Abortion and Judeo-Christian Religion

The Bible is Pro Choice

It should first be pointed out that the Bible is a text of religious belief, not of public policy or law.  Some people believe in the Bible as the word of God, many others do not.  In a nation of many faiths and traditions, no single one can be used as the basis for public policies or laws that affect everyone.  However, as to the moral issue, since many do believe in the Bible, and cite it (in error) to oppose women’s reproductive self determination, this section is presented to address the concerns and questions of those whose religious tradition does include belief in the Bible.

Why are some conservative Christians, who claim the Bible as their sole moral authority, so opposed to abortion? While abortion was well known and written about in ancient Hebrew times (some in favor, some against), the BIBLE is COMPLETELY SILENT on the subject of abortion.

The Bible is completely silent on abortion, even though abortion was known and practiced in Bible times.

The Bible is completely silent on abortion, even though abortion was known and practiced in Bible times.

None of the other writings, either supporting or opposing abortion, including those cited by those opposed to abortion, made it into the Bible (and citing such sources only reiterates that abortion WAS known and still unmentioned by the Bible writers). No specific passage in the Bible encourages or discourages abortion. The general silence about abortion is the way it should be: don’t go to either extreme, to mandate forced pregnancy (like the religious extremists) or mandate forced abortion (like the Communists in China on the extreme left) – the common denominator in tyranny from either the right or left being force. It should be left to each individual to decide in her own situation. There ARE passages in the Bible that speak of birth, conception, accidental miscarriage, pregnancy, the formation and creation of life, extremely detailed descriptions of what constitutes murder, etc., any one of which would have been a PERFECT OPPORTUNITY the Bible writers to include the simple statement that abortion is a sin, or is forbidden, or is murder, or whatever. BUT THEY DIDN’T.

Religious extremists who claim that their only authority is a literal interpretation of the Bible, but who are against a woman’s right to reproductive choice, are ignorant about religion as well as history. They have staked their message on the “Big Lie.” The Bible is completely pro-choice.

Abortion was well-known and widely practiced in ancient times, during Old Testament domination by the Israelites as well as under the Roman domination at the time Jesus lived, as it has been in even the most primitive societies. The Old and New Testaments are very outspoken on even very minute aspects of daily life, especially the Law of Moses. Jesus later clarified many of these laws to remove ambiguity or to add motive and intent to the spirit of the law.

If the commandments against murder were intended to apply to fetuses, then the Law of Moses, the later prophets and judges would have said so. Or, if there were some misunderstanding or confusion about the subject, Jesus speaking many hundreds of years later, could have provided some clarification on the subject. At the very least, an omnipotent and omniscient God would have been able to foresee the future conflict in our time and state specifically that commandments against killing were also applicable to abortion. Yet, while the Law of Moses outlines penalties and conditions for various types of killing (neighbors, foreigners, intentional, etc.), along with various types of permissible and forbidden killing (self-defense, executions, wartime vs. homicides), there is not a single place in the Bible where abortion is condemned, forbidden or even frowned upon.

In fact, the Bible on several occasions discusses fetal life and existence. These would have been perfect opportunities to include a prohibition against abortion, if such had been intended (or was God guilty of a sin of omission?). BUT THEY DIDN’T.

Since abortion was well-known but not forbidden, the Bible’s silence reveals much. Many aspects of personal behavior are not addressed in the Bible. The Bible doesn’t say what color our houses should be painted or how long we should wear our hair — matters of personal preference are left to individual CHOICE, separate from issues of moral law. Conversely, the Bible also does not encourage, support or promote abortion. It is neither pro-abortion nor anti-abortion; like most people it takes a neutral (silent) position, leaving the matter to individual discretion, or CHOICE. Since the scriptures are completely silent on the issue, they obviously intended this to be left to individual preference (i.e. CHOICE). Those who claim Biblical authority to justify their human interpretations about a subject on which the Bible is silent are dishonest and hypocritical.

It is amazing that the Bible is ambiguous and contradictory in many places, and there are other scriptures such as Levitical commands in the Law of Moses where the Bible is very clear, but simply ignored, and still others where the Bible is cited on subjects about which it is silent. The religious conservatives deny obvious contradictions, they ignore specific commands and yet they claim Biblical authority on a subject NOT IN the Bible!

Specific Scriptures

Following are a number of specific scriptural references that are often cited in a desperate attempt to try and claim a non-existent Biblical opposition to abortion. While I have responded to each of these commonly-cited verses, it is important to note one key fact that they all have in common: they discuss birth, death, life, creation, pregnancy and pre-natal formation of the BODY, but not one of these verses makes any reference whatsoever to either the existence of pre-natal ensoulment nor to any claim that abortion is even in the slightest degree wrong.

Jeremiah 1:5: “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, [and] I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” (KJV)

This scripture has traditionally been used by Protestants to show god’s foreknowledge of long future events, and by Mormons to claim a pre-natal existence. Only recently have very desperate anti-choice extremists interpreted this in the context of abortion. Look at the wording of this scripture, “Before I formed you in the womb….” It is talking about before birth, before viability …. BEFORE CONCEPTION! Is that referring to sperms and eggs? It has no relevance to abortion whatsoever; but if it shows reverence to POTENTIAL life, it actually applies as much to sperms and eggs as to embryos, since it is before conception. And even if it were a reference to embryonic life (it isn’t), no one denies the existence of embryonic life with the potential to become a human being — and, once again, it would have been a perfect opportunity to condemn abortion, but…. In context, Jeremiah writes in chapter one specifically about his own calling as a prophet — that it was known by god before he was born or even conceived. He was appointed, chosen, selected, ordained – whatever. He is talking about the fact that God knew of his calling long before he existed as a real or potential human. Prior to Roe v. Wade, most Bible scholars interpreted this as a reference to God’s foreknowledge of the future, and not until recently did the scripture ever enter into the abortion debates. And this reference to God’s foreknowledge of the future also suggest that He should have been able to foresee the modern controversy about abortion.

Psalm 127:3: “truly children are a GIFT from the LORD; the fruit of the womb is a reward”. As a parent and grandparent, I certainly agree! But … my daughter and granddaughter were the results of WANTED, intentional pregnancies. Children are a gift, but the Bible writer certainly passed up a particularly idea verse in which to universalize that concept, didn’t he?!

And we should remember the nature of a “gift” – a gift is freely given, and the recipient has the OPTION (read: CHOICE) to accept or reject the gift.

God gave us many “gifts”. He created EVERYTHING, and when He was done, He pronounced it “good”. Which one, specifically, are you referring to? He created viruses and bacteria and insects and mice. Do you ever feel “put upon” by these “gifts” and throw them back in His face? Please understand the nature of a “gift”. It is NOT something that is crammed forcibly down the throat of the recipient. The GREATEST “gift” was salvation offered by the grace of Jesus. Do you feel we should pass LAWS to FORCE everyone to proclaim their acceptance of Him as saviour?

Isaiah 49:15: “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.” (KJV)

This scripture isn’t even talking about fetal life. It is talking about the relationship of God to the Children of Israel, using the metaphor of born children, already sucking. The reference to “womb” is where he came from, not what he is. Use of this scripture in relevance to abortion is very far from its actual context and, in any case, it would have been a perfect opportunity to condemn abortion, but no such condemnation or prohibition is here.

Luke 1:36,41: “[36] And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. [41] And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost”.

This scripture contains the words of the angel to Mary, informing her of Elisabeth’s pregnancy, already in the sixth month (3rd trimester); Mary’s visit occurs sometime after that — so we know that this is well past quickening and normal fetal movement. In this situation, with God’s and others’ foreknowledge, there is an awareness that the two fetuses discussed will, in fact, go beyond “potential” to become actual human beings of special greatness. There is certainly nothing here, however, that remotely suggests that a first trimester embryo has a soul, or equal status as a human or, even if it did, there is still not a single denunciation of abortion in the Bible — again, a perfect opportunity for comment, and the Bible writers intentionally remain silent.

Exodus 20:13: “Thou shalt not kill.” (KJV)

This scripture is often translated as “Thou shalt not commit murder.” One could easily look at the 10 commandments and view them as an “index” to the Law of Moses which follows in the remainder of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

Each of the ten commandments, from the rituals by which we show love of God and eschew idols or “other gods”, defining taking the Name of the Lord in vain, or how we honor our parents, etc., is defined in more detail elsewhere in the Law.

