Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Torah, Pedophilia, and Subjective Morality

Here is a list of sexual acts banned explicitly by the Torah in Leviticus 18:
  1. Uncovering the nakedness of one's close kin, which includes your father, mother, step-mother, sister, half-sister, granddaughter, step-sister, aunt, daughter-in-law, or any woman and her daughter.

  2. Marrying two sisters.

  3. Uncovering the nakedness of a woman "as long as she is put apart for her uncleanness." (KJV.)

  4. Lying with your neighbor's wife.

  5. Ejaculating into a fire for Moloch.

  6. Lying with a man as with a woman.

  7. Bestiality.


Have you noticed that pedophilia isn't among them? The Torah spends 14 verses spelling out whose nakedness one may not uncover, and even a whole verse forbidding ejaculation for Moloch, but not one word against pedophilia. Nor is premarital sex explicitly prohibited. Finally, it offers no age of consent for either sex or marriage.

The Talmud later corrects some of these omissions, of course. A girl can't be married until age 3 or 12, depending on what page you're reading. Still, it's interesting to note that the document Jews point to as the source of objective morality contains not a single word against pedophilia.

It's obvious to me that pedophilia is worse than every sexual offense mentioned explicitly in the Torah, as I think it's obvious to most Orthodox Jews as well. I believe this is evidence that despite claims of objective morality stemming from the Torah, people turn to subjective morality in cases where the "objective" version is lacking or incorrect.

Edit: It doesn't mention rape, either! In other words, although the Torah bans sex during a woman's period and male homosexual sex, it does not explicitly forbid what any reasonable person would say are clearly the worst two sexual offenses: pedophilia and rape.

45 comments:

Ezzie said...

Of course, you're only really looking at the Torah Shebichsav. Because Orthodoxy includes the Torah Sheba'al Peh as strongly as the former, the specific laws in those situations are laid out.

You can't really claim that the Torah doesn't value it as much; those who believe in it will easily say of course it does, it was passed down all the way.

Jewish Atheist said...

Ezzie,

Even according to the Talmud, a girl can be married as young as 3 or 12, depending. While I suppose 12 is better than 3, it's hardly the paragon of (objective!) morality Orthodox Jews make it out to be.

Jewish Atheist said...

(And the Shulkhan Aruch does no better.)

Jewish Atheist said...

"Although we do not follow this dictum, technically speaking, a girl may be betrothed the moment she is born, and married at the age of three.2 A boy may betroth and marry at the age of thirteen.3"

# 2. Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer 37:1.
# 3. Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer 43:1.

Source

r10b said...

I don't think that those who hold to an objective morality claim it originates in a book (or set of books).

Agkyra said...

I've answered all your questions at Agkyra. It's not clear to me what your point is. Are you back to claiming that the Bible approves whatever it doesn't specifically forbid? I've explained to you how case law works.

I'm glad it's obvious to you that pedophilia is worse than those other things. I don't think it's obvious to you, though, because you've examined a scientific study of costs and benefits of pedophilia, is it? Maybe it is obvious to you because you have a sense of moral outrage after all! Once upon a time, we had that sense about homosexuality too.

jewish philosopher said...

It doesn't prohibit atheism either, which is obviously the heinous sin imaginable.

That's why you have to speak to rabbis, not just read the Bible.

Jewish Atheist said...

r10b:

I don't think that those who hold to an objective morality claim it originates in a book (or set of books).

Maybe not "originates," but they seem to believe that's where we learn about it.


Agkyra:

I don't think it's obvious to you, though, because you've examined a scientific study of costs and benefits of pedophilia, is it?

It's obvious to me because harming children is wrong. Unfortunately, Orthodox Jews and right-wing Christians can't take such a sensible policy, because they are required to believe all sorts of things which cause no harm are immoral, like mixing wool and linen or having sex a few days after a woman's period.

Anonymous said...

actually, w/o a chumash in front of me, in sefer devarim, I believe in parshat ki-taitze, it does talk about rape, and the punishments.

