I wrote a series of three blog-posts regarding views of anti-abortion Christians and pro-choice Christians. This is the third and final post in the series.
The series seeks to introduce the debate over what Biblical scripture says about abortion. The first post and the second post began the introduction by discussing Biblical passages often cited by anti-abortion advocates and pro-choice advocates.
This post completes the introduction by setting out an example set of views held by an anti-abortion Christian and an example set of views held by a pro-choice Christian.
A set of views of an anti-abortion Christian:
- Scripture like that set out in the first post shows that an abortion that occurs at any time after conception is generally the murder of a human being in God’s eyes.
- No true Christian could ever say that abortion is OK since it is condemned in the Bible and is the killing of God-created human life that was made in God’s image. Those that say abortion is OK seek to re-interpret God’s word to fit their own view and to be politically correct.
- An unborn child is the most defenseless and innocent human being. God commands us to love others, and the murder of an innocent human being is certainly not showing love towards that fellow human being.
- Neither the right of privacy nor the right to an abortion appears in the Constitution, and the child has a right to life which we should respect. If we were in the child’s position, we would want someone to advocate for us.
A set of views of a pro-choice Christian:
- When one actually reads the scripture discussed in the first and second posts, instead of parroting what other people say, one sees that the Bible does not condemn early-term abortions, at least, and likely does not condemn abortion at all.
- When scripture can reasonably be interpreted as not condemning early-term abortion or abortion at all, people who insist that the Bible condemns it are misrepresenting the Bible and are substituting their opinion for what God actually says, wrongfully adding to God’s word.
- (a) Condemning, politicizing, and criminalizing a woman making such a decision and (b) trying to prohibit her exercise of her God-given free-will and sovereign over herself, as an image of God: these actions are highly judgmental and do not show love towards her, particularly when this decision is so personal and difficult.
- We should all fight for the Constitutional rights of liberty and privacy—including allowing a woman to make decisions about her body—even if we do not like her decision, as that is what we would want “done unto you” if we were in her position.
Of course, not all anti-abortion Christians hold the first set of views above and not all pro-choice Christians hold the second. These are views of one hypothetical anti-abortion Christian and of one hypothetical pro-choice Christian based mostly on the various views that I saw during my research (see the prior posts and the sources cited below).
My aim with this series of posts on abortion in the Bible was to introduce the debate and to introduce the views of anti-abortion Christians and pro-choice Christians. I hope that you found the series informative.
- What does the Hebrew and Greek text of the relevant passages say?
- What is the line of reasoning of church scholars and Biblical scholars who take a position on this issue? What analysis has the Catholic church, the Methodist church, and others published on the subject?
- What were the views of various denominations before the increased politicization of the issue?
- What was the historical environment for abortion in the Ancient Near East? What was it during Jesus’s earthly ministry?
- What do the survey statistics and data about abortion reflect about the issue?
- How does one proceed in the face of uncertainty and ambiguity in scripture, both relative to oneself and what one should urge for others? How does one balance other Biblical imperatives?
- What guidance does the Bible provide on seeking to impose one’s view on others via civil and criminal laws?
(Picture: The picture at the top is a picture I took last night of one of the passages in my Jewish Study Bible discussed in an earlier post.)
Note that I am not citing these sources as authoritative, but as showing various views of anti-abortion advocates and pro-choice advocates relative to scripture.
“Thou shalt not murder” as a Biblical expression doesn’t answer the question because murder is of a human person without justification, leaving the questions of whether a fetus is a person (and, if so, at what point is a fetus a person), whether a woman is justified as it is part of her, etc.
From a scientific and a traditional legal perspective, it is clear that the fetus, at least at conception, is not a person (there’s room to argue from a scientific perspective that personhood is established at some point pre-birth).
One can argue that from a type of Christian-religious or Biblical perspective that a fetus is a person at conception.
From a Biblical perspective, too, there’s nothing I’ve seen that indicates that the fetus is a person from conception.
And there’s scripture that suggests the opposite. For example,
1 There is scripture that indicates that one isn’t a person until something else happens besides being formed, like breath (See, e.g., Genesis 2:7–God “formed the man from the dust …. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.”)
2 There is scripture that indicates that the fetus is not yet a person, as punishment for causing its miscarriage was a fine and not the same as a person. (e.g., “When men fight, and one of them pushes a pregnant woman and a miscarriage results, but no other damage ensues, the one responsible shall be fined according as the woman’s husband may exact from him, the payment to be based on reckoning. But if other damage ensues, the penalty shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.”) (Jewish Publication Society translation of Exodus 21:22-26) Some will argue for a different interpretation of this passage.
