“Song of Songs” Title Explained

Unlike most books of the Bible, this one has an explicit title in the Hebrew text:

  • “The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s” (1:1)

From this, we get the Greek

  • “Song of Songs”

aand the Vulgate’s

  • “Canticle of Canticles”

In every case, the title reflects the Hebrew superlative: just as the Hebrew expression “Holy of Holies” means the most holy place (Ex 26:33) or “heaven of heavens” means the highest heaven (Deut 10:14), so too “Song of Songs” means the greatest of all songs. 

  • That is what the Song of Solomon is: the greatest song ever written.

Rabbi Akiba, a famous Jewish sage who lived in the early 2nd century A.D., said that the Song of Songs was the holiest book in all of Jewish Scripture:

  • “No man in Israel ever disputed about the Song of Songs that it does not render the hands unclean; for all the world is not equal to the day on which the Song of Songs was given to Israel.  For all the Writings are holy, but the Song of Songs is Holy of Holies.” (Mishnah, Yadaim 3:5)

2 key points about Rabbi Akiba’s assertion:

  1. No one ever disputed that the Song of Songs was inspired Scripture (“to render the hands unclean” = to be inspired Scripture).
  2. He classifies Song of Songs in 3rd part of Jewish Scripture = “the Writings”
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