The Song of Songs and the Fashioning of Identity in Early Latin Christianity

Hardcover | April 23, 2016

byKarl Shuve

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In this work, Karl Shuve provides a new account of how the Song of Songs became one of the most popular biblical texts in medieval Western Christianity, through a close and detailed study of its interpretation by late antique Latin theologians. It has often been presumed that early Latinwriters exercised little influence on the medieval interpretation of the poem, since there are so few extant commentaries from the period. But this is to overlook the hundreds of citations of and allusions to the Song in the writings of influential figures such as Cyprian, Ambrose, Jerome, andAugustine as well as the lesser-known theologian Gregory of Elvira. Through a comprehensive analysis of these citations and allusions, Shuve argues that contrary to the expectations of many modern scholars, the Song of Songs was not a problematic text for early Christian theologians, but was aresource that they mined as they debated the nature of the church and of the virtuous life. The first part of the volume considers the use of the Song in the churches of Roman Africa and Spain, where bishops and theologians focused on images of enclosure and purity invoked in the poem. In the secondpart, the focus is late fourth-century Italy, where a new ascetic interpretation, concerned particularly with women's piety, began to emerge. This erotic poem gradually became embedded in the discursive traditions of Latin Late Antiquity, which were bequeathed to the Christian communities of earlymedieval Europe.

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In this work, Karl Shuve provides a new account of how the Song of Songs became one of the most popular biblical texts in medieval Western Christianity, through a close and detailed study of its interpretation by late antique Latin theologians. It has often been presumed that early Latinwriters exercised little influence on the medieva...

Karl Shuve is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:256 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.1 inPublished:April 23, 2016Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198766440

ISBN - 13:9780198766445

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Table of Contents

AbbreviationsIntroductionThe Song of Songs in North Africa and Spain1. 'A Garden Enclosed, A Fountain Sealed': The Church as Closed Community in Cyprian and the Donatists2. 'As a Lily Among the Thorns': The Church as Mixed Community in Pacian, Tyconius, and Augustine3. 'The Church is the Flesh of Christ': The Tractatus de Epithalamio of Gregory of ElivraThe Song of Songs in Italy4. 'Like the Holy Church, Unsullied by Intercourse': Ambrose, Virgins, and the Song5. 'For Souls Know Not Covenants of Wedlock': Ascetic Ideology and Mystical Theology in Ambrose's Later Works6. 'This Book Contains the Mysteries of Virginity': Jerome and the Making of Ascetic CommunityEpilogue: Towards Medieval Exegesis