Song of Songs in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE

LITERATURE The full title in Hebrew is "The Song of Songs, which is Solomon's." The book is called by some Canticles, and by others Solomon's Song. The Hebrew title implies that it is the choicest of all songs, in keeping with the dictum of Rabbi `Aqiba (90-135 AD) that "the entire world, from the beginning until now, does not outweigh the day in which Canticles was given to Israel." I. Canonicity. Early Jewish and Christian writers are silent as to the Song of Songs. No use is made of it by Philo. There is no quotation from it in the New Testament, nor is there any clear allusion to it on the part of our Lord or the apostles. The earliest distinct references to the Song of Songs are found in Jewish writings of the 1st and 2nd centuries AD (4 Esdras 5:24,26; 7:26; Ta`anith 4:8). The question of the canonicity of the Song was debated as late as the Synod of Jamnia (circa 90 AD), when it was decided that Canticles was rightly reckoned to "defile the hands," i.e. was an inspired book. It should be borne in mind that the Song of Songs was already esteemed by the Jews as a sacred book, though prior to the Synod of Jamnia there was probably a goodly number of Jewish teachers who did not accept it as canonical. Selections from Canticles were sung at certain festivals in the temple at Jerusalem, prior to its destruction by Titus in 70 AD (Ta`anith 4:8). The Mishna pronounces an anathema on all who treat Canticles as a secular song (Sanhedhrin, 101a). The latest date for the composition of the Song of Songs, according to critics of the advanced school, is toward the close of the 3rd century BC. We may be sure that it was included in the Kethubhim before the ministry of our Lord, and so was for Him a part of the Scriptures. II. Text. Most scholars regard the text of Canticles as comparatively free from corruption. Gratz, Bickell, Budde and Cheyne have suggested a good many emendations of the traditional text, a few of which commend themselves as probable corrections of a faulty text, but most of which are mere guesses without sufficient confirmation from either external or internal evidence. For details see Budde's able commentary, and articles by Cheyne in JQR and Expository Times for 1898-99 and in the The Expositor, February, 1899...

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