XGH said...

> It's obvious to me that pedophilia is worse than every sexual offense mentioned explicitly in the Torah, as I think it's obvious to most Orthodox Jews as well.

Silly! It's only 'obvious' to you because of your goyish western morality. However the Torah's morality is superior, being objective and all.

Seriously though, I addressed this point on my blog a few weeks ago. Even if you include Torah Shebaal Preh, it doesn't help, since the punishment for say gay sex is death, whereas rape is only a fine, and paedophilia might be no punishment at all. So clearly Halachah has a very different set of moral values than we have. But its pointless discussing morality, because if the Torah is from God, then our notions of what is moral and what isn't are plain wrong. But I guess these kind of things have shock value, and could make an MO rethink, if not a UO.

r10b said...

It's obvious to me because harming children is wrong.

That's interesting. Who's writings or lectures made that obvious to you?

Unfortunately, Orthodox Jews and right-wing Christians can't take such a sensible policy...

Huh? We can't consider certain things to be "obviously" wrong without being told?

...because they are required to believe all sorts of things which cause no harm are immoral, like mixing wool and linen or having sex a few days after a woman's period.

Well, I'm not required to believe any such thing. Yet, those who choose to live under the Law are subject to the whole Law.

r10b said...

BTW: Being neither an Orthodox Jew (surprise!) nor a right-wing Christian, "we" is not strictly appropriate. I think they would agree, however.

Agkyra said...

"... they are required to believe all sorts of things which cause no harm are immoral, like mixing wool and linen or having sex a few days after a woman's period."

Christians don't believe those things are immoral. They're not even prohibited by God. Once upon a time they were, for a specific people (ancient Israel) in a specific situation. They are only correctly interpreted in light of all the literature that precedes them (and further illumined by the literature that follows). Many, though perhaps not all, of those civil or ceremonial requirements were intended to communicate some simple truths: we're unclean. That's why I've been trying to communicate that homosexuality is not really about what we do or don't do, it's about our broken condition. We're unclean. That some people are sexually attracted to men is a sign that they're unclean. That some people have cancerous growths is a sign that they're unclean. We're all unclean all the time, and it manifests itself in different ways. God didn't make the world unclean, he made it "very good." Our uncleanness doesn't always have to do with actions on our part; it's part of who we are! Uncleanness, of course, is sin-as-condition, from which sin-as-action proceeds. A perfect tree doesn't give bad fruit. If you have the correct theological interpretation they might not seem quite so arbitrary. Allah gives a bunch of arbitrary do's and don'ts. (Mohammed woefully misunderstood the Tanakh.) God doesn't. He does give commandments, but they're designed to instruct and protect. The reason Christians don't observe those civil and ceremonial laws is because they were bound up with the Yahwistic cultus, which is no longer necessary since Jesus was the once-for-all sacrifice.

BaconEating AtheistJew said...

It doesn't prohibit atheism either, which is obviously the heinous sin imaginable.

That's why you have to speak to rabbis, not just read the Bible.
*************************
Doesn't a few of the commandment's cover worshipping the child killing wrathful Hebrew God only.

I know JP, it is a sin to you to think.

jewish philosopher said...

Idolatry yes, but no atheism in the Torah.

And while we're at it, why doesn't the Torah teach that you cannot sell alcohol to minors or that you cannot drive recklessly? And where is wife beating prohibited?

We have an Oral Law. Check with a rabbi.

Ezzie said...

JA - WADR, while I agree with you, why is harming children "worse"?

Laura said...

Just for some historical context, rape wasn't really considered a "crime" until relatively recently in history. And spousal rape even more recently than that (and in some places it still isn't a crime). Women and children (the two groups affected by the two things you mentioned) are/were considered property of the male patriarch in feudal societies such as those that created the Torah and the Bible. As for pedophilia, again, only since the 18th century or so were children seen as something other than just little adults. Child psychology is a very recent field and has caused a sea change in the way we view children.

