Book Review – Discovering Christ in the Song of Solomon (Don Fortner)

This is essentially a commentary on the Song of Songs taking an allegorical approach. Indeed, the author insists that the book “is not in any sense to be interpreted literally” and “it would lead to great evil to interpret it literally”. Personally, I find that approach too limiting, but the allegorical interpretation does have good pedigree, with Spurgeon and the Puritans seeing in this book a love story between Christ and the church (and indeed between Christ and the individual believer).

The book has no introduction and is divided into 32 short chapters, which make it suitable for reading a chapter a day as a devotional guide. The early chapters in particular are very good at stirring us up to desire to know the manifest presence of the Lord in our lives. We are to treasure his presence above all things, not being content with mere religious gatherings, and not allowing even our sins to keep us from Christ.

As would be expected in an allegorical interpretation there are some rather speculative interpretations, and the author rarely admits to uncertainty over the meaning of a passage. It has a strongly reformed theology and he even manages to find references to Arminian theology in places! There are some good sections on assurance of salvation and the believers struggle with sin and its effect on our relationship with Christ.

Overall, there is much good devotional material in here, but the jury is out on the hermeneutics. It is not until chapter 7 of Song of Songs that he even considers that there could be an application for husbands and wives. But the call to love Christ more deeply and to treasure his presence is always a valuable one, and even if other commentaries may need to be consulted, I think the allegorical approach should not be lightly dismissed.

As long as it is informed by other plainer passages of Scripture, this approach brings to life Paul’s observation that the relationship between a husband and wife mirrors that of Christ and the church. I would probably however recommend that those wanting to study Song of Songs allegorically start with John Owen’s “Communion with God” or Hudson Taylor’s “Union with Christ” rather than this book. I still also consider Tom Gledhill’s Bible Speaks Today commentary on Song of Songs which takes a completely non-allegorical approach to the book to also be well worth a read.

2 thoughts on “Book Review – Discovering Christ in the Song of Solomon (Don Fortner)

  1. Thanks for visiting my blog, Mark. I have enjoyed some good time reading yours.

    Have you heard the CJ Mahaney stuff on The Song? He does a good job of showing the absurdity of allegorical interpretations.

  2. thanks Matthew. I haven’t heard CJ but others have told me of his stance, and to be honest I was a bit surprised as I know Sovereign Grace are generally very appreciative of the Puritans, and Spurgeon, who all took an alegorical approach.

    My view is that we should expect to find Christ in all the Scriptures, and so the Song should be no exception, but I think most allegorical interpretations go way over the top into quite ridiculous exegesis which would never be tolerated in any other book of the Bible.

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