Sunday, March 27, 2016

Jonathan Mayhew & Song of Solomon

The Song of Solomon is a bit of a controversial book among religious believers. A friend noted to me -- because of my interest in canon studies -- that the Mormons apparently don't believe it was divinely inspired. It's the one book in the KJV that Mormons don't believe. The erotic nature of the book makes it controversial.

David Kupelian, who is not an orthodox Trinitarian Christian, doesn't think much of the book; but didn't say he thought it should be removed. Rather, contra Mark Driscoll's claim, it's one of the least important as opposed to most important books in the canon.

The Protestant-Enlightenment preacher Jonathan Mayhew was accused of a number of things. He wasn't "orthodox" enough for the forces of religious correctness, so he was labeled a "deist" by them. The Song of Solomon features in one of Mayhew's battles with the orthodox. They accused him of wanting to axe it from the canon (and thus demonstrating disrespect for the canon).

I'll quote him below. But if I understand him right, he's say the book "Wisdom" has as much right to belong in the canon as Song of Solomon. And it's not that Song should be out, but rather perhaps Wisdom should be in (both together).

He notes:
But he goes still further; intimating his suspicions that I am a deist, p. 79.—" The Dr.'s reflection upon the Song of Solomon is sufficient to show how easy it is for him to discard the sacred canon of scripture itself: Or perhaps," &c. But he dared not to cite that refleclion, as he calls it. The most that can be fairly and logically inferred from it, is, that I supposed there was near as much reason for admitting the Wisdom as the Song of Solomon into the canon ;—a very harmless supposition, even tho' it should be a mistake; and which does not imply the latter to be admitted without reason.—
 Roman Catholics (and the Eastern Orthodox) of course, hold "Wisdom" to be in their canon. They call them deuterocanonical.  Protestants call them Apocrypha.


Tom Van Dyke said...

Roman Catholics (and the Eastern Orthodox) of course, hold "Wisdom" to be in their canon. They call them deuterocanonical. Protestants call them Apocrypha.

Since "Protestantism" has no magisterial central authority as Catholicism does, acceptance or rejection of the deuterocanonicals is a matter of custom only. Luther assigned them to the back of his "Bible" as "iffy"; in modern editions they have completely disappeared.

Mayhew had a larger point within the milieu of "Protestantism": Outside one's own particular sect or denomination [and Congregationalist churches were individually self-governing], no Protestant has any theological authority over any other. Indeed, Mayhew is known as the first outspoken American non-Trinitarian, and the Unitarian Controversy and eventual schism over the next 100 years finally limned the difference between pluralism and anarchy. Eventually something snaps.

Bill Fortenberry said...

Here is the original note that Mayhew was defending:

"It may, perhaps be difficult to assign a better reason why the Song, rather than the Wisdom, of Solomon, in admitted into the Canon, than this, viz. That people generally love and relish Songs better than they do Wisdom."

Jonathan Rowe said...

That's a line for the ages.