Andrew Marr's Reviews > The Song of Songs and the Eros of God: A Study in Biblical Intertextuality

The Song of Songs and the Eros of God by Edmée Kingsmill
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it was amazing
bookshelves: benedictine-spirituality, bible, christian-spirituality, monasticism, religion

The Song of Songs has, over the centuries, been interpreted allegorically more often than not. Rabbis often interpreted it as an allegory of Yahweh's relationship with Israel. Many patristic writers interpreted it as an allegory of the relationship between Christ and the Church. Some Patristic writers and many medieval writers (especially monks) interpreted it as an allegory of the relationship between Christ and the individual soul. The leaders of the Reformation, not least Martin Luther eschewed mystical interpretations and in the twentieth century, the tendency is to interpret the poem on a more literal level: as a love poem between a man and a woman.

As a member of an Anglican contemplative community (Sisters of the Love of God), Edmée Kingsmill, is most sympathetic to the mystical interpretations by such writers as Bernard of Clairvaux and John of the Cross. She writes of how the imagery resonates with her experiences of deep prayer.

However, what this book is mainly about is a study of cross-references in the Hebrew Bible between the Song and other writers to defend the interpretation of the Song as an allegory of the relationship between Yahweh and Israel.Her correlations are most impressive and informative. The largest number of references are to the prophetic books with Hosea being the most prominent. That is not surprising as Hosea explicitly uses the relationship between himself and his unfaithful wife as an allegory of God's love with unfaithful Israel.

The basic thrust of Kingsmill's analysis of these cross-references is that the Song takes on an eschatological significance. That is, the love relationship between the lovers offers us images of the ideal and consummated love between God and GOd's people. The vineyard, for example, is a frequent image of Israel and in prophets like Isaiah and several psalms, the vineyard is destroyed because, as Isaiah said, it grew wild grapes. But the vineyards in the Song flourish luxuriantly.

Most important, Kingsmill demonstrates how the Song takes the reader beyond the wrathful images of God in the Hebrew Bible, especially in the prophets, to a vision of God as totally and purely loving with not a trace of wrath. Supported by this kind of analysis, the Song begins to make sense at a mystical level as well where God is experienced as love too profound to comprehend.

A stimulating read that is well worth the effort ove following through detailed analyses of the cross-references that lead to a fresh and inspiring understanding of the Hebrew Bible.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
December 30, 2019 – Shelved
December 30, 2019 – Shelved as: benedictine-spirituality
December 30, 2019 – Shelved as: bible
December 30, 2019 – Shelved as: christian-spirituality
December 30, 2019 – Shelved as: monasticism
December 30, 2019 – Shelved as: religion
December 30, 2019 – Finished Reading

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