Monday, July 4, 2016

Is the Bible still relevant?

Does the Bible advocate stoning children to death?
JMckim

One of the commenters on my previous article, Jesse Matthewson, left this little gem:
     “I am glad you admitted the bible is complete...now explain why I have to stone my son for disobeying me?”


The remark could, of course, be written off as a wisecrack, but it displays an attitude about the Bible that is becoming increasingly common… the idea that the Bible doesn’t have any relevance to the way we live today. People who actually try to mold their lives to the Bible’s standards are viewed as, um, quaint, or worse.

Even Barack Obama is guilty of this biblical disrespect. Back in 2006, he implied in a speech that the Bible is too antiquated to guide modern living, and sarcastically gave as an example the Bible book of Deuteronomy, which he said “suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith.”

Most Bible students are familiar with the verse to which Mr. Obama, and Mr. Matthewson, refers. It’s Deuteronomy chapter 21, verses 18-21:

     “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son, who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they chastise him, will not give heed to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones; so you shall purge the evil from your midst; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.”

Now, the apostle Peter acknowledged (in 2 Peter 3:16) that there are scriptures that are “hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable pervert, as also they do the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.” Is this such a ‘hard to understand’ scripture? Not really.

  • First of all, Is the “son” mentioned in Deuteronomy an infant, a child, a precocious teen? No. The scripture calls him “a glutton and a drunkard.” True, there are, in our day, teens and even pre-teens with what we politely refer to as eating disorders and drinking problems, but the most common usage of the term ‘a glutton and a drunkard’ in Bible times would be an adult.
  • Second, stoning him to death was nowhere near immediate. Note that the account says that they “chastise him.” The Hebrew word translated ‘chastise’ indicates instruction, correction, admonition, exhortation (pleading) and punishment, according to a well-known Bible dictionary. And the tense of the verb makes it clear that this was done not once but repeatedly.
  • Third, note that the testimony of both parents was required. Can you imagine how hard a mother would have fought to defend her son before she would finally have resorted to this? (Incidentally, this is an example of the Bible’s esteem for women – so unlike the contempt in which the writer of the Koran held them.)
  •  Fourth: Please note, Mr. Matthewson, that the parents did not execute summary judgment on their son as you so flippantly implied; they took him to the authorities and made their case. The son had the opportunity to defend himself. They had a fair legal system back then. See for example the legal case described at Numbers 27:1-5 (Another passage in which women prevailed against the system!)

Should the fact that it is his parents who are charged with bringing him to the elders of the city – instead of, say, a policeman – tug at our heartstrings, make us get all sentimental about the offender? Every criminal on Death Row has, or at least at some point had, a mommy and a daddy.

Tell me, Mr. Matthewson, If our law today were that the parents were obligated to drag their misbehaving offspring to the authorities instead of shielding them behind Mom’s skirts (or Dad’s lawyer), would there be more or fewer criminals? If you are a parent, and you were legally required to raise children who were obedient to both you and Societyon pain of death, do you think you might possibly be more diligent than you presumably already are in teaching your child to be respectful and law-abiding?

Please, show a little respect for the Bible. Our Society today is living in a glass house – we should not be throwing stones.

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