Different Translations of the Song of Songs Essay
Through the years, Christians all over the world have regarded the Holy Bile in high esteem.
They believe that the words written on it communicate the message that God wanted to impart to His people. Nevertheless, not all people readily claim that it is easy to make sense of the Holy Bible. Still, since the Bible exists to communicate the truth and not to conceal it, God certainly intends that the faithful seek to comprehend its message. Moreover, it is important to understand the Holy Bible for the reason that the teachings of God, of humankind, of salvation, and of what is yet to come lie on the proper interpretation of the written Word.
Effectively preaching the message of God to the faithful and attending to their spiritual needs do not end in the proper interpretation of the Bible. Instead, the message derived from the Scriptures must be properly applied to one’s life. Possibly, there is nothing that perplexes a good Christians more than the way certain books have found a place in the Bible. Partly troubled and partly embarrassed of their puzzlement, they find comfort in believing that as the Bible is the Word of God. All they need to do is accept the noticeable flaws of the Bible as well as its concealed beauties.
The Concept of Relationship Relationship is an amazing, strange, usually elusive, occasionally heartbreaking part of the human life. They are shared among acquaintances, colleagues, friends, and family. The kind of relationship that a husband and wife share is considered to be the most intimate of all human relationships. Such relationship gives a powerful resemblance to the most fundamental relationship of all: the relationship that exists between God and His people. The Song of Songs is a biblical text which talks about relationship. The Song of Songs and its InterpretationsThe name itself of the Song of Songs exposes and at the same time conceals its identity.
Although it is a lyric song, it is not a religious poem like most of the psalms in the Bible which are similarly acknowledged as lyric songs (Bergant et al. 80). Religious poems are usually lyrical in form. In this light, the book can properly be regarded as either a secular work or a religious composition. The relative clause “which is Solomon’s” adds to the ambiguity of the Song of Songs. The structure itself suggests that the book can be considered to be actually from the Judean king or to discuss matters which are to a certain extent connected to him.
These alternative translations have yielded a variety of interpretations. The Song of Songs is famous for the unreserved passion that it presents as well as for the extravagant sensuousness of its imagery. Although the book’s eroticism may be expressed allegorically in Hebrew, it is usually more explicit when translated in Greek (Bassnett 52). Since the ancient times, the suitability of the book as a religious literature has been a subject of controversy. Two aspects of the book evoke a tradition that is associated with Solomon (Bergant et al. 81).
For one, King Solomon is credited for writing lyric songs.In addition, the nature imagery remarked resembles the one found in the book, and it embodies the tradition regarding the King’s brilliant insight into natural phenomena and human nature. These are the things that influence that association of the book with Solomon. Even though the book traces its roots to a secular origin, it still has apparent connections with both the sapient as well as cultic traditions of Israel. Hence, this gives religious importance to the erotic content of the book.
There are those who believe that the erotic poems like the Song of Songs may easily come from a man who had several wives during his lifetime.Nevertheless, in the ancient times, certain marriages were largely based on political expediency than on romantic interest (Bergant et al. 81). Marital unions secured partnership with foreign kingdoms. Moreover, the size of the harem was indicative of the power and fortune of the leader.
The character of Solomon’s household was more of a symbol of his participation in the affairs of the state than of the affairs of his heart. Besides, Solomon may have had to marry foreign princesses in his kingdom to rescue his status in the world scene since such partnerships would defend him from the threats of rival kingdoms.The Jews and the Christians quickly used an allegorical approach in interpreting the Song of Songs. It exhibits features of the covenantal relationship between the Church and God (Bergant et al. 85). This interpretive method provides a spiritual understanding of the book as evident in the writers from the Common Era, particularly Philo of Alexandria and Maimonides.
