Does the Bible condone rape? (Part 2)


What does the Bible say about rape? Are there sex slaves in the Bible? Does the Bible condone rape? What some of the texts condemn reveals some disturbing insight into what they seem to condone. So, what do we do? Nate and Tim continue their conversation on the topic of rape in the Bible.


Nate: Welcome back to Almost Heretical. This is the second part of our conversation on rape. Like we said last time, warning at the beginning of this, obviously we are going to be talking about rape. We’re doing that looking at rape in the Old Testament primarily, but still if you need to not listen to this or if you listen with kids, you know who you are and you can just skip it. So Tim, I need a little bit of a refresher. Where did we leave off? Oh, I remember: David. Nathan comes to David and says that long thing, and basically it was about the real problem here was that David took the possession of another man. Had nothing to do with Bathsheba. Right, something like that?

Tim: Right, the whole story is pitting David against Uriah. So remember we said it was kind of making a similar comparison to the Judah versus Joseph theme going on in Genesis. And the point of the story is to say something about David, and it’s using Uriah to do that. So that’s why we talked about how it showed Uriah’s giving up his privilege to be one of the people and David choosing his privilege to not be one of the people. And then the rape of Bathsheba, which we largely were just last episode proving that that’s what the story was about, the rape of Bathsheba is then interpreted and framed and rebuked as the greedy and power hungry theft of Uriah’s property. So Uriah is the victim in the analogy. Remember, it was this comparison of a rich man with many sheep and a poor man with one sheep, and the rich man steals the poor man’s sheep. And it was this embarrassment of riches and this embarrassment of selfishness. But the analogy was literally, the thing he did wrong was this poor Uriah only had one wife and David had many wives because apparently, according to the writer, YHWH had given them to David.

Nate: Okay, stop. Stop right there. Wives, plural, is being talked about right there, as if that’s like a blessing from God. And they’re also compared to, Bathsheba is compared to animals, to sheep. This is kind of disgusting, to be honest. I’m just wondering, why stick with it? Why say we need to stick with the Bible here? Why do you care about this story?

Tim: Yeah, well I think those questions are a little different, but they’re similar to a listener question that today’s episode is going to address. Which is not “why stick with the Bible in spite of these stories?” or “why do I care about these stories?” But it’s more like, if we’re people who consider the Bible important or sacred or significant or inspired or even just interesting, then what do we do with the fact that these stories that are in it?

Nate: Before you play that, I think the answer some people give to that question is, I have to align myself with — I mean it sounds really bad, but I have to align myself with the way the Bible talks about women here, or the way the Bible talks about what the sin was, in this case being greed.

Tim: Totally. So we’ll get into different ways of thinking about how we need to relate to the Bible, specifically in relation to stories like this. But we’ll cover some other ground to get there. So let’s just take, since I promised last time if I didn’t come back to the whole David with multiple wives thing, you need to remind me…

Nate: Yes. 

Tim: Okay. Here’s a two minute sidebar. I say two minutes, who knows?

Nate: You’ve never stuck to any timing.

Tim: No, it’s impossible. So you’ve probably heard many times, many places, that the Bible’s view or God’s view of marriage, God’s definition of marriage, is a covenant between one man and one woman. So we just did a couple episodes questioning the part of that of whether God ever defined marriage, but let’s just go to the monogamy piece of this real quick. So 1 Chronicles 3 is sort of the highlight summary of David’s relational life. So if you do the count, David had ten sons by seven named women; fifteen sons by women who aren’t even given names; and then “this is besides the sons of his concubines.” So seven wives that are named, some unknown amount of women who were essentially wives in his harem, mothers of his children — or sons— that aren’t even given names. And then it just throws out, “we’re not even going to talk about his sex slaves.” I mean, our English translations use this word concubine. We don’t use that word. Anywhere else, the modern day equivalent is that they were literally his sex slaves. 

Nate: Why didn’t we have any problems with this? Why did no one ever have any problems with this? Why was I just the only one? This is the “man after God’s own heart”, this is the man you’re supposed to model your life after as a man. There are so many men’s books about King David, how to have a prayer life like King David, a life of faith like King David. 

Tim: Right. So we’ve talked about it in the past, most of the stories in the Old Testament, specifically when we talked about this messianic arc that happens where they build someone up to look like he’s going to be the hero, the messiah figure, and then intentionally share stories or at least one story that’s kind of that figure’s downfall. So you see this with Noah, with Moses, with David, with all of them. So we shouldn’t be surprised that we see negative portraits of main characters. That’s part of the intent. And as part of that, it doesn’t mean that if we’re seeing a narrative about something that the Bible is necessarily condoning it. What we’re going to see is that’s an important word I think that a listener brings up. So you can read a story about somebody doing an awful thing and that doesn’t mean that the story is saying that thing is okay. The problem in this David story, the real problem that people have to wrestle with that I’m not making up is that the author of the text puts in the mouth of Nathan, the prophet who is speaking on behalf of Yahweh in the story, the line that this harem, which included multiple wives, polygamy in the sense of one man with multiple wives, but also sex slaves — that these were gifts of Yahweh. So the fact that this story’s happening isn’t condoning it, but you then have a line written in the mouth of one of the prophets that is saying not only this is okay, but it was a gift of God, that God gave you these women to be your harem. 

So one argument that scholars make, and I’ll be honest here, one of the scholars who is a friend of mine, I admire, we’ve had on the show, Dr. Tim Mackie, has made an argument that the Old Testament is putting forth monogamy as an ideal by, here’s the argument, the fact that anytime you see polygamy in the Old Testament stories, for instance the story with David or with Solomon and his many wives, that the story doesn’t go well. The argument is that there’s sort of a narrative literary presentation of the problems with polygamy. That argument just doesn’t hold water in my view. What we’ve talked about, every story in the Old Testament doesn’t end well. By design they’re trying to show that people get close to accomplishing this heroic deed and then fall short. Every story doesn’t go well. And here you have in the Samuel scroll in the story of David at least one of the authors of one of the books of the Bible saying that the king, David, was endowed with women and sex slaves as a gift of God, and that he mistreated that gift by being greedy enough to go get one more and steal from his employee essentially. And I’ve heard this when we did the LGBTQ conversation, and sort of pushed back on the assumption that the Bible is offering a divine definition of marriage. One pushback is okay, “what do we do with polygamy?” or “where does that leave us?” if we don’t have a divine definition, can we even assume that marriage is defined as between just two people, if we eliminate gender roles and open things up to be between one man and another man, or one woman and another woman. Could it just be fair game for polygamy? That’s why I’m just making the case that you’re not going to get those ethical considerations of marriage or where you define your definitions from the Old Testament. You’re just not going to. And honestly, what we see in the New Testament is it seems like some of the Jewish culture had maybe moved beyond the cultural acceptance of polygamy, but you still don’t have some divine ideal or divine definition. So I think we just need to reckon with what’s here and what isn’t here. What isn’t here is a condemnation of one man using and abusing a whole bunch of women, including Bathsheba. David is not rebuked because he hurt or offended Bathsheba. He’s rebuked for dishonoring Uriah, because Uriah’s a man and he has rights to his property and his honor. That’s the assumption here. So one thing we’re going to see is I think it’s by the nature of what the Bible condemns and what the Bible fails to condemn. And I know that’s a modern anachronistic look back; we want it to live up to our standards. But what the Bible fails to condemn reveals things that I do think the Bible’s actually condoning, and we’ve just got a lot of work, emotional and ethical work to figure out what do we do with that then. Whether we throw it all out or we make the whole thing up for our own or whatever, I think we just need to be honest, and I think one way to start is that there are more problem passages in the Bible than most of us have been led to believe. 

