Canonical Interpretations Of The Song Of Songs -- By: Rosalind S. Clarke

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 65:2 (NA 2014)
Article: Canonical Interpretations Of The Song Of Songs
Author: Rosalind S. Clarke


Canonical Interpretations Of The Song Of Songs1

Rosalind S. Clarke

([email protected])

Traditional interpretations of the Song have recognised many allusions to the wider canon, which have been used as the basis for various kinds of allegorical readings. With the rise of alternative interpretations and a recent shift in focus towards methodological issues and ideological approaches to the Song, these canonical allusions have frequently been overlooked. Without advocating a return to allegorical interpretation, this thesis develops a canonical approach to the book, giving due attention to its literary, theological and ecclesiological nature. The Song proves to be a valuable test case for canonical interpretation since it is found in three distinct canonical contexts in the Hebrew Bible, the Greek Septuagint, and modern Christian Bibles.

The method of canonical interpretation developed in the first chapter takes as its starting point the nature of the canon as a historical, literary, ecclesiological and theological entity. Following the approach of Brevard Childs, it is assumed that the canonical meaning resides in the final form of the canon. Thus the internal shaping of canonical texts, and the placement of texts within the canon are both significant for interpretation. As a literary entity, the canon provides a network of intertexts for each book. Intertextual analysis thus forms the starting point for canonical interpretation. Several strategies of containment are required to identify the most significant canonical intertexts in each context: proximity, theme, and denotative sign. However, canonical interpretation is not limited to literary analysis since it must also reckon with the canon’s self-presentation as divine discourse. The principles and categories of speech-act theory are used to interpret the text’s discourse functions and effects.

The substance of the thesis therefore consists of the application of this method of canonical interpretation to the Song of Songs. This is repeated for each distinct canonical context: the Wisdom literature, the Writings, and the wider Christian canon. In each, the strategies of containment are identified, with particular narrowing of thematic focus. A general intertextual reading is offered, showing the ways in which the intertexts collude or collide with the Song. Detailed analysis of certain passages with especially strong thematic or lexical links is also provided. In the final chapter, an internal speech-act hierarchy of the book is outlined and the canonical speech acts are identified.

For both the Wisdom Literature and the Writings, the intertextua...

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