Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary 
the book of, in Hebrew, שיר השירים , the song of songs. The church, as well as the synagogue, received this book generally as canonical. The royal author appears, in the typical spirit of his times, to have designed to render a ceremonial appointment descriptive of a spiritual relation; and this song is accordingly considered, by judicious writers, to be a mystical allegory of that sort which induces a more sublime sense on historical truths, and which, by the description of human events, shadows out divine circumstances. The sacred writers were, by God's condescension, authorized to illustrate his strict and intimate relation to the church, by the figure of a marriage; and the emblem must have been strikingly becoming and expressive to the conceptions of the Jews, since they annexed ideas of peculiar mystery to this appointment, and imagined the marriage union to be a counterpart representation of some original pattern in heaven. Hence it was performed among them with very peculiar ceremonies and solemnity, with every thing that could give dignity and importance to its rites. Solomon, therefore, in celebrating the circumstances of his marriage, was naturally led, by a train of correspondent reflections, to consider that spiritual connection which it was often employed to symbolize; and the idea must have been the more forcibly suggested to him, as he was at this period preparing to build a temple to God, and thereby to furnish a visible representation of the Hebrew church. The spiritual allegory thus worked up by Solomon to its highest perfection, was very consistent with the prophetic style, which was accustomed to predict evangelical blessings by such parabolical figures; and Solomon was more immediately furnished with a pattern for this representation by the author of the forty-fifth Psalm, who describes, in a compendious allegory, the same future connection between Christ and his church.
2. But though the work be certainly an allegorical representation, many learned men, in an unrestrained eagerness to explain the song, even in its minutest and most obscure particulars, have too far indulged their imaginations; and, by endeavouring too nicely to reconcile the literal with the spiritual sense, have been led beyond the boundaries which a reverence for the sacred Scriptures should ever prescribe. The ideas which the sacred writers furnish concerning the mystical relation between Christ and his church, though well accommodated to our apprehensions by the allusion of a marriage union, are too general to illustrate every particular contained in this poem, which may be supposed to have been intentionally decorated with some ornaments appropriate to the literal construction. When the general analogy is obvious, we are not always to expect minute resemblance, and should not be too curious in seeking for obscure and recondite allusions. Solomon, in the glow of an inspired fancy, and unsuspicious of misconception or deliberate perversion, describes God and his church, with their respective attributes and graces, under colourings familiar and agreeable to mankind, and exhibits their ardent affection under the authorized figures of earthly love. No similitude, indeed, could be chosen so elegant and apposite for the illustration of this intimate and spiritual alliance, as a marriage union, if considered in the chaste simplicity, of its first institution, or under the interesting circumstances with which it was established among the Jews.
3. This poem may be considered, as to its form, as a dramatic poem of the pastoral kind. There is a succession of time, and a change of place, to different parts of the palace and royal gardens. The persons introduced as speakers, are the bridegroom and bride, and their respective attendants. The interchange of dialogue is carried on in a wild and digressive manner; but the speeches are adapted to the persons with appropriate elegance. The companions of the bride compose a kind of chorus, which seems to bear some resemblance to that afterward adopted in the Grecian tragedy. Solomon and his queen assume the pastoral simplicity of style, which is favourable to the communication of their sentiments. The poem abounds throughout with beauties, and presents every where a delightful and romantic display of nature, painted at its most interesting season, and described with every ornament that an inventive fancy could furnish. It is justly entitled Song of Songs, or most excellent song, as being superior to any that an uninspired writer could have produced, and tending, if properly understood, to purify the mind, and to elevate the affections from earthly to heavenly things.
Smith's Bible Dictionary 
Canticles. (Song Of Songs). Entitled, in the Authorized Version, "The Song of Solomon ". It was probably written by Solomon, about B.C. 1012. It may be called a drama, as it contains the dramatic evolution of a simple love-story.
Meaning. - The schools of interpretation may be divided into three: The Mystical or Typical , The Allegorical , and The Literal .
1. The Mystical interpretation owes its origin to the desire to find a literal basis of fact for the allegorical. This basis is either the marriage of Solomon with Pharoah's daughter, or his marriage with an Israelitish woman, the Shulamite.
2. The Allegorical interpretation. According to the Talmud, the Beloved, is taken to be God; the Loved One , or bride, is The Congregation Of Israel . In the Christian Church, the Talmudical interpretation, imported by Origen, was, all but universally, received.
3. The Literal interpretation. According to the most generally received interpretation of the modern literalists, the Song is intended to display The Victory Of Humble And Constant Love Over The Temptations Of Wealth And Royalty.
Canonicity. - The book has been rejected from the Canon by some critics; but in no case, has its rejection been defended on external grounds. It is found in the Septuagint (LXX) and in the translations of Aquila, Symmachus and Theodotion.
It is contained in the catalog given in the Talmud, and in the catalogue of Melito; and, in short, we have the same evidence for its canonicity as that which is commonly adduced for the canonicity of any book of the Old Testament.
