n Journal for Semitics - "What can be said about absence?" Notes on the Song of Songs and modern children's Bibles

Volume 23, Issue Issue-2ii
  • ISSN : 1013-8471


In the religious vocabulary of both the Jewish and Christian tradition the Song of Songs, more than any other book of the Hebrew or Christian Bible, concurs with Robert Carroll's dictum that the Bible is "an adult book written by adults for adults". No matter how carefully the parameters of canon are observed by the authors of children's Bibles, it is generally assumed that Song of Songs does not contentually lend itself to a change of register. Most scholars would agree that the very nature of the material contained in this book seems to call for some form of acceptable censorship in a society that shields the child from depictions of excessive violence, misogyny, overt sexuality and so forth. As a vehicle for the transfer of the moral prerogatives of one generation to the next, the children's Bible becomes an often under-appreciated commentator on what the adult community considers most valuable to convey to the next community. As Bottigheimer asks in relation to religion for the young in Bible story collections, "What can be said about absence?" Within the tradition of children's Bibles, excision, repression or censorship is never equal to permanent removal from the canon. It can also signal transfer from the written text to the integral accompaniment of the pictorial, the only "text" the young child reads without the performance or interpretation of the parent. In this context the absence of an entire biblical book is problematic, unless the tradition finds a means of explaining it away or incorporating it in some other manner. These explanations of where the book disappears to often prove to be particularly revealing about modern religious collectives' attitudes towards the Bible and its content.

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