Jesus and Old Testament rape law

How's that for a title?

I promise that I will connect the dots by the end of this post. My thoughts started when I read this before church today.
One friend reminded me that for almost 20 centuries of church history, Christian theologians regarded women as inherently inferior to men, prone to deception and perhaps not fully sharing in the image of God. Be patriarchal if you want, she said, but do not bother trying to soften the blow by calling it equality. Those conversations opened my eyes. I had downplayed the Old Testament passages that treated women as property, spoils of war, or trophies for victorious men. I had not noticed that Deuteronomy 22 orders rapists to be fined and then given their victims in marriage.
It's by a seminary professor, Bob Pyne, who describes his switch from believing in gender roles in church office (complementarianism) to gender equality in all church roles (egalitarianism). I can say I've waffled on this over the years. I'm currently a reluctant Complementarian, because I want to get out of the boundaries set in 1 Timothy 2 but I can't with peace, so I won't.

That's the background. Pyne's observation also bothers me. His solution, as is many of those who consider themselves hermenuetically in-bounds egalitarians, uses a trajectory hermenuetic, that asks where is God going with the progressive revelation of the Bible? It's also called a "redemptive-movement hermeneutic." It's used to affirm that outright condemnation of slavery, though lacking in the Bible, is implied as a goal. I would counter that it is actually affirmed in the Old Testament slave laws, where they were indentured servants who had to be released after seven years, Deuteronomy 15:12. That would mean I fall into the camp which believes everything we need to know about the Christian life is already in the Bible, from topics as diverse as human rights to marriage to church polity to gender based roles. But how does anyone find comfort in this rape law, no matter how they understand gender roles in the church?
Deuteronomy 22:28 Suppose a man comes across a virgin who is not engaged and overpowers and rapes her and they are discovered. 22:29 The man who has raped her must pay her father fifty shekels of silver and she must become his wife because he has violated her; he may never divorce her as long as he lives.
That is an unacceptable response in modern thinking. The typical response by Bible defenders is that laws in surrounding cultures were so much worse, including executing the woman who was victimized, which happens today as well. Some further research, though, does not bear this out fully or cleanly. Furthermore, so what? How is this of any comfort? God is making the laws to live by for his people. Why this law?

I think the key to this is that all of the Scriptures proclaim Jesus. I have screwed up eye sight though, so I see Jesus in places conservative Bible believing friends tell me I can't see him. In Song of Solomon, see my series, I recognized Jesus in Beloved, frequently. That irritates my friends, because seeing Jesus in a woman rocks their world way too much. Seeing him in a wife wrecks the consistent New Testament picture of Jesus as groom and the church as his bride. Obviously, I think the rule is not hard and fast. God compares himself to a mother hen, a lamb, a rock, a tower, and on and on. Jesus is definitely portrayed as a suffering servant, Isaiah 53:11. When I see someone treated unjustly and immorally in the Old Testament yet responding with grace and love, I think of Jesus.

So when I get past my offense of this rape law, I want to know, where is Jesus? My answer is that Jesus is portrayed in that raped woman.

Yet God wants them united. It's a picture of my interaction with Jesus. He gives me grace. I give him sin. He gives and I take. I lashed him with the whips. I pushed those thorns down on his brow. I hammered those nails into his arms and legs. I ripped off his clothes and gambled for them. His response? Father forgive them. I violated him with my sinful ways and he responded by saving me, making me part of his bride. He made me his partner.

In response to Mr. Pyne, who prompted me this morning, that law was not a half way measure. It was an intentional picture by God about Jesus. It only applied to that people and that culture which was supposed to convey all these pictures of Jesus before his arrival. Now that he has come, we have no need for this picture. We have the real thing. I do believe that God worked miraculously in any of those marriages that were made from rape, because he works miraculously in the hearts of all of us sinners whom he has showered his grace on with salvation. The picture would be incomplete without the change of heart.

Believe it or not, Jesus loves rapists. They are not excluded from the offer of eternal life, otherwise they will receive eternal judgment. Which is true for everyone on this planet.


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