An example from scriptures on why it’s not always the final authority on all matters

This can be a potentially triggering post. I’m curious how others handle these specific passages and their implications for scripture overall.

When speaking of the Bible, with many things that seem to conflict with science, some will still just decidedly go with the scripture as the final word. When people think of the word of God being inspired it conjures up multiple images and thoughts when you force someone to keep explaining it in depth by asking question after question. Some believe that by inspired it means that the Holy Spirit sort of possessed the person and they performed some kind of automatic writing using that persons vocabulary and some believe that it was more fluid such as when I say thanksgiving meal, everyone is inspired in a since to think of their meal. Some may think of turkey, some think of ham, and some think of tofu and so on.

I essentially said all of that to get to this point about these specific passages on why I believe the Bible is just as much human as it is spiritual and why it can’t actually always be the final word.

Deuteronomy 22:13-21 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Laws on Morality
13 “If any man takes a wife and goes in to her and then turns against her, 14 and charges her with shameful deeds and publicly defames her, and says, ‘I took this woman, but when I came near her, I did not find her a virgin,’ 15 then the girl’s father and her mother shall take and bring out the evidence of the girl’s virginity to the elders of the city at the gate. 16 The girl’s father shall say to the elders, ‘I gave my daughter to this man for a wife, but he turned against her; 17 and behold, he has charged her with shameful deeds, saying, “I did not find your daughter a virgin.” But this is the evidence of my daughter’s virginity.’ And they shall spread the garment before the elders of the city. 18 So the elders of that city shall take the man and chastise him, 19 and they shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give it to the girl’s father, because he publicly defamed a virgin of Israel. And she shall remain his wife; he cannot divorce her all his days.

20 “But if this charge is true, that the girl was not found a virgin, 21 then they shall bring out the girl to the doorway of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death because she has committed an act of folly in Israel by playing the harlot in her father’s house; thus you shall purge the evil from among you.

Essentially the story leans to this thought and possibility.

The ancient Jewish men believed that all virgins bled when they had sex. If a woman did not bleed then they were not a Virgin. If the husband felt like his non bleeding virgin wife was a adulterous woman and declared it and the father got the bed sheet and found no blood the woman could potentially be stoned to death despite not doing anything wrong.

That is what the story lines out as a possibility and we know for sure that not all women bleed on their first time. It’s simply not biologically true. For a fact, women in some countries with little access to good scientific data are often shamed, divorced, or murdered over this false idea.

So my question is was those passages inspired by God? Are they a mistake that should not have been in the Bible? Is science wrong and every girl does bleed?

I believe this weird example is still a great example to show why a literal and holding it above all interpretation of all scripture has its shortcomings.

2 Likes

I’ve shared this before in comments. Or something similar at least but thought it would be a good thread nonetheless to highlight a clear issue. I also believe I understand why that is in there.

Though I’ve not yet read the link it did connect dots I already had about the bitter water.

For me it comes down to a few things. I framed it though to conceal many parts of it.

  1. It’s in scripture and they believed it.
  2. It’s not scientifically accurate whatsoever.
  3. God inspired it.

So why would he have inspired that?

Out of all the reasons on why he inspired it this is the one I believe is most plausible.

God has always worked within the frame of mankind. As you stated about slavery. He worked not only with their scientific knowledge but their cultural and societal beliefs as well. Afterall he told moses the laws of divorce was built around their hard hearts. Not actual goodness.

In their culture the death penalty is what was used to kill adulterous people. That was the max sentencing. Not the minimum. Women were not allowed to wander off and the men kept close eyes on them. It would have been fairly difficult for them to get away with it. Especially considering they married at a young age. God would know that the bleeding was not 100% true. The men would not.

So it was not the jealous husband that was allowed to bring out the bedsheet but the girls father. That would mean that there was a very good opportunity for a father to protect their innocent daughters by using blood to protect their daughter. I believe it’s a link to using blood on the door posts and the blood of Jesus to save us.

Same for the bitter water tying it to the flood that washed away evil, and to baptism.

It was a law God gave to intentionally undermine the evil men could take against women.

