IVP New Commentary on the Song of Songs

IVP has just released volume 19 The Song of Songs by Iain M. Duguid for their new edition of their Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries series. This volume is intended to replace the fine volume by G. Lloyd Carr. While I have not read the entire volume as of yet, I can offer a few observations.   While both introductions are approximately the same length, Duguid’s volume is 15 pages shorter on the commentary side. The commentary section is divided between three divisions: Context, Comment and Meaning. Since it is a newer volume, the author does interact with Exum’s and Hess’ newer commentaries as well as older ones such as Pope and Longman. However, he did not include Dan Estes’ commentary on the Song in the Apollos Old Testament Commentary series.

Duguid argues against Solomonic authorship and leans to a date after the exile as the most likely (23). His approach to the Song is a literal one plus something else. While he states that he rejects the fanciful allegorical reading, and believes the “natural” interpretation to be the correct one, he wants to “go further than this and bridge the two interpretations” (37). So throughout the volume this “bridge” is evident in his regular mentioning of Jesus Christ. His understanding of Luke 24:44-45 as the evidence that “every part of the old Testament speaks to us of the suffering of Christ and the glories that will follow” (51) allows him to construct this “bridge” with materials that are non-existent in the Song. Although he does not want to be seen as championing the allegorical approach, he wants to hold to “two broad categories, which we may call the ‘spiritual’ approach and the ‘natural’ approach” (28). This is unfortunate. While I look forward to reading the commentary section itself, I do hope Carr’s volume stays in print.

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The Rabbis and Sexuality

While researching for article on virginity, I came across a book, Tasting the Dish: Rabbinic Rhetorics of Sexuality, by Michael L. Satlow (1995). While it was not much of a help for my topic, it did provide an interesting insight as to how Rabbi Eliezer worked out the implications of Exodus 21:10.  This verse records the obligation for a husband not to deprive a wife of her conjugal rights.  The rabbi’s concern was how to apply this verse for men of various occupations that would take them away from their wives for extended periods of time. Satlow quotes the rabbi’s understanding from Mishnah Ketub 5:6 : “the conah [obligation] which is stated in the Torah: Tayalin (day students) every day. Workers, twice a week. Donkey drivers, once a week. Camel drivers, once every thirty days. Sailors, once every six months” (268). The variation in amounts of sexual intercourse is determined by when the man is home. A sailor is away from home longer than a day student so his obligation to keep Ex 21:10 is only twice a year. A student’s obligation was everyday (outside of her mensuration week) because he was home every night! It seems that the Mishnah and the rabbis took seriously a husband’s responsibility to meet the sexual needs of his wife. Satlow concludes, “Thus, the tannaitic sources declare that a wife has a right to sex, the amount which depends on the husband’s occupation” (Ibid.).

Daniel Boyarin certainly has read the Mishnah incorrectly when he concludes, “It (the Mishnah) thus masks almost entirely its own oppressiveness of women, and the way men are securing their own sexual needs here.” “On the History of the Early Phallus,” in Gender and Differences in the Middle Ages, eds. Sharon Farmer, and Carol Braun Pasternack (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), 33.

The Huffington Post and the Song of Songs

Someone has said that everyone has their 15 minutes of fame. I guess I am having mine. I was mentioned in an article at The Huffington Post (here). I am preaching on the Song of Songs for one of our Project Jerusalem Church plants, Restored Baptist Church in Wilkes-Barre PA this Sunday. Also, check out the local news story (here) and an editorial about Restored billboard (here).

While I understand the editorial, it saddens me that a Christian would criticize another believer in the press (cf. Matt 18).

The Huffington Post and the Song of Songs

Someone has said that everyone has their 15 minutes of fame. I guess I am having mine. I was mentioned in an article at The Huffington Post (here). I am preaching on the Song of Songs for one of our Project Jerusalem Church plants, Restored Baptist Church in Wilkes-Barre PA this Sunday. Also, check out the local news story (here) and an editorial about Restored billboard (here).

