I want to say up front that I am not going to take a stance on abortion in this post. That would be beside the point. What I’m interested in here is what the Bible says about abortion.
It’s strange how Christians and the pro life movement have become inextricably linked. It’s not like you have to be a Christian to be pro life (the outspoken atheist, Christopher Hitchens, was pro life). And it’s not like you can’t be a Christian if you’re pro choice (although fundamentalists would probably disagree). It’s all very amusing to me because if you’re going to follow the Bible literally, you should be pro choice.
The one verse that all pro life Christians love to cite is Jeremiah 1:5: “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee.” The only problem is, this verse doesn’t actually say anything about abortion. If God knows the future, then of course he knew Jeremiah before he was conceived. It also says God sanctified him while he was in the womb, but it doesn’t say when (the first trimester or the third?). And are all fetuses are sanctified, or just prophets?
Another popular verse is Psalm 139:13. Most people prefer the NIV, so I’ll quote that: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Again, it mentions that humans are grown inside the wombs of their mothers, but it doesn’t say whether it’s permissible for a pregnancy to be terminated.
There are several other verses that pro life Christians cite such as Genesis 25:23, Psalms 127:3, Isaiah 49:1, Luke 1:15, Luke 1:41, and Galatians 1:15. Again, all of these mention wombs, but none of them forbid abortion. Why couldn’t God have included a verse that says something like, “Thou shalt not slay an unborn child”? That would have helped. Is it too much to ask that God be a little more specific? Well, he is more specific, but not in the way you might expect.
Numbers 31 is about the time Moses’ army slaughtered the Midianites. When Moses realizes his soldiers haven’t killed all the women and children, he gets angry and in verse 17 he says, “Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.” There’s a good chance some of these women were pregnant, but that doesn’t seem to matter to Moses or God. So much for the sanctity of life.
An even more glaring example is in the book Hosea. Chapter 13 describes God’s anger with the Samaritans for worshiping another god, and in verse 16 he says, “Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.”
Even if it could be argued that the pregnant women deserved to die, what about the innocent children in their wombs? Some Christians say they went to Heaven, but here’s the problem with that argument: If unborn children automatically go to Heaven, shouldn’t we abort all of them? Seriously. Because if that’s how it works, then allowing a child to be born means allowing a child to grow up, turn from God, and end up burning in Hell forever. Wouldn’t it be kinder to deprive them of that opportunity?
There are many other verses that show God’s callousness toward pregnant women and children, but there is one passage in particular that specifically endorses abortion: Numbers 5:11-31. I encourage you to read it for yourself, in context, but here’s a quick summary:
Let’s say you suspect your wife of cheating on you. Even worse, she’s pregnant and you’re not even sure it’s your child. You don’t have any proof she cheated, but you are very jealous and you want to know the truth.
Well, there’s a simple solution. Just take your wife and a few pounds of barley flour to your local priest. Tell him about your problem, and he will perform a creepy ritual that involves incantations, writing in a scroll, and burning grain on an altar. At the end he will have your wife drink cursed water. If she’s innocent, nothing will happen. But if she’s guilty, she will have a miscarriage.
So apparently God himself will cause a miscarriage (i.e. perform an abortion) if the woman cheated on her husband. It seems clear that God doesn’t consider a fetus to be a person. So if you’re going to take the Bible literally, you should be pro choice.
I have one problem with your conclusion at the end. You wrote ” It seems clear that God doesn’t consider a fetus to be a person”. God doesn’t give deference to fully mature people either. He was willing to kill a mans entire family (Job) simply for a bet with the devil. That’s just one example, but you’ve provided many others in the first part of your piece that clearly show a callus and uncaring attitude for people.
It might be sick, and convoluted, but the Pro Life Christian’s arguments are still internally logical. Their god is a ‘do as I say, now as I do’ character, and he commanded them to not kill. The passages they’ve quoted do show that the writings of the bible consider people to be fully formed upon conception.
Full disclaimer: I’m a non-believer, raised without any religion. I support a womans right to abortion.
