Are multiple witnesses always required to condemn a man accused of rape to death, in Deuteronomy 22?

in #christianity6 years ago (edited)

In a recent War Room by Reconstructionist Radio podcast, the claim was made that God is so concerned with the protection of weaker victims that in God's Law as found in Deuteronomy 22:25-27, a man accused of rape is justly found guilty and condemned to death based on nothing more than the accusation by the self-alleged victim. I believe this is mistaken and have engaged the topic in a private Facebook group related to Abolitionism.

I reproduce our discussion here:

I would argue that the exegetical discussion of Deuteronomy 22:25-27 in the Joe and Kate podcast is poor. The claim is that "a man can be condemned to death for raping a woman in an isolated place based on her testimony alone, without the need for further witnesses." Joe asks if there are any other cases like that, and Kate responds in the negative.

Let's look at Deut 22.
22“If a man is found lying with a married woman, then both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel.
23“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, 24then 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.
25“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. 26“But you shall do nothing to the girl; there is no sin in the girl worthy of death, for just as a man rises against his neighbor and murders him, so is this case. 27“When he found her in the field, the engaged girl cried out, but there was no one to save her.
28“If a man finds a girl who is a virgin, who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her and they are discovered, 29then the man who lay with her shall give to the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall become his wife because he has violated her; he cannot divorce her all his days."

Verse 22 is a situation of adultery. Capital punishment. Note that nothing is mentioned here about witnesses, multiple or otherwise.

Verse 23 is a betrothed woman, essentially married. They commit adultery and receive capital punishment. Note that nothing is mentioned here about witnesses, multiple or otherwise.

Verse 25 is also a betrothed woman. Obviously in this case the woman alleges rape. While it is true that the law as stated here exempts the woman from guilt b/c it is assumed that she cried out, capital punishment is the penalty because the woman is betrothed, not because she was raped. See verses 28-29 - the unbetrothed virgin is raped and yet the penalty is not death for the rapist.

The discussion of Deut 22 evinces no understanding of the danger of the existence of false accusations. Moreover, she and Joe contradict the matter of "no witnesses, just her testimony" later in the show. Their first mention of the Deut 22 passage relates that "no witnesses beyond her testimony are necessary", and then later they throw in as a side note, an afterthought, that "oh well yeah I mean of course there are safeguards and evidence is witness". Which disproves the whole thrust of their (mis)use of Deut 22.

There is nothing in Deut 22 about an exception to the requirement of multiple witnesses (read: multiple independent lines of evidence). But there are numerous passages in which multiple witnesses are insisted upon:

Deut 17:6-7 - On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

Deut 19:15-21 - A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed. If a malicious witness rises up against a man to accuse him of wrongdoing, then both the men who have the dispute shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who will be in office in those days. The judges shall investigate thoroughly, and if the witness is a false witness and he has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him just as he had intended to do to his brother. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you. The rest will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such an evil thing among you. Thus you shall not show pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

2 Corinthians 13:1 - Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.

John Andrew Reasnor has registered his disagreement:

I think you’re mixing things up a bit. First you say that the accusation is rape, but then you say that the only real sin is that she was betrothed? But then why would she cry out if she were just fornicating at a betrothed woman as opposed to being raped? Are you suggesting that all these texts are only applicable for betrothed women? If so, do they apply to anyone much anymore because betrothal is distinct from engagement? Just some initial thoughts and questions.

But my biggest concern about this portion of this comment is that you interpret verses 28 and 29 just like Rachel Held Evans and other liberals who want theonomic law to sound barbaric and uncaring. Pretty much only the NIV interpret 28 and 29 as rape. I don’t want to insult you at all because I know you haven’t spent too much time digging into theonomic law. However, this interpretation issue is fairly well known to theonomic scholars and other biblical scholars. It’s a common accusation that theonomists have a terrible ethic regarding rape. The implications of thinking that verses 28 and 29 MUST NECCARILLY mean that you do not really believe rape should be punishable by death. Or that it should be punished much at all. I suspect, to be sure, that you DO believe the rape of non-betrothed women should be severely punished, but I do want to point out the implications. There is, frankly, no substantive civil punishment for rape if your interpretation is that 28 and 29 is actually about rape.

Which brings me to the textual point. 28 and 29 is not about rape. The verb used in verse 28 for “seizes” is תָּפַשׂ. Basically it means to “lay hold of” or to “handle”. This verb does not necessarily indicate force or violence. The verb used in verse 25 for “forces” is חָזַק. This is, first of all, a different word which is very suspicious considering it is just a few verses away. This word DOES indicate violence and/or strength and/or force. At the very least it is a stronger verb. Not simply being handled or grabbed onto. The same word is used in very clear cases of rape in Judges 19:25 as well as 2 Samuel 13:11-12.

