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Sunday Study: Does the Bible Teach that a Rape Victim has to Marry her Rapist?

July 5th, 2009 by Matt

In our recent discussion on the Bible’s teachings on slavery John Loftus asked Madeleine, “if you were raped you should marry your rapist? Get real. … Would you want to be treated the way the Bible says women and slaves should be treated?” Loftus then dedicated a post on Debunking Christianity to Madeleine’s “stupidity” for her answer where he elaborated on his interpretation of various verses on the treatment of women in the comments section. 

Loftus is not alone in contending that the Bible teaches that rape victims had to marry their rapists. Michael Martin states that,

when rape is condemned in the Old Testament the woman’s rights and her psychological welfare are ignored.[15] For example: “If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, then the man who lay with her shall give to the father fifty skelels of silver, and she shall be his wife, and he may not put her away all of his days (Deut:22; 28-29).” Here the victim of rape is as treated the property of the father. Since the rapist has despoiled the father’s property he must pay a bridal fee. The women apparently has no say in the matter and is forced to marry the person who raped her. Notice also if they are not discovered, no negative judgment is forthcoming. The implicit message seems to be that if you rape an unbetrothed virgin, be sure not to get caught.[1] [sic]

Martin is not alone is making this claim, I often hear this claim brought up in dialogues and discussions with those skeptical of the Christian faith. Not long ago a correspondent cited that most medieval commentators taught, on the basis of Deut 22:28-29, that a woman who had been raped was commanded by God to marry her rapist. In particular he referred me to Maimonides who wrote, “by this prohibition a man is forbidden to divorce a woman whom he has raped.”[2] 

In this post I want to address this line of argument. My response is two-fold, first I will argue that Martin’s translation of Deuteronomy is mistaken, second, I will suggest that the medieval commentators my correspondent referred to actually utilised a different definition of rape to that used today. My conclusion will be that this law does not command a woman to marry her rapist; it rather commands men who have sex with women to follow their sexual advances up with marital commitment, and teaches that failure to do so is forbidden by God.

Martin’s Translation of Deuteronomy 22:28-29
Martin cites Deut 22:28-29 as dealing with a situation where “a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her.” He immediately states, without argument, that this refers to acts of rape. Although he does not say, it appears this conclusion is based on the verb “seizes” in the English version he cites. Martin imports into this word the connotation of violent, coercive, abduction so that the sexual intercourse that follows is a rape. There are several problems with this claim.

First, and most obvious, the English word “seizes” is not in The Torah. The word in The Torah is tabas; in Hebrew, tabas “does not in itself indicate anything about the use of force.”[3] While the word can refer to the capture of a city,[4] it is also used for “handling” the harp and flute,[5] the sword,[6] a sickle,[7] a shield,[8] oars or a bow,[9] “taking” God’s name[10] or dealing with the law of God.[11] The word simply means to “lay hold of,” “to take hold of something” or to “grasp it in hand.” The more formal King James translation interprets the passage as, “If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her and lie with her.”

Second, there are good reasons in this context for interpreting the word in a manner where it does not have a connotation of force or violence. Here I will mention three.

The first reason is that the context strongly suggests it. Had the author intended to refer to rape then he would have used the word chazak which does carry the connotations Martin plays on. This is reinforced by the fact that three verses earlier the author does refer to a rape. The law immediately preceding this one begins, “But if a man finds a betrothed young woman in the countryside, and the man forces her and lies with her …” here the word used is chazak, which suggests a violent seizure is used. Bahsen notes, “Just three verses later (Deut. 25:28), the verb is changed to simply ‘take hold of’ her – indicating an action less intense and violent than the action dealt with in verse 25:25 (viz., rape).”[12]