Southern Skeptic says
You make a good point, but the fact that the Bible never specifically forbids abortion leaves it open to interpretation. Since God has no problem with killing unborn children or commanding others to do it, it’s reasonable to conclude that the Bible supports abortion. And that’s the larger point of this post, that the Bible is so vague you can interpret it almost any way you want.
I’m not going to go too deep into this, but the logic doesn’t quite flow when you say that the Bible “leaves it open to interpretation” therefore, it’s “reasonable to conclude the Bible supports abortion”. It’s not so reasonable in the sense that.. Just because there’s no specific, definite answer to abortion, it doesn’t mean that the opposite is true.
While I’m not too sure if the general point of this post is to interpret the Bible however you want just because it’s vague, you don’t just interpret anything any way you want because there’s meaning and ideas hidden behind information. Even this post, for instance. Often times, the Bible’s words are twisted and convoluted, so I just warn you to be careful of how you phrase certain things.
About both of y’all’s points on God’s callousness, that part about scripture always has me dumbfounded. Sure, God is who He is and can’t internally contradict himself, but then you see these types of passages and it’s a literal facepalm! How do Christians work around that?
ryan flanagan says
the passage from numbers only has to do to see if a woman has been faithful to her wife, it has nothing to do with abortion. come to Jesus repent believe and be saved in Jesus Name we pray amen
ryan flanagan says
numbers passage is taken out of context, this passage is only to see if a woman has been faithful to her wife. this has nothing to do with abortion.
Joshua Human says
Good post. I read it…. Ya know like a decent person assuming you are trying to add something to a very complex discussion. A couple thoughts of my own (not worth much). It doesn’t matter is Gen 1:1 said “You shall not, under any circumstances have an abortion. I am The Lord your God”. Because many people don’t believe the Bible is an authority at all. Also, respectfully the Bible doesn’t say anything that anyone posted on this thread, because English didn’t exist. The reasonable people on either “side” this that truly want to work toward common understanding should understand this or try to, all 23 of them. The Bible doesn’t say anything about abortion at all. It does convict and form peoples worldview and that can impact how they see the issue. I am a Believer and not a fan of abortion. Unfortunately I have tons and tons of respectful dialogue to engage in before I can really even start a possibility fruitful discussion. Because individuals, in the name of the Jesus that I love, call woman going through something incredibly difficult “murderers, whores” etc. And stand outside with signs saying those and worse things. When the Jesus I love would be at the back door, waiting to hug and console the woman that just went through something so difficult and emotionally conflicting that he would just let them cry and wouldn’t say much. This is my opinion. I’m saying or implying anything else. It often makes me sad. That one side yells baby murderer and the other refers to abortions as vital reproductive rights and if you disagree it’s only because you want to control women. Both are unhelpful at best and make discussion almost impossible. Thanks for the post. Hopefully no matter what civil discourse can continue.
“The passages they’ve quoted do show that the writings of the bible consider people to be fully formed upon conception.”
No, they don’t. I’ve looked at every single one of them in detail and none of them support the idea that fetuses are considered by God to be fully formed equal people. He does value their lives somewhat, and uses the same word for life that the Bible also uses for the lives of animals, but this is not an indication that they are alive in the sense that religious abortion prohibitionists often claim.
For example, no one ever reads the next verses in Psalms 139. Verse 15-16: “My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”
Two things there: 1. When David was in his mother’s womb, he was in “the depths of the earth” – the place of the dead, not alive. 2. David sees that God knows all the days of his life, but when he’s being formed in his mother’s womb, so far he has lived “none of them.”
It is not possible to make a clear, airtight, Biblical argument that fetuses are equal to living adults or alive as humans. This doesn’t mean the unborn aren’t important or valuable at all, just that prohibitionists are straight up wrong about the Bible and going based off of their feelings or what some preacher or theologian told them instead of the actual real Word of God.
And despite this not being relevant to my point, let’s not forget that even IF, as the Bible does not say, fetuses are considered equal to living adults, allowing safe and abundant access to abortions would save more lives than trying to prohibit them and there is also a strong moral argument that someone should have the right to stop supporting another’s life if that life depends solely on their own body. Pro-choice is pro-life.
