Abortion Is Biblical [But Not Christlike]

Abortion Is Biblical [But Not Christlike] May 25, 2018

As I have tried to point out several times, there is a huge difference between being “Biblical” and being “Christlike”.

If we cling to the Bible and advocate for a more Biblical worldview, this leaves us open to a host of “Biblical” ideas like slavery, patriarchy, genocide, polygamy and abortion.

Yes, even abortion is a Biblical principle.

Here are two examples of how the Bible allows for – and often even commands –  abortions:

First, in Numbers 5:11-31 there is a very detailed procedure for a husband to determine if his wife has been unfaithful to him. If she gets pregnant from intercourse with another man, the husband can uncover this by taking his wife to the priest who is then instructed by God (?) to give the woman a potion to drink. If the woman was unfaithful, then her baby will miscarry. If she is faithful, then the baby and the mother will both be spared.

Here’s an excerpt from this section of Numbers chapter 5:

“But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have made yourself impure by having sexual relations with a man other than your husband”— here the priest is to put the woman under this curse—“may the Lord cause you to become a curse among your people when he makes your womb miscarry and your abdomen swell. May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries.” [v. 20-22]

This is a very Biblical procedure for inducing an abortion for reasons of unfaithfulness or adultery.

Another Biblical endorsement of abortion is found in Hosea 9:14 where God tells the prophet that He will give the rebellious people of Ephraim “wombs that miscarry” [and the word used here is the Hebrew shacol which denotes abortion or miscarriage].

Give them, Lordwhat will you give them? Give them wombs that miscarry and breasts that are dry.” [Hosea 9:14]

Later in the same chapter, should there be any doubt about what God [?] apparently intends here, the Lord says:

Even if they bear children, I will slay their cherished offspring.” [v. 16]

Do we honestly believe that God is in the abortion business? Does God, who is love, actively abort children to punish us? Does God actually provide us with an abortion procedure as a way to determine a wife’s faithfulness?

I don’t think so.

Other verses that also suggest that God does not count an unborn life as being equal to that of a person outside of the womb is in Exodus 21:21-23 where specific punishment is described for the man who causes a woman to miscarry her child: He should pay fine. So, if the life of the unborn child were equal to the life of a someone who was born, then the “eye for an eye” rule should demand that the man who caused the unborn child to die should also be put to death, or that one of his own children should be put to death. But instead, only a fine is to paid to the man who lost the child.

All of these examples are Biblical. All of them allow for abortion to be acceptable in the eyes of God.

However, none of these are Christlike.

Those who follow Jesus know that God’s love extends to every human being – whether born or unborn.

Our choice is simple: We take a Biblical approach [and then accept the Biblical teaching that abortion is not murder], or we take a Christlike approach [and we follow the ethics of Jesus who has given us the law of love to follow].

I can’t speak for you or anyone else, but I don’t want a more Biblical world. I want a more Christlike one.


Keith Giles is the author of several books, including the forthcoming “Jesus Unbound: How the Bible Keeps Us From Hearing the Word of God”, available July 4th, 2018.

He is also the author of the Amazon best-seller, “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb”. He is the co-host of the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast on iTunes and Podbean. He and his wife live in Orange, CA with their two sons.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Keith, abortion is one of those non-winnable distractions that the Religious Right (starting with the Moral Majority in 1974) has pushed on liberals as a way of shifting focus off of the evils of fundamentalism onto a subject in which there is no general consensus. No one “likes” abortion, not even liberals, but the canard presented by conservative Christians is that women who have abortions do so with little ethical regard, and as a result of immoral behavior. Add to that a disdain for feminism by a white male dominated conservative evangelicalism, and it is women who suffer.

    I think the Religious Right’s attempts to criminalize women for making an extremely difficult, heart wrenching decision, is terribly counter productive and anti-christ in nature. Even though abortions are in decline in America, I think a positive way for the church to deal with the situation is to offer alternatives to abortion, including financial assistance to those women who need help. There are some groups already putting their money where their mouth is. We need more. Churches need to come alongside women.

    Then, if the church really wants to be the hands of Jesus extended, condemnation needs to stop, and reconciliation, love and healing needs to begin, especially for those women who have had abortions. No more scarlet letters.

  • tyler

    frankly, if what you’ve written is accurate, I’d rather have a world where neither the bible nor Christ has any say, because neither seems qualified to help us toward a more ethical and compassionate society

  • A J MacDonald Jr

    “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.” (James 3:1)

  • ScienceRules

    Abortion is sad but a necessity for many people. End of story.

  • “If we cling to the Bible and advocate for a more Biblical worldview, this leaves us open to a host of “Biblical” ideas like slavery, patriarchy, genocide, polygamy and abortion.”


