TOPIC: Abortion and Judeo-Christian Religion (The Truth)
Abortion and Judeo-Christian Religion (The Truth) 04 Feb 2016 04:53 #1
This is not about ''should abortion be permitted'' it's about ''don't try and use the bible as a reference to stop it, you brainwashed ignorant fools.''
Any stance about abortion taken by Catholics or other Judeo-Christian religions is made up by themselves, there's nothing about abortion in the bible.
In fact, the Bible on several occasions discusses fetal life and existence. These would have been perfect opportunities to include a prohibition against abortion, if such had been intended (or was God guilty of a sin of omission?). But they didn’t.
Since abortion was well known at the time the Bible was written, but not forbidden in it, the Bible’s silence reveals much.
Many aspects of personal behavior are not addressed in the Bible. The Bible does not say what color our houses should be painted or how long we should wear our hair — matters of personal preference are left to individual choice, separate from issues of moral law.
In like manner, the Bible also does not encourage, support or promote abortion. It is neither pro-abortion nor anti-abortion. As with most other matters of personal prerogative, the Bible takes a neutral (silent) position, leaving the matter to individual discretion, or choice.
It may be the right choice for some individuals in some situations, and the wrong choice for others.
Since the scriptures are completely silent on the issue, they obviously intended this to be left to individual preference (i.e. choice). Those who claim Biblical authority to justify their human interpretations about a subject on which the Bible is silent are dishonest and hypocritical, or are listening to the misleading guidance of those who deliberately play on their beliefs to mislead them and exert control over their personal lives.
It is amazing that the Biblical authority is claimed for so many subjects where the Bible is actually silent or ambiguous (or even contradictory), while they completely ignore other parts of the Bible such as archaic commands in the Law of Moses (in the Biblical books of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy) in which the Bible is very clear, such as prohibiting tattoos or the eating of shrimp, pork or ham or demanding animal sacrifice or many aspects of religious observance and practice that seem prohibitively intrusive today. Yet today these inconvenient commandments that actually are in the Bible simply ignored by all but the most orthodox, while the same people who ignore what is actually in the Bible claim biblical authority in matters where the Bible is completely silent.
The religious conservatives deny obvious contradictions and they ignore specific commands that actually are in the Bible, and yet they claim Biblical authority on a subject not in the Bible!
So now let us take a look at some of what the Bible actually does say…
The religious conservatives will usually admit a lack of any explicit prohibition of abortion of the Bible, but will cite various specific passages to imply an intent to oppose abortion. Following are a number of specific scriptural references that are often cited in a desperate attempt to try and claim a non-existent Biblical opposition to abortion.
While I have responded to each of these commonly-cited verses, it is important to note one key fact that they all have in common: they discuss birth, death, life, creation, pregnancy and pre-natal formation of the body, any of which would have been a perfect place to simply insert a clear an unambiguous statement opposing abortion (which was known and practiced in Bible times), but not one of these verses makes any reference whatsoever to either the existence of pre-natal ensoulment nor to even the slightest claim that abortion is the teensiest bit wrong.
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, [and] I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” (KJV)
This scripture has traditionally been used by Protestants to show god’s foreknowledge of long future events, and by Mormons to claim a pre-mortal existence of life in heaven prior to birth.
Only recently, since the move to re-legalize abortion beginning in the mid-twentieth century, have very desperate anti-choice extremists reinterpreted this in the context of abortion.
Look at the wording of this scripture, “Before I formed you in the womb….” It is talking about before birth, before viability … before conception! Is that referring to sperms and eggs?
It has no relevance to abortion whatsoever; but if it shows reverence to potential life, it actually applies as much to sperms and eggs as to embryos, since it is prior to conception.
And even if it were a reference to embryonic life (it isn’t), and no one denies the existence of embryonic life with the potential to become a human being and, once again, it would have been a perfect opportunity to condemn abortion, but didn’t.
In context, the passage is near the very beginning of the first chapter of the book of Jeremiah.
Jeremiah is introducing his ministry, and is writing in this first chapter specifically about his own calling as a prophet — that it was known by god before he was born or even conceived.
He was appointed, chosen, selected, ordained — whatever. He is talking about the fact that God knew of his calling long before he existed as a real or potential human.
Prior to Roe v. Wade, most Bible scholars interpreted this as a reference to God’s foreknowledge of the future, and not until recently did the scripture ever enter into the abortion debates.
