By Alexandra Silver
Editor of The New Oxford Annotated Bible Michael Coogan recently applied his thorough knowledge of Scripture to a universal and eternally relevant topic: sex. In God and Sex: What the Bible Really Says, he discusses everything from marriage and prostitution to "fire" in God's own loins (yeah, you may want to reread the Book of Ezekiel). Coogan puts the Bible, which is often inconsistent on such hot topics, in perspective, and you may find yourself surprised by what the ancient texts have to say.
Your book begins with a discussion of the erotic Song of Solomon. Does its inclusion in the Bible mean there was a positive attitude toward sex back then?
I think there was a positive attitude toward sex in general, because reproduction was essential. Anything that led to reproduction was certainly viewed positively, and the idea of refraining from sex for religious reasons was something that was fairly unusual in Judaism in most periods. In many passages it's a highly erotic text, and it was a text that rabbinic literature tells us used to be sung in taverns. Yet when I was in seminary many decades ago, it was razored out of many of the Bibles that we had.