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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « The Law Promised Life | Main | The Lord Commands us to Keep His Precepts »

    Solomon's Song (2)

    After reading my brief overview posted last week concerning what the Song of Solomon is all about, someone wrote to me with this question:

    Interesting… so if Song of Songs is “not a book about Christ” why is it in the Bible? The way I understand the Old Testament and, it seems, the way Christ understood it, is that it is ALL about Christ. The book of Hebrews rather liberally applies the temple, sacrificial system, and priesthood to Christ… why not the Song?

    My Response: It is a huge oversimplification to say that ALL the Old Testament is about Christ. Of course, much of it does point to Christ. Jesus was able to reveal much of this to the two who walked with Him on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:44 – “Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

    “Everything written about me” is not the same thing as saying “everything written is about me.”

    There are countless things, people, places, etc, which simply are people, places and things.. and have no typological fulfillment in Christ. e.g. just at random, here’s a passage in Judges 1:33 Naphtali did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh, or the inhabitants of Beth-anath, so they lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land. Nevertheless, the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh and of Beth-anath became subject to forced labor for them.

    34 The Amorites pressed the people of Dan back into the hill country, for they did not allow them to come down to the plain. 35 The Amorites persisted in dwelling in Mount Heres, in Aijalon, and in Shaalbim, but the hand of the house of Joseph rested heavily on them, and they became subject to forced labor. 36 And the border of the Amorites ran from the ascent of Akrabbim, from Sela and upward.

    Its important to stay within biblical perameters in our hermeneutics (Bible interpretation). The Amorites here are the Amorites… Mount Heres is Mount Heres… Akrabbim is Akkrabim.. etc., etc. It would be grossly incorrect to seek to force the text to make these people and places refer to “Christ” in some way.

    The Song of Solomon is in the Bible because it is a wonderful God inspired love story and a reflection of God’s own love for His people. That a whole book of the Bible would be devoted to such a thing is breathtaking, and so far removed from the Greek concept that all fleshly activity of the body is sinful. (Sadly Greek thinking has had a huge influence on the Church through the centuries).

    It is also true to say that the fact that an entire book of the Bible is devoted to the theme of romance, eroticism and sexual pleasure between a man and a woman in marriage shows us very clearly that God does not hate these things. He actually rejoices in them, being their Divine Author.

    Think about the profound ramifications of this for a moment. He could have said to couples, “just mix substance A with substance B, put it in a pot and leave it overnight and whammo – you will have a child.” That was an option. Instead, God gave the human race sex with all that goes with it. God is certainly no killjoy, though He is quite clear regading the biblical boundaries for sexual enjoyment and pleasure, namely marriage (between a man and a woman).

    The Song of Solomon also teaches us that God has a wonderful purpose for marriage in and of itself. This is a wonderful encouragement for precious couples who for some reason are not able to produce children.

    The hyper-allegorical school of thought has brought much confusion and harm to the Body of Christ (and society and culture at large) through the centuries – none more so than in the arena of marriage. If properly understood (without all the allegorical trimmings) this book would have been a huge corrective in Church history when many leaders in the Church promoted the idea that all sex was sinful and that marital sex was only ever to be engaged for the purpose of procreation. The Song of Solomon clearly teaches us otherwise.

    Why could these gifted leaders of the Church not see what is obvious to us?

    That is a question that is actually fairly simple to answer: because they saw the Song of Solomon through the lens of the allegorical method of interpreation and therefore saw it as being ALL about Christ and His Church, rather than what it actually is, a book about romantic love.

    The Hebrew people never viewed this book as an allegory of God’s love for Israel. As I pointed out before, that is why boys were not allowed to read it until they were considered adults in society. All understood what the book was truly about.

