Interpreting Biblical Rape

A Brief Summation of a Facebook Debate on the Duality of the Christian God 

Yesterday was just like any other day. I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, liking memes, and laughing at nonsensical videos. I stopped scrolling at the sight of this meme:


It intrigued me. It made me stop, and think. I shared the post, knowing that any one of my devout Christian friends would jump onto my post and try to explain away the obvious issues with the biblical passage. My caption was:

Something to think about for sure. These scriptures in the bible are right around the sections that Christians often use for evidence against homosexuality. Well, if homosexuality is an “abomination.” Then, raping and marrying a woman is ok.

But no self-respecting Christian would argue that rape is ok. But in denying the legitimacy of the rape passage, they’ll also have to deny the legitimacy of the homosexuality passage.

First of all, this caption isn’t all that clear. On Facebook, and other social media, I tend to shorten my thoughts. But the message is clear: there are many inconsistencies in the bible. And these disparities are often overlooked and/or rationalized away by Christians.

A Christian friend eventually commented, posting a link to a website that supposedly explains common misinterpreted scriptures. The website is The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).

It started out by explaining this scripture: Deuteronomy 22:23-24

“If there is a girl who is a virgin engaged to a man, and another man finds her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city and you shall stone them to death; the girl, because she did not cry out in the city, and the man, because he has violated his neighbor’s wife.

The ERLC argues that this law is describing a consensual encounter, signified by the lack of violent descriptive words. I.e, the lack of the words ‘forced,’ ‘attacked’, etc. They further argue that the setting is important. Because the alleged assault took place in a city, there would have been witnesses to a violent rape. Therefore, this is consensual and they both should be punished.

Raise your hand if you know that rape isn’t always violent and bloody. Raise your hand if you know that screaming isn’t always an option. Raise your hand if you think this is pure speculation. Me too.

This is Deuteronomy 22:25-27 

But if in the field the man finds the girl who is engaged, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lies with her shall die. But you shall do nothing to the girl; there is no sin in the girl worthy of death, for just as a man rises against his neighbor and murders him, so is this case. When he found her in the field, the engaged girl cried out, but there was no one to save her.

This passage is clearer than the first. It condemns the rape of a woman, but this one isn’t free of issues. I’ll get to the issues in all of these passages at the end.

Here’s the passage that started this debate: Deuteronomy 22:28-29

If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay her father fifty shekels[a] of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.

Wow. You read that right, but don’t be so surprised. This is an ancient book! So the ERLC doesn’t deny that she must have been ‘overwhelmed.’ Nor do they deny that the man is guilty. But what’s problematic is that they don’t condemn this scripture. Their translation leads them to believe that it wasn’t a ‘violent rape,’ which is apparently ‘not so bad.’ The ERLC argues that there is some sort of mutual responsibility here, because the man didn’t violently rape her. Apparently, the only rape that counts is the violent kind, where you’re constantly screaming for your life.

My Christian friend brought up a good point though. The Christian god is supposed to be a just god, who hates all sexual sins and provides these laws in order to protect the weak.

He also said, The rapist deserves death. The adulterer deserves death. I deserve death, and so do you, but the good news is that Jesus died in the sinner’s place to bring about forgiveness, healing, and restoration.

I’m not a Christian, but I respect that. However, what he says and what I’ve read are at odds with each other.

The first law condemns both the man and woman. Even though it’s obvious that the man did the action of ‘finding’ and ‘lying,’ the woman is put to death. She’s put to death for not screaming, and drawing witnesses. But there could be a number of reasons why she didn’t. The man, it says, is put to death because he damaged another man’s property. Yes, property. Women were commodities that were bought and sold by their fathers and husbands. Where is the protection of the weak in this scenario?

The second law is also problematic because it’s also on the basis of the woman crying out. However, it’s still leagues better than the first and third laws.

The third law condemns only the woman. In this scenario, the woman is not engaged. After being raped by the man in this scenario, she is essentially damaged goods. Her family becomes unable to marry her off, and protect their investments. The solution to this problem is to marry her off to the man who violated her to begin with. Where is the protection of the weak in this scenario? How was this man punished?

In the first and second scenarios, there’s another problematic issue that may go over some heads. Both of the men in these scenarios are put to death. How come the man isn’t put to death in the third scenario? If rape is punished, then all three men should be put to death. Unless, rape isn’t the real issue these laws are tackling.


I’ll repeat my closing argument here:

 If god is truly a just god, and he hates all sexual sin, then laws like marrying a rapist would be against what this god stands for. If all rapists deserve death according to this god, then this god would not sanction a rapist marrying his victim. If the laws were truly created by an impartial god to protect the vulnerable, then a victim would not be forced to marry her attacker. How is the victim in this instance protected? She is forced to endure being raped by her attacker legally, every night until she dies. That doesn’t sound just or good to me. So there are only two conclusions here: the christian god is evil, or he did not make those laws. Man did.

What do you think?

2 thoughts on “Interpreting Biblical Rape

  1. I saw this article a while back. I must say, although I disagree with much of what’s being said here, this article was very professionally and eloquently put together.


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