The Song of Solomon is both a picture of the fleshly love between a man and a woman AND a prophetic picture of the intimacy, the Echad, that God desires with each of us. Yet, even when studying the fleshly love between a man and a woman in the Song of Solomon one is confronted with much symbolism. There is simile and metaphor, pictures painted with the words. Clearly much of the physical description of Solomon�s bride is not to be taken literally!
I also hear a lot of people arguing that they should be able to go to the Bible, just as they are, and understand it. That we don’t need degrees or study helps to understand Scripture. The Holy Spirit will fill in where we lack understanding and everyone can find the truth in the Bible. To some extent this is true, but, again, there are dangers in this approach alone.
The Bible speaks to us today, but it was written to people who lived thousands of years ago. Our language has changed in all of that time. On top of that, the Bible wasn’t written in our language! It was written in Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic. It was written in other cultures to people who would understand the messages that were being conveyed by the authors. The messages speak to us across the centuries, but sometimes the meanings of the messages can be beyond our grasp without a little effort and energy put into studying what they really mean.
One example I often use to illustrate this idea is a phrase coming from modern French to modern English. “Ma petite pomme de terre” is literally translated “my little apple of the earth.” It is more accurately translated “my little potato.” But it is best translated “my darling” as it is a term of affection. The Bible, written in the ancient languages, presents us with these types of translation challenges in many places.
That doesn’t mean that the translations we have can’t be trusted. It does mean that these translations are a help to understanding the original text and should not be confused with the original text. Modern study into the ancient languages is revealing nuances that were previously missed and altering the meanings of some verses slightly. For example, when Paul tells Timothy that elders and deacons are to be the “husband of one wife”, we now understand that this is best read “a one woman kind of man.” It is intended to be a character quality and not a marital status. I find this exciting and see that it adds new depth to what Paul is saying, but it is problematic for the denominations that have created strict requirements for leaders regarding their marital status.
So, as I dig into the Word I want to let you all know where I’m coming from. Yes, the Bible is God’s Word to us-instruction for our lives. But I want to make sure I’m following the actual instruction God is giving us in His Word.