Solomon's Sexy Song
The Rev. Tommy Nelson treats the Song of Solomon as God's instruction manual for dating, marriage, and sexual intimacy.
His shirt sleeves rolled up, his image projected onto five video screens framing a church auditorium filled with 2,000 people, the Rev. Tommy Nelson read from one of the most sensuous books he knows: the Bible.
The yarn-spinning, joke-telling Texan travels the country using the Bible's Song of Solomon as God's definitive message on dating, marriage and sexual intimacy. He led a recent two-day conference in Westlake Village, Calif., taking hand-holding couples and singles seeking relationships through the Old Testament book verse by juicy verse.
He explained words like pomegranate, vineyard and garden are layered in sexual imagery. Raisin cakes represent aphrodisiacs. And the phrase "let his left hand be under my head and his right hand embrace me" means begetting has begun.
"We're going to watch this couple make love passionately," Nelson said, claiming the Song of Solomon twice depicts a husband and wife in intercourse. Then he interpreted the verse: "I will go my way to the mountain of myrrh and to the hill of frankincense."
"This man wants to bury his face in the bosom of his wife. Does that sound erotic? It's meant to," Nelson said. " ...This book is as sensuous as you want to make it."
The Song of Solomon is a collection of poetry that follows a man, described as both shepherd and king, romancing a woman as they court and marry. Though some dismiss it as idle erotica not fitting the rest of the Old Testament, the book is interpreted by many Jews as an allegory representing God's love for Israel, and by Christians as a symbol of Christ's relationship to his followers.
"It shows Christ's love for the Church. We are the bride of Christ," said the Rev. Ed Owens, a theologian at St. John's Seminary in Camarillo, Calif.
Owens acknowledged the Song of Solomon is sexually charged and implies intimacy between a husband and a wife can be passionate and loving, though he suggested the use of the text as a sex manual is going too far.
"This is not Dr. Ruth," he said. "When we proclaim it in church, we're not offering information on being a good spouse. We're reminding one another of God's love for us and that should be how we love one another with devotion and care. That's the point."