If anything, this reference to God’s foreknowledge of the future suggests that He should have been able to foresee the modern controversy about abortion and taken the simple step of simply coming right out and said that it was wrong or prohibited, if he had any such intent. But he didn’t.
Psalm 127:3: “Truly children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward.” (KJV) As a parent and grandparent, I certainly agree!
But … my daughter and granddaughters were the results of wanted, intentional pregnancies. Children are a gift, but the Bible writer certainly passed up a particularly ideal verse in which to universalize that concept, didn’t he?
And we should remember the nature of a “gift” — a gift is freely given, and the recipient has the option (read: choice) to accept or reject the gift.
According to Judeo-Christian religious teaching, God gave us many “gifts.” He created everything, and when he was done, he pronounced it “good.” He also created viruses and bacteria and insects and mice. Do you ever feel “put upon” by these “gifts” and use injections or inoculations or bug spray or mousetraps to reject them? Does that mean you are throwing these “gifts” back in God’s face? Please understand the nature of a “gift.” It is not something that is crammed forcibly down the throat of the recipient.
According to the conservative version of Christian tradition embraced by “born again” evangelicals, the greatest “gift” from God was salvation offered by the grace of Jesus. Should Christian believers feel entitled to enact legislation to require by force of law that everyone be required to proclaim their acceptance of Jesus as savior?
Isaiah 49:15: “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.” (KJV)
This scripture isn’t even talking about fetal life. It is referring to the relationship of God to the Children of Israel, using the metaphor of born children, already sucking. The reference to “womb” is where he came from, not where he is or who he is now. Use of this scripture in relevance to abortion is very far from its actual context and, in any case, it would have been a perfect opportunity to condemn abortion, but no such condemnation or prohibition is here.
This verse would actually be better applied to those who claim to be “Christian,” yet defend the lives of unborn potential children while turning away hungry or sick children of disadvantage.
Luke 1:36,41: “ And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.  And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost.” (KJV)
This scripture contains the words of the angel to Mary, informing her of Elisabeth’s pregnancy, already in the sixth month (3rd trimester); Mary’s visit occurs sometime after that — so we know that this is well past quickening and normal fetal movement, and even well past the point where purely elective abortion is allowed or practiced anywhere in the United States.
In this situation, with God’s and others’ foreknowledge, there is an awareness that the two fetuses discussed will, in fact, go beyond “potential” to become actual human beings of unique and special greatness.
In any case, the examples of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ, as two of the most exceptional figures in the Christian message, are hardly the basis for establishing general rules that apply to the routine lives of ordinary people and their daily situations. Special cases rarely serve as good models for general rules.
That said, however, there is certainly nothing here about first trimester pregnancies (when most abortions occur) since both Mary and Elisabeth are already well beyond that point in this passage, or anything that even remotely suggests that a first trimester embryo has a soul, or equal status as a human.
And even if it did, there is still not a single denunciation of abortion in the Bible — again, this would have been a perfect opportunity for comment on the subject of abortion if there was any such intent, and the Bible writers intentionally remain silent.
Exodus 20:13: “Thou shalt not kill.” (KJV)
This scripture in Exodus 20:13 from the Ten Commandments is often translated in more modern versions as “Thou shalt not commit murder.”
One could easily look at the Ten Commandments and view them as something of an “index” to the Law of Moses which follows in the remainder of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy.
Each of the Ten Commandments, from the rituals by which we show love of God and eschew idols or “other gods,” defining taking the Name of the Lord in vain, or how we honor our parents, etc., is defined in more detail elsewhere in the Law.
Considering that the Bible, including other sections of the Law of Moses, also present numerous situations in where killing is not only permitted but commanded, to imply that this summary point prohibits all taking of life is to claim that every other part of the Bible that allows or even requires it creates an internal contradiction.
In the same way, “murder” is carefully defined elsewhere in Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy as to details regarding relationships and situations (but not methods) and including the specific penalty for each class of murder. And none of those who claim a Biblical basis for claiming that abortion is murder are ever able to cite which of the penalties applies to abortion.
Those details specifically omit any reference to abortion, while covering other subjects at an equivalent level of specificity, so it is very dishonest to try and apply it to abortion any more than to self-defense — a woman defending her body against an unwanted “invader” in cases where that new life is not desired.
It is interesting to note that the Bible defines in detail many types of both justifiable (self-defense, executions, wartime) and criminal killing (various types of homicides and relationships to those killed — strangers, neighbors, Israelites, family members, etc.) are discussed, along with any applicable penalties.
