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Deut 22:13–21 says that if a man marries a virgin, is intimate with her, and then claims that she is not a virgin, and there is no evidence that she is a virgin, that she is stoned. That seems to be essentially taking the man's word that he didn't do anything, and anyway on the surface that seems extreme. So what are the exact conditions for this to happen?

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1 Answer 1

In ancient times, the two stages of effectuating a marriage were separate (Qiddushin/Nissuin). The first stage Qiddushin - it is often translated as "betrothal" however it is of greater significance than the English word connotes. Once Qiddushin has taken place, the couple are fully married - they simply have not yet been intimate with one another (this takes place after Nissuin). The case under consideration is where it is suspected that the wife has had an adulterous relationship once Qiddushin has already taken place and prior to the Nissuin. In order to be liable for capital punishment there would need to be witnesses testifying that they witnessed her commit the adulterous act.

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This answer, though AFAIK correct, would do well do support its claims (in particular its last sentence), especially in light of the verses in Dt. that seem to plainly contradict it (as noted in the question). –  msh210 May 27 '13 at 4:12
@msh210 - I do not think that a plain reading implies that witnesses are not required. I am unaware of any pashtan that implies such. The Torah openly states that in order to convict someone of a crime warranting corporal punishment there must be testifying witnesses of the alleged crime (Deut. 19:15). To entertain that such wouldn't be the case here is to not only assume that there is a contradiction between the law as present in Rabbinic Judaism but to assume internal consistency on the part of the Torah itself. –  Deuteronomy May 27 '13 at 4:59
@Deuteronomy, I don't see how you can deny a plain reading of these verses alone implies as much. Verse 20 says explicitly that verse 21 depends on "לא נמצאו בתולים לנערה". But the reasonableness of that reading is not even my point: my point is that that's the asker's reading of the verses, so your answer should explain the verses so they support your claim (or at least indicate that such explanation exists) or you're not really addressing the asker's concerns. –  msh210 May 27 '13 at 7:11
@msh210, I deny it is the plain reading because the plain reading never discounts context. Verse 21 also depends on verse 19 which states who the "they" of לא נמצאו consists of (זקני העיר - i.e. the court). If there is a court involved clearly something is being investigated. What is being investigated? The matter of the woman's fidelity. What kind of evidence could be sufficient for conviction? Two peraqim earlier this procedural aspect of every such case involving corporal punishment is openly stated. –  Deuteronomy May 27 '13 at 16:07
@msh210 continued, The "plain reading" does not mean taking a few words or a line in total isolation - it means taking into account context. That is why no pashtan (that I am aware of) entertains your interpretation. Not even those that suggest that פרשו השּמלה is intended literally rather than strictly as a euphemism (Ramban, Rashbam) suggest that witnesses aren't necessary for a conviction. –  Deuteronomy May 27 '13 at 16:07

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