In the same way, “murder” is carefully defined elsewhere in Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy as to details regarding relationships and situations (but not methods) and including the specific penalty for each class of murder [for example, please cite which of the penalties applies to abortion].

THOSE DETAILS SPECIFICALLY OMIT ANY REFERENCE TO ABORTION, while covering other subjects at an equivalent level of specificity, so it is very dishonest to try and apply it to abortion any more than to self-defense (a woman defending her body against an unwanted “invader” in cases where that new life is not desired).

It is interesting to note that the Bible defines in detail many types of both justifiable (self-defense, executions, wartime) and criminal killing (various types of homicides and relationships to those killed — strangers, neighbors, Israelites, family members, etc.) are discussed, along with any applicable penalties.

Even when the subject of the fetus’ existence or death comes up, it still does not prohibit the well-known practice of abortion. So, obviously it was not an oversight, either in the original pronouncements or the failure of the later prophets, Jesus or the apostles to clarify.

The Bible neither promotes nor discourages abortion. Period. The intentional omission of prohibitions against abortion obviously mean they intended that to be left to personal choice, unless you believe God made a mistake.

Such a simplistic and simple-minded definition of this blanket statement, the commandment “thou shalt not kill” could also prohibit vaccinations that kill MILLIONS of viruses or bacteria to save one human; it could prohibit killing shrimp, lobster, fish, birds and mammals to satisfy the lust for artery-clogging animal fat. If one claims that it only means HUMAN life, then this blanket statement would prohibit still killing sperms, eggs, or even adult humans in situations of self-defense, in wartime or for executions. However, no one who understands the ten commandments, not even vegetarians, would claim such blanket authority from Exodus 20:13.

Unlike these other subsets to non-excepted principles, killing is defined at a level to which classes are identified – and SOME are prohibited while others are PERMITTED (killing of animals, killing of humans in wartime, lawful punishment for crime, self defense). In other words, at the level of detail definition that would have included abortion, there are both prohibitions AND exceptions to the rule, so at this level of specificity the principle is NOT applicable to non-excepted subsets (unless you include abortion as a subset woman’s self defense of her body, in which case it becomes specifically PERMITTED by the umbrella principle – which I believe IS logical, but that is MY interpretation, not clearly or specifically stated in the Bible).

The Bible offers various statements about fetal movement after quickening, as well as references to the physical formation of fetal development. It is interesting to note that, if the Bible’s silence on abortion in the Law of Moses had been an oversight (does God make oversights?) these many subsequent references by the prophets, or later clarification of the Law by Jesus or the apostles in their epistles, gave many excellent opportunities to clarify their intent against the well-known practice of abortion, if they had intended scripture to condemn it. Discussions of fetal formation, life and movement would have been a perfect opportunity to condemn abortion — IF the Bible or any of the prophets had ever intended to.

Exodus 21:22: “If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart [from her], and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges [determine].” (KJV)

This scripture has nothing to do with the voluntary, intentional choice of a woman (or her husband, in the days before women had many rights) to have an abortion. It is about two men struggling together who ACCIDENTALLY cause her to have a miscarriage, and the resulting penalties. The point that it is about 3rd-party causation rather than voluntary choice. Without trying to equate human tissue with property, it is more analogous to someone voluntarily disposing of unwanted property (no problem) as opposed to a 3rd party taking it contrary to the owner’s intent (theft). Even so, notice that the value here is on the WOMAN, not the fetus. The penalties vary, depending on whether or not there is “harm.” Harm to whom? The fetus? There was a miscarriage – by definition the fetus is already DEAD. The variability of “harm” obviously means injury to the woman. But even if there is no harm (injury) they must still have a penalty because, like modern fundamentalists wish to do, they deprived her (or her husband) of CHOICE (in this case, to complete a pregnancy). This example of a third-party violent attack (or carelessness) has no relevance whatsoever to the situation in which a woman makes a VOLUNTARY choice to abort the contents of her OWN BODY under MEDICALLY-SUPERVISED conditions. The fact that this is raised regarding something it has no relation to shows the abject desperation of those who want to find something, anything, in the Bible, but cannot find anything that actually says what they want it to. Why can’t they just accept the Bible as it is instead of trying to change it?

Numbers 5:12-28: First we must cite the one passage in the Bible that the anti-choice extremists will never tell you about. While the Bible never forbids abortion, nor does it really encourage it either, there is one passage from the Law of Moses that can be interpreted as authorizing abortion in the case of a married woman who is suspected of committing adultery and therefore might become impregnated by a man other than her husband. This passage says that if a man suspects his wife to have been unfaithful (and thus subject to becoming pregnant by someone else), he can take her to the priest who will prescribe the “bitter water” (the known abortifacient produced by combining pennyroyal with black cohosh) for a potion that will magically indicate whether she is innocent or guilty of the offense and which, oh by the way, was also believed to be something that terminate any unwanted pregnancy that might also have existed. Please note, this is part of the LAW OF MOSES. This is not a specific instance to a particular individual or couple. This was a general prescription of practice for God’s “Chosen People” — the Jews, from whom the promised Messiah was supposed to appear. The reference is this passage is to the Hebrew ritual of Sotah, using an ancient abortifacient of “bitter water” described in the King James version as “ephah of barley meal.” The ritual is required in cases where a man suspects that his wife may have been impregnated by another man. According to the Hebrews’ superstitions about the ritual of Sotah, if the woman were guilty, any possible bastard fetus would be expelled (aborted), but would remain safe if she were innocent. While abortion per se is not mentioned here or anywhere else in the Bible, the references to Sotah causing “thy high to rot, and thy belly to swell,” as well as the “curse” to a woman (the loss of a pregnancy or the barrenness of total infertility), may not be clearly understood by many readers in our time, but would be clearly understood in the era in which it was written.  There are many non-scriptural accounts showing how herbal abortifacients were employed, using herbal methods such as combining pennyroyal with black cohosh or blue cohosh [more detailed accounts and precise methods can be found by going to any search engine, such as http://www.google.com and typing in as required key words: "cohosh blue black pennyroyal abortion"]

Psalm 139:13-16: “[13] For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. [14] I will praise thee; for I am fearfully [and] wonderfully made: marvelous [are] thy works; and [that] my soul knoweth right well. [15] My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, [and] curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. [16] Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all [my members] were written, [which] in continuance were fashioned, when [as yet there was] none of them.” (KJV)

This scripture describes the purely physical process of bodily formation, a process that everyone knows is occurring in utero. Here is a perfect opportunity for a later prophet to also confirm that a soul is also attached to these purely physical body parts (cell tissues) of “unformed substance,” and clarify any ambiguity in the “perfect” law of Moses, yet no such clarification is forthcoming. Psalms 139 is David’s praise to the Lord, written as the lyrics to music — he is praising God, not commenting on embryology and, in any case, says nothing about the soul or humanity of the embryo.

Genesis 9:6-7: ” [6] Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man. [7] And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein.” (KJV) [Compare Genesis 1:28]

In this scripture, verse 6 clearly refers to human life. If the fetus or embryo are not yet human persons, this clearly does not apply. It refers to killing a man. Not even women or children! Certainly not mere human genetic tissue — hair, fingernails, other organs, pre-human potentially-developing tissue. Doesn’t talk about abortion here or anywhere else. Later, in giving the law (Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy) forms of killing that are acceptable and unacceptable are spelled out in detail, with varying punishments and consequences for various forms of forbidden killing. Abortion is never mentioned once. It is neither promoted nor prohibited. The Bible is completely neutral; it is left to individual human choice. Verse 7 is a command to “Be fertile, then, and multiply.”  The commandment to “multiply and replenish the earth and subdue it” is a very specific command to a specific group of people, given only twice in the Bible: once to Adam and Eve at the start of the human race (Gen 1:28), and again to Noah and his family when they are the only human survivors after the Great Flood (Gen 9:7). In both of these specific situations, there is a severe population shortage. Clearly the context is to build up the human species. The command has been obeyed. The earth is filled with people. Many today would argue that we have been not only fruitful, but way beyond that. The earth has been subdued. This command was given specifically to Adam and Eve and to Noah and his family when they were the only people on earth. It was very specific and narrowly focused, like other individual commandments telling a specific person to go to this place or perform a specific action. It was never repeated again to any other people (as other commandments that are repeated over and over), nor was it needed by any other people. And since abortion has been known and practiced by all peoples in all times (whether legal or not), we can look at the great population of the human family and see that abortion has hardly stood in the way of our species being “fruitful.”

