The ‘biblical view’ that’s younger than the Happy Meal

In 1979, McDonald’s introduced the Happy Meal.

Sometime after that, it was decided that the Bible teaches that human life begins at conception.

Ask any American evangelical, today, what the Bible says about abortion and they will insist that this is what it says. (Many don’t actually believe this, but they know it is the only answer that won’t get them in trouble.) They’ll be a little fuzzy on where, exactly, the Bible says this, but they’ll insist that it does.

That’s new. If you had asked American evangelicals that same question the year I was born you would not have gotten the same answer.

That year, Christianity Today — edited by Harold Lindsell, champion of “inerrancy” and author of The Battle for the Bible — published a special issue devoted to the topics of contraception and abortion. That issue included many articles that today would get their authors, editors — probably even their readers — fired from almost any evangelical institution. For example, one article by a professor from Dallas Theological Seminary criticized the Roman Catholic position on abortion as unbiblical. Jonathan Dudley quotes from the article in his book Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics. Keep in mind that this is from a conservative evangelical seminary professor, writing in Billy Graham’s magazine for editor Harold Lindsell:

God does not regard the fetus as a soul, no matter how far gestation has progressed. The Law plainly exacts: “If a man kills any human life he will be put to death” (Lev. 24:17). But according to Exodus 21:22-24, the destruction of the fetus is not a capital offense. … Clearly, then, in contrast to the mother, the fetus is not reckoned as a soul.

Christianity Today would not publish that article in 2012. They might not even let you write that in comments on their website. If you applied for a job in 2012 with Christianity Today or Dallas Theological Seminary and they found out that you had written something like that, ever, you would not be hired.

At some point between 1968 and 2012, the Bible began to say something different. That’s interesting.

Even more interesting is how thoroughly the record has been rewritten. We have always been at war with Eastasia.

Click over to Dr. Norman L. Geisler’s website and you’ll find all the hallmarks of a respected figure in the evangelical establishment. You’ll see that Geisler has taught at Trinity Evangelical Seminary, Dallas Seminary and Southern Evangelical Seminary. You’ll see a promotion for his newest book, Defending Inerrancy, with recommendations from such evangelical stalwarts as Al Mohler and J.I. Packer, as well as a link to an online store offering some of the other dozens of books written by Geisler. And you’ll see a big promo for the anti-abortion movie October Baby, because Geisler is, of course, anti-abortion, just like Mohler and Packer and every other respected figure in the evangelical establishment is and, of course, must be.

But back in the day, Dudley notes, Geisler “argued for the permissibility of abortion in a 1971 book, stating ‘The embryo is not fully human — it is an undeveloped person.’” That was in Ethics: Alternatives and Issues, published by Zondervan. It’s still in print, kind of, as Christian Ethics: Contemporary Issues and Options. And now it says something different. Now it’s unambiguously anti-abortion.

I don’t mean to pick on Geisler. He’s no different from Packer or Graham or any other leading evangelical figure who’s been around as long as those guys have. They all now believe that the Bible teaches that life begins at conception. They believe this absolutely, unambiguously, firmly, resolutely and loudly. That’s what they believed 10 years ago, and that’s what they believed 20 years ago.

But it wasn’t what they believed 30 years ago. Thirty years ago they all believed quite the opposite.

Again, that’s interesting.

I heartily recommend Dudley’s book for his discussion of this switch and the main figures who brought it about — Francis Schaeffer, Jerry Falwell, Richard Viguerie, etc. But here I just want to quote one section about the strangeness of this 180-degree turn, and how it caught many evangelicals off-guard:

By the mid-1980s, the evangelical right was so successful with this strategy that the popular evangelical community would no longer tolerate any alternative position. Hence, the outrage over a book titled Brave New People published by InterVarsity Press in 1984. In addition to discussing a number of new biotechnologies, including genetic engineering and in vitro fertilization, the author, an evangelical professor living in New Zealand, also devoted a chapter to abortion. His position was similar to that of most evangelicals 15 years prior. Although he did not believe the fetus was a full-fledged person from conception, he did believe that because it was a potential person, it should be treated with respect. Abortion was only permissible to protect the health and well-being of the mother, to preclude a severely deformed child, and in a few other hard cases, such as rape and incest.

Although this would have been an unremarkable book in 1970, the popular evangelical community was outraged. Evangelical magazines and popular leaders across the country decried the book and its author, and evangelicals picketed outside the publisher’s office and urged booksellers to boycott the publisher. One writer called it a “monstrous book.” … The popular response to the book — despite its endorsements from Carl F.H. Henry, the first editor of Christianity Today, and Lew Smedes, an evangelical professor of ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary — was so overwhelmingly hostile that the book became the first ever withdrawn by InterVarsity Press over the course of nearly half a century in business.

The book was republished a year later by Eerdmans Press. In a preface, the author noted, “The heresy of which I appear to be guilty is that I cannot state categorically that human/personal life commences at day one of gestation. This, it seems, is being made a basic affirmation of evangelicalism, from which there can be no deviation. … No longer is it sufficient to hold classic evangelical affirmations on the nature of biblical revelation, the person and work of Christ, or justification by faith alone. In order to be labeled an evangelical, it is now essential to hold a particular view of the status of the embryo and fetus.”

