Erotic Poetry in the Bible

The (choose one:) Song of Songs; Song of Solomon; Song of Songs by Solomon; Canticles; Canticle of Canticles This book goes by several different names. This is a book of erotic poetry. Conservative Christians might consider it smut and probably would have tried to have it banned from libraries if it wasn't a part of the Holy Bible. Others have tried to divert attention away from its erotic nature by claiming it is actually an allegory of the mutual love of the Lord for the church, "describing this relationship in terms of human love."[1] I leave it to the reader to interpret what this work of poetry means to you.

That is the beauty of art - the viewer interprets art in terms of what meaning it conveys to them, which is often not what the artist originally had in mind but is always a valid interpretation. People read into art what is meaningful to them. Is Michelangelo's statue of David a classic masterpiece, a magnificent work of art, or is it just some guy with his pants off? Each viewer will see in a work of art what is meaningful to them. Some will see a magnificent work of art that should be shown to the world, others will be shocked at the nudity and claim it is nothing more than erotic smut, pornography that should be banned, locked away in a closet, or even destroyed.

The same is true of this book of poetry. Some may claim that in their personal opinion it is beautiful erotic poetry, some may claim it is smut that should be banned, some may claim it has nothing to do with human sexuality but instead interpret it as an allegory for something else.

Some claim they see in verse 2:7 an exhortation to remain sexually pure before marriage. Others claim they see nothing of the sort, and that it is just the reader trying to read into the Scriptures what they want it to say.

"The Song of Songs was originally a series of sensuous love songs that had nothing to do with God and God's beloved, Israel, or with Jesus and his beloved, the church. They were earthy bits of writing that probably could not have survived the antiflesh crusades of the Western church without being allegorized. They serve to remind us that the Puritan tradition has been imposed on Scripture; it is not original to Scripture."[2]

The book in its present form probably dates from sometime between the 5th and the 3rd centuries BC. Who wrote it, whether or not it was done by more than one person, and whether it may even have been an original work are not known. Present-day scholars believe it to contain a substantial amount of earlier, perhaps very ancient, material that may have originated principally in Israel, the northern kingdom.

A more generally accepted modern interpretation regards the Song of Solomon as a collection of liturgical pieces that had its origin in ancient Semitic cultic ritual, specifically, in pagan rituals connected with spring and fall agricultural festivals.

Although the poem is attributed to Solomon in the traditional title, the language and style of the work, among other considerations, point to a time after the end of the Babylonian Exile (538 B.C.) as that in which an unknown poet composed this masterpiece.
[1] From "Saint Joseph Edition of the New American Bible"
[2] John Shelby Spong, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, pg 64.

Another Explanation "At one time it was customary to explain the Song of Solomon as a prophetic vision of Christ and His Church, and the translators of the authorised version accepted this view and emphasised it by the brief summaries which they placed at the head of each chapter. To-day no serious or reliable Biblical scholar accepts this view and all agree that it is an erotic Eastern love song, but this fact, although now fully recognised, only raises a further problem, which is, how did an erotic poem come to be included in a volume of Sacred Writings?

The explanation at first sight may appear startling, but is nevertheless correct. The Song of Solomon is a ritual song of the old Fertility Rite of Astarte. The key to the problem, as is usually the case, lies within the Poem itself, in chapter 2, verse 12. The Hebrew word "Zamir" means "Ritual Song." This word occurs only in ritual songs, and in Babylonia it is found employed in the ritual songs connected with Tammuz."

[1] From Who Was Hiram Abiff? by J.S.M. Ward. Pg. 113-118 contains the full explanation.

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