Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Question on Inerrancy and Sex

    *Content note: a scientifically frank discussion of sex and women's bodies. The horror.*
     So if you're a girl, chances are you learned at some point you're supposed to bleed the first time you have sex, thanks to a vaginal barrier known as the hymen. (Obviously, I can't say if boys learn this or not).
    I do remember, however, being confused by this. Women shed blood every month, out of the same opening. Like, how is that possible if it's barricaded by a membrane?
    Well: it's not.
    The hymen is not a barrier - it's simply an open scrap of membrane that protects the vagina when women are growing up.
    So all that stuff you hear about maidenheads, about an intact hymen and blood proving virginity?
    It's a load of crap. Cultural hoopla descended from millennia of patriarchy. Some pregnant women have intact hymens, and some women have none at all. The hymen only tears during sex if you are too fast or too violent.
 Language warning for video, but it is quite informative.

    Yet, enter Deuteronomy 20:13-21.
    "If any man takes a wife and goes in to her and then hates her 14 and accuses her of misconduct and brings a bad name upon her, saying, ‘I took this woman, and when I came near her, I did not find in her evidence of virginity,’ 15 then the father of the young woman and her mother shall take and bring out the evidence of her virginity to the elders of the city in the gate. 16 And the father of the young woman shall say to the elders, ‘I gave my daughter to this man to marry, and he hates her; 17 and behold, he has accused her of misconduct, saying, “I did not find in your daughter evidence of virginity.” And yet this is the evidence of my daughter's virginity.’ And they shall spread the cloak before the elders of the city. 18 Then the elders of that city shall take the man and whip[a] him, 19 and they shall fine him a hundred shekels[b] of silver and give them to the father of the young woman, because he has brought a bad name upon a virgin[c] of Israel. And she shall be his wife. He may not divorce her all his days. 20 But if the thing is true, that evidence of virginity was not found in the young woman, 21 then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done an outrageous thing in Israel by whoring in her father's house. So you shall purge the evil from your midst." 

    According to the Bible, in these verses God says virginity is proven with blood. God says something demonstrably false.
    I've never seen any Biblical scholar address this issue (possibly because it involves a culturally awkward discussion of vaginas?). One article mentions that lack of bleeding would not necessarily condemn the woman due to the need for at least two witnesses, but the author still acknowledges that it is evidence against her virginity.
    Something scientifically false could witness against a person in a life-or-death situation. I find that extremely troubling.
    Frankly, it seems to me that this verse is incompatible with a literal Bible, unless you want to argue that hymens have evolved over time. Or that God is advocating marital rape, I suppose.
    Honestly, it makes more sense to say the Israelites were adopting a cultural misunderstanding/norm into their law, than to say God is a liar.
    Don't get me wrong. I confess that all Scripture is inspired by God, a good God, whether I like it or not. Maybe this passage exists to emphasize the importance of commitment to one person. Maybe, much like Moses' law of divorce, this this was God permitting them their hard hearts - I don't know.
    But I do think Deuteronomy 22:13-21 is evidence that Bible is not flawless. At the very least, I don't see the notion that the Bible is scientifically accurate as tenable.
    Inerrantists, if you have another explanation, please let me know. I say that in all sincerity.
    Thanks for listening, friends.


*Update: I love getting answers on Twitter - yes, really. As my friend Peter at The Places You'll Go Music points out, equating the modern body with a body from 4000 years ago is probably not the most accurate comparison.

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