Atheists often make accusations against the Bible, flattering themselves that in their own cleverness they have found ‘the argument’ that the enemies of the Judeo-Christian scriptures have been unable to make in more than three thousand years of history.
One that I have heard lately is the preposterous claim that the Bible actually condones rape! You would think that if the scriptures actually taught that, the enemies of the Judeo Christian revelation would have siezed upon that one long ago, and totally destroyed any credibility of the Bible with decent people.
This calumny actually arises from a deliberate misinterpretation of Deuteronomy 22:28-29;
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.
The problem comes from the interpretation of the Hebrew expression “Lay hold on her and lie with her”.
‘Taphas’ is the Hebrew word for “Lay hold on her”, and it can mean “to catch, handle, lay hold, take hold of, seize, wield…”. It doesn’t necessitate a wrongful handling, or laying hold of.
‘Shakab’ is the Hebrew word meaning “to Lie down”. It is used of consensual,marital sexual relations in Leviticus,
“If a man lies with a woman so that there is a seminal emission, they shall both bathe in water and be unclean until evening.” Leviticus 15:18
What we have here is the law concerning seduction, not rape. In no way is rape condoned in any part of the Bible, a simple reading of the larger context of Deuteronomy 22:25-29 easily confirms this.
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.(The Law concerning Rape)
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.(The Law concerning seduction)
Notice that verse 25 gives the Law regarding rape,but uses an entirely different word than that in verses 28-29. The word used in vs 25 is chazaq- “to force”.
In the other stories of the Bible that recount rape, none of them use the expression “taphas Shekahb” as in the Deuternomy 22:28-29 passage.
Finally it is patently obvious that the teaching and ethic and the whole spirit of the Bible in no ways promotes rape, neither Judaiam or Chrstianity are known for sanctioned rape, this is a ludicrous calumny. The ultimate embodiment of scripture, is the Lord Jesus Christ, need I say more?
There has never been a greater force for the elevation and dignity of woman than the Revelation of God in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures.