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If The Words Be Well Understood: Canticles And The Problematic Of Spiritual Metaphor

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Chapter Summary

Full of vivid erotic imagery, it contains no obvious or direct references to God or to religious subjects; indeed, one might agree with contemporary biblical critic Robert Alter that its "celebration of passion and its pleasures makes it the most consistently secular of all biblical texts". This chapter demonstrates the ways in which the act of interpreting the text calls into question the relation between figurative expression and the material world, both for religious and secular readers. Sibbes offers the comprehensive explanation for why the text's divine Author has chosen to represent such a highly important subject as "the union that we have with Christ" by means of such an earthly metaphor. Sibbes' ambivalence is, in a sense, characteristic of Puritan writers of the period, who tend to treat the subjects of marriage and sexuality with mixed emotions.

Keywords: biblical texts; Sibbes' ambivalence; spiritual metaphor

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