No one knows what to do with this book. Why is it in the Bible? What’s Song of Songs about? Bible scholars have asked those questions since before Jesus’ time. Sex, romance, and love? Can’t be. Love, maybe, but a book in the Bible can’t be about sex and romance. Sex is base and romance frivolous. The Bible deals with life and death issues: heaven and hell, eternal salvation, sin, of which sex is usually considered one of the worst.
What is the Song of Solomon?
Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.
TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)
Song of Songs 1:1-4:16
2 Corinthians 8:16-24
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
2 Corinthians 8:16-24: Paul seems to be taking care of some every day, ordinary business here. Titus is coming to visit with two other men. Treat them well, add to their financial collection for the poor, Paul tells them.
Thus heaven bends down and kisses earth. God enters the mundane and adds to it holiness, meaning and purpose. The Bible is the most far-reaching, powerful, mysterious book in existence. It is God’s word. But the Bible is also practical, earthy, real.
Yet our expectations of the Bible often put it in an untenable place. Each time we crack its covers we expect it to transform our lives, almost magically.
Bible reading, however, may be more like eating. Sometimes the meal is extraordinary, spicy, rare, a feast we remember and tell others about. Sometimes it’s a hamburger and fries. We eat, get up from the table, clean the dishes and go about our business. Both meals nourish, replenish, however.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
Origen, a Christian scholar who lived about 200 AD, believed the Song of Solomon was an allegory picturing Christ’s love for us. Like Jewish and Christian scholars before him, he largely ignored the sensual, sexual nature of the book. Unlike Hippolytus, however, he did not restrict its reading to the mature only. These godly, intelligent men could not fathom why God would canonize a provocative love poem from a Hebrew king to his dark, perfumed, busty princess. Nor could they, I imagine, if they were as easily aroused as most other males, read this book without facing their own humanity. Much more simple is it to skim the passionate parts and name the others allegory. But this says more about us than God or the Bible.
Elsewhere God communicates boundaries for our sex lives. We don’t like these restrictive sections–or often obey them–but are more comfortable reading them and tacitly accept them as coming from God. This coincides with our belief that, though we humans enjoy sex, God does not like it, except that it produces children, and probably closes his eyes while any one of us engages in it.
Therefore, this allegorical method of understanding the Song of Solomon provides a distance and safety from one of the more powerful and dangerous (there is no safe sex) drives stirring in the human heart. Reading this poem allegorically allows us to dig a divide between what we see as a very serious and sanitized God and our very earthy, sensual lives. It’s a literary version of safe sex.
The allegorical method has fallen out of favor in modern times, however. What are we moderns to do with the Song of Songs then? Ignore it. Yeah, that’s it! Oh and don’t let our teens read it and our preachers preach on it.
Or. . . .
We can face the truth that, though God recognizes and abhors our sinful mishandling of, and obsession with his beautiful gift of sex, God is not uncomfortable with our sexuality. He made us that way. God made sex fun!
This poem is not an allegory about Jesus, though Jesus’ love for us is every bit as passionate and earthy. Jesus did not have breasts like twin fawns. This poem is about the beauty of human love and passion and romance. It shows even our fallen state cannot completely tarnish God’s greatest gifts.
In our times sex, even between husband and wife, can be twisted, manipulative and ugly. This dirtiness results, in part, from how even Christians have relegated sex to a mere physical act, forgetting that it is one of the most beautiful, intimate spiritual acts a man and woman can engage in. God created sex so that a man and woman could participate in sharing their bodies and souls–and sometimes take part in the creation of a unique, complicated, wonderful new life that also contains the image of God.
God canonized the Song of Songs in order to paint for us a word picture of romance, love, and sex that soars beyond the physical and takes us into the realm of the soul. Seen that way, Solomon’s Song may not be a picture of Jesus on the cross, but it does deal with life and death issues.
- What do these for passages share in common?
- How does the Song of Songs’ picture of sex differ from Hollywood’s?
- What passage spoke most to you?
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Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com