The poor folks at InterVarsity Press, Carl Henry, Lewis Smedes and everyone else who was surprised by the totality of this reversal, by its suddenness and the vehemence with which it came to be an “essential” and “basic affirmation of evangelicalism” quickly got on board with the new rules.

By the time of the 1988 elections, no one any longer spoke sarcastically of “the heresy” of failing to “state categorically that human/personal life commences at day one of gestation.” By that time, it was simply viewed as an actual heresy. By the time of the 1988 elections, no one was aghast that a strict anti-abortion position was viewed as of equal — or greater — importance than one’s views of biblical revelation or the work of Christ. That was just a given.

By the time of the 1988 elections, everyone in American evangelicalism was wholly opposed to legal abortion and everyone in American evangelicalism was pretending that this had always been the case.

We have always been at war with Eastasia. Everyone knows that.

 

  • Guest1 aka Anne Lewis

    I think all of you assume that I am advocating for absolutely no abortion from the moment of conception.   Which I haven’t.  The original post was about the change in understanding how the evangelical world came to the understanding life begins at conception.

    Throughout my participation in this thread I pointed out that the cell that is formed at the moment of conception is human.  The layered meaning that’s been added to it is a bit on the ridiculous side. 

    So. To summarize.   Is the cell formed at the moment of conception human? Although I am not a PhD in biogenetics, the answer is yes. Is the cell a person? That’s a different question and I have never stated otherwise.  Is it a banana? No.  Is it cancer?  Well, Ellie would say that the determing factor is whether or not the pregnancy was wanted but I believe most medical professionals would say no.

    I mean, is the embryo NOT human?  Is it some other species or matter?  I am not asking you to change your abortion stance but I wonder why can’t those in favor of abortion admit the embryo is human.  Not potentially human but human.  Even using the word “human” as an adjective rather than a noun is way too threatening for some people I guess.

     So, in the interest of full disclosue, I will go on record saying that I believe first trimester abortions should be allowable in certain conditions – probably very much the evangelical position in the 1970′s even of human cells.

    Bet you didn’t see that coming.

  • Anonymous

    I mean, is the embryo NOT human?  Is it some other species or matter?  I am not asking you to change your abortion stance but I wonder why can’t those in favor of abortion admit the embryo is human.  Not potentially human but human.  Even using the word “human” as an adjective rather than a noun is way too threatening for some people I guess.

    So you’ve been trolling us. Lovely.

    To respond: “Human” as a noun is very different from “human” as an adjective. Unless you’re reading _Dune_, “human” is typically used as synonymous to “person”. So, no, the cell is not a human. Is it a human cell — i.e. of the species Homo sapiens? Yes. But the cell is not “human life”. (As I said above, “life” is about theology, not about science.)

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

     So, in the interest of full disclosue, I will go on record saying that I believe first trimester abortions should be allowable in certain conditions – probably very much the evangelical position in the 1970′s even of human cells.

    *GASP*

    Such a revolutionary, brave stance.

    I believe in as broad access to abortion as possible; do you really think women who are ~30 weeks pregnant get abortions just because they got bored one day?

    The way anti-abortion people talk they seem to think pregnant women are excessively cavalier about their pregnancies when a wide body of evidence would seem to indicate they take them very seriously, by and large.

    It’s like how the anti-single-payer folks carry through to the absurd conclusion that since health care is effectively free to the user, that Canadians must perforce go around breaking their legs all the time, or that sick people will get sick just because it’s free to see a doctor.

  • P J Evans

     What about lab animals genetically engineered to contain (and, obviously produce) human DNA? Using your argument, that makes them human life, too.

    Biology fail!

  • Dan Audy

    So. To summarize.   Is the cell formed at the moment of conception
    human? Although I am not a PhD in biogenetics, the answer is yes. Is the
    cell a person? That’s a different question and I have never stated
    otherwise.  Is it a banana? No.  Is it cancer?  Well, Ellie would say
    that the determing factor is whether or not the pregnancy was wanted but
    I believe most medical professionals would say no.

    I mean, is the embryo NOT human?  Is it some other species or
    matter?  I am not asking you to change your abortion stance but I wonder
    why can’t those in favor of abortion admit the embryo is human.  Not
    potentially human but human.  Even using the word “human” as an
    adjective rather than a noun is way too threatening for some people I
    guess.

    That is simply nonsense.  You are making semantic arguments by using words with generally accepted meanings to describe an alternate meaning then, without bothering to mention it, switch back to the general meaning and use that as justification for your argument.  It is simply dishonest to conflate words that way.

    A unique genetic sequence is not the hallmark of humanity nor even relevant to the question of whether abortion should be legal let alone the discussion of whether it is moral.  Personhood, autonomy, and (if religiously inclined) ensoulment are the relevant topics.  Talking about genetics makes you sound like you recognize your argument is weak and you think that by throwing around a bunch of sciency words (without understanding what they mean) we will have to treat you seriously.

    Potential is not actualization – an acorn is not an oak, a stem cell is not an arm, a cloud is not a summer rain, an embryo is not a human.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    > why can’t those in favor of abortion admit the embryo is human. [..] Even using the word “human” as an adjective rather than a noun is way too threatening for some people I guess.

    (shrug) Sure, it’s a human embryo, rather than a cat embryo or a mollusk embryo. And, as you imply, it’s not a human.