    It is a rich and deep book and worthy of our study. - JS

    Posted by John Samson on March 7, 2011 12:17 PM

    Comments

    I have to express my disagreement with you here, John, for the record. Although allegorization may have been abused at times in Church history (e.g. the Alexandrian school of exegesis, the Medieval schoolmen, etc.), it is neither safe nor right to conclude that an entire book of the Old Testament scriptures do not pertain at all to Christ. The pendulum ought not to swing anywhere near so far as that. When Jesus made such unilateral statements as, "[The Scriptures] are they which testify of me," he was inferentially excluding the idea that an entire book could fail to point to him. If "the scriptures" do testify of Jesus; and if one of the scriptures is Solomon's Song, then Solomon's Song testifies of Jesus. In other words, Jesus was giving a necessary component (Christocentrism) of what it means to be an inspired Scripture. The Spirit of prophecy *is* the testimony of Jesus (Rev. 19:10); and you may be sure that whenever the Spirit inspired writings, they testified of Jesus, in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are summed up. Now, this does not mean that the scriptures are all myths or allegories -- far from it! But they do all look ahead to Christ. To use your example pulled from Judges, that is a real, historical example of the failure of the people to win their rest in the land of God's presence, which underscored their need for the promised Messiah; and it comes in the midst of a book that is absolutely full of saviors whose lives display typologically what the Christ would do, and whose failures reinforce the need for the Christ to come and do what they could not finally accomplish. In other words, apart from understanding the book's intentional looking ahead to Christ, you will not understand the significance of the failure of Naphtali.

    So it is too with the Song of Solomon; until you recognize that this paradigmatic, quintessential love story intentionally looks ahead to the perfect love between Christ and the Church, you will neither understand nor apply it rightly. The application is not so narrow as to be exclusively a means of teaching husbands and wives how to keep the spark alive. Even if that is a legitimate application, it is not an ultimate one at all -- rather, keeping the spark alive, as it were, must be subordinated to the higher end of displaying in a loving relationship the perfect love between Christ and his bride. But even when subordinated to that end, that is by no means the only are even the primary application. The Song should be used, as orthodox preachers all throughout church history have used it, to stir up the love of the Church for Christ, to warn her against the temptation to fall asleep and refuse to open the door when he knocks, to arouse her to pursuing hard after him and to delighting fervently in his graces. This is an application that applies to all believers. It is not a book that should be reserved for that exclusive class of married persons in the Church; the scriptures are all profitable for all Christians, because they all find their ultimate meaning in Christ. That is something that has been taught by everyone from Theodoret the Antiochene exegete to Luther to Spurgeon to Owen -- to virtually all orthodox scholars until post-Enlightenment days. That sort of universality should not be lightly shrugged off.

    One final point; when Paul teaches that Genesis 2:24 was written fundamentally about Christ and the Church (and no one orthodox will suggest that it had no application to Adam and Eve, who were the historical persons of whom it was spoken); then it is absurd to suggest that Solomon's Song could not have been written fundamentally about Christ and the Church, even if there is some level of historic reference to Solomon and his bride.

    Hi precious brother,

    Actually, my view is not quite as narrow as you suggest. In the first post I wrote, "Are there parallels between Solomon and his bride and Christ and his Church? Perhaps there are. Certainly Christ loves His Church with deep affection and we, the people of God, love Christ, the husband. But it must be pointed out that nowhere does Scripture speak of Christ as our Solomon or of the Church as Solomon’s bride."

    Just out of interest, how would you combat the blasphemous idea that we (the Church) are to "make love to God" and have sexual connotations in our minds when thinking of our union with Him, based on the allegorical misinterpretation. I have been dealing with it all last week on my blog here: http://effectualgrace.com/2011/02/26/run-for-your-life/ and its been truly horrific. If you allow for their same allegorical interpretation of the Song of Solomon, just wondered how you combat it.

    Hi again, John!

    I appreciate your allowance of parallels, but I guess my main motivation in bringing this up is practical and pastoral; here's a question that will help me discern whether or not I would see your allowance as being sufficiently close to my view as not to make any fuss over it: one of the most helpful books I've ever read is Communion with God, by John Owen; and in chapter five, Fellowship with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, he walks through the Song of Solomon, exulting in the graces and beauties of Christ and exhorting believers to pursue and delight in him as the Shulamite. He concludes by saying, "The whole book called, "The Song of Solomon" describes the communion between the Lord Christ and his saints". Now, my question is, would your approach allow me to give this chapter to some unmarried Christian as an encouragement to him or her to meditate on the glory of Christ? If not, then it seems like all but an exclusive class of believers (married persons) are robbed of any part at all of this gospel treasure, and even married persons are robbed of the best part of it. So really, that's my main question -- do you see Owen's treatment here and elsewhere as a legitimate application?

