Does A Literal Interpretation Of The Song Of Songs Remove Its Character As Scripture? -- By: Samuel Ives Curtiss

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 055:217 (Jan 1898)
Article: Does A Literal Interpretation Of The Song Of Songs Remove Its Character As Scripture?
Author: Samuel Ives Curtiss


Does A Literal Interpretation Of The Song Of Songs Remove Its Character As Scripture?

Samuel Ives Curtiss

WE raise this question because the modern critics insist on a literal interpretation of this exquisite poem, which is perhaps now more neglected by the church than any other portion of the Old Testament. While some of the most saintly characters have used its glowing language as a medium of expressing their love and devotion to Christ, the ordinary reader cannot easily adopt the current traditional interpretation; hence finds no aid to devotion in the book. But does every book of the Bible subserve a devotional purpose? Is the character of a biblical writing as an aid to devotion to be a test of its claim to be received as Scripture? This is evidently not the standard set in 2 Tim. 3:16-17. According to this passage, anything in the Old Testament which is profitable for building up a noble character and which tends to righteousness of life may lay claim to scriptural authority.

Let us now turn to examine the object which the writer had in mind in the production of this book. The solution of this problem depends on the interpretation that is given to it. The interpretations that have been proposed are allegorical, typical, and literal.

1. The allegorical has been dominant from the time that

the Song was finally received into the canon of the Hebrew Scriptures.1 Indeed, the persuasion that it was to be interpreted allegorically overcame the opposition of those Jewish scholars who thought it should be relegated to the apocrypha on account of its erotic tone. The Jewish allegorical interpretation maybe found in the Targum, which discerns in it a history of God’s dealings with Israel.2 God is represented as the bridegroom, and the Jewish congregation as the bride. This interpretation has no connection with the text except in the conceit of the interpreter. This is evident from the following example, when a translation of the Song (5:1-2, is compared with the Targum upon it.

“I have come to my garden, my sister, my bride; I have gathered my myrrh with my balsam; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk. Bat, friends; drink and be merry, beloved.

“I sleep, but my mind is awake: Hark, my beloved is knocking. Open to me, my sister, my love, My dove, my undefiled: For my head is filled with dew, And my locks with the drops of the night.”...

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