Even when the subject of the fetus’ existence or death comes up, it still does not prohibit the well-known practice of abortion. So, obviously it was not an oversight, either in the original pronouncements or the failure of the later prophets, Jesus or the apostles to clarify.
The Bible neither promotes nor discourages abortion. Period. The intentional omission of prohibitions against abortion obviously mean they intended that to be left to personal choice, unless one believes God made a mistake.
Such a simplistic and simple-minded definition of this blanket statement, the commandment “thou shalt not kill,” with no other qualification, could also be cited to prohibit vaccinations that kill millions of viruses or bacteria to save one human (the statement does not specifically mention that it applies only to killing humans); it could prohibit killing shrimp, lobster, fish, birds and mammals to satisfy the lust for artery-clogging animal fat. If one claims that it only means human life, then this blanket statement would prohibit still killing sperms, eggs, or even adult humans in situations of self-defense, in wartime or for executions. However, no one who understands the ten commandments, not even vegetarians, would claim such blanket authority from Exodus 20:13.
Unlike these other subsets to non-excepted principles, killing is defined at a level to which classes are identified — and some are prohibited while others are permitted (killing of animals, killing humans in self defense) and some are mandated (killing of humans in wartime, lawful execution for crimes including many acts such as adultery, accusations of “witchcraft,” worshipping other deities, working on the Sabbath or even talking back to parents).
In other words, at the level of detail definition that would have included abortion, there are both prohibitions and exceptions to the rule, so at this level of specificity the principle is not applicable to non-excepted subsets, unless you include abortion as a subset woman’s self defense of her body, in which case it becomes specifically permitted by the umbrella principle.
The Bible offers various statements about fetal movement after quickening, as well as references to the physical formation of fetal development. It is interesting to note that, if the Bible’s silence on abortion in the Law of Moses had been an oversight (does God make oversights?) these many subsequent references by the prophets, or later clarification of the Law by Jesus or the apostles in their epistles, gave many excellent opportunities to clarify their intent against the well-known practice of abortion, if they had intended scripture to condemn it. Discussions of fetal formation, life and movement would have been a perfect opportunity to condemn abortion — if the Bible or any of the Bible writers ever had any such intent. But they didn’t.
Exodus 21:22: “If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart [from her], and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges [determine].” (KJV)
Note to those who try to construe this passage into somehow opposing the right of a woman (or her husband, in the days before women had many rights) to voluntarily choose to have an abortion.
This scripture has nothing to do with the voluntary, intentional choice of a woman (or her husband). It is about two men struggling together who accidentally cause a woman to have a miscarriage, and the resulting penalties. The point is that this verse is about third-party causation rather than voluntary choice.
Without trying to equate human tissue with property, it is more analogous to someone voluntarily disposing of unwanted property (no problem) as opposed to a third party taking it against the owner’s will (theft).
Even so, notice that the value here is on the woman, not the fetus. The penalties vary, depending on whether or not there is “harm.”
Harm? To whom?
In the passage, there has already been a miscarriage — by definition the fetus is already dead. The variability of “harm” obviously means injury to the woman. But even if there is no harm (injury) they must still have a penalty because, like modern fundamentalists wish to do, they deprived her (or her husband) of choice (in this case, to complete a pregnancy).
This example of a third-party violent attack (or carelessness) on another person has no relevance whatsoever to the situation in which a woman makes a voluntary choice to abort the contents of her own body under medically-supervised conditions.
The fact that this example is even raised regarding something it has no relation to shows the abject desperation of those who want to find something, anything, in the Bible, but who cannot find anything that actually says what they want it to. They need to just accept the Bible as it is, or just write their own the way they want it to be.
Psalm 139:13-16: “ For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.  I will praise thee; for I am fearfully [and] wonderfully made: marvelous [are] thy works; and [that] my soul knoweth right well.  My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, [and] curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.  Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all [my members] were written, [which] in continuance were fashioned, when [as yet there was] none of them.” (KJV)
This scripture describes the purely physical process of bodily formation, a process that everyone knows is occurring in utero. Here is a perfect opportunity for a later prophet to also confirm that a soul is also attached to these purely physical body parts (cell tissues) of “unformed substance,” and clarify any ambiguity in the supposedly “perfect” Law of Moses, yet no such clarification is forthcoming.
The context here is that Psalms 139 is David’s praise to the Lord, written as the lyrics to music. Here David is praising God, not commenting on embryology and, in any case, says nothing about the soul or humanity of the embryo.
