Jehovah`s Witness/Deuteronomy 22:24 - Stoning a virgin
I must first say I have chosen you for a reason. Let me briefly explain my story briefly before my question.
I am in my mid 40s now. I was raised around the truth all my life. During my teens, I left for a time, then returned. Then, life became quite trial some and I had some rough spots in my life. At one point when I was laid off from my job, my then wife (who decided to leave the truth and pursue a very materialistic and debauched life) cheated on me which lead to a divorce. So, being in a weakened state and thoroughly discouraged, I gradually left the meetings and congregation. The congregation tried to help, but I was just stubborn and wounded at the same time. When I had extra time on my hands I read online about us (JWs) and what I read was disturbing to me. Certain topics really slowed my way back. I even questioned the existence of God at some point. It took a good friend, lots and lots of reading, and a few online friends (yourself included) to help me pull out of it. When I was coming back on my feet I was willing to accept anything. If God didn't exist...fine. If he did...fine. Did JWs have the truth? No? Fine. Yes? Fine. I was willing to except whatever was TRUTH. I reasoned it doesn't do myself any good to believe and support something that isn't TRUE. If I was going to invest my time, energy, and other resources into being a Jehovah's Witness, then I had better make sure it was in fact the truth. Gladly, with help I was able to determine a balanced view of JWs, former and current beliefs, and all of the "yada yada yada" that you could spend countless hours reading about on the internet. There is so much that information out there that is presented online that most JWs don't really consider. I would recommend to anyone learning the context of those topics so they too can sure and know how to defend what we believe and how and why we do what we do. So...I want to say "thank you" to you because you have helped me a great deal without even realizing you did. Never think that no one reads what you write and is helped by it. I have to continually ask myself the WHY and WHAT when I study.
So now for my question. I couldn't find much on the WT-LIB CD ROM that would answer my question. Maybe you could help.
Question: Someone I work with (an atheist) asked me what I thought about Deuteronomy 22:24 where it speaks about stoning a virgin who has committed fornication with a man. He stated that it sounds like a cruel God I worship, and if we practice this today it would be illegal and convey the thought that God is in fact cruel. He also discussed (generally) about his belief that the "God" of the Old Testament (Hebrew scriptures) and the "God" of the New Testament (Greek scriptures) is all about love.
So, how can I reconcile this with him and explain why the Law Covenant seems to some to paint Jehovah as being cruel?
As a side note, my coworker also mentioned how God directed the Israelites to fight neighboring lands and people in the Hebrew texts, but is all about peace in the Greek texts.
Thank you in advance. Eager to hear back from you, but please don't put off something more important. I am patient.
Sorry for the delay
I appreciate your comments. It is nice to know that there are people reading the board, in fact it always surprises me when I get a message from someone that has been reading the board in the past and that is not a regular asker of questions. I must confess I personally do not like reading the board because I get discouraged at some of the things that have happened on it and I suppose I assume that others get discouraged and put off as well. Knowing that there are individuals that do find the board to be helpful, is quite sobering as it shows the responsibility those of us that answer questions here have, and to remember that we represent our Grand Creator and the need to act and speak accordingly.
And thank you for being patient. The idea is that we are to try to answer within 3 days. Only once in the past can I think of for some reason that I can not remember I did not answer in three days and at some point my name disappeared from the list of available experts and stayed that way until I answered the question. So I do try to answer any questions as soon as possible preferably within the 3 days.
Yes the internet is both a source of blessing and a curse. There is so much misinformation out there about JWs that unfortunately many JWs have fallen prey to those anti JW websites and have believed the propaganda to their detriment.
Many such sites will quote portions of articles from the time of Russell or Rutherford and onward and present the information in such away that it stumbles many JWs. Fortunately I have access to all the societies publications going back to the start and can look up the quotes and then put them in context. Unfortunately not many JWs have access to all that material and believe what the anti JW web sites say.
Yes it is so important to get all the facts and then to reason on them as you have done. Yes it certainly is true that If we are going to invest our lives, time, energy and other resources into serving or God Jehovah as one of his Witnesses, then we must make sure it was in fact the truth.
Now down to your question and thank you for your that. It is not an easy one to try to understand, and, will possibly be very difficult for an atheist to grasp. Someone who does not believe in a God will possibly find trying to understand his ways difficult. You are correct there is very little information that directly answers your question on the WT Library CD. So when I encounter a topic that is somewhat difficult, I started in my usual starting point and reasoned out from there. Now a good teacher will be able to pull the information together and present the findings in a coherent manner. Even though in my mind, I understand the answer, personally I am finding it difficult to present this in a logical, easy to follow way, so, I hope that the way I present this information I found, it will make sense for you and be of help.
