“Do not stir up stir up or awaken love….”: A Response to the Papers (and Post-Meeting Commentary)

Jon Cooley,
Centre College

Three text-interpreters, followed by a commentator, went into Scripture’s garden. One tried to repair the roots. Of her, it is said: “A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master.” [1] One did not read. Of him, it is recited: “The righteous will be amid gardens and fountains of clear-flowing water. Their greeting will be: ‘Enter ye here in peace and security’.” [2] One sought the deep meaning. Of him, it was written: “[…] my heart stands in awe of your words. I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil.” [3] All came out, save the commentator, who remained, weeping. Of him, nothing is said, but this writing remains.

Ellen Davis is not wrong to insist on recovering the virtue of humility in the interpretation of Scripture, and especially in that of the Song. Nor is it ill-advised to link humility with the repairing of the disruptions between God and humanity stemming from the sin in Eden, and “repeated” in subsequent places. Neither can anyone argue but that SR must proceed as she has, searching the Scriptures themselves from within the particularities of lived history. Yet questions remain. The first concerns how extensively those very particular, lived histories must be articulated prior to engaging in SR, which would seem to be an irreducibly communal practice. Might such a self-rehearsal of an interpreter’s characteristics, as opposed to allowing one’s interlocutors to discern them (and so oneself) within the shared work of interpretation, instead of strengthening a community drawn from extraordinarily diverse situations, further strategies of demarcation and insulation ( cf. Davis’ comments concerning “Protestant” commentators), and especially ones rooted in sharp distinctions between “public” and “private” ( cf. her assertions that poetry is an intensely private practice)? [4] Along the latter line, might it be the case that, in addition to the Song’s re-writing of the meaning of the Eden narratives in terms of Temple and Exile, the Song also highlights the fruitful consequences of that loss of close intimacy with God? That is, it is only after the breaking of closeness with God that humans were able to enter into potentially responsible relationships, both to themselves, with each other, with their environment, and, ultimately, with the Creator of them all, God. [5] Could this be a Song-inspired re-working of the Genesis observation that the first humans’ “eyes were opened?” [6]

Omid Safi’s contribution raises different concerns, but not without providing a rich – and much appreciated – glimpse over the terrain of Islamic mysticism. Lacking direct access to the traditions of which he writes, however, it must suffice to say that, as far as the majority of his paper is concerned, there ought to be new interest in the relation of mysticism to jurisprudence (and vice versa ; see below), and in the work of ‘Ayn al-Qozat in particular. A rather more pressing, if also more abstract, issue arises from the remainder of Sura 15, especially as the signs there may relate to the mystics on the madhhab-i ‘ishq and their attempts to re-invigorate religion by cutting against contemporary practices of it. As has become increasingly clear in conversations between Jews and Christians, “the law” is never simply the “dead hand of tradition” which certain figures – both religious and secular – have made it out to be. Less clear, however, are the ways in which the practice of the law – religious and secular – is susceptible to what might, following Max Weber, be called its “routinization”: the shifting of the site of meaning away from that which legitimates the law (namely, the One who gives it), toward the self-maintenance of the law’s performances (namely, the instituted practices which perpetuate its effectivity within a social body). [7] Ultimately, Weber intimates, routinization, though necessary for the maintenance of any and every aspect of a society, saps the life-blood from it, coming to be self-sustaining by generating its sustenance from the various transactions it regulates. In other words, instead of preserving or enhancing life, which would seem to require a certain openness to (guided) experimentation, practices may come to mutate into uncanny parodies of themselves, which, in the final analysis, inevitably lead to idolatry ( i.e. , death). Could this be a fruitful way of reading verses 2-15 and 26-44 of Sura 15? [8] This seems to be the point of some Sufis’ concern, in Safi’s words, “to re-invigorate religion and revive it from a tradition of sectarianism and blind immitationism ( taqlid ).” [9] That many of these mystics were trained in various schools of Islamic jurisprudence cannot be incidental to their insistence that “love” — whether ” mahabba ” or ” ishq ” — must “interrupt” (not Safi’s term) the routinized workings even of a society which has once been receptive of truth suggests not only a need for closer examination of the relationships between theology and jurisprudence, [10] but also one for a new appreciation for the ways in which such (public) practices as poetry, with it’s structured freedom, “mediate” between them. This is perhaps a deep connection with Davis’ concerns, and one which ought to be furthered, possibly in relation to the meaning — if any such can be gained merely from study and conversation — of the three letters which open the first verse of Sura 15: ” Alif. Lam. Ra. [11]