Historical religious views

Early Hebrew Views

Talmud: The following are exact quotes from p. 238 of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud, translated by Rabbi Israel V. Berman, 1989 edition (published by Random House):

“A fetus is [considered as] the thigh of its mother, i.e., it is like a limb of the mother, and is not a separate entity.”

“A human fetus [is] less than a fully undependent human being.”

“A fetus cannot inherit property until it is born.”

The 12th century Jewish rabbi Maimonides taught that these Talmudic passages in conjunction Exodus 21:22, along with the “first breath” concept (as in Adam) [Genesis 2:7] permitted abortion until the baby’s head had emerged. (His work, “The Guide of the Perplexed,” completed in 1190, blended Jewish thought with the teachings of Aristotle, and was used by St. Thomas Aquinas as a seminal source.)

Breath of Life (Gen 2:7) applies more broadly than just to Adam:

[Gen 2:7] then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

Here ensoulment clearly is defined in the Bible as occurring AFTER the taking of “first breath.” And please note that the reference equating “ensoulment” and “breath of life” can be found not only in this reference to the special creation of Adam, but throughout both Old and New Testaments, applying to all the rest of us.

Early Non-Biblical Prohibitions against Abortion

There are, however, a number on NON-BIBLICAL references to opposing abortion:

Sibylline Oracles 2, pg. 339

Didache, Chapter 2 verse 3

Letter to Barnabus from the Codex Sinaiticus from unknown author

Letter to Diognetus [Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus dates to around 130 A.D. -- citation Chapter 5:6]

While this clearly shows that some early Christians did oppose abortion, TWO key points are very clear here:

1) Those in Biblical times DID KNOW about abortion, so the Bible’s silence on abortion cannot be excused on the basis that they didn’t know about it (although since God supposedly breathed the inspiration for the Bible and He DID know everything, even that should have been no excuse)

2) The passages that opposed abortion were NOT INCLUDED in the Bible. While several of them were considered for inclusion in the Canon, not one of these opportunities to include a clear statement of Biblical opposition to abortion was accepted. Any effort to have the Bible unambiguously oppose abortion WAS REJECTED!

3) Nothing that actually made it into the Bible opposes abortion.

The simple fact is that the Bible is completely silent about abortion. It neither encourages/promotes nor discourages/opposes abortion in any way. It is completely neutral, therefore leaving that up to each individual person to make their own personal CHOICE.

But believe it or not, I have had people respond by asking, “Well, then, where in the Bible does it say that abortion is PERMITTED?”

Such a comment somehow suggests that EVERYTHING is FORBIDDEN unless God specifically OK’s it. Where in the Bible does it say it’s OK to use a computer, drive a motorized vehicle, fly in the air, inoculate against disease (and thus kill billions of God’s creations – the viruses and bacteria)? [I am not comparing zygotes to viruses, merely showing how silly it is to make such a ridiculous assertion.] Oh, these things weren’t invented yet? You don’t think that God (who knew Jeremiah before the foundation of the world) could foresee the future day? They still aren’t authorized. What about things that WERE known? Where in the Bible does it say it’s OK to climb a tree? Kill a shrimp/pig/rabbit for dinner (I can show you where it is FORBIDDEN)?

Abortion WAS known and practiced in Bible times. And there are lots of other things that WERE within the scope of technology for Bible times, but not authorized by the Bible: is surfing allowed by the Bible? Are competitive team sports authorized in scripture? Picnics? Climbing a tree? Going to the zoo?

The Bible is SILENT about abortion. Neutral. The Bible neither supports, encourages, condemns nor discourages the practice. It is left to individual discretion … or CHOICE. As to whether abortion should be LEGAL (the topic of this folder) I take a purely neutral, middle-of-the-road view: the far left (Chinese Communists) want forced abortion mandated by law; the far right (Christian Conservatives) want forced pregnancy mandated by law; the middle ground (Moderate Middle) leaves it up to each individual … JUST LIKE THE BIBLE.

Ensoulment

Can more than one soul inhabit the same body? If one believes that only one soul can inhabit a body, then what happens in the case of IDENTICAL multiple births? Each twin or triplet has its own soul at birth and is its own person.

Yet at the time of fertilization/conception, there was only one cell, one entity and one unique genetic individual. One must conclude either that multiple souls can inhabit a body, or that the soul has not yet come to exist at the time (after conception/fertilization) of the division into multiples.

Let’s compare the development of a HOME to the development of an ENSOULED HUMAN PERSON. The owner is like the ovum. The architect is like the sperm. The owner (egg) has the complete resources to build a home, including the ideas of how it should take place, but lacks the precise finishing of the plans for doing so. The architect (sperm) replaces those vague, general ideas with a more technically viable representation, infusing his own new additional thoughts and ideas. The resources/ideas of the owner come together with the technical specifications of the architect, and the result of this union is a complete blueprint, or set of building plans (a fertilized zygote). These plans now have to be implanted to an actual construction site, provided by the owner. Even after actual construction has begun, there is nothing yet resembling a HOME. The framing rapidly takes shape and soon begins to resemble the form of a home, though there are no actual walls, insulation, pipes or wiring yet. Even as construction progresses and the wiring and plumbing are added, there still is not a home. Even in the final stages of construction, it LOOKS LIKE a home, but no one lives there. It does not actual become a HOME until a family moves into it (ensoulment) and gives it the spiritual warmth that distinguishes a HOME from a HOUSE.

While there are many references in the Bible to ensoulment of those who have been born, and many references to conception, birth and pregnancy, there is not one single Bible verse that indicates that ensoulment occurs prior to the taking of first breath.

Believe it or not, some have responded by asking me to show evidence that ensoulment did NOT occur at conception or during pregnancy. One of the most basic principles in Logic 101 is that it is impossible to prove a NEGATIVE (i.e., that there is NOT a soul). The person asserting an AFFIRMATIVE claim (i.e., that there IS a soul) is the one with the burden of proving that assertion. I am not making the positive assertion of when ensoulment occurs. Those who claim that it occurs at or before a certain point are the ones required to prove the claim they assert.

Another excellent, highly-recommended resource, The Christian Left, that provides links to other sites and sources on this subject can be found at:

http://www.thechristianleftblog.org/tcl-blog/the-bible-tells-us-when-a-fetus-becomes-a-living-being

Special note: I would like to express appreciation to Davis D. Danizier (“3D”) for assistance in compiling the religious perspective and, in particular, the scriptural documentation.

Dave’s own web pages and his own important contribution to the understand why today’s modern conservative “Christians” have so little resemblance to anything remotely similar to what Jesus actually taught as recorded in the Bible, can be found at:
http://danizier.wordpress.com/

NOTE ON COMMENTS: Comments are welcome, both those in agreement with my views and those representing differing views. Comments are subject to moderation and approval (and note that I review each comment myself, and I am not on the computer 24-hours a day, so there is usually a time lag between submission and possible approval). Brief, concise, specific comments are easiest to approve. Lengthy, rambling comments, or those that rehash points already made, clutter the thread and reduce both readability and the likelihood of approval. Inflammatory hate speech (“Abortion is murder!”) or personal insults will not be approved (unless someday I decide to post a “best of” collection of the hate speech stuff.)

Comments may be edited for length, space and relevance, but comments accepted for display will accurately present the content submitted. Personal information such as e-mail or other identifying details are not displayed publicly. Comments are knowingly and voluntarily submitted for possible one-time public use and with permission for public display at the sole discretion of the moderator.

59 responses to this post.

  1. […] Christian Left also shared this post on August 5 from May 2011, yet another source which claims that not only does the Bible say nothing about abortion, but that […]

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  2. Posted by Richard Pickles on August 5, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    Thanks for such a well reasoned and documented piece.

