Introduction: The Song of Songs, Why is there obscenity in the Bible?
The Song of Songs, also known as the Song of Solomon, is a book in the Bible that has been subject to accusations of obscenity throughout history. Its original Hebrew title, Shir HaShirim, translates to “Song of Songs,” and it attributes authorship to King Solomon. The book is a collection of his most beautiful songs.
The Song of Songs, Full of Parables
The Song of Songs stands out for its passionate and sensuous expression of love between men and women through vivid metaphors. It captures the intense emotions experienced during the early stages of romantic love, often referred to as “crystallization.” This term draws inspiration from Stendhal‘s Theory of Love, which likens falling in love to the formation of white salt crystals on a branch left in a salt mine shaft.
During this phase, everything about the beloved appears enchanting and extraordinary. Each part of their body is perceived as incredibly desirable. It is no wonder that the language used in this book can be sensual and border on what some may consider obscene. However, it also reflects a period filled with inspiration when great poetry and literature emerged.
The inclusion of the Song of Songs in the biblical canon was not without controversy due to its perceived explicit content. Even after its inclusion, there were theologians who questioned its place in Scripture.
Four Main Theories Regarding Interpretations of the Song of Songs:
- Natural Interpretation: This view considers it a book depicting erotic love between a man and a woman. Those who supported this interpretation faced opposition from religious institutions for seemingly blaspheming Scripture.
- Allegorical Interpretation: This interpretation holds that the Song symbolically represents God’s love for humanity or Christ’s relationship with His Church. While this view has been traditionally accepted within Judaism and Catholicism, it has garnered less support outside these faith traditions since the 18th century.
- Mythological Inner Ritual Interpretation: According to this theory, the song portrays ancient Near Eastern gods’ or kings’ marriages using mythical and ritualistic terms as metaphors for human love relationships. It suggests that ordinary love can possess elements reminiscent of sacred rituals.
- Historical Interpretation: This perspective proposes that a Shunammite woman—known for her service at David’s hearth—rejected Solomon’s advances to preserve her chastity for David himself (who served as her true beloved). The theory suggests that Solomon’s distress grew as she continued rejecting him until his desire intensified further.
However, due to explicit descriptions within certain passages portraying sexual intimacy between lovers (such as Song 7:10-13), arguments favoring rejection by Shunammite women become less convincing.
10 I am my beloved’s,
and his desire is for me.
11 Come, my beloved,Song of Songs 7:10~13, NIV
let us go out into the fields
and lodge in the villages;
12 let us go out early to the vineyards
and see whether the vines have budded,
whether the grape blossoms have opened
and the pomegranates are in bloom.
There I will give you my love.
13 The mandrakes give forth fragrance,
and beside our doors are all choice fruits,
new as well as old,
which I have laid up for you, O my beloved.
The verses where lovers discuss sleeping together in fields or vineyards allude metaphorically to sexual intercourse. The mention of mandrakes giving off fragrance indicates an atmosphere ripe for intimacy. As previously mentioned, the intimate imagery employed makes it clear that they have already seen each other’s private parts.
The Song of Songs is filled with sensual descriptions of the female body.
Descriptions related to breasts are repeatedly used throughout with sensual undertones. They are likened metaphorically to fawns, twin gazelles, palm tree fruit, and grape clusters—symbolizing their abundance. In subsequent verses, the language strongly implies sexual intercourse.
While these descriptions may appear erotic, the question arises of how they can be interpreted purely allegorically representing divine-human love connections.
Additionally, in certain instances, the text alludes to not just merely kisses but deep kisses. Your lips drip nectar, honey, milk under your tongue, and fragrance like Lebanon(4:7).
Such descriptions suggest intimate physical contact. A striking reference depicts female genitalia metaphorically as “a locked garden, a covered well, a sealed spring”(4:12).
It is undeniable how exciting it must be for one person to slowly discover another person’s intimate parts akin to lifting lids or uncovering hidden springs.
Conclusion: The Biblical Value of the Song of Songs
Despite differing interpretations, the overarching message conveyed by the Song remains open-ended. The text speaks powerfully about human experiences surrounding romantic love. It explores themes such as desire, intimacy, betrayal, rejection, and devotion.
Its inclusion within Scripture invites reflection on our relationship with God since marriage often serves as an allegorical representation pointing towards Christ’s union with His Church. Furthermore, it emphasizes cherishing purity, respecting boundaries, and cultivating healthy expressions of romantic affection.
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