I got side tracked with this conundrum. An intellectual puzzle with important consequences.
I’m (seriously) inviting any reader with an interest to try to poke holes in my logic and assumptions.
The Song of Songs text, as we have received it, is largely nonsensical. Sure, there are random insights that can be gleaned by understanding the images. But (to my knowledge) no scholar has ever been able to demonstrate any obvious logical connection from one set of verses to the next.
So the question a layperson should be asking is “Why is the Song of Songs so damn confusing?”
The Case for a “Restored” Song of Songs Text:
- The Apostle Paul warned Timothy that, in later times, some would withdraw from the faith and forbid marriage (1 Tim 4)
- In order to effectively forbid marriage, it would be necessary to obscure the exuberant praise of erotic love found in the Song
- The church’s allegorical interpretation of the Song began as early as the 2nd century with Origen. (The Jews likewise adapted an allegorical interpretation probably much sooner than this.)
- The oldest complete set of Scriptures we have are copies of the Greek Septuagint from the 4th century A.D.
In short, the timeline looks like this:
1st century – warning of religious prudes to come
2nd century – Song of Songs is “spritualized”
4th century – latest complete copy of the Song of Songs
I find it highly unlikely that the confusion surrounding the Song is not a direct result of these demon-obsessed sociopaths that the Apostle Paul warned us about.
But we have no explicit evidence of this tampering. So we’re in the realm of probabilistic thinking and risk calculation.
So let’s give this a go…
What are the Odds?
What are the odds that a scholar (and a liberal one at that) could completely rearrange the Song of Songs text and have it make more logical sense the original?
Probably extremely unlikely.
Imagine trying to cut up a bunch of Shakespeare sonnets and trying to rearrange them to make better poetry.
Nevertheless, that is exactly what Dr. Paul Haupt did in 1902. Regardless of your feelings on the “artistic liberties” he took with the text, there’s no doubt that his version of the Song makes more logical sense than the version found in our Bibles.
Now, what’s the risk? What if Haupt is wrong?
Well, first off, we’re not dealing with revelation in this case. We’re dealing with wisdom.
In other words, the Song of Songs is not an direct oracle from God. Rather, it’s a series of poetic observations by a wise and godly man (men?).
And the standard for judging wisdom is not “what text is most accurate?” The question is “what works in the real world?”
To illustrate, let’s say I told you that Seneca once advised “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
If you try to argue that Seneca didn’t really say that or that those words aren’t accurate, then you’ve entirely missed the point.
But if you ponder the quote and see if it holds true to reality, then you’ve acquired wisdom.
So it is with the Song of Songs.
It doesn’t matter what order you read it in or even who wrote it. What matters is whether it communicates truth about sex. Does it cause you to think about sex in new and profound ways? If so, then it’s wisdom.
So, for all the reasons above, I think the most prudent course of action for the sexual man is to ignore the (mostly) nonsensical arrangement of the Song found in the Bible and use the more logical rearrangement of the text.