Nate: Alright. Should we play the question here from our listener?

Tim: Yep.

Hi, Nate and Tim, it’s Nicole from Memphis. My question is, how does a Christian who believes in a just and loving God approach instances in the Old Testament that seem to condone rape and the subordination of women? Thanks for your help.

Tim: Thanks, Nicole. Nate, when you heard this question, what was your first reaction or response?

Nate: I think I just struggle with this a lot less than I used to because I… it’s not that I’ve taken the Bible off a pedestal, which I think some people think I have, that it’s not this important book anymore or divine or inspired or all those things, it’s just I define those differently now. And part of that definition is to say that I think what we’re seeing here is a group of people wrestling with their culture, their understanding of God, their understanding of their place in this whole thing, and they’re figuring that out over time. So I have less… to me it’s the same problem I would have reading another ancient text from a people group, and things that don’t equal how I and how we as a society and a culture today view let’s say rape or many other topics. So to me, it’s not like I really struggle because I’m not trying to anymore cram the Bible into… this square Bible into this round hole of what I need it to be and what I want it to be. And I think there are a lot of us out there that aren’t trying to do that anymore, and so maybe it’s a little bit easier to have some of these inconsistencies and incongruencies of what the Bible is and what society believes today. So that’s my first reaction, I’m not… it sounds bad to say I’m not troubled, because I am troubled by the fact that it’s in there, and it seems like it’s being, it’s not condemned. But also at the same time, I don’t believe that’s who God is, that God magically took men’s hands over the last few thousand years and had them write the exact words He wanted them to write in this thing so that we’d have it and so that we knew exactly what He promoted and what He condemned and so we could just take those rules directly and apply them to our lives… I just don’t think that’s what this thing is.

Tim: Right. So now you’re in a place where you read a story that talks about a prophet saying God is mad at what you did because you stole another man’s wife, and God’s going to punish you by sending men to rape your wives in public. You read that story and you’re like, “Well, I just don’t think God’s like that.” And you don’t have to, now at this moment in time, you’re not being plunged into an emotional crisis or spiritual faith crisis because of that incongruence in your view? Nicole’s question said, “If you believe in a just and loving God,” what do we do with these stories? So it’s like recognizing there’s an incongruence. But say maybe flash back five years, and someone approaches you with this question.

Nate: Oh, this could have started on a really good and healthy faith crisis. We’ve talked about the slippery slope on here before and how it’s often talked about in such a negative way, like, “Uh oh, be careful, you’re going to fall off some cliff!” And we’ve talked about the benefits of that slippery slope, or that slope, going off of that cliff and discovering and actually finding yourself again, finding God again, finding some sort of faith or spirituality again after that. And I would encourage someone, if this is causing problems for you, really dig into those, because you might be about to go on a pretty amazing journey of re-finding everything again. The trendy word is deconstruction for that, but I think there’s so much more to that. And it’s a really powerful thing, and I don’t know, I think for someone that’s now listening… we’re in our sixties of number of episodes, you’ve probably deconstructed to a point by here. But if this is the first thing and it’s really troubling you, I think you just need to go on that journey and open your arms to that journey. How about you, when you first heard this question and when you first thought about this, what came to your head?

Tim: Yeah, you know, my first response, I’m kind of embarrassed to say this, especially with what I’m going to try to show in this episode, my first response was, “Well, is the Bible condoning rape and the subjugation of women?” That was my first response. And I’m embarrassed because what I’m going to do is spend a significant part of the next twenty minutes showing that I think that’s precisely what is happening. At first it seemed like, “Eh, maybe ‘condone’ is too strong a word.” Like, “Maybe it’s there, but the authors are just observing it; they’re not necessarily giving permission to it.”

Nate: This is perfect because that’s where I am right now. I kind of think there is maybe an instance like this in David’s story, where it is condoning because of what Nathan said, but… so you’re saying there’s more than that? This is perfect because now I want to ask you, where? You said condoning is actually a word. So show this to me, because I’m not there.

Tim: Yeah. So let’s go on a sad, strange, wild ride. So I mentioned last time, there is rape happening all over the Bible, especially in the Hebrew Bible. And I believe, like I mentioned, there’s almost like a rape and sexual assault motif that my sense is a literary device playing back to the curse in Genesis 3, that men will rule over women, that that is part of the curse. So you can make much more nuanced, sophisticated arguments about whether some of the redactors or writers in the Bible are actually trying to push back on the sexual politics, the gender politics, the ethics of other writers in the Bible. This variety of views within the scriptures is important, and that’s an important consideration. But within these stories and the way these stories are kind of stitched to the overall collection of text that we have in the Hebrew Bible, and then the way some of the laws in the levitical laws in Deuteronomy specifically are… what those laws are saying, and then we’ll just briefly touch on the pretty grotesque metaphors that are used in the prophets that are similar to what we just read with the Nathan of saying God was going to send someone to rape David’s wives in public, that kind of grotesque imagery. You know, we don’t know if that ever happened, but even if it’s just more of a metaphor, the image of God raping or being the subject of the act of rape is a pretty horrifying image. So there’s stuff like that, where those are the pieces, not just the presence of a story where someone rapes another person, but the way that story is being put forth and interpreted. So we’ll see in Genesis there’s rape all over the place. So in Genesis 6, we talked about what I think is the rape by divine beings of human women. Then in Genesis 9, there’s that weird story of Ham that we said could be read and we said is probably intended to be read both ways as Ham raping his mom and Ham raping his dad, Noah. So there’s this incestual rape thing. And then in Genesis 38-39 you have the stories back to back of Judah taking advantage of his daughter-in-law Tamar as a prostitute and then trying to cover it up and getting violent in order to cover it up, and then the story of Potiphar’s wife taking advantage of Joseph and mistreating Joseph to cover it up. So you have a victim of sexual assault and the proponent of sexual assault. You’ve got this little blip of Reuben, first born son of Israel, sleeping with a concubine, taking advantage of one of his father’s sex slaves and his father banishes him from the inheritance because of it. And then, we’ll pause on this one for a sec, you have this horrifying story in Genesis 34, the rape of Dinah. If you’re interested, there’s been some interesting artwork throughout church history, and you can just search the rape of Dinah on Google and see some interesting painting. But there’s a story where Shechem, an outsider, rapes Dinah, one of Jacob and Leah’s daughters. So here’s just another piece while we’re talking about how the Bible views women: daughters don’t get named unless they play a significant role in the lives of the men in the stories. So when David’s life was recapped, we were told he had sons with. The mothers of important sons are named. Dinah is only even named as one of Jacob’s daughters because she ends up playing this role where her rape ends up sparking this whole war, essentially. So just that in who gets a name. Like we talked about, Bathsheba in one sense isn’t even a name, it’s potentially a title. There’s this whole sense of a massive disparity in the honor between men and women. But so then you get this story, Genesis 34, and I’ll just give the brief highlight.