I'm not making excuses, I think both crimes are of the sickest nature. Just reminding everyone that you can't evaluate a text such as the Torah without evaluating the context in which it was written. Interesting post nontheless.

Jewish Atheist said...

Ezzie:

What's WADR?

while I agree with you, why is harming children "worse"?

Harming children causes children harm, obviously. Having gay sex harms no-one, having sex during a period harms no-one, committing (consensual) adultery harms people only indirectly, masturbating while thinking of Moloch or whatever harms no-one, etc.

For me, morality has to do with who is harmed and how much.

Just reminding everyone that you can't evaluate a text such as the Torah without evaluating the context in which it was written.

Laura:

Maybe for those who view the Torah as a text written by mortals a few thousand years ago. However, Orthodox Jews think it's the word of God, so He should be a little more enlightened.

Mark said...

JA,
I'm coming late to the party, but two points. On Moloch, I've usually seen that as child sacrifice not as you say ejaculation in to fire (verse 21 from the ESV)

You shall not give any of your children to offer them [1] to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.

[1] Hebrew to make them pass through [the fire]


A more important question would be why you choose consistently the "trivial" hermeneutic (literal interpretation) when viewing scripture? Especially in light of the fact that you chastise theists for their intellectual laziness it seems in this sense you are guilty of the same crime. In some sense, both you and the literalist believer hold to the same interpretation, it's just that your default reaction is to reject it and theirs is to accept it.

For example, in the list of moral crimes you give (which is incomplete) you cite the omission of rape and pedophilia but fail to demonstrate the common thread given in the list and show that those you offer should belong.

Jewish Atheist said...

mark:

A more important question would be why you choose consistently the "trivial" hermeneutic (literal interpretation) when viewing scripture?

I'm interested in the original intent of the Torah as well as the Rabbinic or Christian reinvention of it. However, I don't see how that's relevant to this discussion, unless there's an interpretation of one of the laws above that I'm not aware of (like the Moloch one, although that's not relevant to my point, either.)

For example, in the list of moral crimes you give (which is incomplete) you cite the omission of rape and pedophilia but fail to demonstrate the common thread given in the list and show that those you offer should belong.

The common thread is sexual transgressions. Even if rape and pedophilia don't belong in that list, they surely belong somewhere. Someone upthread points out that rape may be mentioned elsewhere, but pedophilia is not, so my point stands. Also, XGH points out that the penalty for rape is much less than that for homosexuality, etc., so I think my point stands for rape as well.

r10b said...

BEAJ: It doesn't prohibit atheism either, which is obviously the heinous sin imaginable.

While the term "atheism" may not appear in the Torah or the Christian bible, one must have exceptionally meager comprehension abilities to miss the admonitions against rejecting/denying God.

Jewish Atheist said...

r10b:

I agree. It seems clear from the first commandment.

Ezzie said...

JA - You missed my point. (WADR = With all due respect... :) )

Why is harming a child worse than adult? Pedophilia worse than rape? Perhaps the child actually *does* enjoy it. What if it's a 13-yr. old boy and his 25-yr. old teacher? Is it still wrong? Who is being harmed?

Before you argue that someone is taking advantage of someone else, you could say the same in many normal, legal relationships as well.

Jewish Atheist said...

Why is harming a child worse than adult? Pedophilia worse than rape?

I never compared one to the other. I said both are worse than, e.g., sleeping with a menstruating woman.

What if it's a 13-yr. old boy and his 25-yr. old teacher? Is it still wrong? Who is being harmed?

In most cases, it's probably harmful to the boy. We've got to draw the line somewhere. One can argue where it should be, but most Americans would probably agree that 13 is too young for a 25 year old. I'm not sure how an Orthodox Jew would justify believing it worse than two 25 year olds though without turning to subjective morality.

Random said...

"The common thread is sexual transgressions. Even if rape and pedophilia don't belong in that list, they surely belong somewhere."

Rape certainly does. Deuteronomy 22:25-26 & 28-29 -

"But if out in the country a man happens to meet a girl pledged to be married and rapes her, only the man who has done this shall die. Do nothing to the girl; she has committed no sin deserving death."

