Song of Songs- Literal, Typological, Or Both?

Discussion in 'OT Wisdom Literature' started by greenbaggins, Mar 14, 2011.

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  1. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    On the KJV-NKJV thread, a discussion about the Song of Songs was brought up. Some argue for the literal interpretation, and some argue for the typological interpretation. I have never felt that we have to choose between these two things. Doesn't Ephesians 5 tell us that there is a very strong connection between the marriage of husband and wife, and the marriage of Christ and His church?

    The Puritans get a bad rap for interpreting the Song of Songs typologically (and some would say allegorically). I think this is wrong. The Puritans were right to interpret the Song this way. However, they were wrong to say that therefore the Song is not also about human marriage and yes, sex also.

    Unfortunately, modern scholarship has swung the pendulum too far the other way and rejected all typological interpretation. They rightly note that the Song should be interpreted literally. However, they tend to say that therefore it can not also be about Christ and His church. I believe both parties to this debate are guilty of false dichotomy.

    On the one hand, to say that the meaning of only the Song of Songs is not to be interpreted with any kind of literality (and by this, I do not mean that everything has to be interpreted in a wooden, literal fashion, but rather that it should be interpreted according to its genre, and the standard conventions associated with that genre) constitutes special pleading. We will say that all other genres of Scripture should be interpreted according to their genre, and then say that this love poem should not be interpreted that way. I could not possibly disagree more with this line of thinking.

    On the other hand, the modern dissociation of body and spirit typically results in saying that because the Song is literal, therefore it can't be typological. Perhaps it is the Edenic innocence of the Song that can sometimes get us all wadded up about this and makes the interpretation of the Song so incredibly divided.

    There will always be difficulties in interpretation, no matter what approach one uses to the Song. The only-literal approach might have difficulty with 1:4, as Matthew Winzer has pointed out. However, the only-typological interpretation will have to resort to allegorizing sooner or later that winds up in just as ridiculous a spot (here I'm thinking of the descriptions of the woman's body in 4:1-7). Maybe, just maybe, we don't necessarily have to go with only literal, or only typological. Maybe some passages lend themselves more to literal, and others more to typological, and surely quite a few would do both.
     
  2. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    I've heard the approach which doesn't pretend to be able to explain every detail with a corresponding spiritual meaning as being "parabolic".
     
  3. DTK

    DTK Puritan Board Junior

    I think that the middle is the approach. To name a specific instance, when the woman says, "I am the rose of Sharon, And the lily of the valleys" (Sol 2:1), I think our hymnology has misled us with respect to that line exegetically. The rose of Sharon and the lily of the valley are not speaking of Christ, per se, . . . I think she is expressing a sense of personal insecurity, i.e., she views herself as a "common wildflower." And her beloved is quick to respond, in essence, "yes, but you're a lily among the thorns! You stand out among the others!" It seems to me that here her beloved picks up on an insecurity with which she wrestles, and like a loving husband, seeks to address her insecurity in order to let her know that he doesn't view her as a "common flower."

    This is how a husband, lovingly, addresses the insecurity, weakness with which his wife is wrestling, and how he seeks to put it to rest. In other words, he sees this weakness that she has, and dismisses it in way that lets her know that in his mind and heart she is anything but common. Here is something that men do well to learn about their wives . . . because no wife, no husband can live secure in a relationship where he or she thinks there’s the possibility of a rival to their affection and attraction.

    Christ is to be found throughout this OT book, but He is not under every leaf, as it were, and He's not the lily of the valley. Ephesians 5 does come into play as a hermeneutical principle, because according to Eph. 5 our marriages are intended to be a miniature reflection of the love which Christ bears to His church . . . 31 "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. (Eph 5:31-32)

    My 2 cents
     
  4. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    As one of the participants I need to point out that I argued for neither. "Typological" still requires something literal. If one is arguing that the Song is a literal marriage with redemptive-theological significance then that is the typological approach. Besides the literal and typological there is also the view that it is drama. Besides these three, the traditional view is that the Song is allegorical. That is the view I maintain.
     
  5. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    When I saw the title of your thread, this is how I indended to respond. I, for one, think your approach is probably the best one, though it's hard to be sure.
     