Genesis 9:6-7: “ Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.  And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein.” (KJV) [Compare Genesis 1:28]
In this scripture, verse six clearly refers to human life. If the fetus or embryo is not yet a human person, this clearly does not apply. If one wants to be literal, it refers to killing a man. Not even women or children! Certainly it is not referring to mere human genetic tissue — hair, fingernails, other organs, pre-human potentially-developing tissue. The passage does not mention abortion here or anywhere else. Later, in giving the law (Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy) forms of killing that are acceptable and unacceptable are spelled out in detail, with varying punishments and consequences for various forms of forbidden killing. Abortion is never mentioned once. It is neither promoted nor prohibited. The Bible is completely neutral; it is left to individual human choice.
Verse seven is a command to “Be fertile, then, and multiply.” The commandment to “multiply and replenish the earth and subdue it” is a very specific command to a specific group of people, given only twice in the Bible: once to Adam and Eve at the start of the human race (Gen 1:28), and again to Noah and his family when they are the only human survivors after the Great Flood (Gen 9:7) and are tasked with repopulating the Earth.
In both of these specific situations, there is a severe population shortage. Clearly the context is to build up the human species. The command has been obeyed. The earth is filled with people. Many today would argue that we have been not only fruitful, but way beyond that. The earth has been subdued.
Adam and Eve, and later Noah and his family of flood survivors, were told to have “dominion” over the earth. To have “dominion” does not mean to destroy. The same word, “dominion,” is used throughout the Bible to describe a husband’s relationship to his wife and children, but while the Bible is certainly chauvinistic and patriarchal in favoring male authority, it does not equate this dominion with destroying them; rather to conserve and protect that which is precious.
This command was given specifically to Adam and Eve and to Noah and his family when they were the only people on earth. It was very specific and narrowly focused, like other individual commandments telling a specific person to go to this place or perform a specific action.
The command to multiply was never repeated again to any other people (as other commandments that are repeated over and over), nor was it ever included in any generalized codification of commandments, nor was it needed by any other people. And since abortion has been known and practiced by all peoples in all times (whether legal or not), we can look at the great population of the human family and see that abortion has hardly stood in the way of our species being “fruitful.”
Genesis 2:7: “Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (KJV)
This passage describe the creation and ensoulment of Adam, the first human. Here ensoulment clearly is defined in the Bible as occurring after the taking of “first breath.” And please note that the reference equating “ensoulment” and “breath of life” can be found not only in this reference to the special creation of Adam, but throughout both Old and New Testaments, applying to all the rest of us. Clearly the concept of ensoulment beginning with the first breath taken is a general doctrine, not merely specific to the unique case of Adam.
Numbers 5:12-28: And last, but certainly not least, we absolutely need to cite the one passage in the Bible that the anti-choice extremists will never tell you about.
While the Bible never forbids (nor encourages) abortion, there is one passage from the Law of Moses that can be interpreted as authorizing abortion in the case of a married woman who is suspected of committing adultery and therefore might become impregnated by a man other than her husband.
This passage says that if a man suspects his wife to have been unfaithful (and thus subject to becoming pregnant by someone else), he can take her to the priest who will prescribe the “bitter water,” that the Hebrews believed to be an abortifacient produced by combining pennyroyal with black cohosh, for a potion that will magically indicate whether she is innocent or guilty of the offense. Oh, and by the way, this potion was also believed to be something that could terminate any unwanted pregnancy that might also have existed.
Note that this is part of the Law of Moses. This is not a specific instance to a particular individual or couple. This was a general prescription of practice for God’s “Chosen People” — the Jews — from whom the promised Messiah was supposed to appear.
The reference is this passage is to the Hebrew ritual of Sotah, using an ancient abortifacient of “bitter water” described in the King James Version as “ephah of barley meal.”
The ritual is required in cases where a man suspects that his wife may have been impregnated by another man. According to the Hebrews’ superstitions about the ritual of Sotah, if the woman were guilty, any possible bastard fetus would be expelled (aborted), but would remain safe if she were innocent.
While abortion per se is not mentioned here or anywhere else in the Bible, the references to Sotah causing “thy high to rot, and thy belly to swell,” as well as the “curse” to a woman (the loss of a pregnancy or the barrenness of total infertility), may not be clearly understood by many readers in our time, but would be clearly understood in the era in which it was written. There are many non-scriptural accounts showing how herbal abortifacients were employed, using herbal methods such as combining pennyroyal with black cohosh or blue cohosh [more detailed accounts and precise methods can be found by going to any search engine, such as Google and typing in as required key words: “cohosh blue black pennyroyal abortion”].