As early as Origen who is one of the most famous early fathers of the Christian church, Christians have started to read the Song of Songs with devotional eyes which recognize the relationship depicted as one spiritual marriage between the individual soul and God.Such view was supported by certain prominent authors such as the likes of Cyril of Alexandria, Theodoret, Ambrose, Jerome, and Gregory of Nyssa (Bergant et al. 3). The same view assumed further importance in the religion of the Middle Ages, which is evident in the written works of Bernard of Clairvaux, Venerable Bede, William Saint Thierry, Gregory the Great, and even John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila during the 16th century.
Spiritual interpretations of the book normally contain certain forms of typology as well as allegory.Whenever allegory is used, the exchange between the lovers and the nature imagery is read as occasions of double entendre or uttering something yet implying another. On the other hand, in a typological approach, the Song of Songs is read literally as a story of human love. However, it is the kind of love that God has for His people (Bergant et al. 10). Rabbi Aqiba, who flourished around 100 A.
D. , is among the first recorded witnesses to the interpretation of the Song of Songs (Bergant et al. 7). In his claim, he maintained an allegorical interpretation of the books (Bergant et al.
).Even while allegory may be found in the Hebrew Bible, apparently, the book in question is not an allegory. The Song of Songs itself has no signs that it is to be read in a different way besides a love song. Although the book is not an allegory in itself, it still became the subject of allegorical interpretation since the start of its recorded commentary. A great deal of the Jewish allegorical interpretations of the book starts with the concept that the man represents God while the woman represents Israel (Bergant et al.
9).In this light, the book therefore is not what it apparently appears to be about — the sensual love shared by a man and a woman. Instead, the book is about the love of God for Israel. Another allegorical approach to the book is that of the Targum to the Song. Here, the Song of Songs is considered to be basically a redemptive history of the chosen people of God, the Israelites (Bergant et al.
9). Still, there are those who regard the Song of Songs as an account that tells about the union shared by the individual soul and his or her God (Bergant et al. 38). More than a few interpretations of the book have been made.Each of them is noticeably dependent on the literal classification with which the Song of Songs is associated.
Other than those who regard the book as an allegory, most of the interpretations can be categorized under one of the three other literary forms: a collection of love poems, a dramatic performance, or a cultic reenactment (Bergant et al. 10). It is a poem that speaks about the sexual awakening of a young lady and her man (Bassnett 643). Through a sequence of finely articulated events, the man and the woman meet in an idealized setting of abundance and fertility.They find themselves in a place that is similar to the Garden of Eden wherein they discover the pleasures of love. Similarly, the theme of the story of Adam and Eve is the passage from innocence to experience.
However, in their story, the loss of innocence came with its consequences. Although the book deals with the same subject, it is focused primarily on the delight of discovery. It presents two interconnected issues for the early church fathers. The initial concern develops from what it left unsaid. The other problem arises from what it really expresses. The book has been included among the sacred books from the ancient time.
God is not directly mentioned in its verses. Rather, the book celebrates the passionate happiness and pains of unnamed lovers. Certainly, the literal meaning of the Song of Songs is particularly erotic that it poses a danger to the carnally minded audience who approaches it and is apparently driven to fleshly lust by the sacred writing itself. There are those who regard the Song of Songs as a drama.
However, in response to this claim, it is stressed that never did the Orientals or the Hebrews in particular succeed in their attempts at dramatic poetry (McCall 1). At that, they rarely engaged in writing such.There are those who regard it as partly dramatic poem and partly lyrical, the purpose of which is to celebrate the marriage of Solomon to the daughter of the King of Egypt. Then again, in response to this claim, it is said that there are insignificant verses which may be applied to Solomon or to royal nuptials for that matter, with the exception of a few verses which may be found in the third chapter of the book (McCall 3). There is a predisposition to date to acknowledge that the book is a collection of amatory poems as well as a fragment of poems. No one knows for sure by who, where, or when the Canon of the Old Testament was constituted.
The exact time when the Song of Songs was admitted into the Canon is unknown as well. It is hard to assume at this point. However, it is possible that no part of the Old Testament was originally regarded as sacred in the modern sense. Over time, a great deal of the Hebrew literature has been lost. Some portions of it were rescued from future disaster, nonetheless. The Old Testament books have long been collected into a body before they were even exalted into a Canon (McCall 9).
