Sunday, May 20, 2012

Six reasons for a Christological reading of the Song of Songs


I'm persuaded that The Song of Songs has a BOTH-AND meaning. It has much to say about marriage and also much to say about the True and Greatest Marriage, the Typical Marriage, the Real that all marriages echo and shadow - the marriage of Christ and his people. Because:

#1 Marriage is really about Christ.
This is Paul's argument in Ephesians 5. Really, he's talking about Christ and the church, though he's talking about marriage. That doesn't mean husband's and wives don't apply Ephesians 5 to their marriages, but that they're meant to finally look to Christ and his church. The greater and eternal marriage sets the stage for our smaller and temporal human marriages.

#2 History
By far the dominant reading of this book historically is to take it Typologically, pointing to Christ. This is to say we've got really got to it's meaning, intention or application if we've not heard it speak of Christ's love for his people. We might draw a true word for human relationships but the road goes further. Sometimes Typological commentators slip into fanciful allegory - but those who leave the song in the human bedroom do the same! To say it's *just* about human marriage a popular view today, but is the minority view in the story of the church. The Reformers, Puritans and Church Fathers, Edwards and Spurgeon were not bad handlers of the Bible. They were persuaded that Christ casts his shadow over all of it.


#3 The Language of The Song
This isn't just love poetry it's love poetry about a Shepherd King and the one he loves, with wilderness and myrrh, about 'the lover of my soul' and love that's strong as death. The Song is written in the language of the Pentateuch, the language of the LORD's relationship with his people.  It's not just any old poetic language and imagery, it's gospel-laden.

#4 The Beauty of Christ
Christ is beautiful and we need the wasfs of The Song, the love poems that call us to dwell upon the beauty of Christ, to let our hearts sing of him. Human marriage needs the intense contemplation of poetry too, but so does the church's relationship with her Saviour.

#5 He loves us
Some are reluctant to speak of this, suggesting it's not substantial enough or is subjective etc. The Love of Christ for his people, demonstrated at the cross, won at the cross, flowing from the eternal love of the Trinity is unmatched and has to be sung of forever. The Song gives words for this relationship - and we do sing it even when we might not realise it. "For I am his and he is mine", "Altogether lovely". The Song serves, in this, as an antidote for individualism because it invites our first thought to be of Christ and the church, though Galatians 2:20 tells us he also loves ME, leading careful exegetes to say that The Song does speak of the church but also of each of her members.

#6 The Divine Romance
Martin Luther lifts his language for the gospel from the genre of The Song, Hosea and Ezekiel to speak of the King who marries a prostitute. Why should divine romance ok from Hosea, Ezekiel and Psalm 45 but then not The Song? Jesus is the husband to the church, who has a divine jealousy for us - whose love burns when we're seduced away, whose love laid down his life for us, whose love is our hope. Human marriage has union between husband and wife because there is union with Christ through the gospel...


What do you think?

4 comments:

  1. This is a great summary of the reasons for a Christological reading of Song of Songs! Human marriage is not just an abstract invention - human marriage exists because it proclaims the future marriage of the Eternal Son to his Bride, the Church - and it even proclaims the eternal truth of the Father/Son union. Glory!

    Steve

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  2. I think you're absolutely right Bish!

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  3. What does the repeated refrain (from memory) "do not awaken love until it so desires" mean - seems an odd phrase to use in relation to Christ?

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  4. Presumably a comment on the precious value of love...

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