This is a case of a billboard doing what a billboard is supposed to do: drum up business. In this case, the business is a church, and the choice to add sex into the mix is a good way to get the public and the media into a frenzy talking about it. That link has since died but I already quoted parts of it:
A non-denominational church in Wilkes-Barre put up the billboard and it is already doing what it was intended to do: attract attention, mainly because it says that God loves sex.
Some pastors had a plan when they ordered the design for this billboard along Route 309.
Restored Church is trying to bring in new visitors but some people driving by think this message crosses the line.
Pastor Dan Nichols says his congregation of 100 has been meeting for just one year. He hopes the billboard will draw new people to the church next month when the sermons will focus on sex in the bible’s Song of Solomon.
“If the culture can be so bold, I think the church can be so bold and speak directly on the subject and be up front about it.”
I don’t know a ton about the bible, but I know that the Song of Solomon is one of the most beautiful and poetic books the bible has to offer. I also know that there’s a theory about the Song of Songs – that it’s an allegory to Israel and its people who (at the time of writing the book) were encouraged to not turn their back on the country and all it had to offer.
Jewish interpreters, as represented by the Targum of the book (ca. seventh century a.d.), thought that the lover of the Song was Yahweh and the beloved Israel. Thus, when the woman pleads with the king to take her into his chamber (1:4), this has nothing to do with human lovemaking but rather describes the exodus from Egypt, God’s bedroom being the land of Palestine.
Early Christian interpreters also desexed the Song in this way, but, of course, identified the main characters with Jesus Christ and the church and/or the individual Christians. Hippolytus (ca. a.d. 200) was the first known Christian to allegorize the Song. From fragments of his commentary we learn that he takes the statement in 1:4 to mean that Christ has brought the worthy ones whom he has wedded into the church.
The Targum and Hippolytus are just examples of an interpretive tendency that was dominant from early times until the nineteenth century and still is occasionally found today.
Some biblical scholars (like the one who wrote this article) poo-pooh both allegorical takes on the tale but admit they may still have relevance.
When read in the context of the canon as a whole, the book forcefully communicates the intensely intimate relationship that Israel enjoys with God. In many Old Testament Scriptures, marriage is an underlying metaphor for Israel’s relationship with God. Unfortunately, due to Israel’s lack of trust, the metaphor often appears in a negative context, and Israel is pictured as a whore in its relationship with God ( Jer 2:20 ; 3:1 ; Eze 16,23). One of the most memorable scenes in the Old Testament is when God commands his prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute to symbolize his love for a faithless Israel.
I wonder how often that may come up during a bible study.
Oftentimes, the bible is a book on par with so many others in terms of the sheer number of attempts made to understand it and keep it relevant to today’s audiences.
I very much enjoyed the annotated version of Oscar Wilde’s classic, The Picture of Dorian Gray. It was so much easier for me to enjoy the tale by having the details about his history, the characters, his influences (people and art) and other factors that led up to the publishing of the story. I didn’t get a similar effect from the annotated Huck Finn, but I didn’t like that book as much, either.
Websites and books that try to sort out biblical tales based on the history of the people and the places at the time are always of enormous interest to me. It shows that people are willing to look into the stories, not just take them all at face value. I can’t help but wonder, though, how often this deep research leads people closer to atheism rather than cementing their faith in scripture as the inerrant word of god. I’m probably not the only one to wonder about this.
I think the bible makes for an interesting piece of history. I don’t see a point in living by it, necessarily, but I see how laws common to some of the books are still relevant for any society that hopes to prosper in this world and move forward. Other parts of it are evidence (to me at least) of a gross misunderstanding in how the world works and operates and how it came to be.
Continuing to hold as truth anything that contradicts current scientific thought is baffling and ludicrous to me. Admit for once that the book is flawed due to its age and be willing to adapt to current understanding about life, the universe and everything. There doesn’t have to be a schism here. There are still good ideas in the book at large, but when the book clashes with current thought processes, please don’t automatically assume the book is right and the prevailing culture is wrong.
The only way we can really flourish as a society is if we are willing to change. The book can’t change that much, but its readers can choose to change at any time.