The Song of Songs and Christology in the Early Church 978-3-16-147394-4 - Mohr Siebeck

Mark W. Elliott

The Song of Songs and Christology in the Early Church

[Das Hohe Lied und Christologie in der Alten Kirche. Von Mark W. Elliott.]

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ISBN 978-3-16-147394-4
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How was scriptural imagery used in the Song of Songs to speak of the Bridegroom and the Bride? Mark W. Elliott presents a range of interpretations paying attention to the context of the commentators in the Early Church.
Mark W. Elliott presents a range of interpretations of the imagery used in the Song of Songs and demonstrates how the figures of the Bridegroom and Bride were understood. He pays attention to the historical context of those commenting on the Song between the councils of Constantinople 381 and Chalcedon 451, including theological disputes and spiritual movements. Showing how they found significance in such an unlikely text leads on to the conclusion that the commentators are largely in agreement that the Song refers to a meeting of the Word of God in his incarnate form, reaching out to all humanity, and the collective humanity, viewed in the obedient responsiveness of a bride. This responsive collective humanity is described variously in terms of 'church', believing soul, soul of Christ and humanity of Christ. Mark W. Elliott selects specifically Christological readings (i.e. those which interpret the Song with reference to the incarnation) and gives some reasons for the demise of such an interpretation and of commentary writing as a whole during that period.
Survey of contents
1. Introduction
Figures and Images – The Song of Songs: early influences on its interpretation – Exegetical Styles – Setting the scene – The beginnings of Christological deliberation – The Christological Interpretation of the Song – The task ahead
2. Establishing the Context of the Commentators on the Song of Songs
Hippolytus – Origen (Greek)
Methodius – Dionysius of Alexandria – »Athanasius« – Apollinarius – Didymus – Philo of Carpasia – Jerome – Pacianus – Ambrose – Gregory of Elvira – Gregory of Nyssa – Epiphanius – Pseudo-Theophilus of Alexandria – Rufinus and his translation of Origen's Commentary on the Song of Songs (=Rufinus-Origen) – Augustine – Theodoret – Nilus of Ancyra
Cyril of Alexandria
Pseudo-Athanasius: Synopsis Scripturae – Apponius
3. The Groom
The way the Song relates to the Incarnation. Cant 1:2 – Myrrh and the Groom's divine spirit. Cant 1:3–4 – The distillation of myrrh as fragrance and the availability of the mind of Christ. Cant 1:12–14; 2:13 – Mutual belonging. Cant 1:7, 10; 2:6, 16; 3:3–4 – The motif of »leaping« and the Incarnation as the Word's descent and ascent. Cant 2:8 – Coronation as the Word's triumphal passion. Cant 3:11 – The Groom's descent. Cant 4:16–5:1 – The Groom's »coming to the door« and manifestation. Cant 5:2–6 – »The body of God«? The Groom's body and the Word's potencies. Cant 5:10–16 – The Cosmic Groom transcendent. Cant 6:9f and beyond – The Cosmic Groom and nature imagery. Cant 8:14 et al
4. The Bride
The Essence of the human Christ. Cant 1:3 – The Bride as a prepared Church-humanity. Cant 1:5–7 – The identity of the purified Bride ascending. Cant 3:6 (and doublet, 8:5) – The »bed« image. Cant 3:7f (with reference to Cant1:16) – The Bride as walled garden and spring. Cant 4:12 – The Bride as the imitator of the Groom. Cant 5:2 and 5:12,14 – The Bride's chosenness as new Jerusalem. Cant 6:4 – The Bride as the perfect human one. Cant 6:8–10
5. Conclusion

Mark W. Elliott Born 1965; 1987 graduated in jurisprudence from Oxford University, in 1990 in Old Testament and New Testament from Aberdeen University; 1997 PhD, Cambridge University; 1994–96 Assistant Director of The Whitefield Institute, Oxford; 1997–98 part-time lecturer at Edinburgh's Telford College; 1998–99 lecturer in Historical and Modern Theology at the University of Nottingham; since 1999 lecturer in Christian Studies at Liverpool Hope University College.


The following reviews are known:

In: Journal of Ecclesiastical History — Vol.53 (2002), H.2 (Edmée Kingsmill)
In: De Stem van het Boek — Jg.14 (2003), H.3, S.16
In: Journal for the Study of the OT — 2001, S. 92 (E. Kingsmill)
In: Gregorianum — Jg.82 (2001), Nr.4, S.793f (Gerald O'Collins)
In: New Testament Abstracts — Jg.45 (2001), No.2, S. 425f.
In: Old Testament Abstracts — Jg.24 (2001) Nr.2, S. 398 (?)
In: Recherches de Science Religieuse — Jg.90 (2002), H.2, S. 278ff
In: Religious Studies Review — Vol.29 (2003), H.2, S. 196 (Casimir Bernas)
In: Theologische Literaturzeitung — Jg.127 (2002), H.7/8, S. 776f (Simon Gerber)