    Glad we can agree on that.

    Next question?

  • Jennifer A. Nolan

    Too bad! I still think anti-abortionists are entitled to their position — but think of the Christian moral ammunition they might have saved, and the suffering they might have averted, if they hadn’t gone all fanatical about it. To be precise they might have brought something to bear on the overpopulation, ecological destruction, systematic disempowerment, and corporate piracy and fleecing that have done so much more to degrade and cheapen human life than some foolish teenagers looking for abortions. And they might have developed and exercised more respect for the positions many of these girls find themselves in.

  • Chris

    “Unique human DNA is present all over the place, including in things we usually don’t consider living. (Like dead bodies, for example. It’s not like all that DNA degrades instantly upon brain death or heart cessation or something.)”
    Which is why I’m all about the protection of hotel bedspreads.  Do you know how much human DNA those things have on (and in) them?  If that’s the standard, they’re at least as human as a fetus. : )

  • Brett Glass

    No vandalism was committed in the making of this image: http://www.brettglass.com/churchsign.jpg

  • Trey

    I’m not quite sure what Bible you are quoting from, but Exodus 21:22-24 reads: “If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.” I’m a Christian who is for limited choice. I don’t think abortion should be used as birth control. But your quote of the Bible is false and borderline propaganda.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Ahem.
    Bible in Basic English

    If men, while fighting, do damage to a woman with child, causing the loss of the child, but no other evil comes to her, the man will have to make payment up to the amount fixed by her husband, in agreement with the decision of the judges.

    Complete Jewish Bible

    “If people are fighting with each other and happen to hurt a pregnant woman so badly that her unborn child dies, then, even if no other harm follows, he must be fined. He must pay the amount set by the woman’s husband and confirmed by judges.

    Douay-Rheims

    If men quarrel, and one strike a woman with child and she miscarry indeed, but live herself: he shall be answerable for so much damage as the woman’s husband shall require, and as arbiters shall award.

    Good News Translation

    “If some men are fighting and hurt a pregnant woman so that she loses her child, but she is not injured in any other way, the one who hurt her is to be fined whatever amount the woman’s husband demands, subject to the approval of the judges.

    New Revised Standard

    When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no further harm follows, the one responsible shall be fined what the woman’s husband demands, paying as much as the judges determine.

    Revised Standard Version

    “When men strive together, and hurt a woman with child, so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no harm follows, the one who hurt her shall be fined, according as the woman’s husband shall lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.

    The Message

    “When there’s a fight and in the fight a pregnant woman is hit so that she miscarries but is not otherwise hurt, the one responsible has to pay whatever the husband demands in compensation.

    World English Bible

    “If men fight and hurt a pregnant woman so that she gives birth prematurely, and yet no harm follows, he shall be surely fined as much as the woman’s husband demands and the judges allow.

    Wycliffe

    If men chide, and a man smiteth a woman with child, and soothly he maketh the child dead-born, but the woman liveth over that smiting, he shall be subject to the harm (he shall be subject to a fine), as much as the woman’s husband asketh (for), and as the judges deem (appropriate).

    The American Standard Version, King James Version, New Century Version, The Webster Bible, Third Millennium Bible and Young’s Literal Translation all use ambiguous language, usually “her fruit depart”. Darby uses “so that she be delivered”

    The text you quote is from Today’s New International Version, which was first published in 2005. Kudos for choosing a translation which uses ungendered language, but (a) the compilers have already acknowledged shortcomings in this translation and plan to discontinue it in favor of a new translation started in 2009, and (b) In choosing a translation to prove the primacy  of your interpretation, you’ve cited a bible that’s younger than the movie “Super-Size Me”.

    There are, of course, plenty of translations that specifically say “give birth prematurely”. Of the ten I found, the average date of first publication was 1992 and the median was 1996. That makes them more recent than the McDonalds Coffee Case and the Arch Deluxe, respectively.

    The median publication date of the examples which unambiguously describe miscarriage is 1976 — older than the Happy Meal; a bit younger than the drive-through. The average publication date of those bibles is 1873.  For the record, the McDonald family immigrated to the United States in 1877.

  • http://timothy.green.name/ Timothy (TRiG)

    my intuition is happy to say that Chang and Eng were two people

    Interestingly, I am currently reading a book called One of Us: Conjoined twins and the future of normal. It is absolutely fascinating.

    TRiG.

  • guest

    That is his father, Zechariah, speaking. Please read verses in context!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ncoughran Naomi Wayne Coughran

    The Scripture mentioned in the article, Exodus 21:22 says “If men fight and hit a pregnant woman and her child is born prematurely, but there is no serious injury, he will surely be punished in accordance with what the woman’s husband demands of him, and he will pay what the court decides.” 

    About this passage, the New English Translation footnote states: “This line has occasioned a good deal of discussion. It may indicate that the child was killed, as in a miscarriage; or it may mean that there was a premature birth. The latter view is taken here because of the way the whole section is written: (1) “her children come out” reflects a birth and not the loss of children, (2) there is no serious damage, and (3) payment is to be set for any remuneration. The word אָסוֹן (’ason) is translated “serious damage.” The word was taken in Mekilta to mean “death.” U. Cassuto says the point of the phrase is that neither the woman or the children that are born die (Exodus, 275).”