"If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay the girl's father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives."

Now I suppose you can criticise these passages for treating rape as something that deserves to be punished on the grounds of how it affects the men who might be regarded as having some responsibility for the woman at least as much as for how it affects the woman herself, but the idea that the bible does not regard rape as a crime deserving of very severe punishment (up to and including death) is simply not true.

As for paedophilia - Laura is pretty much right on this one. Society has only regarded children as a special class relatively recently, and it could be argued that it is the contemporary process of treating children as a distinct category and extending the definition of "child" in some respects (for example US laws on access to alcohol) until the early 20's that is anomalous and difficult to defend an a rational basis.

That said, I was always under the impression that the bible regards as immoral all forms of sexual activity outside of marriage (which is the linking theme that joins together homosexuality, bestiality, adultery, etc.), so why you feel it condones anything that falls outside of this that isn't specifically mentioned is beyond me.

But if you want a specific cite that addresses the issue, then Ezekiel 16 describes in an allegory as "old enough for love" a girl whose breasts have developed and whose pubic hair has grown, i.e has been through puberty, which has been pretty much the consensus view of just about every human society throughout history until recently. The obvious implication is that anybody who has not gone through puberty is too young.

Jewish Atheist said...

Random:

The first verses you cite are more about adultery than rape. They just clarify that if she's rape, she doesn't have to be put to death as well. The second verses support my point that the Torah sees homosexuality as much worse an offense than rape. Fifty shekels and he marries her?

Society has only regarded children as a special class relatively recently...

I agree that this is why the Torah doesn't mention pedophilia. I think it's strong evidence that it was written by mortals living in a certain time and place rather than an omniscient and omnibenevolent God.

That said, I was always under the impression that the bible regards as immoral all forms of sexual activity outside of marriage

Maybe, maybe not. Certainly female virgins are worth more than non-virgins.

so why you feel it condones anything that falls outside of this that isn't specifically mentioned is beyond me.

Again, it's not necessarily that it condones it, but why leave out possibly the worst sexual offense there is? 14 verses on whose nakedness you may uncover, one about menstruation, and nothing on pedophilia. If you argue it's too obvious to mention, then I'd ask why murder and stealing are mentioned.

Jack's Shack said...

I agree that this is why the Torah doesn't mention pedophilia. I think it's strong evidence that it was written by mortals living in a certain time and place rather than an omniscient and omnibenevolent God.

That makes sense to me. Even if you say that it was divinely inspired, there are too many inconsistencies for me to accept that it was just handeddown from high.

Ezzie said...

In most cases, it's probably harmful to the boy. We've got to draw the line somewhere. One can argue where it should be, but most Americans would probably agree that 13 is too young for a 25 year old. I'm not sure how an Orthodox Jew would justify believing it worse than two 25 year olds though without turning to subjective morality.

Again, you're using "most Americans" as a basis, but that basis is pretty much a Bible-based culture from the last 3,000 years. In a vacuum, there's no difference. Again, as I said, I agree with you - but technically, there's no difference. It's the old Supreme Court ruling "We can't define obscene, but we know it when we see it."

Also, one can argue that the Torah covered rape with the incident with Dina and Shchem; there, the whole city got wiped out, which was - while condemned as an overreaction by Yaakov - clearly showing the Torah's opinion on the matter. You also have the case of rape in Neviim with the tribe of Benyamin fighting over one incident, and Neviim is a large portion of Tanach.

Jewish Atheist said...

Ezzie:

We've agreed that the Torah condemns rape, albeit mostly in a you-don't-touch-another-man's-property kinda way, but my point still stands about pedophilia.

Gary McGath said...

On the point about Moloch, I agree. I've seen it as "giving one's seed to Moloch," never in the translation you cite, which sounds very strained. Given the background discussion I've read, it makes more sense that it's talking about human sacrifice, which we can all agree is a bad thing.

Jewish Atheist said...

