Sunday, March 12, 2006

Is Abortion Biblical?

When I read this title on Heather's blog "The Bible Is Silent on Abortion says Planned Parenthood Rabbi " I was surprised, Planned Parenthood has a Rabbi? Here's some quotes from his article on the Planned Parenthood website:

Some contend that the Bible approaches the subject of abortion in Exodus (21) when two brawling men accidentally strike a pregnant woman. If the woman is injured, the inadvertent assailant gets punished, receiving the very same wound he caused the woman: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. If the woman dies, then it is a life for a life and the man who caused the injury dies. But if the woman miscarries, then the assailant just pays a fine.

So, an injury caused to the woman is one thing. The injury to her fetus is not viewed the same way. This same biblical passage does not say that the fetus is a human being like the injured women or like you or me. If the fetus were considered human, the punishment for injuring the fetus would be the same punishment as that for injuring the pregnant woman.

The book of Exodus warns us to take care around a pregnant woman. Cause her to miscarry, it costs money. Cause her to die, and the penalty is death. The Bible extends a full measure of legal protection to a pregnant woman, a fullness of rights and protection that is not extended to the fetus.
In response to this argument we can take a quick look at the ESV:
Exodus 21:22-25 When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman's husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
The ESV is closer to the actual Hebrew then the translation the Rabbi used. If the woman gives birth to a living baby then a fine is imposed but if "there is harm" then the life is required. According to John Piper, the Hebrew word used here is not the one used of miscarriages found in other passages such as Exodus 23:26. (Go here for John Piper's full response to this type of interpretation.)

He goes on:
People who want to make abortion illegal may attempt to use the Bible to justify their arguments. However, nothing in the Hebrew Scriptures and nothing in the New Testament supports their attempts, regardless of the passages they cite or how hard they argue. Scripture does not consider the fetus to be a human being. The Bible does not consider the destruction of a fetus to be the equivalent of murder. If the Bible thought abortion was a sin, it would have named it a sin. Instead, when it comes to abortion, the Bible says not a word.
But the Bible does reveal the value God has placed on human life, the care that He took creating it:
Job 31:15 Did not he who made me in the womb make him? And did not one fashion us in the womb?

Psalm 22:9-10 Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother's breasts. On you was I cast frommy birth, and from my mother's womb you have been my God.

Psalm 58:3 The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies.

Psalm 139:13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.

Ecclesiastes 11:5 As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.

Jeremiah 1:4 Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to thenations."
The Creator of the heaven and earth, the almighty God created us in our mother's womb. Doesn't that speak of value?
And in the New Testament (he brought up the New Testament), John the Baptist leaps for joy in his mother's womb:
Luke 1:41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.
Needless to say that if the Bible didn't consider the fetus a human being, this passage would not make much sense.

In his concluding paragraph he states:
Different faiths reach differing, and sometimes conflicting, biblical interpretations and conclusions. In our America, a free, pluralistic, and strong country, we leave people to come to their own religious conclusions and let the people live as they decide.
Yes, each of us has to draw are own conclusions but truth is not relative, it is absolute. Each of us will have to answer for our actions and that includes how we used the word of the Lord.

Abortion is murder, there is no way to get around that fact. Common sense tells you that and twisting the word of God so that you can justify killing is wrong. God clearly puts a high value on life because man is created in His image and if someone kills another, then their life is required in payment:
Romans 9:5-6 And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. 6 "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image."
Even those in the pro-abortion camp get this:

Slowly, as though coming to terms with buried sexuality, the abortion-rights leadership is groping for a way to think and talk more frankly about the morality of ending unborn life.

And from the comments section:

I'm pro-choice but not pro-abortion. [...] I have a friend who had a late-term abortion when she discovered her fetus had Downs. I had zero problem with that until they named the baby and had a memorial service for it. Now, I never said anything to her and I remain committed to the idea that it was her right to make that choice and that never having faced that dilemma I wasn't in a position to disapprove. But if she considered it a human baby enough to name it and have a memorial service, it bugged me that she could then kill it because it wasn't perfect.

Updated to add: I have another article on abortion here. (It was an article I wrote after viewing an episode of ER.)


  1. Moonshadow said...
    Piper doesn't mention the NIV's alternative translation in a textual note: "Or she has a miscarriage."