Alon Goshen-Gottstein’s concern “to locate [in the Song] a core of meaning with which [he] could resonate religiously,” finally, raises what might be the most difficult issue of all for SR: what is it, in turning to Scripture, that is being done? [12] For his traversing the centuries’ of interpretive practices, with all the lavishness and conflicting tendencies within them, still leaves the central issue — the “core of meaning” within the Song — unaddressed. As he perspicaciously notes, all kinds of interpretations, from the Rabbis’ to Brevard Childs’, to a greater or lesser extent impose of necessity a pre-existing framework upon the text of the Song, thereby fragmenting it into now smaller, now larger chunks. And, like slabs of meat in a butcher’s shop, robbed of an animating spirit, such are neither the original animal (in this case a text), nor a nourishing dish (which would take careful preparation; in this case, exegesis properly so called). [13] Thus, Goshen-Gottstein, like most, is left facing the puzzling reality of the text of the Song, in all of its luxuriance, which also links his contribution to Davis’. It is thus most fitting that verses from Psalm 119 be recalled after reading his contribution, for they speak of the great joy generated through meditating on God’s Word in Scripture, whether in Torah specifically (as in the Psalm itself), or other writings in the canon. Yet, as he himself admits, this does not amount to an actual interpretation of the Song. That raises perhaps the most difficult issue, one which perhaps cannot be raised within the practices of SR: can this text truly be interpreted? And does asking that, whatever is answered, not imply, however obliquely, that the goal of interpretation is to leave Scripture’s garden , and return to the more familiar landscapes of other, more accessible, texts, or, even more problematically, other practices of sense-making? Why, then, read this text, when others are equally beautiful, and more open to sense-making practices? [14]

I look forward to re-engaging in our common labor.


[1] Matthew 10:24. Unless otherwise noted, all translations from the Old and New Testament are taken from the NRSV.

[2] Sura 15:45-6. All translations from the Qur’an are taken from the translation by A. Yusuf Ali.

[3] Psalm 119:161b-2.

[4] It might, thus, be a legitimate question of Davis as to her practice of interpretation, as perhaps opposed to her theory , whether it is still primarily in the Liberal (Protestant) vein. Her appreciation of Gunkel takes on larger significance in this respect.

[5] Perhaps this ‘breaking of closeness with God,’ this loss of intimacy with God, finds an illuminating analogue in the (Lacanian) psychoanalytic concept of “overproximity”, whereby anxiety is produced through over-stimulation by power, leading to repression.

[6] Genesis 3:7. N.B.: this is not a rehabilitation of the medieval trope of felix culpa (“happy fall”), which would seem to over-determine the potential expressed above. Contrary to at least some expressions of the trope in monastic and later “Catholic” writings, the magisterial Reformers were much more realistic in that they recognized the potential as just that, capable of coming into being, but neither simply given nor easily attained. This is not to disavow the trope, not even the more splendid versions of it. Rather, it is to query the “Protestant” readings — and their subsequent re-formulations in the less apologetic “Enlightenment” figures — along with the “Catholic” ones, to see if both, together, may form a richer heritage, more open to the “depths of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10) than either alone.

[7] This theme is recognizable in all of Weber’s work, from The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904) to Economy and Society (posthumous), with an especially problematic series of uses in his studies of (ancient) Judaism and the religions of China and India. Members of the Society, in addition to their engagements with the philosophical climate in Germany (and indeed the whole of Central Europe) at the turn of the twentieth century, might also come to see the benefit of engaging its socio-political contributions more deeply, as well. The two, though inter-dependent, nevertheless are distinct, and present different challenges and possibilities.

