I fell in love with this song the first time I heard it. Just the sound of it makes me happy, despite the decidedly odd scansion of some of the lines. And I found myself pondering the lyrics, trying to figure out the backstory.
I finally decided that it was an elegy for christianity. The biblical references are obvious, of course, but the story just didn’t come together for me until I cast the voice telling the story as the institution itself and the story itself covering more than a thousand years. Everything made sense to me then.