    Reply

  3. I always assumed that there was no abortion in biblical times, and that the Bible had no choice but to be silent on the matter. But you say that it was common. Can you provide evidence that this is true? I saw that you cited some non-biblical sources, but you included no quotes, nor did you tell us who wrote them and when. If significant evidence were presented, I might change my anti-abortion biblical view (although my anti-abortion secular view is much harder to change, because I simply can’t bring myself to advocate abortion as birth control). I have a book coming out soon, called “Rescuing Religion from Republican Reason.” It deals more with greed than abortion, but perhaps your evidence might make its way into the book as suggested reading.

    Reply

    • Whether abortion was practiced in Bible times is irrelevant to the fact of it not being prohibited in the Bible, since an all-knowing God should be able to foresee the future controversy and anticipate it proactively if it were to be addressed as a matter of general rather than individual circumstance.

      The fact is, however, that abortion has been practiced in every culture and civilization, though methods at times may have been less sterile or sanitary.

      I discuss the issue in greater depth in my article on the legal aspects of abortion, since that addresses the historical perspective and is discussed in the opinion of Roe v. Wade, which I cite in that article.

      http://emerald7tfb.wordpress.com/2011/05/22/legal-aspects-of-reproductive-rights/

      Additional resources on the history of abortion, including in Bible times, can be found in:

      J. Ricci, The Genealogy of Gynaecology 52, 84, 113, 149 (2d ed. 1950).

      L. Lader, Abortion 75-77 (1966)

      K. Niswander, Medical Abortion Practices in the United States, in Abortion and the Law 37, 38-40 (D. Smith ed. 1967)

      G. Williams, The Sanctity of Life and the Criminal Law 148 (1957)

      J. Noonan, An Almost Absolute Value in History, in The Morality of Abortion 1, 3-7 (J. Noonan ed. 1970)

      Quay, Justifiable Abortion – Medical and Legal Foundations (pt. 2), 49 Geo. L. J. 395, 406-422 (1961) (hereinafter Quay).

      Tribe, Laurence (Constitutional Law professor at Harvard) Abortion: The Clash of Absolutes (section on history) 1990:Norton.

      Reply

  4. Check this out. The New American Standard Bible (NASB) renders Exodus 21:22-25

    http://www.str.org/articles/what-exodus-21-22-says-about-abortion#.UumFc_sebec

    Reply

    • The actual translation in this alternative version seems consistent with the comments made in what I have explained in my article, as does the initial analytical commentary in your link, in which the writer says, “This translation suggests that if a miscarriage takes place and the child is lost, the antagonists are simply fined, but if the mother dies in the scuffle, then the penalty is ‘life for life.’ In the Torah, it seems, the unborn is not considered fully human.”

      It seems odd that the writer of the analytical commentary later diverges to a point of ambivalence, in noting later in the commentary the use of the word “child” and trying to isolate it from the compound term “with child,” which is simply understood as meaning “pregnant.” The term “with child” in the passage is translated as simply “pregnant” in the highly professional translation for the New International Version (NIV), which is widely considered the most authoritative modern English translation. And the NIV can hardly be considered to have a liberal or pro-choice bias, as it was brought forth by Zondervan, a conservative Evangelical publishing company and founding member of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA).

      Reply

  5. Posted by SusanO on October 29, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    I wonder if you meant to address Isaiah 49:1,5 instead of 49:15? I googled “pro life bible” and http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/24-pro-life-bible-verses/ uses these two verses to support an anti-abortion stance because they appear to treat the occupant of the womb as a person.

    Reply

    • The verse I quoted in the article is Isaiah 49:15, and 49:15 has the content cited and makes the point I intended in the article.

      The verses you refer to, verses 1 and 5, which are from the same chapter, but I would assert that it is only indirectly a part of the same passage. The reference to being called from the womb is more in the spirit of foreknowledge in the same spirit as the common verse in Jeremiah that I also responded to, which refers to god’s knowledge of our future callings before we are born and, yes, before we are even conceived.

      It is not about abortion. At best it suggests that god’s foreknowledge of the future may know which unions of sperms or eggs will lead to pregnancies and births, and which will not. This would have been the perfect opportunity for god to merely whisper to the prophet if he had even the slightest hint of opposition to the choice of a woman to control her own reproductive destinly, BUT HE DIDN’T.

      Oh, by the way, I looked at the website you provided a link to. Again, references to birth, death, life, pregnancy, babies, children, etc., but not the slightest indication that human personhood begins when a human ovum is fertilized by a human sperm cell (on the contrary, Genesis 2:7 makes it clear that the Bible intent is that “man became a living soul” when he took his first breath). Remember, human LIFE does not begin at fertilization, since eggs and sperms are alive and of the human species (ergo, human life) long before that point. So any verse that merely refers to the value of “life” or “innocent life” would refer equally to eggs and sperms every bit as much as a conceptus. So if you want to apply prenatal “life” to the issue of reproductive choice, you will have to explain your specific proposals for ensuring that no human egg or sperm ever die unfertilized. Menstruation is murder; male masturbation is genocide.

      I address this point in far greater detail in my article that address the difference between being a “human life” and being a “human person” and any further discussion on that specific point should be addressed in the comments for that article, at:
      http://emerald7tfb.wordpress.com/2011/05/22/moral-issues-life-vs-personhood/

      Reply

  6. Posted by Tracey on October 29, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    I don’t think Biblical guys or modern “pro-life guys care about the children so much as about who owns them. and it is Not the mothers. Numbers 5 leaves it to the husbands and priests to decide which babies live.

    In Genesis 38:24-29

    New International Version (NIV)

    24 About three months later Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitution, and as a result she is now pregnant.”

    Judah said, “Bring her out and have her burned to death!”

    It’s perfectly ok to kill the “precious preborn babies” by burning their sexually autonomous mother around them. So while not about abortion it is certainly about killing “pre-born babies”. As with everything in the Bible it’s about what is appropriate action when and by whom.With the “bitter waters” bit and the burning the “bastard babies along with their whore mother” it does seem like it’s more about who has say over the means of production and it is not the folks with the wombs….
    Also “Happy he is who dashes they babies brains out against the rocks”.

    Reply

  7. Posted by ken jacobsen on October 29, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    I’m of the opinion that the most relevant biblical point in the abortion debate is the argument, which you touched on briefly, from ‘ensoulment’.
    As the verse you quoted in Genesis makes perfectly clear, Adam was not considered ‘living’ until the point at which he was breathing.

    I’d like to add the depiction of the same idea spelled out quite clearly in Ezekiel, if you don’t mind:

    EZ 37:4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

    7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

    9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’

    Once again, as in the case of Adam in Genesis, the entire body was created, then last of all breath was added, at which point life begins.

    Could it possibly be any clearer?

    Reply

  8. Posted by michele on October 29, 2013 at 8:18 am

    Emerald,

    As I can see you are active again on this page I was wondring your thoughts on my reply to you oh so many months ago? Thank you in advance.

    Michele

    Reply

    • Michele — as clearly stated in the instructions, I do not approve all comments. Those that are repetitive and do not add substantially new content to what was previously posted, especially in the case of an extremely lengthy comment, are less likely to be approved. Further, your previous comment was addressed, not only in prior exchanges, but in the fact that, in response to your comment, I did make some revisions to the content of this article.

      Reply

      • Posted by michele on November 2, 2013 at 9:07 pm

        Emerald,
        Thank you for getting back to me. I did read back over the section specifically dealing with Numbers 5 and I still have some questions / issues about what you have written on it.

        1. I don’t see in the KJV where the ‘bitter water’ is referred to as an ephah of barley meal; can you please explain where you find the connection?

        2. I also don’t see where Penny Royal, Blue Cohosh or Black Cohosh are ever mentioned within this passage. Can you please send me links to where I can read about their connection to the Sotah Ritual? I did read the previous discussions and did not see this addressed.

        Thank you in advance.

        Reply

        • Michele — the reference must be understood in the context in which it was written. The ritual described in the passage was known as “Sotah.” It is described in the Talmud, the official Jewish interpretation of the Law of Moses, of which Numbers is a part (as are all the first five books of the Old Testament which are known, collectively, as “The Law”; the subsequent books of the Old Testament are “The Prophets,” thus the reference to “The Law and the Prophets” to refer to the scriptures known to the Hebrews).

          The ritual and the reference would have been understood in the context of those reading it at the time of its writing.

