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Summary: OK guys. It’s time for Father Dave’s sex talk! It comes once every three years, when the passage from the Song of Songs appears in the lectionary. ...

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OK guys. It’s time for Father Dave’s sex talk! It comes once every three years, when the passage from the Song of Songs appears in the lectionary.

When you were in school, you used to get this talk every year. If you were in a Christian Youth Group, you probably got this talk every week! Most of us here are now significantly older though, and once every three years seems about right.

Either way, let me begin with my favourite love poem:

I wonder by my troth what thou and I did till we loved?

Were we not weaned till then?

But sucked on country pleasures childishly,

Or snorted we in the seven sleepers den?

Twas so, but this all pleasures fancy be.

If ever any beauty I did see, which I desired and got,

Twas but a dream of thee!

Yes, it’s John Donne (in The Good Morrow), eulogising about the joys of waking up alongside your lover. Now let me now read you my favourite Biblical love poem:

The voice of my beloved!

Look, he comes, leaping upon the mountains, bounding over the hills.

My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag.

Look, there he stands behind our wall, gazing in at the windows, looking through the lattice

My beloved speaks and says to me:

"Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for now the winter is past,

the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth;

the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.

The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance.

Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away."

It’s from the Biblical book, ’The Song of Songs’, otherwise known as ’The Song of Solomon’, and it shares the same theme as the earlier poem. It might not have the same lyrical quality to it as Donne’s work of course, but remember that it’s translated from the Hebrew, and probably loses a lot in the translation. The theme, at any rate, is much the same: Spring has come, love is in the air, and the time has come to sneak away for a romp in the woods!

That much is clear. What is not clear is what this is doing in the Bible! That is a question that students of the Bible have been asking for thousands of years! The other big question for me is why the compilers of the lectionary chose to schedule this reading for Fathers Day! Well, maybe that was an accident, but the bigger question is not so easy to solve:

* Jewish Rabbis were debating the place of the Song of Songs in the Scriptures way back at the Council of Jamnia back in AD 90!

* In the year 553 Theodore of Mopsuestia questioned the place of the Song in the Scriptures and was opposed by the second council of Constantinople.

* 1000 years later, in 1553 Sebastian Castellio was forced to leave Geneva after arguing with Calvin that the Song should not remain in the Bible.

At the very least we must admit that this ‘Song’ doesn’t fit the normal Biblical mould.

* The Song never mentions God.

* It reads as being positively bawdy at points!

* Most disturbing of all, for good middle-class church-going people, the lovers in this Song don’t appear to be married! If they were, why would they need to sneak away for a romp?


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