This means that although a sin has occurred in verses 28-29, it is not rape. It is much more likely that she was pressured and convinced unduly and therefore the prescription here is more about protecting her honor and that is Biblically shown by forcing him (not forcing her) to marry her if that is the wish of the victim (basic victim’s rights principle) and by not allowing the husband to divorce her. She was dishonored and exploited, and although she sinned, the weight of responsibly is with the stronger vessel.

///The discussion of Deut 22 evinces no understanding of the danger of the existence of false accusations. Moreover, she and Joe contradict the matter of "no witnesses, just her testimony" later in the show. Their first mention of the Deut 22 passage relates that "no witnesses beyond her testimony are necessary", and then later they throw in as a side note, an afterthought, that "oh well yeah I mean of course there are safeguards and evidence is witness". Which disproves the whole thrust of their (mis)use of Deut 22.///

This sounds much more like a further explanation rather than a contradiction. When someone doesn’t explain an idea in the fullest possible amount of detail THAT DOES NOT mean that they are denying what they have left out or that further explanation is a contradiction. We don’t use that sort of hermeneutic with scripture and we shouldn’t with each other either.

///There is nothing in Deut 22 about an exception to the requirement of multiple witnesses (read: multiple independent lines of evidence). But there are numerous passages in which multiple witnesses are insisted upon:///

Yes. There are numerous passages that indicate the basic principle of two or more independent lines of evidence. You listed them and I’m more than happy to include them again. Therefore, this is considered an exception. Which isn’t the same thing as a contradiction. God’s Law includes various general principles that are then later explained in the texts, clarified, and given exceptions. The existence of an exception is not controversial. Recall conversations we’ve had on the permanence view of marriage and so called contradicting texts. Faithful harmonization means the allowance of exceptions and clarifications where there is additional information and context.

“When he found her in the field, the engaged girl cried out, but there was no one to save her”

This text does not give much wiggle room. The man is executed and who heard her cry out? If he is to be executed, where is the other supposed required witnesses?

And the texts on two or more witnesses mentioned above.

Deut 17:6-7 - On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

Deut 19:15-21 - A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed. If a malicious witness rises up against a man to accuse him of wrongdoing, then both the men who have the dispute shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who will be in office in those days. The judges shall investigate thoroughly, and if the witness is a false witness and he has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him just as he had intended to do to his brother. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you. The rest will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such an evil thing among you. Thus you shall not show pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

2 Corinthians 13:1 - Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.

My latest response:

I am not contending that the only SIN was that the woman was betrothed. I'm saying that the man is condemned to death in the vv25-27 sex act in the field scenario, and then is NOT condemned to death in the vv28-29 scenario. The substantive difference between the two scenarios is not specifically indicated to be their location. Rather, it's that the woman is not betrothed in the second scenario. She's a virgin.

Thus the man who lies with her in the vv25-27 field scenario has done so to a MARRIED woman. Thus, adultery. Thus, death penalty. But the vv28-29 scenario does not include a married person. It isn't that neither of those actions were sinful, nor is it that only one was sinful. It's that one of them carries a different penalty, and that difference in penalty has nothing to do with where the crime occurred.

And again, we must note that there is nothing in the passage about "no other witnesses are necessary". For this reason, the contention by Kate and Joe in the WarRoom show is erroneous.

\But then why would she cry out if she were just fornicating at a betrothed woman as opposed to being raped?\

I don't think that is particularly relevant. And of course, I fully expect a woman being raped to attempt to cry out, betrothed or not.

\you interpret verses 28 and 29 just like Rachel Held Evans and other liberals who want theonomic law to sound barbaric and uncaring\

I don't see how I did that. Could you please quote the relevant part of my comment? If I communicated that way, I certainly want to withdraw such an implication and not repeat it, for it is not what I think. But having re-read my comment just now, I get the feeling you may be seeing something that isn't there. It seems to me I barely touched on vv28-29.

\ Pretty much only the NIV interpret 28 and 29 as rape\

OK.
I wasn't quoting the NIV - the copy-paste above is either ESV or NASB. It says in v28 "seizes her and lies with her".
And I think you meant that only the NIV translates that word/phrase as "rape". Interpreting is what we're doing now, as I'm sure you know.

\It’s a common accusation that theonomists have a terrible ethic regarding rape\

Let me hasten to clarify that I neither affirm nor repeat such an accusation anywhere to anyone, and when I come across such claims and have the opportunity to push back against them, I do push back.

