A King Is Bound in the Tresses: Allusions to the Song of Songs in the Fourth Gospel

Article excerpt

A King is Bound in the Tresses: Allusions to the Song of Songs in the Fourth Gospel. By Ann Roberts Winsor. Studies in Biblical Literature, Vol. 6. New York: Peter Lang, 1999. 111 pp. $41.00 (cloth).

The author proposes a new solution to enigmatic aspects of John 12:1-8 and 20:11-18. In the first passage the reader puzzles over why Mary of Bethany would anoint Jesus' feet and then wipe his feet with her hair. In the second passage, Mary Magdalene's double turning (20:14, 16) and Jesus' non sequitur "do not hold me" (20:17) prove difficult to interpret. Winsor proposes a literary approach that explores allusions and intertextuality. She argues that the two narratives are more fully understood in light of potential allusions to the Song of Songs.

Chapter 1 lays out the theoretical base for her work, drawing on the work of Michael Riffaterre and Ziva Ben-Porat. Riffaterre offers the idea of "ungrammaticality," i.e., textual glitches that point to another text in which the problematic reference makes sense. Ben-Porat provides an analysis of allusion as a literary technique. Winsor argues that interrelated texts must share more than corresponding vocabulary. There must be a thematic concurrence between the two texts and the allusion must be plausible with respect to the social setting of the primary text. The rest of the book sets out to demonstrate such a link between the Fourth Gospel, its community and the Song of Songs.

Chapter 2 focuses on John 12:1-8. Connections are made between the Song and the Gospel's references to hair, the "king" reclining, precious nard, feet and scent. Chapter 3 notes links between John 20:1, 11-18 and the Song's references to night, tomb, garden, arise, voice, and dweller in the garden (in addition to the aforementioned "turning" and command, "do not hold me"). Chapter 4 analyzes the Song as an "evoked text. …