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  1. We had to chime in. The one thing that we have discovered is that every sermon we have ever heard or read that takes the allegorical approach has been incredibly God glorifying, Christ exalting and has filled our souls with a renewed and sweeter love for Christ. We cannot say the same for the others. One might ask, “Which Interpretive Approach, if wrong, can do the most harm”. We think the others can and have done a great deal of harm.

    It seems, based on the quotes below, that this is a Book not to be taken lightly or attempted to dissect in a merely academic way.

    CERTAIN DIVINES have doubted the inspiration of Solomon’s Song; others have conceived it to be nothing more than a specimen of ancient love-songs, and some have been afraid to preach from it because of its highly poetical character. The true reason for all this avoidance of one of the most heavenly portions of God’s Word lies in the fact that the spirit of this Song is not easily attained. Its music belongs to the higher spiritual life, and has no charm in it for unspiritual ears. The Song occupies a sacred enclosure into which none may enter unprepared. C.H. Spurgeon

    “The Song of Solomon is undoubtedly a picture and a prophecy of the relationship between Christ and his church. Written in a poetic, dramatic form, it is a perfect representation of the church as the bride of Christ. This is a New Testament term but the Song of Solomon sees it long before it came to pass. This is how Solomon describes God’s overflowing love: ‘He brought me to the banqueting house. . .’ and that is where He always brings us. It is not to some kind of ‘soup kitchen’, or to some temporary place where we can be given just a little food to keep us from starvation. No, no! It is a ‘banqueting house’! . . . and His banner over me was love. Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples, for I am sick with love’ (Song of Solomon 2.4-5). There is so much love that it is almost overwhelming me.” LLoyd-Jones.

    The book of the Canticles is not in any part of it, much less in the whole, a meet subject for every ordinary undertaker to exercise upon. The matter of it is totally sublime, spiritual, and mystical; and the manner of its handling universally allegorical. So did God think meet in his manifold wisdom to instruct his church of old, whilst it tabernacled under those clouds and shadows, whose departure and flying away it so earnestly breathes after in this very book. God committed unto it then, in his oracles, the same treasure of wisdom and grace, as he doth now unto us under the gospel, only he so folded them up under types and allegories, that they could not clearly and distinctly look into them, he having provided “some better things for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” John Owen.

    In Contrast:

    “I emphatically agree with those who say the Song of Solomon is not mere allegory. It is best understood when we take it at face value, like any other text of Scripture. Many interpreters whom I otherwise hold in high esteem have unfortunately done more to confuse than clarify the Song’s message by treating it in a purely allegorical fashion that eliminates its primary meaning. Solomon’s Song is, as I’ve said from the outset, a love poem between Solomon and his bride, celebrating their mutual love for one another, including the delights of the marriage bed. To interpret this—or any other portion of Scripture—in a purely allegorical fashion is to treat the interpreter’s own imagination as more authoritative than the plain meaning of the text.” John MacArthur (Pulpit Magazine – April 16, 2009)

    As my wife would answer, “If these men are guilty of confusing people and of eliminating the primary meaning of the book, as Macarthur’s accusation states, confusion never looked so good to me!”

    As always – GOOD STUFF!

    • admin

      Michael and Dianna,

      Thanks for your thoughts. I’m definitely with you in viewing this part of canonical Scripture as pointing to Christ. That’s why I argue for the typical view rather than a purely natural (marital love) interpretation. However, I can’t endorse the allegorical approach advocated by Spurgeon and some of the Puritans. While it has much to say that’s Christ-centered and edifying, it’s methodology is based more on eisegesis (reading ideas into the text) rather than exegesis (reading ideas out of the text). And that’s not a healthy way of interpreting Scripture.

      Grace and peace!

  2. Mr and Mrs Wood. Wonderful quotations. I agree with CHS, MLJ, and Owen.

    Dr Bob, I can appreciate your concerns with the Allegorical approach, but it seems to me to view it primarily or foremostly “about the enjoyment of God-ordained sex in marriage” misses the mark. As you pointed out, Marriage itself is typical (or a shadow of Christ and His bride, Eph.5:32), and as you know, types, are primarily intended to point toward their reality. My concern is, few contemporary RB men rarely, if ever, mention this book outside of marriage seminars.

