Mark Driscoll Versus Scripture: Analysis of Song of Solmon

We are to be re-made. All the rabbit in us is to disappear-and then, surprisingly, we shall find underneath it all a thing we have never yet imagined: a real Man, an ageless god, a son of God, strong, radiant, wise, beautiful, and drenched in joy.      CS Lewis


Giant "Twisters" in the Lagoon Nebula Hubble

Twisters in the Lagoon Nebula-Hubble


TWW apologizes for the lengthy post. We believe it is important to read the rest of this analysis by WTH in its entirety. There is some other breaking news which we believe will be of interest to our readers and did not want to break up the cohesiveness of his thoughtful presentation.

For all of our readers, who have been bombarded with "hip" pastors who breathlessly follow in Driscoll's footsteps, we hope this will be one resource that you can keep in your arsenal. TWW has presented a number of posts about Driscoll and his words. We believe, with the conclusion of this series, we have given our readers extensive material to present to churches who are considering joining Acts 29 or, perhaps, inviting Driscoll to speak at their gatherings.

At the very least, and I would like to be a fly on the wall if anyone does this, this information will cause any pastor or elder, with a modicum of decorum, to feel uncomfortable. We recommend that you set up an appointment with the pastor  and begin to read, out loud, the words of Driscoll in his presence. Better yet, hand him the transcript and ask the pastor to read the words aloud to you! Try to contain your laughter!! Better yet, contact us and let us do a post on it!!

Once again, we thank Wenatchee the Hatchet for sharing his thoughts with the readers of TWW




Driscoll has happily justified teaching on Song of Songs by citing 2 Timothy 3:16: "All Scripture is God-breathed and suitable for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, and for training in righteousness so that the man of God may be fit, equipped for every good work." On this rationale Driscoll spent 11 weeks discussing Song of Songs and the nature of marriage, with a few occasional remarks about how singles should be sexually pure in their singleness.

Yet how does Driscoll's interpretive gloss on Song of Songs 2:3 constitute the use of Scripture to equip all the saints so as to be fit for every good work? Is this the interpretation of Song of Songs 2:3 that Driscoll will present to his daughter Ashley? If all Scripture is divinely inspired and given to us as a gift through the Holy Spirit then the Scriptures are a gift that should be of benefit to every believer in some way. I don't see how Mark Driscoll's daughter Ashley is likely to benefit from knowing that some day, if she gets married, she can give her husband oral sex because "Papa Daddy" says that Song of Songs 2:3 says she can totally go for that. I don't precisely see how Driscoll's son "Buddy Zach" has any reason to study Song of Songs now if Song of Songs 7:2 can only be interpreted as the husband admiring his wife's genitals. Prepubescent children have no need to have the Song of Songs mentioned to them if in Driscoll's hermeneutic the only role book has is as sanctified erotica.

Christians have affirmed for millennia that the Scriptures are a gift given to all the saints to tell us about Christ and that all the scriptures, properly understood, can be read in this way. Yet Driscoll's interpretive approach toward Song of Songs not only makes it a problematic book to discuss with children, it also transforms the book into a rhapsodic account of sexual techniques and positions that not all Christians participate in even within marriage, and which, expounded at any length, present unmarried Christians with a host of potentially new temptations.

When a person explicitly rejects an allegorical reading of Song of Songs in favor of techniques and positions this can be construed as a hermeneutic of erotica or pornography. Driscoll used to advise that a Polaroid of the wife as a Bible bookmark was a great idea so long as nobody else read that Bible. Driscoll’s handling of Song of Songs reveals a peculiar contradiction between his formally stated view that all scriptures points to Christ while denying allegorical or typological elements pointing to Christ in Song of Songs because of his commitment to a strict hermeneutic of erotica toward the book. The case that Driscoll has pornified Song of Songs derives from Driscoll’s own contradictory hermeneutic toward Song of Songs in contrast to other biblical texts and not from any simplistic accusation that Driscoll encourages people to go expose themselves to porn.



Driscoll readily grants the husband/wife metaphor everywhere ELSE in Scripture. He preached from Ephesians and Revelation and readily identified the husband/wife metaphor there. Yet Driscoll rejects the Groom/Bride metaphor in Song of Songs for the simple reason that if he accepts an allegorical or typological elements then he suspects Song of Songs promotes a weirdly homoerotic relationship between himself and Jesus. But Driscoll must surely know that Jesus Himself said that in the age to come no one will be given in marriage. Driscoll's jokes that Jesus might be having gay sex with him in Heaven if Song of Songs is an allegory about God's love for His people is simply a specious case of wanting to have things both ways. He literalizes a metaphor for the sake of illustrating why he rejects the metaphor. He never adequately addresses what the canon-wide basis for the metaphorical understanding would be. In fact, he affirms the metaphor in all other biblical literature, which makes his refusal to accept its application in the Wisdom literature even stranger. Where Puritans like Jonathan Edwards or Richard Sibbes or William Gurnall comfortably went Driscoll dare not go, apparently.

The metaphor of husband and wife in the Scriptures consistently reveals the marriage to be in a continual state of crisis. No sooner has Yahweh betrothed Himself to Israel in the wilderness than they create a golden calf. God appoints judges who turn Israel to idolatry. God grants a king and kings turn Israel away and become pioneers in idolatry. God sends prophets and the prophets are not heeded. Hosea and the other prophets take up the husband/bride metaphor to exclaim that Israel is a whoring wayward wife. Driscoll will never reject this metaphor.

Anyone who has ever attended a Mars Hill Church Good Friday service will see that the dominant theme is to reflect upon how our sins put Jesus on the Cross. Christ gave Himself up to death for the sake of His Bride, the Church. Mars Hill has emphasized this and it is part of the story. Yet it is not the whole story. That the Bride has been a wayward, sinful whore whose sin is so great it required Christ’s death is just half of Jesus’ heart toward His Bride. Driscoll's pastoral and poetic imagination falters at the point where hymnody often begins.