Hence, it is wrong to present that a single book in the Bible claims either a sacred character or a mystical inspiration (McCall 9).The books, thus, have both an authority as well as sacredness in them which they never themselves claimed without justification. Others regard the Song of Songs as political — that the maiden or spouse, or whatever reference one may prefer to attribute to her, stands for those of the ten tribes who were left in the country following the destruction of Samaria, and who engaged in a new and strong alliance with the two tribes of Benjamin and Judah, and that the refusal of the aforementioned tribes was represented by the ill-tempered selfish brothers of the Shulamite (McCall 8).On the other hand, there are those who consider that Solomon’s love for wisdom, a kind of love that is oddly shown, is, in the Canticles, acclaimed at the same time as it is depicted.
Still, there are those who regard the book as the account and celebration of the enlightening contact between the individual soul and God. They believe that the Song of Songs presents the longing of the soul to unite with its Creator. Nevertheless, the most dominant concept has been that the mutual love of Christ and the Church that He came to establish is the real focus of the Song of Songs (McCall 10).It is important to discern the meaning of the Scriptures in order to decipher the relevant message it has today. It is important to understand the relevance of the Scriptures in the past in order to determine the importance it has on the present.
Hermeneutics can be a tool to effectively translate the message as written in the Bible (McCall 15). In the process of Bible study, three important steps must be followed, the first of which is observation. This step is followed by interpretation. The final step is application (McCall 20).
Perhaps, the hardest and longest of all the steps in Bible study is the process of interpretation. Nonetheless, without this process, defective outcomes and serious mistakes are likely to occur. There are those who deliberately alter the message of the Scriptures. There are those who alter the Word of God and pave the way toward their personal destruction.
Still, there are those who unconsciously end up with wrong interpretations of the Word of God. This is due to the lack of attention given to the principles involved in understanding the message that God seeks to impart to His people.Interpretation is supposed to be built upon observation, and then, it should lead back to itself. Interpretation is not to be regarded as an end in itself. It is merely a means to an end. The purpose of Bible study is more than just the determination of what the Scripture states and what it means.
Instead, the lesson of the Scripture is supposed to be applied to one’s life. The failure to apply the lesson of the Scripture disrupts the whole process. Similarly, it constitutes a failure in one’s fulfillment of God’s plan.Undoubtedly, the Bible provides the faithful several facts the people need to know concerning God, themselves, salvation, sin, and what is yet to come. The faithful refer to the Bible to gather insight and information. Such action is only but proper.
The process of interpreting the Bible is the step which allows the readers to apply the message of the Scriptures after reading and examining the texts. Bible study is an intellectual pursuit wherein the intention of the faithful is to understand the message of God to His people. Still, it is important to incorporate spiritual discipline in the process of studying the Word of God.Through it, the faithful seek to practice what they have read and understood. The main objective of Bible study is not just head apprehension but heart appropriation.
It is in this way that the faithful may be able to grow in spirit. Spiritual maturity allows the person to live a life like Jesus Christ did. This particular kind of maturity does not only come from knowing more about the Word of God. Rather, it is through knowing more about the Word of God and applying it to the spiritual needs of the person that he or she grows and achieves spiritual maturity.Hence, interpretation of the word of God is one of the basic steps of Bible study that is of significant importance. This process precedes application.
Improper interpretation may lead to a wrong application of the message of the gospel. In this light, it is the responsibility of the person to seek the truth behind the word of God. Seeking the truth as presented in the Scriptures is important in a person’s spiritual life. Similarly, it is effective in preaching the message to those who have come to believe.In preaching the message of the Scripture, the knowledge one imparts onto others will certainly impact the latter’s life. Improper biblical interpretation can misdirect the theology of a person or the whole church for that matter.
