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Jews, since the first Christians were above this suspicion, and the later ones would rather have rejected than received it on that account. But to return to Mr. Whiston; he objects,
2dly. That neither the contemporary nor succeeding writers of the Old Testament, ever quote or allude to it':-neither the apocryphal writers-neither Philo nor Josephus-neither Christ nor his apostles-nor any writers of the first century, though many of these were much given to allegories and allegorical interpretation. In this objection I have condensed several of my author's, and therefore must answer them distinctly.
I am not certain that any of the other sacred writers expressly cite, or transcribe from this canticle: but the same may be said, not only of many of the psalms, and perhaps of Job, but of Esther, Nehemiah, and some other books; and is therefore of no force. Yet it is most certain, as already shewn, that other sacred writers, both of the Old Testament and the New, employ the same figures, borrow many of the expressions, and allude, it is probable, to many passages, as may be seen by references in the margin, and more fully in the com
So Dr. Durell, (Remarks on Canticles) It is not quoted, or most distantly alluded to, in the sacred writings.' Besides the passages above cited compare the following: Cant. ii. 4. with John vi. 44.
ii. 3. 15.
Rev. xxii. 1, 2.
Isa. xxvi. 9.
Ephes. v. 27:
mentary. And if this position be disputable, it can only be from the similarity of style in the sacred books, which makes it doubtful what passages are referred to, and forms therefore an argument in favour of our hypothesis.
The like may be said of the apocryphal writers, and others named in the objection, as might be shewn, if it were worth while to be minute. The evidence of Josephus has been considered; and Philo has few quotations from the scriptures. As to the fathers, if some of them have omitted quoting this book, we have its authority expressly allowed by Melito, and Origen was one of its most celebrated early commentators: and though we consider the apostolical constitutions, so highly praised by Mr. Whiston, as an imposture, it may be worth observing, that this author twice speaks of the little foxes which destroy the vineyards, in allusion to this book; and these passages seem to have given him no little trouble '.
FORMER COMMENTATORS, WITH THE PLAN OF THE FOLLOWING WORK.
MY last object is to give a kind of historic sketch of the expositions of this book, and a hasty view of the principal writers on it; noticing particularly such as I have consulted; and pointing out to the reader the method adopted in this work. It must not be expected, however, that in any class I should enumerate them all, for their name is legion.
The Jewish commentators shall take the lead; and first, the TARGUM, or Chaldee paraphrase on this book, which is very full and copious, and supposed to have been written by Joseph the blind, or one-eyed. That this is not of the high antiquity which some of the Jews pretend, is evident from its containing the - notion of two Messiahs, which is modern; a well as from its mention of the Talmud, which was not completed till about A. D. 500. translation of this was added by Dr. Gill to the first edition of his Exposition.
The Jewish commentators mentioned, and consulted by Dr. Gill' (a master in this walk of learning,) are, beside the Targum, Shirkashirim Rabba, Sol. Ben Jarchi, Aben Ezra, Alshech, and Yalkut Simeoni, with the books
Pref. to Expos.
of Zohar and the Rabboth to which he might have added David Kimchi, and a few others, which he consulted, perhaps, only occasionally. The books of Zohar and Rabboth are not comments on this book, yet they afford many occasional illustrations in the Jewish manner. These writers, who are all disposed to allegorize, are by no means more unanimous than the Christian commentators; with whom also they agree in generally turning the figures as much as possible in honour of their church and priesthood: er. gra. They tell you the of the church intend its doctors, as if the laity were always blind. Blessed be God, he permits and encourages us to see with our own eyes.
The Canticles were pretty early a favourite book with the fathers, and (as then understood) suited the genius of Origen to a tittle. He wrote copiously on this book, and in the comment translated by Jerome, he is said, by that father, as much to have excelled himself, as in his other works he did all contemporary writers; which was certainly intended as a compliment.
Gregory, of Nyssa, wrote fifteen homilies, containing an allegorical exposition as far as the middle of the sixth chapter. He was followed by Eusebius, Cyprian, and others, who were fond of this book, apparently, because it gave them a favourable opportunity to display their wit and ingenuity in allegorizing.
St. Bernard wrote eighty-six sermons on the two first chapters, of which the best I can say
is, that they are commended by Erasmus, doubtless for their piety and unction.
CALMET has given a long list of authors of the middle ages, who have attempted to explain this book; of whom little is known but that they exist in some ecclesiastical libraries even the names of the following only seem worth enumerating.
Venerable Bede wrote seven books on this subject, or rather six, for the seventh is copied entirely from Gregory the Great. This work was intended as a defence of the doctrines of Grace against the Pelagians!
The commentary of Foliot, bishop of London in the 12th century, with the compendium of Alcuin, was printed in 1638, and is repeatedly referred to by Dr. Gill. Of Thomas Aquinas' comment, the only thing I know remarkable is, that it is said to have been dictated on his death-bed,
Scotus is favourably spoken of by Poole as not one of the last to be named of this period".
Genebrand, a learned benedictine, wrote two comments, a larger and smaller, both in the latter part of the sixteenth century: and his work is distinguished by collections from the Rabbins, He was a zealous advocate for the church of Rome, and died Bishop of Aix, A. D. 1597.
1 Biblioth. sac. art. 5. in 3d. volume of his tionary.
Syn, Crit. vol. II. Pref.