Harlot by the Side of the Road:

A Bible Story

Yes, we do get letters.

The majority are complimentary.

Maybe it's just that these people are more apt to write. (In the newspaper business it was the opposite.)

But, there are also people that these columns have upset.

...especially the columns that touch on religion...

....and on that four-letter word "sex."

Although I'm past the age of worrying much about sex — and, yes, that does simplify life a whole lot — I'm amazed at the firestorm this topic regularly ignites.

...especially among religious types.

(Isn't it strange how religion and sex seem so often to be linked?)

It would seem these self-appointed guardians of our morality have sex on their minds even more the rest of the population...

...the evils of sex.

They commonly cite the Bible for their anti-sex crusades.

And I've always sort of left it at that...

...until I read the book The Harlot By The Side of the Road—Forbidden Tales of the Bible...

...written by Jonathan Kirsch a lawyer and newspaper compatriot at The Los Angeles Times.

It's well researched, but not exactly a read that'll keep you awake at night turning pages.

But it provides ample evidence that a good many parts of the Bible related to sex...

..have been systematically ignored, rewritten and deleted...

..so they would be more acceptable to the unenlightened masses that might get the wrong idea.

...or maybe the right idea.

I hate reviews that summarize the best parts of a book right off...

..so I'll just say that there seems to be more sex and violence in this 300+ page book than in most of today's bestsellers.

It probably should be banned.

And given today's if-you-don't-agree-with-it-get-it-banned-mentality, I'm sure that some self-appointed guardians of our morality have thought of that.

But this would also mean we'd have to ban the Bible...because that's where it all comes from.

Which presents a bit of a problem...at least today.

In years past it didn't; they actually did ban certain books of the Bible from "those who wouldn't understand."

And, then later, to get around some of the problems that presented, translators "reinterpreted" passages to make them more acceptable to the church establishment

Now, I'm far from an expert on the Bible.

And if I were I'd just be another expert that disagreed with some of the other experts.

But let me cite one example from The Harlot By The Side of the Road—Forbidden Tales of the Bible...

Remember the mother-in-law of Ruth, the field worker who suggested that Ruth sneak in late at night and "lie down with" Boaz, a wealthy landowner?

"And it shall be, when he lieth down, thou shalt go in, and uncover his feet, and lay thee down; and he will tell thee what thou shalt do."

And I'm sure he did.

But uncover his feet?

Well, "feet" happens to be one possible translation of the original text...

...which might be logical in some contexts.

But another meaning of that particular Hebrew idiomatic expression is male sexual organ.

Now you tell me what makes the most sense here...

...and why the translators elected to ignore the most logical translation?

But, the story doesn't end here. (We don't fade to black and leave the two of them there the way they do on TV.)

When Boaz suddenly wakes to find the lovely Ruth lying beside him, a brief bit of chitchat ensues and she soon asks him to "spread her skirt" over her.

If you can't handle what's about to happen, you might just want to assume that the poor woman was cold and wanted to be covered up...

...or she experienced a sudden need for modesty.

And that's what some would have us believe.

The problem is that "spreading one's skirt" is a biblical euphemism for having sex.

A little something that the masses haven't been told...

...apparently because we were to immature to deal with this kind of thing.

The Song Of Solomon in the Bible is considered one of the most erotic poems ever written.

It has long been a thorn in the side of many religious types.

When it was being decided what would and wouldn't be a part of the Bible, many Jewish rabbis wanted it deleted.

(What was and wasn't included in the Bible was often decided by which religious faction won on the battlefield, but that's a story for another time.)

When it came to the Song Of Solomon an influential senior rabbi at the time reasoned that it should be included...

...because it actually wasn't about sex at all, but about God's relationship to the Jewish people.

Later, the Christians (who seemed stuck with it) would say that it wasn't about sex or Jewish people, but about Christ's relationship to Christians.

Of course, more broad-minded perspectives have always held that the Song of Solomon was simply about what it seemed: erotic love between a man and a woman.

But even given the subject matter, the meaning seems to have been intentionally blunted by translators.

For example, some biblical scholars believe the word "naval," which is the focus of one memorable passage, refers to something a bit further South on the anatomy.

Although the actual intent of biblical restrictions on sex may have been lost over the centuries...

...some scholars feel that the original motivation for such restrictions...

...was to preserve the purity of the Jewish race...

...something that may have made sense...

...during the tribal era of early Jewish history.