What to do with the Song of Songs?
Kamina Wust is a postgraduate student studying and writing her PhD on the Bible’s ‘Song of Songs’ at Moore College in Sydney. She answers personal questions about why diving deeper and deeper into God’s word isn’t just a career choice. It’s a way of living for God.
How did you come to know and follow Christ?
I didn’t know anything about Jesus growing up, but I always believed in God. I didn’t hear the gospel until my boyfriend invited me to church when I was 18. I was a bit reluctant but agreed to do a Christianity Explored course, during which I learned about the historicity of the cross event for the first time. I started thinking, maybe Jesus really died and got up again! I had so many objections to a Christian worldview — “What about gay people?” “Why are some people born disabled?” “What about a woman’s right to choose abortion?” — until somebody said to me, “You don’t have to have it all figured out right away. You just need to trust God. Can you do that?”
I realised that I did trust God, and in that moment I became a Christian.
Why did you choose Moore College to do your PhD with?
I had a fantastic experience doing my Master of Divinity at another college, but wanted to take the opportunity to be exposed to a different academic environment for further study. When I started looking outside of my home state for colleges, Moore was the obvious choice. As somebody who wants to pursue a career in academia, academic rigour was high on my list of priorities. It was my preference to be in a reformed evangelical environment where I’d be encouraged in my convictions about Christ.
Moore also happened to have a supervisor on staff, George Athas, who was a great fit for me both in terms of research area and personality, and who was really enthusiastic about my project.
How has studying and researching for your PhD informed and equipped you to serve Christ?
It’s early days, but it’s great to be reading Scripture in the original language in a disciplined way, and newly appreciating the nuances (and annoying people at Bible study by saying “oh, in the Hebrew…”). Studying the Bible academically is humbling, because it highlights the complexity of thinking that exists around God’s word, but also convicting when you read a scholar who denies something you believe about the Bible, and you get a bit fired up. As a perfectionist, I’m constantly overwhelmed by the task of the PhD because I can never read everything or do enough.
It’s a good thing to be in a situation that relentlessly challenges my self-reliance and self-image, reminding me that God is God. And on a practical level, higher research is making me a better speaker, teacher, writer and thinker. I love teaching people how to read the Bible, and I know the PhD is going to sharpen my abilities in that area.
Can you tell us about your research project?
I’m investigating the Song of Songs. After a couple of thousand years of thinking, we still can’t agree on what to do with it. I have a hunch that it points to Solomon as an example of what happens when you put your love in the wrong place and warns Israel about what to do with their hearts, even when their kings have failed them. I think that speaks to Christians too. (I’ll probably think something different by the time I’m finished researching!)
The Song has a long, colourful and conflicted history of interpretation, so at this stage I’m untangling all the threads of what people have said before me. I’m trying to read the Song alongside the history of Israel, and in particular the narrative of Solomon’s reign, assuming the two have something to do with each other, and hoping that the Song ultimately enriches the larger narrative of the Old Testament.
What do you hope to achieve from completing your PhD?
First and foremost, I hope that more people will read the Song well in church on Sunday and in their Bible studies. Maybe I’ll publish something coherent, and my ideas will trickle down to preachers and teachers who might feel better equipped to open up this part of God’s word to their people. That’d be amazing! On a personal level, I hope to spend my life researching, teaching and writing about the Bible.
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