     
  20. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    I'll respond later guys. I've been working alot this weekend. I don't think we are far apart.
     
  21. Me Died Blue

    Me Died Blue Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I agree with Ian and others that the author's (Solomon's) intention when writing it was not to paint a portrait of Christ and the Church. The evidence seems to point to the position of it being a collection of love poems, directly intended by the author to be just that.

    However, I also agree that God inspired it as Scripture to definitely paint a portrait of Christ and the Church (in addition to the direct benefit it has as a human marital account). Keep in mind that God inspires Scripture, but does not always use the author's cognitive intentions [i:4dd102b5ac]directly[/i:4dd102b5ac] to do such. Often the inspiration is indirect, wherein the authors writing perfectly expresses God's truth, yet incidentally. For instance, when Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes, he was far from God. Yet God inspired Solomon's writing of it to reflect perfect truth. I believe that Song of Songs is largely the same situation.

    In Christ,
     
  22. New wine skin

    New wine skin Puritan Board Freshman

    The issue now seems to be about inspiration. Warfield points out that theopneustos is best defined as "derivative" from God, not "inspired", as if man was guided to avoid making errors, but that God Spake through man ( so being that scripture is from God) and such revelation in Autograph is infallible. (hope I am doing Warfield justice by my statement). Perhaps a good example is that Moses was not present for early chapters of Genesis, nor would he comprehend everything written ( unless God gave him such understanding). So its fruitless for people to say, Moses meant this or that because its not Moses speaking of his own thought but God speaking through Moses. In other words we are not limited by what Moses meant. I am saying that when God speaks/reveals it is done so adequately and necessarily. Again Moses is not going to comprehend or penetrate the depth of written revelation adequately (to its full meaning). (I am assuming everyone on PB is Verbal Plenary Inspiration) Likewise, Solomon or who ever wrote Song of Solomon is not going to understand its full meaning in an absolute sense. Thus I would shy away from any position that maintains or attempts to extrapolate or limit what scripture says base upon who wrote it. I am not saying that the "style" or personality of a writer doesn't exist in the scripture... I agree that John and Paul have unique styles which are reflected in the epistles. I am saying we should be on guard of our definition of what "inspiration" means. Getting back to the example, we should not argue that Solomon couldn't have meant a Christ/bride connection on the assumption that we think the author didn't see that connection himself. If we take the position that the Christ/bride connection exists let me point out I am NOT saying we have liberty to spritualize whatever we want in a subjective manner and out of context, nor does every word or idea in the Song of Solomon have to be spiritualized beyond the obvious reading if we do suggest a meaning beyond the poetic nature of this book.. Am I making sense to anyone... ???

    fyi- this post is not meant to be a complete answer or rebuttal but just an observation. Feel free to correct any misunderstanding I may have or add to.

    Blessings
     
  23. Howard

    Howard Inactive User

    Although I've arrived at this discussion 4 months after the fact, I can't help but express how Solomon's Song has impressed itself upon me. I recently felt led to present this book to the adult Sunday School class two weeks ago and have been most inspired by its messages.

    As always, the Scriptures convict me of failings before God, but this book impressed the same failings in a manner much more personal than in other places of Scripture. As the Shulamite expresses in 1:6 of her being in charge of the vineyards yet her vineyard is not kept, I cannot help but experience the deepest of conviction in my own life towards my wife, family, service in the Church, etc. This verse has haunted me for weeks!!!

    As stated in 1:7 and 2:5, do not to stir up our beloved until he please--this one lays me repentant in dust and ashes!!! How dare I presume to apply myself to His work ahead of His time!!!

    I don't know guys...I'm kinda new to this stuff. Be it an allegory, an idyll, or whatever, the Spirit of the Lord is present and accounted for.

    Howard

    :pray2:
     
  24. VirginiaHuguenot

    VirginiaHuguenot Puritanboard Librarian

    The Song of Solomon is a special celebration of human marriage and as such has a unique underlying spiritual meaning which pertains to the relationship between Christ and His Church. It would be a mistake to separate one from the other. Both are in view and both are important to understanding the whole text.
     
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