[8] Respectively: the closing off of humans to God’s revelation through not submitting to the teachings and examples of the prophets sent to them, and the cursing of Iblis (Satan) for the same kind of arrogance in refusing to worship humans as God commanded. Significantly, particularly in light of last year’s meeting, verses 51-60 recount Abraham’s visitation, and the next 24 verses of the Sura proclaim the destruction of three groups who would not submit to God’s teaching, but insisted on preserving their (self-sustaining?) practices.

[9] As became clear during the meeting, this term has deep resonances — not all of them clear or postive — within the various forms of Islamic practice, and I take the strong cautions urged by some then present against Safi’s use of it within his paper with seriousness. Nevertheless, if I understand his intentions at all, they seem to be pointing in a direction which our considerations of the issues ought to go, and so I risk following his lead along the way.

[10] A very suggestive example of such a conversation, carried out in a context of (Anglican) Christianity and Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence, and which I take to evince the spirit of Richard Hooker, is Daniel Hardy’’s 1999 Warburton Lecture, which has been published as “Goodness in History: Law, Religion, and Christian Faith” in his Finding the Church (2001).

[11] The verse continues: “These are The Ayats of Revelation, — Of a Qur’an That Makes things clear.” Commentators have proposed that these letters, which occur several times at the opening of Suras, signify the three stages of spiritual life: “origin, present condition, and the Last Days.” But there can be no authoritative interpretations of what are, essentially, recognized as mystical signs.

[12] See in this Journal Kris Lindbeck’s summary article of last year’s meeting.

[13] There is at least one other possibility: the portion to be offered in sacrifice. Movements were made in this direction during the common work of the meeting, but the inertia was not, in my opinion, substantial. Perhaps it is an area which ought to be re-visted in future gatherings.

[14] N.B.: this further complicates the practice of SR since it would appear to be a conviction of Muslims that the Qur’an, both in its entirety and in each verse, is supremely beautiful among texts, whereas such is not always thought by Jews and Christians of their own Scriptures. That the Song does not appear directly in that book makes the prospects of common labor by the faiths in this case further fraught with complexity.

“… before it is ready!”: A Post-Meeting Commentary

Three text-interpreters, followed by a commentator, went into Scripture’s garden. One tried to repair the roots. Of her, it is said: “A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master.” One did not read. Of him, it is recited: “The righteous will be amid gardens and fountains of clear-flowing water. Their greeting will be: ‘Enter ye here in peace and security’.” One sought the deep meaning. Of him, it was written: “[…] my heart stands in awe of your words. I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil.” All came out, save the commentator, who remained, weeping. Of him, nothing is said, but this writing remains. [1]

Repetition is not merely a stratagem, a ploy to distract from a larger, hidden purpose. When it occurs, repetition, in itself, signifies neither a weakening of the sociality of a community, nor a strengthening of the mechanisms of repression (whether internal or external in origin and direction), though either or both might obtain in any given instance. [2] Instead, repetition signals a basic openness to past and future richness in the present, a fundamental trust in the unplumbed depths of a given reality. Among others, repetition is the ground upon which such institutions as marriage and the state are built, precisely because they are oriented towards the ordering of shared tasks and hopes. In terms of SR, repetition derives from an openness to the textuality of texts, in particular our Scriptures, and it is on the borders of the fields of the common labor of interpreting those texts that we gather. Ours is indelibly a communal practice, then, which cannot but intend — now in lesser, now in greater ways — to effect an increase in the joy of shared effort and rest.

Given all this, why would a commentator, one who follows after, having been given such fertile material by such text-interpreters as Davis, Safi, and Goshen-Gottstein choose to remain in Scripture’s garden? And why would he shed tears there? Not, most emphatically, from either surfeit of material or dearth of insight on offer. No, the tears spring from a fountain with two sources: (1) revelation and (2) desire. [3] How this might be is suggested by looking at two passages from the Gospel According to John.