While I understand the editorial, it saddens me that a Christian would criticize another believer in the press (cf. Matt 18).

Hollywood tackles the Song of Solomon

One scholar I read recently on the Song of Songs related that she was glad that Hollywood has not made a modern movie of the Song of Solomon as of yet. That is about to change. This September the same motion picture company that produced the Christian film, Fireproof, is releasing The Song. (See article and trailer here). The film follows Jed King, an aspiring singer who meets and falls in love with a vineyard owners daughter at their vineyard harvest festival.  He marries her and his career takes off. Tempted with all the trappings of a successful music career, Jed must make choices. The article states that the music driven film surfaces themes of “temptation, redemption and the power of forgiveness.” Sorry, but I am at a loss to see how a close reading of the Song “inspires” such themes. The trailer reminds me more of Ecclesiastes than the Song! But it is unfair to judge a movie by its trailer so I will withhold judgment until October.

Conference on the Song of Songs

For those interested in the Song of Songs Harvard Divinity School hosted a panel discussion (April 15, 2013) and featured a conversation between four scholars on The Song of Songs:Translation, Reception, Reconfiguration. The panel included Cheryl Exum of the University of Sheffield, Michael Fishbane of University of Chicago Divinity School, Paul Griffiths of Duke University, and Stephanie Paulsell of HDS. Exum was the most profitable and held to the biblical text. Fishbane shared from a Jewish perspective; Griffiths from a Roman Catholic one from the Latin Vulgate and Paulsell from a Protestant point of view.  All (except Exum) suggested multiple readings (including allegory) as legitimate reading strategies for this book. For those interested in the Song the video is worth the viewing time. The video runs an hour and forty-two minutes. Each was allotted approximately 20 minutes. A Q&A with the audience followed.

Christians and Grief

I have been toying with the concept for some time now but have been reluctant to give it voice. That is until I found an author who expressed in writing what I have been thinking. The concept is how we as Christians process grief over the loss of a loved one. I have been theologically and emotionally uncomfortable as of late with the Christian memorial service. Leslie Allen, in his book, A Liturgy of Grief: A Pastoral Commentary on Lamentations (Baker, 2011), seems to agree: “Now a funeral service may be reduced to an ostensibly more healthy form of a celebration of life” (5). The funeral service where grief was expected and approved has been replaced by the “Christian” memorial service. It is in this setting that grief is set aside to joyously remember the LIFE of the recently departed—many times within the same week! To show grief seems to be out of step with this “more healthy” ceremony since one is to “remember the good things” and not dwell on the terrible fact that a loved one is dead and now you are alone. I would suggest there is no health gained by “skipping” grief. The Lament Psalms give biblical proof of the need to give voice to our pain.

I was at a “memorial” service a year or so ago. The person who led the service actually addressed the audience with this opening remark, “It is time to move on.” Not a week before a young couple had just lost a baby!—I doubt they were ready to move on. They probably wondered why time moved at all.

We have become averse to grief—even as Christians. I wonder if we have Paul’s admonition to the Thessalonians out of balance (1 Thess 4:13). Are we interpreting “…that you may not grieve, as do the rest…” as an imperative not to grieve at all? Or do we believe that grieving is a sign of spiritual immaturity, a demonstration of a lack of faith in God? Neither is true, since Jesus grieved over the death of his friend even though he knew he was going to raise him from the dead in a few moments! Allen rightly observes, “Contemporary Western culture provides little space for grief (Ibid.).

And if one is overcome with grief and it spills out (whether there is space for it or not), the sufferer is immediately soothed with such miserable clichés as, “It will be all right” or “You’ll get over it.” Neither statement is true. Loss it not something that is “all right” or something to get over. Loss is something one learns to live with. It is adapting to absence—in every aspect of life. But in learning to live with loss there must be opportunity to rail against the absence (and that, not alone). Unfortunately, it does not seem that the contemporary Christian “memorial service” is such a venue for grieving.