Nate: Can I just ask, too, because we had one person push back and say it wasn’t rape with David and Bathsheba because the same words weren’t used there as were used in Dinah’s rape. If they wanted to say it was rape, they could have. There were words. They were pushing back on you saying there weren’t the words to say that in Hebrew. Did you have a response to that?

Tim: Yeah, that’s where I would just go back to the two articles by Gravett and Andruska. We’ll put the links in the show notes again in this episode. But their careful grammatical study was that combining the term ‘to take’ and ‘to lie with’ when they observe all the cases in the scriptures where this is happening, looks like a device in order to show that this was a forceful sexual act. And they back that up.

Nate: Okay, gotcha. Then what word was used in Dinah’s rape? Was it that same…?

Tim: It’s exactly the same thing.

Nate: Okay.

Tim: If you look at the NIV, has:

1        Now Dinah, the daughter Leah had born to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the land. When Shechem, the son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area, saw her —

Tim: This is another ruler taking advantage of a young woman. And the NIV says he took her and raped her. What it says is he took her and lay with her. It’s that combination of ‘to take’ and ‘lie with’. So we said ‘to lie with’ is a normal word for having sex, but when you’re putting it as you’re taking an object in order to lie with it, it’s very clearly not a consensual, mutually desired or appreciated experience. So this is one of the few stories where modern English translations actually just use the word rape. Part of that is because it’s been more obvious to translators by the nature of this story, by its literary context, that this is rape. And people I think there’s just been such a long, ugly history of partly blaming Bathsheba, like we talked about last time, for the event. In 1 Samuel, translators have sort of whitewashed over that. But back to this story, verse 3 keeps going. It says:

3        His heart was drawn to Dinah, daughter of Jacob; he loved the young woman and spoke tenderly to her. And Shechem said to his father Hamor, “Get me this girl as my wife.” 

When Jacob heard that his daughter Dinah had been defiled, his sons were in the fields with his livestock; so he did nothing about it until they came home. Then Shechem’s father Hamor went out to talk with Jacob. Meanwhile Jacob’s sons had come in from the fields as soon as they heard what had happened.

Tim: Here’s an important part:

They were shocked and furious because Shechem had done an outrageous thing in Israel by sleeping with Jacob’s daughter, a thing that should not be done.

Tim: So there’s one sense in which you read this act and the way it’s presented that a man takes one of the Israelite daughters and has sex with her, and it says she was defiled. There’s a way we can read that and go, “Yeah, that’s sort of describing, she was offended against.” You can treat ‘defile’ as an idiom for molested or corrupted. But really when we go on to read the story, the point of the story is that this foreigner wasn’t circumcised, was not a part of the ritual purifications to be an Israelite. And this is sort of later levitical law being projected back onto earlier stories, which happens all over the Hebrew Bible. So you get this demand by the sons that the entire tribe, Shechem and his tribe, circumcise themselves. And if they circumcise themselves then Shechem gets to keep Dinah! It’s not like, “How dare you touch my sister!” It’s actually the sense that because an uncircumcised man has penetrated one of the members of the tribe, the men in the tribe have been both dishonored and defiled ritually. And so what they’re frustrated with is not that a rape occurred, but that a kind of impurification happened that affects not Dinah — that’s not who they’re concerned about — but with the men of the story.

And so you go on, there’s this thing where they make them all get circumcised, and then a couple of sons are so angry that they’ve been dishonored that they go and slaughter all the men and this war breaks out.

Nate: Okay, pause, pause, pause, pause, pause. So you just told the story. And I get it and I see it there. And that is disgusting. You mentioned earlier that you now believe that the Bible isn’t just observing these things, but that it is condoning these things, these rapes. Why?

Tim: Right. And my argument is, what is it condemning? And the nature of what these stories condemn in the way they’re being explained or interpreted within the texts, what they are condemning reveals what they are not condemning, and by nature what they are in part at least condoning. So the last line of this story is, “But they replied, ‘Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?’” Some translations will say, “‘But should he have treated our sister like a whore?’” Think about that for a second. And then if you remember the conversation we had in the gender series when we were talking about the role of veiling and how in many ancient cultures, including ancient Roman culture and ancient Near Eastern cultures like Israel’s, essentially the predominant view was that a woman in her own nature did not have any right to protection over her own body. Her right was indirect. It was received by the men who claimed some sort of ownership or relationship to her. So it was wrong to rape a wife of a man, and we’ll see some of this in the laws in the Old Testament. And what a veil did was it symbolized, it indicated to those around you, that you were not single; you belonged to a clan. You were either a wife or a daughter who belonged to the father. And therefore you were off limits. The implication was that if you weren’t wearing a veil and if you didn’t have any man who would be able to claim rights to your body, that you were fair game. This is essentially the same ethical idea that’s being put forth here. They’re condemning that their sister, who was — we’ll get into this problematic idea of virginity — who was a virgin daughter of their dad, was treated like a prostitute. What I wish they had said was, “How could any man rape a woman?” Right? They don’t say that. Their problem is that their sister was treated the way that it’s okay to treat prostitutes. That’s the argument. There was no actual payment here. Dinah didn’t. There is a story, that Tamar story, where Tamar acts as a prostitute, receives a payment. You could have a separate conversation there. The underlying idea is that if Dinah were a prostitute who didn’t belong to any man, didn’t have brothers, a husband or a father to claim ownership, then it would have been okay for Shechem to come rape her. That’s the underlying idea.

