Arguably the biggest blockbuster love song ever composed, the Song of Songs holds a unique place in Jewish and Christian canons as the “holiest” book, in the minds of some readers, and the sexiest in its language and imagery. This commentary aims to interpret this vibrant Song in a contemporary feminist key, informed by close linguistic-literary and social-cultural analysis. Though finding much in the Song to celebrate for women (and men) in their embodied, passionate lives, this work also exposes tensions, vulnerabilities, and inequities between the sexes and among society at large—just what we would expect of a perceptive, poignant love ballad that still tops the charts.
F. Scott Spencer is professor of New Testament and biblical interpretation at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. He has also served as past president of the Southeastern Commission for the Study of Religion and current co-chair of the Bible and Emotion group for the Society of Biblical Literature. Spencer’s longtime interest in feminist biblical interpretation is evident in the monographs Dancing Girls, “Loose” Ladies, and Women of “the Cloth”: The Women in Jesus’ Life; and Salty Wives, Spirited Mothers, and Savvy Widows: Capable Women of Purpose and Persistence in Luke’s Gospel.
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"F. Scott Spencer has written a fresh and lively commentary on the Song of Songs, befitting the biblical book's own celebration of love and desire. Spencer offers a rich, careful discussion of the Song's gendered imagery as well as its resonances with contemporary feminist concerns. Brimming with insights on the weighty delight of sexual yearning, Spencer's commentary is uniquely sensitive to the Song's portrayal of embodied existence and its consequences for relating to the others in society and the natural world surrounding us. He offers a commentary fully conversant with the scholarship and attuned to the pressing contemporary concerns about sexuality and the environment."
Dr. Carey Walsh, Professor of Theology and Old Testament, Villanova University
"F. Scott Spencer has written a commentary on the Song of Songs that is not only thoughtful and illuminating but, dare I say it, thrilling! He brings a biblical scholar's depth of expertise to analyzing and interpreting the workings of the poetry and a feminist scholar's attention to the complexities of gender issues and their relationship to justice and equity. He never loses sight of what it is that makes the love poetry of the Song of Songs finally so compelling, namely, that love rules us all and we wouldn't have it any other way."
Tod Linafelt, Georgetown University
"Rabbi Akiba claimed that `All the world is not worth the day that the Song of Songs was given to Israel' (Yadaim 3:5). Spencer reaffirms that claim. With scholarly insight into the text, sensitivity of gender issues, and a clever yet respectful use of language, he provides a commentary faithful to the principles of this remarkable series. The contributing voices add an interesting layer to the interpretation of this poem that champions human love."
Dianne Bergant, CSA, Catholic Theological Union