Torah and Wahhabism

Saw the following headline at the Drudge Report,
“Saudi punishes gang rape victim with 200 lashes”

As I read the story my Western mind was taken aback by some of what I was reading,

The 19-year-old woman — whose six armed attackers have been sentenced to jail terms — was initially ordered to undergo 90 lashes for “being in the car of an unrelated male at the time of the rape,” the Arab News reported.

The story reports that the 90 lashes became 200 because,

the judges had decided to punish the woman further for “her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media.”

As much as I wanted to cast judgment on the policies of the Saudi government (whether or not it is warranted is another issue), I remembered something from the Old Testament.

More specifically in the Torah, that is the Law of Moses. To narrow it down even further, in the book of Deuteronomy (22:23-25),

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. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you.

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.

I write this post understanding that this type of text is fodder for those who shake their fist at God and dismiss Him as some bloodthirsty tyrant (at best) or a non-entity (at worst). Context is typically ignored when one is content to wallow in the mire of unbelief.

However, if we can move past the realm of emotionalism for a bit, is there a difference between what the Saudi government did in this case and what is written in the Torah?

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13 Responses to Torah and Wahhabism

  1. healtheland says:

    Brother Laz: Of course there is. Please go back: “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 “because she did not cry out in the city” indicates that it was not rape but consensual sex, making her an adulteress and him similar. It is ambiguous in the text, but two things to consider here. 1. It is the responsibility of the woman to do what she can to protect her virtue and reputation. If a guy grabs a woman and begins to force himself on her, she is not to acquiese or submit to his actions and then later claim that she was powerless or had no choice because he was bigger and stronger, it is her responsibility to resist him in some way. That is a minor point, but you are aware that in our culture, especially in our party nightlife culture (where did you go to college again? UT, right?), it is a rather common thing for women ambivalent, undecided, opposed, etc. to having sex with someone to just give in to his pressure tactics and just blame him (and/or in our modern world blame being drunk) later. The Old Testament made it clear that they weren’t putting up with that.

    2. And this is more important than 1.) Suppose that a woman were to willingly engage in fornication or adultery with a man, and later be caught. Is she going to lie and claim that she was raped in order to prevent being stoned? Ummm, yeah! So it would be her word against his. Except that for the man, big deal, he is going to die anyway no matter whose side they take. The issue is that whether a woman who is just as responsible for the consensual adultery as the man is – indeed she may have even seduced the fellow – gets to be exempted from the punishment.

    So under Old Testament law, if the woman screamed or there was any other evidence that she resisted, she would have gone unpunished. And the fellows would be dead instead of in jail.

    Also, please consider that there was a reason why God imposed these harsh penalties. You mentioned western culture which is the product of Christianity in some form … well that did not describe the ancient near east. It was an extremely harsh, wicked time, full of violence and sexual immorality that was an integral part of their pagan religions. (Of course, abortion has been legal in the west for decades so we are probably not able to point the finger at them very much any more.) God had to establish real deterrents in the law to keep Israel from becoming as wicked and depraved as the people around them, a state that Israel would have naturally fallen into because of emulating the pagan cultures that was around them. And the Bible narrative tells us that even WITH the law, the temple, the priesthood, and the kings, etc. it happened anyway, and that was why God sent them into captivity.

  2. Laz says:

    Job,
    Thanks for the explanation. I had figured something along those lines but your comment clarified things quite a bit.

    Thanks for checking in.

  3. healtheland says:

    Laz: By the way … I mentioned the “where did you go to college again” in reference to what I have heard as being a notorious party culture at UT that has harmed a lot of young people … should have been more clear.

  4. Laz says:

    Yes I went to Texas and while I was there we earned the “prestigious” title of #1 Party School.

    Given my blindness towards the things of God, I partook in the revelry.

  5. ChrisR says:

    A prime example of why most intelligent people reject the Old Testament as simply the lunatic ranting of a few raghead religious nutbags.

  6. Laz says:

    Chris, thank you for validating what I pointed out in the post.

    I hope you don’t consider yourself a tolerant individual, if so some introspection might be in order.

  7. ChrisR says:

    I am not really sure what you are implying, but I can say that I am not very tolerant of people who advocate violence or act out violently against others, including those who do so because of a mistaken interpretation of some ancient religious texts. Misguided fundamentalism can result in people shouting “Death to America” and flying airplanes into buildings. But maybe from your post you are saying there really were no victims in the Twin Towers because they too probably had done something wrong at some time in their life so it alright that they were burned up, fell to ground, or were crushed to death.

  8. healtheland says:

    ChrisR:

    What those people fail to realize is that there are few theological or doctrinal differences between the Old and New Testaments. As a matter of fact, the only substantial difference is that the Old Testament way of dealing with sin, the sacrificial system, was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

    The confusion comes from the fact that the Old Testament is heavy on historical narrative, which takes place in every book except Psalms, Proverbs, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. So, that is about 35 books covering 55,000 years of history. That is a lot of time and space to cover people sinning and getting punished for their sins.

