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Andre LaCocque, professor emeritus of Hebrew Scriptures at Chicago Theological Seminary, has written an intriguing hermeneutical essay on the Song of Songs, concluding that it was the work of a single Hebrew poetess writing about eros love.
Due in large measure to its unique literary genre, the Song of Songs has been interpreted in diverse ways. "Spiritual" readers of the poem have, for example, felt a deep-seated repugnace before its erotic nature. This has led them to employ a variety of artificial devices to tame it: the text has at times been altered, the metaphors have been allegorized, similes have been labeled grotesque, the date of composition has traveled virtually the whole gamut of biblical chronology, the author's purpose has been reduced to nothing, and the poem itself has become an exercise in futility. All of this, says Andre LaCocque, supports the notion that the issue with which any reader of the Song must come to grips is, first and foremost, a hermeneutical one.
A reading of Song of Songs, however, must take seriously the interpretations of this text that have influenced the lives of synagogue and church alike. Allegorical interpretation demands too many textual distortions and too much arbitrariness of explanation in its support. On the other hand, a plain reading, taken in isolation. bypasses levels of meaning that Judaism and Christianity have acknowledged as legitimate. Reading the poem intertextually, LaCocque contends, is a bridge to the traditional midrashic and allegorical interpretation.
Using a naturalistic approach, LaCocque shows that the Song is fundamentally a critique of the mores Of conformist societies and of the dualism between body and soul prevalent in sophisticated and popular mentalities. In addition, he insists that the author of the poem is a woman.
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