Taking the Seventh Commandment (according to the numbering of the Calvinist tradition) as its focus, this article examines the hermeneutical principles of the Reformer, John Calvin, for the exposition of the Decalogue. This is related to a consideration of the ‘theological meaning’ of the Book of Canticles (Song of Songs), an Old Testament book which, significantly, does not feature among the commentaries of Calvin. It is argued that the secular impact of the erotic songs is equally strong and meaningful against the backdrop of Hellenistic Jewry, as it is against that of preexilic Israel. It is concluded that the dimension of the Song’s sexual ethic is not an abrogation of the Law, but an extension of it: Here it is not a matter of mere prohibition and consequently, artificial techniques are not necessary in order to distil positive meaning from the negative commandment. Neither is this sexual ethic a matter of exclusive male rights, nor is purity protected at the cost of justice – Eros is taken up in Agape.
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