    To address your question to me, yes, such a grossly carnal, literalistic application is horribly wrong and shameful. God uses physical things, even that most physical of relationships, the union between a man and wife, to shadow wonderful spiritual realities -- but to confuse the sign with the things signfied would be a horrid mistake. Think of the early allegation against Christians, that they were cannibals, because they ate human flesh and drank human blood. If they had really done so, it would have been appalling -- and yet, to show the deep significance and reality of our union with him, he was pleased to use the shocking figure of our drinking his blood! In the same way, if we misinterpret the fact that the cleaving of a man and his wife shows a literalistic way of or union with Christ, it is a perversion; but the fact is, that shockingly enough, Paul clearly states that this cleaving relationship was designed to point to Christ and the Church. As shocking as drinking blood, yes, and never to be literalized into something shameful; but when kept in proper bounds, an amazing glimpse of how tenderly and wonderfully Christ loves us.

    I'm nto trying to pick quarrels, dear brother, I'm just speaking as someone who has been deeply helped by Owen and others from this precious book of Solomon's, and wanting others to be helped likewise.

    My concern is also pastoral. If the book is mainly about Christ, with only a very secondary application to love, romance and marriage, I fail to see how the obvious references to eroticism and sexuality in the book should not be interpreted as referring to the way we should view our relationship with Christ. Just saying this is "literalistic" is not a good argument (in my view) as if the book is about Christ and His relationship to the Church, how can this not be a logical conclusion to assume that these things speak of our union with Him?

    To quote my earlier post on the Song of Solomon: I agree wholeheartedly with Dr. John MacArthur when he writes, “The Song has suffered strained interpretations over the centuries by those who use the “allegorical” method of interpretation…. A more satisfying way to approach Solomon’s Song is to take it at face value and interpret it in the normal historical sense, understanding the frequent use of poetic imagery to depict reality… The metaphoric and euphemistic nature of the book is designed by God to veil the private intimacy of marriage. Its beautiful expressions of romantic love are purposefully shrouded in poetic language – intended only to give general insight into the joys of passion, desire and romance. In this way, the Song expresses the wonders of marital love while distancing itself from anything crass or explicitly sensual. Interpreters of this book must be careful to maintain the dignified character of the book, and must not read anything into it that is not actually there.” (The MacArthur Study Bible notes)

    Well, I guess the disagreement is real, and it probably won't be hammered out here. But I'll stick with Theodoret and Owen (and John the Baptist and Paul) over MacArthur and Driscoll. I really think the consensus of Church authorities for eighteen-hundred years was right on this one.

    Still love you, bro, but just can't agree with you here!

    Sorry, the way I referred to Paul and John the Baptist was a little heavy-handed and unfair, I realize in retrospect. I apologize for that. I do think that John's teaching that Christ is the bridegroom and Paul's teaching that the cleaving union between a man and wife has reference to Christ and the Church proves that the comparison is a valid one when properly understood, but I shouldn't have suggested that in an inflammatory way. Please forgive me.

    This is getting to be like the Scribes who asked Jesus about the woman who had been married 7 times and who's wife she would be in heaven. Jesus certainly did not give an answer based on their sexual relationships.

    All Scripture is inspired (even if, as scholars suggest, Soloman did not write the Song of Songs himself) - Therefore, all Scripture has some "spiritual" meaning.

    If we reduce the Song to a mere human understanding (sex), we do not get beyond the letter of the written word to the spirit, like the Scribes above.

    Why would a book dealing with mere human relations be in the Bible? I mean, who needs Scripture for that? But, if it has some spiritual significance, allegorically or otherwise, then it is rightly there.

    Allegory is not a literary technique to bring Wisdom down to us, perhaps rather it is a technique to raise us up to or seek Wisdom.

