Of Pathetic Co-Conspirators, Luther Remarks…

It makes me tingle with pleasure from head to toe when I see that through me, poor wretched man that I am, God the Lord maddens and exasperates you hellish and worldly people, so that in your spite you will burst and tear yourselves to pieces – while I sit under the shade of faith and the Lord’s Prayer, laughing at you devils and your crew as you blubber and struggle in your great fury.  — Martin Luther

Amen, Brother Martin.  Amen.

Let the Reader Understand…

His speech is full of lies and browbeating, under his tongue lurk spite and wickedness. In the undergrowth he lies in ambush, in his hiding-place he murders the innocent. He watches intently for the downtrodden, lurking unseen like a lion in his lair, lurking to pounce on the poor; he pounces on him and drags him off in his net.  He keeps watch, crouching down low, the poor wretch falls into his clutches;  he says in his heart, ‘God forgets, he has turned away his face to avoid seeing the end.’

Rise, Yahweh! God, raise your hand, do not forget the afflicted!  Why should the wicked spurn God, assuring himself you will never follow it up? You have seen for yourself the trouble and vexation, you watch so as to take it in hand. The oppressed relies on you; you are the only recourse of the orphan.  Break the arm of the wicked and evil, seek out wickedness till there is none left to be found. (Ps. 10:7-15)

The Song of Songs Through the Ages

The Song of Songs is a fascinating text. Read as an allegory of God’s love for Israel, the Church, or individual believers, it became one of the most influential texts from the Bible. This volume includes twenty-three essays that cover the Song’s reception history from antiquity to the present. They illuminate the richness of this reception history, paying attention to diverse interpretations in commentaries, sermons, and other literature, as well as the Song’s impact on spirituality, theological and intellectual debates, and the arts.

This remarkable foray into the reception of the Song of Songs examines how the book has been received and understood among Jewish and Christian scholars from the Church Fathers through the present day. And, intriguingly, how the book has been seen by Muslim scholars as well.

Below the contents are listed, and the essays in bold print are the ones which I found to be the most important given my own particular interests:

  • Frontmatter
  • Contents
  • The Song of Songs Through the Ages — Annette Schellenberg
  • Between Hippolytus and Athanasius: The Variety of Patristic Song of Songs’ Interpretations — Uta Heil
  • “Dripping from the Lips of Sleeping Ones”: The Interpretation of the Song of Songs from Tannaitic Literature to the Palestinian Talmud — Jonathan Kaplan
  • The Exegesis of all Exegeses: The Uniqueness of Shir HaShirim Rabbah’s Approach to the Song of Songs — Tamar Kadari
  • “I Slept but My Heart Was Awake”: Rabbinic Interpretations of Song of Songs 5:2 — Gerhard Langer
  • Reading the Old English Life of Saint Mary of Egypt with Abbot Hadrian of Africa: The Influence of Byzantine Readings of the Song of Songs on Early Medieval England — Erik Wade
  • Targum Song of Songs, the History of Israel, and the Study of Torah — Günter Stemberger
  • Do Not Wake or Arouse Love: Erotics of Time and the Dream of Messianic Waiting — Elliot R. Wolfson
  • Of Songs and Sequels: The Song of Songs in the Hebrew Liturgical Poetry of Al-Andalus — Ariel Zinder
  • A Vocabulary of Love: The Song of Songs in the Secular Hebrew Love Poetry from Muslim Spain — Jonathan Vardi
  • Bernard of Clairvaux: The Song of Songs as an Instruction on the Spiritual Life — Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger
  • Preaching the Song of Songs at Admont: A Minority Report from the Twelfth Century — Hannah W. Matis
  • Voices Shifting and Voices Layered: The Song of Songs in Medieval German Commentaries — Rabea Kohnen
  • An Ecology of Desire: Pierre d’Ailly’s First Theological Work, a Latin Commentary on the Song of Songs — Christopher Ocker
  • Lovers, Gardens, and Wounds: An Exploration of the Medieval Iconographies of the Song of Songs — Lieke Smits
  • Singing the Song of Songs in the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance: The Evidence of the Alamire Manuscripts — Stefan Gasch
  • Early Modern Women Comment on the Song of Songs — Bernard McGinn
  • Varieties of Reformed and Puritan Reception of the Song of Songs, 1550–1730 — Timothy H. Robinson
  • The Song of Songs in Late Eighteenth-Century Germany: Theology and Desire — Yael Almog
  • The Song of Songs as a Drama: A Radical Change of Interpretation in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century — Elisabeth Birnbaum
  • Love and Language: The Song of Songs in Scholem and Rosenzweig — Caroline Sauter
  • “Black and Beautiful” (Song 1:5): A Key Verse in the Exegesis of the Song of Songs from Origen to Dieter Salbert’s Schwarz—wie die Teppiche Salomos (1971) — Michaela C. Hastetter
  • “I Am Black and Comely”: Literal and/or Allegorical Interpretations in Theology, Music, and Image, Especially in the Present Time — Ute Jung-Kaiser
  • “The Time of Singing has Come”: The Lure of the Song of Songs for Today’s Composers and Songwriters– P. W. Goodman