          While it is not my point to go off on the tangent of exploring in excessive detail a specific reference to context, further pursuit of this can be found at:
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sotah
          The article contains links to original sources as well as the Jewish Encyclopedia.

          The article on abortifacients in Wikipedia cites the ritual of Sotah as being an inducement to abortion, and references, separately, the natural abortifacients I mentioned that would be known at that time, as well as others, and provides a number of links to highly qualified sources.
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortifacient

          But now, Michele, I would ask you to clarify the perspective, the viewpoint, from which you are writing. Do you take the position that the Bible prohibits abortion? If so, please cite the specific Bible reference you believe specifically proscribes abortion — not verses about birth, death, pregnancy, babies or children, none of which refer to abortion, but each of which would have been the perfect opportunity for god to just whisper a hint of specifying that if any such intent existed.

          Please do not cite any of the verses I have already addressed in the main article unless you also explain why you disagree with my comments about them.

  9. Very thoughtful. As a Christian, a feminist, a liberal, and believer in pro-choice, I have often been puzzled by those who oppose abortion generally, but would allow it in the case of incest, rape, and danger to the life of the mother. If “all life” is sacred, then why would the “murder” of a “child” be acceptable based on the circumstances of its conception? Either “all life” should be protected or not. How do they justify allowing abortion in cases of rape and incest? The fetus is not responsible for its own conception, but somehow it is considered a less valuable form of life and hence, acceptable for it to be aborted. I find it intellectually dishonest for anyone who opposes abortion on religious grounds to allow these exceptions. Or [ and this is my opinion] is this just “bending the rules” in an attempt to make their position more acceptable to society generally? It is a strategic position, based on convenience, not theological principle, in order to advance their political agenda.

    Reply

    • While I obviously don’t accept any view that limits women’s rights to control the most private parts of their own bodies, especially in favor of a pre-sentient, pre-conscious embryo/fetus, I do understand making a distinction between pregnancies by choice (and I would differentiate between consent to sex and consent to pregnancy, just as I would differentiate between consent to riding in a car and consent to having a car accident), in the same way that I would say it is usually wrong to kill another born, sentient, autonomous human person, but if that person is attacking you I would support the right of self defense.

      Reply

      • Posted by marylou blando on November 11, 2013 at 6:51 am

        if the apochryphal books are against abortion, then its true that abortion is sinful. They remove those books because it bothers them.

        Reply

        • There were hundreds of texts written during the first centuries of the Christian era. They represented a variety of perspectives on the life, ministry and teachings of Jesus and the early church, and presented a variety of opinions. Many, including those that were accepted for inclusion in the Bible, included direct internal contradictions and differing points of view such as the differences between the Apostle Paul, and James, the brother of Jesus.
          http://danizier.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/paul-vs-jesus-and-james/

          Many others, also including a wide range of viewpoints, often contradictory, from Gnostic to Apostolic to almost feminist to everything in between, were not accepted some 300+ years later when the Bible as we know it was compiled by the nascent “universal” or “Catholic” church that was unified by Constantine out of the wide range of differing sects.

          The fact that some of these texts that were REJECTED from being included in the Bible (they were not removed from the Bible; they were never a part of it) express an opinion that they didn’t think women should have the right to control the most private parts of their bodies means nothing to believers and, in a secular nation governed by laws rooted in a separation of church (or temple or mosque) and state, even less to those who don’t share those beliefs.

  10. Posted by LT on October 11, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    Have you ever considered that at the MOMENT of conception and fertilization that a BRAND NEW and UNIQUE strand of DNA is CREATED that has NEVER existed prior to conception?? Nah, science and evidence isn’t really your thing!! Scripture PURELY dictates abortion is MURDER!!

    Reply

    • Once again, Anthony, (and we have had this discussion before) you are off topic for this article. This article is about what the Bible says about abortion. The Bible does not address measurable EEG brain waves of unique DNA, which the Bible writers knew nothing about. Apparently god forgot to inspire them in that regard.

      This subject is more specifically addressed, at great length, in my separate article on this site about the difference between being a human LIFE and being a human PERSON. I am not going to repeat it here.
      But thank you for acknowledging your agreement that the issue is not about when LIFE begins (since the egg and sperm are both fully alive and of the human species, ergo, HUMAN LIFE, long before fertilization), but that some other criteria is required, and you believe it depends on DNA, something not covered in the Bible, but covered on another one of my pages.

      The site that addresses this more fully is at:
      http://emerald7tfb.wordpress.com/2011/05/22/moral-issues-life-vs-personhood/
      If you post further comments on this subject here, they will not be approved.

      Reply

    • Posted by Nto SO Fast, LT on October 29, 2013 at 5:53 am

      Yeah, on that “unique DNA” thing.

      If it were so important to God that every strain of unique DNA that is conceived make it to birth, then why do one in three of these incidents of unique DNA end in miscarriage due to “natural causes”?

      If so, why didn’t God ensure that the Bible contained details of methods of pre-natal care that would ensure the best chance for each of the instances of unique DNA (e.g. fetuses) to come to term?

      If you can’t come up with answers to these questions that make rational sense (and, you won’t), then your argument about the implied imperative of “unique DNA” is facile and wrong.

      Reply

  11. TBN showed a live abortion take place!! At 10 weeks, YES TEN WEEKS, as the “alien intruder” or triceps entered in the womb, the BABY ( YES TEN WEEKS) RETREATED in the corner as furthest possible it could get away before the triceps broke the NECK, (fetus neck???? NOPE!!!)!! At TEN WEEKS this BABY had enough knowledge to understand something UNNATURAL had entered into womb!! The BABY MADE A CHOICE!! And it wasn’t TO BE MURDERED!!

    Reply

    • LT — Your attempt to equate reflexive cell movements to evade with “knowledge” are absurd. All cells demonstrate such evasive reactions in response to negative stimuli, including sperm cells and egg cells, long before fertilization.

      There are NO MEASURABLE EEG BRAIN WAVES, and thus no capacity for “knowledge” or thought or consciousness or sentience prior to the 24th or 25th week, about the middle of the second trimester.
      Sources from PEER REVIEWED SCIENTIFIC JOURNALS:
      Brain waves after 25 weeks. Source: According to Bergstrom, R.M. 1986, Development of EEG and Unit Electrical Activity of the Brain during Ontogeny, In L.J. Jilek and T. Stanislaw (Eds.), “Ontogenesis of the Brain,” Prague: University of Karlova Press
      Morowitz, Harold J. and Trefil, James S. 1994, “The Facts of Life,” Oxford University Press, a study of brainwaves in fetuses younger than 25 weeks, which included fetuses from 59 days old (8.5 weeks) to 158 days old (22.5 weeks), there were no brain waves seen before 25 weeks, although electrical (neural) activity was present (electrical activity is present in ALL cells, including sperms/eggs).

      The purpose of THIS article is to address the fallacy of those who claim that the BIBLE opposes abortion. I have other articles on when life becomes person, legal history (including that Roe v. Wade was written by a Republican Nixon appointee for a 7-2 decision, based on supporting the “intent of the founders” since abortion was legal in all 13 states for the first 50 years of our nation’s history) and additional issues regarding abortion such as parental consent (do those who believe parents should make the final choice accept when daughter wants the pregnancy but parents’ choice is to abort?), late-term abortion, and other such issues.

      Moral issue: life vs. personhood:
      http://emerald7tfb.wordpress.com/2011/05/22/moral-issues-life-vs-personhood/

      Legal history (including intent of the Founders):
      http://emerald7tfb.wordpress.com/2011/05/22/legal-aspects-of-reproductive-rights/

      Additional issues (parental consent, late-term, etc.):
      http://emerald7tfb.wordpress.com/2011/05/22/additional-issues-in-reproductive-freedom/

      Further comments not relevant to the BIBLICAL aspect of abortion will not be accepted for posting, and should be directed to the appropriate pages.

      Reply

      • Brain waves make a baby a human and not a so-called fetus or blob anymore? Again, you liberals crack me up!!
        You make pathetic arguments that, “well if it doesn’t say anything, we can ASSUME whatever us liberals need”!! When a sperm, fertilizes and egg, JUST WHAT WILL HAPPEN in the prevailing months?? I will ASSUME that a BABY will be born!! I’ve never seen a fetus born???? What you SHOULD look into as far as studies are concerned, are the growing REMORSE studies of poor children WRONGFULLY being misled by “planned parenthood” or the execution slaughter house masters and the effects young woman have had from this blood thirsty business!!