1 Like

You cannot know that this was incorrect for those particular people at that time. You can only say that it is not correct at this time and for all women. So this may simply be one of the things to add to the list of what is not applicable to modern times. I certainly think this preoccupation of men with the virginity of women is something we should say good riddance to, and it was this cultural preoccupation which this particular Biblical law was addressing.

I actually believe that we can be very certain that Jewish women thousands of years ago was biologically the same as women now and that there is absolutely no logical reason to think otherwise. For a fact, I think a god was counting on it.

The best example I know is Paul’s ‘We see through a glass darkly.’.

Many OT scholars see the “laws” not as a legal book with specific rules to be followed but actually closer to wisdom. The interpretation that they are laws, like how moderns think about laws, is imposing how our culture thinks upon their culture.

“[L]aw and wisdom turn out to be closer together than at first appears, and both are to some degree dialogical in form, inviting the reader to enter into moral discussion rather than closing off the debate from the start.”

John Barton, A history of the Bible, p.84

“[T]here seems to have been a “separation” between the law collections, namely “the written law,” and the law that was actually practiced in day-to-day affairs. This insight, which has been found to be instructive also in respect to the laws of the Pentateuch, is reinforced by acquaintance with some of the characteristics of the laws: the existence of impracticable laws and of moral injunctions that cannot be enforced; the absence of many laws that would be vital for the ordering of social life and, conversely, the existence of laws for which there is no real need; and last, parallel and contradictory laws, which cannot possibly fulfill their purpose.”

Assnat Bartor, “Legal Texts” p.175, in The Hebrew Bible: A Critical Companion, ed. John Barton.

John Walton’s The Lost World of Torah explains how ancient “law code” documents would have been perceived in the cultures they were created in.

I understand and I agree the Torah is not a legal codex but contains simply 611 laws which in Hebrew leads up to the numerical value of the Torah. I don’t even care if they actually carried this out or if it was acceptable in their day and age.

It’s all beyond the point. My point is that for those who say that scripture holds the final authority on all things including science such as weather is based around blessings and cursings of how a nation is doing, and that we did not evolve because Adam was a mud golem and eve was a rib woman. Those people who read those things and believe it and then act like everyone else is calling god a liar because we don’t believe that nonsense.

So there is one thing that is easy to know and that’s bleeding on first intercourse does not equal virginity. Some women simply don’t bleed, and some women have it broke with almost no blood through things like riding a donkey through a desert and ect…

So if the ancient Jewish people believed all virgins will bleed every time but we know that’s not true then we can definitely be more certain that they did not understand the mysteries of the universe. After all as far as I know with the exception of a few people here none of us take the Bible literally.

If they were wrong about this simple matter then why must we assume they were correct on the things that just recently have we begin understand?

Perhaps the law is not a statement of what always happens with biology and instead was meant as a deterrent against:

  1. premarital sex
  2. pretending to be a virgin when not and
  3. falsely claiming a new wife was not a virgin

As this deterrent, it would have encouraged righteous behavior.

It is not necessary to declare the deterrent was based on always-true biological processes.

The law also required more than one witness for a conviction. That does not mean a single witness would always be making a false accusation.

1 Like

So you are thinking of this within the context of someone who is understanding the Bible with the perspective you describe.

This may give some people pause. Others will say that God made sure things worked out that way in the Israelite community.

As you know even Biblicist/extreme-literalists don’t consistently take the OT Law-codes as ‘law’ for themselves.

This is not a comment specifically about this particular passage. But a general comment on what any civil laws look like. I’m not a lawyer, but read any draft of a modern law, and it necessarily sounds hard, rigid,unfeeling. It does not set out to understand the motives or mitigation for a person who is breaking the law. Those matters, and the implementation of the law, are in the hands of those who handle the prosecution and defence, and final judgement, who are in turn influenced to some extent by public opinion’s view of the severity of the offence and appropriate punishments.

Even so. What was the argument? It stated it within the very texts. The lack of blood was the evidence a man needed to prove his wife was not a Virgin. That’s the claim it made. That’s the claim that is bit scientifically true. Which is why I used it as my example. It was not a potentially coined phrase like Joshua’s moving Sun.