So what is my usual starting point? The first thing that I do, is call to mind that “all scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching .... ” (2 Timothy 3:16
) Our view then, is that everything in the Bible is from our Creator, and that it has some benefit
for us. That raises the question, of what benefit is it to have God tell us about such things as “stoning”. That sent me looking at what is written about the law code. A simple answer can be found in what Paul wrote to the Christians in the Roman province of Galatia. In his letter to them he said of the old law code “Consequently the Law has become our tutor
leading to Christ” (Galatians 3:24
The KJV reads “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster
to bring us unto Christ,”
The Bible in Basic English reads “So the law has been a servant
to take us to Christ,”
It is interesting what the Greek word rendered above as “tutor” means. Thayers Greek Lexicon gives this meanings
“a tutor (Latin paedagogus) i. e. a guide and guardian of boys. Among the Greeks and Romans the name was applied to trustworthy slaves who were charged with the duty of supervising the life and morals of boys belonging to the better class. The boys were not allowed so much as to step out of the house without them before arriving at the age of manhood”
So the law code was like that trustworthy slave who had the responsibility to see that the boy did what he was told going to and from school. He had to accompany the boy until he reached manhood.
When the boy reached manhood he no longer needed his “tutor” ( trustworthy.. guide).
continues “But now that the faith has arrived, we are no longer under a tutor”
The 2013 NWT uses the word guardian at Galatians 3:24, 25
instead of tutor
Why can the law be considered a “tutor leading to Christ”? We will need to consider why Jesus came, .. and .., that was to give is life as a ransom (Mark 10:45
) so that mankind could be redeemed to God.
Jesus was the fulfilment of the law. (Matthew 5:17
) 17 “Do not think I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I came, not to destroy, but to fulfill; “
Jesus blotted out the written law code (Colossians 2:14
) "14 and blotted out the handwritten document against us, which consisted of decrees and which was in opposition to us; and He has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the torture stake."
All the old law code could be summed up in one one word “Love”. The New law code was built on love for God, his Son and each other
"8 Do not YOU people be owing anybody a single thing, except to love one another; for he that loves his fellowman has fulfilled [the] law. 9 For the [law code], “You must not commit adultery, You must not murder, You must not steal, You must not covet,” and whatever other commandment there is, is summed up in this word, namely, “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does not work evil to one’s neighbor; therefore love is the law’s fulfillment. . ."
"For the entire Law stands fulfilled in one saying, namely: “You must love your neighbor as yourself.”
"If, now, YOU practice carrying out the kingly law according to the scripture: “You must love your neighbor as yourself,” YOU are doing quite well"
Why did the Israelites need a tutor (law code)? It was to guide them, and, be a reminder of their transgressions Galatians 3:19
“Why, then, the Law? It was added to make transgressions manifest, until the offspring should arrive to whom the promise had been made;...”
“For since the Law has a shadow of the good things to come
, but not the very substance of the things, [men] can never with the same sacrifices from year to year which they offer continually make those who approach perfect. 2 Otherwise, would the [sacrifices] not have stopped being offered, because those rendering sacred service who had been cleansed once for all time would have no consciousness of sins anymore? 3 To the contrary, by these sacrifices there is a reminding of sins from year to year
, 4 for it is not possible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take sins away.”
They, and all mankind had to wait for Jesus to die as the perpetual, propitiatory ransom sacrifice
“For [the death] that he died, he died with reference to sin once for all time
“Consequently he was obliged to become like his “brothers” in all respects, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, in order to offer propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of the people”.
“But this [man] offered one sacrifice for sins perpetually and sat down at the right hand of God.”
Because of a promise by God to Abraham, The Israelites had been chosen as the nation into whom the Messiah would be born. So they had a special privilege of having this relationship with God. With the importance of what Jesus had to do, the Nation had to be special. The law code set the people out as quite distinct to the nations around them. As a nation they were in line to be the ones to have a place in the Kingdom of God under the ruler-ship of Gods appoint King, his son Jesus. To have that privilege the people of that nation needed to demonstrate that were a righteous people. The law code of Moses was the instrument that would put individuals of that Nation in good standing to accept Jesus as the Messiah.
Many of the nations around the Israelites engaged in gross sexual immorality, often it was a part of their worship to their gods. In the wilderness many Israelites fell prey to the sexual exploits of the nations nearby.
