Bible Quizzes for Smart People VIII
Bill Long 12/29/06
A Second R (or X)-Rated Quiz
3. "For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion."
One thing I appreciate about the Bible is its "high view" of marriage. In one passage the Biblical author even likens a union of husband and wife to the union of Christ and the Church. You can't get much more "spiritual" than that, I suppose. Indeed, the Catholic Church has picked up on this, and it considers marriage a sacrament, right up there with Baptism and the Eucharist, though perhaps on a slightly lower plateau. After all, marriage means special intimacy with another person, the joys of family, the possibility of deepening of the self as you learn to compromise, grow and affirm another person, the joys of companionship and learning to care for someone else.
So, with all kinds of "pro-marriage" stuff coming out of our theological traditions, what is this verse doing here in the Bible? Make no mistake about it. The preceding lines help put it in context but don't really diminish the flavor of it. Just before the above lines, our Biblical author exhorts his hearers with these words:
"But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry."
So, the picture is this. The young people apparently are messing around with each other. They find each other so attractive that it is difficult to remain 'chaste.' The advice given by this Biblical author is to "solve" the problem of lust through getting married. Well, I think, on one level, that this is a nice practical solution. After all, you would then have a ready partner right there, without even having to roll over. You could get your release whenever you wanted to, and thus not have that sexual part of you obtrude into other areas of life. And, maybe, come to think of it, that may be the best solution to it. Get married to relieve the sexual tension. People have gotten married for a lot less. Oh, where is this verse, by the way? And, do you have any thoughts about it?
4. NOTE--THIS IS THE MOST X-RATED OF THEM ALL.
"Did you not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese?"
You probably haven't heard of this verse. I doubt if any preacher has preached on it. Why? Because it is so beautiful, and so touching, and so intimate, and so tender, and so hidden and so frightening in its implication that I don't think I have run into many religious folks who just would like to take it head on. But, let's try to be adults and do just that. The author of this passage is speaking of the creative process of God. God made him. But God didn't just make him. Our author even goes beyond the beautiful language of Ps. 139:
"My frame was not hidden from you,/ when I was being made in secret,/ intricately woven in the depths of the earth" (139:15).
What our author does is bring us face to face with the creative or generative process itself. How does conception take place? Of course, through the fertilization of an egg by a human sperm. What color and consistency is the sperm? Well, it is a sort of milky white substance, salty to the taste (so I have been told). It is sticky and it crusts on various surfaces that it attaches to (at least it did to Monica Lewinsky's dress). The picture the author creates for us is of God (God is the one addressed in this question) producing seminal fluid, with the author, as it were, in the fluid, poured out and "curdled" like cheese. The author is eloquently describing with as much precision as possible the his perception of the intimate involvement of God with his very creation. There is an important theological reason why the author is going in this direction--though I don't want to get into that here. But the verse is a breathtakingly bold and insightful description, as honestly vivid as any verse in Scripture. Where, pray tell, do you find it?
5. "Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle, that feed among the lilies....I will hasten to the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense."
The thing that makes this description so utterly intoxicating is the way the author builds to the description of the beloved's alluring breasts. He first starts with her eyes, then her hair, then her teeth, lips, cheeks, and neck before getting to the breasts. Hm, I wonder where things might continue to go had the poet really let loose his spirit? The breasts are invitingly described; indeed, breasts are one of the first things a man notices about a woman. Two fawns--so soft and perky, so alert to the slightest movement around, so inviting and tender. We are brought into the author's sensual delight. The latter part of the quotation is deliciously ambiguous. Is the "mountain of myrrh" the woman herself (indeed, earlier her hair is described as "like a flock of goats moving down the slopes of Gilead") or is it another nubby or hilly area of the woman that the author's reticence forbids him from mentioning? Probably the former, but there is enough ambiguity in the words to trigger the senses of the most obdurate reader. When the author says a few verses later, "You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride," we have good grounds for thinking that the poet hasn't let his eyes stop at the beloved's breasts.
And, where is this from? Why don't you memorize the verses in the vicinity so that at least you will have committed to your heart at least some words of tender sensuality in your life...
6. "You will be saved from the loose woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words."
Hm. After the delicious words of the previous quotation, I think I would just say to the author of "4," "Why save me from that? Bring it on." Of course, I am only kidding. Where is this from?
Let's return to other biblical passages as the quizzes continue.