What I’m saying is what it says in Hebrew and in English. Regardless of how the law is used or it’s potentially undercover motives is irrelevant to the claim it made.

This is the claim plain as can be.

If a husband sleeps with his virgin wife and she does not bleed he can make a accusation against her and then the mother and father to prove her innocence must get the bloody undergarment and bring it to the priest. The blood was evidence of her virginity and without it was the evidence that she was not. That’s something we now is scientifically inaccurate. They were not explaining this supernatural event within their specific tribe. Additionally, it’s something ancient people believed and argued over and it’s even something the uneducated believe now.

Here’s another example from Amateur Exegete, the guy is an atheist, but I enjoy reading his posts, and have had positive encounters with him online:

One thing to consider is when this law might be invoked.

I don’t think it would have typically been invoked unless there was a suspicion of impropriety, so it would likely be one part of circumstantial evidence.

But I suspect my first answer was best — that this was a deterrent against at least three acts.

As far as the odd variation now and then? No we cannot know this is the same. And genetics is not the only issue. The practice of using tampons also seems to be a factor. So I disagree, you cannot know that this is incorrect for the people to whom that law given. Both the gene pool and the way of life have significantly changed – that is a fact!

But what we can know for sure is that we can have very good reasons for considering parts of the Bible to be inapplicable to modern times.

I guess all I can say is that I’m not ignoring your response, I just don’t think it’s beneficial for me to regurgitate my response because my previous reply is essentially the same reply now. I could tweak it to make it more customized but I feel as if it’s the beginning of circular arguments.

Yes, you are absolutely right.

God stoops so low to communicate with his people, that he even worked within the bad science and even superstitions of the time.

I think about the story in Genesis where Jacob pulled a fast one on Laban by putting peeled sticks into the water so that when the animals saw it, it changed their wool to be speckled - it was a common superstition at the time. But, absolutely essential to the narrative of Jacob’s cunning and brilliance. It get’s uncomfortable sometimes for Christians to admit that God allows bad science in the Bible.

In short, God always uses the current cultural mindsets through which to reveal himself. God can only reveal himself in ways that make sense to the culture - that’s why we had the sacrificial system, that’s why people would cast lots to understand God’s will, that’s why the OT doesn’t even blink at genocide or polygamy. (oh…and slavery…)

BUT, our understanding of God and how the world works grows with he advancement of society. They stopped casting lots in Acts to determine God’s will and started trusting the Holy Spirit through prayer and discernment. They began to value (and then require) monogamous marriage.

It’s kind of like how God picked up Elijah in a chariot…not an airplane. Why would “heaven” ever use chariots? Because God’s not going to miraculously reveal non-existent future technology…just like he’s not going to reveal undiscovered biology.

Hope this helps. It’s a good question.

4 Likes

I completely agree. The questions were all rhetorical for me. It was more of my way to showcase why the bible does not define science, and to show the human aspect of scripture where God is clearly working within their paradigm.

As you mentioned it says he allowed them to divorce for any reason because of their hard hearts and now we have a new standard expressed in 1 cor 7.

1 Like

Great point.

Yeah, sorry, I missed the rhetorical aspect of your question.

It does sometimes make me nervous though, almost “slippery-slope-ish” because there is a sense of cultural relativity to morality. When you start pulling that thread of “God working within the moral understanding”, it does make me wonder about what else in Scripture is merely a cultural accommodation rather than objective truth. I’m thinking about gender roles, church structures, sacraments, etc.

Do we freeze our understanding of morality to 1st Century Palestine or do we attempt to project where it is today? I’m honesty not sure how someone discerns that.

1 Like

Excellent question. With gender roles, I have no real problem with egalitarianism as I feel there is Biblical support and in fact see different gender roles as being part of the curse of sin in Genesis. Sexuality issues, I struggle with. But we try to avoid that discussion here on the forum as the struggle inevitably gets messy. Ultimately, I think we have to trust the Holy Spirit in our personal lives, and humbly give grace to those led differently in those aspects of life.

2 Likes

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

This is a place for gracious dialogue about science and faith. Please read our FAQ/Guidelines before posting.