The second reason is that Deut 22:28-29 actually repeats a law which has already been laid down in the book of Exodus. When one examines this law it is clear it does not refer to rape. The word “Deuteronomy” in Greek means “second law;” throughout the book of Deuteronomy, Moses repeats laws already laid down in the book of Exodus, sometimes expanding on them. The Decalogue, for example, which was delivered on Sinai in Exodus 20, is repeated again in Deuteronomy 5. The laws about releasing an ebed (or indentured servant) in Exodus 21:1 are repeated and expanded on in Deuteronomy 15:12-18. The same occurs with the law under discussion. Gordon Wenham points out that that Deut 22:28-29 is a repetition of a law spelled out in Exodus 22:15, which states “If a man seduces a virgin who is not pledged to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay the bride-price, and she shall be his wife.”[13] Here, the penalty for sleeping with an unbethrothed virgin is that the man must marry the woman which is why the man must pay the mohar or “bride-price” to the bride’s father. A mohar was security money (50 shekels) that the groom paid to the bride’s father. It was held in trust for the woman in case the man later abandoned her or divorced her without just cause.[14] Such money protected women from the poverty that could occur if they were abandoned with children. What is important, however, is that we are left in no doubt that in Exodus 22:15 the case deals, not with rape, but with what was traditionally called seduction.

The third reason is that, to interpret the law in Deut 21:28-29 as a rape is to make God the commander of a morally heinous command. Martin is correct, given what we know about the psychological harm that rape inflicts upon its victims to command that a woman marry her rapist is cruel and hence clashes with strong moral intuitions. Elsewhere I have defended the claim that if one interpretation of divine commands coheres better with our moral intuitions than another then that fact constitutes evidence for the former interpretation. All else being equal, an interpretation that coheres with our pre-theoretical moral intuitions is always preferable. This hermeneutical principle applies here.

The passage then does not refer to a rape. The Hebrew word does not, by itself, indicate rape and interpreting it this way both ignores the context where the word chazak is used to designate a rape. It also makes the second law inconsistent with the exposition of the same law in Exodus 22:15 and also with our prior moral discernment about what is right and wrong. Seduction, however, is consistent with the meaning of tabas, the context it is used in, the original law it was derived from and it coheres with our moral intuitions. These factors, to me, provide decisive reasons for rejecting Martin’s interpretation.

It is worth noting that the fact that this passage refers to a seduction and not rape is really not news. Bahnsen notes that, “one will find that many competent authorities in Biblical interpretation understand Deuteronomy 22:28-29 to apply to cases of seduction, not forcible rape;”[15] he lists several,

Meredith Kline: “The seducer of an unbetrothed virgin was obliged to take her as wife, paying the customary bride price and forfeiting the right of divorce” (Treaty of the Great King: The Covenant Structure of Deuteronomy, p. 111).

Matthew Henry: “. . . if he and the damsel did consent, he should be bound to marry her, and never to divorce her, how much soever she was below him and how unpleasing soever she might afterwards be to him” (Commentary on the Whole Bible, ad loc.).

J. A. Thompson: “Seduction of a young girl. Where the girl was not betrothed and no legal obligations had been entered into, the man was forced to pay the normal bride-price and marry the girl. He was not allowed, subsequently, to send her away (Deuteronomy: Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale Series, p. 237).
In Israel’s Laws and legal Precedents (1907), Charles Foster Kent (professor of Biblical Literature at Yale University) clearly distinguished between the law pertaining to rape in Dt. 22:25-27 and the law pertaining to seduction in Dt. 22:28-29 (pp. 117-118).

Keil and Delitzsch classify Deuteronomy 22:28-29 under the category of “Seduction of a virgin,” comment that the crime involved was ‘their deed” – implying consent of the part of both parties – and liken this law to that found in Exodus 22:16-17 (Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 3, p. 412).

John Calvin: “The remedy is, that he who has corrupted the girl should be compelled to marry her, and also to give her a dowry from his own property, lest, if he should afterwards cast her off, she should go away from her bed penniless” (Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Form of a Harmony, vol. 3, pp. 83-84.

J. C. Connell: “Although she consented, it was still his responsibility to protect her from lifelong shame resulting from the sin of the moment by marrying her, not without payment of the regular dowry” (“Exodus,” New bible Commentary, ed. F. Davidson, p. 122).

Adam Clarke: “This was an exceedingly wise and humane law, and must have operated powerfully against seduction and fornication; because the person who might feel inclined to take advantage of a young woman knew that he must marry her, and give her a dowry, if her parents consented” (The Holy Bible . . . with a Commentary and Critical Notes, vol. 1, p. 414).

Alan Cole: “If a man seduces a virgin: . . . he must acknowledge her as his wife, unless her father refuses” (Exodus: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale Series, p. 173).

