Adam Miller’s The Sun Has Burned My Skin

Boom-chic-a-wah-wah. This is Adam Miller’s hot take on a sexy Biblical classic, so put on some Barry White and slip into something a little more comfortable, because it’s business time.

I remember as a young Mormon being made aware of this titillating book of pseudo-scripture. It was also a welcome loophole to the missionary injunction against reading novels (scriptures only!). Reading it secretly every now and again made me feel like a normal human being for five minutes, a feeling that never seemed to last as a missionary. Partly this was because it was clearly erotically themed, but also because some GAs had angrily suggested that it not be read, or even, in Dead Poets’ Society fashion, that it be ripped out of the Bible! Doing something forbidden was the easiest path to feeling normal.

The original Song of Solomon is not very long. The food and gardening and hunting metaphors get a little mixed up in the euphemistic sex thing, making it all seem somewhat ineffable (or maybe the author just had a food fetish). Adam’s take on it is even shorter but much more effable.

Sometimes less is more, and this is one of those times.

From the original, Song of Solomon 2:4:

Refresh me with apples, sustain me with raisin cakes, For I am lovesick.

Image result for those aren't pillows gifSee what I mean about the food fetish?

Your temples behind your veil are like the halves of a pomegranate.

All I’m saying is those aren’t pomegranates.

The full title is The Sun Has Burned My Skin: A Modest Paraphrase of Solomon’s Song of Songs. Modest here refers to several things: it’s a simplified version, it’s more relatable to average Joes and not just sultans with harems (like Solomon), it’s modernized, and it’s honestly kinda tame.

What’s particularly refreshing here is the lack of male gaze. This isn’t a one-sided male fantasy involving pomegranates and plump roes (some sort of deer, apparently–like the Sears & Roebuck catalog). The book is about lovers, and about the love between a man and woman that brings them together. It’s about the physical desire between two people, but also the emotional link that exists when lovers are apart. Having read it, I can’t imagine any pearl-clutcher recommending that the pages be stapled together or torn out. It’s a modest paraphrase indeed. It’s also mostly written from a woman’s perspective, and Miller points out that it’s one book of the Bible that is theorized to have been written by a woman. No wonder it’s so reviled! As Adam explains, though, he’s not a woman, so you are still getting things through his modern filter:

What you’ll get here is that ancient, feminine voice refracted through the heart of a long-married, middle-aged, bourgeois, first-world, twenty-first century white guy with literary pretensions and three kids. Such refraction comes with real costs.

Regardless those limitations and blind spots, Adam reminds us that the Song of Songs is most certainly a consensual experience, one in which the woman is every bit as involved as the man (and often moreso).

This kind of equality and reciprocity between the sexes is, in scripture, alarmingly rare.

This is an important addition in Adam Miller’s burgeoning series of modern readings of Bible books: Romans (Grace Is Not God’s Backup Plan) and Ecclesiastes (Nothing New Under the Sun). For anyone who’s ever felt that the KJV adds too much distance and confusion to the text, these are great alternatives, capturing the spirit of each of the books and rendering them much more useful in Christian life.

I can’t wait to read what he does next. If he can find a way to make Numbers interesting, I’m all in.

Comments

  1. “Those aren’t pomegranates”
    It’s a great book.

  2. Bless Adam Miller – one more time. Man is a gem.

  3. KJV Song of Solomon 2:5 “Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love.”
    Just bein’ amused at “sick of love”/”lovesick”.

    KJV Song of Solomon 6:7 “As a piece of a pomegranate are thy temples within thy locks.”
    ESV 6:7 “Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate behind your veil.”
    Lutherbibel 1545 6:7 “Deine Wangen sind wie ein Ritz am Granatapfel zwischen deinen Zöpfen.” literally: Your cheeks are like a scratch/cleft/scar/crack on the pomegranate between your braids/pigtails.
    Nouvelle Edition de Genève – NEG1979 “Ta joue est comme une moitié de grenade, Derrière ton voile…” i.e, Your cheek is like a half of a pomegranate, Behind your veil …
    Sorry, no Hebrew or Septuagint Greek here. Does Adam tell what translations/texts he worked from?

  4. Aussie Mormon says:

    The SoS6:7 looks like the NIV version based on https://www.biblestudytools.com/song-of-solomon/6-7-compare.html

    Not sure which one the 2:5 verse uses though. It seems to be a mix of several.

  5. Adam does specify the texts he used as primarily KJV (New English Translation), plus Ariel and Chana Block’s translation and occasional references to the original Hebrew text.

  6. Will there eventually be a Kindle edition?

  7. Bryan – yes, kindle is forthcoming.

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