“Men are to rub dirt or water…” This is incorrect. The substance to be used for wudu (ritual purification), if water is not available, is not “dirt” but clean sand.
Of course, all the above instructions – and many more that are not listed – sound absurd, if not outrageous, to the modern mind. But they are exactly what one would expect to find in the scriptures of that period from that part of the world. Judaism is similar in having all sorts of pernickety rules and regulations. The genius of Paul, who is the real founder of Christianity, lay in his recognition that none of this would work in the western, Hellenistic world. Hence his insistence that salvation was to be achieved through faith, not through adherence to “the Law”. Yet even Paul could write: “…women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate as even the Law says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home" (1 Corinthians 14:33b-35).
What we need today is an exegesis that recognizes the value of scripture while accepting that, on a superficial level, much of it is no longer applicable.