James Jordan: “the punishment for the seducer is that he must marry the girl, unless her father objects, and that he may never divorce her (according to Dt. 22:29)” (The Law of the Covenant, p. 148).

Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.: “Exodus 22:16-17 takes up the problem of the seduction of a maiden who was not engaged . . .. Here the seducer must pay the ‘bride-price’ and agree to marry her” (Toward Old Testament Ethics, p. 107).[16]

Hence a skeptic who was interested in what the passage actually says could easily have discovered what I have noted by consulting a commentary. 

Medieval Commentators
If many post enlightenment and modern commentators realise that this passage is about a seduction and not a rape how does one explain the fact, alluded to above, that many medieval commentators apparently interpreted the passage to refer to rape? Here one needs to be attentive to the fact that words change their meaning over time. Medieval writers utilised a wider definition of rape than modern people do. In the middle ages the word ‘rape’ could include not only what we call rape today but also what was called “seduction,” where a man seduces a virgin he is not married to with her consent.

Isidore De Seville, for example, stated “seduction [stuprum], or rape, properly speaking, is unlawful intercourse, and takes its name from its causing corruption: wherefore he that is guilty of rape is a seducer.”[17] Similarly, Thomas Aquinas wrote,

They [rape and seduction] coincide when a man employs force in order unlawfully to violate a virgin. This force is employed sometimes both towards the virgin and towards her father; and sometimes towards the father and not to the virgin, for instance if she allows herself to be taken away by force from her father’s house. Again, the force employed in rape differs in another way, because sometimes a maid is taken away by force from her parents’ house, and is forcibly violated: while sometimes, though taken away by force, she is not forcibly violated, but of her own consent, whether by act of fornication or by the act of marriage: for the conditions of rape remain no matter how force is employed.[18]

Hence it is not entirely accurate to read the word “rape” in Medieval commentaries as we understand it today.

 

In conclusion then, it is very doubtful that Deut 22:28-29 commands women who have been raped to marry their rapists.

[1] Michael Martin “Theism, Atheism and Rape.”
[2] Moses Maimonides The Negative Commandments 358 translated by Charles B Chavel 324.
[3] Greg Bahnsen “Pre-Marital Sexual Relations: What is the Moral Obligation When Repeated Incidents are Confessed?”
[4] Deut 20:19.
[5] Gen 4:21.
[6] Ezek 21:11; 30:21.
[7] Jer 50:16.
[8] Jer 46:9.
[9] Amos 2:15.
[10] Prov 30:9.
[11] Jer 2:8.
[12] Bahnsen “Pre-Marital Sexual Relations.”
[13] Gordon Wenham “Bethulah: A Girl of Marriageable Age” Vetus Testamentum 22 (1972) 326-348.
[14] See the discussion in David Instone Brewer Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Context (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002).
[15] Bahnsen “Pre-Marital Sexual Relations.”
[16] Ibid.
[17] Quoted in Summa Theologica II-II Question 15, Article 7, Objection 1.
[18] Summa Theologica II-II Question 15, Article 7, Objection 4.

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48 responses so far ↓

  • Simple answer: Only if you're a Bible literalist. Otherwise, no.

  • Good piece, Matt. The question, of course, has nothing to do with "biblical literalism" — this isn't a matter of trying to work out a metaphor. The penalty was a penalty upon the seducer.

    All of this has been known for a very long time. But too many self-professed infidels prefer the thrill of a snappy retort to the patient examination of the facts.

  • "The implicit message seems to be that if you rape an unbetrothed virgin, be sure not to get caught."

    Isn't this the implicit message most criminals keep in mind when they contemplate breaking the law regarding any crime?

    Recent blog post: Sunday Study: Does the Bible Teach that a Rape Victim has to Marry her Rapist?

  • Excellent answer Matt. Enjoying this series and the resulting discussion. Keep up the good work.

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  • This reminds me a of a discussion I had a few years back over at Theologyweb (my nickname in that thread is "Dr. Jack Bauer"). It's another one of those cases where pointing out the facts is a bit like taking away somebody's toys. They might not tell you that you're wrong, but they sure will cry a lot!

  • For some reason links don't work, so here's the url of the discussion i referred to in my previous post: http://www.theologyweb.com/campus/showthread.php?t=77612

  • Wow, excellent post! Thanks for the thorough research.

