Page images
PDF
EPUB

a

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

66

of Sarah, as written in Gen. xxi, 10, adapting them somewhat freely to his purpose. It is evident from all this that Paul recognizes the grammatico-historical truthfulness of the Old Testament narrative. But, he says, all these historical facts are capable of being allegorized: ativá totiv aranyopoúueva, which things are allegorical ; or as Ellicott well expresses it: “All which things, viewed in their most general light, are allegorical.” He proceeds to allegorize the facts referred to, making the two women represent the two covenants, the Sinaitic (Jewish) and the Christian, and showing in detail how one thing answers to, or ranks with (ovotoixei) another, and also wherein the two covenants stand opposed. We may represent the correspondences of his allegory as follows: { Hagar , bondmaid, old Covenant, ovotoixei, The present Jerusalem. ,=New

Jerusalem above, our mother. 3 Ishmael, child of flesh,

Those in bondage to the law. {,

We, Christian brethren (ver. 28). 5 Ishmael persecuted Isaac,

So now legalists pers. Christians.

I say, (ver. 31; v, 1): Be not en. 6 Scripture says: Cast out bondmaid and son,

tangled in yoke of bondage. The above tabulation exhibits at a glance six points of similitude (on a line with the figures 1, 2, 3, etc.), and three sets of things contrasted (as linked by the braces a, b, c). The general import of the apostle's language is clear and simple, and this allegorizing process served most aptly both to illustrate the relations and contrasts of the Law and the Gospel, and also to confound and silence the Judaizing legalists, against whom Paul was writing.

Here arises the important hermeneutical question, What inference What authori- are we to draw from this example of an inspired apostle ty attaches to allegorizing the facts of sacred history? Was it a fruit

of his rabbinical education, and a sanction of that alleizing?

gorical method of interpretation which was prevalent, especially among Jewish-Alexandrian writers, at that time?

That Paul in this passage treats historical facts of the Old Testament as capable of being used allegorically is a simple matter of fact. That he was familiar with the allegorical methods of expounding the Scriptures current in his day is scarcely to be doubted. That his own rabbinical training had some influence on him, and coloured his methods of arg ent and illustration, there seems no valid reason to deny. It is further evident that in his allegorical use of Hagar and Sarah he employs an exceptional and peculiar method of dealing with his Judaizing opponents, and, so far as the passage is an argument, it is essentially an argumentum ad hominem.

? Commentary on Galatians, in loco.

Paul's example of allegor

[blocks in formation]

But it is not merely an argument of that kind, as if it could have no worth or force with any other parties. It is assumed to have an interest and value as illustrating certain relations of the Law and the Gospel.' But its position, connexion, and use in this epistle to the Galatians gives no sufficient warrant for such allegorical methods in general. Schmoller remarks: “Paul to be sure allegorizes here, for he says so himself. But with the very fact of his saying this himself, the gravity of the hermeneutical difficulty disappears. He means therefore to give an allegory, not an exposition; he does not proceed as an exegete, and does not mean to say (after the manner of the allegorizing exegetes) that only what he now says is the true sense of the narrative.” Herein especially consists the great difference between Paul's example and that of nearly all the allegorists. He concedes and assumes the historical truthfulness of the Old Testament narrative, but makes an allegorical use of it for a special and exceptional purpose.'

1

According to Jowett, “it is neither an argument nor an illustration, but an interpretation of the Old Testament Scripture after the manner of the age in which he lived; that is, after the manner of the Jewish and Christian Alexandrian writers. Whatever difference there is between him and them, or between Philo and the Christian fathers, as interpreters of Scripture, is not one of kind, but of degree. The Christian writers lay aside many of the extravagances of Philo; St. Paul is free also from their extravagances, employing only casually, and exceptionally, and when reasoning with those who desire to be under the law,' what they use habitually and unsparingly, so as to overlay, and in some cases to destroy the original sense. Instead of seeking to draw subtle distinctions between the method of St. Paul and that of his age, probably of the school in which he was brought up, it is better to observe that the noble spirit of the apostle shines through the 'elements of the law' in which he clothes his meaning.”—The Epistles of St. Paul to the Thessalonians, Galatians, etc., with Critical Notes and Dissertations, vol. I, p. 285. London, 1855.

