Does the Bible Actually Condemn Abortion?

The internet is a strange place. A friend of mine forwarded a blog post from a website that I have never been to before, asking if I would consider writing a response to it. The blog had the (all too common nowadays) provocative title “Hey Conservatives, The Bible Says When A Fetus is Alive – And it’s Not What You Think.” The blog goes on to argue essentially that the Bible claims that someone is not truly a person till they draw their first breath. The author obviously does not believe the Bible, nor respect people who do – but he tries to use it to prove a pro-choice perspective.

I sent the author this email below, told him I would post it as a blog, and invited him to respond to it. Here is what I sent:

Hello John,

My name is Marc Sims, I am senior at Moody Bible Institute, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies, and a youth pastor of a small church in Nebraska (quite possibly the “Conservative hellscape” you describe in your bio). I had a friend of mine forward me your blog you wrote on how the Bible doesn’t support the pro-life’s claims that an infant in the womb is a person, and I was hoping I could maybe discuss some of your conclusions with you. I figured since you describe yourself as “an island of reason”, you would be willing to discuss these things with me.
While I am guessing you don’t find the Bible to be authoritative (as I do), you did use the Bible to try to make it appear that the Bible itself says that a person is not a person “until they take their first breath”. I do appreciate your desire to try and familiarize yourself with the Bible and see what the text actually says – that is admirable, and thoughtful. However, I believe the conclusions you reach can only be reached by an ignorance to the entirety of the Bible’s teaching.