    The NIV is not so different from the RSV and the NASB after all. Stacked up against the RSV and the NASB, the NIV is odd-man out in my book, and not just on this issue, but overall.

    But we needn't debate translation because Piper gives his own. Let's agree on his, for the sake of argument.

    It's interesting to me that Piper's interpreters are from more than 100 years ago. It assumes that nothing in biblical scholarship has changed in 100 years, I mean, in terms of manuscripts and understanding biblical Hebrew. And maybe that's true, how would I know?

    Here's the Jewish Study Bible on Ex. 21:22:

    "Halakhic exegesis infers that, since the punishment is monetary rather than execution, the unborn fetus is not considered a living person and feticide is not murder; hence, abortion is permitted when necessary to save the mother (Rashi and Yad Ramah to b. Sanh. 72b)".

    Piper handles this deduction by his translation choice.

    Of greater interest, then, is the comment on Genesis 9:5-6, again, from the Jewish Study Bible: "v. 6 is cited in support of the prohibition of abortion (b. Sanh. 57b). Jewish law strictly forbids suicide and allows abortion only in extreme situations and never for the purpose of birth control."

    I can't track down those Babylonian Talmud references. Book VIII. Search on ex. xxi. 22

    Personally, I have never understood the allowance in the case of rape, incest or life of the mother. And God help me if I ever find myself in those situations.
    michele said...
    What does current scholarship say about yeladeyha? Thoughout the Bible it is used of a child or to begat (according to the BDB). Or ytsa' which is usually used of births and means "go forth" (according to the BDB).

    I think his purpose in using century old scholarship is not to avoid current scholarship but to demonstrate what the scholarship was before this debate tainted. He's implying that current scholarship is accommodating the current situation instead of letting the text stand on its own.

    But to be on the safe side I toned down my rhetoric since I'm not a Hebrew scholar. Who am I to mess with a Rabbi over Hebrew? :-) Besides it's not the main point of my article. The Bible is clear on the fact that God is Creator from the womb and that baby was created in His image. It falls under Gen. 9:5-6.

    Out of 40 million abortions, how many do you believe are for rape and incest?
    Moonshadow said...
    Yes, I think that Gen. 9:5-6 is the better text on which to build your defense of human life. And my suspicion is that the NIV is not above "tainting" considering the date of its original publication and, as we have seen with the TNIV, how their translators are prone to activitism through the biblical text.
    Martin LaBar said...
    Thanks for your post. I hadn't seen Piper's article before. However, when I read it, I noticed the same thing moonshadow did in her first paragraph, namely that there is a possible alternative reading of the NIV. I would have more confidence in Piper's scholarship if he had mentioned that, rather than stating that the NIV supported his position, with no qualification.
    michele said...
    I wonder if he was using a computer Bible program and forgot to check the reference (I like to give pastor's the benefit of the doubt, especially one this public).
    Martin LaBar said...
    Well, let's hope so. But it's too easy (for me, too) to find what supports your view in the Bible and not look any further.
    michele said...
    I started looking into how the LXX translates these words and interestingly enough, it uses the Greek verb usually translated "come out" and the word for "child." I'm going to pursue this and update my article.

    I also will comment again on the use of the NIV.
    alyceclover said...
    Years ago a group of people got together and called themselves "anit-abortionists" later changed it to "Pro Life" to model themselves after "Pro Choice" group of people. "Judge not lest ye be judged" and remove moat from thine own eye. Yahwah gives people freedom to choose, so who are you to judge? Can you rot in hell for another's sins? Or reside in heaven? So why not allow others to commit, or not commit what you consider a sin? Do you have money to raise a rapists baby? The raped woman has a right to choose to "murder" or terminate her pregnancy. Why not go take in those products of rape, where a woman was given no choice. And hope that the genetic material the saved fetus, now child, doesn't grow up to be a racist. Why are people so concerned about what other people do? Go after some rapists, child molestors and such.
    michele said...
    alyceclover, maybe you missed the point of my article due to your preconceived notions about what I believe. I'd take in the child of a rapist in a heart beat. In fact I told two women (who had not been raped) that I would raise their children as if they were my own. Both turned me down. One of them would be related to me right now, so I do have a stake in this argument.