        Reply

  12. This was COMPLETE HORSE CRAP!! Seeing how MANY times you used word semantics is the hilarious SLANT that doesn’t bode well. But as pro-LIFE, and after hearing your ANTI-LIFE spewage of HATE, I’d like to know just WHERE the bible “contradicts” itself as you ATTEMPTED to just “throw in there”??? The lower standard-ness of trash you ANTI-LIFERS are willing to go is hilarious!! Science will be the prevailing factor in favor of PRO-LIFE!! If women’s rights are being taken away, which they are NOT, then DON’T SPREAD YOUR FREAKING LEGS IDIOTS!!! That’s the CHOICE being made :) Thx

    Reply

    • LT — I cited chapter and verse to make serious points.
      You just dismissed it as “horse crap” without even citing a basis.

      As to specific instances in which the Bible contradicts itself, one of the best sites I have seen is at:
      http://danizier.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/the-blasphemy-of-bibleolatry/

      The site also cites numerous specific examples, always with chapter and verse and, if you have further comments as to Bible contradictions I suggest you direct them to that site.

      Regarding your comment that the time to make a “choice” is before a woman “spreads her legs,” I assume this is your acknowledgement that you at least allow the right to abort in cases of rape, incest or failed birth control.

      But your point is still no more valid than to say that the time to avoid getting in an auto accident, which is a known but not intended possibility of riding in a car, is before you make the choice to ride in a car. I suppose, in order to be consistent, you hold the view that if someone accepts a ride as a passenger in a car and the car crashes, they should take “responsibility” for their “choice” and refuse any medical care to correct the “consequences” of their “choice.”

      Reply

      • For every cause, there is an effect!! If you don’t want to get pregnant, then don’t have sex!! The TINY percentage that get raped and so on, is just that, TINY!! Moot point!! Equating riding in a car to having sex and the consequences is redundant, and grossly misses the boat. And u FAIL to address a BABY, AT TEN WEEKS, having an AWARENESS when a “REAL” intruder (not the fake one like you presented by calling a BABY an intruder) but metal triceps, enter the womb and the BABY retreated!! UNDERSTANDING some thing UNNATURAL was in the womb!!!
        So this horse crap/liberal trash was hilarious to read, especially when a liberal ATTEMPTS to tell people what the bible meant or means to say. HAAHHAH. I needed this laugher. Thx

        Reply

        • Sorry, ANTHONY, you guys don’t get to make decisions for WOMEN about the most private parts of women’s bodies.

          Your comment about “if you don’t want to get pregnant, then don’t have sex” is utter nonsense. We have discussed this before.

          First, you immediately acknowledge the right of victims of rape, incest or failed birth control. You dismiss the victims of rape as a “TINY percentage” (your emphasis).

          The fact that you simply dismiss more than 30,000 — THIRTY THOUSAND — unwanted pregnancies from rape every year demonstrates either your complete contempt for the value of women, your complete ignorance or, more likely, both.

          And your suggestion that women with unplanned pregnancies should be punished for being naughty because YOU SAY SO, because they knew pregnancy was a POSSIBLE (not necessary, not even necessarily likely) consequence of sex, is as absurd as saying that a woman who accepts a ride in a car, knowing that an accident is a POSSIBLE (not necessary or likely) consequence, therefore should be denied the right to remedial medical care if an unintended accident does occur.

          And your claim that autonomic evasive responses by pre-sentient embryonic/fetal tissue equals “awareness” is simply ignorance multiplied exponentially. Do you not understand that even eggs and sperm, before fertilization, will make autonomic evasive responses to negative stimuli, as many kinds of cells do? The cessation of measurable EEG brain waves is the point at which clinical death is recognized and organs can be removed for transplant. If the cessation of brain waves is the end of human life, it hardly makes sense to believe that there is substantive human life before they begin. But again, this is addressed in much more detail on a different one of my pages on this site.

          The subject of THIS article is what the Bible says about abortion. Your comments do not address that AT ALL. There is another article on my site that does address each of these points in much greater detail, and — not wanting to reinvent the wheel to benefit your intellectual laziness — this comment should be direct to that article. It is at:
          http://emerald7tfb.wordpress.com/2011/05/22/additional-issues-in-reproductive-freedom/

          If you wish to continue this thought, please do so in the appropriate forum.
          If you post further comments on this subject here, they will not be approved.

    • Posted by LT is an idiot on October 29, 2013 at 6:00 am

      “For every cause, there is an effect!! ”

      Yeah, one in three conceptions result in miscarraige. Where’s the cause and effect there?

      So….when are you going to curse God out for killing babies??? Huh???

      Idiot! Complete idiot!

      Reply

  13. Posted by Jennifer on October 11, 2013 at 6:58 am

    I am a Christian, but my reasons for being pro-life have always been separate from my religion. Just the fact that if the same child were in a different location, (outside the womb) people would be doing everything they could to keep it alive. Yes, at early stages there would be no hope for a child outside the womb, but to a point there would be; premature birth, etc.

    So in this case it seems to me that you are defining murder on location. While they’re here it’s ok to kill them, but if they were over here, then it’s not.

    I did not really appreciate the fact that every time you refer to those who are pro-life, you call them “anti-choice extremists”. This is clearly just meant to make us sound like horrible people who are out to oppress your rights.

    All that said, I do my best to try to keep an open mind. And this article was very eye-opening. I do my best to consider an argument, and give it equal standing with my own, keeping in mind that I might be wrong. This certainly changed my thinking on many levels, and while my mind has not been changed, I certainly see things differently. Maybe I’ll change my mind one day, but not today. I don’t think I will, but now I’m no longer positive.

    So thank you for your perspective and this logically outlined argument. There is certainly much to think about.

    Reply

    • I understand that the “life begins at conception” crowd can justify their anti-choice opinion based on non-religious grounds.

      The problem is that you err in saying that “if the same child were in a different location, (outside the womb) people would be doing everything they could to keep it alive.”

      This fails on two points:
      First: the uterine contents through most of pregnancy are quite different from a born, sentient conscious CHILD. It is NOT a child, it is a human life that has the POTENTIAL to become a child.
      Second: yes, “location” is indeed very relevant to the woman, and her right to control her body is, indeed, different when the most private part of her body is being occupied compared to when it is not.

      LIFE does not begin when egg is fertilized by sperm. LIFE began long before that.
      That egg and that sperm were both ALIVE and of the human species before fertilization, ergo: HUMAN LIFE.

      Sure, fertilization is an important milestone in the trajectory from the real beginning of LIFE, but there are many such milestones: uterine implantation, onset of heartbeat, onset of EEG brain waves (about the 24th-25th week), onset of actual sentient consciousness. Ninety percent of abortions occur in the first trimester, when the uterine contents is hardly a “child.” And fewer than four out of ten thousand occur after the onset of EEG brain waves, when states do have the legal right to regulate and restrict, and ALL of them are for serious medical emergency and almost all are the tragic ends of WANTED pregnancies.

      Unless you want to explain to us exactly your proposal for ensuring that no human LIFE (including eggs and sperms) ever die unfertilized, then you have to acknowledge that your standard is NOT “human life” but that some other attribute has to be added to LIFE to make it a human PERSON.

      And yes, the location, location, location is, indeed, important.
      As long as it is occupying the most private part of a women’s body, she is the only one who has the right to make that decision

      If all “human life” is inherently sacred and equal, then
      MENSTRUATION IS MURDER.
      MASTURBATION IS GENOCIDE.