A couple points for you to chew on:
  1. Genesis 2:7 is describing the very first human being created: Adam. It is obvious that God’s creation of Adam is unique and not normative. We see this logically in the fact that God doesn’t fashion every human being the way he fashioned Adam – but creates humans through conception. We also see this evident in the text; in just a few verses later God creates Eve, and it says nothing about God breathing into her. Nor their children, Cain or Abel.
  2. The first few chapters of Genesis are written with lots of rich poetic imagery. It would be ridiculous for you to read Poe or Frost and flatten their words that are loaded with rich poetic imagery – you would be skewing their original meaning if you did that.
  3. Point two being said, you need to understand what the “breath of God” is an image of in Hebrew literature. The Hebrew word for “breath” is ru’ah, which is the same word for “spirit”. The image of God “breathing” into Adam is a picture of God endowing his Spirit into Adam. God’s Spirit brings spiritual life – that is the image that the poetry of Genesis is trying to capture; not just physical life.
  4. This is why both your use of Job and Ezekiel don’t help your argument. The story in Ezekiel is a prophecy of God, that one day by the preaching of God’s Word in work with his Spirit, God’s people will be “made alive”. God’s people (as all people naturally are, see Eph. 2:1) are spiritually dead, and by the Spirit, there will be renewal – this all is made clear if you just keep reading the chapter (see Ez. 37:11-14). When Ezekiel says that the nation of Israel are nothing but “dry bones”, he is speaking in a spiritual sense. Obviously, the nation of Israel is very much alive in the physical sense – otherwise having Ezekiel preach to them would be pretty pointless.
  5. The Bible repeatedly teaches over and over again that the Spirit is what brings life (John 6:63; 2 Cor. 3:6). This is what Christians call being “born again” (John 3:3-11). This is the classic Christian doctrine of “regeneration”.
  6. The image of the “wind” or “breath” of the Spirit bring spiritual life is teased out all over the Bible. In John 3:8, Jesus makes a play on words be comparing the “wind” and the “Spirit” in discussing the new birth. In John, Jesus “breathes” on his disciples to give them the Holy Spirit (John 20:22). And we are told that Scripture itself is “breathed out by God” because it is beneficial for Spiritual life (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Secondly, your use of Numbers 5:11-31 has nothing to do with abortions,
  1. This was a test given by God to test if a woman was suspected by her husband of adultery – not a means to have an abortion.
  2. Here is world-renowned Biblical scholar, Dr. D.A. Carson:
    1. Before paternity tests and with no witnesses, the only way to confirm adultery was to ask for divine aid. In a similar case in ancient Babylon, the woman had to throw herself into a river. If she lived, she was innocent (the gods had spared her); if she died, she was guilty. Naturally, many innocent wives died. Our passage poses no such risk for the innocent What the wife drank was no more harmful than what swimmers at the beach swallow (v. 17, 23-24). If there was guilt, it was the Lord (not the water) that would bring harm (v. 21; cf. 1 Kgs 8:31-32). Indeed, this ritual was not primitive magic but an acted-out prayer that asked the Lord to rule directly. This assured accurate justice, and if the wife was innocent, her reputation was cleared before her husband and the public. (D.A. Carson, “NIV Zondervan Study Bible”, p. 256)
  3. The test provided to the ancient Israelite culture was a merciful act of God. Rather than allowing what was common in that culture (like the Babylonian “test” of throwing the suspected wife into the river), God gave an objective means for her acquittal. In other words, a Hebrew husband would not be allowed to divorce his wife merely because he “suspected” she had an affair – which was very rare for ancient middle-eastern cultures. The text says nothing about the woman being pregnant, or the purpose of the test to abort a fetus.
Lastly, you have completely avoided all of the major texts that Christians use to justify their pro-life position,
  1. “So God created man in his own image,in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them,” – Gen. 1:27
    1. All human life is valuable and precious, because all human life bears the image of God. Regardless of age, mental capabilities, race, gender, ethnicity, religion, nationality – all human life is inherently valuable, because all life is made in the image of God. Christian’s do not believe that the image of God is granted after birth, but from the point of conception: this will be illustrated by the rest of these texts which refer to individuals in utero as being persons.
  2. “You shall not murder.” – Exodus 20:13
    1. If an infant in the womb is a person, then abortion constitutes the murder of that child. Note also Gen. 9:5-6 where God forbids man to kill one another because mankind bear the image of God.
  3. And Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren. And the Lord granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived. The children struggled together within her (lit. “in her womb”)…” (Gen. 25:21-22). 
    1. This text obviously recognizes the personhood of the infants (Jacob and Esau) in the womb of Rebekah.
  4. “On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God,” – Ps. 22:10
    1. Before the author of the Psalm (David) was born, he said that he recognizes God. There obviously, again, is recognition of the personhood of an infant in the womb.
  5. “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb” – Ps. 139:13
    1. God is described as fashioning and forming each individual person, in their mother’s womb.
  6. “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,and in sin did my mother conceive me,” – Ps. 51:5
    1. This text is a confession of David, lamenting that he has been a sinner from the very point of conception. Obviously, if a fetus is capable of moral culpability, then it has personhood, and personhood obviously begins at conception.
  7. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations,” – Jer. 1:5
    1. From the very beginning, God calls and elects us to a specific calling and purpose. If this happens before we are formed in the womb, then what is being formed in the womb is most certainly a person, a person with a  specific calling and purpose from God.
  8. “And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” – Luke 1:41-44
    1. John the Baptist, in utero, “leaps for joy” upon his mother hearing Mary approach, imply personhood and agency.
Now, I realize that you probably don’t believe any of that. To you, the Bible probably doesn’t hold a lot of weight in the authority department – I understand that, and I would love for you to reconsider. However, what you cannot do in good conscience is shove your hand into the Bible like a sock puppet, and force it to say something that it absolutely does not say. That is dishonest, and that is not reasonable. If you read through all of this, then you have my appreciation and gratitude. I know it is difficult to listen to someone you don’t agree with, and for that, you have my respect.
If anything I said was confusing, or you would like clarification, please feel free to respond and I’ll answer as soon as my schedule will allow.
Thank you,
Marc Sims

Update: The author of the blog has answered my email and has decided not to respond.

4 thoughts on “Does the Bible Actually Condemn Abortion?

  1. That’s a great response. Thanks for writing. My only response/question would be about Psalm 51:5. I’m not sure it teaches moral culpability for the fetus in the womb. I would think that rather it refers either to something about the mode of conception or, perhaps, the passing along of the sin nature from Adam. Regardless, I DO think it is evidence for life at conception.

    I would add to your verses the one about John the Baptist in Elizabeth’s womb.

    1. “The Psalm does not refer to an adulterous action on the part of his mother, of a sinful condition of birth and generation (Isaki), although the word יִחַם is generally used of the lust of animals, Gen. 30:41; 31:10, it merely refers to descent from sinful parents (Job 14:4), and inborn sinfulness, which with its guilt and its ruin is transmitted from parents to children, by means of natural propagation, so that they are infected with sin from their mother’s womb and from their youth, Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Ps. 58:4.”

      Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Moll, C. B., Briggs, C. A., Forsyth, J., Hammond, J. B., … Conant, T. J. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Psalms (p. 325). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

      1. I agree with you in that I would also add Luke 1:41 to the list of Scripture that defends the personhood of the child in the womb. Thanks for pointing that out.

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