Book Review -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Journal of Ministry and Theology
Volume: JMAT 14:1 (Spring 2010)
Article: Book Review
Author: Anonymous

Book Review

Poetry in the Song of Songs: A Literary Analysis. Patrick Hunt. New York: Peter Lang, 2008. 368 pages. $42.95.

Patrick Hunt, director of the Stanford Alpine Archaeology Project at Stanford University in California, has written a poetic analysis cataloging the various literary devices employed by the biblical author of the Song of Songs. By his own admission, Hunt’s study is not about theology or religion (1) nor is it a commentary (19). It is an investigation concerning the poetry of this ancient love song.

Concerning introductory matters, Hunt is brief in his remarks (only nineteen pages). While he recognizes the beauty of the poem and its association with the royal Solomon, he rejects Solomonic authorship based on the perceived late dating of the book and holds to an unknown author and date of composition (18). While he does not discuss its overall structure, he sees the Song as a “compilation of songs” (13). The purpose of the book may have been intended to be recited at Hebrew nuptials or used as “as a prelude to lovemaking, in the sense of emotional and mental foreplay” for mature lovers (10). While he recognizes the many ways the book has been interpreted over the centuries by Jews and Christians alike, he rejects its allegorical reading and chooses to recognize its simple and direct language of sexual love between a man and a woman that anyone who has loved can relate. Although Hunt follows a literal hermeneutic, he believes “that we cannot reconstruct one meaning for this great poem” (19)

In Chapter 2 (pages 21-65), Hunt analyzes the “figurative language of desire” such as simile, paronomasia, chiasmus, anabasis, pleonasm, meiosis, metonymy, topographia, parallelism and others. While his investigation concerning any one device is not exhaustive, he offers enough examples of each so the reader can understand how they function within the Song. While one may argue over Hunt’s labeling of individual literary devices, (even he questions if the ancient biblical author was intentional in his employment of each of these devices [28]) his study is a helpful one since no work in the Song to date has attempted to catalog so many different devices in one work.

Hunt investigates paronomasia or wordplay in Chapter 3 (66-81). Chapter 4 (67-101) is given to the study of the analysis of sensory images which he numbers at over 200 (99). Chapter 5 (103-139) looks at the fertility imagery found in the flowers, fruits and spices and their erotic connections while chapter six (141-160) presents a study of the animal imagery found in the Song. Chapter 7 (161-180) explores the metaphor of eating and drinking in connection with the lovers’ desire for one anot...

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