\The existence of an exception is not controversial.\

I agree with that in general. Of course, there would have to be some good reason to think an exception has been put in place, on a case by case basis. I'd like to know where the exception is put in place in the case of vv25-27. Please show me the evidence in the text.

\The man is executed and who heard her cry out?\

Where is the mention of multiple witnesses in the case of the crime of verse 22?

Are you trying to say that the text must specifically mention multiple witnesses every time it lays down a crime, else only the accuser's voice is sufficient to convict and penalise the accused?

And with all due respect, I don't see how you dealt at all with a major and relevant thrust of what I said in my last comment, which I paste again here:
The discussion of Deut 22 evinces no understanding of the danger of the existence of false accusations. Moreover, she and Joe contradict the matter of "no witnesses, just her testimony" later in the show. Their first mention of the Deut 22 passage relates that "no witnesses beyond her testimony are necessary", and then later they throw in as a side note, an afterthought, that "oh well yeah I mean of course there are safeguards and evidence is witness". Which disproves the whole thrust of their (mis)use of Deut 22.

There is nothing in Deut 22 about an exception to the requirement of multiple witnesses (read: multiple independent lines of evidence). But there are numerous passages in which multiple witnesses are insisted upon.

I am not contending that the only SIN was that the woman was betrothed. I'm saying that the man is condemned to death in the vv25-27 sex act in the field scenario, and then is NOT condemned to death in the vv28-29 scenario. The substantive difference between the two scenarios is not specifically indicated to be their location. Rather, it's that the woman is not betrothed in the second scenario. She's a virgin.

Thus the man who lies with her in the vv25-27 field scenario has done so to a MARRIED woman. Thus, adultery. Thus, death penalty. But the vv28-29 scenario does not include a married person. It isn't that neither of those actions were sinful, nor is it that only one was sinful. It's that one of them carries a different penalty, and that difference in penalty has nothing to do with where the crime occurred.

And again, we must note that there is nothing in the passage about "no other witnesses are necessary". For this reason, the contention by Kate and Joe in the WarRoom show is erroneous.

\But then why would she cry out if she were just fornicating at a betrothed woman as opposed to being raped?\

I don't think that is particularly relevant. And of course, I fully expect a woman being raped to attempt to cry out, betrothed or not.

\you interpret verses 28 and 29 just like Rachel Held Evans and other liberals who want theonomic law to sound barbaric and uncaring\

I don't see how I did that. Could you please quote the relevant part of my comment? If I communicated that way, I certainly want to withdraw such an implication and not repeat it, for it is not what I think. But having re-read my comment just now, I get the feeling you may be seeing something that isn't there. It seems to me I barely touched on vv28-29.

\ Pretty much only the NIV interpret 28 and 29 as rape\

OK.
I wasn't quoting the NIV - the copy-paste above is either ESV or NASB. It says in v28 "seizes her and lies with her".
And I think you meant that only the NIV translates that word/phrase as "rape". Interpreting is what we're doing now, as I'm sure you know.

\It’s a common accusation that theonomists have a terrible ethic regarding rape\

Let me hasten to clarify that I neither affirm nor repeat such an accusation anywhere to anyone, and when I come across such claims and have the opportunity to push back against them, I do push back.

\The existence of an exception is not controversial.\

I agree with that in general. Of course, there would have to be some good reason to think an exception has been put in place, on a case by case basis. I'd like to know where the exception is put in place in the case of vv25-27. Please show me the evidence in the text.

\The man is executed and who heard her cry out?\

Where is the mention of multiple witnesses in the case of the crime of verse 22?

Are you trying to say that the text must specifically mention multiple witnesses every time it lays down a crime, else only the accuser's voice is sufficient to convict and penalise the accused?

And with all due respect, I don't see how you dealt at all with a major and relevant thrust of what I said in my last comment, which I paste again here:
The discussion of Deut 22 evinces no understanding of the danger of the existence of false accusations. Moreover, she and Joe contradict the matter of "no witnesses, just her testimony" later in the show. Their first mention of the Deut 22 passage relates that "no witnesses beyond her testimony are necessary", and then later they throw in as a side note, an afterthought, that "oh well yeah I mean of course there are safeguards and evidence is witness". Which disproves the whole thrust of their (mis)use of Deut 22.

There is nothing in Deut 22 about an exception to the requirement of multiple witnesses (read: multiple independent lines of evidence). But there are numerous passages in which multiple witnesses are insisted upon.