  • I think you've probably got me on this one. Nice article. I never said I was right about everything, although if God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son and if God allowed Jepthah to think he was pleaseing God by sacrificing his daughter, then who knows what such a barbaric God might command? I'll do some more thinking about this.

    I dispute your third reason though, since God supposedly commanded genocide and never explicitly condemned forced servitude (i.e. slavery). In it's place may I suggest a different third reason. It's just hard to think any society would allow such a barbaric command if a victim of a rape must marry her rapist. I can think of no society that would allow for this and the consequences. But then, this WAS a barbaric society. Just read Judges 19-21.

    Cheers.

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  • John, let me make few quick of points in response,
    First, seeing I can't in a comments box go into all the exegetical issues viz a viz Abram/Isaac, Jepthah, Canaanites lets grant your intepretations are correct. What follows? it follows that God in scripture gives a general command to all human beings to not kill the innocent and on two or three occasions granted an exception to some individuals for a particular occasion to do so. I am not sure this shows God to be “barbaric” to draw that conclusion you'd need to say a good person never ever in any circumstances would allow the killing of the innocent, few contemporary secular ethicists would accept this claim.

    Second, regarding your rejection of my third reason and proposed replacement. I am inclined to think that, if one is an atheist that is a sensible position to take regarding the scriptures.

    Plantinga, Wolterstorff note that how you interpret a document depends on who one considers the author of the document to be. If the scriptures if scripture is the word of a perfectly good, rational God, then one has prima facie reasons for discounting interpretations which are abhorent, contradictory etc, hence something like my third reason will be a good principle of interpretation. But if you think that scripture is simply a series of writings by different human authors of the past from a less enlightened time. One will not have prima facie reasons for discounting interpretations which are contradictory, immoral etc unless you think the society of the time was unlikely to provide such interpretations.

    The problem is that skeptics are trying to critique Christianity, hence they need to critque the bible as Christians understand it. In this context one cannot start of assuming athiesm is true, use this assumption to infer a conclusion and then use the conclusion to attack Christianity, that will beg the question somewhat. It may be true that if God does not exist and did not author the bible the sensible thing to say is that its nonsense, the problem is Christians don't think God does not exist. So that says nothing about their position.

    Third you writeBut then, this WAS a barbaric society. Just read Judges 19-21. yes I have read those chapters. The problem is that these chapters criticse the actions of the society in question for what they did, and the actions are described for the purpose of condemning them, hence the passages show an awareness that the actions, specifically rape, were wrong.

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  • John, let me make a few quick responses,
    First, seeing I can't in a comments box go into all the exegetical issues viz a viz Abram/Isaac, Jepthah, Canaanites etc lets grant your intepretations are correct, what follows? It follows that God in scripture gives a general command to all human beings to not kill the innocent and on two or three occasions granted an exception to some individuals for a particular occasion. I am not sure this shows God to be “barbaric”. To draw that conclusion you'd need to say a good person never ever in any circumstances would allow the killing of the innocent, few contemporary secular ethicists would accept this claim.

    Second, regarding your rejection of my third reason and proposed replacement. I am inclined to agree that, if one is an atheist that is a sensible position to take.Plantinga, Wolterstorff note that how you interpret a document depends, in part, on who one considers the author of the document to be. If the scriptures if scripture is the word of a perfectly good, rational God, then one has prima facie reasons for discounting interpretations which are abhorent, contradictory etc, hence something like my third reason will be a good principle of interpretation. But if you think that scripture is simply a series of writings by different human authors from a less enlightened time. One will not have prima facie reasons for discounting interpretations which are contradictory, immoral etc, unless you think the society of the time was unlikely to provide such interpretations.

    The problem is that skeptics are trying to critique Christianity, hence they need to critque the bible as Christians understand it. In this context one cannot start of assuming athiesm is true, use this assumption to infer a conclusion and then use the conclusion to attack Christianity, that will beg the question somewhat. It may be true that if God does not exist and did not author the bible the sensible thing to say is that its nonsense, the problem is Christians don't think God does not exist. So that says nothing about their position.