People's Dictionary of the Bible 
Canticles, Song. A name for Song of Sol.
Holman Bible Dictionary 
Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible 
Canticles . See Song of Songs.
Morrish Bible Dictionary 
See Song Of Solomon
Webster's Dictionary 
(pl.) of Canticle
Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature 
Can´ticles, Solomon's Song, or Song of Songs as it is designated in the inscription, is generally believed to have been so denominated to denote the superior beauty and excellence of this poem.
In favor of the canonical authority of this book (which has been questioned in ancient and modern times) we may observe, that it is found in all the copies of the Hebrew Bible which have descended to our times, as well as in the version of the Seventy, which was finished sometime in the second century before the Christian era. It is also found in all the ancient catalogues which have come down to us from the early Christian church. It has consequently all the external marks of canonicity possessed by any other book of the Old Testament not expressly cited in the New. Those who have questioned its right to a place in the sacred volume have proceeded more on dogmatic than on historico-critical grounds.
The subject of this book is confessedly Love. But it has been a matter of much controversy, especially in modern times, what kind of love is here celebrated. It is equally a matter of dispute among divines whether the interpretation of the poem is limited to its obvious and primary meaning, or whether it does not also include a latent mystical and allegorical sense. We shall speak of these subjects in order. And, first, as to the literal and primary meaning, the earliest information which we have is contained in the preface of Origen to his commentary on this book. This eminent scholar holds it to be an epithalamium, or marriage-song, in the form of a drama. This idea has been, in modern times, improved by Lowth, Bossuet, Michaelis, and other commentators. 'The Song of Songs,' says Bishop Lowth, 'for so it is entitled, either on account of the excellence of the subject or of the composition, is an epithalamium, or nuptial dialogue, or rather, if we may be allowed to give it a title more agreeable to the genius of the Hebrews, a Song of Loves. Such is the title of Psalms 45. It is expressive of the utmost fervor as well as delicacy of passion: it is instinct with all the spirit and sweetness of affection. The principal characters are Solomon himself and his bride, who are represented speaking both in dialogue, and in soliloquy, when accidentally separated. Virgins, also the companions of the bride, are introduced, who seem to be constantly on the stage, and bear a part of the dialogue. Mention is also made of young men, friends of the bridegroom, but they are mute persons. This is exactly conformable to the manners of the Hebrews, who had always a number of companions to the bridegroom, thirty of whom were present in honor of Samson at his nuptial feast (). In the New Testament, according to the Hebrew idiom, they are called children, or sons of the bridechamber, and friends of the bridegroom. There, too, we find mention of ten virgins who went forth to meet the bridegroom and conduct him home; which circumstances indicate that this poem is founded on the nuptial rites of the Hebrews, and is expressive of the forms or ceremonial of their marriage.'
Bossuet's idea of this poem was, that it is a regular drama, or pastoral eclogue, consisting of seven acts, each act filling a day, concluding with the Sabbath, inasmuch as the bridegroom on this day does not, as usual, go forth to his rural employments, but proceeds from the marriage chamber into public with his bride. Lowth so far differs from Bossuet as to deny the existence of a regular drama, inasmuch as there is no termination to the plot. Michaelis, in his notes to his German translation of Lowth's Prelections, endeavours to overturn the views of Bossuet and Lowth, and to show that this poem can have no relation to the celebration of a marriage, inasmuch as the bridegroom is compelled in his nuptial week to quit his spouse and friends for whole days, in order to attend to his cattle in the pastures. His opinion is, that this poem has no reference to a future marriage, but that the chaste loves of conjugal and domestic life are described. This state, he conceives, in the East, admits of more of the perplexities, jealousies, plots, and artifices of love than it does with us; the scene is more varied, and there is consequently greater scope for invention.
But the idea that the conjugal state, or the loves of married persons, are here referred to, has been strongly opposed by some of the ablest modern writers, who maintain that the chaste mutual loves of two young persons antecedent to marriage are here celebrated.
Here it may be necessary to state, that the learned are divided on the point whether the Canticles consist of one continued and connected poem, or of a number of detached songs or amorets. The first person who maintained the latter opinion was Father Simon, who was on this account unjustly accused of denying the canonicity of the book. This opinion has been subsequently defended by Eichhorn, Jahn, Pareau, and many others. A very general opinion is, that it is an idyll, or rather, a number of idylls, all forming a collective whole. Such is the opinion held, among others, by Sir William Jones and Dr. J. Mason Good, in his beautiful translation of the Song of Songs. Ewald considers the poem to consist of a drama in four parts. The heroine of the poem, according to this writer, is a country maiden, a native of Engedi, who, while rambling in the plains, fell in with the chariots of Solomon, and was carried by him into his palace.
