Home | Downloads | About CWI | Donate | Site Map | Contact
Covenant Worldview Institute Home



Answering Michael Martin's
"Atheism, Christian Theism, and Rape"

by Rev. Ralph Allan Smith

The Biblical Teaching on Rape

Martins third argument may actually help modern Christians grow in their understanding of the Bible. For there are not a few who are unfamiliar with the Old Testament and may be tempted to answer Martin hastily with “That was the Old Testament, we dont follow the Old Testament any more.” This kind of answer is a grave mistake. Although the thinking it represents may be more common than it ought, those who offer this answer have seldom considered what it implies. To begin with, it implies that in the Old Testament era God gave Israel a morally inferior law. Even if this is excused in part by appealing to Israels cultural immaturity, the problem remains that God, on this view, condones immorality, or at least a grossly inferior morality. This is utterly inconsistent with the Biblical doctrine of God as a holy God.

As we saw above, the heart of the Biblical teaching about ethical righteousness is found in the very law that God gave to Israel in the “holiness code,” which defines holiness for the people of Israel (Lev. 17-20). There God commanded Israel, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD” (Lev. 19:18b). It is significant that just a few verses before this, God commanded Israel not to oppress those who are weak.[5] In fact, protection of and care for the weak is one of the basic and frequently repeated themes of the Mosaic law (Dt. 10:18; 14:29; 16:11, 14; 24:19, 20, 21; 26:12, 13; 27:19; etc.).

What Jesus taught to be one of the two commandments that define the very essence of the law, Leviticus 19:18b, is found in a context that includes clear teaching about what it means to love ones neighbor, especially the weak neighbor. The law gives particular attention to the subject of care for the weakest members of society, because without special protection, they tend to be oppressed. This is the broader context of Biblical law, within which we must seek to understand the laws that deal with rape. For ancient Jews were not ignorant of the fact that some laws were “weightier” than others (Mr. 12:32-33). They well understood that the most basic requirements of the law — the obligations to love God first and our neighbor as ourselves second — color the entire law and serve as the key to its correct interpretation.


[5] I know that some feminists might be offended at the implication that a rape victim be regarded as “weak,” but the fact is that women are generally physically weaker than men in terms of muscular strength. I think that we can assume that usually rape involves the oppression of a weaker person by one who is stronger.

Table of Contents

 site design and maintenance
BERITH.ORG  —  Copyright © 2002 by Ralph Allan Smith.  All rights reserved.