    The word "sex" is not in the Song. But maybe, the sense of longing to be united with Christ (God) or the anxiety of seeking Him is though.

    The perversions of those who would reduce Scripture to mere human understanding are displayed on your link. Don't fall in with them. The Song of Solomon is not about sex, eroticism etc. Don't make it about that, about sex.

    As long as people give a literal interpretation instead of a spiritual one, these perversions will persist.

    Nathan and John, thanks for carrying on the conversation here in the comments section. Appreciate very much your exchange. It truly is a disagreement between friends and I've been in the same place myself. It's important but at the same time I appreciate the love of truth and unity as brothers you expressed.

    Sure... I was a little surprised by the "I will stick with John the Baptist and Paul" comment.

    As I mentioned, "in Hebrew society, young boys are not permitted to read the book until their “bar mitzvah” when they “come of age” so to speak, and are considered fully adult men by their community. That is because the Jews understood the book to be something of a handbook for marriage."

    You appeal to church history and I just say this to show that my view actually precedes yours amongst the people of God. I believe the Church has erred greatly by over allegorizing where there is no need or biblical warrant to do so, and in this particular case, it has led to gross error regarding views on sexuality, seeing sex as evil and sinful, even within marriage, and is one of the reasons for priests having to remain unmarried. All can be traced back to this overly zealous allegorization.

    I would say that I will stick with Yahweh and Jesus on this one, but I will refrain. :-)

    God bless you brother Nathan.

    Just so you know, there were Yawhistic and Messianic understandings of the Song among Jewish interpreters even before the coming of Christ. You're just giving one school of thought among many. Not that I would put too much stock in Jewish interpretations, since Jesus seemed to be quite at odds with them throughout his life.

    Blessings,
    Nathan

    One more thing, and I'll be done: a Messianic interpretation of the Song does not have to be an allegorical interpretation, as James Hamilton demonstrates here:

    http://www.swbts.edu/resources//SWBTS/Resources/FacultyDocuments/Hamilton/WTJ_fall06_topress_3.pdf

    Thanks Nathan,

    Yes, I am aware of that, and certainly aware that amongst Rabbis, there is a great and wide variety of interpretations. However, I do believe it would be true to say that the view I embrace was always the majority view in Hebrew society and culture.

    In doing some google searches to try and locate a little more information and possibly some google-books discussing some of the ideas mentioned above I found the following article which attempted to show that our translations might also be partly to blame for biasing us towards how we view Song of Solomon.

    http://www.trinitarianbiblesociety.org/site/articles/songnkjv.pdf

    I'm willing to entertain the idea that our peers, our diet of books, etc. could tend to shape our bias but do you think there can be something in the translation itself with the same result? Thanks again for the public exchange.

    Song of Solomon 4:1 Behold, you are beautiful, my love, behold, you are beautiful! Your eyes are doves behind your veil. Your hair is like a flock of goats leaping down the slopes of Gilead. 2 Your teeth are like a flock of shorn ewes that have come up from the washing, all of which bear twins, and not one among them has lost its young. 3 Your lips are like a scarlet thread, and your mouth is lovely. Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate behind your veil. 4 Your neck is like the tower of David, built in rows of stone; on it hang a thousand shields, all of them shields of warriors. 5 Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle, that graze among the lilies. 6 Until the day breathes and the shadows flee, I will go away to the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense. 7 You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you. 8 Come with me from Lebanon, my bride; come with me from Lebanon. Depart from the peak of Amana, from the peak of Senir and Hermon, from the dens of lions, from the mountains of leopards. 9 You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride; you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace. 10 How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride! How much better is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your oils than any spice! 11 Your lips drip nectar, my bride; honey and milk are under your tongue; the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon. 12 A garden locked is my sister, my bride, a spring locked, a fountain sealed. 13 Your shoots are an orchard of pomegranates with all choicest fruits, henna with nard, 14 nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes, with all choice spices— 15 a garden fountain, a well of living water, and flowing streams from Lebanon.