    Third you writeBut then, this WAS a barbaric society. Just read Judges 19-21. yes I have read those chapters. The problem is that these chapters implictly criticise the actions in question hence the passages show an awareness that the actions, specifically rape, were wrong.

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  • Matt: "The problem is that skeptics are trying to critique Christianity, hence they need to critque the bible as Christians understand it."

    Unfortunately, Christians don't understand the Bible in a uniform way, thus your suggestion is a non-starter. The best skeptics can do is critique the most popular understandings (usually simply by quoting other Christians) or demonstrate how the Bible is simply a man-made work, no different than other works regarded as holy, inspired, or divine within other faiths.

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  • I find that sceptics more often than not will find the nuttiest, most fringe Christian interpretation of it and interpret it in the most unflattering way possible.

    So I disagree, I think that "the best sceptics can do" is in fact find the best argument on offer from the best Christian scholar available and then critique that. If they could manage that and do a good job of it then surely that would be far more powerful and would contribute more to the debate than the practice you suggest?

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  • Let me ask a serious question:

    When you start to answer a question like: "Does the Bible Teach that a Rape Victim has to Marry her Rapist?" do you start off with the attitude that perhaps you will conclude 'Yes' or perhaps you will conclude 'No'? Or are you already set in your mind that the answer will be 'No' and set out to find evidence and arguments to support this conclusion?

    I would be interested if you would ever conclude 'Yes' to this sort of question.

  • Madeleine: So I disagree, I think that "the best sceptics can do" is in fact find the best argument on offer from the best Christian scholar available and then critique that.

    I believe John Loftus has done that in his recent book, but in my years of interactions with Christians, who do I see they most often cite to support their views? It's rarely the leading lights of Christian apologetics, but places like gotquestions.org, Tektonics, and, believe it or not, Answers in Genesis. So it does the skeptic little good to focus on someone like William Lane Craig when the Christians we interact with aren't necessarily convinced by him either. "The best argument on offer from the best Christian scholar" is very much in the eye of the beholder.

    Recent blog post: Phrases to avoid if you’re trying to scare me into your religion

  • Max, apparently some Christians have indeed concluded "Yes" to your question.

    Recent blog post: Phrases to avoid if you’re trying to scare me into your religion

  • Robert you write Unfortunately, Christians don't understand the Bible in a uniform way, thus your suggestion is a non-starter.

    If you read the comments you respond to in context, you'll see I was refering to the belief that scripture is the word of God. And this is a uniform position amougst most Christian traditions.

    The best skeptics can do is critique the most popular understandings (usually simply by quoting other Christians)

    Actually this is a bad scholarly method, an honest method dictates you address the best representations of a position, not that you attack popular representations.

    Would you accept an attack on say evolutionary theory that utilsed this method: Suppose someone ignored the work of Darwin or any actual scientists and simply attacked the way the theory was commonly understood by the person in the street. Would it follow that evolution had been refuted.

    or demonstrate how the Bible is simply a man-made work, no different than other works regarded as holy, inspired, or divine within other faiths.

    This actually illustrates my point, if you start of assuming scripture is a collection of human writings utilise this assumption in intepreting scripture you don't demonstrate its merely the work of humans you actually assume it.

    Recent blog post: Sunday Study: Does the Bible Teach that a Rape Victim has to Marry her Rapist?

  • I believe John Loftus has done that in his recent book, Yes, Loftus is one of the few new atheists to actually address Christian scholars. I don't think he succeeds, but at least he is doing so.

    but in my years of interactions with Christians, who do I see they most often cite to support their views? It's rarely the leading lights of Christian apologetics, but places like gotquestions.org, Tektonics, and, believe it or not, Answers in Genesis. So it does the skeptic little good to focus on someone like William Lane Craig when the Christians we interact with aren't necessarily convinced by him either.

    That depends on wether the skeptic is aiming to actually refute Christianity competently or simply convince a whole lot of less informed people that he has.

    I am sure you will accept that many if not most people do not understand evolutionary theory very well. I take it then that if a someone attacked showed (as they easily could) that these popular misunderstandings were false, and ignored the actual presentations and defences of evolution made by scholars in the field then you would accept that evolution is false and people should be skeptical of it?

