Chapter

Song of Solomon

Robert Carroll and Stephen Prickett

in The Bible: Authorized King James Version

Published in print February 1998 | ISBN: 9780192835253
Published online April 2009 |

Series: Oxford World's Classics

Song of Solomon

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This is, notoriously, the one piece of erotic literature in the Bible. In later Jewish liturgical traditional the Song of Solomon became the festival scroll for reading at Passover, where it was allegorized as an account of YHWH's love for Israel. This Jewish tradition was adopted also by Christian commentators who clearly preferred to read the book symbolically rather than as a treatment of sexual and erotic love. Hence the dominant Christian interpretations of the song have focused on the relationship between Christ and the Church, or Christ and the individual Christian soul, or between Christ and Mary, his mother.58 Nevertheless, its imagery found its way into many seventeenth century love poems, and in Victorian times a directly sexual reading is to be found in Charles Kingsley's Hypatia (1853). The book takes its name from the opening phrase, ‘The song of songs, which is Solomon's’ (1: 1), meaning ‘the best song of Solomon’, and reflects Solomon's fame as a song-writer (1 Kgs. 4: 32) as well as a lover (1 Kgs. 11: 3). The Song consists of a series of poems in which the lovers describe each other's bodies in various metaphorical ways. Rather than any male voyeurism, however, there is always a mutuality in these exchanges of love. That mutuality, as well as their sensuousness, suggests female as well as male authors.59

Chapter.  478 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies ; Biblical Studies

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