The news has provided so many things to write about lately — and me with so little time to write about them! Donald Trump’s candidacy and the harm it is doing to the pro-life movement. Pope Francis setting up a commission to study women deacons — I’m definitely going to write about this, but am still studying it myself — and so on.
But right now I’m going to tackle again atheist claims that the Bible condones abortion. Actually, this is a very easy subject to treat. Atheists are such sitting ducks for a good well-aimed argument. Their inane attempts to argue from the Bible clearly show not only that they have no conception of the view of God and humanity that lies behind Scripture — they simply cannot read with any kind of comprehension.
A couple of weeks ago, the Freedom from Religion released the ad at right, with a long list of Scriptural passages they say prove the Bible condones abortion, that human life, including life in the womb, is not sacred — even that God is an abortionist. None of the statements is an actual argument, so I can only guess how they are interpreting the text, but I have seen many of these before, and have some idea of what passes for argument with atheists and pro-choicers.
I don’t think there’s any way I can tackle all of these, but right now I will look at the first few, so you can understand the pattern of thought behind them. I may be able to get to some one the others later. (You can click on the picture to enlarge it and see the whole list). Keep in mind as you read that that other pro-choice people insist that there is no mention of abortion at all in the Bible. So somebody is clearly not reading right.
All right, here we go:
Life begins at birth — with the first breath (Gen 2:7)
“Then the Lord God formed the man out of the dust of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath [neshamat] of life, and the man became a living being [or living soul – nephesh chayyah].”
This is not an unusual claim for abortionists; in fact, it was the argument used by infamous late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell for his work. I have already spoken about this one, fleetingly, in my review of the Gosnell documentary 3801 Lancaster. He said that he had never felt completely comfortable with what he was doing until he went to jail, when he began to read the Bible through. As a result of that he found he could justify his abortions. In short, a desperate seeking for justification after the fact. He said that he found what he was seeking in Genesis 2:7, which “expresses the breath of life as the beginning of life, that God breathed life, breathed breath into Adam. The Bible, to me, is very clear, that life does not happen until breath.” He is referring to the first breath of a baby exiting the womb. Problem is, the text in Genesis isn’t referring to that at all.
What Genesis is actually expressing here is that Adam isn’t a fetus or a baby, but a full-grown man, when he comes not from the womb, but inanimate clay. Nor is it Adam’s first breath that is being talked about, but the breath of God, which is life-giving, or soul-making, being infused into him. This much is so obvious at first glance that only a desperate abortionist could think differently.
The word for breath (neshamah) is often related to and paired with another Hebrew word ruach, meaning “breath, spirit” and at times refers to God’s Holy Spirit (See Job 33:4 for some true Hebrew parallelism, using similes: “The Spirit (ruach) of God has made me, and the breath (neshamah) of the Almighty has given me life”). Because the breath that is given is God’s breath, the life that is given is God’s life.
Ultimately what the passage expresses is the same as what is said: Genesis 1:26: “Let us make man in our image and likeness.” God is putting his divine life in Adam, because he is the creature in the universe most like God. God is not representing as breathing life into the animals; man is different, the crown of creation. The passage is not trying to give any indication that life happens when a fetus first breathes, since fetuses or born babies are not mentioned at all, and it is not physical breathing, but the divine life that is meant.
Fetuses are not persons (Ex 21:22-25)
This passage has always been somewhat obscure. Here is the way it is usually translated:
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 woman’s 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 one is very frequently used not only by abortion supporters, but even by Jewish scholars and rabbis who support abortion, to argue that since a miscarriage entails only a fine, but injury to the woman a physical penalty, even death, the fetus is of less worth than a woman, or even not a person. But the Hebrew text does not bear this out. A while back, I found this on the Stand to Reason website by Greg Koukl, which gives a very detailed analysis of the passage:
The relevant phrase in the passage, “…she has a miscarriage…,” reads w’yase û ye ladêhâ in the Hebrew. It’s a combination of a Hebrew noun, yeled, and a verb, yasa, and literally means “the child comes forth.”
The verb is frequently used for live childbirth in the Old Testament: For instance:
Genesis 25:25-26 “Now the first came forth red, all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau. And afterward his brother came forth with his hand holding on to Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob.”
In fact, the verb yasa is never used for a miscarriage in the Old Testament. It is only use for a stillbirth in one passage Numbers 12:12, where it is specifically stated the child is dead.
A second point: the word “further” before “injury is not in the original Hebrew, but has been added by some translators in an attempt to clarify the context. The passage in question should read:
“And if men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that the child comes forth, yet there is no injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him; and he shall pay as the judges decide. But if there is any injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life….”
Another point is that the payment of a fine does not indicate that the unborn child is not a person. The payment of a fine or even the judgment of no penalty in the ancient Jewish law rather than execution or another penalty is not an indication that the fault isn’t grave, but frequently depends on the degree of culpability of the perpetrator, or whether the injury is direct, or indirect. Exodus 25 has a number of these.
The natural conclusion here is that fine is for causing the (probably premature) birth; further punishment is for any resulting injury, which could be either to the mother or the child. Gleason Archer, professor of Old Testament and Semitic Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, says:
There is no ambiguity here, whatever. What is required is that if there should be an injury either to the mother or to her children, the injury shall be avenged by a like injury to the assailant. If it involves the life (nepes) of the premature baby, then the assailant shall pay for it with his life. There is no second-class status attached to the fetus under this rule; he is avenged just as if he were a normally delivered child or an older person: life for life. (Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982), p. 248).
The author of the article, Greg Koukl, adds:
Babies born prematurely require special care. Because their prenatal development has been interrupted, they are especially prone to difficulty. Pre-term babies often can’t breast feed, and there can be respiratory problems leading to permanent brain damage. The fine represents reimbursement for the expense of an untimely birth, and punitive damages for the serious trauma.
The whole article is excellent you can read it here.
I should add that while some Jewish biblical interpreters use this passage to argue for abortion, many Orthodox Jews are pro-life (including the Rabbis for Life I have seen at the march in Washington on January 22), and they would not interpret the passage this way.
Fetuses should be aborted as proof of adultery (Num 5:11-31)
I have already discussed this one here.