The Old Testament Love Songs And Their Use In The New Testament -- By: G. Lloyd Carr

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 024:2 (Jun 1981)
Article: The Old Testament Love Songs And Their Use In The New Testament
Author: G. Lloyd Carr

The Old Testament Love Songs And Their Use In The
New Testament

G. Lloyd Carr*

During my preliminary work on the Song of Solomon it soon became evident that the major problem I would have to face was the vexed question of how this book was to be interpreted. H. H. Rowley’s old but still very valuable essay sets out the options clearly in some detail, and Brevard Childs’ recent Introduction provides a handy summary.1 It is not my purpose here to examine all these options in detail, but for the sake of putting this material in perspective a brief summary of the positions is in order.

Historically, the most common interpretive approach to the Song has been that of allegory/typology. For the rabbinic scholars the lover/beloved exchanges were understood to describe the relationship between Yahweh and Israel (or Wisdom and the wise man), and every detail of the text was understood to explicate that relationship. Until recently, the majority of Christian commentators have also used this method for dealing with the text. Here, however, the relationship between Christ and the Church or the individual believer takes precedence. A classic example, popular among certain circles of American Christianity, is the little chorus based on Song 2:4: “He brought me into the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.2 I will return to this question later in the presentation.

About a hundred years ago the idea, apparently first suggested by Origen about A.D: 250, that the Song was a drama suddenly was revived and received considerable attention, first from Franz Delitzsch in his commentary and then by numerous other writers. A number of variations on this perspective have been proposed, such as Calvin Seerveld’s oratorio and Meek’s or Kramer’s development of the ritual-drama concept.3 Pope also develops this basic point of view. As I have dealt with this issue elsewhere I will not pursue it here, except to note that

*G. Lloyd Carr is professor of Biblical and theological studies at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts.

I have not been persuaded of the validity of the dramatic interpretation.4

A third option is that the Song of Solomon is a collection of love songs, perhaps related to a marriage ritual,5 or, more simply, expressing the deep human love between a man and a woman. This “natural” interpretation has found many proponents and i...

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