(25) long quote, p. 159-160
“what kind of book is the song of songs?
‘All the writing s are holy, but the Song of Songs is the Holy of Holies (shir hashierim qodesh qodashim).’ So spoke Rabbi Aquiba ben Joseph almost 2000 years ago, paying the Song of Songs a work of ultimate tribute. Bt the rabbi said it in the midst of a controversy in Judaism about whether the Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes were holy at all, whether they ‘defiled the hands’ (see p.3)l, and whether therefore they should be included in the collection of holy writings.
Since that day most reactions to the book have shared the extravagant quality of Aqiba’s remark. Sermons by the score have been preached to demonstrate the manifold richness and infinite edification of the book’s contest: commentaries were poured out by the doctors and fathers of the Christian Church to exhibit the profundity of their own scriptural perceptions. Yet in Rabbi Aqiba’s day and in our own the debate goes on about the meaning and value of this book.
For although some people regard it as most precious and worthy, others frankly consider it to be barren of any qualification for Holy Writ and its presence in the Bible as an embarrassment. It is on the very border of the canon of the Old Testament, and counted outside by some. Nowhere in the book is God mentioned; the reader searches in vain for any proclamation of religious insight and truth, or for an exposition or understanding of the people of God or indeed of the world of God . There is no shred of ethical consciousness or social concern in the book, and no hint of worship. The Song of Songs is not a serious or sober statement of faith. For many people it does not meet the standards of what a biblical book ought to be.
The Song of Songs is a book of love – sexual, erotic love. It is not written to tell about that love; It celebrates it. In language which is allusive but very specific, the book expresses the enjoyment of physical passion. The songs seem to be collected together for the sake of variety and mood instead of development of argument or sequence of scene.”
Allegorical some deeper meaning it can’t mean what it says
(25) p 184-185 referring to chapter four “with this section the language of the Song becomes more erotic and explicit, to such a degree as to press beyond the bonds of credibility all claims that the book was meant to be interpreted allegorically. Why would anyone describe erotic, physical love in such lush, sensual terms and expect the reader to think pious metaphysical or historical thoughts?”
Dramatic as far back as the Codex Sinaiticus, found at the monastery of St Catherine o Mount Sinai in 1859 character headings were added to indicate the bride, the groom, and the companions as speakers.
Cultic (25) p. 163 how much did the Canaanite religion and thought penetrate Israel’s religion and thought? “Scholars have tried to interpret the Song of Songs as a liturgy, or a collection of liturgical pieces, which originated in the Canaanite cult of fertility and of the dying rising god, in which the period of death would be accompanied by periods of drought and the threat of sterility on earth. Thus the ride in the Song would be the goddess seeking her lost lover, who is in the underworld; in sexual union with him, she restores fertility and well-being to the world.”
(20) p 17 about using allegory and not literal “The barrier has been a psychological aversion to the obvious, somewhat like the Emperor’s new Clothes. The trouble has been that interpreters who dared acknowledge the plain sense of the song were assailed as enemies of truth and decency. The allegorical charade thus persisted for centuries with only sporadic protests”
(20) p 114 The first Christian known to have allegorized the song of songs was the Roman Hippolytus who lived around A.D. 200. Only fragments of Hippolytus’ commentary have survived, but enough remains to show how the sensual language was taken to mean something quite different from the plain and simple text.
(20) p 115 Origen was probably influenced in his interpretation of the Song of Song by his elder contemporary Hippolytus. Origen tended toward thoroughness in all that he did. He took seriously and literally Jesus’ saying about the removal of bodily members that offend and lead to sin and proceeded to castrate himself. He was fully convinced also that the literal sense of the Song of Songs was likewise something to be eliminated. Origen fully espoused Plato’s interpretation of love as distinguished by two opposing types, the earthly and physical versus the heavenly and spiritual.
The Gnostics regarded the divine Spirit as the exclusive bridegroom of the devoted soul and the influence of this idea is vividly illustrated in the Acts of Thomas which reflects Gnostic notions current in Origen’s day
(20) 119 Theodore, bishop of Mopsuestia, at the end of the fourth century wrote a commentary on the Song of Songs in which he rejected allegorical meaning and read it in its literal and plain sense, as an erotic song. Thodore theorized that Solomon’s subjects had criticized his marriage with an Egyptian princess and that the king responded to the protest by boldly singing of his love in this Song.
In little more than a century after Theodore’s death, at the Council of Constantinople in 550, his views were condemned as unfit for Christian ears.
Xx this seems to be where the theory of that the women in the Song is a princess from Egypt – one of Solomon’s wives was a princess from Egypt but she certainly doesn’t fit the story. Numerous references are made about his idea of the Egyptian by those who denounced his literal meanings.
(20)119-120 About the same time that Theodore of Mopsuestia was disquieting the Eastern church with his assertion of a literal interpretation of the Canticle, another bold cleric shocked the Western church with a similar view. A Roman monk named Jovinian went about barefoot, poorly dressed, living on bread and water, and remaining celibate, but he jarred ellesiastics with attacks on the dominant ascetic tendencies of the day. Jovinina had a good knowledge of Scripture which he employed effectively in support of his argument that there was no moral difference between fasting or eating, virginity, widowhood, or marriage. He protested especially against the prevailing hierarchy of virtues with its corresponding scale of blessedness and asserted that the divine element in human life is the same in all circumstances; all who are baptized and born anew in Christ have equal dignity, grace and blessedness. He cited Scripture as proof that marriage was in no way inferior to virginity and celibacy in the divine scale of values. The Song of Songs taken literally in praise and sanctification of marital sex was invoked in the attack on asceticism.
Jovinian’s view incensed the ecclesiastical establishment and in 390 Pope Siricius convened a synod in Rome to have him condemned.
(20) p 123 Bernard of Clairvau – passage talks about him exchanging glances with a girl and then getting an erection. He jumped into an icy pond to take care of the situation and decided to become a monk
Might be worth reading Song of Solomon for yourself, checking out what is said about it and making your own decision.