What wondrous love is this, o my soul, o my soul?
What wondrous love is this, o my soul?
What wondrous love is this, that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul …

Driscoll’s been unable to consistently articulate that Christ, in love, chose to bear the Cross for us and share death with us to reconcile us to Him. He has, however, been adept at going on at some length about the dreadful curse.

It is unsurprising that Driscoll confessed in early 2008 that he had been told by C. J. Mahaney and John Piper that he has failed to articulate the love of God for His people. This is not surprising. Let is consider the nature of the husband/bride metaphor in all of Scripture if it must be excised from the Song of Songs. Throughout the Law and the Prophets the husband/bride metaphor is used is in a setting where God’s people have to be rebuked for being disobedient to God in some way. In the Torah Israel is going to face the reality of apostasy and exile. She is already unfaithful and will remain unfaithful until disaster, rejection, and exile. In the prophets Israel is told she is a wayward, whoring wife. In the wisdom literature we get shown that if we do the right things we’ll avoid the wayward women.

In the New Testament Christ dies for the Church but the apostles, after going through what may be dubbed the honeymoon of Acts, pass through that honeymoon into the exasperating world of having to write epistles to real churches with real sins. A new Exodus has led to a new age of wandering through the wilderness of Sin until the Land of Promise is reached. Only now we do not go rushing to meet the Promise, the Promise will come to us. Yet even though in the book of Revelation we are told of the promised Wedding Feast of the Lamb, when the Church will be the spotless Bride of Christ, this is not who we are. Revelation opens with seven letters of reproof to the churches in Asia given to John the Revelator by Christ.

There is no present-tense expression in any age of the Church this side of Christ's Second Coming in which unreserved adoration and praise for God's people is given. Jesus is the Groom who rebukes and cajoles His bride for Her continual failures and worldliness and thus it is unsurprising that a man like Driscoll, in rejecting Song of Songs, can never ultimately have a vision of Christ's people that can exult in Her. It is only in Song of Songs where a husband and wife are shown speaking to each other with unbridled affection. It is only in Song of Songs where there is any "now" to the beauty of a marriage filled with mutual affection and by extension the marital metaphor for God and His people that Driscoll feels compelled to reject.

Thus a pastor like Driscoll only knows how to speak to the betrothed Bride as someone who isn’t worthy of the Groom. She’d better clean up, get her act together, and stop being so bad because her sins are bad enough that Jesus had to die for them … but it’s not quite clear Driscoll knows how to articulate the depth of the Bridegroom's love for the waiting Bride. Driscoll could preach for years on Hosea and mention the promise God makes to speak tenderly and winsomely to the wayward Bride. But where could we turn in the scriptures to see HOW God might speak in such a winsome and tender way to such a Bride?

Well, obviously NOT in Song of Songs as Driscoll expounds it because in it he sees only wifely stripteases and holy blowjobs. Driscoll’s understanding of how a pastor should speak to the Bride is as a Hosea or an Elijah telling Israel she’s a whore. Or an apostle telling the Corinthians they should be ashamed of themselves. In other words, at the risk of stretching the metaphors a bit, Driscoll is fine with the Hosea who says God “will” speak tenderly to His people but can’t accept that Song of Songs could be where God DOES speak tenderly to the Bride of His people.


 SOS part 4b

By now the massive audio library of sermons at Mars Hill Church demonstrates that Driscoll has absolutely no problem at all invoking the biblical metaphor of husband and wife when it deals with the ancient near-Eastern AUTHORITY STRUCTURE within marriage. He can accept the part where the Groom dies for the Bride. He can accept the part, certainly, where the Bride must submit to the Groom, not least in his various teachings on male headship and the authority of church leaders. He’s got problems if that conjugal metaphor ever breaks the bonds of propriety, service, and obligation to take on an element of ecstatic, self-forgetting admiration for the other. Driscoll may think he's secured himself from imagining a Jesus who wants to sexually penetrate him, but he may have done so at the expense of allowing the canonical comprehensiveness of the conjugal metaphor to have it's Spirit-inspired way. Christ choosing to die for the Bride on the Cross expresses a love that has no sense of discretion or restraint. The love of Christ for the Church was so strong he embraced the Cross, scorning its shame, and He conquered death by death because of His love for us.

In Song of Songs we are told that love is as strong as death. We know what love that is most obviously and immediately talking about, even if we subscribe to an allegorical second meaning. We can see cases where an old spouse dies and the widow or widower dies within a year of that death. We all get that love is as strong as death in that way! But Christ’s love is stronger than death.

By rejecting a typological approach as even possible in Song of Songs what we may be seeing is that Driscoll has granted the high flown poetic hyperbole as being legitimate for erotic love but shudders at the thought that a comparably powerful, or even more powerful love animated Christ to go to the Cross for us. After all, Song of Songs CAN’T be pointing us to Jesus now that Driscoll has established it’s about techniques and positions. It CAN'T be about Christ's love for the Church because Driscoll interprets that as Jesus preparing to have homosexual intercourse with him.

For a man who has said "It's all about Jesus" he sure seems to have managed to transform his teaching about Song of Songs into a kind of "It's all about Driscoll" hermeneutic. As I said at the beginning, Driscoll must know Jesus said there would be no marriage in Heaven. Why would Driscoll even think a joke of this sort would even make sense? Those who interpret Song of Songs typologically aren't imagining genital penetration are they?

Well, to the degree that anyone can begin to guess at an explanation, let me refer to Driscoll's 1999 sermons on Song of Songs. Driscoll has been steadfast in revisiting this material. Driscoll's persistent introduction to Song of Songs includes his speculative fantasy that Solomon and Abishag were sitting in a tree k-i-s-s-i-n-g. This is fanciful nonsense. Solomon’s first wife mentioned in scripture was an Egyptian and that was, as scholars such as Iain Provan pointed out, a foreboding of how bad things would go in Solomon’s reign where faithfulness to the Lord was concerned.