      In any case, the moral issue of when human LIFE becomes a human PERSON is a different subject.
      The point of THIS article is to address the falsity of those who, unlike you, do base their objection to women’s reproductive choice on the Bible, when the Bible says no such thing.
      I address your moral issue of life and personhood in much greater depth on my separate article on this site:
      http://emerald7tfb.wordpress.com/2011/05/22/moral-issues-life-vs-personhood/

      Reply

      • Posted by Aaron on October 28, 2013 at 9:59 pm

        Wow, after reading all of this discussion, I’m impressed by the work you’ve put into it, Emerald. The Numbers 5 reference is interesting; I’ve never thought about this subject on this level before. The thought came loud and clear to me: infanticide. Infanticide was a normal part of uncivilized or pastoral human life. It was normal for mothers or fathers to bury or leave to the elements blind or deformed newborns, or in some human groups if their particular superstitions granted a family member with a reason to suspect a newborn of being corrupt in some way. I have a religious background, my father is a minister, and I am a liberal Christian. I have mixed feelings about abortion as most of us do. As a liberal, I try to view the Hebrew scriptures in historical context — so Moses himself had no idea of what the moon really was. We now have a much better idea of what it is. My take is that most of the people in ALL cultures 3500 years ago were more concerned with what the child looked or acted like after birth. That being said, the canonical Bible is also silent on the practice of infanticide as far as disabilities that affect viability in a harsh world. Obviously, infanticide is a horror carried out upon the Hebrews in the land of Goshen, so the moral stance is taken to a point. But as far as proscriptions in the Torah for Hebrew women killing a child because it had a stump for an arm, I now believe were NECESSARILY left out of Moses’ words. This in my view is a deference by Moses to social (and survival) necessities that our enlightened minds abhor. The statement by Jennifer above that people would do everything to keep a born child alive shows how we think that people have always had the same views about life that we now have. Now, by all means, I would try to keep even a deformed, barely viable newborn alive if I could. The higher morality — God’s ideal for us, or his plan for us has changed over the centuries. That is a Biblical fact which all Christians agree upon (at least that it has changed). My question then is: has God’s view on abortion (or infanticide) changed as much as his view on animal sacrifice or polygamy — from our current viewpoint?

        Reply

  14. Posted by Michele on January 17, 2013 at 9:47 am

    Emerald, I am not sure if you still check the comments on this but I just have to comment. The first thing that alarmed me was that you did not qouate the scriptures directly in many cases. And your paraphrasing of Numbers 5 paints a completely different picture than the Bible does in the numerous versions I read.
    The first thing that needs to be looked at was that these verses are not retelling a story of any one husband and wife in particular. It is God speaking to Moses as to what should be done if a husband suspects his wife of adultry but there are not two witnesses to the infidelity. It does not make a requirement that the woman be pregnant.
    Next it was the husband who brought the ephah of barley meal to the temple to be offered as a jealousy offering, not to be added to the ‘bitter water’. The reason oil and frankensence was not added to the meal was is was a cheaper meal than normally offered in sacrifice because the offense was not criminal to society, just to the marriage. The barley meal was given to the woman to hold as the priest read the charges to her, wrote them in the book, and then made the bitter water out of water in an earthen vessel, scraping from the book (a symbolic jesture representing her taking in her own sins to her belly), and dust from the floor. No barley meal, no pennyroyal, no blue cohosh. She was given opportunity to confess, and if she did the ritual would be stopped. Ifshe didn’t it would continue.
    The priest would take the barley meal from her, take a portion for himself, and burn the rest as incense on the altar as a jealousy offering. And then she would drink the bitter water.
    If she were truly innocent there would be no outward physical ‘reactions’ and she would now become fertile, be able to concieve. That would beg the question, if she was already pregnant what would that reward for truth mean?
    If she were guilty, the bitter water would become her curse. In Biblical times it was seen as a curse on the woman if she could not concieve. If she was barron she was seen as less. So this curse that now was made manifest in her would present as a rotten thigh (falling of the genitals/uterus), and swollen ‘belly’ (the outward sign for all to see). She was to be cursed in her land and those visuals would help ensure that. And from a purely logical standpoint, as a woman who has given birth… Did your belly swell before or after birth? I know mine swelled before. If this ritual were to cause an abortion, wouldn’t her ‘belly’ flatten and not swell? What is true now was true then.
    And scholars are unclear as to how long it took for a verdict. Some say instantanious, others say it could have been upwards of 2 years. And if the latter is the case, any baby would surely have been born already.
    What you have written here in regards to this scripture is incorrect on many counts and I would urge you to correct them. And from what I have read Numbers 5 does not belong in the abortion debate at all, as it does not deal with a pregnant woman.

    Reply

    • Michele, while I respect that there are sometimes more than one way to examine passages in light of the historical context, your convoluted explanation is completely contrived without any supporting basis, and seems to be a rather desperate attempt to make the passage say what you want it to.

      While it is true that the remedy is applied at suspicion of adultery, regardless of a confirmed pregnancy, you have to remember that in the context of that time, it was not easy to verify pregnancy very early in term, and it was applied to all to play it safe, but the description of the consequences in the event of guilt make it clear as to the intent.

      Notwithstanding that some may chafe against presentations of this passage or that, the fact remains that there is not one single instance in which the Bible condemns or even gives the slightest hint of disparagement of abortion, even though it was known in those times. Bottom line: here are many, many references to birth, death, children, babies, pregnancies and sexual relationships, any one of which would have been a perfect opportunity to just come out and express any opposition to abortion the Bible writers might have harbored — BUT THEY DIDN’T.

      Reply

  15. Posted by Jacob Hayworth on October 26, 2012 at 9:05 pm

    “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body,” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 … Your body is a temple. God’s temple… God wouldn’t destroy life. Nor should you.

    Thank you.

    Reply

    • As with all the other verses I cited, this one does not even mention or imply the subject of abortion, even though it was known and practiced throughout Bible times. The rather absurd stretch to make this into a verse about abortion, to give men like you an excuse to violate the sanctity of women’s private temples, as you describe the most private part of their bodies.

      Sorry, Jacob, but the fact that you cannot escape is that there is not one single hint of opposition to abortion anywhere in the Bible. For anti-woman extremists to try to rewrite the Bible to add something that clearly is not there, is an act of repudiation of the Bible that you otherwise claim to be the inerrant, infallible word of God. If you really believed that, you would accept the Bible for what it actually says, and what it doesn’t say, instead of trying to rewrite it in your own controlling, domineering image.

      As for your preoccupation with life, unless you can tell us exactly what you propose to ensure that no human egg or sperm (each alive and of the human species, ergo, human life) your concern is misplaced. I discuss the point of differentiating between human life and human personhood, in a separate post that specifically addresses that subject, at:
      http://emerald7tfb.wordpress.com/2011/05/22/moral-issues-life-vs-personhood/

      Reply

    • Posted by Monica on February 14, 2013 at 10:42 am

      I stumbled upon this site randomly and probably will not come back but I wanted to point out that in the bible, God is constantly “destroying” life. Go read it again cause I think you may have missed something.

      Reply

  16. Posted by Brian on September 1, 2012 at 7:27 am

    If man is created in the image of God, why would he consider the killing of a man, before or after birth, differently. Is the question as to when the image of God enters the picture not not answered with conception. The arguments above are akin to the question “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?”. Will God give a pass to those who destroy life whether it be before or after birth?

    Reply

    • According to the Biblical view, as I note, the creation of the human being “in the image of god” began when it took its first breath and became a living soul (Genesis 2:7).

      In any case, your idea about destroying life before or after birth is absurd.

      HUMAN LIFE does NOT begin when the sperm joins the egg. Both the egg and sperm were fully ALIVE and of the HUMAN species, ergo “human life,” prior to fertilization.

      So unless one wants to offer specific proposals for ensuring that no human egg or sperm ever dies unfertilized, one has to acknowledge that it is not HUMAN LIFE, but what is the relevant change that is necessary for HUMAN LIFE to become a HUMAN PERSON.

      I discuss some of the issues that must be considered in greater depth one of my web pages specifically on that subject:
      http://emerald7tfb.wordpress.com/2011/05/22/moral-issues-life-vs-personhood/

      Reply

  17. Posted by Janine on August 23, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    There is nothing about abortion in Numbers 5. It is about a way to discover whether or not a woman has committed adultry, and has not confessed or admitted it. Since she will not confess, this is the process of testing, and the answer is in her body’s reaction to what she drinks. This is not a drink made of herbs, but symbolic ingredients, like dirt and the writing on the scroll. It is meant to try her conscience. I imagine it has a plecebo effect, and her own guilt causes her body to react, but if she is innocent, then there is no reaction because her conscience is clear. There is nothing about pregnancy or abortion, though, in this passage. I keep seeing people citing it as God’s own command to abort a baby, and it just plain isn’t.