As the reader can instantly see, there is something in the volume for nearly everyone.  Hebraists, Christians, Muslims;  Church historians, artists, musicians all find something for them in reference to the Song of Songs.

The quality of scholarship is also something to take note of.  Each contributor is well acquainted with the issues which need to be addressed.  There are no dilettantes or amateurs here which guarantees that the essays are not besotted of foolish speculation and groundless wikipedia based information.  Scholars do scholarship, they don’t do speculation.  This is a volume thoroughly absorbed by the essentials of the scholarly world.

Readers will discover that, for example,

Far from avoiding the erotic language and imagery of the Song, as many have assumed, Puritan readers embraced its sensual content as a description of Christ’s great love for his people and as suitable for nurturing passion for Christ in his followers.

Those stuffy Puritans weren’t all that stuffy, it turns out.  There are other delights to be found in this garden of delights.  Please do visit it.  With regularity.  You’ll certainly be drawn back to it over and over again once you experience it for the first time

If You Aren’t Trained to Do It, Don’t!

No one presumes to teach an art till he has first, with intent meditation, learnt it. What rashness is it, then, for the unskilful to assume pastoral authority, since the government of souls is the art of arts! For who can be ignorant that the sores of the thoughts of men are more occult than the sores of the bowels? And yet how often do men who have no knowledge whatever of spiritual precepts fearlessly profess themselves physicians of the heart, though those who are ignorant of the effect of drugs blush to appear as physicians of the flesh!  —  Gregory the Great

Too Many Have Already Died in Wars

This Memorial Day, let’s pray God hastens the day and brings to pass his promise-

God will judge between the nations, and settle disputes of mighty nations. Then they will beat their swords into iron plows and their spears into pruning tools. Nation will not take up sword against nation; they will no longer learn how to make war. – Isaiah 2.

Jerome’s Letter LII- Advice to Clerics, Section 11

Let your breath never smell of wine lest the philosopher’s words be said to you: “instead of offering me a kiss you are giving me a taste of wine.” Priests given to wine are both condemned by the apostle and forbidden by the old Law. Those who serve the altar, we are told, must drink neither wine nor shechar. Now every intoxicating drink is in Hebrew called shechar whether it is made of corn or of the juice of apples, whether you distil from the honeycomb a rude kind of mead or make a liquor by squeezing dates or strain a thick syrup from a decoction of corn. Whatever intoxicates and disturbs the balance of the mind avoid as you would wine. I do not say that we are to condemn what is a creature of God. The Lord Himself was called a “wine-bibber” and wine in moderation was allowed to Timothy because of his weak stomach. I only require that drinkers should observe that limit which their age, their health, or their constitution requires. But if without drinking wine at all I am aglow with youth and am inflamed by the heat of my blood and am of a strong and lusty habit of body, I will readily forego the cup in which I cannot but suspect poison.

Barth The Wrong

Of Barth’s doctrine of election – and particularly of Barth’s notion that Jesus is ‘the elect man’ Brunner writes

No special proof is required to show that the Bible contains no such doctrine, nor that no theory of this kind has ever been formulated by any theologian.

Indeed.  Barth’s views are particularly charming to a certain subset of theologians who are less familiar with what Scripture says than the norm.


Protestant Church Architecture of the 16th-18th Centuries in Europe

The three volumes, edited by Prof. Jan Harasimowicz, with numerous color photographs and drawings, contain the first complete study of Protestant church building in Early Modern Europe (16th–18th centuries). Subscription price until August 1, 2023: € 120,00.

It is, having seen it, appropriate for me to say that this work is astounding.  The fantastic photographs and illustrations are full color mind blowing.  The details provided are eye opening.  It is really something to behold.

