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

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

by Jonathan 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 literature from 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 reading of the approach of the early sages, who read Song of Songs through a mode of typological interpretation concerned with the correspondence between Scripture and ideal 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 of an idealized vision 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 and idealized 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 for later Jewish thought of a robust theology of intimacy in God's relationship with the Jewish people.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780199359332
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 08/31/2015
Pages: 248
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

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 & Hilda Blaustein Postdoctoral Associate in the Judaic Studies Program at Yale University.

Table of Contents

A Note on Translation and Transliteration

Chapter 1 - Allegory, Mashal, or Figuration? Song of Songs in Early Rabbinic Interpretation
Chapter 2 - Song of Songs and Israel's National Narrative
Chapter 3 - Female Beauty and the Affective Nature of Rabbinic Piety
Chapter 4 - Israel's Ideal Man
Chapter 5 - Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder? Domesticating the Elusive Lover of Song of Songs

Rabbinic Texts
Non-Rabbinic Ancient Sources
Secondary Sources

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