    "The best argument on offer from the best Christian scholar" is very much in the eye of the beholder. No its not. Freethinkers cannot default epistemological relativism when it suits them and then praise reason and science as credible epistemic methods when they want to attack Christianity.

    Recent blog post: Sunday Study: Does the Bible Teach that a Rape Victim has to Marry her Rapist?

  • Max.

    I’ll gladly answer your question, but just first answer me this serious question. When you come across an internet site saying something like :the Bible teaches that women who are raped must marry the man who raped them” and provide a citation do you (a) look the passage up in more than one modern English translation (b) consult some commentaries on the original hebrew/aramaic/greek text (c) examine what Christian scholars say about the text . Or do you simply take it as gospel and repeat it in your next encounter with a believer.

    When you answer this question honestly, I’ll give an honest answer to yours.

    Recent blog post: Sunday Study: Does the Bible Teach that a Rape Victim has to Marry her Rapist?

  • Matt, thanks for the quote. It's the 4th one down <a href="http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2008/06/why-i-became-atheist.html"target="_blank">right here. How should I best describe you since some people may not know of you?

    Cheers.

    Recent blog post: Direct Evidence Of Moral Behavior From Evolution

  • Matt, thanks for the quote. It's the 4th one down right here:

    http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2008/06/why-i-became-atheist.html

    How should I best describe you since some people may not know of you?

    Cheers.

    Recent blog post: Direct Evidence Of Moral Behavior From Evolution

  • You can describe him as "Dr Matthew Flannagan, Christian Philosopher." (Matt prefers "Matthew" when people are using his last name with his first name). He has authored a book but it has not yet been published, his publications are journal articles thus far.

    Recent blog post: Sunday Study: Does the Bible Teach that a Rape Victim has to Marry her Rapist?

  • Max

    I was not avoiding the question, just demanding parity.

    As to your question, I believe that scripture is the word of God, for this reason I expect that when correctly interpreted it will not command humans to do anything that is in fact morally abhorrent. For this reason I accept an exegetical principle that all else being equal a translation that coheres with our moral intuitions is better than one that does not.

    This does not mean I do not follow the evidence, note the words, all else being equal, if there is compelling evidence to the contrary then that could well lead me to accept that it does conflict with my moral intuitions. Which would require me either to reject my intuitions as mistaken on the point in question or to rethink my view of scripture. In this situation under discussion however the evidence is not compelling, as I argued the evidence favours rejecting the rape interpretation and it certainly does not demand that one accept it.

    I actually have a post where I spell my thoughts out on this a bit more at http://www.mandm.org.nz/search/label/Divine%20Command%20Theory and also at http://www.mandm.org.nz/2009/02/brink-on-dialetical-equilibrium.html. So far from avoiding the question I actually have addressed it several times.

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  • Yes Matt.

    I look at multiple translations – owning at least 20 Bible translations on my shelf (including French and German). I also make extensive use of commentaries. And I don't tend to take anything at face value without my own research and resorting to reading Bible passages it in the original language. I have actually made an effort to learn ancient Greek and Hebrew. Have you?

    Now – having answered your avoiding the question questions… what is your answer to mine?

    :)

  • Yes Robert – I know many have. Probably wrongly in my opinion. I just wonder whether Matthew is open to where ever the evidence leads or whether his mind is made up before he starts.

  • I agree with you in this instance about your conclusion anyway. (although I suspect you assumed I did not).

    But it is good that you are honest enough to say that you:

    "expect that when correctly interpreted it will not command humans to do anything that is in fact morally abhorrent."

    But this creates a logical problem for you. You are in fact using YOUR moral intuition to determine the meaning of scripture. Many Christians debate the old homosexuality issue for instance. I have no idea where you stand on this issue, but some Christians think it is "morally abhorrent" to practice homosexuality… others think it is morally abhorrent" to deny loving couples the right to a happy life. If our own moral intuition is to be the guide on how to interpret ambiguous passages – how do you avoid subjectivity creeping in. How do you avoid reading what you want to find for other reasons like your own prejudice for instance? Just a thought. You need not answer it.

  • PS.. this is in no way an attack on you. I find my own prejudice creeping in all the time and have to keep stopping myself. It was more a genuine open question…. as was the first one (although you seemed to be a bit defensive if i may say so … :) )

  • Matt: That depends on wether the skeptic is aiming to actually refute Christianity competently or simply convince a whole lot of less informed people that he has.