Iain Provan and V. Phillips Long, both of whom contributed work to the study notes in the ESV translation, have addressed Solomon's accession in ways that show the Abishag fantasy to be particularly silly. Provan, in his commentary on 1 & 2 Kings, notes that Abishag was chosen to assist David because he had trouble keeping warm at night. Abishag’s presence in the court highlights what ends up being a story, at every level, of royal impotence (of every kind) in David’s final years. The narrative thread from “could not keep warm” to “did not know her sexually” to Adonijah deciding he had a shot at the throne is strongly implied in the narrative.

Provan and Long have both broached what Driscoll avoids–rumors of David's sexual impotence were taken as a sign of administrative impotence and failing health. At this Adonijah, like his brother Absalom, sees in his father's weakness a shot at the throne. Nathan and Bathsheba get wind of this and trick David into formally appointing Solomon as his successor both to save Solomon's life and to perform an end-run around Adonijah.

The idea that Solomon killed Adonijah because he was in love with Abishag himself is pure fantasy. Absalom (under Ahithophel's counsel) took some of David’s concubines and had sex with them in public both to shame his father and show that he was made of kingly stuff at the crudest level. By this time in Israel there was a precedent that if you took any woman who belonged to the king you were making yourself known as a claimant to the throne. Solomon didn’t have his brother killed because he and his father’s servant girl were carving their names in some nearby tree. It was a bluntly political gesture. Solomon knew his brothers had habits of forming insurrections to get power or were rapists. If he didn’t put his foot down in the sternest and most irreversible way possible he’d lose the kingdom and it would divide.

But in Driscoll’s make-believe Song of Songs Abishag is the peasant princess who won the heart of the king. Why? It's a fantasy he seems to have come up with back in 1999 when he first started reading, studying, and teaching Song of Songs. As he put it in his book Confessions of a Reformission Rev, Driscoll was very unhappy with his marriage and particularly the state of his sex life at that point in his life. He thought he'd go through Song of Songs and see if it could improve his marriage. He went into the book with an agenda that colored his approach. Now, it seems, Driscoll can't disengage from his love affair with Song of Songs as the canonized sex manual that fixed what he wasn't happy with in his marriage. Driscoll's hermeneutic of erotica toward Song of Songs is such a treasure to him he can't see that what it has done to his view of a biblical book is transform that book's message within the canon. Instead of "It's all about Jesus!" it must now be "It CAN'T BE about Jesus!" Yet the Lord’s words in Luke 24:25-27 and in John 5:39-47 aren’t going anywhere and must be accounted for, even when we’re discussing Song of Songs. I propose, in Driscollian parlance, that this is the Big E on the eye chart that has been missed for a decade not only by Driscoll's critics and fans but by Driscoll himself."

Tune in tomorrow to read about the bizarre goings on at SGM. Is a break up in play? Oh, and in keeping with our Driscoll porn theme, did you know that reading our blog is "worse than reading porn?" Larry Flynt,  move over, there is a new game in town!! More tomorrow!


Lydia's Corner: Ezra 7:1-8:20 1Corinthians 4:1-21 Psalm 30:1-12 Proverbs 20:28-30


Mark Driscoll Versus Scripture: Analysis of Song of Solmon — 68 Comments

  1. Eagle – the only people I ever have met who emphasized the church as the bride of Christ (as an analogy; Paul is clear that he isn’t making a 1:1 comparison, imo) are Catholics and Anglicans. In both cases, I think there is a greater understanding of the body of Christ as well – viewing Christians throughout the world as part of the body. (Though I have to ‘fess up on my Catholic friends: this was very much prior to the current pope and his insistent pressure to force the RCC into a pre-Vatican II mod…)

    I would argue that the 1st thing MD threw out the window re. the SoS is this: it’s poetry; it’s full of allusive language (metaphors, similes). It was never intended as some sort of play-by-play sexual instruction manual – and i really am *not* in the camp that believes the poems were written by Solomon himself (or a member of his court). In fact, in the reading I have done over the past few years (mostly Jewish translators and commentators – both male and female), the “book” is viewed as an anthology of interrelated love poems, with – possibly – some textual gaps.

    For someone to jump in and make claims that certain words and sentences that have been obscure to most every Biblical translator around *actually* mean something very specific is just (again, imo) nuts. It’s bad research, and worse exegesis. (But then, I also think it’s hard for lots of American Protestants to admit that some portions of Scripture *are* difficult, obtuse, etc. – because they seem to think that being honest about this would mean that they don’t believe in the literal truth of the Bible and all that.)

    I might be alone here, but I’m of the opinion that the SoS *is* love poetry, and that allegorical readings (God and Israel; Christ and the church) come much, much later in the game – also that they are not representative. I don’t for one second think that the poet/poets who wrote what we know as the SoS intended to make their text(s) allegorical. And for all those (I was one of them) who assume that it is “about” a young married couple…. there are no references in the text to that couple being married. None. (I hope I’m not upsetting people by saying this; do go back and check it in a couple of different translations just to get a sense of it as a poem…)

    I’m not necessarily saying that the lovers who address one another in the SoS are *not* married; only that there is no reference in the text to them being married to each other, or really, to marriage at all.

    It really pains me to see such beautiful imagery and sentiment (which is quite delicate in many respects while also being earthy) ruined by MD and others who impose their own sexual desires/preferences on the text. Poor lovers; their relationship is trampled on – and they don’t get to exchange sweet nothings, either.

    In other words, even the lovers have been robbed of the nuances of their relationship.

    I have always seen the alternating male/female voice passages as having great emotional openness and sensitivity to the object of the speaker’s love.

    MD threw that out the window, too, in his quest to make the book into a sex manual.

    I bet the original readers of the work would be aghast (and bewildered, too) at what’s been done to such lovely work. (I also have never seen MD mention that the SoS is part of a broader context – in that there is other early Near Eastern love poetry like it – or maybe I should say that the SoS is a local variant of a genre that was common in the ancient Near East?)

    Do I think the book has a *lot* of highly sensual imagery? Yes – no question! But at the same time, it’s handled poetically.