In the New Testament, the word usually translated “garden” ( kepos ) appears only five times, once in Luke’s Gospel, [4] but four times in John’s (18:1 and 26, twice in 19:41). The first appearance occurs after the “farewell discourses” between Jesus and his disciples, and no doubt is the reason for people referring to Gethsemane — which is not named explicitly by John — as a “garden”. [5] It is in this place that Judas hands Jesus over to soldiers, after Jesus had twice inquired of them, “Whom are you looking for?” [and the soldiers had fallen on the ground before him; only John has this act in his account]; but not before Peter had drawn a sword and wounded a slave of the High Priest. The second occurrence is later in the chapter, where Peter and “another disciple” follow Jesus to the High Priest’s home, where Jesus had been taken for interrogation. Because the other disciple was acquainted with the High Priest, he was admitted, but Peter “was standing outside the gate”, until the other disciple spoke to a woman servant and had him brought in as well. The woman, and then others, ask Peter if he, too, was a disciple of Jesus, which he denied each time — as Jesus had predicted. The last of Peter’s questioners, however, “a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, ‘Did I not see you in the garden with him?'” John’s account of this three-fold denial, unlike the other Gospels’, does not present Peter as then leaving his interrogators and “weeping bitterly” after the fulfilment of the prediction. [6] Only the bare fact of its fulfilment is recorded.

The double appearance of “garden” in 19:41 occurs after Jesus’ crucifixion and death, and refers to the place he was buried by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. The significance of this setting is manifold, and self-imbricating, but two aspects will be noted here. The first is that this is the locus of that oddest of days in the Christian understanding of history, “Holy Saturday”, the day when the Word is silent and all seems irretrievably lost. [7] That Jesus “rests” in this garden is the profoundest moment in Christian Scripture. So much so, in fact, that, alone among the events recounted in the Gospels, the Resurrection included, it could not be narrated in any way whatsoever. [8] Then, following this caesura, John has Mary Magdalene “[come] to the tomb and [see] that the stone had been removed” (20:1), whereupon she runs to the other disciples and informs them, “They have taken the Lord [ kurion ] out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him” (20:2). The next eight verses have Peter and another disciple race to the tomb, confirm its emptiness, and then return “to their homes” (20:10). “But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept [. . .] she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know it was Jesus. He said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir [ kurie ], if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in [Aramaic], ‘Rabbouni!’ (20:11, 14-16)”

The parallels in the above accounts are obvious, with scenes of betrayal and denial offset by scenes of resurrection and recognition. In both sets, however, it is the garden of Scripture into which the central characters must go, where that which was foretold must come to pass, and where the nearly intractable work of repentance is begun. This is the “source” of revelation, the first “spring” of tears. [9] As such, tears do flow, since the hard work of repairing that which is broken, fractured, or out of joint cannot be accomplished by rationality alone . Indeed, as psychoanalysis has been demonstrating since its inception — not always reflexively — the inner-workings of Reason may, themselves, be significant factors in sustaining the broken ties between God and creatures, just as they may be of those within the creation itself. [10] Revelation, then, far from being an anaesthetic of infinite efficacy, can and often does result, contrary to much “popular” rhetoric in religious discourse (at least in North America), in an increase of suffering. This suggests a way of “reading” the figure of Mary Magdalene weeping in the garden: she, along with the “balancing” figure of Peter in the sequence, represents Reason, which, deprived of its anchors in the practices of everyday life — as she had been, first by Jesus’s death and burial (John 19:25), and then by his disappearance from the tomb, thus abrogating her opportunity to mourn , to attain some (rational) distance from the trauma — must undergo the process of re-establishing itself in the environment, in the exchanges and performances of a daily life apparently unaffected by her loss (or the loss of others). Stated differently, this is another way of presenting the difficulties of the day between death and resurrection which does not fall into the dangers courted in Matthew’s account. If Reason cannot in some way compensate for this stress, if it cannot staunch the flow of tears, or, worst of all, if it stubbornly denies the problem, Reason is in danger of succumbing to any number of severe dis-orders, to which the terms “neurosis” and “psychosis” are appropriately applied, and which nearly always involve some form of violence , whether directed internally or externally. [11] In Mourning Becomes the Law , Gillian Rose poignantly captured this situation in relation to the political ethics of Machiavelli, Nietzsche, and Max Weber (each of whom deserves a place at SR’s table): “In this vigilance to violence in its toils with virtue, reason is crying: reason sheds uncontrollable tears at the pain of rearranging its resources; at the pain of enlarging as well as curtailing its limits.” [12] The often torturous interactions between Reason and Revelation find their proper and most hopeful locus of shared work here, in Scripture’s Garden. That, alone, justified following the interpreters into it — which accounts for the (very free) appropriation and repetition of the story from the Babylonian Talmud ( Hagigah ) which opened both the previous writing and this one.

