The Bible’s Teaching Against Abortion
Fr. Frank A. Pavone
The Bible clearly teaches that abortion is wrong. This teaching comes across in many ways and for many reasons. Some people point out that the word “abortion” is not in the Bible, and that is true. Nevertheless, the teaching about abortion is there.
The Bible clearly teaches that abortion is wrong. This teaching comes across in many ways and for many reasons. Some people point out that the word “abortion” is not in the Bible, and that is true. Nevertheless, the teaching about abortion is there. This is the case with many teachings. The word “Trinity” is not in the Bible, but the teaching about the Trinity is there. In any case, a person who wants to deny the teaching about abortion would deny it even if the word were there.
Let’s look at some of the Biblical reasons why abortion, the deliberate destruction of a child in the womb, is very wrong.
1. The Bible teaches that human life is different from other types of life, because human beings are made in the very image of God.
The accounts of the creation of man and woman in Genesis tell us this. “God created man in His image in the divine image He created him male and female He created them” .
The word “create” is used three times here, emphasizing a special crowning moment in the whole process of God’s making the world and everything in it. The man and woman are given “dominion” over everything else in the visible world.
2. The Bible teaches that children are a blessing.
7. Scripture teaches us to love.
What Jewish Lawmakers Say About Abortion Rights
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., likes to joke that she took tikkun olam so seriously, she wound up in politics.
Within the Jewish tradition, tikkun olam Hebrew for repair the world is a sort of call to action, a concept defined by acts of kindness and service that help heal the world. Wasserman Schultz, the first Jewish woman to represent Florida in Congress, says her faith informs her politics every day.
I have always served and looked at policy through a distinctly Jewish lens, Wasserman Schultz says. And so for me, when Im thinking about a womans right to make her own reproductive choices, the Jewish tradition that Ive always been taught holds that existing life should take precedence over potential life, and a womans life and her pain should take precedence over a fetus.
The strongest argument in the Hebrew Bible for permitting abortion comes from Exodus, Chapter 21, Verse 22-23: If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the womans husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take a life for a life.
Jewish tradition and scholars have also acknowledged a pregnant womans potential great need to terminate a pregnancy.
The Group Of Misplaced Compassion
Many young Christians hold misplaced compassion favoring the situational fears of an unplanned pregnancy rather than showering mercy on the injustice of abortion.
Let me be very clear: Christians should display radical compassion toward ALL women who find themselves in a frightening pregnancy situation . However, our compassion must look different than that of the world. The worlds compassion will encourage women to have an abortion so they can follow their dreams and be successful. The compassion of Christ links arms with women and helps them believe that they will be great mothers. Most importantly, it equips them with the resources to continue following their dreams even after having their baby.
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How Should I Treat Someone Who Has Had An Abortion How Should I Treat Someone Who Disagrees With My Beliefs About Abortion
Christians have a responsibility to correct matters of wrongdoing among themselves ” rel=”nofollow”> Matthew 18:15-17), but this should always be done fairly and with compassion. We are never to take upon ourselves the task of moral judgment that belongs to God alone ” rel=”nofollow”> Matthew 22:37-40, , , ).
As Christians, we need to remember that we are all sinners in God’s eyes ” rel=”nofollow”> Romans 3:23, ), and that God loves all His children, even those who believe differently than we do ” rel=”nofollow”> Matthew 5:43-48). We cannot afford to let our strong feelings on abortion issues blind us to Jesus’ commandment to “Love your neighbor as yourself”” rel=”nofollow”> Matthew 22:36-39).
Exodus 21 And Abortion
What does the Bible say about termination of pregnancy? Those in favour of a legal right to elective termination often argue that ‘the Bible is silent on the subject of abortion . ‘The word “abortion” does not appear in any translation of the Bible! Nevertheless, it is a mistake to suppose that where the Scriptures are not explicit on a question they have nothing to say. The Scriptures almost always have more to say on a question than we realise.
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Why Such A Strange Ritual
Some people object that this passage and some other rituals prescribed in the Mosaic Law are just too strange or bizarre for modern readers to take seriously. Part of the reason for objection is that these particular ceremonies are foreign to our culture. But imagine being an ancient Israelite transported to 21st century America. How strange might many of our customs seem to you? Graduation ceremonies, presidential inaugurations, and pro sports championship parades would likely seem rather bizarre and unnecessary, but most of us do not see them as strange at all. Likewise, the ancient Israelites would not have found these rituals to be strange. Their cultural milieu had similar rituals, so these were just part of the life they knew, and God had reasons for requiring such rites of the Israelites.