* Commentary on Galatians (Lange's Biblework), in loco.

* J. B. Lightfoot compares and contrasts Philo's allegory of Hagar and Sarah, and shows how the two move in different realms of thought, and yet have points of resemblance as well as points of difference. He shows how, “with Philo, the allegory is the whole substance of his teaching; with St. Paul it is but an accessory.” He furnishes also, on the general subject, the following judicious and sensible remarks: “We need not fear to allow that St. Paul's mode of teaching here is coloured by his early education in the rabbinical schools. It were as unreasonable to stake the apostle's inspiration on the turn of a metaphor or the character of an illustration or the form of an argument, as on purity of diction. No one now thinks of maintaining that the language of the inspired writers reaches the classical standard of correctness and elegance, though at one time it was held almost a heresy to deny this. 'A treasure contained in earthen vessels,' 'strength made perfect in weakness,' 'rudeness in speech, yet not in knowledge,'—such is the far nobler conception of inspired teaching which we may gather from the apostle's own language. And this language we should do well to bear in mind.”—St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians, Greek Text, Notes, etc., p. 370. Andover, 1881,

allowable.

of Canticles.

Hence we may say, in general, that as certain other Old Testament characters and events are acknowledged by Paul to have a typical

significance (see Rom. ix, 14; 1 Cor. x, 5), so he allows Paul's method of allegorizing a like significance to the points specified in the history

of Hagar and Sarah. But he never for a moment loses sight of the historical basis, or permits his allegorizing to displace it. And in the same general way it may be allowable for us to allegorize portions of the Scripture, providing the facts are capable of typical significance, and are never ignored and displaced by the allegorizing process. Biblical characters and events may thus be used for homiletical purposes, and serve for "instruction in righteousness;" but the special and exceptional character of such handling of Scripture must, as in Paul's example, be explicitly acknowledged. The apostle's solitary instance is a sufficient admonition that such expositions are to be indulged in most sparingly.

The allegorical interpretation of the Book of Canticles, adopted Interpretation by all the older Jewish expositors and the great major

ity of Christian divines, is not to be lightly cast aside. Where such a unanimity has so long prevailed, there is at least the presumption that it is rooted in some element of truth. The methods of procedure adopted by individual exegetes may all be open to objection, while, at the same time, they may embody principles in themselves essentially correct.

The allegorists agree in making the pure love and tender relaAllegorical

tions of Solomon and Shulamith represent the relations

of God and his people. But when they come to details they differ most widely, each writer finding in particular passages mystic or historical allusions, which in turn, are disregarded or denied by others. In fact, it can scarcely be said that any two allegorizing minds have ever agreed throughout in the detaiis of their exposition. The Jewish Targum, which takes the bridegroom to be the Lord of the world, and the bride the congregation of Israel, explains the whole song as a picture of Israel's history, from the exodus until the final redemption and restoration of the nation to the mountain of Jerusalem. Aben-Ezra makes the song an allegorico-prophetic history of Israel from Abraham onward. Origen and the Christian allegorists generally make Christ the bridegroom and his Church the bride. Some, however, explain all the allusions of the loving intercourse between Christ and the individual believer, while others treat the whole song as a sort of apocalypse, or prophetic picture of the history of the Church in all ages. Ambrose, in a sermon on the

1 An English translation of the Targum of Canticles is given in Adam Clarke'a Commentary, at the end of his notes on Solomon's Song.

methods.

