The Dark Side of Biblical Ethics

Kirk Straughen

(Investigtor 93, 2003 November)

In his article The Bible is Relevant in Ethics (No. 91), Anonymous concludes his argument in the following way:

"The Bible is an enduring source of guidance in 2000 languages and is often ahead of today's laws. And that's as relevant as life, health and death!" (Page 20)

I think this is an overstatement to say the least. Although parts of the Bible display a common sense approach to ethics that most sensible people could arrive at using their own reason, other parts are clearly unjust, cruel and irrelevant for our times. For example:

"And the daughter of any priest, if she profanes herself by playing the harlot, profanes her father; she shall be burned with fire." (Leviticus 21:9)

How can this cruel act be ahead of today's laws? What legislator of today's Australia would propose this barbaric punishment? Would Anonymous, if he had a daughter, allow her to be subjected to this punishment? Indeed, it is clear to me that Leviticus 21:9 has nothing to offer us in the way of an enlightened approach when dealing with troubled daughters or drafting humane laws.

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