Authors expose a steamier side of Scripture
Most believers would say the Bible is the word of God, or at least a divinely inspired book written by divinely inspired men.
But what if the Bible had been mistranslated or censored to remove the tawdry bits about pimps, cross-dressers or, ahem, a Brazilian wax as punishment?
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That’s what biblical scholars John Kaltner and Stephen L. McKenzie of Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn., were wondering, and they set out to investigate a handful of unorthodox interpretations of Old Testament tales.
The result was ”The Uncensored Bible: The Bawdy and Naughty Bits of the Good Book,” co-written with Christian satirist Joel Kilpatrick.
They’re questions like: Was Eve actually created not from Adam’s rib, but ”from something a little lower down”? Was the ”knowledge of good and evil” in the Garden of Eden a euphemism for sex? And, as Chapter 6 asks, ”Did Abraham Pimp Sarah?”
All male mammals possess a penis bone – except humans and spider monkeys. So was the ”bone” used to create Eve not actually Adam’s rib after all? The authors conclude the theory has ”compelling advantages” over traditional interpretations and is not ”bizarre, outrageous or unreasonable.”
The authors insist they are not challenging the integrity of the Bible, but ”just dealing with parts of the Bible that aren’t preached from the pulpit that often,” Kilpatrick said.
”This stuff is in the Bible,” said Mickey Maudlin, editorial director and vice president of publisher HarperOne. ”Sometimes people miss the grittiness of Scripture because they feel it goes against holiness of Scripture, and it doesn’t.”
Jonathan L. Reed, Professor of Religion, Univeristy of La Verne: “Based on the best contemporary scholarship of the Bible—but funny as hell! The Uncensored Bible finally reveals what your Sunday School teacher was afraid to tell you or did not know.”
And Publishers Weekly says:
In this unexpectedly delightful (if juvenile) little book, two Bible professors and a journalist unpack some of the more outrageous interpretations of the Hebrew Bible, focusing on juicy tales of sex, dysfunctional families and body parts.
What if Eve was not made from Adam’s rib bone but, as one biblical scholar has suggested, his penis bone? (Don’t laugh this theory away until you’ve read the chapter.)
Despite taking on serious questions of biblical interpretation and Hebrew translations, the authors maintain a tongue-in-cheek demeanor as they address questions like Did Abraham pimp Sarah? Did Ruth and Boaz have a roll in the hay on the threshing floor? and Was Joseph a cross-dresser? (Answers: yes, maybe, and probably not.)
One chapter proposes that the assassin Ehud (Judges 3) escaped King Eglon’s rooftop after murdering him by slipping down through Eglon’s latrine. Some of the authors’ conclusions are a stretch, but it’s always in good fun. This is perfect bathroom reading, and PW means that in the best possible way. (June)
Writing in TIME Magazine, David Bieman explains:
If you can remember scouring your parents paperbacks in search of their spiciest pages, you can understand the impulse behind the recently-published book The Uncensored Bible: The Bawdy and Naughty Bits of the Good Book. After all, for hundreds of years, the Bible was the only book available in many households. Most of the spicier stuff is located in the Old Testament (the Hebrew Bible) which is more straightforward about sex than the New, if only because it is presents more narratives about imperfect (or simply randy) people. Here are some of the hotter (or weirder) chapters and verses:
Genesis 38: “And what he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord.”
Where does the word “onanism” come from? In this passage Judah, one of the sons of the patriarch Joseph, arranges a marriage between his own son, Er, and a woman named Tamar. But Er dies before the wedding, and his younger brother Onan is expected to take his place. Rather than fathering a child who could compete with him for Judah’s inheretence, Onan famously “spilled his seed on the ground.” The authors of The Uncensored Bible note helpfully that the writer Dorothy Parker named her parrot Onan “for the same reason.”
God, unamused, strikes Onan down, leaving Tamar unhusbanded and untethered from Judah’s line. Desperate, she dresses as a prostitute and has sex with Judah. When she reveals her identity to him, he admits that “She is more right than I, since I did not give her to [his third son] Shelah.” One of the resulting twins was an ancestor of King David, and (on paper, at least) of Jesus.
Song of Songs, 1-8: “While the king was on his couch, my nard gave forth its fragrance.”
The Song of Songs has no real narrative element: It is straightforwardly erotic. Whether the poem, which begins with the exhortation, “Oh, that you would kiss me with the kisses of your mouth,” is about human love or, as Jewish and Christian tradition have it, an allegory for God as the “husband” of his people or for Christ’s love for the church, its manifest meaning is unblushing both in its descriptions of the two lovers’ bodies (“Your belly is a heap of wheat, encircled with lilies”) and easily-decipherable euphemisms for sexual acts (“With great delight I sat in his shadow and is his fruit was sweet to my taste/ He brought me to the banquet house and his banner over me was love.”) Given scripture’s dual-use of hands and feet, the verse “My beloved put his hand by the latch of the door, and my heart yearned for him” becomes even steamier than on first glance. The Uncensored Bible authors also point out that some of the poem’s common English translations, such as the line “your rounded thighs are like jewels,” add mystery to the original, where the word “thighs” might better be rendered as a more intimate part of the anatomy. The song, which has been used as a kind of marriage guide for generations of believers, deserves to be read, without snickers, as one of the West’s great love poems.