Christian (vs. Biblical?) views on when human life begins?

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Mona Pereth
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16 Jan 2023, 12:50 am

To the Christians here, especially evangelical Christians:

I would be interested in your thoughts on what the Bible has to say about the question of when "human life" begins.

I'm not Christian myself, but it seems to me that the Bible does NOT support the idea that human life, with all the rights thereof, begins at conception.

I would be interested in your comments on the following, from Christians in the Hand of an Angry God (part 4) by Brad Hicks, Dec. 5th, 2004:

Quote:
So what does the Bible say about the intentional termination of a pregnancy? Nothing. That's right, nothing. It never comes up. Even in the holiness code, which takes time out to preach about the evils of mildew, there isn't a single thing about the intentional termination of a pregnancy. [...] Cultures much older than the post-captivity Jews knew how to induce an abortion at will; one must assume that there were Jews who used that knowledge. And yet somehow the Bible never gets around to saying even word one against the practice.

[..]

The only time the Bible actually explicitly talks about the termination of a pregnancy is as a complication in a criminal assault case. "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." (Exodus 21:22) In plain English (and equally plain Hebrew, I'm told), the Bible says that even in cases where the pregnancy is terminated against the woman's will in a criminal assault, it's treated as a property crime, with the penalty being nothing more than a monetary fine negotiated between the assailants and the woman's husband. [...] If God thinks that killing a fetus is murder, why make the penalty so light and trivial?

Answer: because the Bible says when human life begins, when a person first obtains a soul, when that person has rights that must be respected. It doesn't say this outright, but the implication is pretty plain, and it's the only interpretation that's compatible with the rest of the Biblical legal code. Consider the creation of mankind in Genesis chapter 2, and let me specifically call your attention to Genesis chapter 2, verse 7: "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." Pay attention to the sequence there. When God made Adam from the dust of the ground, Adam was no six-week fetus. He wasn't even a newborn. Adam was a full-grown adult human being, and yet he had no soul until he drew his first breath. And that is why, until abortion became a political issue again around a hundred years ago and people went digging in the scriptures to try to find a reason to hate it, it was an assumed fact of religious law that the soul enters the body at birth. Indeed, it was long assumed on this same Biblical basis that the "death rattle," the rattling sound in the throat of many dying people as they exhale for the last time, was the sound of the soul leaving the body, and it was for this very reason that many Christian theologians were deeply disturbed when mouth-to-mouth resuscitation was invented.

So when the 1973 Supreme Court ruling Roe v Wade conferred some limited rights on the fetus six months before birth, and grants it almost any right other than the right to kill the mother starting at approximately earliest possible viability outside the womb around three months before birth, Roe v Wade grants the fetus more rights and more recognition as a person than the Bible does.

The above-quoted article is part of a series, "Christians in the Hand of an Angry God," of which the other parts are here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 5.


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RetroGamer87
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16 Jan 2023, 2:54 am

Mona Pereth wrote:
To the Christians here, especially evangelical Christians:

I would be interested in your thoughts on what the Bible has to say about the question of when "human life" begins.

I'm not Christian myself, but it seems to me that the Bible does NOT support the idea that human life, with all the rights thereof, begins at conception.

I would be interested in your comments on the following, from Christians in the Hand of an Angry God (part 4) by Brad Hicks, Dec. 5th, 2004:

Quote:
So what does the Bible say about the intentional termination of a pregnancy? Nothing. That's right, nothing. It never comes up

This is of course false. The Bible has several things to say about the termination of pregnancy. The trouble is it's usually in favour of it.

Just take the bitter water test that says babies sired outside of marriage can and should be aborted. If modern Christians actually wanted to be biblical they would try to ban abortion for babied concienced inside of marriage.

That's not going to happen because modern Christians follow a modern religion. Every century brings with it a new reinvention of Christianity based on whatever the men controlling it want at that particular time.


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Mona Pereth
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16 Jan 2023, 5:44 am

RetroGamer87 wrote:
The Bible has several things to say about the termination of pregnancy. The trouble is it's usually in favour of it.

Just take the bitter water test that says babies sired outside of marriage can and should be aborted.

That's one possible interpretation of the Ordeal of the bitter water, but not the usual interpretation. The usual interpretation is that it's just an old-fashioned trial by ordeal, based on the purely superstitious belief that an innocent person will emerge from the ordeal unscathed. Fortunately, no one in the modern Western world (except maybe snake handlers) advocates trials by ordeal.