Nate: So, I feel like we need to have a bigger conversation here. Because what this proves to me, what this shows me, is exactly what I was saying before. What the Bible actually is. The Bible actually is a historic text, and I’m guessing, I would assume, that there’s probably not a text in this time period of when these stories that we see in the Bible, when they were written; there’s probably not another text, religious text or even historical text, from another people group that just had the best views on women and men and sexuality. And it probably is somewhat the time these people were living in. Which I think we need to understand and realize what we have in the Bible. Otherwise we really diminish what the Bible is, I think. So some people would hear that and say, “You’re diminishing the Bible by knocking it off this pedestal of divinely inspired religious texts, and it’s the one true message, the letter from God to all of us.” And I’m saying I think they’re devaluing it by trying to make it something that it’s not saying that it is. That it is clearly not representing itself as based on other religious texts, history that we know, all of these things make it pretty clear what the Bible is, and we need to take it at what it is, not what we want it to be. And so all that to say, again… I think you would probably say this too, Tim. You don’t actually have this expectation that the Bible should have said that, because you don’t believe that it is this book where God was writing what God thought was the best way for us to relate to each other as human beings, male, female, sexually, all these things. You don’t actually believe that’s what going on, so do you really feel like the Bible let you down on this one?

Tim: Uh, I think my answer is still yes and no. You’re right, I don’t expect the Bible to live up to modern ideas, modern ethics. And you’re also right, all Greek philosophers who we think were brilliant geniuses who get used, we’ve built democratic societies based around their ideas, they all thought women were unequal property. That was the view. So the Bible isn’t worse than other ancient cultural artifacts. But is it better than what my non Christian neighbors think next door? And the way that that question is answered, if we’re honest, I think has changed dramatically over the past few hundred years, because of some really awesome — I’m a cynic most days, but some really awesome ethical progress that has happened in the world. The liberation of women, the liberation of slaves, the abolishment of the acceptance at least of slavery. Obviously we still have a long ways to go with everything, but even the ground that’s been gained in the last decades with the acceptance and equality of LGBTQ people, it’s both… there’s a long way to go, we have a lot of work to do, and wow! Much of culture thinks so differently than it did even twenty years ago, let alone 2200 years ago, right? 

So the difference in how we respond to these texts is what we think the relationship between the culture, the world and the culture’s ethical progress, the way people’s views on how to treat people have changed and developed and gotten better. Our ethical restrictions have gotten more stringent. You can’t get away with doing things now that you could ten years ago. The way that changes how we think about these texts, what we’re going to see, that just has to change for many of us, like you were saying, what we think the Bible is and what it’s meant to be and how we’re to relate with it. Or what you end up doing, and we’ve pointed this out, you end up sticking with a view of the Bible — for instance, a conservative biblicist view — and then fighting against the ethical developments out in the world. And you feel like there is no ethical development; what we see in the Bible is the purest, best divine ethic we’ll ever find, therefore all of the last thirty, forty years pushing for LGBTQ, understanding empathy and equality, that’s all totally bogus and we can’t let that change our views. And the way that modern society has come to try to, at least many people within that society, try to empower women to equal pay, equal power, equal rights, equal representation? We can’t let that get in the way of what we think the Bible’s saying. That kind of war goes on. 

So you and I, Nate, don’t feel that war anymore, but that’s because I think we’ve sort of landed in a position that not everybody listening is in that position. But also, I think it’s been easier for people to hold to this, “The Bible says it so I’m going to listen to it, despite what the culture says,” because we haven’t paid attention to what the Bible’s saying. So let’s actually look at a couple more stories. And again, I love the Bible. I love the Hebrew Bible. Please don’t get me wrong that this is bashing the Old Testament because the New Testament is better… I’m not into that whole thing. But there’s just some stuff here that we really need to notice. Another story in Genesis, Sodom and Gomorrah story. Nate how have you, aside from the whole people using it to promote the traditional view of marriage, how have you — especially as we’re talking about rape — reflected on the Sodom story where the angels go into town and bad things happen?

Nate: I don’t know that I’ve actually heard too much about that outside of it being used to talk about the definition of marriage and the conservative, anti-LGBTQ stance. What are other ways that’s used?

Tim: Well, not the ways it’s used. I’m just saying what we need to see is happening in the story. Part of what we’ll see is how ironic that idea is, that this is somehow putting forth a divine ideal for marriage. So if you remember the story, there are these angels who appear as men, so you can sort of simultaneously read the story as these are men and then you can also read the story as these are divine beings, and it’s sort of working in two ways at once. But they go into this town, and they knock on the door of Lot. And you get this strange thing where these men come pounding on the door demanding that Lot put out his visitors. So it was sort of a hospitality-based patriarchal culture where as the man of the house, you have a responsibility to show hospitality to your visitors. And the antithesis of showing hospitality is gang rape. And so what these men try to do is shame and dishonor the visitors, essentially wage war against them, by bringing them out into the public square, into the middle of town, and gang raping them. This has nothing to do with monogamous sexual relationship, anything like that. But do you remember the horrific line, which I want us to just sit with for a sec? That Lot offers to throw out his virgin daughters to be gang raped instead of the visitors?

Nate: Oh right. Like he’s like, “Stop, stop, what about this?”

Tim: Right. So in the story, that doesn’t happen; the daughters don’t get thrown out. But think about what it means. Why would he have suggested that, and why would an audience have understood that action, to make that offer, as a logical action? It’s because the social norms of that kind of patriarchal culture, it was less ethical to allow someone to dishonor your male houseguest than it was to subject your daughters to be raped. In other words, for a man to be mistreated under your care was a greater grievance than taking your children — these are children — and submitting them to be publicly raped. Now if that isn’t suggesting a problematic view of women and girls specifically, that essentially the offer to sex traffic your own children was seen as a good act — that’s the role that offer has in the story, at least in part. I don’t think the story is saying that what happens here in the story is good. It’s not doing that. But what it’s condemning is the rape of these men in a culture where it’s even fathomable that someone would offer up his own daughters. So here’s something you may not have thought of, is that Judges 21-22, people probably remember the story, it’s probably the most grotesque story in the Bible, where a woman is gang raped to death and the owner (this was a concubine) the owner of the concubine, an Israelite, is so angry that he chops up her body and sends it to the twelve tribes of Israel. You kind of vaguely remember that story?