But if entering is justified — and so perhaps is also justification , since it proceeds on risking the trustworthiness, both of those who lead, and of that into which they lead — can the same be said for remaining, for refusing to exit the garden at the conclusion of interpretation? (For all interpretations have an end, even if the practice of interpretation does not.) No, because that is an act of the second “source” of tears: desire. How this might be true should be fairly clear from the above, but there is one aspect which should be made explicit here: Peter and Mary Magdalene, figurations of Reason, also illuminate its sexuate character. Thus far, this aspect of reasoning has been largely neglected in SR, a lacuna perhaps now receiving more attention. If it is to do so, however, another aspect of human being will also have to be (re-)engaged: the “abyss” within the self, the site of non-identity, of “The Real” (” Réel ” in Lacan’s calculus) which is itself the “source” of desire. Much contemporary religious and philosophical thought, out of a well-intentioned but coarse wish to promote “healing”, has sought to overturn what it perceives, not without good cause, as the legacy of the Cartesian-Kantian insistence on the abyss within the self. Often this is mis-read in terms of an “abysmal self”, which can only seek to consume, vainly attempting to assuage the longing it feels through pouring one thing after another into itself, thereby destroying all possibility for genuine community. Naturally, this results in the failure properly to recognize anyone, self or other, and so precipitates again the neuroses and psychoses mentioned above. Desire, however, properly understood, requires such a self, divided, not against, but within its very being, willfully resistant to any easy healing, appealing in every venue for the ones who will find within themselves the capacity for sociality, for indwelling, for love. [13] To speak poetically for once: “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted [. . .] Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for there is a reward for your work.” [14]

How all of this is relevant to the Song of Songs, and to the three interpretations offered, has been wondrously suggested, though in very different style, by Chad Pecknold in his commentary. Rather than simply echo him, I shall only offer a few, very brief considerations of the Septuagint’s (LXX) translation of Song 4:12, which I believe to be extraordinarily fruitful for a gathering of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim readers. [15]

“A garden locked is my sister, my bride, a garden locked, a fountain sealed.” ( Kepos kekleismenos adelphe mou numphe, kepos kekleismenos, pege esphragismene. ) (Song 4:12) In the first eight verses of chapter four, the bridegroom has been extolling the bride’s physical beauty by using a nearly bewildering array of metaphors. In verse nine, however, he introduces a note of incompleteness, saying that she has “ravished [his] heart [. . .] with a glance of [her] eyes, with one jewel of [her] necklace” ( Ekardiosas hemas heni apo ophthalmon sou, en mia enthemati trachelon sou ). In the succeeding two verses, the bridegroom heightens this sense of incompleteness, of deep reserve on the bride’s part, by asserting that it is her love, rather than her sheer physicality, which is better than wine and spice. Interestingly, where the NRSV has “love”, the LXX has mastoi , literally “breasts”, which would seem merely to continue the preceding string of metaphors. But, mastoi was also used to refer to “round hills” — which would still continue the string of metaphors — and, as a transferred meaning, pieces of cotton attached to the edges of nets. I would suggest that this meaning is not insignificant to the present use, since the descriptions following increase the sense of frustration at the distance between bride and bridegroom. While the bride’s sheer beauty, her outward appearance, in other words, is indeed “better . . . than wine” and her “fragrance . . . than any spice” (v. 10), and though her “lips distill nectar; honey and milk are under [her] tongue; [and] the scent of [her] garments is like the scent of Lebanon,” (v. 11) still there is a barrier to be overcome: “A garden locked is my sister, my bride, a garden locked, a fountain sealed.”

