Tuesday, June 14, 2011

OT honor-killings?

Years ago I posted a response to John Loftus. Among other things I dealt with his charge that the OT legislates honor-killings.

Since this section of my old post is frequently cited on the Internet, I’m going to excerpt this particular section as a stand-alone post for ready reference.

John Loftus:

If a virgin who was pledged to be married was raped, she was to be stoned along with her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:23-24).

Either Loftus is too ignorant of the law in question to know what it means or else he’s prevaricating.

This is a case of consensual sex, not rape. That is clear from the contrast between 22:23-24 and 25-27, which is a case of rape.

In the case of consensual sex between a woman who was already engaged to another man and a man who was not her fiancé, this was equivalent to adultery, and both parties were executed.

A rape victim was not executed. To the contrary, if you actually read other OT rape laws, such as the very next case law (e.g. 22:25-27), you will see that the rape victim was deemed to be innocent–in cases where rape could be presumed–whereas the rapist was executed.

Once again, this illustrates the fact that women had civil rights under the Mosaic Law. Far from an “honor killing,” it was the man, and not the woman, who was killed.

Why does Loftus misrepresent the law in question? Is he willfully ignorant or willfully dishonest?

i) In the final case, the rapist must compensate the rape victim by providing the ancient equivalent of alimony.

And that’s more than Loftus ever did for the stripper he dumped as soon as she became inconvenient. It’s quite understandable why promiscuous men like Loftus revile OT laws that hold men accountable for their sexual indiscretions.

ii) Finally, we need to read this law in concert with the parallel case law in Exod 22:17. Marriage was not obligatory in this situation.

That’s the nature of case law. A particular case law does not address every conceivable situation or attendant detail. You need to compare one case law with another.

For detailed exegesis, see John Currid, Deuteronomy (Evangelical Press 2006).


  1. Atheists often point to the Deut. 22:28-29 as teaching that an unbetrothed woman who was raped was cruelly required to marry her rapist. They point to the fact that this virgin is said to be "seized". I've always assumed this passage was referring to a case of seduction/enticement where the unbetrothed female virgin consented like in Exo 22:16-17.

    Anyone know resources to explain Deut. 22:28-29?

    Deut. 22:
    28 "If a man finds a young woman who is a virgin, who is not betrothed, and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are found out,
    29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the young woman's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife because he has humbled her; he shall not be permitted to divorce her all his days."

  2. Hi Annoyed Pinoy,

    It looks like Is God a Moral Monster? by Paul Copan has a discussion on the Exo 22 and Deut 22 passages.

    Also, perhaps one or more of these books might help.

    Last but not least perhaps you could have a look at these commentaries.

    I should say I haven't read any of these resources so I can't vouch for them.

  3. Also, Flame of Yahweh: Sexuality in the Old Testament by Richard Davidson might prove helpful.

  4. Thanks for the resources Patrick. :)

  5. The case of seduction and/or rape receives careful exegesis by Douglas Stuart in his commentary on Exodus (509-11), as well as John Currid in his commentaries on Exodus (2:98-99) and Deuteronomy (372).

    Keep in mind that the law can only deal with allegations. Even in the age of modern forensics, rape can be hard to establish.