    Just a quick further thought Nathan. If the Song of Solomon (and this for example, chapter 4 of the book) is simply an allegorical discourse concerning Christ and His love for the Church then would it not imply the mistaken idea, so prevalent in our churches today, that we are loved because we are inherantly desirable?

    Is this not the exact opposite of grace - where the amazing thing is that God would have any interest in us at all, wretches that we are. In the Song of Solomon, the Bride is beautiful and desirable and worthy of the attention of the King; yet this is the exact opposite of our state in sin. We were hostile rebels, and there was no beauty in us that drew Him to us.

    I guess I am saying that if I interpret the book as you do, I cannot see how this does not, taken to its logical conclusion, undermine the very message of the grace of God found in the gospel. Grace is not merely a good business venture on God's part - seeing amazing value in us and being willing to pay the asking price.. no - grace is amazing because while we were still sinners.. while there was no beauty in us, the wonder of wonders is that God paid a ridiculous and scandalous price to save those He loved.

    Why did He set His love on us? We are never told; except that we know this with certainty - unlike Solomon's beautiful bride, it was not because we were inherantly lovable.

    Ok, I'll jump in again, John, so as not to leave your question hanging.

    Let me rephrase your question, and pose it again to you:

    If Paul is correct in describing the Church as a "church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing," but "holy and without blemish," then doesn't that undercut the gospel? To use your words, "I guess I am saying that if I interpret [Ephesians 5 in this way], I cannot see how this does not, taken to its logical conclusion, undermine the very message of the grace of God found in the gospel. Grace is not merely a good business venture on God's part - seeing amazing value in us and being willing to pay the asking price.. no - grace is amazing because while we were still sinners.. while there was no beauty in us, the wonder of wonders is that God paid a ridiculous and scandalous price to save those He loved."

    The answer, of course, is found in the rest of the verse -- when the church was ugly and marred, Christ died to wash her and make her beautiful and without blemish. In the same way, the Old Testament speaks of how the Lord Christ found his church naked, helpless, and wallowing in her blood, but he then beautified her to make her a fitting bride for himself (see Ezek. 16). Not only does Christ's delight in the beauty of his bride not undermine the gospel, it shows the great glory of his gospel. Tell me, is it a better gospel that loves the unlovely and still leaves her unlovely? Or is it not rather a better gospel that first loves the unlovely, and then makes her truly lovely, so that he might delight in the loveliness he has bestowed upon her? The latter of course -- God loves us with a love of sheer benevolence, when we are filthy and vile, but his love does not leave us there -- it makes us beautiful, so that he might henceforth love us with a love of complacency (the kind of love that the prophet looks ahead to in Zeph. 3:17).

    Let me be blunt here: there is not a single aspect of your argument against seeing SoS as a song of Christ and his Church that cannot be turned upon NT passages as well. Does viewing Christ and the Church as a man and his bride lead to the kinds of false teaching you highlighted on your blog? Well then, Ephesians 5, Rev., 19, etc. must fall by the same stroke. If it is unconscionable to view SoS 4 as pertaining to Christ, then it is unconscionable to view Eph. 5 as pertaining to Christ; but Paul unequivocally does refer that passage to Christ. Hence, if it is permissible with Paul, then it cannot be impermissible with Solomon. Your argument proves to much -- Paul himself must fall by the same syllogism.

    I guess I'm a little baffled as to how you can be opposed in principle to an idea that is not just mentioned in passing in the NT, but is a very dominant theme from Matthew to Revelation. John the Baptist called Christ the bridegroom of the Church; Christ himself called himself the bridegroom of the church; Christ spoke often in parables that portrayed himself as the bridegroom of the Church; Paul spoke of Christ as the bridegroom of the Church; John, in the Revelation, brings all redemptive history to a sweeping climax which portrays Christ as the bridegroom of the Church; the whole NT speaks of the relationship between Christ and the Church in that fashion -- but when we look back at the OT and suggest it does the same thing, that idea is dangerous? How can that be? Or let me ask you this: Psalm 45 speaks in terms very similar to SoS; and in Hebrews 1, we find definite confirmation that the protagonist of that Psalm is Christ; hence, not just the NT, but also the OT, by indisputable logic, portrays Christ as the bride of a glorious Church -- so then, if it is certainly the case in Psalm 45, why is it impermissible with SoS?

