Like Job and the Psalms this small book, also called ‘The Song of Solomon‘, is an example of biblical wisdom literature. It is also of a more specific genre, an epithalalium- a wedding song common in the neighbouring Egyptian and Babylonian cultures. You could get a quite a shock if you read it with no introduction as, as the image above implies, it is rather sexual.
It took until half way through the term for the Archbishop of Canterbury to (notionally) get in touch with us, and so in keeping with the dignified pace of the Vatican bureaucracy it has taken until the end of term for the Pope to send a message. He is rather concerned with this part of the bible as it seems a bit raunchy for his tastes. Imagine you were called to an general council of the church to discuss it, what would you say to him?
We seemed to agree that it was a great piece poetry and a highlight of the bible.
At face value it is about human love, and in some of the verses we looked at, carnal desire in particular (7:3 and 7:7-8).
It says that no amount of money can buy love (8:7).
The Song is not just carnal but erotic in the sense of living with each other, entering into each other as people (as well as as bodies).
By affirming the sanctity of human romance it actually supports traditional attitudes of sexual morality rather than undermining them.
Where God is in these passages? It seems to present the Christian message of God as love. Or God’s love as being analogous to romantic love.
In Judaism the conventional Rabbinical interpretation was that it is an allegory for the relationship between God (the lover) and his chosen people (the beloved).
But it clearly cannot be just about God and not about human bodies, as traditionally may have been said.
Read the comments below, or view the Next Part of Bible for Bluffers.