Commentary: 1 & 2 Thessalonians, The Song of Songs

1 & 2 Thessalonians

The Thessalonian epistles are possibly the earliest Pauline documents that we have in the New Testament. They reveal to us something of Paul’s motives and methods in ministry and show particularly his teaching about the return of Christ and its implications for us.

There are a number of worthwhile commentaries on these epistles. F.F. Bruce in the Word Series (1982) provides a helpful introduction and thorough exegesis based on the Greek text and gives references to various articles that have been written on important issues associated with these documents.

Another fine commentary is by Ernest Best in Black’s NT commentary series (Revised edition, 1977). The older commentary by James Frame in the International Critical Commentary series (1912) is still a useful tool for the interpreter although there has been much scholarly research on these epistles since he wrote.

The non-technical reader will find the contribution by Leon Morris to the Tyndale series (Revised Edition, 1983) the most helpful way into the study of these epistles. Morris has also contributed a larger volume on the Thessalonian letters to the New International Commentary series (1959).

Finally, there is the extremely helpful work by I.H. Marshall (New Century Bible, 1983) replacing the earlier volume by A.L. Moore, which like other commentaries in this series, is not over technical in its approach but nevertheless provides a solid exegesis of the epistles.

The Song of Songs

The Song of Songs is a love song marked by ‘frankness, openness, tenderness, coupled with ardent longing, explicitly erotic descriptions and intent towards the lover and the beloved’ (Carr). It is one of the two books in the Bible that do not explicitly mention God (the other is Esther, see last issue of The Briefing).

G. Lloyd Carr, The Song of Solomon, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (IVP, 1984) is the commentary I would recommend on this controversial book. It provides 50 pages of introductory, and general discussion of the book before the verse by verse commentary. Such an introduction is especially important with a book like this that raises fundamental questions for the reader. Four ‘subject studies’ (on ‘The Garden Motif’, ‘Love’, ‘Lover’, and ‘Wine’) help one to see the book as a whole.

It might sound ridiculous, but one modern commentary on the 117 verses of the Song of Songs runs to 743 pages! This is Marvin H. Pope, Song of Songs, Anchor Bible 7c, (Doubleday, 1977). Not a commentary for the fainthearted, and I admit to no more than a passing acquaintance with it!

For those able to consult the Hebrew text, the work by the Jewish scholar Robert Gordis, The Song of Songs and Lamentations (KTAV, 1974) is worth consulting for detailed comment.

Many and varied have been the interpretations of the Song of Songs. Whatever the merits of Joseph Dillow’s Solomon on Sex: A Biblical Guide to Married Love (Thomas Nelson, 1977), the marriage counsellor author finds more than I can in the Song!

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