I personally strongly hope that abortions drop to zero, that miscarriages are decreased, and that more children are born into a safe and caring world. But this cannot be achieved by trying to prohibit abortions or by pretending that the Bible says the opposite of what it actually does, only by actually loving and supporting people with wombs and actually trying to help people instead of trying to punish people for having sex. Punishment doesn’t work. That’s what the death of Jesus and the New Covenant are all about: Love instead of punishment.
Firstly, the verse in Numbers 21-28 never says the woman is pregnant, just that she slept with another man. Secondly, the Bible says do not murder. I think that’s pretty clear.
The problem Christians have with abortion is not that we believe people should never die, but that it is up to God to make the decision between life and death. We have been told not to judge or condemn, but to love. Those verses from Jeremiah 1:5 and Psalm 139:13 show that life begins from conception and that God has a plan. revyloution makes a good point, God did strike a few people down dead in the Bible. The difference between God killing and us killing is that God is sovereign. He is almighty and has all power. We are but a breath of wind. He is perfect and has the right to demand justice .He also knows the future and what is best for us (Jeremiah 29:11). We do not have the right to kill. It is not justifyable. Giving God control is like letting the teacher punish that annoying kid for breaking all the crayons rather than telling him off yourself when you are a young child who breaks pencils.
You said, “Firstly, the verse in Numbers 21-28 never says the woman is pregnant, just that she slept with another man.”
What do you think is going on here if the woman is pregnant? What is the point of the ritual, and in what way is she cursed if she isn’t pregnant? Besides, it literally says in verse 27, “When she is made to drink the water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering, it will enter her, her abdomen will swell and her womb will miscarry.” Seems pretty clear.
I’ve heard this idea that it’s okay for God to murder because he is sovereign. Why does that make it okay? Are you saying that just because God created everybody, he has the right to murder everybody? Why? And what if I don’t recognize his right to kill everybody? Are you saying might makes right? What a sick and twisted moral system you have.
the thing is, the passage doesn’t say her womb will miscarry. Just repeating crap from other Atheists doesn’t ean you’ve atually given a valid argument.
Actually it does say she was pregnant.
The phrase translated “has sexual relations with her” in verse 13 is the exact same word that appears in verse 28 but translated “to have children.” In both cases it clearly means being pregnant.
And it does say she will miscarry. The word used in verse 27 is elsewhere translated “loins” as in “children came out of his loins” and is the way ancient Hebrew referred to the reproductive organs.
Sky, Just love your mental gymnastics.
Calm down.. Accusations are going to go nowhere as far as conversationally; doing so just shuts down the open intellectual argument between you two.
God committing murder is not the same as us committing murder- that I agree upon as discussed in the Bible in several places. God has had plenty of chances to remove us- but He chose not to. He had every reason to, seeing how twisted and sinful we were and still are. It’s hard not to be justified in your actions when you are the literal definition of what is justice. So in this case.. I don’t see what’s illogical about God not being able to “murder” anybody/everybody. Whether or not you recognize His inherent right as “the God of the universe”, it’s not like that kind of recognition is required from anybody.
Numbers 5:11-31 does not endorse abortion. You’re clearly arguing from a biased position and distorting scripture to fit your view.
There’s a load of problems with your interpretation:
1) The water the priest gives the woman is not the cause of any miscarriage she may have. In fact, in verse 28, it says that if the women has not been unfaithful, nothing will happen to her. The cause of the miscarriage would be if she was guilty of sin AND guilty of lying blatantly to God. The source of the curse is God, not the water she is made to drink.
2) Even if God is the one who causes the mother to miscarry, it does not follow that people are free to cause miscarriages on purpose any more than God causing the death of a grown person gives people freedom to kill anyone they desire. God causes the death of many people throughout the Bible for various reasons, but people are always condemned as guilty whenever they murder an innocent person. The prohibition against murder is in full force throughout the Old Testament and New Testament, and the Bible is very clear that those within the womb are human, thus are protected under the prohibition against murder.
3) The word used in the Hebrew (beten tsabeh) literally mean “abdomen to swell.” Interpreters often translate this as miscarriage but it is far from clear that this is the case. What is clear is that the woman would be receiving the consequences directly from God for defying the prohibition against adultery and then adamantly lying under oath.