Historical religious views
Early Hebrew Views
The Talmud, a core foundational interpretive text of Rabbinical Judaism whose earliest passages date back to Old Testament times, has generally been seen as being pro-choice.
The following are exact quotes from p. 238 of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud, translated by Rabbi Israel V. Berman, 1989 edition (published by Random House):
“A fetus is [considered as] the thigh of its mother, i.e., it is like a limb of the mother, and is not a separate entity.”
“A human fetus [is] less than a fully undependent human being.”
“A fetus cannot inherit property until it is born.”
The twelfth century Jewish rabbi Maimonides, one of the premier influences in the development of modern Jewish understanding, taught that these Talmudic passages in conjunction with the Biblical passages in Exodus 21:22, along with the “first breath” concept (as in Adam) [Genesis 2:7] permitted abortion until the baby’s head had emerged. (His work, “The Guide of the Perplexed,” completed in 1190, blended Jewish thought with the teachings of Aristotle. The work was so highly regarded that it was also embraced by other non-Jewish theologians, and was even cited by St. Thomas Aquinas as a seminal source.)
Christian-era Non-Biblical opposition to abortion
In fairness, while there were early works that accepted the right of women (or at least their husbands) to abort unwanted pregnancies, there are also early Christian writings that spoke out in opposition to elective abortion.
Here are some of the early non-biblical references often cited by conservative Christians opposing abortion dating back to the early Christian era:
Sibylline Oracles 2, pg. 339
Didache, Chapter 2 verse 3
Letter to Barnabus from the Codex Sinaiticus from unknown author
Letter to Diognetus [Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus dates to around 130 A.D. — citation Chapter 5:6]
While it is absolutely necessary to acknowledge that some early Christians did oppose abortion, several key points also become equally clear and have to be acknowledged:
1. Those in Biblical times did know about abortion, so the Bible’s silence on abortion cannot be excused on the basis that they didn’t know about it. However, since God supposedly breathed the inspiration for the Bible and he supposedly did know everything, even that should have been no excuse. Since God could see the future, including the future controversy about this issue, the decision not to provide a simple, clear, unambiguous statement proactively preventing that controversy must have been intentional.
2. The passages that opposed abortion were not included in the Bible. While several of these texts were considered for inclusion in the Canon, not one of these opportunities to include a clear statement of Biblical opposition to abortion was accepted. Any effort to have the Bible unambiguously oppose abortion was rejected!
3. Nothing that actually made it into the Bible opposes abortion.
The simple fact is that the Bible is completely silent about abortion. The Bible does not encourage or promote abortion nor does it discourage or oppose abortion in any way. It is completely neutral, therefore leaving that up to each individual person to make their own personal choice.
But believe it or not, I have had people respond by asking, “Well, then, where in the Bible does it say that abortion is permitted?”
Such a comment somehow suggests that everything is forbidden unless God specifically OK’s it. Where in the Bible does it say that it is permitted to use a computer, drive a motorized vehicle, fly in the air, inoculate against disease (and thus kill billions of God’s creations — the viruses and bacteria)?
Oh, these things weren’t invented yet?
You don’t think that God (who knew Jeremiah before the foundation of the world) could foresee the future day?
Whatever the reason, those things are still not specifically authorized. What about things that were known? Where in the Bible does it say it’s OK to climb a tree? Kill a shrimp or pig for dinner (I can show you where it is forbidden)?
The only rational presumption is to conclude that what is not prohibited (either directly or by inclusion in a subset of what is prohibited) is permitted.
Abortion was known and practiced in Bible times. And there are lots of other things that were within the scope of technology for Bible times, but not authorized by the Bible: is surfing allowed by the Bible?
Are competitive team sports authorized in scripture?
Picnics? Climbing trees? Going to the zoo?
The Bible is completely silent about abortion. Neutral. The Bible neither supports, encourages, condemns nor discourages the practice. It is left to individual discretion … or choice. As to whether abortion should be legal, as discussed at length in the accompanying article on legal aspects of reproductive choice, my view takes the balance of the middle ground: the far left (Chinese Communists) want forced abortion mandated by law; the far right (Christian Conservatives) want forced pregnancy mandated by law; the middle ground (Moderate Middle) leaves it up to each individual … just like the Bible.
Once a hyena always a hyena.
Last Edit: 04 Feb 2016 06:17 by Frothy.
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