    And regarding Exodus 21:23-24 which states “But if there is serious injury, then you will give a life for a life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,  burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise,” there is an additional footnote: “The text now introduces the Lex Talionis with cases that were not likely to have applied to the situation of the pregnant woman.”

    So it seems as though this passage likely does not speak of the “destruction of the fetus” as was stated in the article, but more likely of premature birth.  Therefore, it is no surprise that capital punishment is not mentioned in this passage because death is not the issue.  

    This so-called pre-Happy Meal interpretation is based on poor hermeneutics and does not accurately represent the biblical text.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Jesus fucking Christ do you people never read the comment threads or related posts?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CEY2XQNQHJD6QBSYKGYYQYDCKQ S

    Yeah, because god knows you can’t have a biblical text that actually contradicts your ingrained insistence that your view is RIGHT and everyone else’s is WRONG, even other Christians.  No, not possible.  There is only ONE way to interpret the bible and that is YOUR way.  Nobody else can possibly know what they’re talking about, even people who’ve spent their whole lives studying that book.  Nope, YOU are the authority and YOUR WORD goes. 

    I’m sure  Jesus would be happy to know his mantle of divine authority has landed on such massively capable shoulders.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CEY2XQNQHJD6QBSYKGYYQYDCKQ S

    It is interesting that by and large, the newer the translation, the closer it heaves to modern right-wing thinking, isn’t it?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CEY2XQNQHJD6QBSYKGYYQYDCKQ S

    When confronted by a guy who, frothing over some offense or other, had yelled, “I’m entitled to my opinion!”, Harlan Ellison retorted, “NO, sir.  You’re entitled to an INFORMED opinion.” 

    Just because someone believes an erroneous, unsubstantiated idea doesn’t make their opinion valid. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CEY2XQNQHJD6QBSYKGYYQYDCKQ S

     Really.  I’ve never met any pro-choice person who had a problem with the word “human”.  What, does this person think we’re referring to starfish embryos?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CEY2XQNQHJD6QBSYKGYYQYDCKQ S

    I’m wondering why hardly anyone here seems to know how to use the reply button.  These threads are almost impossible to figure out.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ncoughran Naomi Wayne Coughran

    You’re not angry, are you?

  • None

    You are missing the scientific side of the story here – it was in the 1950s-60s that many biologists started writing about life beginning at conception or implantation. You can read all about that on Wikipedia – not all scientists believe that, but a significant number do still (“Many members of the medical community accept fertilization as the point at which life begins.”). Those publications and studies began working their way into the church in the late 1960-1970s.  Many Christians get the source of this information wrong – they attribute it to the Bible instead of Science. But its not like they are making up some random belief to follow out of thin air.

  • None

    Wikipedia even points out that some Christians in the early Church did believe that life began at conception. Also the ancient Greeks and Hindus among others. So this is not a new belief – it is just not universal for everyone (
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beginning_of_human_life#Philosophical_and_religious_perspectives)

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    “Many members of the medical community accept fertilization as the point at which life begins.”

    Pace wikipedia, I would be very surprised indeed if any members of the medical  community believed that an unfertilized egg was any less alive than a fertilized egg.

    The point at which life began was a very, very long time ago. Ever since then, we’ve just been embroidering the details.

  • Simon Hall

     

    This is a fascinating conversation – you can blame Brian McLaren for bringing new traffic to it. But it’s a shame to see everyone returning to their bunkers instead of discussing the topic. Comparing a fertilized human egg to a seed stuck in my teeth doesn’t feel right. It feels as if what we are engaged with here is talking down the fetus so we can dispose of it without guilt.

    A (very) few (brave) feminist writers have commented that the language that pro-choicers use to describe the fetus bares comparison with traditional patriarchal descriptions of women: sub-human, of less value, the possession of another to be disposed of as the owner sees fit. It’s not just religious conservatives that back themselves into corners and take on illogical fundamentalist positions: ask a feminist about sex-selective abortions and you soon discover what a ‘fundamental’ the ‘right’ to abortion is. Were feminists always so rigid? Probably not.

    It’s the weirdest thing that conservatives love killing all sorts of people, but not babies, and that liberals lean the other way, but can’t we make our own rules? Surely every Christian is ‘pro-life’? Which should probably make us vegetarian and at the least very reluctant to use lethal force – in war, medical intervention or the penal system.Can we not agree that an abortion is never good in itself? Some of us may think that it is the least bad thing in a given situation, but that’s not saying it’s good.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Can we not agree that an abortion is never good in itself?

    When the baby’s gonna be born without a brain, abortion is a good thing. Can we not agree that unwanted pregnancy is never a good thing, and therefore contraception, sex ed, etc?

  • mark

    Just would like to point out, that the ex 21:12-14 shows that a person who killed someone else accidentally was not to be put to death.  Only premeditated MURDER was punished capitally. You took 2 verses and came up with a view point that doesn’t line up with the whole Bible

  • Mattflannagan

    Serious question to the author, do you maintain there that Mc Donalds happy meals existed when Calvin wrote his commentary on the Pentateuch?  I simple yes or no answer will do. Also do you maintain the septuagint was translated around the same time as Mc Donalds came out with happy meals? 

