In the 2005 film Keeping Mum, Maggie Smith’s character has an awkward chat with a man of the cloth. “The Bible: it’s full of sex,” she says. “Haven’t you noticed? Song of Solomon?”
“Ah, yes,” replies Rowan Atkinson’s flustered priest. “But that’s a song between a devout man and God.”
“No, it’s about sex,” asserts Smith. “You read it again, vicar.”
And that, in a nutshell, has been the debate for the last two millennia. After today’s royal wedding, many will be tempted to follow Dame Maggie’s advice and give it another read.
Also known as the Song of Songs, this poem – or sequence of poems – is one of the most ambiguous books of the Bible. Almost certainly written between the second and 10th centuries…