    As for women being required to “give” oral sex, I don’t think anyone has the right to make a demand when the woman does not feel comfortable with it, for whatever reason(s) that might be. (Sexual abuse being one of the more obvious reasons that is cited by some women who are former members of MH.)

    Obviously, a *lot* of MD’s interpretations of Scripture tend to be crass, so it (sadly) stands to reason that he’d be especially so re. the SoS. and I have to admit that I now have difficulty getting some of *his* imagery out of my head when I either think of the book, or actually read it.

    It makes me both sad and angry that this should be so – and I know I’m not alone in feeling this way.

  2. Hey Y’all,

    It’s been a busy month since returning from France, but I am still reading and taking it all in. Some wonderful posts, Dee and Deb.

    WTH has also done a great job on his blog as well as here to give a good picture of what’s going on with Dris and Mars Hill…

    I’ll be back soon! I promise 🙂

  3. Numo: “And for all those (I was one of them) who assume that it is “about” a young married couple…. there are no references in the text to that couple being married. None. (I hope I’m not upsetting people by saying this; do go back and check it in a couple of different translations just to get a sense of it as a poem…)

    I’m not necessarily saying that the lovers who address one another in the SoS are *not* married; only that there is no reference in the text to them being married to each other, or really, to marriage at all. “

    Given the Jewish culture in which these poems were written and the fact these writings are part of the Jewish set of holy books, marriage is the only realistic ‘holy’ context for the couple represented in these poems. I see no particular need to speculate otherwise, for the poem’s target in faith and holiness can only be a married couple.

    The SoS is written from the woman’s perspective. Interesting is it not? I think this is the only book in scripture that is written from a woman’s perspective.

    The SoS is a highly artistic work, taking the potentially vulgar and portraying it in a beauty, which is what God wants it to be. It is sin that has taken God’s gift of sexuality and turned it into the profane, the vulgar, and opportunity for all manner of abuse. I tend to think the later view of SoS being allegory of the relationship between God and Israel, or Christ and the church, may be more an attempt to deal with SoS from the more puritanical cultures of the Christianized west.

    What Driscoll does however, regardless of the true or best rendering of this writing – and whether he means to or not, is to drag the SoS from the status of holy writ down into the level of the crass, the vulgar, the profane. To rip from it the holy garments that earn it a place in scripture and toss it over to Hugh Hefner so he can make a buck.


  4. One of the things that Driscoll declares in his teaching is that SoS is absolutely not chronological. He gives no support for his declaration. Just, “Thus saith Driscoll,’It’s not chronological.'” End of story. And there is a very strong reason he has taken this position. There IS a wedding day implied in SoS 3:6-11.

    Well, IF SoS is, in fact, chronological (which I believe) then Driscoll cannot use SoS 2:3 for oral sex and SoS 2:6 for all sorts of sexual touching. Because THAT would be fornication.

    Yes, there are places that do imply sexual things that should be restricted to marriage, but those occur AFTER SoS 3.

    For those studying SoS without Driscoll’s “looking for the ‘good bits'” glasses on but rather from an overall, overview of the book, there is a strong chronological flow that can easily be seen. And in some places, the Hebrew poetry form, “song of ascents” can also be detected, though it is used far more loosely than in the Psalms.

    As Zeta and others have noted, Driscoll takes this best of songs down from a holy place to the level of crass, vulgar, and profane.
    This poem may actually be showing a woman ascending from a low place to a high place. But such a notion is completely lost on men, like Driscoll, who are more concerned with pushing the limits of what kind of sex acts they can coerce from their brides. It’s all about what they can get rather than what is being given to the Beloved by the Lover that is displayed all throughout the poem.

    SoS 2:3 is about the place of rest and shelter and sustenance that the Lover has given the Beloved. But Driscoll makes it all about the wife giving and servicing the husband, having a voracious sexual appetite, and having no inhibitions in the bedroom. And all this occurs before the wedding day and two verses AFTER the Beloved has confessed a certain insecurity.

    Yeah, I’m still pretty disgusted with Driscoll misuse of this holy portion of Scripture.

  5. Mara, good point on the allusion to a marriage… the thing is, the book is full of allusive language. In some ways, the imagery is very direct, in others, not.

    I guess that’s one thing that poetry allows for that most prose does not. (Or at least, it’s a lot harder to write poetic prose and make it work well.)

    Zeta, the God and Israel reading comes from Jewish sources, afaik, though I am sure some Christians have followed through with that as well. When I started reading from some Jewish sources on the SoS a few years back, I deliberately steered clear of Christian material, since I wanted to focus on the actual text and how some Jewish translators have dealt with it. (There is a really beautiful new-ish translation of the book – name of translator escapee me right now, but she is very accomplished and her commentary is pretty amazing, too. Will dig out the book and add a link later…)

  6. Mara – Marcia Falk is the translator I was referring to, but there are some other new-ish translations from a Jewish perspective that I don’t have at this point.

    Falk’s translation + commentary is out of print, but fairly easy to fine via online listings at and, etc.

  7. Does SoS have to be anything more than simply a celebration of human sexuality? Does it have to have anything attached to it other than a deep desire to be human? I can’t help but think that renaissance Florence was onto this before they got cut short with the rise of Savonarola’s theocratic dictatorship.

  8. Thanks Numo.

    Muff, even though SoS is only eight chapters long, it really is a big book. I have never had a problem with the sexual side of it. In fact, that’s where I started with it.
    When my husband and I were married 24 years ago we were given the book, “The Act of Marriage” by the LaHayes”
    I am completely comfortable with that.

    Since then, my understanding of the book had enlarged to embrace so much more.
    Just like much that is oriental rather than western in nature, SoS is not black and white. It’s not SoS=Sex and nothing else. Or the other way around, SoS=picture of God and believers and nothing else.
    The Song of Solomon is far too big to be smashed down into one thing and one thing only.

    It’s like those gizmos they used to sell, “It dices, it slices, it makes Julianne fries”.

    My desire is not to try to take the sexual aspects away from those who think of it that way, and prefer to keep it that way. I’m not into that kind of robbery.

