A Theology of Rape: Plundering the Woman’s Body in Deut. 21:10–14 and Louis John Steele’s Spoils to the Victor

  • Caroline Blyth
  • Jane Davidson-Ladd
Part of the Religion and Radicalism book series (RERA)


In this chapter, biblical scholar Caroline Blyth teams up with art historian Jane Davidson-Ladd to examine the biblical law of Deut. 21:10–14 (the “law of the captive war bride”), which outlines the legal means by which an Israelite soldier can abduct and marry a female war captive. Reading the text alongside recent reports about the abduction and rape of Yazidi women by members of Islamic State (IS), Blyth and Davidson-Ladd consider whether this biblical text gives voice to a “theology of rape,” which grants divine sanction to sexual violence during warfare. To help them in this task, they consider the biblical text in light of a painting by New Zealand-based artist Louis John Steele, titled Spoils to the Victor. Studying Steele’s vivid portrayal of wartime gender violence, they trace the intersecting oppressions at play within both the image and the biblical law, particularly gendered and ethnic identities, colonial conquest, and the vulnerability of the foreign female body. They thus conclude that this biblical law may indeed endorse a “theology of rape,” whose ideological foundations continue to exert a dangerous and powerful influence within contemporary contexts of war.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Caroline Blyth
    • 1
  • Jane Davidson-Ladd
    • 1
  1. 1.School of HumanitiesUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

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