    By contrast, the New Testament only deals with about 80 years. Only Acts and the gospels contain historical narrative. The historical narratives of the gospels revolve around Jesus Christ and a small circle of those around Him, and further still the vast majority only covers the three years of His ministry. Acts then describes the first 40 years (or less) of the early church. The rest of the New Testament takes the form of letters to churches dealing with issues.

    The irony is that while everyone insists that the New Testament renders the Old Testament void, the people who actually wrote the New Testament (and this includes Acts and the gospels) assumes an Old Testament foundation. The writers of the New Testament were not articulating a new religion. If so, it would have been woefully short on information, structure, rationale, or reasoning. Instead, they presumed that the readers of their writings were Jews or Gentile converts that were familiar with and keeping the Old Testament, and were writing for the purpose of telling them how to adjust or mature what was given prior in the Old Testament to the reality of Jesus Christ. What is often ignored is that the people to whom the New Testament books were addressed … they didn’t have the New Testament! All they had was the Old Testament, and it was the Old Testament that they were expected to obey. The role of the letters were to tell these Christians, Jewish and Gentile, how to live out the Old Testament according to the new revelation of Jesus Christ.

    So the intelligent people that reject the Old Testament do so out of their ignorance. First of all, they do so out of spite against certain Christians, not realizing that Jews also claim the Old Testament as sacred and compulsory, and that Jews reject the New Testament. Yet the animus against certain Christians is so strong that statements such as yours are not taken to be anti – Semitic. Intelligence indeed.

    Second, in their great intelligence, they fail to appreciate A) the actual history and circumstances of the New Testament as compared to the Old and B) the the differing literary forms in the New Testament as compared to the Old. They also ignore that without the Old Testament, we have no clue as to the nature of God, the origins of man, or the need for Jesus Christ in the first place. The Old Testament is capable of existing independently – as it did for hundreds of years -, but the New Testament is incomprehensible without the Old.

    As such, the message of the Old Testament is still there in the New. Sin is still sin, and God will punish those who commit it. Jesus Christ’s coming did not change that. The only thing that changed was the way the message was expressed. For instance, you have the lie that the God of the Old Testament is not the God of the New Testament because God is no longer raining fire and brimstone on people. It isn’t true. First, note that just as all the male babies were killed in Exodus by pharoah, they were killed by Herod in the gospels. Further, read Acts. What happened to Ananias and Sapphira was the same as happened to Achan in Joshua, and it was for the same crime. Wicked rulers like Herod in Acts met the same fate as did Ahab in Kings. And just as the nation was destroyed for rejecting God in Jeremiah in 586 BC, Jesus Christ predicted in the gospels that it would be destroyed again for rejecting Him – God in the flesh – and though the fulfillment is not recorded in scripture history records that the fulfillment occurred first in 70 AD and then in 117 AD.

    So the wise reject the Old in favor of the seemingly milder message in the New. But the foolish know that the same message is in both Testaments, but that their manner of revelation and expression is different.

  9. ChrisR says:

    Hey healtheland,

    Nice post, but I still don’t get exactly what you are saying, so please bear with me and answer this question if you would: Do you keep “kosher”, that is striclty try to follow,and advocate that others also follow, the 600+ commands found in the OT?

    The Muslims fundamentalists wish to impose Sharia law in their countries; are you adocating some similar type law system based on the OT for the US?

  10. healtheland says:

    ChrisR:

    A very intelligent question. I will give you a foolish answer. The 613 laws given in the Old Testament were given to one people for one time and for one purpose. To no one else in any other time were they given, because they did not share in that purpose. That is why even other people that chose to worship God in that very time, the time of the Old Testament, did not have to follow those laws, because though they chose to worship God – and they were free to – since they were not members of that nation, they did not share in the purpose.

    What was that purpose? To prepare and use the nation to bring Jesus Christ into the world. That purpose has been fulfilled, so there is no need for the 613 laws to be practiced by anyone anywhere or in any time after Jesus Christ died on the cross and resurrected for our sins. Thus, to try to impose those 613 laws on anyone or any nation not only would serve no purpose, but it would hinder the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Now as for Islam, they have a completely different belief system from Christianity. That is why comparing Muslim fundamentalism to biblical Christianity is a great exercise for the intelligent but folly for the foolish. I will say this: at no point in either the Old Testament or the New Testament did God command His people to spread their religion by coercion or force. Israel was not to go out and set up other Israels elsewhere, and as I mentioned before other nations that wanted to worship God were not to emulate Israel. And as for Christianity, Christianity was never supposed to be merged with or used to advance the interest of the state. Quite the contrary, the New Testament explicitly states that the two are to remain separate. The mixing of church and state first happened with Constantine. Soon afterwards, Christianity became more synonymous with cultural and political ideology than with an actual religion for a great many – perhaps most – people who call themselves Christians. I dare say that the people that you are comparing to Muslim fundamentalists that are actually trying to impose what purports to be Christianity on the nation through the political and legal system superficially seem to be in that vein, but if you look deeper, a lot of the leaders of political Christianity – on the right and on the left – have hidden alliances and agendas.