In the beginning God had meant for one man to co-habit with one woman so the laws he gave about sexual activity were very strict. It served to keep the people clean form the practices of their neighbours.
The temples of the Canaanites featured rooms that were set aside for sexual activity, The strict laws about sex were to not to make sexual relations between a husband and wife “dirty” but were to show the sanctity of the “sex”. Worship to God was to be pure. The Mosaic Law stated that those in an unclean state could not even enter the temple. Thus, since sexual relations brought on a period of uncleanness, therefore no one could lawfully make sex a part of worship at Jehovah’s house.
When the Israelites (and vast mixed crowd) came out of Egypt they were to leave behind the ways of the Egyptians. If someone in the nation of Israel attempted to lead them astray in some way they were commanded to remove that one from their midst. Why? They were to remember “..who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery—to turn you from the way in which Jehovah your God has commanded you to walk. And you must remove what is evil from your midst
..” ( Deuteronomy 13:5
) In putting a wrong doer that has gone against Gods righteous laws to death (usually by stoning), they showed that they were zealous for true worship, anxious to see that no reproach came upon God’s name, and desirous of maintaining a clean congregation.
Now in the case you mention at Deuteronomy 22:23, 24
Stoning is not as straight forward as it might appear when read on its own. “23 “If a virgin is engaged to a man, and another man happens to meet her in the city and lies down with her, 24 you should bring them both out to the gate of that city and stone them to death, the girl because she did not scream in the city and the man because he humiliated the wife of his fellow man. So you must remove what is evil from your midst.”
Lets go back a few chapters to Deuteronomy 17:6, 7
. Here we learn that it must be proven that the event took place. We are told “ . . .On the testimony of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die should be put to death. He must not be put to death on the testimony of one witness. 7 The hand of the witnesses should be the first to come against him to put him to death, and the hand of all the people afterward. You must remove what is bad from your midst.”
There had to be two reliable witnesses who could testify that the girl did not screen thus showing here consent, and they had to be absolutely sure because they (the witnesses) were obliged to cast the first stones. This applied to any
of the “crimes” that had an outcome of stoning. So there was a safeguard. It shows Gods high standards. Those that said they witneesed a “crime” had to be absolutely sure of their facts as Deuteronomy 19:15-21
points out for us that a false witness recieves the same punishment as the one accused.
“ 15 “No single witness may convict another for any error or any sin that he may commit. On the testimony of two witnesses or on the testimony of three witnesses the matter should be established. 16 If a malicious witness testifies against a man and charges him with some transgression, 17 the two men who have the dispute will stand before Jehovah, the priests and the judges who will be serving in those days. 18 The judges will thoroughly investigate, and if the man who testified is a false witness and has brought a false charge against his brother
, 19 you should do to him just as he had schemed to do to his brother, and you must remove what is bad from your midst. 20 Those who remain will hear and be afraid, and they will never again do anything bad like this among you. 21 You should not feel sorry: Life will be for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”
Gods laws on morality and hygiene and looking after the poor were were set high to keep the nation of Israel separate from the nations. These laws and standards were far above anything that any other nation had. But no matter how much a Jew tried to keep the law he could not do it perfectly When they did.
The Nation of Israel unfortunately did not stay by the law. They were told “None of the daughters of Israel may become a temple prostitute, neither may anyone of the sons of Israel become a temple prostitute.” (Deuteronomy 23:17
) But accounts such as 1 Kings 14:22-24; 1 Kings 22:46; Jeremiah 5:7, 8
tell us that prostitution was at times a common practice even at the temple. So just how much notice the people took of the law in all regards is really unknown. We know what the law said but we do not know how often if ever it was administered.
The law code also tells us that a person can only be declared righteous through faith in Christ, and not by works of law. If a person could be declared righteous by works of law, Christ’s death would have been unnecessary Galatians 2:15-21
15 We who are Jews by birth, and not sinners from the nations, 16 recognize that a man is declared righteous, not by works of law, but only through faith in Jesus Christ. So we have put our faith in Christ Jesus, so that we may be declared righteous by faith in Christ and not by works of law, for no one will be declared righteous by works of law. 17 Now if we have also been found sinners while seeking to be declared righteous by means of Christ, is Christ then sin’s minister? Certainly not! 18 If the very things that I once tore down I build up again, I demonstrate that I am a transgressor. 19 For through law I died toward law, so that I might become alive toward God. 20 I am nailed to the stake along with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who is living in union with me. Indeed, the life that I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and handed himself over for me. 21 I do not reject the undeserved kindness of God, for if righteousness is through law, Christ actually died for nothing.