    But I do think it robbery when people, like Driscoll, openly mock the idea of an allegorical side and try to shame people into looking at SoS his way and his way only. It only slices, never dices, and sure as heck will never ever be able to make julianne fries.

    Like I said, SoS is a big book, a big poem. It contains a lot and speaks many different things to many different people. It isn’t black and white.
    If you don’t ever want to see any more than the sexual, I have no problem giving you space for that.
    Please give me the space for my allegorical leanings.

  9. numo the God and Israel reading comes from Jewish sources, afaik, though I am sure some Christians have followed through with that as well. When I started reading from some Jewish sources on the SoS a few years back, I deliberately steered clear of Christian material, since I wanted to focus on the actual text and how some Jewish translators have dealt with it. (There is a really beautiful new-ish translation of the book – name of translator escapee me right now, but she is very accomplished and her commentary is pretty amazing, too. Will dig out the book and add a link later…)

    Understood – but I think as mara indicated the book is more than that and to limit it to just that kind of metaphoricalization (is that a word?) is to miss a significant part of its meaning. But where SoS deals with the relationship between a man and a woman, it elevates it to a beautiful picture of passionate yet pure love. It does not leave us with the feeling we just watched some porn movie.

    Yet that’s were Driscoll would take us. And that’s the problem with his rendering.

    He really is symptomatic of our entire culture. There is a systematic move to drag all artistic expressions that involve hints at the sexual in the context of beauty as much into the gutter as possible. Even in arts like Opera, whose subject matter is often far from holy, but in which is still much beauty and art, and even with pieces written in the 17 and 1800’s where explicit depictions of what is hinted at would never have even been considered. Yet in our day the art is degraded and marketed with explicit and vulgar depictions, just like Driscoll is doing with SoS.


  10. The interesting thing for me is this: While I get that SoS is not some porn flick, and oral sex and stripteases are not contained therein, I’m still missing the point, overall, what it’s about.

    So if someone could tell me what it’s really about, I’d appreciate that. But I kinda think nobody really can, can they? It’s issues like this that make me distrust our knowledge about Scripture. I feel like we can only know so much and still get it wrong. Things like this give me an even bigger distrust of listening to others discuss what Scripture is saying and how we are to use it. Overall, these days, I am really confused about the purpose of the Bible, how we are to read it, and what importance and relevenace it has for our lives today… It seems that there is so much read into it, it’s hard to discern, really, what God is asking of us or intends towards us.

    I’m. Just. Confused.

  11. …and why do I have a sneaking pesky suspicion that reading Jewish and Hebraic literature would teach me more about what the Bible says, than reading more and more of the bible itself, or other Christian commentaries about it. It would seem better to learn about it from the people from which it came? Certainly, there is so much ancient culture involved, ancient prose and styles of writing, I can’t see how any “normally” intelligent person can understand the Bible without studying all of those other things. I”m just frustrated. I know I sound frustrated….because I am. Sorry

  12. NLR, I’m with you on most everything you just said.

    Muff: agreed.

    I really hate the way in which evangelical (and other) xtian culture tends toward overspiritualizing things. (Like Thabiti and his salsa dancing piece.)

    can the SoS just be love poetry? As such, it’s exquisite, and I don’t think it needs to reference God (or be read as allegory) in order to be good – and part of the canon of Scripture.

    As for the text itself, we *don’t* have the context that ancient readers/hearers did, and I think we’re better off admitting that. *Then* we can go on and actually try to see what it says about love (and other things) – though the meanings of many of those passages are not clear to us. (Per what I’ve read and based on my own off-and-on reading of the book itself over the years.)

  13. Mara (and others) who like the allegorical thing: that’s cool, and I don’t want to take that away from you.

    but I’ve gotten tired of trying to figure out “reasons” for everything. it’s exhausting.

    An example off the top of my head: trees just are. I like to look at them, touch the bark and leaves, without having to come up with some reason for their existence, or why I like looking at them, and…

  14. I forgot to mention that for me (and I also suspect the renaissance Florentines) that human sexuality is multi-faceted and not confined to a one-size-fitz-all approach.

    I tend to agree with Mara & Zeta that Driscoll paints it (SoS) in monochrome.

  15. I think the SOS IS a wonderful poetic picture of God and Israel, of Christ and his church, inspired by Him though written by people. Nonetheless, I don’t think this means it has to be allegorical in the strict sense or this meaning that in each point, any more than it’s ONLY an ancient middle-eastern love poem. I like the term “allusions” used previously. I don’t think spiritualizing necessarily leads to overspiritualizing. Back in the day (70’s and 80’s) we sang quite a few choruses taken from the Song of Songs, applying them to Christ unabashedly, with nary a Driscollian thought crossing our minds. I do recall also back then there was already some book out with the “biblical” technique perspective– besides the LaHayes– Possibly some modern preachers got ideas from it.

  16. It will probably help to consult Jewish authors, NLR, but the allegorical approach was first proposed within the Jewish literature. No one can really agree what it’s about and no one can truthfully, so far as I can tell, even be certain how many characters are speaking. Consult any number of translations and you’ll see widely differing attributions as to who says what. That ambiguity of voice within the text may be a poetic device used to demonstrate an emotional conflation of the lover and the beloved. Or writing anything was laborious and expensive and there may have been commonly accepted cues that we’re not alert to anymore. Not everyone agrees that Solomon is even the “good guy” in the poems. Those sixty queens and 80 concubines and virgins without number don’t really suggest that this was Solomon’s first marriage and yet royal polygamy was simultaneously not something that was entirely approved of but permitted. Yet it was also considered a sign of a poor king to multiply wives. Yet David, who had a few wives of his own established for political alliances, was considered a good king.

