Song of Solomon

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The Song of Solomon or Song of Songs (Hebrew title שיר השירים, Shir ha-Shirim) is a book of the Hebrew BibleTanakh or Old Testament—one of the five megillot. It is also sometimes called by its title in the Vulgate, Canticum Canticorum, the "Canticle of Canticles." The title is later than the text [1]. The book consists of a cycle of poems about erotic love, largely in the form of a dialogue between a bridegroom and a bride. The Song of Solomon is not quoted by New Testament writers.

The text, read without allegory as a celebration of sexual love, appears to alternate between addressing a male object of affection and a female one. Some scholars suggest that the poems may be a series of antiphonal remarks and responses between a male and female pair, possibly created by one author rather than reflecting a genuine series of exchanged poems. Other scholars suggest that it is a collection of originally more independent poetry.

The name of the book comes from the first verse, "The Song of songs, which is of (or for) Solomon." Some believe the title "song of songs" attests to the greatness of the book. Rabbi Akiba declared, "Heaven forbid that any man in Israel ever disputed that the Song of Songs is holy. For the whole world is not worth the day on which the Song of Songs was given to Israel, for all the Writings are holy and the Song of Songs is holy of holies. (Mishnah Yadayim 3:5). Similarly, Martin Luther called it "das Hohelied," meaning, "the high song." [2]

Some people translate the second clause of the title as "which is of Solomon," meaning that the book is authored by Solomon. According to Jewish tradition, Solomon wrote three Biblical books, corresponding to three states in a man's life: Song of Songs, which expresses the lustful vigor of youth; Proverbs, which expresses the wisdom of maturity; and Ecclesiastes, which expresses the cynicism of old age. Others translate the second clause as "which is for Solomon," meaning that the book is dedicated to Solomon. Some read the book as contrasting the nobility of monogamous love with the debased nature of promiscuous love, and suggest that the book is actually a veiled criticism of Solomon, who is said to have had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines.

Although the book never mentions God by name, an allegorical interpretation justified its inclusion in the Biblical canon.[citation needed] According to Jewish tradition in the Midrash and the Targum, it is an allegory of God's love for the Children of Israel. In Christian tradition that began with Origen, it is allegory for the relationship of Christ and the Church or Christ and the individual believer (see the Sermons on the Song of Songs by Bernard of Clairvaux). This type of allegorical interpretation was applied later to even passing details in parables of Jesus. It is also heavily used in Sufi poetry.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the largest denomination in Joseph Smith restorationism, does not recognize the Song of Solomon as authoritative [3], although it is included in the Church's canon and printed in Church-published copies of the Bible.

Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical Deus Caritas Est (God is Love) of 2006 refers to the Song of Songs in both its literal and allegorical meaning, stating that erotic love (eros) and self-donating love (agape) is shown there as the two halves of true love, which is both giving and receiving.

Black Madonnas illustrate a line in the Song of Songs 1:5: "I am black, but beautiful, O daughters of Jerusalem ..." This is inscribed in Latin on some: Nigra sum sed formosa. It is clear that the inscription was there from the beginning.

(Compare Ps. 45; Isa. 54:4-6; 62:4, 5; Jer. 2:2; 3:1, 20; Ezek. 16; Hos. 2:16, 19, 20. Compare also Matt. 9:15; John 3:29; Eph. 5:23, 27, 29; Rev. 19:7-9; 21:2, 9; 22:17.)

[edit] External links

Jewish translations and commentary:

Christian translations and commentary:

Music for the Song of Solomon:


This entry incorporates text from the public domain Easton's Bible Dictionary, originally published in 1897.

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Song of Solomon

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