The Christians in Galatia received God’s spirit because of their responding in faith to the good news, not because of works of law (Galatians 3:1-5
) 3 O senseless Galatians! Who has brought you under this evil influence, you who had Jesus Christ openly portrayed before you as nailed to the stake? 2 This one thing I want to ask you: Did you receive the spirit through works of law or because of faith in what you heard? 3 Are you so senseless? After starting on a spiritual course, are you finishing on a fleshly course? 4 Did you undergo so many sufferings for nothing? If it really was for nothing. 5 Therefore, does the one who supplies you the spirit and performs powerful works among you do it because of your works of law or because of your faith in what you heard?
True sons of Abraham are those who have faith like his Galatians 3:6-9
, 6 Just as Abraham 'put faith in Jehovah, and it was counted to him as righteousness.' 7 Surely you know that it is those who adhere to faith who are sons of Abraham. 8 Now the scripture, foreseeing that God would declare people of the nations righteous through faith, declared the good news beforehand to Abraham, namely: 'By means of you all the nations will be blessed.' 9 So those who adhere to faith are being blessed together with Abraham, who had faith."
“26 You are all, in fact, sons of God through your faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in union with Christ Jesus. 29 Moreover, if you belong to Christ, you are really Abraham’s offspring, heirs with reference to a promise.
Because of being unable to keep the Law perfectly, those seeking to prove themselves righteous by works of the Law are under a curse (Galatians 3:10-14
10 All those who depend on works of law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not remain in all the things written in the scroll of the Law by doing them.” 11 Moreover, it is evident that by law no one is declared righteous with God, because “the righteous one will live by reason of faith.” 12 Now the Law is not based on faith. Rather, “anyone who does these things will live by means of them.” 13 Christ purchased us, releasing us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse instead of us, because it is written: “Accursed is every man hung upon a stake.” 14 This was so that the blessing of Abraham would come to the nations by means of Christ Jesus, so that we might receive the promised spirit through our faith.
The Law did not invalidate the promise associated with the Abrahamic covenant, but it served to make transgressions manifest and acted as a tutor (or guide, guardian) leading to Christ ( Galatians 3:15-25
) 15 Brothers, I speak using a human illustration: Once a covenant is validated, even if only by a man, no one annuls it or attaches additions to it. 16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “and to your descendants,” in the sense of many. Rather, it says, “and to your offspring,” in the sense of one, who is Christ. 17 Further, I say this: The Law, which came into being 430 years later, does not invalidate the covenant previously made by God, so as to abolish the promise. 18 For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has kindly given it to Abraham through a promise.
19 Why, then, the Law? It was added to make transgressions manifest, until the offspring should arrive to whom the promise had been made; and it was transmitted through angels by the hand of a mediator. 20 Now there is no mediator when just one person is involved, but God is only one. 21 Is the Law, therefore, against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, righteousness would actually have been by means of law. 22 But the Scripture handed all things over to the custody of sin, so that the promise resulting from faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those exercising faith.
23 However, before the faith arrived, we were being guarded under law, being handed over into custody, looking to the faith that was about to be revealed. 24 So the Law became our guardian leading to Christ, so that we might be declared righteous through faith. 25 But now that the faith has arrived, we are no longer under a guardian.
So what I learnt
The law code even if we not understand it, was provided for our instruction and to benefit from it
It shows Gods high and righteous standards that was to safeguard the nation until The one with the legal right to the promise to Abraham appeared.
The law code was just in that it served to keep the nation clean and free of the problems of the other nations (when the Israelites bothered to stay by it)
It was just in that it was not to be administered haphazardly. To be a stoning two or more credible witnesses had to put their own life on the line by testifying and then casting the first stones.
No human could fully keep the law code except a perfect man. Jesus was the only one able to do so perfectly.
We can benefit from the law code to see how God thinks on a matter. It hepls us learn about him as a person.
The law code both of ancient Israel and of Jesus was based on love. If the Israelites (and by extension us) loved God for bring our life giver and creator supplying us with what we need now and in the future, none of hos laws are burdensome. It is like any law. If we obey it there are no bad consequences (punishment)
“Listen, O Israel: Jehovah our God is one Jehovah. 5 You must love
Jehovah your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength. 6 These words that I am commanding you today must be on your heart
, 7 and you must inculcate
them in your sons and speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as a reminder on your hand, and they must be like a headband on your forehead. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
I hope that has given you information for your self and I hope you can put something together to show your atheist work companion that stoning was not as barbaric as it may seem by today’s standards.