Bibliography: History of Interpretation of the Song of Songs

This is Jay Treat’s annotated bibliography of Song of Songs interpretation.

Treat, Jay Curry, Lost Keys: Text and Interpretation in Old Greek “Song of Songs” and Its Earliest Manuscript Witnesses (1996). Publicly Accessible Penn Dissertations. Paper 1179.

PDF in Scholarly Commons

This is Jay Treat’s doctoral dissertation.

Matter, E. Ann. The Voice of my Beloved: The Song of Songs in Western Medieval Christianity (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990).

Ann Matter provides a survey of important approaches to interpreting the Song of Songs within western Christianity in late antiquity and the middle ages.

Van Pelt Library: BS1485.2 .M38 1990

Brenner, Athalya, ed. Feminist Companion to the Song of Songs. (Sheffield, Eng.: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993).

This is an anthology of critical studies from feminist perspectives. Several of the studies are particularly useful, including:
Phyllis Trible, “Love’s Lyrics Redeemed” and Francis Landy’s responses;
M. Deckers, “The Structure of the Song of Songs and the Centrality of nepesh“;
Carol Meyers, “Gender Imagery in the Song of Songs”;
Richard N. Soulen, “The wasfs of the Song of Songs and Hermeneutic”;
Marcia Falk, “The wasf“; and
Athalya Brenner, “‘Come Back, Come Back the Shunammite’ (Song of Songs 7.1-10): A Parody of the wasf Genre”.

Van Pelt Library: BS1485.2 .F465 1993

Brenner, Athalya and Carole R. Fontaine, eds. Song of Songs: A Feminist Companion to the Bible (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000).

This is a second anthology of critical studies from feminist perspectives on the Song of Songs.

Van Pelt Library: BS1485.2 .S66 2000

Treat, Jay, “Discography of Song of Songs Music in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe”

This is a listing of music related to the Song of Songs that was composed in medieval or early modern Europe and is currently available on CDs.


Rosenberg, A. J., tr. The Five Megilloth: a New English Translation / translation of text, Rashi, and other commentaries by A.J. Rosenberg. (New York: Judaica Press, 1992).

This volume contains the Hebrew text of the Rabbinic Bible for Esther, The Song of Songs, and Ruth. It includes an English translation of the Biblical text, the Targum, Rashi, and selected commentary from other Rabbinic sources.

Van Pelt Library: BS1309.A3 R67 1992

Falk, Marcia. Love Lyrics from the Bible: A Translation and Literary Study of the Song of Songs. (Sheffield [Yorkshire]: Almond Press, 1982).

Marcia Falk is a poet (in both Hebrew and English), liturgist, and scholar. She provides a translation of Song of Songs into poetic, modern English, with useful literary studies.

Center for Advanced Judaic Studies Library: CJS BS1487 .F34 1982

Good, Edwin. The Song of Songs: Codes of Love. (Eugene, Oregon: Cascade, 2015).

This is a commentary by a scholar of Hebrew Bible at Stanford, who specializes in literary criticism. Anita Sullivan, a poet, translator, and the author’s wife, provides an Afterword with reflections on the poetry of the Song.

(on order for Van Pelt Library)

Hagedorn, Anselm C., ed. Perspectives on the Song of Songs = Perspektiven der Hoheliedauslegung. (Berlin, New York: W. de Gruyter, 2005).

This is a collection of recent essays “that aim at locating the Song of Songs in its ancient context as well as addressing problems of interpretation and the reception of this biblical book in later literature”.

Center for Advanced Judaic Studies Library: CJS BS410 .Z5 Bd.346

Van Pelt Library: BS410 .Z5 Bd.346

Nicholas of Lyra, ca. 1270-1349. Postilla of Nicholas of Lyra on the Song of Songs, introduced, translated, and edited by James George Kiecker. (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1998).

The Postillae of Nicholas of Lyra was the first biblical commentary to be printed. His Postillae on the Song of Songs was very widely read; it was reprinted in 34 editions by 1550. The word “postilla” apparently derives from the Latin post illa [verba], “after these words” used in medieval sermons; it refers to comments on biblical texts. Nicholas’s Literal Postilla explained the Biblical text word by word.