  • P J Evans

     those aren’t serious questions.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Have spambots actually begun passing Turing Tests? O.o

  • Mattflannagan

    P J actually they are serious questions.   If the author wants to maintain that the “biblical position” he mentions is younger than the happy meal, he has to face those questions.  

    I repeat my question, is it the authors position that the LXX  and Calvins commentaries are younger than happy meals at Mc Donalds? 

    Or does the author want to retract his statement about the recentness of the interpretation in question.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Given that the septuagint says that causing an abortion is not murder, I don;’t see how his claim about the recency of  the view that abortion is murder implies that the happy meal is older than the LXX.  

    You should have a look at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2012/03/22/mischief-follows-in-partisan-bible-translations/ wherein Fred addresses exactly the claim you’re trying to make. Sorry, but you’re barking up the wrong tree. 

  • Mattflannagan

    Actually
    the LXX does translate the passage as referring to abortion:

     

    “If two men fight and strike a
    pregnant woman, and her unformed embryo departs, he shall be fined; according
    as the woman’s husband lays upon (him) he shall give according to what is
    thought fit. But if it be formed, he shall give a life for a life.  Exodus 21:22-25 LXX.

     

    According to what we know from the period a formed embryo was
    an embryo from 40 days onwards. So you are quite mistaken.

     

    Similarly Philo of Alexandria
    interpreted the passage this way in the 1st century

     

    In The Special Laws, Philo writes:

     

    “But if any one has a contest with a
    woman who is pregnant, and strike her a blow on her belly, and she miscarry, if
    the child which was conceived within her is still unfashioned and unformed, he
    shall be punished by a fine, both for the assault which he committed and also
    because he has prevented nature, who was fashioning and preparing that most
    excellent of all creatures, a human being, from bringing him into existence.
    But if the child which was conceived had assumed a distinct shape … in all
    its parts, having received all its proper connective and distinctive qualities,
    he shall die; … for such a creature as that is a man, whom he has slain while
    still in the workshop of nature, who had not thought it as yet a proper time to
    produce him to the light, but had kept him like a statue lying in a sculptor’s
    workshop, requiring nothing more than to be released and sent out into the
    world.”

    Philo represents mainstream opinion of Alexandrian Judaism, Jews of the diaspora who lived outside of Palestine

     

    This was pretty much the consensus
    way of interpreting Exodus 21:25-26 for the church fathers and the medieval
    period. I can provide numerous other primary source citations if you wish.  

     

    Moreover, I note you ignored my
    reference to Calvin here is his commentary on the Hebrew version of the text

     

    This passage at first sight is
    ambiguous, for if the word death only applies to the pregnant woman, it would
    not have been a capital crime to put an end to the foetus, which would be a
    great absurdity; for the foetus, though enclosed in the womb of its mother, is
    already a human being, (homo,) and it is almost a monstrous crime to rob it of
    the life which it has not yet begun to enjoy. If it seems more horrible to kill
    a man in his own house than in a field, because a man’s house is his place of
    most secure refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy a
    foetus in the womb before it has come to light. On these grounds I am led to
    conclude, without hesitation, that the words, “if death should
    follow,” must be applied to the foetus as well as to the mother. Besides,
    it would be by no means reasonable that a father should sell for a set sum the
    life of his son or daughter. Wherefore this, in my opinion, is the meaning of
    the law, that it would be a crime punishable with death, not only when the
    mother died from the effects of the abortion, but also if the infant should be
    killed; whether it should die from the wound abortively, or soon after its
    birth. ( John Calvin, Harmony of the Law, Vol. 3
    http://www.ccel.org/c/calvin/comment3/comm_vol05/htm/TOC.htm.)

     

    So I take
    it your position was that the LXX translators, Philo, and Calvin ate happy
    meals? 

    Sorry I am not barking up the wrong tree. You are.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Um. Except that by your own admission

    1. The passage refers to misscarriage, not premature birth
    2. Since it definately refers to miscariage, and the PENALTY FOR IT IS EXPLICITLY DIFFERENT FROM THE PENALTY FOR MURDER, then abortion CANNOT BE MURDER.
    3. Forcing a woman to have an abortion against her will is counted as a crime against the man to whom the woman “belongs”. Therefore the aborted fetus IS NOT A PERSON.

    Which is the position that Fred says is the OLDER, PRE-HAPPY MEAL position.

    You’re terribly confused. You seem tothink that proof of exactly what Fred says is the older version (abortion is not murder and a fetus is not a person) implies that the newer version (abortion is murder and a fetus is a person) is actually old.

  • Mattflannagan

    Sorry
    the confusion is yours

    First,
    you ignore the citation from Calvin where he interprets the passage in the 16th
    century the way the author says has only been adopted since Mcdonalds
    began. 

    This passage at first sight is
    ambiguous, for if the word death only applies to the pregnant woman, it would
    not have been a capital crime to put an end to the foetus, which would be a great absurdity; for the foetus, though enclosed
    in the womb of its mother, is already a human being, (homo,) and it is
    almost a monstrous crime to rob it of the life which it has not yet
    begun to enjoy. If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house
    than in a field, because a man’s house is his place of most secure
    refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy a foetus
    in the womb before it has come to light. On these grounds I am led to conclude,
    without hesitation, that the words, “if death should follow,”
    must be applied to the foetus as well as to the mother. Besides, it
    would be by no means reasonable that a father should sell for a set sum the
    life of his son or daughter. Wherefore this, in my opinion, is the meaning of
    the law, that it would be a crime punishable with death, not only when the mother died from the effects of the abortion, but
    also if the infant should be killed; whether it should die from the
    wound abortively, or soon after its birth. ( John Calvin, Harmony of the Law, Vol. 3)

    Calvin explicitly interprets the passage to
    refer to a premature birth and explicitly interprets it so that the penalty is
    the same for both death of the mother and the child. So
    the the interpretation Frank refers to was defended by one of the leading
    commentators over 400 years ago. This is quite conclusive evidence that Fred’s
    claim is wrong.