This procedure protected the family unit and protected the wife from shame.
This procedure was actually set up for at least two reasons. The first was to protect the family unit, and the other was to protect the wife from the shame of being cast out of a household and slanderously labeled as an adulteress. If she was found innocent, then she was free from guilt and clean. In context, this freedom meant that she was free of any guilty association in this case, and her husband could bring her back, knowing she had been faithful to him.
What Does Christianity Teach About Abortion
For Christians, human life is sacred and is a gift from God. It is to be respected and protected. This teaching is called the sanctity of life.
The Bible teaches that human beings are created in the image of God. It also teaches that murder is forbidden. Jesus reminded his followers that each person is precious to God, so much so that God has counted every hair on their head.
Christians understand and apply the guiding principle of the sanctity of life in a variety of ways to the issue of abortion. Within the same church, views may differ. The four main positions are as follows:
- Pro-life – some Christians, including many Roman Catholics, say that abortion is morally wrong because of their belief that human life begins at conception. They may make an exception if an abortion is essential in order to save the life of the mother , assuming all efforts have been made to save the foetus.
- Pro-choice – it is up to the woman to decide whether it is right for her to have an abortion because it is her body. Some Christians believe that a woman has a right to a safe abortion, and that it shows compassion if the law allows this.
- Absolute moral – abortion is wrong in every circumstance.
- Relative moral – abortion is permitted in certain circumstances.
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How Have Christians Viewed Abortion
How has the Church viewed the issue of abortion across its history?
Are pro-choice religious leaders in step with traditional Christian thinking on this subject? Or has the Church even spoken with a unified voice when addressing the question?
Early church fathers were clear in their opposition to abortion.
Athenagoras , Clement of Alexandria , Tertullian , St. Hippolytus , St. Basil the Great , St. Ambrose , St. John Chrysostom , and St. Jerome all issued strong condemnations of this practice.
However, these theologians did not specifically say when the body receives a soul. This is the process called animation or ensoulment by early philosophers. Many in the ancient world followed the thinking of Aristotle on the issue. He believed that ensoulment occurred forty days after conception in males and ninety days in females, and taught that abortion prior to this time was not murder.
And yet Augustine was convinced that those who die in the womb will be resurrected with the rest of humanity and given perfect bodies in heaven. If they died, they must have lived if they lived, they will be resurrected. Babies deformed at birth will be given perfect bodies in paradise as well . It would seem that Augustine believed life to begin at conception, as the moment the fetus can die, it must have been alive.
To summarize, Christian leaders across church history have been uniform in their condemnation of abortion once the fetus was considered to be a person.
When Men Have A Fight And Hurt A Pregnant Woman So That She Suffers A Miscarriage But No Further Injury The Guilty One Shall Be Fined As Much As The Womans Husband Demands Of Him And He Shall Pay In The Presence Of The Judges But If Injury Ensues You Shall Give Life For Life Eye For Eye Tooth For Tooth Hand For Hand Foot For Foot Burn For Burn Wound For Wound Stripe For Stripe
This Biblical verse lays out the penalty for accidentally causing a woman to miscarry, and its just a fine. If the woman herself is injured during the incident, however, the good old eye for an eye rule comes into play.
So if the mother dies, the person who caused the death dies. If only the unborn child dies, however, the at-fault party has to fork over a few shekels. If an unborn fetus is a human life, why is it not treated as such in this verse?
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Passages From The Pentateuch: The First Five Books In The Hebrew Scriptures:
It is mainly from the Hebrew Scriptures that the modern-day Jewish people obtain their spiritual insight. In Judaism, a fetus is regarded as a pre-human, as not fully a human person. It is considered to become fully human only after it has half-emerged from the birth canal during the process of being born.
Christians primarily use the Christian Scriptures for guidance. However, the Hebrew Scriptures also contain passages that some feel may deal with abortion.
What Does The Bible State
Molly should have challenged Bobs presupposition that the Bible actually states what he claimed it does. I decided to look this passage up, and I found some interesting details. Bob had quoted from the New Revised Standard Version, which states:
When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no further harm follows, the one responsible shall be fined what the womans husband demands, paying as much as the judges determine. If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
According to the NRSV, this passage seems to teach that if the pregnant woman had a miscarriage but was not hurt herself, then the person who caused the miscarriage faced a mere fine determined by the womans husband and the judges. But if the woman were harmed, then the punishment would be life for life, eye for eye, and so on. In other words, the New Revised Standard Version makes the life of the mother appear more important than the life of the unborn child.