    Who defines Christianity?  You?  Rick Warren?  John Hagee?

    Matt: No its not. Freethinkers cannot default epistemological relativism when it suits them and then praise reason and science as credible epistemic methods when they want to attack Christianity. 

    When you've convinced the Pope to join the Presbyterian Church, perhaps I'll agree with you.
     

  • Interesting discussion. I certainly wouldn't want to believe in a God who condones rape, so it's heartening to know that He doesn't.

  • Thanks Matt great article.  Keep up the good work

  • It’s strange that you point out that the word tapash can be used for “taking” instruments or capturing cities in warfare, but you don’t show any verses where someone “tapash”-es someone.

    In all those instances, the word seems to imply the use of force, e.g:

    1Ki 18:40 And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.

    I’ve gone through Gen-1Ki and it’s always an use of force when the object is a person! So the verb the author used in Deu 22:28 seems to carry the connotation of force.

    The authors of the LXX seem to have understood the word that way, they used biazw to translate it, sounds violent.

    Had the author intended to refer to rape then he would have used the word chazak which does carry the connotations Martin plays on.

    The author could have used that verb, but he could also have used the verb he used. You don’t know that the author would always use chazak when talking about rape.

    The second reason is that Deut 22:28-29 actually repeats a law which has already been laid down in the book of Exodus.

    The law in Ex deals with seduction, is seduction mentioned in Deu 22:28? Does tapash mean seduce elsewhere?

    The third reason is that, to interpret the law in Deut 21:28-29 as a rape is to make God the commander of a morally heinous command.

    That’s called argumentum ad consequentiam and has nothing to do with the meaning of the verse (and is also very disturbing if you really believe that your god is the author of other laws in the OT).

    The Hebrew word does not, by itself, indicate rape and interpreting it this way both ignores the context where the word chazak is used to designate a rape.

    You can use two words for the same thing in the same text.

    It also makes the second law inconsistent with the exposition of the same law in Exodus 22:15

    No. If Deu 22:28 refers to rape, then raping and seducing an unbethrothed virgin just have similar consequences.

  • [...] Michael Martin’s contention that the Bible commands a rape victim to marry her rapist, Does the Bible Teach that a Rape Victim has to Marry her Rapist? To summarise briefly, Martin cited Deuteronomy 22:28-29 and interpreted it as, Here the victim of [...]

  • [...] to rape at all. Rather than reproduce any of the responses that have been offered, I’ll link to a recent version of that response by Matt Flannagan over at M and [...]

  • [...] to rape at all. Rather than reproduce any of the responses that have been offered, I’ll link to a recent version of that response by Matt Flannagan over at M and [...]

  • Seems like the interpretation of the passage is missing something. The passage is a law, and laws need to be interpreted and applied in cases by judges. The law in this context is more than code, it is also case law. Why no investigation of the social and cultural context, and any cases, biblical or otherwise, where the law is applied?
    .-= My last blog-post ..Stuart Nash MP – Financial Alarmist (on the Crown Retail Deposit Guarantee Scheme) =-.

  • [...] And: Sunday Study: Does the Bible Teach that a Rape Victim has to Marry her Rapist? [...]

  • Looking at it another way. A bride in Israel was expected to be a virgin, and her economic value was dependent on it.

    If rape or seduction had occurred her economic value would be destroyed, almost guaranteeing that she could not find a husband to care for her.

    By forcing her seducer to pay the bride price and take her to wife the law ensured that she would be taken care of. That doesn’t imply that he had any further right to her person, and I’m sure that the father and local men would be quite interested in ensuring her well-being.

  • Very weak, far-fetched re-interpretation of translation… Anyhow, this begs the question of what else in modern translations is totally incorrect?

  • Ancient Mores: Evaluating the Bible On Its Own Terms…

    Regarding Deut. 22:28-29 — If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her … He must marry the girl… There is … another explanation here that is worth a look……

  • I thought this issue was a familiar one. I just found this old Theologyweb Post from 2006 where I had to point out to an internet skeptic (the worst kind) that this verse has nothing to do with rape: http://www.theologyweb.com/campus/showpost.php?p=1501589&postcount=25

  • The old testament may not have a rape victim marry their attacker…

    I found this very very interesting. discuss?…

  • The bible may not condone rape victims marrying their attacker…

    Does the Bible Teach that a Rape Victim has to Marry her Rapist? Interesting, discuss….

