My Perfect One: Typology and Early Rabbinic Interpretation of Song of Songs

Hardcover | September 14, 2015

byJonathan Kaplan

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Most studies of the history of interpretation of Song of Songs focus on its interpretation from late antiquity to modernity. In My Perfect One, Jonathan Kaplan examines earlier rabbinic interpretation of this work by investigating an underappreciated collection of works of rabbinic literaturefrom the first few centuries of the Common Era, known as the tannaitic midrashim. In a departure from earlier scholarship that too quickly classified rabbinic interpretation of Song of Songs as allegorical, Kaplan advocates a more nuanced understanding of the approach of the early sages, who readSong of Songs employing typological interpretation in order to correlate Scripture with exemplary events in Israel's history. Throughout the book Kaplan explores ways in which this portrayal helped shape a model vision of rabbinic piety as well as an idealized portrayal of their beloved, God, in the wake of the destruction, dislocation, and loss the Jewish community experienced in the first two centuries of the Common Era.The archetypal language of Song of Songs provided, as Kaplan argues, a textual landscape in which to imagine an idyllic construction of Israel's relationship to her beloved, marked by mutual devotion and fidelity. Through this approach to Song of Songs, the Tannaim helped lay the foundations forlater Jewish thought of a robust theology of intimacy in God's relationship with the Jewish people.

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Most studies of the history of interpretation of Song of Songs focus on its interpretation from late antiquity to modernity. In My Perfect One, Jonathan Kaplan examines earlier rabbinic interpretation of this work by investigating an underappreciated collection of works of rabbinic literaturefrom the first few centuries of the Common E...

Jonathan Kaplan (Ph.D., Harvard University) is an Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Previously he was a Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Postdoctoral Associate in the Judaic Studies Program at Yale University.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:248 pages, 9.21 × 6.3 × 0.91 inPublished:September 14, 2015Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199359334

ISBN - 13:9780199359332

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Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsAbbreviationsA Note on Translation and TransliterationIntroduction1. Allegory, Mashal, or Figuration? Song of Songs in Early Rabbinic Interpretation2. Song of Songs and Israel's National Narrative3. Female Beauty and the Affective Nature of Rabbinic Piety4. Israel's Ideal Man5. Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder? Domesticating the Elusive Lover of Song of SongsConclusionBibliographyRabbinic TextsNon-Rabbinic Ancient SourcesSecondary Sources

Editorial Reviews

"Jonathan Kaplan provides a methodologically cautious but deeply enlightening guide to the earliest interpretations of the Song of Songs as a divine love song. Readers of many backgrounds will find that his close, perceptive textual readings open a world of exegetical creativity that lies atthe heart of a two-millennia love affair of profound beauty and historical significance." --Steven D. Fraade, Mark Taper Professor of the History of Judaism