Feet, Navels and Other Naughty Things

So it starts with James McGrath, who started a discussion about the the Book of Ruth. He reflects on some of the central themes, including the romance – or lack thereof – between Ruth and Boaz:

My students were fairly sure that there isn’t really any [romance] in the book – certainly not in the sense that we find it in the Song of Songs … A textbook I used to use spoke of “romance” in the book, while the one I currently use is clear that modern romance simply isn’t there, but something that modern readers in certain cultural contexts tend to read into the text.

This led Ian at Irreducible Complexity to reflect on the rather earthy joke at the center of the text, which makes it clear that it was a crude seduction rather than a romance. Ruth is said to have approached Boaz while he was passed out from drinking and “uncovered his feet and laid down.” Ian points out that there’s a double entendre here that’s probably original to the oral versions:

The word I translated ‘feet’ (“margeloth”) seems to be deliberately ambiguous: elsewhere the sex organs are euphemistically called ‘feet’ [...] I should be explicit and say that I am not suggesting that ‘margeloth’ should be translated ‘crotch’ here. Those who want Ruth to be pious rightly point out that this is overstepping the text. But the nuance wouldn’t have been lost, surely. Knowing it could be used that way, it seems a stretch to suggest it isn’t used with at least a nod and a wink.

… which brings us back to the Song of Solomon, the english versions of which led that Jeff Carter guy to wax limerick-al about translations and naughty words:

Solomon described her, foot to head
for poetry woos women to bed;
your navel is refined
may it never lack wine
but “navel” isn’t what Solomon said.

Our English translations are too tame
to accept what’s actually named,
for we can’t even say
the word vajayjay,
and we cover it all with great shame.

  • Bob Jase

    It does make me wonder about the Magdeline annointing Jesus’ feet.

  • kessy_athena

    So if the original texts are still in touch with reality when it comes to sex, when did the “sex is evil” idea get introduced to christianity?

    • Michael

      That would be Paul.

      • Bob Jase

        Saint Paul, not Paul Lynde.

      • JohnH

        Sex is evil comes by way of certain elements of Greek Philosophy that were popular at the time. Paul may have been influenced a little bit by it, but sex is icky really took off later. St. Jerome and (to a less extreme) Augustine thought all sex was sinning, even in marriage, and thought women were sort of inherently evil for instilling desires into men and that the human race really shouldn’t reproduce at all, ever. Jerome literally killed a girl by attempting to have her not be sinful in nature.

  • Greg G

    There are a few stories about women washing Jesus’ feet with expensive oils and wiping up the mess with her hair. (Try not think about There’s Something About Mary here.) The disciple worry more about the price of the lotion.

    But what are we to think about Jesus washing the disciple’s feet?

    • John C

      Is an act of exceeding humility, the form of the servant having ‘emptied himself’ (Phil 2:7) making himself of no reputation in becoming the servant of all.

      Love compelled him, God is love.

      • Mogg

        Yes John, we know the traditional interpretation. Wanna have a go at speculating in line with the discussion?
        Personally I don’t think the connotations would be the same given that the gospels were written in a different language and for a non-Israelite audience.

        • Johan

          John’s drug addled brain won’t be capable of giving an honest answer. His religious revelations came from some kind of brain damage and he shows us his brain damage with every comment.

    • Fox

      Hilarious to think about, but I suppose sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

      • Jabster

        … except in the Bible where it could be a carrot, a small island, a metaphor or a civic law that no longer applies to us.