Nate: Yeah, yeah. Mmhmm.

Tim: So what people may not have noticed is this story is essentially a recapitulation of the Sodom story. So what happens is the man and his concubine come to stay in a foreign town and they’re welcomed into a person’s home, and these men come knock on the door and demand to rape the men in the home. And what happens again is that the Israelite who has the concubine on the journey and then the owner of the home make the same offer: “Don’t come mistreat the men, that’s wrong. Let’s put out our women.” And in this story what we see happening is what almost happened in the Sodom story. So the woman actually does get thrown out of the house and the language is intentionally gruesome, but it says that she was gang raped in the public square. The whole point is this is a public shaming event — gang raped in the public square until she died. A fatal, intentionally fatal rape. So that story is showing what actually Lot is offering in Genesis 19. Offering his daughter to be raped to death in the public square. Not necessarily because that’s a thing he wants to happen; but that he was willing to offer that in order to avoid being seen as an inhospitable patriarch shows a massive discrepancy in the inherent, the view of the inherent value and worth of a man and a female daughter.

Nate: Gotcha. Yeah, I see that.

Tim: So there are a whole bunch more examples. I’ll just give the highlights and then we’ll talk through some stuff.

Nate: Yeah, that sounds good. Because I have a question to kind of land this at the end. So give me your little Timmy high-level flyover.

Tim: So there are those stories in Genesis where Abraham and Sarah are traveling different places and multiple times Abraham lies about Sarah and says that she’s not his wife.

Nate: “She’s my sister.”

Tim: Those stories? Like if we just back up and think about what’s happening, Abraham is giving up his wife as a sex slave to foreign kings in order to protect his own well-being. That’s just there in those stories, it happens multiple times. Then there’s the interesting story, another occurrence of rape of Lot’s daughters raping him for offspring. There’s a story which I think we should touch on in a little bit of Abraham and Sarah subjecting Hagar, which a lot of translations will say was their servant, to be the surrogate, to bear a child for them. But one thing I think we just need to understand is in the context, this is a slave working for a clan, and the heads of the clan decide that this slave’s job is going to be to have sex with the husband to produce offspring. As an American, I can’t help reading onto that story the horrific stories of white slaveowners in early Americas raping their female slaves in part to produce work, to produce human capital. If we can’t see the gross injustice in a story like that… it doesn’t mean, necessarily, that because that story’s there that the Bible is condoning it, but we need to see how unethical the action is and then look at what the Bible is doing with those stories. 

Even the way that wives were found. Rebecca becomes Isaac’s wife because Abraham sends a messenger out to take a wife for him. The whole thing is a deal between the patriarchs, a contract, a marriage arrangement based on the economic value of a daughter and the treatment of women as property. So the whole picture of sexual relationships is probably closer akin to what we would call child trafficking than any modern conception of family or family values. Like, we as a culture have already moved beyond arranged marriage, and even marriage for political alliance; we think marriage should be based on mutual love. This is literally sending a messenger to go take a young virgin woman to come back to be your wife. The whole term “take a wife” which is the way the Hebrew idiom goes for men getting married, is by today’s standards incredibly problematic. How about the horrific story of Jacob and Leah? Remember there’s the story, Jacob loves Rachel, wants to marry Rachel, works for seven years.

Nate: He gets Leah instead. Yeah.

Tim: Yeah. We read that story and try to figure out the moral to it, but can you imagine the subjection of women that a man just gives over a different daughter to be… the story says Jacob didn’t know who he was sleeping with. He thought he was having sex with Rachel; he had sex with Leah. Does anyone care about how Leah felt about being put in some man’s bed to be slept with? Jacob is construed as the victim in that story. Why?

Nate: And I’m guessing Leah was then his wife for the rest of her life, too. 

Tim: Right. And Jacob of course wasn’t a monogamous, one wife kind of man. But even just think about what that says about what the authors of the story, when they’re writing this, where their sympathies lay? If women — again, these women only got names because they gave birth to important men; let alone they were never sympathized with in the writing of these texts. So even there, we could probably call what’s happening in that story child trafficking and rape. Yet in that story it’s Jacob who is positioned as the supposed victim.

Nate: What about Esther and Rahab? Because I think people would use those and say they were, the Old Testament does talk about women. Obviously there’s a lot going on in those stories that is terrible. But I’m saying, it does mention women not just in connection with important men. Right?

Tim: Uh, right, but those two women, why? We need to do a series on Esther because I think it’s such a fascinating text, but why do Esther and Rahab even get named? They’re named for the same reason those stories — in Rahab it’s a shorter story, in Esther it’s a full text — get included. It’s because in those stories, these women play key roles. It doesn’t mean that no women play important parts in the Old Testament. The point is, when you’re naming the children that the men had, you don’t even care to name the daughters or even say how many daughters David had. It just counts up the sons that he had. And to some of that you would say, okay they’re trying to name generations and whatever. But let’s just admit how patriarchal the cultures are that how many women were ever even born doesn’t even get mentioned, even in as important a family line as David. And even Rahab, she’s put forth as a kind of hero figure because of what she does in the story on Israel’s behalf. But no where is the fact that she was forced to work as a prostitute, nowhere is that economic injustice condemned in the Bible. She’s not condemned for being a prostitute. But what I would love to see is the entire political situation in which women have to prostitute out their own bodies be condemned. And then the Esther story is a whole other, Esther as Joseph and she’s a messiah type in that story, which is a really cool story! But we’ll save that for another time. 

So you got all these stories, okay? And then I think you have an even more problematic world of laws. Now I want to make an important, to me it is very important to say that just because a law is in the text, just like just because a story’s in there doesn’t mean that the story is saying this is what you should do? The story itself is not saying, “Be like David.” Your pastor may have told you to be like David, but the Bible does not say to be like David. I think similarly, since the Bible is a mosaic that is taking multiple pieces of text and literature and stitching them together, arranging them to have some greater, overarching meaning, that nowhere in the Bible does it say, the reason the laws are here is for you to follow them. Nowhere does it say, “The laws are for you, dear reader, listen to them.” So just because the laws are here doesn’t mean that the Bible is condoning the law as a good law, per se. I do think that is happening in the text elsewhere, for instance the New Testament affirming the goodness of the entire Torah. You have that. But I think it’s possible that laws were put in there to serve other literary functions other than to say, “Hey, here’s a good law. Do this one.” But that doesn’t mean there are not incredibly problematic things in the law. And let’s just start with the tenth commandment.