    Second,
    you seem to have not read my post at all lets look at what the Septuagint a
    translation from several hundred years before Christ said.

    “If two men fight and strike a
    pregnant woman, and her unformed embryo departs, he shall be fined; according
    as the woman’s husband lays upon (him) he shall give according to what is
    thought fit. But if it be formed, he shall give a life for a life.”
     Exodus 21:22-25 LXX

    You write

     

     

    “1. The passage refers to misscarriage, not
    premature birth”         
            

    Yes in the Septuagint it does, but seeing abortion
    is causing miscarriage that’s hardly a compelling point.

    “2. Since it definately refers to miscariage, and the PENALTY FOR IT IS
    EXPLICITLY DIFFERENT FROM THE PENALTY FOR MURDER, then abortion CANNOT BE
    MURDER.”

    Wrong, in the Septuagint the penalty for causing a
    miscarriage that results in the death of a formed fetus is the penalty for
    murder, read it again. It states But if it be formed, he shall give a life for a
    life.”  Exodus 21:22-25 LXX.

    A formed fetus at the time the Septuagint was
    translated refered to an embryo at 40 days or latter. So the penalty for abortion after 40 days is the same as for a human being. 

    “3. Forcing a woman to have an abortion against her
    will is counted as a crime against the man to whom the woman
    “belongs”. Therefore the aborted fetus IS NOT A PERSON.”

    There is no evidence the text says abortion is a
    crime against the man whom the women belongs. The Septuagint
    says that with an “unformed” embryo  he
    shall be fined “he shall be fined; according as the woman’s husband
    lays upon (him)” the fact the husband demands the fine does not mean its
    compensation for the husbands loss of property. This clause is limited to
    unformed embryos not foetuses from 40 days onwards. Moreover, the fact the
    husband lays the amount upon him does not entail its compensation for the
    husband. In Hittite law the same phraseology is used in cases where the husband
    demands compensation for the loss  of the
    fetus and the amount demanded is based on its status. So your quite wrong here.

    The facts
    are there for anyone to examine, the so called post happy meal interpretation
    was adopted by Calvin and variants of it were around 200 years before
    Christ.  This is documented in any
    historical study of the history of moral theology on abortion.Fred needs
    to come clean and tell us if he thinks Happy meals existed in the time of
    Calvin or the Septuagint. Clearly they did not. 

    Tell Fred posts are more effective when they are demonstrably inaccurate, and repeating his mantras after primary sources have been provided refuting them is hardly compelling or honest.

  • Mattflannagan

    I can provide similar citations from most of the church fathers, Thomas Aquinas, Canon law and so on. Get your facts straight in future.

  • Lori

    You know what would be super? If  folks would actually read the post and the comments before they get their righteous undies all in a bunch and commit thread necromancy in order to share their superior wisdom.

    Our latest visitor is a perfect example. It’s rather difficult to take Mattflannagan’s reading of the scriptures and commentaries on them seriously when he can’t even read Fred’s post.
    Look again Matt. Fred did not claim that no one ever believed abortion was murder prior to 1979. Obviolusly people did. Fred is aware of that and so are most of the people who read this blog. What Fred said is that prior to the 1980s believing that abortion is murder was not considered a core belief of Christians with orthodoxy demanded. People disagreed and that disagreement was not treated as tantamount to a rejection of Christianity. Nothing that you’ve written has anything to do with that. This is now at least the 3rd time this has been covered in this thread.

  • P J Evans

     A few pages up from this there’s a comment with about a dozen different translations of the passage you’re arguing about. IIRC none of them say what you’re claiming – and the ‘church fathers’ are much more recent than that passage, so if modern doesn’t count, neither should they.

  • Mattflannagan

    ” What Fred said is that prior to the 1980s believing that abortion is murder was not considered a core belief of Christians with orthodoxy demanded. ” 

    Actually in this post here http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2012/03/22/mischief-follows-in-partisan-bible-translations/

    He claims this translation of the bible is younger than Mcdonalds. 

    But to your specific claim.Actually, one the earliest existing Christian Catechism the Didache does consider it to be a core orthodox belief.

    The writings of the early church and the early church canons, and medieval canon law also take a similar stance.

    In fact between the time of Christ and the 19th century you’d be lucky to find 

    But why let facts get in the way of a lefty rant right? 

  • EllieMurasaki

    Citation needed. In particular you need citations for the idea that “abortion is murder” was Biblically based before the 1980s when translations started to say that destruction of the fetus was a capital offense, and for the belief that “restoring menstruation” (that is, an abortion in the embryonic stage or before the fetus has started to move) was considered murder.