Gary:

You're probably right about that. My bad.

Ben Avuyah said...

Of course, you are right, JA, the torah morality and value standards should rub us the wrong way. They are ideals from a primitive time. But for what it is worth, I do think the Torah was a moral document for it's time. It was an effort to instill fairness into a brutal tribal world that used violence as we would conversation.

I find the morality in the Torah far less upseting than current orthodox morality. The torah was the best a primitive society could do to rise above the dregs. Is it filled with violent bigotry?...it surely is, yet it was likely still a step forward in dark times.

But current orthodoxy no longer makes any attmepts at morality. Instead of using empathy and compassion as guidelines we adulate and model the rabbinic judaism of earlier times, hunting for extra sylables, scouring the text for repeated phrases from which to "learn out" what is correct behavior; rather than ever assesing the facts by another method.

It's all tic tac toe, or as DBS says "Rabbinic soduko", and I hope to post on this soon, especially with regards to medical ethics, which are often derived from the stangest of places....

The saddest part is seeing the believers...who clearly have moral instincts that are not in line with biblical ones...contort themselves into line with a three thousand year old worldview in the hopes that some grand old fellow in the sky will pat them on the head when they get there....it's sad.

Jewish Atheist said...

But for what it is worth, I do think the Torah was a moral document for it's time. It was an effort to instill fairness into a brutal tribal world that used violence as we would conversation.

It is certainly preferable to the child-sacrifice religions, and may have been uniquely ahead of its time morally, yes.

I find the morality in the Torah far less upseting than current orthodox morality

I can't agree with you there. The morality in the Torah included slavery, involuntary marriage, genocide, etc. Some of today's Orthodox Jews, including (especially?) the leadership may have some questionable priorities, but they're miles beyond the original Torah morality.

There was a very disturbing post recently on Beyond BT about a person trying to get himself to think about homosexuality the way the Torah does rather than the way he was raised.

Ben Avuyah said...

>>>>I can't agree with you there. The morality in the Torah included slavery, involuntary marriage, genocide, etc. Some of today's Orthodox Jews, including (especially?) the leadership may have some questionable priorities, but they're miles beyond the original Torah morality.

I'm not talking about the principles themselves,(and your right the torah has far more horrible things in it than we do now) but the ideology behind them. Yes we have managed to "no longer need to observe" some of the more horific things in the torah. But in it's time the torah was a leap forward from everything around it. Orthodoxy is now incabaple of leaps but can only look to this one example of inovation and try and squeeze one drop more of wisdom out of a codex that by all rights should have been retired by now. It is in this aspect that I find modern orthodoxy, and the torah superior.

Ben Avuyah said...

should say: modern orthodoxy *lacking* and the torah superior.

Ezzie said...

I think that even current Orthodoxy (even charedi) is far better than you think (both Ben Avuyah and JA). While there are always some nuts, there was a good post on Hayom that discussed R' Elyashiv's opinion on the gay parade. People asked if they should protest - he said "Yes. Turn to your chavrusa, say 'I protest'. He should respond 'I protest'. And then you should get back to learning."

Jewish Atheist said...

ben avuyah:

Orthodoxy is now incabaple of leaps but can only look to this one example of inovation and try and squeeze one drop more of wisdom out of a codex that by all rights should have been retired by now.

That I agree with. Interesting point.


Ezzie:

That's a great quote, although even that reflects an outdated version of morality. I know that the violent protesters were a minority.

beepbeepitsme said...

It seems to me that christians need to ditch the old testament, as they hardly agree with anything in it anyway.

Oh yeah, I forgot, they cherry pick the bits they like. :)

Let me see now:

Talking snake part - that stays in
Not wearing mixed fibres - chuck that out
Not eating shellfish - chuck that bit out too
Harrassing and harangueing homosexuals - keep that bit in

The cherry picking religious fest continues.

beepbeepitsme said...

They have to keep the talking snake bit in because no matter how ridiculous it sounds, there is no need for a saviour if mankind did not fall from grace.