Where else do you say that the Bible is "in favor of" abortion?

Be that as it may: The Bible clearly does NOT prohibit abortion and does NOT claim that human life, with all the rights thereof, begins at conception.


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Last edited by Mona Pereth on 16 Jan 2023, 5:47 am, edited 1 time in total.

kitesandtrainsandcats
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16 Jan 2023, 5:46 am

Mona Pereth wrote:
I would be interested in your comments on the following, from Christians in the Hand of an Angry God (part 4) by Brad Hicks, Dec. 5th, 2004:


It is half past 4am and I'm having some serious painsomnia so I'll just offer a reference to the commentary of several other people,
https://biblehub.com/commentaries/exodus/21-22.htm


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Mona Pereth
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16 Jan 2023, 6:14 am

kitesandtrainsandcats wrote:
It is half past 4am and I'm having some serious painsomnia so I'll just offer a reference to the commentary of several other people,
https://biblehub.com/commentaries/exodus/21-22.htm

I've never heard of most of these commentators.

Some of the commentaries don't make sense. For example, some of them seem to assume there's such a thing as a non-fatal (to the fetus) miscarriage, which as far as I know does not exist, or at least is very rare if it exists at all.

If a woman has a miscarriage due to being injured as the result of trying to protect her husband in a physical fight, that's extremely unlikely to result in the birth of a living baby!

But some of the commentators bring up this highly unlikely possibility in order to claim that "and yet no mischief follow" refers to this exceedingly rare (if indeed it has ever existed at all) case. A more reasonable interpretation of "and yet no mischief follow" is that it just means the woman herself has not been killed or severely maimed. And indeed some of the commentators use this more reasonable interpretation.


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magz
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16 Jan 2023, 6:36 am

^ That looks more like a law adressing damaging property of the husband of the woman...

Quote:
Benson Commentary
Exodus 21:22-23. And yet no mischief follow — That is, if the woman die not, as appears from the next verse, or the child was not formed and alive in the womb; he shall be surely punished — The woman’s husband shall impose the fine, and if it be unreasonable, the judges shall have a power to moderate it. If any mischief follow — If the woman die, or if the child was formed and alive, the offender was to be punished with death. Thou shalt give life for life — By the judgment of the magistrate.
That actually would suggest that a child became "formed and alive" at some later stage of development.

Quote:
Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament
(...)
Note: The words ילדיה ויצאוּ are rendered by the lxx καὶ ἐξέλθη τὸ παιδίον αὐτῆς μὴ ἐξεικονισμένον and the corresponding clause יהיה אסון ואם by ἐὰν δὲ ἐξεικονισμένον ᾖ; consequently the translators have understood the words as meaning that the fruit, the premature birth of which was caused by the blow, if not yet developed into a human form, was not to be regarded as in any sense a human being, so that the giver of the blow was only required to pay a pecuniary compensation, - as Philo expresses it, "on account of the injury done to the woman, and because he prevented nature, which forms and shapes a man into the most beautiful being, from bringing him forth alive." But the arbitrary character of this explanation is apparent at once; for ילד only denotes a child, as a fully developed human being, and not the fruit of the womb before it has assumed a human form. In a manner no less arbitrary אסון has been rendered by Onkelos and the Rabbins מותא, death, and the clause is made to refer to the death of the mother alone, in opposition to the penal sentence in Exodus 21:23, Exodus 21:24, which not only demands life for life, but eye for eye, etc., and therefore presupposes not death alone, but injury done to particular members. The omission of להּ, also, apparently renders it impracticable to refer the words to injury done to the woman alone.

So, at least within Bibilical lexicon, there is some differentiation between "fruit of the womb" and "unborn baby" - probably based on practical observations of the people of the time. An early pregnancy miscarriage looks quite different from giving a premature birth.

Honestly, I'm surprised myself that such distinction was present in the Biblical Hebrew.


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kitesandtrainsandcats
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17 Jan 2023, 4:07 am

Mona Pereth wrote:
I've never heard of most of these commentators.


I expect those would be the ones from the 1700s and 1800s.

There seems at times to be an attitude in the Anglo-saxon western world that nobody applied any intellect, or even had enough intellect available to apply, to Bible study and analysis before the 20th century.

