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Song of Songs / Song of Solomon

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Jews and Christians Read Scripture: the Song of Songs Dr. Robert Harris Shared Scripture/Divided Faiths: Both Jews and Christians incorporate the Song of Songs in their Scriptures. For Jews it is part of the third section of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) and for Christians it is part of the Old Testament. Whatever the Song’s original context (which we will discuss) may have been, both the Rabbinic Sages and the Fathers of the Church were uncomfortable with the frank sexuality of the Song. Therefore, in the early centuries of the Common Era, both Jews and Christians developed allegorical readings, and it was through these allegories that the Song became part of the respective Bibles of each religious tradition. In the Middle Ages, some rabbis wrote commentaries highlighting the plain sense of Scripture, and applied this to the Song of Songs; while medieval Christians were likewise engaged in studying “the literal sense” of Scripture, often in conversation with Jewish scholars, they seemed to have eschewed this step with respect to the Song, and instead developed new allegories that highlighted the role of Mary. These in turn profoundly influenced Jewish mystical circles, which developed the Kabbalah in creating its new allegorical interpretations of the Song. Our course will explore all of these interpretive traditions, from antiquity through to the modern era.

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