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December 27, 2009

The Bible contains very few romantic love stories, but features an entire book of erotic love poetryThe Song of Songs (also called The Song of Solomon). The Song is the (often explicit) story of two very young lovers who slip away into the dark for nights of passion in the quiet countryside. The lovers are seized with passion, and completely lost in each other. This couple does not agonize over the morality of their behavior. They do not resist love; they pursue, embrace, and savor it. Sex is no sin in this book; it is a blessing that is literally sung about.

Christian Knights and Gardeners have long debated the meaning of The Song, particularly over one question: “Does the unmarried couple’s consummated love fulfill virtue—or betray it?” Knights, unable to reconcile the idea that a book of the Bible could contain a joyful celebration of a sin—premarital sex—concluded that The Song must be an allegory, a metaphor for God’s relationship to the people of Israel. To whitewash a scandalous book, these Knights made an explicit love poem into something chaste and respectable.

Gardeners read The Song more literally—and more romantically.

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