    In other words the only thing scholars have managed to agree on about SoS over centuries is that they aren’t completely sure how to approach the text. The “just sex” angle doesn’t settle all questions and issues of how the text was commonly interpreted. Some rabbis interpreted the woman’s breasts as representing Moses & Aaron. I kid you not. As Eagle put it, there are a lot of Christians who want the text to have a straightforward meaning it may ultimately not have. The idea that poetry “should” only have one level of meaning is preposterous. SoS’s place in the Writings also suggests that seeing as Christians felt free to reinterpret legions of Psalms as messianic references when a straightforward reading would indicate otherwise it’s not a surprise that Driscoll, especially, has not bothered to preach from any other biblical poetry besides SoS in the last fifteen years. He reads for technical explanations and propositional statements

    OT scholars have regularly discussed how weird and difficult a text SoS is to study. It’s not clear that it has a narrative at all, it’s not clear that Solomon had anything to do with it other than a later ascription. It may well have been connected to Solomon in some way but a northern Israelite satire of Solomonic corruption is a consistently proposed prism through which to read the text. One scholar I’ve heard discuss the text points out that the descriptions of physical beauty comparing parts to goats and other mundane things is that it’s a satire of praise of physical beauty. There may be elements of satire. Your belly is like a bushel of wheat just doesn’t come across as that complementary even though it’s obviously meant as a complement within its literary context. There can be a gap between the emotional content conveyed by the speakers to each other and the implications of the images and metaphors employed by the author(s).

    I could say in one sentence what “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is about but that doesn’t mean I would have done justice to the genius of the poem. I could write similar single-sentence summaries of poems by John Donne, Wallace Stevens, Robert Frost, Denise Levertov, or E. E. Cummings if I wanted to. The thing about poetry is that if you can sum up “all” there is to be said in a poem in such a manner then there’s no REASON for the poetry.

  17. NLR, the more you read Jewish commentary the more you may appreciate the joke about rabbis, that two rabbis will have three opinions.

  18. Muff, you’ve sort of touched on what I consider to be the ultimate problem in Driscoll’s approach, which is to essentially make the sexual foundational to being a truly and fully human adult. The idea that sexuality, as big a part of our lives as it is, is also not the only aspect of being human is something that both Driscoll and at least some of his critics haven’t considered. Paul kept insisting that those who had enough self-control to not marry should avoid marriage. Jesus said there were those who were made eunuchs by men and others born eunuchs and others who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom. Notice how quickly this got spiritualized. 🙂 I don’t get the idea Driscoll’s ever going to touch a eunuch passage for a while.

  19. Wenatchee,
    I know it’s sheer speculation, and more study wouldn’t necessarily bring more light, but what lengths do you suppose Driscoll has gone to in his study of and meditation upon the only biblical poetry he’s preached upon in 15 years?

  20. Not to get off on a tangent, but Doug Phillips of the “patriarchy” gang seems to agree with Driscoll in making the sexual foundational to being a truly and fully human adult, or at least a truly and fully human witness for Christ. In his “about” page he says he came to realize the best witness a man could have for Christ was not how much he knew (fallacious alternative there) so much as the life he lived “as a husband and father”. So those who aren’t husbands and fathers, I guess, aren’t real witnesses (or maybe not real men, to bring it back to Driscoll).

  21. Well, Dave, my impression, for what little it’s worth, is that Driscoll may have spent years of study looking at all the options and may know how complex and puzzling the text can be. And then he just goes and preaches his same old shtick because he’s pragmatically committed to that.

  22. Eagle
    There are plenty of problems with Driscoll’s interpretation, not the least of which that this wife was just another chick among hundreds of wives and concubines.

  23. Dee–

    Hey Hun!

    Re your comment to Eagle: I kinda felt that same way when I saw One Night With the King.. I was like hold up! Hold up! Hold up!! Did homeboy test Esther’s goods before buying???! Wha tha???!! Like David’s private life and many other biblical heros, it seems the church really paints over these things all the time.

  24. Why have I been so naive??!! LMBO! I could have sworn they were up all night talking!!! Hee-hee. I. Am. Serious. that’s such a girly thing to think ain’t it? Up all night talking to the king about your girl, Jen, and her boyfriend fighting because he wint pay child support and what new handbag you wanna buy at Macy’s blacknfriday sale because kings looooove talking allll night to pretty grls about shopping, hair and nails and exes. I thought that when he got to know her, that meant he asked about her family, what high school she went to, her childhood crush and her favorite cuisine…. Right??! That’s what happened, yes?

  25. “…Muff, The more I read Scripture, the more I find it has layers, like an onion…”

    Dee, you’d never make a good Calvary Chapelite; when they say it means this that or the other, it can only mean this that or the other. No discussion, no recourse, no dissent, the Imam’s word is law.

    NLR, try using your own God given feelings and nuances to see what SoS has to say to you on a personal gut level. Not what LaHaye or Driscoll, or Sally Spiritual says it sez, but what you say it says.

    If you agree with what somebody else says, that’s okay too, you at least put the onus on yourself to come with something from you in addition. There is great emancipation in that approach.

  26. WTH, I sure would like to see a focus on showing the love of Christ to others, and living as Christ did.

    It’d make a very nice change, no?

  27. The thing about poetry is that if you can sum up “all” there is to be said in a poem in such a manner then there’s no REASON for the poetry.

    Agreed, though I think verse (plainer-spoken than the writers you cited) has it’s place, too.

    But I agree, poetry isn’t meant to be summed up in this way. Which is probably one reason that the SoS is so fascinating! (Though it does make for challenges re. interpretation.)

  28. Hey y’all. In the Bible, “getting to know you” involved sexual intimacy with a high probability of off-spring.

  29. For all of our readers, who have been bombarded with “hip” pastors who breathlessly follow in Driscoll’s footsteps…

    And will be “Old Fashioned” and “So Day-before-Yesterday” as the Hip Present becomes the Past.

    Ever seen clips from Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In lately? They were as Hip as they got back then…

  30. 1. … I also wonder if in some cases his hyper masculinity teaching could led to a rise of spousal rape? — Eagle

    Hypermasculinity usually goes hand-in-hand (or other orifice) with Male Supremacy and Woman as Sexual Toy/Breeding Livestock (breeding for Sons only). This is one of the most infamous characteristics of Extreme Islam (which shares the doctrine of Utter Predestination with Hyper-Calvinism).