  • Mattflannagan

    If you read my posts you’ll see I provided three citations. One from Philo of Alexnadra ( 1st century) one from Calvin ( 16th century) and the septuagint ( a 3rd century BC translation of the Old testament. 

    The didache a 1st century catechism is here: http://ancienthistory.about.com/library/bl/bl_text_didache.htm

    Read 2:2

  • EllieMurasaki

     Okay, awesome, you’ve provided citation for the idea that abortion has always been considered murder after quickening. Provide citation for the idea that abortion has always been considered murder between conception and quickening. (hint: it wasn’t) Provide citation for the idea that abortion has always been considered murder by the Bible between conception and quickening. (hint: it wasn’t)

  • Mattflannagan

    P J I saw that page, it cites a series of english translations.  The bible was 1st translated into english some 400 years ago. 

    The church fathers predate this by over a thousand years. 

    Moreover even if they didn’t , my point is substantiated, because it shows the view that Fred claims originates post McDonalds was actually widely held thousands of years earlier.Moreover, if you look at what I wrote I provided the example of the septuagint which is one of the oldest translations of the old testament in existence it was translated 300 years before Christ and it interprets the passage as refering to harm to the fetus. There are very few translations of the bible older than this. Nor is the septuagint alone in this the Samaritan Targums translate the passage in a similar way. You might think that 300 BC there was Mc D’s and the Samaritans muched happy meals, but I think history will suggest otherwise.

  • Mattflannagan

     

    Okay,
    awesome, you’ve provided citation for the idea that abortion has always been
    considered murder after
    quickening. Provide citation for the idea that abortion has
    always been considered murder between
    conception and quickening. (hint: it wasn’t) Provide citation for the idea
    that abortion has always been considered murder by the Bible between conception and quickening.
    (hint: it wasn’t)

    Actually,
    Quickening is not mentioned in any of my sources.  Quickening comes from English common law and
    in later forms  precedents  referred to the time a women felt the fetus
    move around 16 weeks after conception. What’s mentioned is formation, which was
    around 40 days after conception.  Seeing
    formation is between quickening and conception, my argument applies there as
    well. That abortion was homicide at least from formation on, has been by an
    large the consensus view amougst theologians for most of Church history years. 

    Its
    worth noting also that even those theologians who held that  it  was  not homicide, prior to 40 days still
    considered it a serious sin to  kill  the  embryo
    up until this point.   The first to
    suggest  it was acceptable  to  kill
    an embryo prior to formation was  John of
    Naples  in the 13th century
    and he argued this was permissible only in cases where there was a severe
    danger to a womens life. Moreover many sources from the early church do not
    draw a distinction between  a pre formed
    and unformed fetus. The Didache does not, nor does Tertullian, nor does Basil,
    nor do many early canons and canon law, nor does Calvin, thats off the top of my head I could provide others if you want. 

    But second
    note how  you have changed the goal
    posts.  Here you ask me to dispute the
    claim that abortion was “always”  considered
     homicide  “right  up to conception”.

    That
    however is not what Fred said, Fred suggested that  the interpretation of Exodus 21:22-25  as referring to harm to the fetus as opposed
    the women  as something as young as Mc
    Donalds happy meals, and that is clearly and unequivocally false. The  Septuagint clearly interprets the passage
    as  talking about the fetus. Note again
    my citation from Calvin who interpreted the passage precisely  the way 
    these “modern” translations do. 
    Aquinas also interpreted the Masoretic text this way  in the 
    13th century . As did 19th century commentators
    like Dillman, Gieger ,  and others.

    Sorry but
    you don’t get to  defend a false claim on
    the part of  Fred by suddenly changing
    the question.

    The facts
    are

    1.        Until fairly recently,Christian orthodoxy has
    pretty much universally condemned 
    feticide from 40 days onwards as homicide.

    2.     
    Until
    fairly recently Christian orthodoxy has pretty much universally condemned abortion at any stage in pregnancy.

    3.      Interpreting
    Exodus 21:22-25 as condemning the killing of the fetus as opposed to just the
    mother, is in fact a very old, and probably the dominant, interpretation of
    this passage  in Christian history.

    4.      Interpreting
    Exodus this way has also been a major tradition within Judaism as seen by the Septuagint,
    and the Samitarn Targum.

     

    Finally seeing, Fred omits to mention it, even Judaism
    understands Exodus 21:22-25 as condemning abortion, the discussions about  a fetus not being human in this passage are
    cited in discussions where the question is wether abortion is acceptable to
    save the womens life,  its in that
    context its licit, outside this context its considered a sin.

     

    Fred also fails to note that in other areas of Jewish law a
    fetus is considered a human being from early on, and he neglects to note that  Judaism contended that the Noahide law, the
    law binding on Gentiles,  condemned  abortion as homicide.

     

    Facts are annoying things for pro choice propagandists.

  • http://wbmoore.wordpress.com/ wbmoore

    i guess the author of this article has never actually done research on abortion in church history. I did a simple search and found many places which discuss the history of what the church has taught about abortion over the centuries. Here is one such sample:
    http://www.bible.ca/H-Abortion.htm

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    When people like Mattflanagan waltz in here, I always end up imagining some snotty jerk talking down his nose, and basically not discussing in good faith, but rather just to bludgeon some point home even if it seems like goalpost-moving to do it.

