Thursday, April 21, 2011

A C Grayling's favourite part of the Bible, and mine

In this month's New Humanist magazine, Anthony Grayling is interviewed about his new book, The Good Book, his alternative Bible. I was pleased to note that " ... the Bible contains some sound moral lessons and moments of great beauty (his favourite being the Song of Solomon)...".

My Bible was a ninth birthday gift from my Uncle Vic, my mother's youngest brother, in June 1953. It's a commemorative copy, published to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on June 2nd; my birthday is on the 11th.

The Song of Solomon has always fascinated me, and I've revisited it many times. It's always amused me that the commentary along the top of the pages says, "The love of Christ and his church", "The church glorieth in Christ", "The love of the church to Christ", etcetera. Only someone with a very strange imagination could suggest that this prose poem of love and lust could have anything to do with Christ and the church.

Years after I was given the Bible, I read Elizabeth Smart's prose poem, By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, which includes lines from Psalm 137 and The Song of Solomon. I think that I was in love with someone when I first read it (I forget who but whoever it was, it probably ended badly), so the raw emotion of Smart's work struck a rather strong chord. It's based on her love affair with the poet George Barker, whose daughter Raffaella wrote about it in The Independent a couple of years ago. Love like that makes you crazy. You do stupid things, you say stupid things, you yearn constantly to be with your beloved. The Song of Solomon is just like that; pure passion. Nothing at all to do with Christ or the church.

Click on the image to read the Bible. It doesn't bite.

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