Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
August 26th, 2015 by Joel Watts

Song of Solomon: Kisses aren’t just Kisses, and Love isn’t just Love

Illustration aus: Das hohe Lied, farbige Orig....

Illustration aus: Das hohe Lied, farbige Orig.-Lithographien von Lovis Corinth, Berlin, Cassirer, 1911 (Pan-Presse) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Keel sees Song 1.2–3 pulling from a Ugaritic myth, one of Shachar and Shalim, where the god El bends over two women:

He stooped (and) kissed their lips;
behold! their lips were sweet,
sweet as pomegranate[s].
In the kissing (there was) conception,
in the embracing (there was) pregnancy.1

Bede: But if the breasts of Christ, that is, the source of the Lord’s revelation, are better than the wine of the law, how much more will the wine of Christ, that is, the perfection of evangelical doctrine, surpass all the ceremonies of the law? If the sacraments of his incarnation vivify, how much more will the knowledge and vision of his divinity glorify? COMMENTARY ON THE SONG OF SONGS

Isn’t it odd that it was easier for them to see this as an allegory that led to further allegorizing a God or Jesus with breasts (El Shaddai, anyone?) than it is to acknowledge the plain sense meaning that the woman in question was doing wild and crazy things to the man’s thoughts?

  1. Othmar Keel, A Continental Commentary: The Song of Songs (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1994), 41.}

    The Septuagint of 1.2 sees “love” as breasts. He likewise notes that “Hebrew term for “love” used here” is a euphemism for sexual intercourse.

    Several of the sainted Fathers understand this “love” as breasts, but argues for something different:

    St. Ambrose: But why do we doubt? The church has believed in his goodness all these ages and has confessed its faith in the saying, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth; for your breasts are better than wine,” and again, “And your throat is like the goodliest wine.” Of his goodness, therefore, he nourishes us with the breasts of the law and grace, soothing our sorrows by telling of heavenly things. And do we then deny his goodness, when he is the manifestation of goodness, expressing in his person the likeness of the eternal bounty, even as we showed above that it was written, that he is the spotless reflection and counterpart of that bounty? ON THE CHRISTIAN FAITH 2.2.32[3.J. Robert Wright, ed., Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 290–291.

  2. J. Robert Wright, ed., Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 291.
Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).


11 Responses to “Song of Solomon: Kisses aren’t just Kisses, and Love isn’t just Love”
  1. “… further allegorizing a God or Jesus with breasts…”
    Is this a discussion about the “real presence” again???? 😉

  2. Ok. Out of curiosity, I googled Song of Songs, plus Origen….to see if I could find some info from a person not interested in sex, for obvious reasons.

    One of the hits was

    Very interesting…I admit I haven’t had time to read the whole thing. The author is a legit scholar. But on a quick scan:

    “In first-century Palestine the Song of Songs was sung in taverns. Yet in the Middle Ages, the love poetry of the text held a deep fascination for monks and nuns.”

    “How are we to explain the fact that the most frequently copied book in the Latin Christian Bible is the one beginning, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth . . .”? What were those nuns and monks thinking when they read these lines, and why was this text so popular? The use of erotic texts by celibates raises larger questions about the experience of becoming the “bride of Christ,” reported by many women Christian mystics. It may be that it was the very forbidden character of erotic love that made it so appealing to those who had renounced it. Erotic and bridal symbolism may have provided a transcendental motivating power, enabling Christian monks and nuns to seek the love of God. In a similar way, Muslim Sufis used the symbolism of forbidden wine drinking as the metaphor for intoxication with divine love.”

    “The third-century Christian scholar Origen wrote three commentaries on the Song of Songs in Greek, the most important of which was in 10 volumes, totaling about 20,000 lines (only part of this survives via quotations in later authors). He attempted to establish the sense of the story underlying the poem; he then applied allegorical interpretation, seeing the entire poem as an expression of the love of God for the church and the perfect human soul. This forms the basis for all subsequent Christian interpretations, and it is the classic demonstration of the allegorical method.”

    So far, I would conclude that water is the thing people fantasize about if they are dying of thirst. Food is the thing people fantasize about if starving. Origen fantasized about…
    Allegory allowed him to read, re-read, and re-read the Song of Songs as an obsession, and have no guilt feelings.

  3. Know More Than I Should says

    Most probably, sex and guilt did not become intertwined in Christianity until after Augustine.

    • I think Origen beat Augustine to the punch, er…ah… clip.

      • Know More Than I Should says

        Theologically, Origen represents the case of a tree falling in the woods not making a sound because no one heard it. Some of his theology was controversial. Neither was he sainted — perhaps, in part, because he was a self-maimed eunuch (Deuteronomy 23:1).

        Augustine, although he comes along later, is both less controversial (at lest to the Church) and achieves sainthood. Thus, Augustine is more remembered — or blamed, depending on one’s perspective.

        • Origen wasn’t made a Saint. His follower, Didymus the Blind, was made a Saint. Is this a case of the Blind leading the Didymus-less? Or perhaps Origen’s Saint Didymus envy? I must be missing something. They were.

          BTW, Jerome said Didymus had the “Eye of the Bride”, in Song of Songs 4:9.

          Ok. Obviously, I am going to Hell!

          • Of course, in our case, concerning Judging, “25 In THESE days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” Or lack, thereof.

          • Know More Than I Should says

            I would say something more profound, but I can’t stop laughing!

          • 🙂 :-

            Now I am going to hell.

          • 90 degrees out of sync from writing to viewing


            . .

            I feel like I’m in junior high school again!

          • Know More Than I Should says

            Coming to grips with the inconsistencies in the Bible and church history can be an education in itself.

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