  6. iainduguid

    iainduguid Puritan Board Sophomore

    If the entire OT is about the sufferings of Christ and the glories that follow, as the NT instructs us, then that would certainly include the Song of Songs. But just as the Book of Proverbs is wisdom literature that instructs us in how we should behave towards one another, convicting us of sin and thereby pointing us to our need of Christ, and to his perfect righteousness that is credited to us, so too as the Song of Songs speaks to us of human marriage, it must necessarily point us to Christ who is the answer to our failures in marriage by becoming the perfect husband for his church.

    To interpret every aspect of the Song of Songs allegorically is the same category mistake made by those who interpret every aspect of the Tabernacle allegorically. Sometimes a tent peg is just a tent peg, not a symbol of the death and resurrection of Christ because it is partly in the ground and partly out of the ground (thank you M.R. DeHaan). But the meaning of the tabernacle is more than just a great big tent. So too the Song of Songs is more than "an hot carnall pamphlet" (as the Westminster divines rightly warned). But it is as we understand what the Song of Songs has to say about our flawed and failing marriages that we will see it properly speaking to us about Christ and the gospel.

    That's easy to assert in theory. It's much harder in practice. I look forward to having an attempt at preaching it in the next couple of years or so and would love to know if anyone knows of resources that strike that balance. In my experience most books written by OT academics tend to be very literal and most written by pastors tend to be allegorical. I don't know of anything much that really captures that middle ground. But maybe there are resources out there I haven't found yet.
     
  7. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    James Durham distinguishes between interpreting Scripture allegorically and interpreting allegorical Scripture.

    Again, type and allegory are being confused. The tabernacle was a real building in time and space. If the Song were to be canonised as a real marriage typifying the ideal marriage it would prove disastrous not only for Christian marriage but also for Christological reflection.

    We are reformed. This is the Puritan board. Durham's key to the Canticles in the opening of his commentary really is worth the time and effort to read and digest. Reformed believers with a love of the Puritans would learn much from it. Alternatively, in the Confessional Presbyterian Journal, vol. 5, one will find an excellent introduction to and analysis of Durham's approach to the Song.
     
  8. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    I've been thinking along similar lines, but with different details in view. I think it records the story of a very real, contemporaneous couple, perhaps even temporarily peeling away the awful separateness of our sin and to give us a glimpse of love without the full effects of the fall. And it also serves the purpose of illustrating God relationship to Hisi people. Look at Hosea and the language of pursuing his love, his wife, and of the humiliating cost he had to pay to get her back. I also think it can be possible to view this as an individual in his pursuit of God, and God's faithfulness in pursing His own. If our closest, most intimate relationship in this earth is with our spouse, how much more so should our relationship be with God?

    This would not be three different interpretations, but three applications depending upon the viewpoint in time. I think here of the very real-time situations that the prophets faced and how their writings stand for us today as a stern warning to pursue God in the way He has ordained.
     
  9. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    The very real problem faced by this approach is that God is not to be seen in the book, there is no mention of the concept of sin, and there is no covenantal basis to the relationship/s in the book. This approach must explain whence these ideas are arising if the commitment to the literal is to be taken seriously.
     
  10. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    So, would this book be a good source of pick up lines?
     
  11. BlackCalvinist

    BlackCalvinist Puritan Board Senior

    Says who ?

    After I get my books out of storage, I can get the exact reference from the exact author, but I recall reading that 5:1c ("Eat, friends, drink, and be drunk with love!") - well....Who else is going to be able to see the act of the consumation of the marriage and approve of it ?

    Maybe you're looking for things that aren't there and that's what guiding your exegesis (and even some of the things you claim aren't there with the literal approach....are).

    My take on it is pretty straightforward - the book as it stands, is about the marriage relationship - various different facets of it - and is a celebration of marital love and intimacy. To read anything else into it is to do the text an injustice.

    Overall, the book can be said to point to Christ just as marriage (and all of the 'markers' in marriage) points to Christ. It can be treated as typological in that sense.

    God wrote it for our benefit. To go the route of saying "it can't be about this" is to be a child at Christmas who takes the toy out of the box..... and plays with the box, neglecting the gift given.
     
  12. Grillsy

    Grillsy Puritan Board Junior

    Wouldn't taking Christ out of the interpretation be taking the toy out of the box and playing with the box instead?
     
  13. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    My :2cents: is that Song of Songs is about a literal husband-and-wife relationship. Parallels can be taken from it that apply to Christ and the Church just as from any other husband-and-wife relationship. But I don't think we can say that it's "typological" just because there are aspects that remind us of Jesus.
     