    Christ taught that all the Scriptures testify of him. That may not mean that every person or event is a type of him, but how can it not mean that every book (every scripture) of the OT points to him? If SoS is not about him in any way whatsoever, then what does that mean? That Christ spoke imprecisely when he said that he was teaching his disciples what was said of him in all the scriptures. Did he really mean to say he was showing what was testified of him in all the scriptures except SoS?

    What I'm doing, what the first eighteen hundred centuries' worth of exegetes did, is precisely what the author of the letter to the Hebrews, for instance, was doing in another arena: he knew that the OT scriptures pointed to Christ, he saw that, from the beginning of Christ's ministry, John the Baptist proclaimed Christ to be the Lamb of God, and so he looked back to the Christ-saturated OT Scriptures, saw all the lamb-offerings, and said, "aha! although that was said of real lambs that really died, it was really looking ahead to Christ". In the same way, when we see the strong theme, from John the Baptist and on through Revelation, that Christ by his own confession is the bridegroom of the Church, then we look back at Ezek. 16, the book of Hosea, Psalm 45, SoS, etc., and say, "Aha! Just as Christ taught us, this all looked ahead to him! Even though Hosea really married Gomer, even though Solomon really married the Shulamite (just as real lambs really died) -- that was not the ultimate point. Now that I see by the NT that Christ really does husband a bride he has beautified and now delights in, I know what the OT -- I know what SoS -- must point ahead to. It's as plain as the nose on my face.

    Anyway, I suppose I'm getting carried away here; please don't take this as a personal attack on you -- it's not at all, you're still my very dear brother in the Lord! But I just can't see how any of your arguments positing a danger in reading SoS Christocentrically do not overturn the NT as well, in many places such as Eph. 5 and Rev 19. And furthermore, I cannot see how suggesting that an entire scripture does not testify of Christ at all is not opposed to John 5:39, Lukle 24, etc.

    Nathan,

    One thing at a time - the Ephesians 5 passage (and the message of the entire New Testament) is not saying that the church was beautiful when Christ set eyes on her, but that Christ (by His work alone) makes her beautiful - holy, spotless, etc. She was ugly and vile when Christ died for her and gave Himself for her... there is no similarity whatsoever to Solomon's bride.

    I never said that there was NO type - just that it is not the main theme of the book and certainly much of the type simply does not fit at all.. chapter 4, for example.

    Have you read this (which I alluded to earlier)? http://effectualgrace.com/2011/02/26/run-for-your-life/

    Please take a few minutes to read it (and some of the comments afterwards Nathan). I believe the horrendous material in this very popular "Christian" book (especially popular with women) is a direct result of the allegorical view drawn out to its logical conclusion. Once you say the whole thing is ALL about Christ and His Church there's no place to put the brakes on the wagon - down the hill we go all the way to the crazy blasphemous perversion in that book.

    Scott,

    I skimmed the article you linked, and it sounded like there was some merit to the thesis -- I think many modern translations do employ headings and footnotes in such a way as to discourage a Christ-centered reading, unfortunately. But as the author of that article said, until the nineteenth century, there really wasn't any debate on the basic approach to the Song.

    Nathan

    At this point, I think we're just talking past one another, John. Yes, I've seen your blog post (as you can no doubt tell by my alluding to it a couple times in previous comments). I've said this before, so all I can do is repeat myself: I am against that sort of perversion. In fact, I am against turning the Song into erotic literature of any kind.