Their theology could also end up being shallow. Moreover, it could also cause instability in their ministries. The dramatic, liturgical, as well as allegorical interpretations of the book are all to a certain extent imposed on the written work from the outside. Nonetheless, the different approaches to its interpretation open unique features of the book.At the same time, they all present corresponding possibilities for deciphering the message behind the written work. The existence of a love song in the Scripture raised the hermeneutic concern for all exegetes over the years.
Christians and Jews are one of them. The issue does not rest on the Canticle songs of love. Rather, the concern is that it outshines several secular love poems in the noticeable absence of God in the text, the oriental sensuality of the written work, its distinctly erotic imagery, and its exaltation of feminine beauty.The language employed in the book is love’s secular language. The distinctiveness of the book in the biblical context requires explanation. In fact, the history of its interpretation traces a long list of controversies (Bergant et al.
84). The Jews and the Christians maintained the harmony of the sacred text. To a certain extent, this indicates that the task of interpretation is to reconcile the apparent inconsistencies as well as to expose the basic unity of the Scripture. At a more profound level, this suggests a strong sense of a canon which has unified evidences of religious beliefs.
The similar divine was also expressed in different books whether they were hymns to glorify God, compilations of wisdom, or narratives of history. It is also true for the Christians for what ultimately became to be known as the Old Testament and for the apostolic texts which comprise the New Testament. The canons of the sacred texts of the Jews and the Christians were seamless wholes. Certain attitudes drove in the direction of the basic conviction that the sacred text was closely related to the life of a religious community.Given that both traditions in late antiquity agreed that a set of basic attitudes is more important than method, they similarly agreed that the historical dimension of the sacred text does not rest at the core of biblical interpretation. This does not mean that history is not of significant importance.
No one could read the accounts which have been given in the book and conclude that history does not matter a great deal. Israel has never forgotten its past, and the church chiefly identified itself with the history of Jesus (Bergant et al. 103).The point is that the Jews and Christians did not regard the sacred text as historical evidence.
In contrast to the historical-critical method, both traditions were not concerned in restructuring what has transpired at one point in history. However, what has transpired was important for the reason that it has its influence in the now. Regardless of the contrast with the modern historical-critical method, both traditions’ interpretation may be described more positively in terms of the three areas wherein broad agreement as well as considerable distinctions may be established.For one, the Jews and the Christians saw their respective Scriptures as collections produced from the religious experience of a people, wherein history itself contains a sacred message which is the revelation of the will of God (Bergant et al. 105).
Another point or broad agreement balanced by a considerable difference is the concept of revelation which triggers the work of interpretation (Bergant et al. 94). The third and final point is the way wherein both traditions regard the task of interpretation as that of bringing the sacred text to assume the present as well as take upon the religious life of their own communities.This approach already has numerous dimensions. Among them is the reinterpretation of early prophecy as displaying the messianic hopes of the Jews.
The confirmation of the faith in Jesus as the Messiah for the Christians is one wherein prehistoric text is given a new meaning (Bergant et al. 110). Nevertheless, in general, the sacred text itself is now considered to be a great body of lasting truths that made it eternally relevant to the community. The Message behind the Written TextThose who seek to comprehend the meaning of the Song of Songs need to have certain amount of maturity and spiritual growth. Origen calls on the Jews to reserve the task of interpretation to those who are trained to do such.
On the other hand, Christians should learn to accept this rule and leave the book to those who have gained a certain level of maturity to interpret its meaning. Origen’s convictions may be connected to the way he understands the language between action and reflection or the life of virtue. The process of interpreting the sacred text is certainly a spiritual task.In the same way, the mature understanding of the sacred text gives solid spiritual nourishment for the Christians as it allows them to grow morally and spiritually.
While virtue leads to vision, the latter empowers the former. As far as the function of the sacred text is concerned, it is virtue which reveals its meaning. On the other hand, it is the apprehension of the meaning of the sacred text which provides the believer the power to live a life like Christ. All things considered, the spiritual and moral function of biblical interpretation guides and influences the Christian life.