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I didn’t say that I regard patriarchy as morally neutral. I said it should be regarded morally neutral “for the purposes of historical reconstruction.” That’s quite different. No one in the biblical period thought that patriarchy as a social-economic system was inherently sinful and should be abolished, but it was certainly acknowledged that various power dynamics (patriarchy, but also notably monarchy) could produce serious injustices. So some effort needs to be made to understand the Bible on its own terms.

You may think that I’m over-complicating things because you are primarily interested in how we assess God now, given our current understanding of the world. That’s quite reasonable. But as soon as we introduce the Bible into the discussion, we have to decide whether we are going to read it from the perspective of the modern reader or of the ancient reader (as far as that is possible, which may not be very far).

It seems to me that most of the people who are arguing about whether David raped Bathsheba are trying to make the text serve some modern agenda or another, applying modern moral values, and so on. That’s one way of approaching it, but like much current theological discussion, I think it may give a very poor representation of the narrator’s point of view or of how his or (improbably) her readers heard the text, how they assessed the rights and wrongs of the passage.

People say confidently that David raped Bathsheba against her will, largely, I suspect, because it is morally unacceptable these days to ascribe blame to the woman in such circumstances, but I struggle to find anything in the text that supports that view.

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