  14. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Said me. :)

    Seriously; if one rejects the allegorical approach in favour of the literal one is not at liberty to make up things which are not in the text, and God is not to be found in the text.

    Who else? According to the literal approach, there is nothing else but the literal.

    The text is guiding my exegesis. If the literal sense is the immediate sense of the text then all manner of absurdities follow. If one insists on a literal approach one is not at liberty to explain away any part of the text in order to save the literal approach from the difficulties it has created.

    There seems to be alot of intimacy outside of the marital relationship as well. There also seems to be some degree of brutality within it. It is not normal for a woman to invite her friends to love her husband, and it is not normal for a man to abandon his wife and expose her to being beaten on the streets. One does not normally encourage a man to become intimate with his sister. And if the woman happens to be one of Solomon's foreign wives, as some suggest, this union is condemned as unlawful.

    Marriage points to Christ because it is ordained as a type. This particular "marriage" has no such appointment, and interpreters are not at liberty to make up types at random.
     
  15. BlackCalvinist

    BlackCalvinist Puritan Board Senior

    Christ IS in the interpretation.....just not directly in the text. :)
     
  16. iainduguid

    iainduguid Puritan Board Sophomore

    If "the very real problem is that God is not to be seen in the book" means that we have to allegorize it to get any spiritual value about it, then you have a problem preaching from a great deal of wisdom literature, not to mention the entire book of Esther! And if we want to talk about "all manner of absurdities" that misguided interpreters have found in the text, then the allegorical approach is far from above reproach. My favorite example is the allegorical interpreter who identified the "garden of nuts" in the Song as the church - on the grounds that like a nut it is tough on the outside and tender in the middle. I've certainly seen churches that would fit the description of a garden of nuts, but that is not the exact parallel that I would draw. Of course, there can be more responsible allegorical exegesis, but I would argue that there can be more responsible attempts at historical-grammatical exegesis as well, which do not end up in the moral absurdities that you suggest. You might start with Duane Garrett's Word commentary as just one example.
     
  17. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Responses are best presented in context. The statement to which you are referring was written in reply to the idea that God can be found in the text using a literal approach. If one is going to adopt a literal approach then fidelity to it must recognise that God is not to be found in the book.

    Again, I draw attention to Durham's distinction between interpreting allegorical scripture and interpreting scripture allegorically. Your misrepresentation was perhaps excusable the first time, but it simply hinders discussion for you to continue to misrepresent the approach you are opposing.

    Esther's silence of "God" turns out to be an elaborate theological statement on the silence of God.

    The beauty of wisdom literature is its preconception of God only wise, which is usually spelled out in a preface (Proverbs), in the course of the narrative (Job), or in the conclusion of the matter (Ecclesiastes). It is not spelled out at all in the Song of Solomon.

    The fact that the book does not present itself as history or wisdom means that the way of approaching the book must be unique. The literal approach presently identifies the genre as love-letters. The approach to the book subsequently makes many figurative allowances. The figurative handles in the allegorical approach are consistent with viewing the book as an allegory. The reference point for the figures of speech is different, but as a method it cannot be rejected without also rejecting other non literal reference points for the speech.

    The book calls itself "the song of songs." It makes a claim of pre-eminence. If this title is to be taken seriously it is difficult to imagine its main object lesson is to teach us about human love and relationships. One faces the immediate problem that there are songs about the divine relationship with man which are far more deserving of the claim to pre-eminence. Should one insist from the outset that the title itself must be allegorised it is impossible to reject the allegorical method.

    Concerning "absurdities," I agree that there have been many absurd claims to allegorical exegesis, as has been the case with many parables; some scholars react so far in the opposite direction as to refuse any extended allegory in parables even though the Lord Himself has provided an extended interpretation to at least two of them. More moderate scholars recognise the need for balance, and see the need for strict exegesis even while maintaining that the type of literature requires non-literal referents. In the case of the Song, a classification of allegorical Scripture would still require a strict grammatico-historical approach in order to properly understand the allegory. This approach would serve to minimise the absurdities.

    On the other hand, there is no way of avoiding the absurdities if the Song is necessarily approached as if it provided a literal referent to human love. EVERY APPROACH involves itself in absurdity and thereby provides an indirect proof that the book was not intended to be understood literally.
     