“You shall covet your neighbor’s house, wife, slave, animal, or anything else that belongs to him.” That made it into your top ten, into our top ten of commands in the Hebrew Bible. It is assuming that you already know that wives and slaves are right there next to sheep and goats as the property of the male head of household, the male patriarch. And you should not mistreat that male neighbor by coveting or taking his wife. Like, if we don’t just see how problematic the assumptions underlying these things are… So even if I don’t think that the Bible’s saying, “Hey, that is a law for me to follow,” the Bible is assuming that I agree that women are the property of men. It literally says, “Or other things that belong to him[your neighbor].” All these rules are written to men, from men, for men, to protect the rights of other men. So there’s literally, there’s this whole stretch of laws in Deuteronomy 21-22. One scholar has said, Harold Washington has said,“The laws in Deuteronomy 22 don’t prohibit rape, they institutionalize it.”

I think we’ve got the time, Nate, maybe we can pull this off. Will you just read Deuteronomy? You got something you can pull up?

Nate: Yeah.

Tim: Deuteronomy 22:13-30.

Nate: Okay, 22:13-30.

13        If a man takes a wife and, after sleeping with her, dislikes her and slanders her and gives her a bad name, saying,“I married this woman, but when I approached her, I did not find proof of her virginity,” then the young woman’s father and mother shall bring to the town elders at the gate proof that she was a virgin. Her father will say to the elders, “I gave my daughter in marriage to this man, but he dislikes her. Now he has slandered her and said, ‘I do not find your daughter to be a virgin.’ But here is the proof of my daughter’s virginity.” Then her parents shall display the cloth before the elders of the town, and the elders shall take the man and punish him. They shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give them to the young woman’s father—

Nate: A speeding ticket, basically.

19        because this man has given an Israelite virgin a bad name. She shall continue to be his wife; he must not divorce her as long as he lives. If however the charge is true and no proof of the woman’s virginity can be found, she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house, and there the men of the town shall stone her to death. She has done an outrageous thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father’s house. You must purge the evil from among you.

Nate: I’ve heard that before, that line in the church. Not obviously talking about this, but…

22        If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel. If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and sleeps with her, you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death — the young woman because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife. You must purge the evil from among you.

25        But if out in the country a man happens to meet a young woman pledged to be married and rapes her, only the man who has done this shall die. Do nothing to the woman; she has committed no sin deserving death. This case is like that of someone who attacks and murders a neighbor, the man found the young woman out in the country, and though the betrothed woman screamed, there was no one to rescue her. 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 of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives. A man is not to marry his father’s wife; he must not dishonor his father’s bed.

Tim: [sighing] Like that scholar said, you’ll find people, I went down a rabbit hole that I wish I didn’t have to go to, but I looked at how the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood treats some of these passages. And they try to claim that these are just passages because the women being described in these various scenarios are not actually victims of rape. They’re willing participants, and so these are good divine laws.

Nate: Really? That’s what they said?

Tim: Yep. And they specifically said that against this quote by Harold Washington, that these not only are they not prohibiting rape, they’re not condemning what we want them to condemn: rape; but they’re actually institutionalizing rape by nature of what else they are condemning. And on top of this you have another one in Deuteronomy 21, the chapter before, which are rules for if you kidnap a woman as war plunder. If you go out in a war and you decide you like a woman in the tribe that you just conquered and decide to take her home, here’s some stipulations for what you can do. And note: it’s been interpreted by many, all those stipulations are sort of holding back evil. For instance, you can’t take that woman within the first month. It’s like, “Well, at least this won’t allow rape out in the field of war as so often happens.” But if you read carefully you realize it’s not to protect the woman; it’s to protect from defilement against foreigners. So the rules given are, “If you’re going to kidnap a woman and take her home as your sex slave, make sure you cut off her hair and burn her clothes, because those are foreign objects which will make you ritually impure.” It’s condemning one thing and not condemning something else. And I think it’s in that thing what we’re seeing, inherent to this law, is what I would say the condoning of, for instance, taking women in war as plunder. 

Nate: So I think, and I think this is what I thought you were going to say the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood was going to say, because I’ve heard this argument a bit: “Well, hey, listen, what the Old Testament is doing is putting constraints. It’s not God’s ideal. Even some, I think Greg Boyd kind of gets here a little bit, that’s just putting constraints on the culture at the time. There was rampant immorality going on, and they’re putting constraints on what you are able to do. As in you can’t go five steps down the road, you have to go one step first. Otherwise people will just go, “What are you talking about? I can’t even wrap my head around that.” But what I’ve always said with that, if you’re going to put constraints around it, why wouldn’t it just say, “This is God’s ideal but I get that that’s too hard, so let’s go one step here.” And it doesn’t say that. I don’t think there’s any evidence there that that’s what is going on, that it’s trying to put small constraints around it. What would your response to that be, Tim?

Tim: Yeah, I mean, I think a good other case study is Deuteronomy 21:15 and the following verses. Starts with, “If a man has two wives and likes one and not the other,” and then it goes on to say what the rule is in that situation is that, and it’s a rule directly connected to what Israel does (Jacob Israel). Jacob has two wives, Leah and Rachel; loves Rachel more, and when Rachel has a son, even though it’s not the firstborn, Joseph ends up receiving the inheritance, the rights of the firstborn, which is a theme in Genesis. So there’s a literary connection here. But the rule that we’re reading says, “If a man has two wives and he likes one and not the other one,” then it goes on to say, “protect the rights of the son of the woman he doesn’t love.” Not, well he should have never been in that situation in the first place. Not, make sure that the man treats the woman he doesn’t like justly and well, doesn’t abandon her. The concern is for the men in the story.

Nate: So you’re saying it is constraining what was supposed to be done at the time, like the common rule was whatever and it is setting a constraint, but you’re saying the constraint is still patriarchal, it’s still oppressive to women. So it’s not this… maybe it is like I was saying, maybe it is that first step, but it’s not a first step in the right direction. It’s a first step still in a patriarchal direction.

Tim: So my main argument in going through all this stuff is that by constantly protecting the rights of men in these stories, these texts are treating women as inhumane property. By condemning rape as a violation of male honor and property rights, it’s condoning the subjugation and violation of women. So that’s my main argument. And again, I admitted, I was like, “Did the Bible really condone this stuff?” And when you read closely of what it is condemning, which is precisely not… in almost every one of these stories, what the Bible’s condemning is precisely not what I want it to condemn, that at least in part these stories are condoning that thing, which is almost always the subjugation and abuse of women. The women get no say, their well being is never the point in these stories. Their victimization is never conceived of as the damage done; the damage is what happens to the men around the women: their fathers, their husbands, their brothers. By doing that, I do think these texts are condoning rape and the subjugation of women.

