Sexual Morality in Scripture

Time and again, we’re told God made men and women in His image and to be fruitful and multiple and that marriage is between a man and a woman. That’s why we fight to keep marriage between one man and one woman against the prevailing calls for open marriages, gay “marriage,” and other behaviors. However, it was pointed out to me by an atheist posting somewhere on the internet that throughout the bible that there have been not-so exemplary men who had concubines, Levitical laws that stated that women were forced to marry their rapists, a man could marry his dead brother’s wife, and other such things that would make any modern person, believing or otherwise cringe.
The tried solution would be to state that Christians are not bound by these laws, which to an extent I believe but I no longer feel that alone justifies being a Christian whose religious book has these excerpts. I, nor the Church, can expunge them from the sacred scripture and pretend they didn’t happen. Is there another explanation or reason why we must believe in marriage between one man and one woman when there are numerous examples of people in our own sacred writings not living up to that requirement? Am I missing something? I’ve been having great troubles with doubt and have recently returned to the Church. I would like some good, solid reasoning behind this question

Marriage was raised to the level of a sacrament by Jesus Christ at Cana. So a valid marriage between the baptized, that has been consummated, cannot be dissolved while both are alive.


1614 In his preaching Jesus unequivocally taught the original meaning of the union of man and woman as the Creator willed it from the beginning permission given by Moses to divorce one’s wife was a concession to the hardness of hearts.106 The matrimonial union of man and woman is indissoluble: God himself has determined it "what therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder."107

One must, when reading these passages, realize that the people violating those laws are portrayed as the villains in their stories. In addition, early Church history and the fight about Gentile circumcision firmly proclaims that we are not subject to the Jewish law anymore. Essentially, atheists love to nitpick about things in the Bible, but never provide enough context to make people understand what the passages mean.


Just to pick on this one example, to be clear the Levitican law not only allows a man to marry his dead brother’s wife, but commands him to do so if she does not have children. This might seem strange but you should understand that at the time, there was very little in the way of a social safety net, people in their old age were usually cared for by their children. So a childless widow would be in quite a predicament because virginity was so valued in that society. So the Levitican law required her dead husband’s brother to marry her and support her, and that the first child from that marriage would legally be considered the dead brother’s child. It might seem strange to us but that form of marriage is found in many pastoral societies in central Asia and Africa which are culturally similar to how the Israelites would have been at that time. And a lot of the book of Ruth revolves around the search for the proper relative to fulfill that marriage law.


There must not be the slightest ounce of impurity in a Christian or in a Christian community. One speck of it makes the entire community unworthy. We are obligated to be pure like Jesus was pure.

This doesn’t mean Christ will stop giving the community graces or aid if/when they sin.

This! :+1:

The mere fact that people in Biblical narratives fail to live up to God’s laws does not mean that God approves of their shortcomings.

You’re 90% of the way there. To finish the explanation, it’s necessary to add (explicitly!) that the purpose of the marriage is to give children to one’s sister-in-law, so that the child of that relationship inherits his dead father’s estate. It’s not just that the brother-in-law supports his widowed sister-in-law – it’s that there is now an heir who will support her.


It’s important to look at historical context when reading an ancient text, such as the Bible. Others have already given a good explanation on a woman marrying her deceased husband’s brother, so i won’t go into that. As for a woman marrying her rapist, that was actually for her protection. In ancient Israel, a woman who had been with a man, even through rape, was no longer seen as desirable for marriage. Without marriage, there would be no one to provide for her, unless she had some very benevolent brothers. Without marriage, she would most likely have to turn to prostitution, the only profession a single woman could really have at that time. By requiring her rapist to marry her, she Will be provided for (it also seems to be a pretty strong deterrent for rape, in my opinion).

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The mistake that even seasoned and well educated apologists make here is to defend Christian thought using ignorant accusations as launching points. These atheist canards are, to put it nicely, intellectually flaccid. And dancing with stupidity results in…stupid arguments. The only productive course, in my humble opinion, is to demonstrate the stupidity of the accusations and do it simply.

A couple of easy points:

  1. Atheists view scripture through fundamentalist religious eyes. The easy canard is “look what it says in your holy book!” as though we take everything in scripture as God’s will in a literalist way. “God condones rape and slavery” and on and on.
    Only the most die hard fundamentalists read the bible this way, and they are hard to find. But atheism…well let’s just say that real thought is hard work and we like to avoid it. It’s much easier for atheists to check the brain at the door and go at the bible through superstitious eyes.

These canards are very easy to slam dunk.
Ancient medical journals detail blood-letting and lobotamies and the like as legitimate cures, in the time and context they were written. But no sane person rejects medicine on that basis. We would call that ignorant.

  1. Atheists immediately take a relativist stance that believes scripture and religious belief is the only basis for Christian morality. Hogwash.

Keep in mind that sexual morality does not need scripture or religion as backup. In speaking about marriage, the Church observes what is revealed with sane eyes (ie…healthy observation).
Let me repeat that: **the Church does not arbitrarily invent morality in this area based on religious mandates, it observes what is revealed and proclaims the goodness of it. And the resultant teaching all points to the goodness of human existence and life. **

Atheists always come to a dead end when asked to observe how human beings are made, and that marriage is the unique way that happens. And don’t try to say that it is good to be alive!!! That really offends an atheist.

These atheist positions hold absolutely no intellectual water. Don’t overthink it, don’t get defensive, just make sense and they will go running.

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