Basically, you have to believe that a snake talked in order to be saved from the improbability that a snake talked.

BTA said...

"Deuteronomy 22:25-26 & 28-29 -

"If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay the girl's father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives."

In other words, "you break it, you buy it."

Very profound from ole Yahweh. Meanwhile, the man can marry other wives and totally ignore this one. And she has to be married for his entire life (since he's forbidden to give a get) to her rapist! I wonder how religious folks who support a woman's right to have an abortion of her rapist's child feel about this.

Moreover, how does she or her father prove this in a beis din, since there won't be two male witnesses? She wouldn't ever be able to enforce this stupid rule. In the orthodox apologetics, they often try to say that the wicked son death penalty was never carried out, or that death penalties in general were rarely carried out. Why not mention that this too was never enforced and men got away with rape all the time under this swiss cheese paradigm of criminal justice.

gabriels_fire said...

Leviticus verse 21 is in between a list of verses about sexual crimes. Couldn't it be that "passing your seed -- or children through fire -- or sacrificing children to Molech" be a sexual sin, like the others in the list? Maybe "passing seed--children through fire" and hence sacrificing to Molech is nothing but pedophilia? Or something related? Maybe OT writers wanted to phrase it implicitly this way, instead of saying it directly? I didn't read all the comments very carefully, my apologies if someone already referred to this.

I remember a film starring Cate Blanchett (i don't remember the name of the film). In the film, Cate Blanchett had psychic powers and was helping a troubled young man. It turned out that he was sexually abused by his father as a child. Towards the end of the film, he poured gas on his father and burned him to death.

Anonymous said...

G-d created man "in His image" (Bereishit 1:2) endowing him with moral sensitivity and a conscience in other words with natural morality. this sensitivity has charecterized man ever since the world was created, EVEN WHEN IT DID NOT STEM FROM A DIRECT DIVINE COMMAND. G-d addressed man through his conscience and morals. This is the implication of the Gemara in Eruvin (100b)
Rabbi Yochanan said: had the Torah not been given we would have learned modesty from the cat [aversion to] theft from the ant, chastity from the dove, and [conjugal] manners from the owl.

Elsewhere the Sages say (Torat Kohanim, Acharei mot 9, 13):
"you shall keep my statutes" (Vayikra 18:4) those laws written in the Torah which had they not been written, it would have been proper to write them. For example theft, forbidden relations, idolatry, blasphemy, and murder, which had they not been written it would have been proper to write them.Such Mitzvot- those "which had they not been written, it would have been proper to write them"- are designated by Rambam in his Shemona Perakim (chapter 6) as "rational Mitzvot". It is preferable that a person should fulfil duch Mitzvot willingly, without any internal struggle- "for one who has no yearnings for them is better than one who years for them and reins in his soul to avoid them". This is because these Mitzvot reflect the natural morality that is DEMANDED OF EVERY HUMAN BEING.

from "Jewish Values in a changing World" by Rabbi Yehuda Amital




the prohibition against the Ammonities and Moavites contains this idea clearly. these nations were explicitly commanded to observe the 7 Noachide laws. no-where in those laws does it contain giving the Jews bread and water when we came out of Egypt. These nations where punished for there lack of natural Morality. Natural morality requires a certain type of behaviour- "helping people in times of trouble" there are so many more examples if you want....

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getrealwithgod said...

Twice in the Bible a woman was raped; & her body was cut into 12 pieces & one piece sent to each of the 12 tribes for justice. The whole city involved in this crime was wiped out @ least once.

Anonymous said...

I remember a film starring Cate Blanchett (i don't remember the name of the film). In the film, Cate Blanchett had psychic powers and was helping a troubled young man. It turned out that he was sexually abused by his father as a child. Towards the end of the film, he poured gas on his father and burned him to death.

that is dumb. It doesnt have anything to do with what we are talking about.

we are talking about pedophilia, man and little girl, not faggot crap. Its dumb, Americans see everything as a violation, they treat men as women.