Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JMAT 16:2 (Fall 2012) p. 125
Song of Songs. Paul J. Griffiths. Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos P, 2011. lviii + 182 pages. $32.99.
As the newest addition to the Brazos Theological Series, this commentary continues the series’s goal of understanding and interpreting scripture on the basis of the Nicene Creed (xiv). In light of this goal the series has not employed writers who are “biblical scholar(s) in the conventional, modern sense of the term” but who are experts and knowledgeable “in using Christian tradition” (ibid.): “It is the conceit of this series of biblical commentaries that theological training in the Nicene tradition prepares one for biblical interpretation, and thus it is to theologians and not biblical scholars we have turned” (ibid.). The theologian for this commentary is Catholic theologian, Paul J. Griffiths, the Warren Professor of Catholic Theology at Duke University Divinity School.
Although this theological series seeks to be ecumenical (xv), Griffiths’s Catholicism, his use of the Latin Vulgate, his appeal to the Catholic sacraments, and his “Mary” readings in this volume narrow significantly its appeal to a broader audience. This is not an oversight by the author. He intends his interpretation to be “a single note in a millennia-long symphony in which Jewish, Orthodox, and Protestant voices have essential parts to play even though they are not much sounded here” (xxxiv). This is a disappointment because when Griffiths listens to the voice of the Song itself without the dissidence of a preconceived theological interpretation, he brings some keen insight.
The commentary has an introduction (48 pages) that askews much of the “normal” discussion one would expect. Griffiths spends twelve pages explaining his choice of the Vulgate and another, eleven pages with his translation from the Latin. The rest of the introduction offers his understanding of the number of “voices” he hears in the Song and his reading strategy. According to the author the reader should hear three different readings at the same time of this love poem. The commentary proper divides the Song into smaller parts of “no more than two sentences” (liv). His approach to these portions
JMAT 16:2 (Fall 2012) p. 126
is four-fold: (1) he offers his translation, (2) notes the “echoes” from the rest of the scripture, (3) discusses the text as theology (iv), and (4) applies the text to the reader.
On the “surface” of the Song, Griffiths hears but three voices in the Song: the unnamed male lover, the female lover, and the daughters of Jerusalem. He acknowledges that there is no narrative story line and the use of dialogue draws the reader into t...
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