    "The Ephesians 5 passage (and the message of the entire New Testament) is not saying that the church was beautiful when Christ set eyes on her, but that Christ (by His work alone) makes her beautiful - holy, spotless, etc. She was ugly and vile when Christ died for her and gave Himself for her" -- that is exactly what I said, John. You're arguing against arguments that haven't even been suggested, and not addressing the arguments that have been given. Eph. 5 teaches that Christ changed an ugly sinful woman to a beautiful bride; so does Ezek. 16, as I pointed out, and Psalm 45 likewise speaks of Christ's beautification of his bride; and there is nothing in SoS that suggests otherwise. In fact, if you're familiar with OT themes, there is much in SoS to suggest that the bride was in fact made beautiful by Christ (just in the chapter you quote, for instance, the twelfth verse strongly implies the sort of husbanding and beautification that's portrayed in places like Isaiah 5). Simply put, the Shulamite (i.e. the Church) was made beautiful by Christ. The point of SoS is not to provide the details of how the bride became beautiful (although that is filled in by passages such as Ezek. 16 and hinted at throughout the Son) -- but just because that is not the Song's function does not mean that the Song is opposed to that complementary truth. Just because Paul speaks of sanctification in some places does not mean that he is opposed to justification; and just because SoS capitalizes on Christ's love of complacency does not mean he was opposed to the prior love of benevolence.

    Nathan,

    You say, "I am against turning the Song into erotic literature of any kind." While I very much appreciate that, my point is that it is very difficult NOT to go there if all is about Christ and the Church. As far as I can see, you provide no real or logical basis for NOT going there.

    Obviously we disagree on Ephesians 5.. you jump to other Old Testament passages (outside of Song of Solomon) to try to explain the justification/sanctification dinstinction, but that is exactly my point - you DON'T find that insight whatsoever in Song of Solomon - the Bride was beautiful when the Bridegroom first saw her. To use theological language, there is no getting around the fact that Solomon's bride is sanctified even when he meets her. You have to jump to other passages to try to introduce concepts not present in the text. That is what eisegesis is.. a reading into the text something that is not actually there.

    There were a lot of marriages and a lot of husbands and brides in the Old Testament.. are they all about Christ too? I believe we should use caution in our interpretation and not going beyond scripture. Though you obviously disagree with my interpretation, I would see yours as eisegesis, as there is no biblical grounds for seeing Song of Songs as a complete allegory.. you say you see it, but there's no reference either within the book itself or outside of it, anywhere in the Bible where Christ is said to be Solomon and the Bride is said to be the Church. It is just not there.

    I would also add that your insistence that the interpretation I offer is the new kid on the block (since the 19th century) is also highly provocative. You dismiss out of hand the most common interpretation amongst the Jews since the text was written.

    While the Jews COULD have taught that the book was all about God's love for Israel (and there are books of the Bible which certainly are) they did not do this - but saw it for what it was, an amazing and beautiful love story between Solomon and his bride.

    John, let me quote your words to me:

    "You say, "I am against turning the Song into erotic literature of any kind." While I very much appreciate that, my point is that it is very difficult NOT to go there if all is about Christ and the Church..."

    One thing, and then I'll be done here; you can have the last word, if you want to address any of the arguments I've given above.

    When you say about my desire to keep the Song from becoming erotic literature, " I very much appreciate that," it makes me wonder why you speak elsewhere of "the fact that an entire book of the Bible is devoted to the theme of romance, eroticism and sexual pleasure between a man and a woman in marriage" (emphasis added). It seems a bit more believable that your interpretation is the one at risk of falling into eroticism, as may be seen, for example, in the coarse and shameless things that Mark Driscoll has uttered in his sermons on the Song, which uses the same essential hermeneutic you employ. In fact, it is very difficult to go there, if it's about Christ and the Church. For eighteen hundred years, Christians didn't go there, in spite of universal consent that it was about Christ and the Church. The same post-Enlightenment rationalism and individualism that drove the change to a literalistic hermeneutic drives the modern chaotic notion that every person can have an opinion for himself, and spout all sorts of nonsense like you very wisely argue against in your blog post on that dangerous book, even when he directly contradicts everything that mainstream, orthodox Christianity has believed from the apostolic days. Read Owen and Spurgeon and all the others I've mentioned and see if they "go there" -- they don't, nor do I.

    As I said, I think I'll bow out; feel free to address any of my foregoing arguments, if you like; and I'll be happy to let you have the last word. I genuinely appreciate the fact that you're warning people against a very disturbing book. Even though I would argue against it in a much different way, I appreciate the fact that you are as adamant against it as I am. We may be quite at odds with each other on this topic, but I trust we are still striving side by side for the gospel.