[blocks in formation]

perpetual virginity of the virgin Mary, represents Shulamith as identical with Mary, the mother of God. But these are only some of the more general types or outlines of exposition pursued by the allegorists. Besides such leading differences there is an endless and most confusing mass of special expositions. It is assumed that every word must be explained in a mystic sense. The Targum, for example, in chap. ii, 4, understands the bringing into the house of wine as the Lord bringing Israel to the school of Mount Sinai to learn the law from Moses. Aben-Ezra explains the coming of the beloved, leaping over the mountains (chap. ii, 8), as Jehovah descending upon Sinai and shaking the whole mountain by his thunder. The Christian allegorists also find in every word and allusion of the song some illustration of the “great mystery” of which Paul speaks in Eph. v, 31-33, and some have carried the matter into wild extravagance. Thus Epiphanius makes the eighty concubines (vi, 8) prefigure eighty heresies of Christendom; the winter (ii, 11) denotes the sufferings of Christ, and the voice of the turtle dove (ii, 12) is the preaching of Paul. Hengstenberg makes the hair of the bride, which is compared to a flock of goats that leap playfully from Mount Gilead (iv, 1), signify the mass of the nations converted to the Church, and Cocceius discovered in other allusions the strifes of Guelphs and Ghibellines, the struggles of the Reformation, and even particular events like the capture of the elector of Saxony at Mühlberg! And so the interpretation of this book has been carried to the same extreme as that of John's Apocalypse.

Against the allegorical interpretation of Canticles we may urge three considerations. First, the notable disagreement Objections to of its advocates, as indicated above, and the constant the allegorical tendency of their expositions to run into irrational method. extremes. These facts warrant the inference that some fatal error lies in that method of procedure. Secondly, the allegorists, as a rule, deny that the song has any literal basis. The persons and objects described are mere figures of the Lord and his people, and of the manifold relations between them. This position throws the whole exposition into the realm of fancy, and explains how, as a matter of fact, each interpreter becomes a law unto himself. Having no basis in reality, the purely allegorical interpretation has not been able to fix upon any historical standpoint, or adopt any common principles. Thirdly, the song contains no intimation that it is an allegory. It certainly does not, like the other allegories of Scripture, contain its exposition within itself. Herein, as we have shown above, the allegory differs from the parable, and to

Canticles

[ocr errors]

able.

be self-consistent in allegorizing the song of songs we should either adopt Paul's method with the history of Sarah and Hagar, and, allowing a literal historical basis, say: All these things may be allegorized; or else we should call the song a parable, and, as in the parable of the prodigal son, affirm that its imagery is true to fact and nature and capable of literal explanation, but that it serves more especially to set forth the mystic relation that exists between God and his people. Following, therefore, the analogy of Scripture we may more ap

propriately designate the Canticles as a dramatic pardramatic Par- able. It may or may not have had a literal historical

occasion, as the marriage of Solomon with Pharaoh's daughter (1 Kings iii, 1), or, as many think, with some beautiful shepherd-maiden of Northern Palestine (comp. chap. iv, 8). In either case the imagery and form of the composition are poetic and dramatic, and, as in the book of Job, we are not to suppose a literal narrative of persons actually addressing one another in such perfect and ornamental style. Solomon is a well-known historical person, and also, in Scripture, a typical character. Shulamith may have been one of his wives. But the song of songs is a parable, and its leading actors are, as in all parables, typical of others besides themselves. The parable depicts in a most charming style the highest ideal of pure connubial love, and “we cannot but believe that the writer of this divine song recognized the symbolical character of that love, which he has here embellished. ... The typical character of Solomon's own reign was well understood by himself, as appears from Psalm lxxii. That the Lord's relation to his people was conceived of as a marriage from the time of the covenant at Sinai, is shown by repeated expressions which imply it in the law of Moses. That, under these circumstances, the marriage of the king of Israel should carry the thought up by a ready and spontaneous association to the covenant-relation of the King par excellence to the people whom he had espoused to himself, is surely no extravagant supposition, even if the analogous instance of Psalm xlv did not remove it from the region of conjecture to that of established fact. The mystical use made of marriage so frequently in the subsequent scriptures, with evident and even verbal allusion to this song, and the constant interpretation of both the Synagogue and the Church, show the naturalness of the symbol, and enhance the probability that the writer himself saw what the great body of his readers have found in his production.”1

Prof. W. H. Green, in American edition of Lange's 0. T. Commentary, Introduction, pp. 24, 25. This learned exegete adopts, along with Zöckler, Delitzsch, and some others, what he calls the typical method of interpreting the Canticles. “I am

« PreviousContinue »