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Monday, August 22, 2011

Does the Bible teach ...?

Maybe I'll do a series here. Maybe an irregular series. I've heard too many of these accusations that the Bible teaches what you and I know to be wrong. Sometimes this stuff can be ignored as too stupid to visit, and sometimes it needs a response. So, does the Bible teach that a rapist is required to marry his victim?
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 of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days. (Deut 22:28-29 ESV)
And, of course, there it is in black and white. Or ... is it?

In the text at hand, there is a word used that may suggest, but does not require "rape". The text uses taphas -- to manipulate, that is, seize; chiefly to capture, wield; specifically to overlay; figuratively to use unwarrantably. It can merely mean "to overlay" (to lay on) or even "to use unwarrantably" or "to handle". Several commentators seize on "to manipulate" and suggest that the man simply seduces her. Compare this with verse 25:
But if in the open country a man meets a young woman who is betrothed, and the man seizes her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. (Deut 22:25 ESV)
Both texts are translated in the ESV as "seize", but this is not the same word. The reference in verse 25 uses chazaq -- to fasten upon; hence to seize, to bind, restrain, conquer. It is a harsher word, indicating seizing by force. Thus, it would appear that what happens in verse 25 is not the same as what happens in verse 28. These are not the same words. They do not carry the same force. Further, if the author intended for them to be the same, he likely would have used the same word. Apparently, then, the intent is different.

Beyond the terminology, however, is the other text. Here is it in full.
But if in the open country a man meets a young woman who is betrothed, and the man seizes her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. But you shall do nothing to the young woman; she has committed no offense punishable by death. For this case is like that of a man attacking and murdering his neighbor, because he met her in the open country, and though the betrothed young woman cried for help there was no one to rescue her (Deut 22:25-27).
Why is the rapist (for in this case he is clearly that) executed but not the woman? In a previous scenario (adultery) both were executed. Why not in this case? In this case the man attacked and the woman resisted. That's what the text says. Thus, it is reasonable to surmise that in the case of Deut 22:28-29 the woman did not resist, the man did not attack, and this is not the same thing as either adultery or rape. Neither the text nor the context support the accusation that this text requires that a rapist marry his victim.

There is one more reason to think that this is not talking about a rapist marrying his victim. Deuteronomy is intended to be a repeat. The word means "second law" and you'll find that it echoes many sections of the Law from earlier accounts. Thus, this part, Deut 22:28-29, is an echo of an earlier account. As such, they should match. Do they?
If a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed and lies with her, he shall give the bride-price for her and make her his wife. If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the bride-price for virgins (Exo 22:16-17).
First, note that this doesn't even hint at rape. In this case, it is seduction. This is why John Gill says of the Deuteronomy passage that she is "yielding to it, and so is not expressive of a rape, as Deut 22:25 where a different word from this is there used; which signifies taking strong hold of her, and ravishing her by force; yet this, though owing to his first violent seizure of her, and so different from what was obtained by enticing words, professions of love, and promises of marriage, and the like, as in Exo 22:16 but not without her consent." Notice also that in the Exodus account the permission to do such a thing (marry) is in the hands of the father. He can deny it. The point, then, is protection of the daughter either by payment or by marriage without divorce.

One other minor point. Some of the older (medieval) commentators do call this rape. "There, see? They disagree with you!" Maybe. But keep in mind that the older, medieval use of the term "rape" made an unbreakable connection between "rape" and "seduction". That is, "rape" in medieval terms was defined as any unlawful sex. Thus, for a medieval commentator to refer to this passage in terms of "rape" is simply to affirm that such sex is unlawful. And one other minor point. There are no records anywhere in Jewish history of any woman who was raped and married her rapist. There are stories of women who were raped but did not marry their rapists, but none that would corroborate that this was the law.

Summarizing, then, text, context, parallel passages, and commentaries all say that this reference is not to rape as we understand it today. It would seem, then, that those who say it is either prove that God is immoral in His commands or that God is not reliable. Oh, wait, that's the same thing, isn't it? So why would someone who claims to trust God make such a claim? That's a question for someone else to answer.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Excellent analysis, Stan.

I know of a certain flagrantly false teacher who will be very sad that one of his favorite "really, I totally trust the bible and it is God's word except for these parts that I don’t like ___" passages will have lost one of his "gotcha" verses. After all, if he misunderstands a passage in the Bible as seeming to reward rapists then of course we could dismiss any other politically incorrect passages.

Will he re-think his heresies or dig in his heels? Sadly, it will probably be the latter.

Stan said...

The question has been raised. "You say that the difference between the one rape and the other" (it is assumed by the questioner that both are rape) "is not that one is rape and the other is not, but that one is betrothed and the other is not. Isn't that a better explanation as to why the rapist is killed in one case and not the other? It's the product of an evil, patriarchal system where women are treated as chattel. In the case of the betrothed, a man has been wronged. In the case of the unbetrothed, only a woman."

Let's assume that this is the case. Let's assume that God has indeed promoted a mysogynistic system. He has made rules based on the "property value" of a woman. He has ordained that women are only of value as they are "owned" by a man. And the best He can do for women is to kill the perpetrator on behalf of a wronged man in one case or force the woman to marry her rapist in the other. Nice. This is the God that some who call themselves Christians would offer to us. I get that this is the objection that atheists would offer, but that so-called Christians would give this suggestion amazes me. Of course, these would take the next step. "No, no, we're not saying that's the case. We're saying that obviously, then, this text is not valid. That is, you can't read it as written, believe it as it is presented. It is not genuine history, God-breathed fact, an actual representation of God and His Law." Not much better, then. Either we have a fiend for a god (lowercase "G" on purpose) or an unreliable Bible that requires "special knowledge" and cannot be openly read and understood, let alone trusted.

Now, assuming that the Bible is reliable and that God is not this monster offered, what else is there? I note that the objectors ignore that fact that I've pointed out that the word for "seized" in one case of the betrothed woman is not the same word used in the unbetrothed. Skeptics here simply ignore this fact. "You're playing word games ... by looking at the words as they are used!" Fine, I'll accept that accusation. I'm looking at the words as they are used. If by "word games" you mean "taking the words as they are written", I'll accept that. In this version, rape is punished by death and the single woman who succumbs to seduction is protected by marriage. She slept with the guy, so she will marry the guy. You, dear readers, may find that horrendous. Seems pretty clear (textually) and just to me.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

I've never studied this passage, but also never assumed it was about forcing a woman against her will to marry the guy. Thanks for that excellent study with the parallel Deut. passage. This one is a keeper!

Marshall Art said...

I know of one guy who makes these charges while claiming to have seriously, honestly and prayerfully studied the Bible in order to come to his many zany conclusions. Seems to me your study is a bit more serious and honest.

Stan said...

It has been suggested that I am lying, making this stuff up, because I didn't cite a reference. This is, I suppose, a typical ploy of someone who has no genuine argument and wishes instead to simply impugn the character of the speaker rather than deal with the argument. In terms of logical fallacies, this is the typical ad hominem fallacy. Still, in order to offer a couple of references regarding my statement (like I make this stuff up or something) that medieval commentators often view rape and seduction as the same thing, here are a couple of quotes:

"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."
- Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica II-II Question 15, Article 7, Objection 4.

"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."
- Isidore De Seville, quoted in Summa Theologica II-II Question 15, Article 7, Objection 1.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Of course you made all this stuff up; the Bible couldn't possibly disagree with the agenda of the Left!