    And since Sexual Conquests are up near the top of Hypermasculinity’s way to Prove I’m A REAL Man, “Me Man! Me Horny! You Woman! YOU SHUT UP!” is going to be just as likely as “SAXTON HALE!!!!”

    3. In the OT from what I recall there is discussion of Temple Prostitutes and how people had sex with prostitutes to get closer to their “God”. I would suggest that the first Temple Prostitutes in the reformed movement have been created in Mars Hill, Seattle. This infusion of sex into the gospel from this outsiders perspective is quite twisted. — Eagle

    Repeat after me, Eagle, everybody:


    4. The Church being the Bride of Christ has been thrown under the fundagelical bus a long time ago. In the churches, and Crusade ministries I was in it was seldom mentioned, though I knew the Bible had discussed it. I wonder if some of this is reactionary to more people in the United States becoming accepting and tolerating of gays. Is that why Drisocll has to be so homophobic and interprets this part of scripture as part of Jesus having anal sex with him? — Eagle

    First reaction is “Driscoll must really have a Dirty Mind.”

    Second reaction: Bridal Mysticism — taking the expression “Bride of Christ” in an individual instead of collective manner (obvious corollary of a Gospel of Personal Salvation and ONLY Personal Salvation) and ending up with this expressed in erotic language.

    Third reaction: Hypermasculinity also results in “swinging both ways” regarding homosexuality. With Male Supremacy, the only way to have sex with another person (as opposed to two-legged livestock) is with another male. However, this results in (prison gang-rape parlance) “Making a Woman out of Him” and is as un-manly as you can get (especially for the Penetrated on the Bottom of what is effectively an Animal’s Forced Dominance Display). So you will see a Hypermasculine culture both attracted and repelled by male homosexuality.

  31. Eagle
    There are plenty of problems with Driscoll’s interpretation, not the least of which that this wife was just another chick among hundreds of wives and concubines.
    — Dee

    Well, Eagle WAS comparing and contrastind Driscoll and Joseph Smith…

    “Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon — Dum Dum Dum Dum Dum!”
    — South Park

  32. Many years ago with newfound faith, I came across two wonderful books that gave great comfort as the point was to communicate God’s unconditional love. They pointed out the great love of God in a very personal way, in a way that made the unloved know they were loved with confidence. Some aspects were based on the concepts of the relationship of Christ and the Church and song of Solomon. The books were “Come away my Beloved” (kind of written in a prophetic tone) and Hind’s Feet on High Places. A dear friend set one of the stanza’s paraphrased from
    SOS in from Hind’s Feet on High Places to music. It was the only thing she ever wrote, but with confidence I say it was truly inspired. The point was the authors spoke of God’s great and personal love to the individual. It is a beautiful thing to be loved and desired and all human love is imperfect. We have a great Savior who loves us unconditionally as we are. Indeed he desires a relationship with us, and laid his life down for us. He comforts us actively through the Holy Spirit. It is a living and vital relationship. This is the Great Story that is true every day. There is a lovely song ” I come to the Garden alone….” talking about being in the presence of God in a very personal way through Christ. You see we have someone who desires us, loves us, and to share all eternity with. This is Christ.
    Song of Songs is yes poetry about the human love between a man and woman. However, it is magnificent that the human love, is representative of the Great love of God for us. Mark Driscoll needs to go read some Oswald Chambers and consider the wedding vows poetically stated of the Methodist Church. This is NOT a new concept as many people over hundreds or thousands of years have experienced this love and written about their experience. And you just have to wonder does he (MD) really understand the overwhelming love of Christ towards humankind?

  33. I’m getting the distinct impression that all this My Little Pony talk is about something other than my daughter’s happy meal toys.

    …Now back to momworld.

  34. For all of our readers, who have been bombarded with “hip” pastors who breathlessly follow in Driscoll’s footsteps…

    And whose Hipness (TM) after 10 years will be about as “Un-Hip” as Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In footage is now…

  35. Heh, or as unhip as Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In was twenty years ago, even. 🙂

  36. it seems alot like everyone on the website is a bored housewife who cant help but gossip about useless junk. no offense, but don’t you think that reading and praying over sos would be more productive than writing book-length comments about your opinion of its interpretation? driscoll wasn’t wrong in what he said. he even used the bible. if your point is that he didnt cover everything that the book means, like its countless allegorical meanings, then you should probable stop listening to anyone talk about scripture. no one will every fully, rightly describe the scriptures and it isnt productive to have an entire website devoted to commenting when humans fall short of encompassing everything about a text of scripture. why dont you do something with yourselves? honestly 95% of what i read was just gossip and idle talk. one would do well to listen to what jesus said about idle words.

  37. Ronnie-

    Some are males, some have Ph.D.s, a lawyer or two, and the TWW Blog Queens are well-educated with backgrounds in nursing and at least one has an MBA. Your masculinist claptrap is in error, much like Driscoll’s reading of SoS.

  38. ronnie: “don’t you think that reading and praying over sos would be more productive than writing book-length comments about your opinion of its interpretation?”

    Here’s the funny thing to me. I spent years reading and praying over SoS long before I ever heard of Driscoll. I meditated on it, sometimes reading it all the way through every day for weeks on end meditating on it and learning about it. And I found all sorts of wonderful things in the area of healing and lifting up the individual believer and the Bride of Christ as a whole.

    So, when I came across Driscoll’s teachings, I was stunned as I watched him rip away the meaning of passages that healed, protected, and uplifted the feminine and turned them into instructions for a wives to behave like common whores in order to to get porn-brained men into his church.

    Driscoll is way off. It can be easily proven. But lusty men and women with itchy ears don’t want to see the truth. They want their out of control libidos stroked and want some sort of stamp of approval from God for their sins in SoS that isn’t there.