  11. ChrisR says:

    It is my observation that people read into and take out of the Bible what they want to see and believe. The Bible is like a poetic song which can be interpreted in different ways. The words of the song are somewhat enigmatic, and people will offer varying opinions as to what they believe is the meaning of the song, or what the songwriter was trying to convey. The Bible is, of course, much longer than any song and thus affords an even greater opportunity for multiple meanings and interpretations. That’s why almost any side to an argument can be supported from some passages to be cited from the Bible. And if one supports their arguments by calling upon these ancient writings, then that just reinforces their internal belief that they must be right.

    Your assertion that the laws found in the Old Testament no longer apply to modern man is certainly inline with the majority of Christian practice. It certainly would be inconvenient to try and follow those dietary rules, although some conservative Jewish people make a fairly good attempt to do exactly that. And as for eliminating “all” the rules, there does seem to be a fervent attempt by some of the fundamentalist groups to retain at least the Ten Commandments, and display them prominently in our judicial system settings. So what was the intent of Jesus as related to the law? There is support for both sides of this problem, including the passage in which he says that not even the smallest detail of law should be done away with, yet at the same time he was frequently berating the Pharisees for paying too much attention to enforcing that very set of laws. Jesus tells his followers that the Pharisees are the teachers of the law of Moses which must be obeyed, yet warns about the inconsistencies of how the law is applied. Another example of retention of the law is the prohibition against adultery, which is not only reasserted by Jesus but its very definition is vastly broadened. Yet when a woman who was found to have committed this act was brought before him, his judgment was not to stone her, but instead an admonition to her to leave unharmed but also to cease her wrongful actions.

    My interpretation is that the actions of Jesus resonate more clearly than what he said. And as far as I can tell he did not go around stoning or whipping young girls, or anyone for that matter, because they were caught riding in the back of a hay cart with some young man who was not her father or uncle. And in that the conduct of the Son is a reflection of the nature of the Father, I maintain my original assertion that much of the Old Testament writing is the work of overzealous religious authorities and not the commands of any divine being.

  12. healtheland says:

    ChrisR:

    If that be the case, then Jesus Christ is not divine as well, because by His own words, His claims to deity were based on fulfilling those same scriptures that you reject. The very reason why Christians do not reject the Old Testament – and there are plenty that have long liked to – is because Jesus Christ Himself affirmed their authority. No Old Testament, no New Testament, no Jesus Christ. Incidentally, as far as your saying “anyone can read the Bible and get whatever they want out of it”, an intelligent observation indeed. But my foolish response is that my interpretation of the Old Testament is the same as is given in the New Testament book of Hebrews. Have you read it? http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?book_id=65&chapter=1&version=9

  13. Guna says:

    this has turned out to be an interesting discussion.
    ChristR: Have you read the entire Old Testament to come to that conclusion?

    I haven’t read the OT that many times, but in the few times that I have, i have come away with the conclusion that God has been more gracious, rather than cruel to Israel. They were chosen by grace, they were given a national covenant by grace, only the mosaic covenant was conditional, the future of Israel’s restoration and blessing was given by grace. The promise of messiah, was given by grace.

    The law was given to display the high moral standards of a holy God, and it makes manifest the sinful nature of man. (Rom3:20 – wherefore by works of law no flesh shall be justified before him; for by law is knowledge of sin). Knowing their inability to keep the law, God instituted the offerings, which was a shadow of what Christ would do to enable us to approach God.
    The strict application of the law, was not forced upon the Israelites. They committed themselves to the law (Exo 24:7 And he (Moses) took the book of the covenant, and read it in the ears of the people, and they said, All that Jehovah has said, we will do, and obey!)

    You assert that MUCH of the OT was written by overzealous religious authorities, I don’t quite see that when reading the OT. COuld a zealot write a beautiful love story full of grace and love as the book of Ruth? Could zealots write prophecies of Israel’s exile and judgement? Could a religious zealot unabashedly record the religious apostasy of Israel? No.
    The OT was recorded by holy men writing as they were led by God (2Pet2:21 for prophecy was not ever uttered by the will of men, buy holy men of God spake under the power of the Holy Spirit). If it appears ‘zealous’ to you, maybe you are seeing the aspect of God that He is indeed a ‘jealous God’.

    I’d say, if God could call the zealot David who wrote many a psalm, a man after His own heart, then I’d like to be called a zealot! 🙂

    The Son is more than a ‘reflection’ (as you put it) of the Father, rather He is the ‘revelation’ of the Father to us. Having said that, we cannot discount that God has spoken to man through the OT. (Heb 1:1 God having spoken in many parts and in many ways formerly to the fathers in the prophets, at the end of these days has spoken to us in the person of His Son)

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