    Reply

    • Janine — Numbers 5 says what it says. I will repeat what is stated in my article:
      “While abortion per se is not mentioned here or anywhere else in the Bible, the references to Sotah causing “thy high to rot, and thy belly to swell,” as well as the “curse” to a woman (the loss of a pregnancy or the barrenness of total infertility), may not be clearly understood by many readers in our time, but would be clearly understood in the era in which it was written.”

      Your comment that Numbers 5 does not specifically mention abortion essentially repeats what I said. But while you concoct an alternate interpretation invented wholly out of fabricated imagination, the explanation I provide in the article goes right to the etymological and cultural contexts known in that time and place, and is widely recognized. It is not something that I just made up, as you did.

      The “bodily reaction” you refer to uses words that were common euphemisms for pregnancy and the loss of pregnancy. That is absolutely the most reasonable interpretation of the passage. At the very least, it certainly does not represent a condemnation of abortion.

      But in any case, those who try to cite a Biblical basis for opposing abortion can’t have it both ways. You can’t deny that the words in Numbers refer to abortion, and then say that anything else in the Bible refers to abortion when the word “abortion” is also not used anywhere else in the Bible. But, unlike the reference in Numbers, there is no other reference at all that can possibly be construed to refer to the intentional termination of an unwanted pregnancy.

      The Bible is completely silent as to any prohibition against abortion. There are many references to life, death, birth, pregnancy and children. Any one of these would have been a perfect opportunity for the Bible writers to slip in at least a mild rebuke of a procedure that was known and practiced in Bible times or which, at the very least, those endowed with the gift of prophecy or divine influence should have known would be a point of controversy in a place and time of the distant future.
      But they didn’t.

      Reply

  18. Love it, EMERALD. You are brilliant. Hope this gets through to you. Bettejo

    Reply

  19. Posted by Bev Carr on February 25, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    I accept your added comments…very interesting theological implications! However, based on your revised comments…the decision was left up to God rather than to man. This is not giving man permission to abort, based on our knowledge, which is less than God’s wisdom and knowledge. What other references do you have?

    Bev

    Reply

    • Coupled with the fact, as documented, that abortion was widely known and practiced in that time and that there were extrabiblical discussions about it (both pro and con) that did not get accepted into the canon of scripture, it appears that the silence of the Bible on abortion is intentional, and that the ancient mouthpieces of the almighty recognized that even god himself (or herself?) accepted the need to abort in some cases but not others.

      In other words, it is an individual assessment, not a generalized one.

      It is akin to the question, “Does god require missionary service in China?”
      Some may pray and decide that they have been so called. Others not.
      Perhaps the Bible offers some general principles, but a specific calling to one person may not apply to every person.

      Abortion is a personal matter. An individual matter.
      Some women pray to god and are prompted by the spirit that a pregnancy is not right for them at this time.
      Some women pray to god and are prompted by the spirit that this pregnancy is right for them.

      It is not a “one size fits all.” And maybe that is why there is not a general pronouncement anywhere in the Bible.

      But look at the issues raised in my essay on the moral issues, and I think that goes very far in why god would find it right to continue or not continue a pregnancy in specific situations, based on what is right for the woman.

      Reply

    • Actually, Bev, while I appreciate your thoughtful analysis, I don’t agree that “the decision was left up to God rather than to man.” That would better describe an unassisted abortion by god, a miscarriage. And considering the number of god-induced abortions that occur naturally, it makes god the most prolific abortionist of all, hardly a strong case for his opposition to the practice, especially in light of the Bible’s silence on the subject.

      In contrast, in the present passage (Numbers 5), the application of the home brew of “bitter water” is done by the priest, a human. The fact that it is kind of hit and miss has less to do with whether or not the woman is guilty, any more than drowning of accused witches determined guilt or innocence, and more to do with the lack of efficacy of primitive tribal medicine. But the point is that the inducement is administered — initiated — by humans. It is not an act of god. The decision is not “left up to God rather than to man.”

      Reply

      • Posted by Bev Carr on February 26, 2012 at 11:19 am

        I’m not taking a position for or against abortion and it would be incorrect to try to pen me into that position. What I am for…is correct interpretation of this passage in Numbers 5. Here is the pivotal quote in the NIV version “may the Lord cause your people to curse and denounce you when he causes your thigh to waste away and your abdomen to swell.” It’s fairly clear here who is implementing the verdict of guilt or innocence and exercising the outcome – clearly stated as the Lord. If you stop and think about it, David was informed that due to his sin with Bathsheba, that he would lose his child from that union. Not very different, I think.
        In Numbers 5, individuals were given the instructions to follow this ‘ritual’ by God, and during the ritual, God himself was to make the decision as to guilt or innocence. Completely different from an individual making the choice on whether or not to abort.

        Reply

        • Posted by JtofSD on October 10, 2013 at 4:37 pm

          I disagree that it is any different from the individual deciding something. In the Numbers 5 case, the husband has to decide if he thinks his wife has been unfaithful and the baby she is carrying is not his. He decides that. Then he takes the woman to the Priest (all male) who decide to administer the “potion” to the woman. Then that potion caused an abortion if the woman has been unfaithful.

          So from the Numbers 5 passage, the woman has no decision making except to be faithful or not. Her husband decides for her. The male priests decide for her. And the men give her something to cause an abortion.

          The woman has no say. That is very troubling.

          Also, if the baby is the product of adultery, it is aborted. So does a baby conceived in marriage warrant higher value than one conceived outside of marriage? Do we really want to go there? Or what about a child conceived in rape?

        • Agreed that the passage is not pro-choice FOR THE WOMAN since it is the husband who gets to make the decision and, yes, agreed that this is troubling.

          But the point is that, if anything, if not pro-CHOICE, it is certainly pro-ABORTION (externally mandated).
          Hardly supportive of the conservative religious viewpoint.

  20. Posted by Bev Carr on February 25, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    OK…accepting your reference…this is a situation where it was left in God’s hands to decide whether or not the pregnancy would be terminated. Interesting theologically! But still not condoning a human being taking matters into their own hands and making this decision. This does make quite a difference in your argument. God’s knowledge and wisdom is presumably a bit more expansive than ours.

    Reply

  21. Posted by Bev Carr on February 24, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    I looked up the scripture in Numbers 5…I see no reference whatsoever to abortion. The bitter water was just water with the ink of words on it. Those using it were trusting God to curse the women if she had lied. There is no reference to the woman being pregnant at all. I am open to your opinion…but please be accurate in citing scripture.

    Bev

    Reply

    • I stand by what I have written. Your error arises from not understanding the meaning of words used in translation in their context. The reference to “ephah of barley meal” in the passage is a concoction of “bitter water” used to induce a forced miscarriage (abortion). That reference, and the references to causing “thy high to rot, and thy belly to swell,” as well as the “curse” to a woman (being the loss of a pregnancy), may not be clearly understood in our time or by many modern readers, but would be clearly understood in the era in which it was written.

      I stand by what I have written.

      Reply

      • Posted by JtofSD on October 10, 2013 at 4:32 pm

        The Numbers 5 passage is tough, but one clear part is that the woman is pregnant,otherwise there would be no need at all for the test. The priests are ordered to administer the “potion” and that would cause the womb to discharge. If there was nothing to discharge, there would be no need of the test.

        Reply

    • In deference to your comment pointing out the lack of clarity, in conjunction with my advisor on scriptural aspects of the abortion issue, I have revised the reference in the text to make it more clear.

      Reply

  22. Posted by Chris on December 28, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Thank you,

    I wrote down on a scrap bit of paper while trying to find scriptures that there was no direct scriptures in relation to abortion but couldnt find a way to prove its absence if you see what I mean – people would have argued that it was not prominent and known at the time of writing but you have been so thorough :D

    Thanks again it is MUCH APPRECIATED

    Chris

    Reply

  23. Congrats on the new website, Em. Great job.

    And you did fine with this section. Glad to help in whatever small way I could. :-)

    Dave

    Reply

  24. I am indebted to my friend “3D” Davis D. Danizier for tremendous assistance in compiling the religious references for this essay. Many mahalos, Dave!

    Dave’s own WordPress.com page can be found at:

    http://danizier.wordpress.com/

    Reply

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