Forcefully, yet Chastely
In his long review in Commonweal of the Brazos “Theological Commentary on the Bible” series, Luke Timothy Johnson has unstinting praise for Paul Griffiths’ volume on the Song of Songs. Johnson said in part:
[Griffiths'] reading of individual words, phrases, and stanzas is close, informed by serious concordance work across both testaments, and full of insight. Making use of the entire tradition of figural reading of the Song (the intimate relation of the Lord/Christ to Israel, the church, Mary), he shows how such readings are strongly or weakly based on the literal sense. And while affirming all the richness of these interpretations, Griffiths never loses sight of the intensely physical and erotic character of the verses, which he manages to display forcefully yet also chastely.
Spurred by the review, I’ve been savoring Griffiths’ commentary, delighting in his careful reading of the text, his imaginative forays into “figural” interpretation, and his willingness to press personal implications of the “lectio.”
Here, by way of example:
The Lord’s desire for us is a fundamental theme of the Song, and it is one of its distinctive features that it paints this desire in unrestrainedly physical terms. The Song’s lover wants to suck and enjoy and get nourishment from the beloved’s breasts, and this serves as figure for what the Lord wants from us – from you and from me….
[I]f the Lord desires us at all, he does so as what we are, which is to say as bodies ensouled. Jesus’s sucking at Mary’s breasts, like the Song’s lover lying between his beloved’s breasts, can serve to remind us of the fact.