  • Recommending Me Articles Which Turn Out To Be Apologetics P****s Me Off!…

    The second (and far more annoying) of the two recommendations came from talk_religion in this entry. The piece of apologetics they link to says “oooh btw the verse in the Bible doesn’t say girls must marry their rapist” and then goes on to say “stu…

  • Majority says “Keep the cross!!”…

    This passage refers to a seduction and not rape. I do wish that atheists would occasionally do some research and stop acting like sheep from the ‘shocking OT atrocities’ fold….

  • I found this analysis very useful.

    I thought it could have done without () the ‘third reason’ because it is not clear that, in the circumstances, the skeptical interpretation would result in something ‘morally heinous’. JP Holding (http://www.tektonics.org/af/ancientmores.html#dt2228) usefully notes:

    “First, our subject objects that the victim may not want to marry the rapist. In modern times this would be a sensible objection; but for the ancients, this was a highly viable and indeed merciful solution. The victim would no longer regarded as marriageable and would therefore lose means of interdependent support. The rapist is here being required to provide that support.

    It is quite unlikely in this social context that the victim would refuse this arrangement; indeed, they might well demand such an arrangement. This is not a matter of having the rapist be one’s loving partner, or cohort for further sexual relations.

    Second, it is asked why the father gets money rather than the victim. This is related to another ancient practice, the dowry. A girl who is married becomes part of a new family, which she goes on to support of her own means, and now relies upon for support; at the same time, her former family loses her support and assistance in daily survival, but gains nothing practical in return – hence the dowry.

    The effect of the dowry was to make up for that loss of essential support, and in light of the first item above, payment to the father is quite fair, for it is his family that must now continue to support the girl for the rest of her life.”

  • This is by far and away the best writing I have seen on this verse, that exact verse is always brought up by atheists in debates.

  • Thank you for the post, Dr. Flannagan.

    I have a question, you say that “chazak” (which seems to be spelled “chazaq” in other sites I’ve seen), refers to rape in Deut. 22:25, but my clumsy Google search for the meaning of the term has turned up different meanings. Here’s an example

    http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/2388.html

    Is this website wrong? If not, how do we know that rape is being referred to in v. 25? It has to do with the context I’m sure, but I’d like to hear your explanation. Thanks!

  • [...] Grace, try reading this: Sunday Study: Does the Bible Teach that a Rape Victim has to Marry her Rapist? | MandM [...]

  • Deut. 22:25 gives the death penalty for rapists. The Hebrew for rape here is chazak which means “strong, severe, hard, courageous”, or “repair” (in the sense of strengthening a building).

    Deut. 22:28 uses a DIFFERENT Hebrew word taphas, which means “lay hands on, grasp, pick up, seize”, or “capture” in the sense of battle.

    There are cases of someone “taphas”-ing another human simply in the sense of “lay hold of” which didn’t involve violence. See Gen 39:12, Isaiah 3:6

    There are three case histories of forcible rape in the Bible (Gen 34, 2 Sam 13, Judg 19); taphas is never used in any of those cases; the words used are chazak, ‘anah, or ‘alal.

    Moses’ choice of two different words in these verses indicates two different situations given that the outcomes are completely different. Translating both words into “rape” has Moses writing a contradiction in the space of three verses.

    Dt. 22:28 is also a repeat of the following (Ex. 22:26.)
    “If a man seduces (pathah) a virgin who is not engaged, and lies with her, he must pay a dowry for her to be his wife.”
    The Exodus passage gives further insight into the meaning, given that the two passages match in meaning almost perfectly (maybe, that’s why God had it written twice :)).
    Pathah is translated: “entice, deceive, persuade, flatter, allure, enlarge, silly one, silly”
    Taphas is translated: “take, taken, handle, hold, catch, surprise”. Put the two together and Dt. 22:28 describes a fairly aggressive seduction.

    Evidently, classical Hebrew had no specific word for “rape” as we know it, maybe because rape happened rarely given how closely young females were guarded.