\The implications of thinking that verses 28 and 29 MUST NECCARILLY mean that you do not really believe rape should be punishable by death.\

I believe what the text says, as we all should. :-)
In v28, the word that "seizes her" translates does not indicate full consent either.
https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H8610&t=KJV
This word is used in the following passages, for example:
Gen 39:12
And she caught H8610 him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out.
Deu 9:17
And I took H8610 the two tables, and cast them out of my two hands, and brake them before your eyes.
Deu 9:17
And I took H8610 the two tables, and cast them out of my two hands, and brake them before your eyes.
Deu 21:19
Then shall his father and his mother lay hold H8610 on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;
Jos 8:8
And it shall be, when ye have taken H8610 the city, that ye shall set the city on fire: according to the commandment of the LORD shall ye do. See, I have commanded you.

\At the very least (the word used translated by "forces" in v25) is a stronger verb. Not simply being handled or grabbed onto. The same word is used in very clear cases of rape in Judges 19:25 as well as 2 Samuel 13:11-12.\

What makes you think it's a "stronger verb"? Here are other OT examples of Strong's H2388:
Gen 21:18
Arise, lift up the lad, and hold H2388 him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation.
Gen 48:2
And one told Jacob, and said, Behold, thy son Joseph cometh unto thee: and Israel strengthened H2388 himself, and sat upon the bed.
Exo 4:21
And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden H2388 his heart, that he shall not let the people go.
Exo 12:33
And the Egyptians were urgent H2388 upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men.
Lev 25:35
And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve H2388 him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee.
Deu 3:28
But charge Joshua, and encourage H2388 him, and strengthen him: for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which thou shalt see.
Source - https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H2388&t=KJV

\This means that although a sin has occurred in verses 28-29, it is not rape\

I'm suggesting that you're barking up the wrong tree. The location is not mentioned in v28-29. The status of the woman is mentioned. That's the difference.

\It is much more likely that she was pressured and convinced unduly\

Or that the man was.

\She was dishonored and exploited, and although she sinned, the weight of responsibly is with the stronger vessel.\

I think you need to make a choice - either vv28-29 is an instance of rape or it isn't. Either the word in v28 is not necessarily weaker than the one used in v25 or it isn't. If it's rape in v28, then the penalty for rape isn't always death in the Law of God; the penalty depends on other factors as well. If it is not rape in v28, then wouldn't you be suggesting that "pressuring and convincing unduly" is different than rape?

Sort:  

John Reasnor replies:

that’s exactly how the liberals interpret v28 and v29. According to your understanding of v28 and v29 as being a non-consensual sexual act with a virgin, what do you think the Theonomic punishment for a raping a virgin is?

I reply:

It would appear it is to marry her and pay a fine to her father.

I'm not sure why you're bringing up "liberals" though. You're not trying to poison the well, are you?

He replies:

No. It’s just a fact. You’re interpreting the text only how modern liberals interrupt it. It’s a fact. Not “well poisoning”. It’s exactly what RHE says. This is revealing. Thanks.

Me:

OK

Thankfully, John Reasnor then re-pasted a comment from before that I had not seen, which clears it up.

//A few notes on this. The Theonomic position (which, by the way, is hotly debated among theonomists) is not that there is no need for witnesses. Rather, the Theonomic position is that one witness is sufficient for a bare minimum conviction given other factors and given an actual judicial deliberation. It is not an automatic conviction based off of no witness or one witness. It is the principle that in some circumstances wherein witnesses aren’t possible apart from the one abused or assaulted, and the abused is someone under the power and authority of the accused abuser, then the sole witness of the alleged abuse victim can be taken into account. It’s not that one witness seals the deal. It’s that the one witness can be seen as legitimate testimony and if all other things are deliberated and judged, that one eye-witness is sufficient for conviction.

It is important to remember that God’s Law is not a wooden equation wherein we input a witness’s testimony and that it is automatically believed and there’s an automatic conviction. There’s an actual trial. Especially for crimes worthy of death. In certain specific situations the minimum requirement (and it’s just a minimum requirement) is lowered. This principle by no means would imply that someone could just lie and the person that is falsely accused doesn’t stand a chance. It’s not like that at all.

I don’t know if others consider themselves theonomists or not, but I certainly do. Either way, I can only speak for myself and my views.//

Even on the basis of two or three witnesses people are not to be stoned without due process, deliberations, other considerations such as physical evidence, and so on. This is about a BARE MINIMUM standard. Not about quickly killing people because one person said they were raped.

How easy would it be for two close friends collaborate and accuse someone of rape? It’s the same problem. Which is why there’s due process, whether it’s the standard two or more witnesses or the exception of one witness.

To the question in your title, my Magic 8-Ball says:

My reply is no

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