Sex in the Bible

Ash & I and our friend Ramon (Morphea’s honey) are working on a book of poetry and art inspired by the Book of Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon). Ancient erotic poetry is wildly popular, and there are no treatments of SOS out there that compete in this market; the previous efforts just aren’t sexy…which is the whole point of erotic poetry, right? (More on that in a minute…) SOS is chock-full of some serious sex, but the word pictures (mountains of myrrh, towers of David, frolicking gazelles) just don’t resonate now the way they did 3,000 years ago. Our idea is to work verse-by-verse and update the poetry into images that convey the same passion, desire and…ahem…eroticism.

The publishing company I work for is taking a look at it, and I’m working with my friend Alex, who is one of the acquisitions editors, on polishing the proposal so they just can’t say no. Alex is incredibly cool–we have an informal book club for sharing stuff we’re reading, and he has terrific taste in literature. He loves this project. The writing samples we’ve submitted along with Ramon’s artwork have totally set him on fire.

As we’ve worked together on the proposal, Alex has suggested that the book will be an easier sell in our uber-Christian publishing company if we do one of two things (for the record, he’s not suggesting we actually do either of these things, just that it will be easier to convince the bigwigs it’s a good idea if we do):

1) Do a straight-up paraphrase, a la Eugene Peterson’s The Message. If you click the link and read a few verses, I think you’ll agree this isn’t sexy.

2) Use imagery that emphasizes the school of biblical interpretation which holds that SOS can be read as a love song between Christ and his Bride, the Church. While this may be doctrinally acceptable (see below), it’s difficult to make this interpretation sexy without some serious ew-factor. (And honestly, the word pictures in the text itself don’t really lend themselves to this interpretation…does Jesus really want to pillow his head on the Church’s breasts? You decide.)

[By the way, we're taking neither option, because we want to do great art and because someone with taste and good sense will buy this thing...just maybe not my company.]

Anyway, back to erotic poetry and the sexiness thereof. I really struggle with the Church’s obsession with explaining away the lush eroticism of Song of Songs. It’s so two-faced. On one hand, we flap our hands and run around in circles, insisting that “No, no…we’re totally not anti-sex,” that sex is good and God-created and natural and fun. On the other, we impose this idea that poetry included in our sacred Book, written by a guy crazy in love and want and need and maybe lust with his wife is not really about sex at all…it’s about Jesus.

Huh?

So which is it, kids? Is sex really good…so good that God would want a few pages in His Book dedicated to celebrating it in all its kinky glory? Or are we really gnostic at heart, believing this flesh should be reviled, and any references in the Bible to pleasing it while naked with our beloved must have some other, holier explanation?

I realize I’ve set up an unfair either/or scenario here that can’t contain the mystery of divine and human authorship of scripture. But I just get so pissed at our hypocrisy about the goodness of sexual intimacy…it’s no wonder many of us raised in the church develop facial tics every time the subject of sex comes up! Isn’t it obvious that God is a big fan of good, clean sexual pleasure and it’s okay for us to be, too?

26 thoughts on “Sex in the Bible

  1. Kyle

    On a slightly more serious note, I wonder just where one begins in researching such a thing? I’m considering doing the same thing with an essay on Luke 24 (the encounter on the road to Emmaus). Do you have suggestions?

  2. Jonathan

    You are correct, sex is good, including from a Christian standpoint. The problem is that there are things that God has created for us to enjoy, but there are certain parameters that he has given us within which to enjoy these good things. Drinking and sex are two things that come to mind that are not bad, but can be when they are used outside of those parameters (getting drunk, sex outside of marriage).

    The church’s unfortunate reaction to these abuses has been to say that they are inherently bad things to do — can’t drink, gotta feel guilty about sex. The Pope has just said that erotic love is ok, and it was only in the 1940′s that Pope Pius XII ok’d the rhythm method (which still resulted in large Catholic families) – which meant that couples could have sex even if the specific intent was not to procreate.

