Friday, January 10, 2014

Eroticism in the Bible

[From 8/12/13]

"How beautiful you are, my love, how very beautiful!"
(Song of Songs 4:1)

The Song of Songs (aka "Song of Solomon") is the Bible's only (erotic!) love poem.  Scholars aren't really sure when it was written, or by whom (it may even be a collection of poems).  Solomon is mentioned in the poem, probably because he was the epitome of masculinity... and had a HUGE harem (300 wives & 700 concubines!).

The poem goes back & forth between a man & a woman commenting on love.  The book starts out with "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine..."  Scholars tell us the word used for "love" here means physical lovemaking.  So right off the bat, this is high-charged erotic poetry.

I found it interesting the way the two main voices (male & female) speak.  The woman tells 3 stories (scenarios? role play?) of her and her beloved (3:8-17; 4:1-5; 4:6-11).  One compares her lover to a gazelle bounding through the mountains & hills, then has him speak words of love & seduction.  The second finds her searching the city at night for her lover.  The third pictures Solomon's wedding procession.

When the guy speaks (4:1-5) it's all about the physical appearance of his lover.  He lists all the beautiful attributes of her, using interesting comparisons to nature (your eyes are doves, hair is like a flock of goats, your 2 breasts are like fawns, etc.).  Then he describes how that makes him feel.

From what I've read about human sexuality, this plays out even today.  Author Shaunti Feldhan notes that women tend to be more story/scenario driven in how they express their sexuality, while men tend to be more visually driven.  Isn't it interesting that the one love poem in Scripture echoes this?

Why is the Song of Songs in the Bible anyway?  Over time, some have seen it as an allegory between God & humankind (a Divine Love Story).  Others have seen it as the relationship between Christ & the Church (though it was written thousands of years before Jesus!).  Those may be true.  But I also have to think God has given love & sexuality as a gift to us too.  This poem celebrates that.  For indeed, "Love(making) IS better than wine!"