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The Bible on Rape

I was talking to a Christian the other day and I mentioned that the Bible didn’t say anything condemning rape. My Christian friend corrected me by pointing out Deut 22:25-27. But it seems that he took the verse out of context.

Let us just take a look at the verse that my friend pointed out using my favorite Bible tool, the BlueLetterBible.org:

But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die:

But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; [there is] in the damsel no sin [worthy] of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so [is] this matter:
For he found her in the field, [and] the betrothed damsel cried, and [there was] none to save her. (Deut 22:25-27)

Well that certainly does say that the rapist should be put to death. So that must mean that rape is morally wrong, right? Well, not so fast. Let’s look at the very next verse:

If a man find a damsel [that is] a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found;
Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty [shekels] of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days. (Deut 22:28-29)

In other words, rape is just a property dispute. The key issue in the first verse was that the woman was “betrothed.” She belonged to someone else. But in the latter verses the woman was a virgin and didn’t belong to anyone. The rapist had damaged the goods as it were and so was then legally obligated to purchase the damaged goods (i.e. the woman).

Not only does this group of verses not state that rape is morally wrong, it actually shows that women are property. This is just one of the reasons why the Bible is not a good guide for morality. If someone where to state that rape was not morally wrong in today’s society, they would and ought to be treated as insanely dangerous.

Today we rightfully consider rape to be one of the most immoral acts someone can do and yet it isn’t even in God’s top ten list of things not to do. According to the Ten Commandments, it is more immoral to work on Saturday than it is to rape someone.

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  • http://myspace.com/blackhawk089 Matt

    Classic ignorance right here staks, i’m disappointed. By now I’ figured you’d be shying away from this bull. I’m not even going to try and post Bible verses because I know you don’t care. The Bible is and has almost always been viewed by theologians as a moral compass more than a drone book listing each and every act listed as right or wrong. If everything was spelled out in black and white then there would be no need for Christians to intellectually and rationally think for themselves. God is no fool who simply wants drones walking around doing exactly as he says, believe it or not God does want Christians to intellectually respond to his word. The issue of rape is dealt with in many ways throughout scripture, there does not need to be a list of do’s and don’ts for every act.

  • Bob

    19 Neither shall you steal, and 21 Neither shall you covet your neighbor’s wife. Neither shall you desire your neighbor’s house, or field, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. Rape is stealing! Raping a virgin is stealing her virginity. So the Ten Commandments do cover this…. Would it honour your mother or father if you raped someone??? Dig a bit deeper and you might be suprised!

  • http://www.dangeroustalk.net Staks

    Actually Matt, according to Christian belief, when Christians go to Heaven they no longer have free will and spend all of eternity worshiping God. So I think your God does actually want mindless drones. But that is another issue for another day. Today we are talking about rape in the Bible. Rape is one of the most immoral acts someone can do and the Bible says nothing condemning it. In fact, the Bible treats it as a property rights issue and treats women as the property of her father or husband. As I pointed out in the blog, rape isn’t even considered immoral enough to be part of the 10 Commandments.

    That brings me to Bob’s comment. Bob, again the Bible does consider rape to be stealing… if the woman is betrothed to a man. If the woman is a virgin and single, then the rapist just has to pay for the damaged goods. In other words, this isn’t about rape being an act of violence toward a woman nor is it an act of stealing from the woman since one can’t steal property from property. It is only dishonorable to rape someone who is not a virgin according to the Bible Bob. This I find to be very immoral and not worship worthy at all. One would think that the creator of the universe could do better.

  • http://myspace.com/blackhawk089 Matt

    Bob is spot on, and staks never digs deeper. He likes to stay on the surface and interpret things in a way that fits his bias and determination to deny God. Which by the way the Bible talks about that….

  • Mark C

    You left out a few relevant verses, Staks. The ones right before what you quoted. You know, because only creationists quote-mine and take things out of context and play word games, right?

    Deut 22:22 clearly condemns adultery, and both die
    Deut 22:23-24 clearly condemns fornication with an engaged/promised woman, and both die

    Add these in to your “analysis” and now the point of the passages seems quite clear: dealing with different scenarios of sex outside of marriage, part of which is in the Ten Commandments by the way.

    If a woman is raped, the rapist dies. (rape)
    If a woman willingly engages in sex while she is married or betrothed/promised to another, both die. (adultery)
    If a woman willingly engages in sex while she is not engaged, then she gets married to the partner. (fornication)

    Not quite the slam dunk for your point anymore, is it?