Nicholas was a Franciscan. He read Hebrew and used Rabbinic sources such as Rashi. He knew that דדיך ddyk in Song 1:2 should be translated “amores” instead of “ubera”. In his view, the first six chapters of the Song recount the history of Israel from the Exodus to the return from Babylonian Exile, and the last two chapters recount the history of the Church to Constantine.

Van Pelt Library: BS1485.3 .N5313 1998

Engammare, Max. Qu’il me baise des baisiers de sa bouche: le Cantique des cantiques à la Renaissance: étude et bibliographie. (Geneva: Droz, 1993).

This is an extensive survey and review of materials related to the Song of Songs and its interpretation in Catholic and Protestant Europe during the Renaissance and Reformation and the period leading up to them. It covers the explosion of commentaries and other works from the fourteenth century through the sixteenth century.

Van Pelt Library: BS1485 .E54 1993

Pope, Marvin H. Song of Songs: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. 1st ed. (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1977).

Marvin Pope’s magisterial commentary on Song of Songs contains a wealth of information on the original text and its interpretations.

Van Pelt Judaica/Ancient Near East Seminar (Room 401): BS1483 .P6 1977

Murphy, Roland E. (Roland Edmund), 1917-2002. Song of Songs: A Commentary on the Book of Canticles or the Song of Songs, edited by S. Dean McBride, Jr. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990).

Roland Murphy is a Catholic scholar of the Bible. This is a useful, critical commentary on Song of Songs. It has an overview of the history of interpretation.

Van Pelt Library: BS1485.3 .M87 1990

Bloch, Ariel and Chana Bloch. Song of Songs: A New Translation with an Introduction and Commentary. afterword by Robert Alter. 1st ed. (New York: Random House, 1995).

Chana Bloch is a poet, translator, and literary critic. Ariel Bloch is a Biblical scholar. Together they have produced a beautiful translation and critical commentary on the Song of Songs.

Van Pelt Library: BS1483 .B56 1995

Gordis, Robert, 1908- . Song of Songs: A Study, Modern Translation, and Commentary. (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1954).

Robert Gordis is a Jewish scholar. He takes the position that the Song of Songs is a collection of poetry from various authors and venues.

Center for Advanced Judaic Studies Library: CJS BS1485.3 .G64 1954

Fox, Michael V., 1940- . Song of Songs and the Ancient Egyptian Love Songs. (Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985).

Michael Fox explores possible antecedents to the genres and traits of Song of Songs in Egyptian love poetry.

Van Pelt Library: BS1485.2 .F69 1985

Exum, J. Cheryl. Song of Songs: A Commentary. 1st ed. (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005).

This contemporary commentary brings insightful critical literary and feminist perspectives to the text: “the first to examine systematically gender differences and the role they play in the presentation of the relationship between the lovers in the Song” (81).

Van Pelt Library: BS1485.52 .E98 2005

Jerusalmi, Isaac, ed. Song of Songs in the Targumic Tradition: Vocalized Aramaic Text with Facing English Translation and Ladino Versions. (Cincinnati: Ladino Books, 1993).
Center for Advanced Judaic Studies Library, 4th & Walnut Sts. CJS BS1484.A7 J47 1993

This volume has several versions of the Aramaic Targum translated into early modern Ladino. Jerusalmi has translated the Ladino into English and provided multiple useful tools for understanding the text.

Van Pelt Library: BS1484.A7 J47 1993

Ginsburg, Christian D. Song of Songs: Translated from the Original Hebrew, with a Commentary, Historical and Critical. (London: Longman, 1857).

Ginsburg collects samples of commentary from historical interpreters.

Van Pelt Library: 220.35v EG

James, Elaine T. Landscapes of the Song of Songs: Poetry and Place. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017).

See review

Van Pelt Library: BS1485.52 .J36 2017

Hauge, Martin Ravndal. Solomon the Lover and the Shape of the Song of Songs. (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2015).

Hauge argues that Song is a literary unity, the male lover is fictionally presented as Solomon, and the female lover as a member of his harem.

Van Pelt Library: BS1485.52 .H384 2015