There is scripture that indicates that the fetus is part of the pregnant women, as it is killed / aborted as a punishment of her, and thus not yet a person. (e.g., Numbers 5:11-28 — “[God told Moses to tell the Israelites that if a husband suspects that his wife has had sex with another man, then the priest is to say to the woman that “if] no man has lain with you, if you have not gone astray in defilement while married to your husband, be immune to harm from this water of bitterness that induces the spell. But if … a man other than your husband has had carnal relations with you … may the Lord make you a curse … among your people, as the Lord causes your thigh to sag and your belly to distend….” He is to make the woman drink the water of bitterness … —if she has defiled herself by breaking faith with her husband, the spell-inducing water shall enter into her to bring on bitterness, so that her belly shall distend and her thigh shall sag; and the woman shall become a curse among her people. But if the woman has not …, she shall be unharmed and able to retain seed.”)
So, I respect the difficulty of the issue and don’t try to misuse scripture to claim it’s murder from conception, etc.
Rough summary of the three articles from pro-choice perspective:
(A) When one actually reads the scripture discussed in the first and second posts, instead of parroting what other people say, one sees that the Bible does not condemn early-term abortions, at least.
For example, scripture indicates:
– One is not a person in God’s eyes by just being formed — more is required — taking a breath. See Genesis 2:7–God “formed the man from the dust …. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.”).
– Scripture does not say how long before birth one becomes a human being in God’s eyes in any event. See, e.g., Jeremiah 1:5. (There’s more on the scripture in the articles)
(B) And Exodus 21:22-26 indicates God views the fetus as part of a woman’s body and not as a separate person.
Exodus 21:22-26: “When men fight, and one of them pushes a pregnant woman and a miscarriage results, but no other damage ensues, the one responsible shall be fined according as the woman’s husband may exact from him, the payment to be based on reckoning. But if other damage ensues, the penalty shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.”
Since the punishment specified by God for the death of the fetus (a fine) is less than the punishment specified by God for the killing of a human being (death), then God must not consider the fetus to be a human being. Earlier, God explains that “Anyone who assaults and kills another person must be put to death. But if it was simply an accident permitted by God, I will appoint a place of refuge where the slayer can run for safety.” (Genesis 21:12-13). (See the articles for arguments on either side of this.)
(C) When scripture can reasonably be interpreted as not condemning early-term abortion, people who insist that the Bible condemns it are misrepresenting the Bible and are substituting their opinion for what God actually says, wrongfully adding to God’s word.
(a) Condemning, politicizing, and criminalizing a woman making such a decision and (b) trying to prohibit her exercise of her God-given free-will: these actions are highly judgmental and do not show love towards her, particularly when this decision is so personal and difficult.
(D) We should all fight for the Constitutional rights of liberty and privacy—including allowing a woman to make decisions about her body—even if we do not like her decision, as that is what we would want “done unto you” if we were in her position.
(See the articles for arguments on either side, more discussions, etc. put this here to show one side.) This isn’t an easy issue. Hope this helps. Good luck sorting through it.
“Son” conceived by Elizabeth (Luke 1:36); “babe” leaped in womb (Luke 1:41); “child” (Matthew 1:18); “life” referring to either pregnant woman or her fetus (Exodus 21:22-25); also see Psalm 139:13-16; Genesis 4:10; Proverb 6:17; Exodus 1:15-21; Job 10:8-12; Isaiah 49:1; Jeremiah 1:5; Galatians 1:15; Didache; Epistle of Barnabas; Tertullian; Other Church Fathers.
On The Didache and Tertullian: Is there any manuscript evidence (or other evidence) of either of The Didache or Tertullian that includes the abortion language before the 11th century? Not aware of manuscript evidence that that part, at least, is early.
NIV: “Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him.”
NLT: “She became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son for Abraham in his old age. This happened at just the time God had said it would.”
Some argue that since this says Sarah became pregnant and bore “a son,” this indicates that God’s view is that a women who becomes is pregnant, carrying, or bearing is carrying a person or human being.
However, the word translated “bore” in the NIV and many other translations is yalad, generally indicative of “bring forth” or “beget” in context of pregnancy, likely in the sense of giving birth, as the NLT translates it, not merely carrying.
And the pairing of became pregnant and gave birth to a sin does not appear to have son as the direct object of both terms independently, but instead more like, for example, “a person mixed and baked a cake.” forth, beget
Updated: 6/26 for grammar