So Nicole’s question was I think spot on, I think that is happening here. So what do we do with it? So Nate, let me just —

Nate: Well, I think what some people do with it is they would say, “Yes, just like other cultures at the time that probably had similar texts, there’s just brokenness. Humans are broken. That’s why we have even these histories of the subjugation of women, we just needed to get to Jesus.” And I guess I struggle with that one because it still seems like even after Jesus and in the New Testament we still see a lot of this stuff happening. So I struggle with that one, because it’s not like there’s this perfect world after where people were trying to live with his ideals. So I don’t know, I struggle with that one. But I do think that’s a common thing, like, “You’re going to find brokenness in the Old Testament.” Which I agree with, but…

Tim: Right, and I think there are problems and truths to that idea. I’m always scared of the “Old Testament was bad, it shows bad people doing bad things, and bad ideas, and then New Testament Christianity came around to save us from the Jews.” Versions of that cessationist idea have turned into antisemitism throughout all of church history, so anything that goes close to it I don’t want any part of. And yet at the same time, I think there’s a sense in which that idea — just get to Jesus and use Jesus as a kind of lens— there’s at least some truth there. Because I’m in favor of just us admitting, not just these were broken people, these texts are broken. According to our standards, our modern standards, the ethics of these texts fail. And we can ask questions as to why, or what were the texts originally meaning, or what were they truly trying to communicate? And people have answered those questions differently throughout time. Some of the church fathers said things that people would think are heretical today, but said things like basically, there are intentionally mistakes in the Bible so that we wouldn’t become idolaters worshipping the Bible and would rely on worshipping God instead of the Bible. There are people who have a long history in the church of allegorizing ugly stories to get away from their more plain sense meaning and to rewrite the meaning in a kind of spiritualization. There are a lot of people nowadays pitching for this cruciform lens or this Jesus filter where it’s like, okay, we know Jesus was gracious and accepting and loving, so anything that doesn’t feel like that when we’re reading other parts of the Bible, whether it be Paul or the Old Testament, that means we must just be reading it wrong, so let’s go back to that.

Nate: Or that’s not what it was saying, like what Greg Boyd or Brian Zahnd would say, that they thought they were speaking on behalf of God but they weren’t. To be fair to that view.

Tim: Yeah, and people like Boyd will, he’s just come out with an interesting, relatively new take on what to do with some of these stories in the Old Testament. And as I understand his argument, part of it is basically God’s inspiration was to allow ugly things into the Bible in order for us to see them as ugly. That’s pretty similar to some of what the early church fathers said. But here’s a disconnect between the conservative world and even that idea of Greg Boyd or where a lot of progressive Christians would go: who gets to determine or can we even determine whether something is ugly? Do we even have the capacity to apply an ethical filter? And there are views of the Bible that essentially say, we’ve talked about this, neo-Calvinist world that say we don’t have that capacity, so we just have to trust the Bible to say what it’s saying. I don’t think many Jews throughout history of the world have ever thought of their own sacred text, the Hebrew Bible, that way. I think throughout most of history, most Jews had a much more malleable, flexible view of how to adapt what we are learning in the world with what these texts said than conservative Christians. There’s interesting stuff you can see throughout even translation history and scribal history within the Jewish tradition of how they’re finding these texts to be problematic and whether they preserve them as is or try to make them more reasonable. I think one thing that’s happened, like we said, is within conservative church world. And when I say conservative, I don’t mean the fundamentalist 5%. I mean the majority of protestant Christianity that I’ve ever seen. The baseline has been, and I think you can see this in translations, that the Bible is God’s communication to the world, and therefore the Bible has to be saying things that are good, true, and beautiful. And so if it appears that they’re not, we have to find a way to make sense of how they’re saying something else. So I think this is literally just whitewashing, where even some of what we just pointed out I think probably many listeners haven’t noticed before. Even in our translations we’ll see there are things that have been removed. I found this interesting little bit of scholarly artifact, where there’s a word in Hebrew. It’s the first time I’ve ever — pardon my language, if your kids are listening, they probably shouldn’t have been, but here’s another little caveat — the only scholarly, academic journal article I’ve ever seen that uses the word “fuck” about six or seven times, and it’s not just because the author was in a bad mood. But her point was that there’s a word in Hebrew that the best modern English translation is “to fuck.” It has that sense, the reason I’m even saying it on the podcast, it has a crude, grotesque, it’s meant to offend you. And she just pointed out that word has actually been removed in the Masoretic texts, which our Bible is based off of. It was removed because it was seen as too offensive to be in a sacred text. But the whole reason it was there was to be an offensive word. So there are things like that that have happened throughout many cultures, in many of the layers of how we got our Bible or have come to think of our Bible. And there’s a huge propensity in the conservative apologetics that are going to try to make the Bible appear more congruous with our modern ethics. And one of the really toxic byproducts of that, where we basically don’t look honestly at some of the more problematic stuff here, is that when we think that we see the world more closely to the way the Bible sees the world than is true, it allows us to buy into this false idea of “everything we need to know in the world we get in the Bible.” Does that make sense? It’s part of why I’ve wanted to push into the weird stuff with divine beings and Paul’s weird background stuff. I’ve made the point: we don’tsee the world like Paul did! We view things very differently, and I think that’s important because otherwise we’re slower to realize how impossible and uncredible the view is that everything we need to know about the world we could get out of the Bible. 

And then, and this is just my last point Nate, and then I’ll kind of let you share whatever thoughts you’ve got. When we went through the gender series, I said it’s a simple fact of complementarianism, the view that men and women are inherently equal but have different God-assigned roles, to rule and be ruled, that is a construct that is relatively new in the last 150 years. And the reason that had to be made up is because throughout pre-church history and church history, all the men who wanted to rule over women had a pretty easy time because they just got to say, “We’re going to rule over you because you’re not equal to us.” And the world by and large allowed them to say that and they allowed that idea to exist. And then there was an ethical revolution in which women demanded to be seen as equal, inherently of the same worth and value as men, and therefore conservatives, both Christian and non Christian, had to change their argument. They had to base misogyny and patriarchy and male rulership on a different idea. So they had to make up the idea that has nothing to do with inequality, women are equal—

Nate: “Equal but different”