But the reality is that there are even 1st century, 4th century, and such, commentaries which have survived.


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Dengashinobi
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17 Jan 2023, 4:54 am

Im curious to hear from those who are pro-choise, at what point do you think it is ok to terminate the pregnancy?



magz
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17 Jan 2023, 6:02 am

Dengashinobi wrote:
Im curious to hear from those who are pro-choise, at what point do you think it is ok to terminate the pregnancy?
I might be wrong but I believe they approach it from the opposite angle:
At what point the life of the child starts to outweight the woman's health and bodily autonomy?

Approaching a problem from two opposite sides does not need to result in endless confrontations. It often enables us to see a bigger, fuller picture.


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klanka
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17 Jan 2023, 11:35 am

you could interpret it in different ways.
the breath of life could be within a foetus, we don't know for sure about that. Looking at any film footage of an unborn baby , they do look alive.



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17 Jan 2023, 11:54 am

magz wrote:
Dengashinobi wrote:

Approaching a problem from two opposite sides does not need to result in endless confrontations. It often enables us to see a bigger, fuller picture.


I agree but unfortunately I don't see anyone trying to engage in dialogue. I only see people that have dug their trenches at the opposite sides of the debate.



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17 Jan 2023, 12:06 pm

Dengashinobi wrote:
magz wrote:
Dengashinobi wrote:
Approaching a problem from two opposite sides does not need to result in endless confrontations. It often enables us to see a bigger, fuller picture.
I agree but unfortunately I don't see anyone trying to engage in dialogue. I only see people that have dug their trenches at the opposite sides of the debate.

I miss a civil dialogue on this topic, too.
Where I live, it's illegal to abort even a lethally damaged fetus that is known to be unable to survive birth.
That's not pro-life, that's pointless cruelty.


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17 Jan 2023, 3:36 pm

magz wrote:
I miss a civil dialogue on this topic, too. Where I live, it's illegal to abort even a lethally damaged fetus that is known to be unable to survive birth. That's not pro-life, that's pointless cruelty.


A couple things are brought in from memory by that.

I have seen and heard people say, and sometimes in consecutive sentences, that aborting a healthy fetus/baby because it would be a burden is the woman's right but aborting one you know will have Downs or autism or other defects is the same as Aryan eugenics.

Then there was the time militant activists told me to my face that only birthing women have the right to have an opinion about abortion and that even being an unplanned pregnancy who could have been aborted you have no right to have any thoughts about abortion.
Oh?
Really?
Isn't that fascinating.


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17 Jan 2023, 3:46 pm

Now that the pizza for late lunch is done I'll finally give personal input on the when does human life begin question.
and it might or might not be directly or indirectly influenced by my being a Christian and by Bible content.

In order for a thing to begin it has to arise from a place of not that thing.
Such as, in order for a storm to begin it has to arise from a place of not storming.
In order for life to begin it has to arise from a place of not life, not alive, dead.
So, at what point during the process are the sperm and/or ovum and/or fetus dead?

Also, do the sperm from a human and the ovum from a human combine to mystically and magically create a thing which is not human and then at some point along the way it mystically and magically transforms in to being human again?


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17 Jan 2023, 3:54 pm

Just decided that yes, I will include this personal experience;

And then there were the militant abortion activists who told me to my face that with having autism and 3 minor birth defects I should have been aborted since I can't add as much to society as a fully healthy baby would grow up to do.

The personal treatment I have several times received from some abortion activists has led me to condemn all abortion activists because abortion supporters want me dead, me, me specifically, me personally.


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Last edited by kitesandtrainsandcats on 17 Jan 2023, 3:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Dengashinobi
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17 Jan 2023, 3:55 pm

kitesandtrainsandcats wrote:
Now that the pizza for late lunch is done I'll finally give personal input on the when does human life begin question.
and it might or might not be directly or indirectly influenced by my being a Christian and by Bible content.

In order for a thing to begin it has to arise from a place of not that thing.
Such as, in order for a storm to begin it has to arise from a place of not storming.
In order for life to begin it has to arise from a place of not life, not alive, dead.
So, at what point during the process are the sperm and/or ovum and/or fetus dead?

Also, do the sperm from a human and the ovum from a human combine to mystically and magically create a thing which is not human and then at some point along the way it mystically and magically transforms in to being human again?


Interesting insight. I'd never thought of this before in this way.