  39. Ronnie

    Here is a challenge for you. Why don’t you assume we are doing something with our lives. There are many incredible people who contribute to this blog who have made enormous personal sacrifice to: live and work amongst the poor, to minister to the downhearted, to work with the handicapped. Many lead bible studies, labor in churches, etc. Guess what? It is perfectly acceptable to minister AND to critique what masquerades as Biblical teaching into today’s hipster churches. Why don’t you read out post called Mark Driscoll Did He Stutter and tell us why what he says is Biblical.

    AS for your defense of his take on the Song of Solomon-I am amazed. Have you read the transcript from Scotland?

    Once again-arrogance substitutes for dialogue. “idle words.” Read what Jesus said” “Bored Housewife” “gossip about useless junk” Your mentor would be very, very proud of you.

  40. Ronnie,

    Your comment was laughable, and I’m sure you speak for many patriarchs out there who share your opinions about women and their idle chatter. Yep, we’re pretty useless in your paradigm, so we should just remain silent.

  41. Deb

    BORED HOUSEWIVES! The new insult from the land of spiritual giants. This gets added to our list of “What the world is saying about the Wartburg Watch.”

  42. Ronnie,

    We are both happily married to wonderful husbands who love and respect us. I can assure you, there’s nothing boring about our lives.

    Perhaps you are describing your own wife, if you are married. I can well imagine that wives married to patriarchs are BORED OUT OF THEIR MINDS!!!

  43. “I can well imagine that wives married to patriarchs are BORED OUT OF THEIR MINDS!!!”


    Bored, or so freaking exhausted keeping up appearances and forcing themselves down into tiny boxes built by men that they have no minds of their own.

  44. Mara,

    Glad I made you smile 🙂

    I have had it with these patriarchal guys who try to intimidate women into submission. Sorry, it just doesn’t work here…

  45. Nope.
    Been there, done that, have the scars.
    But at least I learned from the experience.
    I can never be tamed by men who falsely assume they have some sort of ‘divine rule’ of authority over me again.

    I much prefer chasing after an Untamed Lion who calls me to radical freedom unheard of by patriarchs and their lowly, beaten-down subjects.

  46. As a man confident in my sexuality, I think that men who have to dominate and suppress women do so because they have doubts about their own sexuality. It is so much more fulfilling, emotionally, physically, spiritually, to have an equal sharing relationship with a competent, capable, intelligent, and involved woman. And that describes my spouse.

  47. Hmm… last evening I listened to a podcast by a Seattle-area friend who said that some of the women at her spiritual abuse recovery group literally sit there shaking because “they do not have their husbands’ permission” to attend.

    Guess what church they come from?!

  48. BORED HOUSEWIVES! The new insult from the land of spiritual giants. — Dee

    As well as THE target market for 90% of Christian Fiction. As in “Amish Bonnet Romances”.

  49. HUG, I like how you kept the ‘r’ and ‘b’ in the phrase so that it still tangentially evokes “bodice ripper”.

    BTW, thanks to some book suggestions by Internet Monk years ago I can note that Ariel and Chana Bloch, in their translation of Song of Songs, lay out the case for why “navel” is still “navel”. The related Hebrew word that Mark wants to mean “vulva” refers to an uncut umbilical cord in Ezekiel 16:4 (at least according to Robert Alter) but it doesn’t matter that Alter actually knows Hebrew if Mark says “navel” has to be “vagina”. Heh, he did say, after all, there’s nothing a Christian can learn from the Bible from rabbis and Jewish teachers and yet then said that he could “prove” the Targum Neofiti made a case for the Trinity. So it would seem Driscoll’s been cherry-picking his sources to get to a particular set of conclusions about what certain words in the SoS have to mean.

  50. headless
    Year ago, there was a book club that was getting going in a former church. I attended the first meeting, hoping to suggest Chesterton or Tozier. Well, it was a group of ladies and they were appalled. They wanted to discuss Christian fiction series geared towards women. Attempting to redeem the situation, I suggested we look at overall spiritual themes. One woman looked at me and said “You look at the spiritual themes. We just want to discuss the story.” I was the first one out the door.

  51. Headless
    PS-Thank God for this blogging community. Finally, I am where I want to be in the discussion department!

  52. WTH “thanks to some book suggestions by Internet Monk years ago I can note that Ariel and Chana Bloch, in their translation of Song of Songs, lay out the case for why “navel” is still “navel”. The related Hebrew word that Mark wants to mean “vulva” refers to an uncut umbilical cord in Ezekiel 16:4”

    And thanks for this. I thought the navel -> vulva was an incredible leap but wasn’t sure how to counteract such a thing. Will you be blogging on this? I want to add it to my list of proof the Driscoll has taken ridiculous liberties on his interpretation of SoS.

  53. Mara, I will eventually blog a bit about it but I’m compiling thoughts and citations for another project, a fairly big one, actually. I can’t say a ton about it right now because it’s still taking shape, just that it’s going to be a lot of work. I’m also still trying to get more work done on the Batman: the animated series project, which is overdue for some more writing. And there’s another writing project I’m looking at doing some work on, too. So it may take some time, particularly since more holidays are coming up. Now that I’m past the first week after eye surgery I should be able to get back to some of this stuff (I hope).

  54. You know, I’m thinking this idea that navel is ‘code’ for something else rests in something other than Driscoll studying it out and breaking the ‘code’.

    It used to be that female navels were rarely seen in public, even more recently here in the U.S. Remember “I Dream of Jeannie” or (more likely) have you ever seen reruns of it? Back in the day, Barbara Eden’s navel was covered because it was viewed as too sexual.

    Well, things have changed a lot, haven’t they. Now female navels are exposed everywhere and are considered so ho-hum they are not even viewed as all that sexual anymore.

    So, since navels are so everyday in our culture today, Mark Driscoll assumes the same must be true for all other cultures of every time including ancient Hebrew culture. He can’t imagine a female navel being all that sexual so he assumes the rest of the world, presently and in times gone by, MUST view it the way he does, like his view is the default view for all others.

    This really shows a lack of ability to see beyond the nose on his face. It shows an inability to think beyond the thoughts of his own culture and time. And this inability really handicaps him when it comes to dealing with ancient Hebrew poetry or any other ancient writings.