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Sex and Violence in the Bible: A Survey of Explicit Content in the Holy Book by Joseph W. Smith III
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I can’t say I enjoyed reading this book. The book deals with difficult subject matter and it is a concentrated dose. There are certainly some queasy stomach moments and probably worse if you tend toward the weaker stomach side of things.
Having said that, I do think it is an important book. Smith covers subjects in the Bible that are not often taught, or not taught well. He does so with serious mindedness and not sophmoric humor. He takes his cue of how to deal with these subjects from the way the Bible deals with them. The Bible is honest and plain in treating these delicate issues. The Biblical writers never sensationalized the material, nor did they go into gratuitous detail.
Smith points out that only about 3-4% of the Bible’s verses make explicit references, so there is no preoccupation with these things like we see in the culture around us today. When the Bible touches on these delicate matters, it is often with euphemism or figure of speech that is restrained and delicate, not vulgar.
We are most acquainted with two extremes in dealing with these issues from the Bible. One extreme is a Victorian sensibility that either ignores them altogether or tries to spiritualize them into something other than what they are. The result of that is that the Scripture is neglected or it is actually corrupted to mean something other than the Holy Spirit’s intent. The other extreme is to obsess over these passages and deal with them in graphically vulgar terms and slang phrases. This is prevalent among many internet celebrity preachers in their sermons, books, and blogs. These subjects seem to occupy a much higher place than 3-4% of their content and their language far exceeds the restraint of the text of Scripture.
If you are committed to faithful, biblical exposition, and you should be, then you are going to encounter these passages as you go verse-by-verse through books of the Bible. Smith’s book will be a helpful reference for these passages. He mostly deals plainly with what is actually written and doesn’t indulge in a lot of speculation. His notes will also help point you to further study as needed.
I recommend this book for every serious student of God’s Word. Sometimes, the delicacy of the biblical expression is not immediately clear and it requires thought and study to get the meaning. This book will be a helpful reference. I read it through, but you may not want to do that. You may want to only refer to chapters that deal with specific subjects you’re studying, or use the index to reference particular verses.
Remember: All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17