  18. BlackCalvinist

    BlackCalvinist Puritan Board Senior

    What are some examples of supposed absurdities that abound from a literal approach ?
     
  19. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    The problem with what you're saying here, Matthew, is that you are artificially limiting the term "literal" to exclude typology. I, for one, do not follow that definition of "literal." My definition of literal is flexible enough to include typology. Besides, what biblical evidence do you have that the Song is an allegorical text? Ephesians 5 doesn't help, because that only demonstrates typology, something I would allow in a literal interpretation. But typology is NOT the same thing as allegory. In typology, the type has the same historical pattern as the antitype. This is not true of allegory.
     
  20. discipulo

    discipulo Puritan Board Junior

    It’s good that we don’t have to be so strict as Calvin against Sebastian Castelio on the Songs, while of course Castelio’s view that the Canticum Canticorum shouldn’t be in the Canon was heretical in the first place.

    And yes, the contemporary trend of viewing the Song of Salomon in the merely human level alone is a great impoverishment in the line of Castelio.

    I didn’t know James Durahm’s commentary +/- 500 pages but his Clavis Cantici by James Durham, can be found here, also PDF.

    Clavis Cantici: A Key Usefull

    As I read this, and I can’t wait to read more from Durham's work,

    The Strain and Subject of it is so very Spiritual, that it necessitates the Students thereof, to aim at some nearness with God; and ordinarily it leaves some stamp upon their affections, which is not the least cause, nor the smallest encouragement to me in this undertaking

    I was recalling how I was moved by some of Bernard of Clairvaux’s sermons.

    So I wonder how you see Bernard’s work, Rev Winzer?

    Yes, I know, there we are back in romanism where the Song has been a tour de force for any decent speculative mystic or theologian…

    …but just try reading it with some Palestrina playing, never allowing your feet to get out of Redemptive History - from courtship to consummation.

    [video=youtube;EFFBaT_r6zU]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFFBaT_r6zU[/video]
     
  21. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    I noted some in an earlier post. "There seems to be alot of intimacy outside of the marital relationship as well. There also seems to be some degree of brutality within it. It is not normal for a woman to invite her friends to love her husband, and it is not normal for a man to abandon his wife and expose her to being beaten on the streets. One does not normally encourage a man to become intimate with his sister. And if the woman happens to be one of Solomon's foreign wives, as some suggest, this union is condemned as unlawful." The only way a literal approach can resolve these less than ideal marital conditions is to turn the whole piece into a melodrama or explain away specific statements.
     
  22. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Lane, typology is a specific field of hermeneutics. Basic to a type is its divine institution. There is no divine institution in the Song of Solomon. You appeal to Eph. 5, which speaks of the institution of marriage itself as type, not to this particular marriage as a type. If we were to allow the exegete to make up types at random the whole field of study would be back in the mess it was in before Patrick Fairbairn entered into his foundational study. Secondly, basic to a type is the fact that it is literal redemptive history. Allegory does not require the text to be history; typology does. The absurdities of the literal approach are the result of requiring an historical referent in the text. By adopting a typological approach, which seeks an historical referent in the text, the exegete immerses himself in the absurdities of the literal approach at least so far as the type is concerned. To the degree he consistently applies these to the Antitype his Christological reflections are bound to go astray.

    Please consult the aforementioned article for Durham's distinctions between typology and allegory. If I remember correctly it follows your useful article on the Sabbath.
     
  23. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    I am well aware of Durham's approach and his distinction between typology and allegory, having edited that article myself. It was an article with which I found myself somewhat at odds. I deny that a literal approach to a text implies that the text itself is necessarily historical. Whether the Song is historical or not has no bearing on whether one should approach the text with a literal hermeneutic or not. As an example, Jesus made up parables (the ungrateful servant is a good example) to explain His teaching. Just because they are made up does not mean that we have to take a non-literal approach to His parables. Surely, it is also possible to have a text that is a poetical expansion on an historical event. Examples of this would be Deborah's song in Judges 5, and Israel's song of deliverance in Exodus 15. If it is a poetical expansion, then a literal approach need not have to find everything immediately explainable. You have yet to answer some of my earlier queries. 1. How do you know that the Song is an allegorical text? I can find no support for this in the text. Simply saying that the literal approach has problems does not mean that one has eliminated the literal approach from contention, as I have hopefully already demonstrated above. There are many biblical passages where the literal approach has difficulties. That does not mean we should abandon the literal approach for something else. 2. How would, say, Song 4:1-7 be allegorical? Allegorical of what? And how would you prevent the interpretation of said passage from running into absolute flights of pure fancy?
     