It weighs in at three large volumes and holds over 2400 pages of material.

And most importantly, it sheds new light on the history of Christianity in Europe in an important stage of its existence.  It, unlike so many of the other volumes that make the claim, actually is must reading.

Last Call…

Biblioblogdom explained

I’m hosting the May Biblioblog Carnival (posting June 1).  Please send in your recommendations in the fields of Hebrew Bible/ Old Testament, New Testament, Books, and Miscellaneous stuff (like archaeology and Scrolls stuff and the like).

It will be a Carnival like no other.  A Carnival whose time has come.  A Carnival to rival all Carnivals!  A Carnival where the good are lauded and the bad are denounced.  A Carnival naming names and pointing fingers.

Put on your seatbelt!  It’s Coming to Town and we’re Going to Town in it!

On Avoiding Entanglements with Sinners

Who feels sorry for a snake-charmer bitten by a snake, or for those who take risks with savage animals? – just so for one who consorts with a sinner, and becomes an accomplice in his sins. He will stay with you for a while, but if you once give way he will press his advantage. An enemy may have sweetness on his lips, and in his heart a scheme to throw you into the ditch. An enemy may have tears in his eyes, but if he gets a chance there can never be too much blood for him.  If you meet with misfortune, you will find him there before you, and, pretending to help you, he will trip you up.  He will wag his head and clap his hands, he will whisper a lot and his expression will change.  (Sir. 12:13-18)

A Prayer for Congress

Arise, O Lord!
O God, lift up Your hand!
Do not forget the humble.
Why do the wicked renounce God?
He has said in his heart,
“You will not require an account.”

But You have seen, for You observe trouble and grief,
To repay it by Your hand.
The helpless commits himself to You;
You are the helper of the fatherless.
Break the arm of the wicked and the evil man;
Seek out the wicked, until there are none to be found. — Ps 10

Truth in Art

Cette caricature calviniste contre l’Eglise romaine, l’une des plus fameuses, répond parfaitement au principe qui veut que l’image parle à tous, surtout à ceux qui ne maîtrisent pas la lecture, et que le sens s’impose à chacun indépendamment du texte. L’exemple est tout à fait probant ici, le texte étant en hollandais. Nous n’en comprenons pas moins ce qui se joue: le triomphe de la Parole de Dieu (et des réformateurs qui la prônent) sur l’Eglise catholique et ses pompes.⠀

Deux groupes d’hommes se font face dans une vaste salle. Le centre est occupé par une balance à plateaux, dont l’un, chargé d’un unique volume, vient jusqu’à terre, du côté d’hommes vêtus simplement. Ils sont calmes. On comprend immédiatement qu’il s’agit des réformateurs et on reconnaît d’ailleurs parmi eux Calvin de profil, discutant posément avec un individu un peu rond, qui pourrait figurer Luther. Tout à fait à leur gauche, mis en valeur et un peu isolé, est sans doute Théodore de Bèze, observant la scène les mains jointes. Il semble avoir provoqué la scène dont nous sommes témoins. Le gros livre dans la Balance est évidemment la Bible, symbolisant la Parole de Dieu et se passant de tout adjuvant pour assurer sa victoire.⠀

Leurs vis-à-vis revêtus d’habits sacerdotaux catholiques hésitent entre la stupeur et l’agitation. On distingue parmi eux un évêque, des cardinaux entourant le pape coiffé de sa tiare et assis sous un dais, un personnage à côté de l’évêque, peut-être le grand adversaire de Bèze au début du XVIIe siècle, Saint François de Sales, et des religieux. Tous contemplent le plateau chargé des symboles de l’Eglise catholique (les clés de Saint-Pierre, la tiare pontificale, un gros volume renvoyant soit aux Pères de l’Eglise soit à la Somme théologique de Thomas d’Aquin et deux religieux dont l’un est agrippé aux chaînes retenant le plateau), impuissants à faire pencher le fléau de leur côté. ⠀

VAN BEUSECOM, Martinus, XVIIe siècle (?)⠀ ©Musée historique de la Réformation, Genève. Exposé au MIR, salle de la Polémique⠀

Against those who Think Doctrine Outmoded-

As the Lord of the Church, Jesus Christ was Himself a Teacher, so also His disciples carry on a teaching ministry. We cannot think of the Christian Church without teaching, any more than we can think of a circle without a centre; teaching and “doctrine” belong to its very nature. — Emil Brunner