Tim: —but they’ve just been given these different roles in the household and society and the church. So part of my feeling here is that that move, to make up a whole new ideology to support the continued subjugation of women, that only happens if we don’t let ourselves see how misogynistic the biblical writers, or at least many of them, were; and how far we are from that now. Complementarians, what they want you to believe is that the biblical authors saw women as equal but with different roles, so we can now see women as equal in different roles and we think just like the people who wrote the Bible. What is true is that many people who wrote texts that are now in the Bible saw women as inherently unequal property to be treated with contracts and economic valuations rather than as full peers. And therefore, women were to have different roles in society. And therefore, if we don’t believe that women are unequal — if we believe that women are inherently valued by God and therefore by us, why would we ever get off thinking that we should be ruling over them still, us men?! So my point here is that if either pretend or like I would say the John Pipers of the world are out there, the biblical councils of manhood and whatever BS, are out there convincing people that their ideas are biblical, that they are right in line with in part by saying there’s not much of an ethical gap between us and for instance the writers of these texts, like the David and Bathsheba story, then it then allows them to do some pretty manipulative stuff with this biblicist thing in mind. So I’m not trying to… what I’ve seen is that people, if they hold to that view of the Bible, and then they start to see this stuff, people walk away from their faith altogether. We’ve made the case that the gospel coalitions of the world and the John Pipers of the world would rather see people be atheist than egalitarian Christians. They are more comfortable with giving people a view of the Bible that will completely fall apart for eighty percent of the people as long as the other twenty percent hold their ideological views. My thing in doing this, showing the ugliness of part of the Bible, is not to get people to lose their faith. It’s to say, whatever faith is it has to be a faith based on these are our texts and this stuff is here, so let’s be honest with it, see what kind of differences there are, admit how much society has changed and how differently we view the world and women and children and sexual relationships than those around us, and realize how much we’ve already adapted our theology to modern conceptions of humanity, and then be honest about that and feel liberated to do more of that. I know that was long-winded; does that make sense, at least?

Nate: No, it makes total sense. I almost don’t want to touch it too much, don’t want to add too much, because I think that was really beautiful, and I think it really captures what we see happening in church world (there’s the ‘world’ thing again), but in Church World. It’s like I’ve said on the show all the time: we have changed, and I think understanding that we’ve adapted how we interpret the text, how we view the Bible, how we interpret the Bible, that has changed over time. And it hasn’t died, it’s changed. Just because we’re living right now, and so we only see what’s happening live, and we have different takes on what happened in history to say why they adapted and why they changed in history. All we can see right now is that things are changing. Interpretations, people are wrestling over these interpretations, they’re wrestling over where we’re going, where is the church going to land? And we don’t see that this has happened many, many, many times before. And so it feels like, “Oh, the young kids are trying to change things, they’re trying to go back on what we’ve always believed about the Bible!” And that’s just not reality. That’s just not true. This has been happening for thousands of years, where culture adapts and changes and ethics adapt and change and get better, we’ve said on the show. They get better. And the church, unfortunately usually last, comes around and adapts and changes and usually agrees upon where culture has moved, or at least some percentage of where culture has moved, until culture then moves again and they adapt and change again. And what I, just personally aside, have wanted is to be on the front of those changes, not at the end of those changes. To be towards the beginning of these discussions, not being drug along at the end of the train because you have to, otherwise there’ll be no one in your church anymore, no one in your denomination, at your seminary, whatever. Not being dragged kicking and screaming, but being the leaders. Being on those front lines of the conversations and having them well. And so yeah, I’ve loved this, and these two conversations I think have been really helpful, and hopefully they’ve helped a lot of our listeners.

Tim: So I know this is long, I know you’re probably going to cut this, but before we did this episode, I sat down and spent I don’t know, twenty minutes, just on the topic of sex and our views of sexual relationships, I did a brainstorm on what actually has changed between us and the time of the texts that we’re reading.

Nate: You know what I’m going to do? I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to let you say this all, but I’m going to cut it out of this episode and put it in an Utterly Heretical episode. And if you want to listen to that, you can go to our Patreon page and help support the show, because it does take quite a bit of our time and energy on evenings and weekends, and we’d love you to be a part of this community that’s growing. So Tim, you can say it, but it won’t appear here. How does that sound?

Tim: [laughs] Alright. So basically, what has changed? What do we believe that the authors of these texts did not believe? Or what do we not believe that the authors of these texts did believe? And honestly, make your own list. Do your own honest reflection. I found this helpful. But here’s just a shot at it: We believe women are equal to men, of equal value and nature. Equal. We don’t believe people should be able to own other people.

[fades to silence]

Nate: And if you want to hear what he just said, you can go to to get our second podcast called Utterly Heretical. Check it out.

Tim: So you can make your own list. I just ran through that myself. Even if there were just two points on that list, we have to admit how much we’ve changed. The fact that you could have ten, fifteen, twenty… so when we were having the conversation based on Nicole’s basic question of how do we deal with these passages, I think the simplest place I’ve come to, is we just disagree with the Bible’s sex ethics. That is how we deal with the Bible. In these stories, these passages, where the Bible seems to be condone the rape or subjugation of women, we disagree. We have to be able to disagree ethically. I think it’s as simple as that. That means you’re only enabled to have that relationship with the Bible if you believe we can progress as human beings. We can develop, we can learn, we can improve upon ancient cultures. So we have to adapt to new scientific and ethical discoveries. If you’re in the camp where there’s no such thing as adaptation, then either you have to be honest and say that you’re going to treat women as property and lah-di-dah (which I don’t want anybody out there to do) to be consistent, or you basically have to admit that your current relationship with the Bible just isn’t quite working. So in my view on the other side, it’s easier to say this than when you’re first changing your views, but to me it’s saying, don’t let the Bible act as an ethical anchor dragging us back into regressive ethics, a.k.a. complementarianism. Complementarianism is the use of the Bible to take us backwards to a patriarchal, misogynistic culture that men miss and want to hold onto. That’s what it is. My fear and trembling, which eventually over the last few years led me to become gay affirming, was watching the insidiousness of what I see complementarianism doing as an ideology. It is using the Bible as an anchor to drag us backwards. And I finally came to terms, and my own belief is that to hold to the traditional view of marriage despite all of the stories and evidence and science we have around us related to sexuality and identity and gender, that would be allowing the Bible to act as an ethical anchor that keeps us from progressing as human beings. I would rather find myself disagreeing with the Bible than allow the Bible to drag me back into some medieval form of ethics. So that’s my simple short view. But I know it takes a long ways to get there

Nate: Alright. Thanks for journeying with us and for listening in, we really do appreciate all of you and especially our patrons who help keep this show going. Shout out to all of you for the financial contributions you make to do that so we can keep making this show. If you want to find out more about us, why we do this show, or ask a question that could appear on a future episode of Almost Heretical, you can do that at Alright, we will see you next time.

Tim: Peace.

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