    Have you considered a few other thoughts? For example:

    1. The title “The song of songs.” That is, the song of all songs can hardly refer merely or even primarily to marital love between a husband and wife. “The name by which Solomon calls this song, confirms me in it that it is more than an ordinary love song, and that it was designed for a divine song, and of divine authority…This he calls the Song of songs, that is, the most excellent of all his songs, which it seems very probable to me to be upon that account, because it was a song of the most excellent subject, treating of the love, union, and communion between Christ and his church; of which, marriage and conjugal love was but a shadow. these are the most excellent lovers, and their love the most excellent love” (J. Edwards).

    2. It’s close relationship to Psalm 45, which is nothing less than a miniature Song of Songs, and is either prophetic of Christ and the church or typical.

    3. There are several difficulties within the book if understood merely or purely literally. (1) The groom is both king and shepherd, as was not true of Solomon. (2) The groom refers to his bride as both his sister and spouse. (3) Figurative language is used throughout that can hardly be interpreted literally. [4] The daughters of Jerusalem are encouraged to love the groom along with the bride. “Another thing that shows this to be no common love song, is that the bride seeks a company in her love to the bridegroom, endeavors to draw other women to join with her in loving him, and rejoices in their communion with her in the love and enjoyment of her beloved (1:3-4; 6:1-2; 8:13)” (J. Edwards).

    4. The typical view (if not allegorical) fulfills the overall purpose of Scripture, which is to point to Christ (Lk.24, etc.).

    5. The church has ALWAYS heard the voice of her Beloved within it. “The true believer who has lived near to his Master will find this book to be a mass, not of gold merely, for all God’s Word is this, but a mass of diamonds sparkling with brightness; and all things thou canst conceive are not to be compared with it for its matchless worth. If I must prefer one book above another, I would prefer some books of the Bible for doctrine, some for experience, some for example, some for teaching, but I prefer this book above all others for fellowship and communion. When the Christian is nearest to heaven, this is the book he takes with him” (CHS).

    • admin

      Mike,

      Thanks for your thoughts. As I indicate to Michael and Dianna above, I’m fully with you on viewing this portion of canonical literature as having a primarily Christo-centric gospel aim. For this reason, I support the typical interpretation in which both the type, i.e., marital love and intimacy, as well as the antitype, i.e., Christ’s love for his church, are preserved intact.

      But I cannot support the allegorical approach. For one, it tends to read NT truth into the text rather than deriving it from the text. Moreover, it tends to be selective and (somewhat) arbitrary in its methodology. One employing it can, as you note above, argue that the bride’s endeavor to draw other women into loving the groom proves that the book is calling a “community” to love the groom rather than an individual woman. Yet she also wishes that the groom could be her brother and join her nursing at her mother’s breast. Would that imply that the church has a mother? If so, would that imply that God is a female? I could multiply absurdities, but my point is that if one plays fast-and-loose with details in order to deny that the poem could really be about a man and a woman and marital intimacy, another could play the same game and undermine orthodoxy, creating whatever creed he chooses.

      For this reason, I think it’s best to follow that method of interpretation that does justice both to the original historical settings and referents of the Song as well as to the redemptive-historical realities and referents to which the Song ultimately points.

      Grace to you, brother, and thanks for taking the time to read and share your thoughts!

  3. Bob,

    I too prefer the typical view over the allegorical for the reasons you mention above. My basic points were two, that the literal view has nearly as many problems as the allegorical, and even more importantly, that if we do view the book typically, we get to the Antitype!

    Thanks for the post. Press forward dear brother, “the right Man is on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing.”

    • admin

      Thanks, Mike. We’re on the same wave-length, bro. The Song of Songs, like all the other books in the biblical canon, points to Jesus. And any interpretation that stops short of that is deficient. Pure and simple! May the Lord help us to point folks beyond the bliss of earthly marriage to the infinitely greater joys of that heavenly union of which the earthly institution is but a faint shadow!

  4. Michael & Dianna

    Great dialogue! Makes us want to re-read all 63 sermons Spurgeon preached on this book to make sure he has not undermined orthodoxy or created whatever creed he fancied. (Smiling – hopefully along with you)

    Thanks again for posting on this topic. It’s always great food for thought.

    The Woods

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