    There are a variety of resources that correctly address the sex issue in SoS, encouraging a husband and wife to truly enjoy each other’s body – but it’s not the biggest section in the Bible book store. This is truly a big issue, and one that God has not left us alone to figure out for ourselves. Unfortunately, the church has largely ignored God’s input.

    Godspeed in adding to the conversation to correct the misunderstandings.

  3. Matty

    My name is Matt…and I’m a big fan of good, clean sexual pleasure. It’s ok for you to be, too, Aly.

    For anyone else — and I’m speaking exclusively to married folk — interested in good, clean sex…and even a little bit of “naughty” stuff… I recommend reading Sheet Music. It’s a fantastic look at sex as God intended it to be.

    Enjoy.

  4. Chad

    And for anyone who is unmarried, and interested in not clean, not safe, and often unsexy sex, please feel free to check out our good friends at Hustler.

  5. Simone

    Did you know that in the 14th C. the S of S was interpreted as speaking about the relationship between God and Mary? [Ew!] Eg. Song 1:5 “I am dark but beautiful” – Mary was tanned because of the time she spent in Egypt…

    Could you work this idea in somehow?

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  7. aly hawkins Post author

    Kyle – Research? Like with books? You mean the hours in our bedroom don’t count? Damn, we’re screwed. Seriously though…this is not an academic project. The only informational research I’ve actually done is looking up esoteric flora and such from wikipedia to see if I could get a hint about author intent. (For example: SOS 7:13…what the hell is a mandrake? Oh…that’s dirty! Sweet!) We are safe from academia because we’re doing poetry “inspired by” Song of Solomon…which academics will read as “B.S. cobbled together by ignorant nincompoops.” If you’re thinking of doing a for-real essay with cogent, insightful analysis, I am no help to you.

    Jonathan – You mean having sex with my spouse while inebriated is a no-no? Crap.

    Paul – Thanks for the vote of confidence.

    Simone – Er…I’ll do my best. Not really.

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  10. Bob Stevens

    I am doing some academic research on the song of Songs. Looking at the dance of Shullumite. Has anyone researched ancient neareastern dance. The suggestionn that she dances naked sounds unlikely. Comments? Bob

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  13. Mabel

    Just a story to tell: I work at a church with a private school. We have a stellar math teacher-former Jesus Freak, still loves Him however. He has been married for years, raised 5 natural children and over 20 foster and adopted special needs kids. He has no retirement fund. He pays warm tribute his wife, regularly when guest preaching and teaching math. He and his wife read various Christian marriage books to each other such as Tim LaHays, “The Act of Marriage” (vintage) AND the Song of Soloman. This couple are in their late fifties now. They wink and smile when he talks about the SOS. I have always said, that it is their Jesus soft porn. And yes it is a little creepy in church and math class, but I think it is because…..the definition of intimacy is “between two”. An infinite universe awaits two will share with only each other.

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  15. cannedguds

    as far as I know, the Bible has mentioned that sex is something to be enjoyed in full, without holding back with no strings attached BUT only to be enjoyed by married couples. Sex is God’s gift to married couples. Now, regarding the marriage of Christ and his Church, this is not in literal view and common sense will tell you that this states the union between God & sinner and nothing more. So, go ahead, write all you want, just as long as you observe the lines that make boundaries. God bless!

    -Canned ” get rid of man boobs ” Goods

  16. cannedguds

    Follow up:

    What’s more, the Bible also says that if His Law regarding Sex & Marriage is being defied, He will punish those people who did it with all the pains of the Heavens and the Earth…Thanks again!

    -Canned ” get rid of man boobs ” Goods

  17. Chad

    I don’t really know how to deal with the lust that the “Man Boobs” picture raises within me.

  18. cannedguds

    There is nothing wrong with sex! and yes, you’ve read it right! God made sex for man and woman to enjoy at its utmost ecstasy! It’s the Greatest Gift that He gave to mankind…but He made it clear that it should only be enjoyed between two married people and that’s that! Sex outside marriage is sin!

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