4) You are guilty of cherry picking, something that Bible hating commentators often do to sound credible. You found some obscure passage and suggest that this one passage trumps anything else the Bible says about abortion. It’s a lazy and simplistic approach, and any reasonable Bible reading Christian worth his salt should be able to see through this disingenuous tactic.
You claim to speak as though you have expertise on the Bible. I’m wondering what credentials you have. My guess is you’re an amateur blogger without any formal training on how to interpret scripture posing as some kind of “expert” who most likely just did some google searches and likely copied arguments others had made. People should be wary of people who don’t even claim to be Christians who claim to know more about the Bible than those who do.
Amen! If God new you before you we’re born and new you in the womb then how can abortion not be considered murder? If you murder someone God knows and recognizes regardless that person is in the womb or out isnt that still murder? Also when God kills he is doing it out of Justice of there sin. When a solder like Moses commands solders to kill there apposing side and the command is givin by God then he is just following God commands. Theres a differnce between an army today ordered to kill women that could be prego and children and men compared to back then. Is that God was acatully talking with Moses and that command came from him but today if it is done thats coming from Man cause clearly doesnt talk to us through bushes anymore. God has every right to give or take a life he is Almighty and our creater he can do what he wants. We are only worshippers to him. He is the higher power if we like or not
Literally plucked the fallacies he’s committed right off my head.
Tamara Jean Hanks says
Thank you, D. Using the reasoning in the blog, we could justify a great many things.
Nonsense, absolute nonsense!
There are instances in the Bible where God has inflicted plagues and other nasty curses upon People without the use of making them drink Cursed water.
God has been able to curse people simply at will, when he took his most loyal follower and in a bet with the devil he cursed him with boils and sores, with plague and killed his whole family, just to win a bet that he wouldn’t turn from God.
Glad I turned from this book of insanity decades ago, or my Brain would be mush just like yours.
Dennis Fitzpatrick says
thanks D keep up the good work/ Although we will lose this battle as the Bible fortold the wicked will be exposed for who they are,then the judgement
Thanks for an interesting discussion. I appreciate all the opinions, especially when delivered without condemning others or assuming they are Less Than. Respect and love rule! I am a Christian and was raised without questioning abortion as wrong. It is good to look deeper at what the Bible has to say (or not say!). Seeing these posts has opened my eyes some to other ideas and interpretations. Anyone ever hear of the firefighter’s dilemma? If a fertility clinic was burning and the firefighter had only time to save either the 12 fertilized eggs or a crying 3 year old child which would she save?
Harmon Everett says
Actually, Jeremiah 1:5 DOES give a time when the person becomes a person. It clearly states BEFORE I FORMED YOU IN YOUR MOTHER’S WOMB. This is about as clear a statement as it can get that God does not consider life to begin at conception, but predates it. Since God formed Adam from the dust, it indicates that, to God, every mote of dust in the universe is a “potential” person. Anti-abortionists mistake when they attempt to use “scientific” or “physical” rules to argue that God is constrained by them. The only reason to base “conception” on the beginning of Life, is focusing on the sex act. Explain to me how a sex act is instrumental in quickening God’s expression of Soul in a person? I’ll wait.
This only gives perverts like anti-abortionists a reason to focus, obsess about, and get aroused by thinking about controlling other people’s sex acts. If they were actually thinking about God, they would realize how wrong trying to constrain God by a sex act really is.
The mental gymnastics and word twisting theists go through to deny or justify the parts of the Bible they do not agree with. Amazing!!
Peachy Essay says
Are there verses in the Bible that support abortion? There are two main passages that often come up for discussion in this context, Exodus 21:22-25 and Numbers 5:11-31. But upon close examination, neither of them supports a pro-abortion position in the least. If Jesus condemns anyone who would lead a child into sin, how much more will He condemn those who’d slice and dice them before birth!
Elaine Metzger says
So we are discussing what the Bible actually means in certain verses. Here is the thing…when Jesus was on earth if someone had asked if abortion was ok, do you think Jesus would have said it was. No, I don’t think so. God has a plan for our lives and if that plan includes being blessed with a baby who are we to alter it. I most certainly can not see Jesus walking into an abortion clinic smiling and blessing the work of the doctors there.