  24. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    It is good that we have a common base for understanding terms and ideas even if our views are at variance. Let's proceed.

    I think you mean that the referent of the text is historical. The text itself must of necessity be historical in order for it to be canonical.

    That the referent is historical is obvious by the very definition of a type. There is Antitype, which is the ultimate object to which the type looks; and there is Type, which is called a shadow of good things to come. As a shadow it appears on the scene of history; it cannot do otherwise. If it were anything other than historical it could not shadow forth a great historical reality which was yet to come. If we look at the example you provided from Eph. 5, in referring to the type which marriage affords of the relationship between Christ and the church, the apostle appeals to the historical enactment of marriage in the beginning. It is impossible to consider a type as existing without this rock-solid historical enactment.

    Two points seem to be conflated which need to be distinguished. As noted in a previous post, exegesis will still be of a grammatico-historical kind even when the referent of the text is non-literal or figurative. The parable is a good example of this. The seed is not seed, it is the word of the kingdom. The word "seed" will require an understanding of what a seed is and what a seed does in order for the parable to make sense. It will be necessary to use all the resources at the exegete's disposal in order to understand aright what the speaker understood by the terms he was using and how those terms fit within the context of what he said. Nevertheless, the ultimate referent is not physical seed, but a spiritual reality. Hence the "parable" receives its own genre designation, and is often classified among non-literal forms of speech.

    This seems to suggest that "historical event" is afterall the literal referent lying behind what is being called a type. Certainly poetical expansion is perfectly legitimate. But the poetic expansion will always be tied to whatever historical event is postulated for the book. What is the historical event? As soon as one tries to answer that question he finds himself tangled in knots. Should he actually succeed in answering that question, he will discover that the historical event is useless as a type because his demand for a literal referent entails all kinds of absurdities in the real world. Let's take as an example the view that the historical event is the marriage of Solomon with one of his foreign wives; let's say, Pharaoh's daughter, who fits the description of being "black, but comely." Is this "marriage" (1) an ideal marriage situation, or (2) of divine institution that it can serve as a type? The biblical text expressly says that this marriage to strange women, including Pharaoh's daughter, was forbidden by the Lord.

    Now, turning from the historical event to the poetical expansion, how far is the language permitted to expand beyond literal referents before this poetry itself forms the nucleus of an allegory. Take, for example, the idea that the lover is both king and shepherd. Must both be taken literally? If so, can they now be taken as referring to two different people? In that event, the Song has moved beyond love poetry and now has a melodrama underlying its message. What we see is that allowing the broadest scope to poetical license, the book is in fact demanding us to read it as containing a variety of images which are connected in the abstract but not in the concrete world. But that is, by definition, allegory. The only question is, whether the allegory intends to teach about a human union or a divine-human union. Once allegory, or an abstract connection, has been permitted, there is no reason for tying it to the concrete world of human relationships; as the "Song of songs" we are led almost instinctively to think of it as referring to a pre-eminent relationship, even the pre-eminent relationship which exists between God and His people. That is the traditional allegorical view.

    Good questions.

    1. Three points. First, its title. "Song of songs;" it simply cannot be understood of a human relationship. As great as that relationship is, the Bible presents the virtue of the union as proceeding from God Himself. To have a book extolling the very heights of that union without any reference to God is in itself untenable. So the title itself demands the reader to think beyond the sphere of the natural. "Of Solomon," who is renowned for his "proverbial" teaching, and has set forth those proverbs using all manner of similitudes. Secondly, its canonicity. The Song is never alluded to in the NT with reference to human marriage. Its phraseology, however, is distinctly taken up and used with direct reference to the relationship between Christ and the church. The extended imagery employed in Rev. 3 undeniably has its roots in the Song with reference to the door, knocking, and supping. We see the same dynamic expressed in the Westminster Confession: the Song is not used of human marriage but of the relationship of believers to Christ. When therefore we confess that the Song is canonical with WCF 1.2, it is undoubtedly with this understanding in mind. Thirdly, its content -- no historical event explains the great diversity which is to be found in the contents of the Song. As such, it demands a non-historical referent.