    May I point out to you that an accurate handling of the word might bring to light some interesting things: for instance that sex outside marriage doesn’t mean death for “single people”. You’d know this point and be able to think about it against much modern Christian zealotry if you were interested in knowing what the Bible actually says. No, rather you’re just like them, playing word games to justify what you/they believe in advance. Well done.

  • http://www.dangeroustalk.net Staks

    Actually Mark, those passages you didn’t actually quote (but I get your meaning) don’t actually change what I have said here. If a betrothed woman is raped, the rapist dies. I said that actually. “If a woman willingly engages in sex while she is married or betrothed/promised to another, both die. (adultery)” okay, how does that change the view on rape or on women being considered property? In fact, it again shows how crazy Biblical morality is. Do you really think adulterers should be killed Mark? “If a woman willingly engages in sex while she is not engaged, then she gets married to the partner. (fornication)” Once again this proves my point. If they are not married, then the man has damaged the good and much buy it. “You broke it you bought it” as the saying goes. So yeah, it is still a slam dunk and even more so. But I was mainly focused on the conversation i had with my Christian friend who didn’t quote those earlier verses.

    As for unmarried people being able to have sex willy nilly, I have to question you on that one. I think you are pulling that out of your ass. Paul actually said that all sex was bad, but if you really can’t control yourself like he can, then you should at least get married.

  • Mark C

    Whether adultery should be punished by death is a wholly different question than whether the Bible condones rape (or in a clever twist “fails to condemn rape”) or treats women as property. Not unworthy of investigation mind you, but wholly different. Both adulterers are put to death if there is consent; the woman is treated no differently from the man.

    It would also make sense to understand how the Mosaic Law was used by Israel; for instance many looking to do exactly what you are doing over-emphasize the gender of the pronouns. For example, the implication here would be that only women could even be raped because hey, the OT doesn’t give explicit instruction telling us what to do when a man is raped.x By this same rationale, the Old Testament only really condemns male homosexuality because there is no verse explicitly repeating the prohibition for woman-woman sex. Further, I can take nearly every sentence you wrote above and switch it around: “If they are not married, then the woman has damaged goods and must buy it” so that once again your presupposition about women as property does not fall from this narrowly defined verses (and let me repeat: that’s not to say it isn’t elsewhere, but that is to say it isn’t here).

    To answer your second and almost totally unrelated question, you are conflating the issue of fornication as a sin with various religious/spiritual consequences (Paul) and fornication as a breach of civil conduct with a social consequence (Mosaic Law). The two do not conflict. One deals with social consequences under the laws of Ancient Israel and one deals with religious/spiritual consequences in the eyes of God. Stealing a candy bar from a 7-11 has both social consequences (fine, jail, whatever) and religious.spiritual consequences (sin in the eyes of God). The two are not opposed.

    However, there are times when consequences were changed from the OT to the NT and frankly you’d be better off thinking about those. For example, the Sabbath, eating unclean foods, and many other social AND religious changes from the OT. If you want to claim that the Bible does not hold the same absolute set of rules for everyone over a period of 1500ish years, you’ll get no argument from me.

  • http://www.dangeroustalk.net Staks

    “I can take nearly every sentence you wrote above and switch it around.” Yeah you could Mark, but that isn’t what it actually says. That would be some kind of mental gymnastics. I could change the definition of words and make the mean the opposite of that we take them to mean and then everything would make perfect sense, but that would be intellectually dishonest.

    You can talk about the differences between legal consequences and spiritual consequences all you want, but the point is still the same. Rape has no legal or spiritual consequences in the Bible except then it relates to treating women as property merely.

  • http://www.politicalopinionarticles.blogspot.com david

    I guess you can do and say whatever you wish to justify cruelty to another human being, or any animal for that matter, and find justification for it in the bible. Narcissism begets narcissists.

  • http://twitter.com/JaredMithrandir Jared Welch

    There is a problem with uses the passages about the Nation’s law code to judge Morality. Genesis 19, Genesis 34, 1 Samuel 13 ass clearly depict Rape as a Sin.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joshua-Perez/100000676404459 Joshua Perez

    Um, you DO realize that the book was written THOUSANDS of years ago and women’s rights just didnt exist back then.

  • monaD

    there is a commandment… do unto others as you would have done to you

    • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

      In the Bible, women are treated as property.