Why Were the Puritans Wrong About the Song of Solomon?

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Backwoods Presbyterian

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I often hear and read that it is pretty much a consensus among current scholarship that the Puritans pretty much across the board were incorrect in the way they exegeted and commented on the Song of Solomon. Can anyone point me to a resource on this subject that explains why the Puritans were wrong and what we may have discovered since their day that caused us to change the way we look at the book?


Puritan Board Professor

I would say that regardless of the particular points under discussion, the general exegetical framework of allegorism is what most people would have a problem with.

If an overtly erotic marriage book is deemed to be too dirty and must be sanitized into something about Christ and the Church, what does that say about our view of conjugal union? Thus, the basic problem I would have is that the allegorization of SofS is contrary to the hearty puritan hermeneutic as well as the vigorous doctrine of creation and marriage.

I am unfamiliar with a specific book on the topic.



Puritan Board Sophomore
I would look at several of the more recent Old Testament Introductions, conservative ones and not so conservative ones. E J Young has an interesting discusion on the different views of SoS, so does Brevard Childs. Tremper Longman has an interesting discussion as well in the Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible. All of these men listed reject the alegorical view. In the up and coming volume of the Confessional Presbyterian Journal Donald MacLean of the James Durham Thesis has an article concerning the old Reformed view of SoS. It promises to be a good discussion of the alegorical interpretation of this book. I could be biased though :).

-----Added 9/21/2009 at 09:39:22 EST-----

Adam, it is simply quite inaccurate to assume that the Puritans thought of a non-alegorical interpretation as being too dirty. Anyone who studies the Puritans well know that they had a very high view of both marriage and sex. They didn't think of sex as something that was dirty, but something that should be seen in its proper context, and not to be exalted more highly than it ought. The assumption of the Puritans was not that interpreting the SoS as of a conjugal relationship only was unworthy of Scripture; rather, it was that since Ps.45, Hosea and other passages that speak of marriage are to be understood as the relationship of God to Israel or understood in New Testament light as Christ and His Church then the SoS must be understood in this way also. They looked at Hosea, and Ps. 45, and also the passages that speak of God being married to Israel, and of Christ as the husband and the Church as the Bride and naturally concluded that SoS must be speaking allegorically of Christ and His Church. This is not a forced interpretation; granted that some of their comments were a bit far-fetched, but the overall understading of SoS as being of God and Israel or Christ and the Church fits very well with many other parts of Scripture.
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