It has been in all ages a matter of dispute, whether we are to seek for any hidden or occult meaning under the envelope of the literal and obvious sense. While several eminent men have maintained that the object of these poems is confined to the celebration of the mutual love of the sexes, or that its main design, in so far as its sacred character is considered, is the inculcation of marriage, and especially of monogamy, the majority of Christian interpreters, at least since the days of Origen (who wrote ten books of commentaries on this poem), have believed that a divine allegory is contained under the garb of an epithalamium, founded on the historical fact of the marriage of Solomon with the daughter of Pharaoh: others have held it to be a simple allegory, having no historical truth for its basis.
As, however, the Scriptures give no intimation that this book contains a mystical or allegorical sense, recourse has been had to the analogy of some of the Messianic Psalms, whose application to spiritual objects is recognized in the New Testament. Especially a great resemblance has been observed between the character of the Canticles and Psalms 45; and it will suffice for our present purpose to cite the opinion of Rosenmüller, one of the ablest commentators on the Messianic Psalms, in reference to this subject. Professing to follow the opinion of the ancient Hebrews, communicated by the Chaldee paraphrast, and the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews—namely, that Psalms 45 celebrated the excellences and praises of the great Messiah; he observes, 'Throughout the latter part of the psalm this allegory, in which the Hebrew poets particularly delighted, is maintained. They were accustomed to represent God as entertaining, towards his chosen people, feelings which they compared to conjugal affections; and which they deduced, under this figure, into all the various and even minute expressions. In the illustrating and beautifying of this allegory, the whole of the Song of Songs is occupied: that the subject of that poem, and that of the psalm before us, is the same, there is no doubt among sound interpreters.' The reader may also refer, in illustration of this subject, to the many passages of the Old and New Testament in which this figure is retained by the sacred writers: such as ; ; , etc.; Ezekiel 16; Ezekiel 23; ; ; ; , etc.; ; ; . The tradition of the Jews as preserved by the ancient Chaldee paraphrast is that the poem embodies a figurative description of the gracious conduct of Jehovah towards his people, in delivering them from the Egyptian bondage, conferring great benefits on them during their progress through the wilderness, and conveying them in safety to the Promised Land. Aben Ezra considered that the Canticles represented the history of the Jews from Abraham to the Messiah. Others have conceived the bride to be Wisdom, with whom Solomon was acquainted from his childhood, and with whose beauty he was captivated. Luther, in his Commentary on Canticles, maintained the allegorical interpretation, conceiving Jehovah to be the bridegroom, the bride the Jewish nation, and the poem itself a figurative description of Solomon's civil government. In his Commentary on I Peter, however, he explains the bride to be the New Testament church.
The modern writers of the Roman church have, in general, followed Origen and Jerome in their allegorical interpretations.
The opinion of those who have acknowledged no other than the literal interpretation of the Canticles has had a considerable influence in the question of the canonicity of the book. Nor is it at all surprising that those who were in the habit of attaching a spiritual meaning to it should find it difficult to believe that a book treating of human love should have a place in the inspired volume.
The author and age of Canticles have been also much disputed. The inscription ascribes it to Solomon; and this is confirmed by the universal voice of antiquity, although some of the Jews have attributed it to Hezekiah.
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature 
is the liturgical name for the Te Deum, Benedicite, Benedictus, Magnificat, and Nunc Dimittis. The songs of Moses, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, and Isaiah are specimens of Biblical canticles; hymns inspired at the moment on a special occasion. After the 5th century canticles were added to psalmody. The Benedictus is mentioned by Amalarus in 820, and by St. Benedict, nearly three centuries before, as the canticle from the Gospel. Te Deum was sung at matins every Sunday before the Gospel-lectern, by the rules of St. Benedict and St. Caesarius of Ariles, c. 507. The Magunificat occurs in the office of Lauds in the latter rule, and in the office of the Eastern Church; in the time of Amalarius it was used at vespers. According to the apostolical constitutions the song of Simeon, or Nunc Dimittis, was also sung at that hour.
The Nuttall Encyclopedia 
A book in the Bible erroneously ascribed to Solomon, and called in Hebrew the Song of Songs, about the canonicity and interpretation of which there has been much debate, though, as regards the latter, recent criticism inclines, if there is any unity in it at all, to the conclusion that it represents a young maiden seduced into the harem of Solomon, who cannot be persuaded to transfer to the king the affection she has for a shepherd in the northern hills of Galilee, her sole beloved; the aim of the author presumed by some to present a contrast between the morals of the south and those of the north, in justification possibly of the secession. It was for long, and is by some still, believed to be an allegory in which the Bridegroom represents Christ and the Bride His Church.
- ↑ Canticles from Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary
- ↑ Canticles from Smith's Bible Dictionary
- ↑ Canticles from People's Dictionary of the Bible
- ↑ Canticles from Holman Bible Dictionary
- ↑ Canticles from Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible
- ↑ Canticles from Morrish Bible Dictionary
- ↑ Canticles from Webster's Dictionary
- ↑ Canticles from Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature
- ↑ Canticles from Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
- ↑ Canticles from The Nuttall Encyclopedia