    Your brother in Christ,
    Nathan

    Thanks Nathan,

    Yes, I very much appreciate you and my respect for you is undiminished despite our strong disagreement on this point.

    Regarding Mark Driscoll, I have not heard him on this matter and so I am not able to make any informed comment except to say that the best methodology is to ALWAYS stay within the bounds and terms of sacred Scripture. If he goes beyond that, he moves outside of the safe boundaries and out into merky and perilous terrain.

    The fact remains that the Jews always saw the Song of Solomon as a book about romantic love between a famous King of theirs and his bride. They were reluctant for even their own boys to read it until they had come of age into full adulthood. Because of the book's subject matter, it needs to be taught with due discretion. It is amazing to me that such a book should be written and tells us much about the God who inspired it.

    I am very much aware of the teaching of the Church through the centuries Nathan, but I believe the error can be traced back to a man I respect greatly, namely St. Augustine. He was the greatest theologian (outside of the New Testament) in the first millennia. No doubt about it. However, his allegorical interpretation had a vast and widespread acceptance in the Church and went almost totally unchallenged. Augustine's influence was massive as was Martin Luther's. Luther, the spearhead of the Reformation, was an Augustinian monk of course. That fact alone, can explain the widespread allegorical influence on biblical interpretation through the centuries.

    In addition to this, we had the HUGE influence of Greek thinking encroaching on the Church. The western mind is far more Greek in its thinking than Hebrew.

    The Greeks, as I am sure you know, thought all matter was evil, and only the spiritual was good. They made a division between the sacred and the secular. (No such divide can be found in Scripture). There were "sacred callings" (serving in the Church) and secular callings (less than spiritual ones - outside the Church - as a butcher, baker or candlestick maker). The body was thought to be evil, the spirit was good. Sex was thought to be evil (even within marriage); chastity was good. Because of this, priests (with their sacred calling) had to take unscriptural vows of celibacy rather than become enmeshed in the "sinful" activities that take place within marriage. How vastly different all of this is from Hebrew (biblical) thinking.

    So with Augustine's allegorical method, and wearing the lenses of Greek thinking, it is easy to see why the Church thought that the book could not be speaking of a man's love for his bride - that would be WAY too sinful a thing to even consider. It must have a more "lofty" or "spiritual" meaning. Yet, that is what the book is about - the joys of romantic love. The Bible comes to us in a Hebrew context, not Greek. Though the New Testament was written in Greek, it was written (almost exclusively) by Jews. Salvation is of the Jews. Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. The apostles were Jews. Paul was a Jew. We greatly err when we approach the Scriptures with a Greek rather than Hebrew mentality.

    My point regarding eroticism is not that it is wrong, in and of itself. Clearly it is not. God is the author of sexuality. How freeing this concept is for married couples to understand that they are not sinning to engage in romantic sensual love. The marriage bed is undefiled (Hebrews 13:4). My concern is over erotic terms describing our relationship with GOD.

    Though we disagree on this issue, we are very much united in the gospel, and I thank God for you precious brother.

    John

    I agree with the author here. The "New Calvinism", as good as it has been for the church, has taken Biblical Theology headlong. At times this it has done this with little thought. The effect this has had on biblical interpreation is at times reduced the integrity of the OT and its true meaning. You can approach topics and the OT with a Christo-centric (or better Gospel centered) view in such a way where you don't force meaning into the texts.

    Aidan,

    It's interesting that you equate the universal, historic interpretation of the Song for the first eighteen-hundred years of the Church with the New Calvinism -- esp. when many of the big names associated with the New Calvinism have been outspoken in their understanding of the Song as being essentially about sex (e.g. Mahaney, tactfully; Driscoll, crudely, etc.). I think I'll stick with the old Calvinism, that saw in the Song a celebration of the greatest love in history, to which all love and marriage was designed to point. I'd rather exult in that love than dwell on the physical beauties of another man's bride.

    Nathan

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