Even if this were an accurate translation of the passage, this Mosaic law does not really address the modern practice of abortion. This law regards an accident, but Bob sought to apply it to deliberately destroying the life of the unborn through abortion. Nevertheless, the passage is relevant to the abortion debate as it does address the issue of the value of life of the unborn.
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Background Of Numbers 5 Or Ordeal Of Bitter Water
A man suspecting his wife of infidelity can take her to the priest and make a formal accusation.
Numbers 5:1128 addresses a procedure whereby a man who suspects his wife of infidelity can take her to the priest and make a formal accusation. The priest then performs a prescribed ritual that would result in a curse from God if the woman was unfaithful while claiming to be innocent before the priest and God. Any physical manifestations she suffered would determine her guilt. Although Scripture offers no example of this being carried out, we will see a famous passage that may have alluded to such actions.
According to Numbers 5, starting at verse 15, the priest was to take an earthenware cup with consecrated water and add dust from the tabernacle floor. The husbands grain offering of jealousy was given to the priest who put it into the hands of the accused wife.
The priest then put the woman under oath and made her swear under penalty of a curse that she was innocent of adultery. After the wife swore her innocence, her oath was written on a scroll. Next, the priest put the scroll into the water until the ink came off into the water . Then the priest took the grain offering from the woman, burnt it on the altar, and finally made her drink the bitter water. If innocent, then the bitter water would have no effect, but if guilty there would be a physical consequence.
Abortion Is The Moral Issue Of Our Time
It seems impossible to wrestle with the difficult issues of our day without addressing this crucial debate. Most conservative Christians believe that life begins at conception and abortion is therefore wrong. But are we sure? Is this a biblical fact?
If the answer is clear, why have so many denominational leaders taken pro-choice positions?
Is there a biblical, cohesive, practical position on this difficult subject?
I began this essay with the conviction that the pro-life position is most biblical. But I did not know much about the legal issues involved, or the theological arguments for a womans right to choose abortion.
As you will see, the debate is much more complex than either sides rhetoric might indicate. But I believe that there is an ethical position which even our relativistic society might embrace.
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Harm Only To The ‘formed’ Foetus
A second ancient interpretation of this passage allows that ‘harm’ applies to the unborn child, but only after this child is ‘formed’. The most influential Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, makes a distinction not between harm to the unborn child and the woman but between harm to the unformed embryo and the formed foetus . The Jewish philosopher Philo, an older contemporary of Josephus, follows this interpretation:
If the child within her is still unfashioned and unformed, he shall be punished by a fine…But if the child had assumed a distinct shape in all its parts, having received all its proper and distinctive qualities, he shall die.
How did the Septuagint come to translate the Hebrew word ason by the Greek word exeikonismenon ? Many scholars have pointed to the influence of Greek philosophical ideas. For Aristotle, an unformed embryo was not yet a human being. If the foetus is ‘fully formed’ then miscarriage would harm a human being. However, if it is unformed then it is not yet human and so there is no serious harm. This seems to be the underlying idea.
Early Christian Thought On Abortion
Scholars generally agree that abortion was performed in the classical world, but there is disagreement about the frequency with which abortion was performed and which cultures influenced early Christian thought on abortion. Some writers point to the Hippocratic Oath as evidence that condemnation of abortion was not a novelty introduced by the early Christians. Some writers state that there is evidence that some early Christians believed, as the Greeks did, in delayed ensoulment, or that a fetus does not have a soul until quickening, and therefore early abortion was not murder Luker says there was disagreement on whether early abortion was wrong. Other writers say that early Christians considered abortion a sin even before ensoulment. According to some, the magnitude of the sin was, for the early Christians, on a level with general sexual immorality or other lapses according to others, they saw it as “an evil no less severe and social than oppression of the poor and needy”.
The society in which Christianity expanded was one in which abortion, infanticide and exposition were commonly used to limit the number of children that a family had to support. These methods were often used also when a pregnancy or birth resulted from sexual licentiousness, including marital infidelity, prostitution and incest, and Bakke holds that these contexts cannot be separated from abortion in early Christianity.
Quotations related to Abortion at Wikiquote
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