So rape is only punishable by a fine?


Sometimes I wish atheists would ask a christian for help in finding better verses to object to in scripture.  They tend to be very bad theologians.  The silly passages many choose as something to contend with is in my opinion one of the strongest apologetics against atheism.  One of the most popular is Deuteronomy 22:29.  I’ve heard this objection my whole life, but a quick google search didn’t disappoint, here are two random examples….


“Hebrew girl who is raped can be sold to her rapist for 50 shekels, or about $580 (Deuteronomy 22:28-29). He must then keep her “because she has been “humbled”. – The Independent


“4) Laws of Rape (Deuteronomy 22:28-29 NAB)

If a man is caught in the act of raping a young woman who is not engaged, he must pay fifty pieces of silver to her father.  Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her, and he will never be allowed to divorce her.

What kind of lunatic would make a rape victim marry her attacker?  Answer: God.” – EvilBible.Com


I would like to point out that the writer in the second quote is at best badly paraphrasing the NAB, check for yourself HERE.

I have pasted the whole passage below and included some of the context.  Let’s take a look at it.


“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. “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 22:25-29 ESV


Setting aside how badly this passage is represented by the sources I cited at the outset, let’s break down what it actually says.  The first thing I want to  point out is that the genre of law gives us legal categories to work with, these aren’t supposed to be interpreted as narrowly specific examples of things that really happened.  This is giving categories for an old covenant Judge to render a proper judgement.

What we are given here is juxtaposition of sexual sin and how evidence should be weighed against claims when determining who is at fault as well as the severity of punishments necessary.  In the first example we have no witnesses to the event itself because it is “in the open country” but we do have character witnesses for the woman because she “is betrothed”.  Someone has vouched for her chastity, so basically that’s admissible as evidence in this case.  Presuming she isn’t admitting complicity in the crime she would be judged as wholly innocent of the sin of fornication according to this directive.

In old covenant law it would seem his word of how the events transpired is not simply equal to hers, I would theorize that a mans physical advantage and assumed desire for a woman are both factors against him no matter what the context is.

With regards to the second example we have a case where it is not in the open country and there are not witnesses for her chastity.  The assumption here is they are both guilty of fornication so it has to be made right by marriage and the payment of a fine.

It would be an anachronism to assume a post 1960’s sexual revolution category of consent into this passage.  That said, even if you did it doesn’t do much for the judge who is using this law in old covenant Israel.  They will only have the presence or absence of any evidence corroborating claims that are being made after the fact and will primarily be focusing on adjudicating the sin of fornication, in which case rape would simply mean innocence on the part of the woman.

When you get down to it this isn’t that different than how a judge weighs out the law today.  Some categories of evidence and admissible,  some are not.  The judge is given categories and ranges of punishment and they work from there.  Even though our laws are not the same as those in the old covenant the style is similar in structure and application.  It’s entirely likely we got the fundamental ideas of our legal system from scripture anyways.

Final Thoughts

All I’m saying is if you’re going to criticize the Bible pick better stuff.  Things like this just make you look dumb.  Christians have spent the better part of two thousand years arguing over how to properly interpret some of the more complex teachings of scripture.  If you want some fodder of what to start with then start there, no need to re-invent the wheel.  At least then the conversation would be more interesting for both parties and you wouldn’t look silly in the process.

About ACTheologian

I am a layman who blogs my Biblical studies. Enjoy, please read with an open Bible and do double check with your pastor.
This entry was posted in Armchair Lounge, Frequently Twisted Passages and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to So rape is only punishable by a fine?

  1. loribordessa says:

    It’s stunning anytime non-Christians act as if they understand or interpret Scripture correctly, and especially when it’s just a “gotcha” attempt. Sad. Mostly tragic for them in their spiritual state.
    Thank You for this brother.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wayne says:

    I think there may be a very good explanation to add to what you concluded here as well. I’ll expound as time allows if you respond and are interested.

    Blessings, Wayne


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