Romance, She Wrote: A Hermeneutical Essay on Song of Songs

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Romance, She Wrote: A Hermeneutical Essay on Song of Songs. By Andr6 LaCocque. Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 1998, xvi + 240 pp., $19.00.

LaCocque's title identifies his two guiding perspectives for his book: (1) the author of the Song is a woman, and (2) LaCocque has "no intention of writing yet another commentary on the Song" (p. 67). Rather, he is concerned with developing what he calls "an exercise in biblical hermeneutics" (p. 68). And that identifies both the strengths and the weaknesses of LaCocque's book.

In a short five-page preface where he briefly discusses the question of canonicity and the tension between the naturalistic and the allegorical approaches to the text, LaCocque sets out his thesis that the author of the Song has borrowed vocabulary and imagery from the rest of the Biblical tradition, especially the prophets, with the deliberate intention of subverting the patriarchal society of late second-temple Hellenistic Judaism.

These basic ideas are developed in an extended (68-page) introductory essay on "Methodological Presuppositions." Using what he defines as an "intertextual" approach, LaCocque rejects any allegorizing, which he says "is not just at some distance from the original intent of the work, but takes us to its extreme opposite" (p. ?), in favor of a midrashic approach that reveals the mystical meaning, i.e. the subversive intent of the text (p. 11). Much of his approach is shaped by literary-critical theories that are already passe in disciplines outside Biblical studies, and by the ever-present, but I believe long-discredited, notion that the prophets were the originators of Israel's theological ideas. Relegating the Song to the Hellenistic period and the Torah to the late monarchy and the exilic eras allows him to argue that the author of the Song is drawing on those (earlier) writings for her "subversive" purposes of parodying and secularizing the religious beliefs of the earlier writers. …