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There are many demonstrations of the outdated nature of Biblical morality. (There are also large quantities of factual errors, due to limited scientific knowledge, and logical inconsistencies, but these have been discussed frequently and at length; I am interested here in ways in which the Bible reflects the moral standards of the society that produced it.) Consider these examples:

 

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1. The concept of women having rights in the same way that men have rights was still a long way off [the same can be observed in the QurĠan]:

 

... kill every woman who has known a man by sleeping with him. But all the young girls who have not known a man by sleeping with him, keep alive for yourselves. (Numbers: XXI/17-18)

 

If a man meets a virgin who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are caught in the act, the man who lay with her shall give fifty shekels of silver to the young woman's father, and she shall become his wife. Because he violated her he shall not be permitted to divorce her as long as he lives. (Deuteronomy: XXII/28-29)

 

It is interesting that this differs from adultery or rape involving someone who is already engaged, in which case the man (in the case of rape), or both (in the case of adultery), is killed to 'purge evil'. The difference is of course not a moral one, but one of ownership - the 'wronged' party is the intended bridegroom, and the punishment seeks to safeguard his 'rights'.

 

If a man has sexual relations with a woman who is a slave, designated for another man but not ransomed or given her freedom, an inquiry shall be held. They shall not be put to death, since she has not been freed; but he shall bring a guilt-offering for himself to the Lord, at the entrance of the tent of meeting, a ram as guilt-offering. And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of guilt-offering before the Lord for his sin that he committed; and the sin he committed shall be forgiven him. (Leviticus: XIX/20-22)

 

This clearly demonstrates that male participation in unmarried sex is not taken seriously.

 

Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. (1 Timothy: II/11-14)

 

Because Eve was deceived, womankind is never to be trusted (that Adam was similarly deceived - he too contravened God's instructions - is apparently irrelevant).

 

And the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, 'No, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Since this man is my guest, do not do this vile thing. Here are my virgin daughter and his concubine; let me bring them out now. Ravish them and do whatever you want to them; but against this man do not do such a vile thing.' But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine, and put her out to them. They wantonly raped her, and abused her all through the night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go. As morning appeared, the woman came and fell down at the door of the man's house where her master was, until it was light. In the morning her master got up, opened the doors of the house, and when he went out to go on his way, there was his concubine lying at the door of the house, with her hands on the threshold. 'Get up,' he said to her, 'we are going.' But there was no answer. Then he put her on the donkey; and the man set out for his home. When he had entered his house, he took a knife, and grasping his concubine he cut her into twelve pieces, limb by limb, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel. (Judges XIX/23-29)

[Get this as a devotional poster, image sourced from www.publicdomainpictures.net]

 

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2. The punishment of innocent individuals:

 

Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock! (Psalm: CXXXVII/9)

 

The killing of children as a sort of revenge or reparation makes a mockery of an innocent's purported right to live morally.

 

Noah, a man of the soil, was the first to plant a vineyard. He drank some of the wine and became drunk, and he lay uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backwards and covered the nakedness of their father; their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father's nakedness. When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said, 'Cursed be Canaan; lowest of slaves shall he be to his brothers.' He also said, 'Blessed by the Lord my God be Shem; and let Canaan be his slave. May God make space for Japheth, and let him live in the tents of Shem; and let Canaan be his slave.' (Genesis: IX/20-27)

 

Cursing and punishing Canaan for the apparent transgression of his father.

 

He went up from there to Bethel; and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, 'Go away, baldhead! Go away, baldhead!' When he turned round and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two she-bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys. (2 Kings: II/23-24)

 

He is going away, and he is bald - why should 42 children be punished for saying so?

 

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3. More punishment:

 

Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 'Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands before they eat.' He answered them, 'And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, "Honour your father and your mother," and, "Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die."

(Matthew: XV/1-4)

 

Imagine taking this literally - speaking evil of father and mother is an integral part of puberty.

 

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4. Massacre of infidel:

 

When the Lord your God brings you into the land that you are about to enter and occupy, and he clears away many nations before you - the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations mightier and more numerous than you - and when the Lord your God gives them over to you and you defeat them, then you must utterly destroy them. Make no covenant with them and show them no mercy. Do not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for that would turn away your children from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the Lord would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly. But this is how you must deal with them: break down their altars, smash their pillars, hew down their sacred poles, and burn their idols with fire. For you are a people holy to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on earth to be his people, his treasured possession. (Deuteronomy: VII/1-6)

 

This clearly advocates the use of violence against non-Christians. Nowadays non-Christians are legally protected from being killed for their beliefs.

 

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5. Dress code:

 

A woman shall not wear a man's apparel, nor shall a man put on a woman's garment; for whoever does such things is abhorrent to the Lord your God. (Deuteronomy: XXII/5)

 

How, precisely, does one define man's and woman's apparel, particularly when today's clothing differs considerably from that usual 2000 years ago. Are trousers man's apparel, and hairbands woman's? (In which case, several prominent male Christian athletes might be in trouble...)

 

 

 

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