WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT ABORTION? — PART 1

When Jimbo asked the following “question” a couple of times, I decided it might be interesting to look up what others have said the Bible says about abortion.

where is the scripture that specifically condemns abortion? Why didn’t Jesus during his ministry not condemn it at every turn? (from here)

Note that while Jimbo’s question may be pertinent it is poorly stated.

  • The entire Bible the Word of God. To restrict ourselves to Jesus’s words would be a gross error.
  • We have to approach the subject with humility. Consider what the following verse states about how much we know and can expect to learn about the beginning of life.

    Ecclesiastes 11:5 Good News Translation (GNT)

    God made everything, and you can no more understand what he does than you understand how new life begins in the womb of a pregnant woman.

    What is the context? What point is the passage this verse comes from is trying to make? We don’t know very much. We can only work hard, do our best, hope, and be thankful for what we get.

The Case For Abortion

Case 1

In Abortion: What the Bible Says (and Doesn’t Say), here is the hinge of ‘s argument.

The Bible doesn’t talk about abortion, but it does say when a human being’s life begins.

Genesis 2:7 is clearest. The first human became a “living being” (nefesh hayah, “a living breath”) when God blew into its nostrils and it started to breathe. Human life begins when you start breathing, biblical writers thought. It ends when you stop. That’s why the Hebrew word often translated “spirit” (ruah) — “life force” might be a better translation — literally means “wind” or “breath.”

Then he goes on to argue that the Supreme Court and majority opinion support this belief. What Lowery glosses over is that God formed Adam as an adult human being. Adam and Eve never knew the womb. Therefore, until he started breathing, Adam’s body would not sustain life.

Case 2

In What the Bible says about Abortion, The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible joyously quotes a stream a passages out of context. Since the skeptics put it first, they probably consider Exodus 21:22-23 their strongest argument. What does it say?

Exodus 21:22-23 Good News Translation (GNT)

22 “If some men are fighting and hurt a pregnant woman so that she loses her child, but she is not injured in any other way, the one who hurt her is to be fined whatever amount the woman’s husband demands, subject to the approval of the judges. 23 But if the woman herself is injured, the punishment shall be life for life,

The object of Exodus 21:22-23 is justice. Was the injury to the pregnant woman deliberate? The context suggest not. Would the recommended fine be a fierce punishment? Given the husband is setting it,…

Consider how the same passage treats the accidental killing of someone outside the womb.

Exodus 21:12-14 Good News Translation (GNT)

12 “Whoever hits someone and kills him is to be put to death. 13 But if it was an accident and he did not mean to kill him, he can escape to a place which I will choose for you, and there he will be safe. 14 But when someone gets angry and deliberately kills someone else, he is to be put to death, even if he has run to my altar for safety.

The point? The Mosaic Code considers intent highly relevant to justice.

Case 3

At About.com,  makes the case for ambiguity in What does the Bible say about abortion? What Head adds to the argument is this.

The Bible never specifically mentions abortion.  This is significant, because herbal abortifacients–most notably pennyroyal and silphium–were in common use at the time that the New Testament was written.  Jesus, Paul, and the other major figures of the New Testament were surrounded by cultures that practiced abortion, but no specific condemnation of the practice can be found in the Bible.

In an era when most women married early and enhanced their status by having a child, why would it have been common to have an abortion? What exactly would have constituted common use of an abortifacient? I doubt Head has the slightest idea. Anyway, he does not say, and the herbs he mentions probably were not used as he suggests.

  • According to this NIH link pennyroyal is unsafe. That is, it would have been dangerous to use.
  • Wikipedia (here) and Sylphium Life Sciences (here) say silphium is either extinct or we just don’t know what ancient herbalists called silphium is anymore.

Therefore, how many of the ancients used either pennyroyal or silphium as abortifacients and how effective they may have been is purely speculative.

Closing Observations

So what should we make of the three articles referenced above? Starting from the get-go, each presents its conclusion beginning with a serious flaw in logic. None need be taken too seriously.

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This is the first post in a four – part series.

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About Citizen Tom

I am just an average citizen interested in promoting informed participation in the political process.
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