    The point of my article wasn't any of these societal issues, the point of my article was to examine if the Bible is silent on the issue of abortion and it is not as I have demonstrated in the article. The reason for the article was to examine what the Bible says about life and not allow it to be twisted to suit anyone’s agenda. The Creator of heaven and earth, created each individual person in His own image. That makes each person an image bearer and precious in the sight of God. This is clearly demonstrated in the Scriptures and abortion is murder, no wonder what the circumstances are. If you are pro-choice, then argue from a societal or political point of view, not a biblical one.

    Forty million abortions, forty million. How many do you think were because of rape or incest?

    And we called ourselves pro-life long before the media called us anti-abortion. That’s just an historical fact and one I won’t even argue.
    Anonymous said...
    Why do people "refuse" to argue about a "historical fact", when the historical fact is wrong. If I'm wrong, you should be willing to give me proof of your historical fact. Have you ever considered that there is no God as you know him? Why should what you claim to be "fact" based on a much mis-translated record of history, rule the lives of other women. People always miss my point. Christ said the greatest two commadments were love. One love of God and the other the love of neighbor. Why are Christians who are so Pro-life backing killing innocent children that are already living and breathing. Jesus admonished his follower's to "Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged". My point, and I'm not all that articulate, is God, from the Bible, gave people Freedom to choose, so why are people using Hebrew Bible scripture to make laws in a country that was based on freedom from religous persecution? AW got 20 High School girls pregnant. 20! He did not support a one. He bragged about all the Virgins he seduced with lies about love, and all that crap. He is one boy in one high school in one year. Would anyone adopt the baby's? No. Because they are not WASP's. So if those girls choose, to abort (and no matter what the law is, they will still continue to do so, only it won't be safe and not only the baby will die, the mother may too) who are we to tell her she is not allowed to do so? You stated "abortion is murder". "killing" is ending something, so you are technically correct. (by the way I've never had an abortion, unthinkable to do so to me) So it's better that the mother of the unwanted child bring it to life and dump it in toilets and other disgusting stuff? You have a really nice blog and wish I hadn't read this post. Now that you've established that "abortion is murder" shall the 40 million women be jailed? How about the death penalty? Would that make you all happy? I leave it to God to judge, wish you all would do something about the existing unwanted crack babies. They
    are available for adoption, why limit yourself to people you know? (alyceclover)
    michele said...
    I can see that this is a very emotional topic for you, as it is for me. You can dismiss the death of baby that would have been related to me but I cannot. We both need to put our emotions aside and deal with what the Bible says first and then try to think through the implications of what it says the best way that we can. We may not come to agreement what that way should be, but we should come into agreement on what the text says.

    If you love God then you love His word and that includes what it says in the Hebrew since that is the language part of it was written in. When we study God's word, it can be very helpful to examine the Greek and Hebrew words to make sure we really understand what they meant in their original context. Did Moses mean miscarriage or giving birth is an important part of this argument. But my point was much larger and that is, how does God view the baby in the womb? My article attempts to do that.

    If we examine God's word and determine that the Bible really does state that abortion is murder then we must decide how to proceed from there. Someone may examine these arguments and decide that abortion is murder but that for practical reasons there is nothing that can be done because this society is pluralistic and not really governed by the Bible. Another person may look at this argument and be convinced but think that maybe we should limit the law to the life of the mother or rape or incest.

    But the main point that I have been trying to make, is that the article is about what the Bible says, nothing more. I addressed what I thought was a bad interpretation of God's word period. Nothing more.

    The articles I have written have been on abortion from the Christian perspective and I am not in a position of power to impose my will on society. I can only do as you do, vote for those I hope will do as I would do if I were in office.

    BTW, don't think that you know anything about me because I'm white. I too know someone who was impregnated by someone who had two or three babies in the same year (another relative). She had the baby and he is a teenager now. It can be very tough having a child under these circumstances but that doesn’t change what the word of God says. That is what we are dealing with.

    I hope that you will come back and not let this disagreement cause you to feel uncomfortable or unwelcome. I started this blog so that people (both Christians and non-Christians) can see what it means to live in the light of God’s word, even when it is very difficult to do so.

    In closing I would like to say that I have been pro-life since I was a teenager (that's when I learned about abortions but you could say that I was prolife all my life because I believed God when He said no one could take a life) and called myself that. I’m 45 years old now. Is that historical enough :-).

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