Obviously, the literal meaning refers to the delay at sexual union, and the bundling of imagery is meant to conduce to awakening sexual desire in the bride. [16] But, as Pecknold has rightly noted, the readers of this text are not voyeurs, not merely satisfying basic, physical desires in a spuriously vicarious manner. That this is the case is suggested by the use of the word kepos in v. 12, which, besides meaning “garden” or “orchard”, also denotes “plantation”, cultivation on a grand scale. It was even used to refer to the enclosure where the Olympic Games were held, and thus carries an explicitly public , perhaps even liturgical , quality. Despite the intensely private character of the love extolled, linked as it is with the characteristics of two individuals, to read this text is not an exercise in voyeurism because, somehow, the cajoling openness of the bridegroom and the stubbornly chaste reticence of the bride are publically expressed, open signs to the world of a reality more than sexual, though not thereby less than that. This understanding is deepened through the use of the word pege , “fountain”. For if the bride’s reticence is hindering the growth of love between herself and the bridegroom, it is also thereby robbing all areas of their common life of the expansive richness possible within it. Pege , like its Latin cognate fons , can also mean “source”, and carries, in conjunction with clarificatory substantives, transferred meanings of “hearing”, “speaking”, and “seeing” — i.e., the eye is the “source” of seeing, the ear of hearing, etc. The self-enclosedness of the bride, then, rather than being a virtue to admire and assist, as simple chastity would be, is shown rather to diminish her capabilities, and, by extension, the capacities of their relationship. This too, is a public plight, since hearing, speaking, and seeing, though done by individuals, are irreducibly inter-subjective activities, ones rooted in and creative of language . At the heart of this non-, even anti-voyeuristic text, so luxuriant in its use of language, lies a claim — obliquely made, to be sure — that human love cannot be prised apart from its linguistic moorings, and all that they entail, and it is this rootedness, this anchoring within the realm of exchanges which suggests that the profligacy exhibited in this text stems from a source far in excess of the sociality which conditions its immediate expression. As with the examination above of desire (the second “source”) this excess signifies an “abyss” within the network of social exchanges, a “space” which cannot be filled by the “products” of those activities. It suggests, in other words, that to read this text as Scripture is to think with it about the nature of the One Who gives the capacity for language, and Who cajoles us into ever-expanding understandings of the possibilities therein. For Christians, and perhaps not only for Christians, this is amply demonstrated by considering the use of the word within the fourth chapter of the Gospel According to John. [17]

The danger of reading this Scripture, then, lies in the double-edged fact that it not only appeals to our basest instincts, those most susceptible of unrighteous manipulation and limiting self-management, and that it does so in an irreducibly public (communal!) arena, but also that the locus of salvation, of mutual indwelling of God and humans, rightly understood and practiced, [18] is located there as well.

“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!” (Song 1: 2)


[1] For the references to the Scriptures quoted here, see the first three notes in the companion piece in this issue : “Do not stir up or awaken love…”

[2] Something of a lively discussion could be had at this point with Catherine Pickstock, especially around the arguments in her After Writing . Those familiar with this piece will sense how my conceptions differ significantly from hers.

An equally lively conversation could be held around the implications of the film The Matrix , where the experience of déjà vu cannot but signify the manipulation of the presentation of reality by those in positions of power, always to a repressive end.

[3] Suspicions that this is merely a semi-novel reworking of Liberal theory, deriving from (among others) Hobbes and Locke and trading on a similar public-private bifurcation in a theological context will, one hopes, be allayed by the following paragraphs. Astute readers concerned with issues cognate to mine, moreover, may notice that this formulation draws heavily on the work of Karl Barth — which should lead them to question anew his relationship(s) to his Liberal (Protestant) inheritance.

[4] Luke 13:19: “‘It [the kingdom of God] is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the of the air made nests in its branches.'”

[5] The name means “oil press”, and probably refers to an olive grove. The conflation is not inappropriate, since kepos can also mean “orchard”.

[6] Cf. : Matthew 26:75, Mark 14:72, Luke 22:62.

