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Is the concept of “The One” in human love really true? If it is, how can we know who “The One” is? If it isn’t true, then how can we make sense of God’s sovereignty and predestination and the Christian commitment to monogamy in relation to this realisation? Has God prepared a partner for us in advance and, if so, how can we have any freedom in this area? If the concept of “The One” is not true, then how should we interpret the passages within Song of Songs which seem to suggest the truth of this concept? In my opinion, there are five main passages within the Song which seem to imply agreement with concept of “The One” and these are Song of Songs 1:8; 2:3; 4:7; 5:9-10; 6:9. I shall go on to examine each of these passages individually and see if there is room for re-interpretation or if they do not actually mean what they appear to mean on the surface and at first glance.
Does the Concept of “The One” make logical sense?
The answer to this question, in my view, has to be no. Our experience and that of others certainly seems to show that after separation or death of a partner, at least some people find love again with another beloved and sometimes love them equally or more. Furthermore, if everyone did have a unique one, who perfectly complemented them, lined up for them in advance, then just mistakes in the past in choices of partners would have messed the whole system up centuries ago and it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for anyone to find their one now, as a friend recently pointed out to me. However, this does not seem to be the case today. Finally, if God, due to his sovereignty and predestination, had lined up in advance a complementary one for everyone, this would seem to leave no room for human freedom.
Commentary and in-depth Examination of specific verses which appear to support the Concept of “The One”
Song of Songs 1:8
If you do not know,
O most beautiful among women,
follow in the tracks of the flock,
and pasture your young goats
beside the shepherds’ tents”
(Song of Songs 1:8)
It is worth remembering here that he does not refer to their relationship or to her character or personality here – he is instead solely talking of her physical appearance. In other words, it may be that he thinks that she is the most physically attractive woman in the world but their may be flaws in her personality which cause her to be less than the “most beautiful among women” in terms of her personality. He is not surveying the whole package – he’s just examining the physical appearance of the package. It is clear that this view of her supreme beauty is his own subjective and personal opinion and that he is likely to be using hyperbole and over-exaggeration here.
Song of Songs 2:3
As an apple tree among the trees of the forest,
so is my beloved among the young men.
With great delight I sat in his shadow,
and his fruit was sweet to my taste”
(Song of Songs 2:3)
This is, I think, the most difficult verse to re-interpret as it contains within the least room for re-interpretation. It is pretty clear and unambiguous. It is not fully clear as to whether or not she is just referring to his physical appearance or not. Maybe we just have to read this verse in a solely analogical way with reference to humans’ love of God who is obviously uniquely perfect and worthy of worship. John Gill does a good job of interpreting this verse analogically – he argues that the trees represent humans and the apple tree represents Christ who is was the only human in history to be perfect and sinless.
Song of Songs 4:7
“You are altogether beautiful, my love;
there is no flaw in you”
(Song of Songs 4:7)
This seems to me to just be a simple case of hyperbole and over-exaggeration. It is always obvious that all human beings are imperfect but, when in love, we often become obsessed and infatuated by the beloved and are sometimes tempted to deceive ourselves that they are completely perfect and that “there is no flaw” in them. I explore this in depth in my last article. This verse (Song of Songs 4:7) is thus only really a problem for those who believe the Bible to be infallible.
Song of Songs 5:9-10
What is your beloved more than another beloved,
O most beautiful among women?
What is your beloved more than another beloved,
that you thus adjure us?
My beloved is radiant and ruddy,
distinguished among ten thousand”
(Song of Songs 5:9-10)
This verse is more difficult to re-interpret as verse 10 comes as a direct response to the question of verse 9: “What is your beloved more than another beloved, O most beautiful among women? What is your beloved more than another beloved, that you thus adjure us?”. She is directly asked about why her beloved is so special, precious and unique and, when she replies, she does not deny his worth, value or uniqueness but instead affirms it and gives an explanation. The start of verse 10 (“My beloved is radiant and ruddy”) and verses 11-16 clearly only concern the physical appearance of her beloved and contain no reference to his personality or character or to their relationship. To be technical here, she does not actually state that her beloved is unique – she instead argues that he is “distinguished among ten thousand” – he is very rare but not unique.
Song of Songs 6:9
“My dove, my perfect one, is the only one,
the only one of her mother,
pure to her who bore her.
The young women saw her and called her blessed;
the queens and concubines also, and they praised her”
(Song of Songs 6:9)
The very start of this verse (“my perfect one”) seems to me to again just be a case of simple hyperbole and over-exaggeration. However, things become more difficult when the verse continues with the idea that she is “the only one” (this phrase is immediately repeatedly for emphasis) “of her mother, pure to her who bore her”. This is arguing that she resembles her mother who was also attractive and bears her likeness. However, this verse does not say that she is unique among all families or all women, just among her mother’s children. Although “The young women […] called her blessed […] and they praised her”, the verse nowhere states that she alone was called “blessed” or that she alone was “praised”. We must also remember that this whole verse comes solely from the subjective, narrower and focused perspective of the male lover, rather than from a general, global or universal viewpoint. I think this verse works better when interpreted analogically. We were all made by God in His own image but the only human to perfectly resemble both God’s image and his likeness was Jesus. We are all God’s children but Christ is the only sinless child.
By Ben Somervell
Thanks for reading this article. If you enjoyed it, you might be interested in the following articles which I have also written on love: