A House of Wine in the Song of Songs

I was reading the Hebrew of the Song of Songs and notice ??? ???? (the beit hayyayin) in Song 2:4. I thought, “Wait a second! I didn’t remember a ‘House of Wine’ in the Song.” So, I took a look at the English translations and most of them are lousy. Most of them have things like “banqueting house” (ESV, JPS, KJV, RSV, NRSV), “banquet hall” (NAB, NASB, NIV). The Latin has “cellam vinarium” which the Douay-Rheims dutifully translates as “cellar of wine.” This reminds me of St. Thomas’ injunction regarding the mystic wine cellar in his Sixteen Precepts, which I wrote about a while back. Only the translations of the Septuagint get it right as “wine house” (at least Brenton’s translation). So what’s the deal?! Clearly, we clearly have a “house of wine” here and every translation opts for some kind of bizarre dynamic equivalence. Frustrating. My tendency is to believe that the KJV translators were prejudiced against wine drinking and all the more recent translations followed suit. Well, next time anyone asks, you’ll know that a House of Wine is to be found in the regions of the Song of Songs.

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