What I do not find acceptable, however, is when people say that the Song is "erotic." I have heard this over and over again. Even the Pope seems to hint at this idea. Just yesterday, while listening to a Podcast by a conservative Christian philosopher I highly respect, I heard him repeat this idea as well.
The problem is, such a claim does not hold water when one studies the evidence. There is no doubt that the Song is highly sexual; but this doesn't necessarily make it "erotic." And anyone who insists that erotic love is necessary for any sexual relationship - and points to the "sanctified" Song of Songs as an example - is greatly mistaken. The book simply does not make the case for this.
What it does make the case for is the fact that agape love - othercentered, alterocentric love - is the basis for sexual relationships. After all, when translators came along and translated the Old Testament into Greek, they had a perfect opportunity to bring out the supposed erotic nature of the Song by translating the Hebrew word for love (ahabah) as eros. Quite surprisingly, they did the opposite. Over and over again - 19 times, in fact - they utilized the word agape, while never using eros.
Of course, the LXX translators weren't necessarily inspired like the original Old Testament authors themselves. They were prone to making mistakes. But I don't think that they did in this instance. After all, when the New Testament authors came along, never once did they use the word eros either. They didn't use it in reference to God (and yet the Pope, in the above article, mysteriously would have us believe that God's "love may certainly be called eros"), nor did they use it in reference to the love that husbands and wives should have for one another. Quite simply, the Bible (with the exception of two instances in the book of Proverbs) does not touch erotic love.
To put it simply: erotic love is unbliblical.
Why all the fuss? Because we have subtly bought into the idea that selfish "love" is somehow acceptable. And that is what eros is, plain and simple (despite what others may have us think at times). Sexuality, in its pure and biblical sense, is not about erotic love; it is about agape love. And the same holds true, of course, for all of our interpersonal relations - sexual or otherwise.
Thus, Carsten Johnsen fittingly reminds us:
I am not saying one single disparaging word about the natural beauty in a woman's body. It certainly is not Eros who has had anything to do with creating that. The Creator's name is Jesus Christ, and He is Agape. It is not Eros who has made sex a pleasant experience, any more than he has made strawberries taste delicious. It is God, and God only, who has prepared all things that are good - really good. It is He who has invented feminine beauty (Agape and Eros, p. 40).
He then goes on to say, quite appropriately:
Accordingly, there could be nothing whatsoever wrong with that beauty; that is - and here is the important point - as part and parcel of the woman possessing the beauty. And when I am speaking about a "woman," I am again speaking about a totality, including an endless number of realities such as her God-dependence as a creature, her rights and responsibilities as a person endowed with freedom of will, etc., etc.In fact, there need not be anything wrong at all about that woman as the gorgeously beautiful one, in terms of a real object, reasonably seen. On the other hand, there may be something terribly wrong with the eyes that see. For an eye that stares its eyeballs out at torn-off (that is bleedingly lacerated) particles of an original totality, or at sheer emptiness, that eye is bound to become torn and empty itself. That is where the tragedy comes in (Ibid., pp. 40, 41).
So let's make sure we get it right about eros and agape. That is, erotic love has nothing to do with the Bible, God, or Christians.