    2. Being consistent with the commitment to grammatico-historical exegesis it must be insisted that it be viewed through eastern rather than western eyes. Again, the literary unit must be properly identified. With these controls the flights of fancy are already being limited. One point is certain, even through eastern eyes these descriptions would be ghastly if they intended to exalt the physical appearance. It is only as ideal abstraction that the imagery makes proper sense. Then, one would look for hints to physical features which can be found in the biblical story. We have the abounding fruitfulness of sheep, as in the Jacob pericope. There is the tower of David and its highlighted feature of defensive arms. Then vv. 6, 7 present a change of scenery, with imagery from tabernacle ritual. What is being depicted is therefore an Israelite indeed, standing in the Davidic covenant which promised everlasting mercies, and worshipping without spot. It is the latter characteristic which is highlighted by the text as the ideal place in which the lover would like to meet his beloved. These images cannot be understood of anyone other than the redeemed of the Lord bearing sacral ties to the Lover.
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2011
  25. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Doctor

    I find it difficult to see Song of Solomon as being about Christ and/or the church not least because the New Testament, as far as I know, completely ignores this book - no quotations or allusions at all. If Song were to be understood as being about Christ, one would logically assume that the NT writers would think so, too, and comment appropriately.

    Along the same lines, no NT writer remarks upon the alleged connection between Christ and Proverbs 8, either. So, in both cases, I'm very reluctant to make those connections, either. As the Rev. Winzer states, interpreters are not allowed to make up their own biblical types at will.
     
  26. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    Just an aside, but "black" or tan is what 99.99 percent of women throughout the ages tried to avoid, since it shows they are manual laborers i.e. peasants. The Hottentot women who worked for me and are yellow/brown used that word about themselves and always in a depreciating way. In this case it's not an ethnic marker but economic.
     
  27. Grillsy

    Grillsy Puritan Board Junior

    Revelation chapter 3 seems to allude to the Song.
     
  28. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Mr. Winzer, do you think it would be appropriate to add as an additional evidence that the Song is allegorical its relation to Ecclesiastes? In that book Solomon has carefully spoken of life under the sun and condemned it as vanity. How could he then write a sort of epyllion so highly extolling something that is ultimately also 'under the sun'? Or if Ecclesiastes was composed after the Song we would be forced to consider that the Song repudiates something of Ecclesiastes. It seems quite difficult to reconcile Ecclesiastes 9:9 with taking the Song as having a historical referent. Is it really a love 'under the sun' that is 'as strong as death'?
     
    Last edited: May 28, 2017
  29. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Doctor

    Well, in my ESV, there's a marginal reference at Revelation 3.20 to Song of Solomon 5.2, but it's just to a similar use of the word "knocking." It's a verbal reference, not a doctrinal one. And, that's it, as far as I can tell.
     
  30. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Matthew, several points (and thanks for a very thoughtful post). Firstly, "historical" does not have to be concretely historical. That is, the author could be referring to a non-specific marriage situation. Surely it is too narrow to say that only a concrete, specific historical event can be a type. The author could simultaneously be idealizing marriage, showing us the way it ought to be. Secondly, your objection with regard to the historical situation being absurd is weak. Most commentaries these days do not argue that the historical situation in view is Solomon with one of his many wives. The king language is usually interpreted these days as the woman's picture of her husband, calling him king, even if he is not an historical king. Thirdly, the argument from the title of the Song only works if I am arguing that the Song is ONLY about human marriage, and not also about God's marriage to His people. I would argue that it is equally about both, and that Eph 5 is a precedent for arguing this way. According to your view, the Song cannot be about human marriage. But I would say that the typology also works in reverse. If it is about God and His relationship to His church, then it is also about marriage, since the two are organically related (again, see Eph 5). Fourthly, your argument from the canon doesn't work either. It doesn't have to have New Testament attestation as being about marriage if it echoes the Garden of Eden. I don't really have time right now to explore that, but I would say that being naked and unashamed is an echo of Eden, and the descriptions of the man and the woman of each other follow that line. The references to the garden paradise (even down to the possible Persian loanword) also point in this direction. Fifthly, your assertion that the descriptions of the man and the woman are "ghastly" if referring to human love don't work, because you are stating that objection from a Western perspective. The descriptions I have read of the point of the metaphors as descriptions of human beauty are anything but ghastly. You should test your assertion against some of the modern commentaries, which are becoming more and more adept at seeing the point of the comparisons as being a thing of beauty, and not of ghastliness.
     
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