by Jame. E. Smith
Reviewed by Nathan Battey
There are two points I did not agree with the author concerning: First, the writer believe the term "uncovering the feet" is generally used as a euphemism for sex or an act associated with sex. Though this may indeed be the case, I do not believe (as does the author) that such was the case in the story of Ruth and Boaz. Second, I do not fully agree with the author's take on divorce and remarriage; though this is not the focus of the book, it does come up at one point. Smith believe the divorce laws of Matthew 5 and 19 apply to believers and unbelievers alike while I believe according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 that the divorce laws governing Christians (1 Cor. 7:10-11) are different from those governing unbelievers (1 Cor. 7:12-15). For a further discussion of this point I recommend James D. Bales books, "Not Under Bondage" and "The Scope of the Covenants". I realize this is a hotly debated topic and really beyond the scope of Smith's book or this review, but I would like to make the readers aware of the differing positions and the one I believe to be true for the sake of their awareness of the issue.
To help readers have a better understanding of the content and purpose of the book, I will allow the author to explain it in his own words by providing the preface to the book:
The biblical writers were somewhat ambivalent about sex. Some passages truly value sex and celebrate it joyously (Genesis 18:12; Genesis 26:8; Song of Solomon 4:1-16); others call for times of abstaining from sexual activity (Exodus 19:15; 1 Samuel 21:4-5); still others seem to prize the celibate life above the normal marital relationship (1 Corinthians 7:1-9, 37-38; Revelation 14:4). Positively, God blesses sex for both com-panionship and procreation (Genesis 1:28; 2:18-25). Fertility of women was a blessing while barrenness was a curse (Genesis 29:30-30:24; 1 Samuel 1:5-20). Basically, the Bible sees sex as good because God created it.
Why this book? I am a Bible teacher. About four percent of the verses in the Bible have something to do with sexual matters. Much of this material I have treated in commentaries over the years; but the impact of the biblical message on sex can best be appreciated when this material is brought together and treated topically.
Another reason I have written this book is so that believers can have a framework for discussion of the issues surrounding sex. Most Christians are influenced far more than they realize by the secular world. There is a good deal of brainwashing even of those who profess faith in Christ.
The silence of the church on matters sexual also calls for a study of this kind. The subject is taboo in most congregations. Parents raise strong objection when the topic is discussed in youth groups. Those who are inclined to present the biblical teaching on sexuality have few reliable and understandable dis-cussions available to them as a resource.
There is another reason I have written this book. Atheists have attacked the Bible through the years because of the many frank discussions of the sexual failings of its characters. When I was a high school boy I stumbled across a book in a used book store that did just this very thing. The sexual episodes reported in the Bible were exaggerated and misrepresented in other ways in order to discredit the Bible as a book that sets the standards in morality. More recently the American Atheist Press published a similar book entitled The X-rated Bible (1985). Though not as Sex in the Bible transparent in its aim, God and Sex by Harvard professor Mi-chael Coogan (2010) serves much the same purpose.
A vast amount of serious material has been written on the subject of sex in the Bible. While I have read widely in this area, I have only been able to read a fraction of what has been written on this theme. One of the best books is Sex and Love in the Bible by Cole.
I will be candid upfront about what this book is not. This is not a counseling book, and it is no substitute for professional help in sexual matters when that is what is needed. This is not a book on sociology. I do not present here data and discussion concerning current trends in sexual matters, although occasional illustrations from contemporary society might be offered. This is not a book in sexual ethics, although some of the discussion will touch on ethical issues. This is not a book on cultural anthropol-ogy, although some discussion of practices of cultures surround-ing Israel may be used to illustrate biblical passages. Least of all, this is not a book on the mechanics of sex.
The aim of this book is to wrestle with biblical teaching about sex and biblical attitudes toward sex. This book is a theo-logical study, for there is in the Bible a theology of sex. This is an exegetical book, as we will seek to dissect and unpack the passages that allude to sexual matters. This is a book designed to lay a foundation for further discussion and research into the is-sues raised.
I understand that this can be a dangerous book. I run the risk of being misunderstood on controversial matters. I am confident that in some paragraphs I will be accused of “hate speech” for simply setting forth what the Bible clearly teaches. I suspect that prudes will protest that I am too liberal, and libertines, that I am not liberal enough. I write only to win the approval of the God who in the beginning created sex and called it good. If he deems this work balanced and honest I will have achieved my purpose.
James E. Smith