    The corollary of that is when I imagine some snotty asshole coming on here and then when called on it, acting like they’re actually litterally jumping up and down with their eyes squeezed shut.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Question’s the same damn thing it’s always been; you just like misreading. Forty days into pregnancy is often not even enough time for the woman to know she’s pregnant, let alone anyone else. Since you can’t be bothered providing actual citations, just names that it might be interesting to look into, I’m going to do some research before replying to you again. And what the hell interpretation of Judaism are you using? Because the ones I’m familiar with, abortion is not just permissible, it is (in cases of threat to the woman) mandatory. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judaism_and_abortion and citations there.

  • P J Evans

    I guess someone at one of the ‘Bible-based’ locations noticed this, so now we’re getting another influx of people who are going to tell us all How Wrong We Are – without bothering to read the post itself or any of the previous arguments that were exactly the same as theirs.

    I get the impression that ‘Bible-based’ anything requires turning off all higher brain functions and becoming a robot for Jeebus.

  • Mattflannagan

    I agree 40 days is very early,
    that’s my point, the dominant interpretation in Christian history is that
    feticide is homicide from very early on in the pregnancy.

     

    And I did provide citations,  I have provided several now. Pretending they
    don’t exist doesn’t change that.

     

    Sorry but the person not reading
    is you, you cite Wikipedia, normally I would use that as an authoritative
    source. But in this case if you read it you’ll see it actually agrees with me.
    Let’s look at the source you cite.

     

    Here is the beginning of the
    article you linked to, just so readers can see what it actually says

     

    In Judaism,
    views on abortion draw primarily upon the legal and ethical teachings of the
    Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, the case-by-case decisions of responsa, and other
    rabbinic literature. In the modern period, moreover, Jewish thinking on abortion
    has responded both to liberal understandings of personal autonomy as well as
    much Christian opposition to abortion.[1] Contemporarily speaking, observant
    Jews firmly oppose abortion, with few health-related exceptions, and liberal
    Jews tend to allow greater latitude for abortion.”

     

    Note what the summary says ‘
    observant jews generally “oppose” abortion. Not permit, oppose.

     

    If one reads on it states

     

    “In mainstream
    rabbinic Judaism, the Biblical verse is one of several key texts that
    substantiate the later rabbinic prohibition on abortion, albeit not as murder.
    Owing partly to this verse, rabbinic law orhalakhah sanctions abortion under
    some circumstances, namely for medical reason.”

     

    Note what is said here, mainstream
    rabbinic Judaism  appealed to this verse
    to

    So the source you cite agrees with what I said which was that “even
    Judaism understands Exodus 21:22-25 as condemning abortion, the discussions
    about  a fetus not being human in this
    passage are cited in discussions where the question is whether abortion is
    acceptable to save the womens life,  its
    in that context its licit, outside this context its considered a sin.”

     

    Try reading sources before citing them.

     

    But if you want citations, here is a good one from Josephus
    explaining what he understood the Jewish law to teach in the first century  “The law, moreover, enjoins us to bring up
    all our offspring, and forbids women to cause abortion of what is begotten, or
    to destroy it afterward; and if any woman appears to have so done, she will be
    a murderer of her child, by destroying a living creature, and diminishing human
    kind” Contra Apion bk ii 25

     

    The  Wikipedia article you
    cite goes on to talk about Judaism in the medieval period

     

     

    “Another reason to prohibit abortion is found in
    the Talmudic commentaries known as the Tosafot. “The Tosafot argued that
    abortion is forbidden to Jews because it is forbidden to non-Jews under the
    Noahide laws. “A gentile is culpable for the death of a fetus, while a Jew
    is forbidden to cause its death but is not culpable.”[11] Here the Tosafot
    follow the logic that Jews are not permitted actions that are forbidden to
    gentiles, though the (theoretical) punishment for violations would apply only
    to gentiles.[12] Relying on such reciprocal logic, the Tosafot also hold that,
    since Jews are permitted therapeutic abortions for the sake of maternal life,
    then Noahide law likewise allows non-Jews to undergo therapeutic abortion.
    Given this near parity, rabbinic law prohibits Jews from assisting gentiles
    with forbidden abortions, for which the gentiles would be culpable of murder.”

     

    The agrees with what I said above, note what I said that Fred
    “neglects to note that  Judaism contended
    that the Noahide law, the law binding on Gentiles,  condemned 
    abortion as homicide.”

     

    What did you say about, not reading?  Do you stick by your comment that  which I will repeat just so readers can see
    what you said.

     

    And what the hell interpretation of Judaism are
    you using? Because the ones I’m familiar with, abortion is not just
    permissible, it is (in cases of threat to the woman) mandatory..

     

     Its pretty clear that  the article you cited does not state that all
    forms or Judaism or even most forms of Judaism consider abortion to be
    permissible. You had read this article and so are familiar with these forms.

     

    Like I said fact s are an annoying thing to pro choice
    propagandists aren’t they.  

  • Mattflannagan

    So are you saying in previous posts you, made false claims about history, when provided with citations responded by asking, where are citations, and when they were provided again, changed the subject  and then finally linked to a wikipedia article that said that rabbinic judaism used the passage to oppose abortion allowing it only in rare circumstances when the womens life was in danger and pretended it said the opposite. 

    Sorry I don’t know what you mean by turning off higher brain functions.  


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