[7] The earliest example of this difficulty to “write” Holy Saturday is found in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, where Paul claims that Jesus’ death and resurrection were “according to the Scriptures” ( kata tas graphas ), but cannot make the same claim for his burial, which fact is nevertheless also of “first importance” ( en protois , v. 3). Obviously, I do not see this verse as evincing a merely rhetorical ploy, but rather a kind of “balancing” very much like the figures of Peter and Mary Magdalene, as will be sketched.

Until recently, by far the best contemporary exposition of the issues surrounding this central day of the Christian Triduum was Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Mysterium Paschale . With the appearance of Alan Lewis’ (posthumous) Between Cross and Resurrection , however, the depths of the reality of Holy Saturday have been more resonantly traced across much of nineteenth- and twentieth-century theology. The matter, however, has much yet to offer.

[8] Cf. , Matthew 28:1-10. Matthew 27:62-66 is no counter-example, though it is deeply problematic for SR, since it presents “the chief priests and the Pharisees” as violating the Sabbath in order to preserve their positions. In a way, then, this is a way of presenting the world in which the light of the Logos, to use Johannine terminology, has in some sense been extinguished, though it is equally clear that doing so by excoriating those held responsible through presenting them as pure hypocrites, unconcerned with anything but power, does much more than raise disturbing questions. Matthew 28:11-15, which has the Jewish authorities bribing the Romans guards to quell stories about Jesus’ rising only intensifies these difficulties — especially when one considers that the giving of the Great Commission (28:19: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”) still informs most Christian understandings of mission.

[9] In French, source , in fact, means “spring”.

[10] I take it as given that, despite Freud’s own hyper-denials of religion, psychoanalysis itself, as a practice, at once relies upon and critically evaluates religious practice. This is a large concern of Eric Santner’s recent On the Psychotheology of Everyday Life , which places Freud and Franz Rosenzweig (among others) into deep and fruitful conversation.

[11] Along these lines, Eric Santner’s My Own Private Germany , a re-reading of Freud’s “reading” the memoirs of Daniel Paul Schreber, presents rich material for consideration.

[12] P. 144, emphasis original. Given Rose’s deeply divisive “place” for many members of the Society, I can only say here that I am not endorsing her understanding of the relations between Jews and Christians, much less Judaism and Christianity, as a whole, but, obviously, neither that am I willing entirely to consign her work to the category of “failed experiment”.

[13] Cf. , Proverbs 8.

[14] Jeremiah 31:15-16

[15] Of course, the practice and theory of SR has thus far not managed to attend to the role(s) of this Scriptural translation in our work., and I am not in a position — in this article — to offer even a concise examination of the complex issues involved. (Martin Hengel’s recent The Septuagint as Christian Scripture provides much valuable assistance in thinking about the problems from one particular “angle”, that of Christian historical-critical scholarship, but as yet there are few contemporary Jewish, much less Muslim [for obvious reasons], efforts in the same area.) My hope is that the observations offered here will serve as stimulation for all of us to consider how this common work (as distinguished, for example, from Jerome’s Vulgatus ) from a much earlier time may yet add rich dimensions to ours.

Also, I pursue my interpretation of aspects of these verses in deliberate — if also studied — ignorance of the many commentaries which have already been offered of them. This is not out of dissatisfaction with them, but rather in an effort to think anew what may be possible within the text itself.

[16] It is in this light that the second dream of the bride in 5:2-8 ought to be read. (In fact, this passage deserves extended comment in its own right.)

[17] This is the story of the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan Woman, which, with its intertwining of sexual and salvific motifs, fairly begs for consideration in light of a reading of the Song.

In fact, it is a shame that current restrictions forbid an in-depth examination of the other uses of pege in the New Testament. One is at Mark 5:29, concerning the healing of the woman with a hemorrhage; one at James 3:11, and another at 2 Peter 2:17, both of which are negative comparisons to “sources” incapable of expansive richness; and no less than five occur in Revelation (7:17, 8:10, 14:7, 16:4, and 21:6), which are themselves so internally complex that they defy easy exegesis.

[18] It is a questionable assertion, but I find nothing in the Song which conduces to any weakening of the ethical strictures laid out elsewhere in Torah .

© 2003, Society for Scriptural Reasoning