    Surely you realize that those of us who advocate for a more Biblical approach and who believe it is the same as a Christ-like approach are referring to the New Testament Scriptures, none of which you quoted.

    This is an argument from the absurd!

  • ashpenaz

    The pro-life movement is not about saving unborn children–it’s about punishing women for having sex. Conservatives don’t care what the Bible teaches or doesn’t teach about abortion–they just want a platform to shame sex-positive women.

  • otrotierra

    Perhaps beginning with passages in scripture that actually address abortion is a good start.

  • These OT Scriptures addressing “abortion” were proscribing it as a severe judgement for sin, not a remedy for an inconvenient pregnancy. And in each case God, not a doctor, was the originator of the miscarriage.

  • otrotierra

    I suggested beginning with the passages themselves, not with your thoughts about judgement for sin. Regarding God as originator of the miscarriage, you are correct. The number of God’s abortions, “miscarriages,” far exceed the number of abortions.

  • RickNowlinpa

    Otrotierra confuses miscarriage with abortion. It will surprise otrotierra to know that no one chooses a miscarriage.

  • I really wasn’t reading anything about sin into the Scriptures quoted. When you directed my attention to them and I read them again I noticed that the passages themselves describe the miscarriages as a judgement for sin.

    “But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have made yourself impure by having sexual relations with a man other than your husband”— here the priest is to put the woman under this curse—“may the Lord cause you to become a curse among your people when he makes your womb miscarry and your abdomen swell. May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries.” Numbers chapter 5: 20-22

  • Elephile

    Keith, you didn’t specify which version you were using, but when I looked up the first and third passages in Young’s Literal Translation, there were no such implications.

    Numbers 5:20-22 says: “and thou, if thou hast turned aside under thy husband, and if thou hast been defiled, and any man doth give his copulation to thee besides thy husband — (then … the priest hath said to the woman) — Jehovah doth give thee for an execration, and for a curse, in the midst of thy people, in Jehovah’s giving thy thigh to fall, and thy belly to swell, and these waters which cause the curse have gone into thy bowels, to cause
    the belly to swell, and the thigh to fall; and the woman hath said, Amen, Amen.”

    “Thigh” in ancient Hebrew was a euphemism for reproductive organs. There is no mention of a pregnancy here. If a man suspects his wife has been unfaithful, he can take her to the priest, who will give her floor scrapings in water to drink and say that if she has been unfaithful, her reproductive organs will stop working and her abdomen will swell. And that’s all. Not at all admirable, but also not causing an abortion.

    Exodus 21:22-24 says: “And when men strive, and have smitten a pregnant woman, and her children have come out, and there is no mischief, he is certainly fined, as the husband of the woman doth lay upon him, and he hath given through the judges; and if there is mischief, then thou hast given life for life, eye for eye…”

    In other words, if the woman goes into labor and both mother and child are OK, the husband can claim a fine from the man who struck the woman; but if either mother or baby are hurt or killed, then the life/health of the man who struck her is forfeit.

    As for the Hosea quote, just because someone prays for something, it doesn’t mean God agrees or approves.

    Now when you talk about killings ordered by God in the Old Testament, including the later quote from the Hosea passage, we have to ask ourselves whether people made a mistake saying God had commanded them, or whether the Father of Jesus has turned away from killing (I go for this explanation).

    Let’s stick to what the text actually says; but let’s also remember that Jesus was very clear in saying that “God did not send his son into the world (cosmos) to condemn the world but that the world, through him, might be saved,” and “I condemn no one” (John 8:15).

  • ithinktoomuch

    This article falls short and relies on the reader to insinuate the rest. Okay, so abortion isn’t Christlike. What does one do with that information? Does this mean then that a Christian must oppose abortion in order to be like Christ?

    Western Europe has some of the lowest rates of abortion in the developed world, despite the procedure’s easy availability, because they have easy access to contraception and child care. This did not happen because they opposed abortion. Their abortion rates reflect what happens when you give women reasonable choices instead of just TELLING them to “choose life”.

    In my opinion, solving women’s troubles with charity instead of punishment is the Christlike way, especially since, unlike ever increasing prohibitions, it ACTUALLY reduces abortion rates, which dovetails quite nicely with that whole good fruits thing in the Sermon on the Mount.

  • Jesusisdemocrat

    Any expert in ancient languages will tell you that a miscarriage is EXACTLY what is the result in Exodus. The harm is if there is hsrm to the woman.

  • Jesusisdemocrat

    There are actually new “Translations” read today by many politically conservative Christians, that have intentionally changed translations to alter the 2,500 years of understanding of scripture. Additionally, none wish to know what the scripture refers to from those that can read the original Hebrew of the OT.
    And my moniker is ironic!

  • Elephile

    You are not giving any specifics, you are just making assertions, and that isn’t helpful.

    There is no indication from the text that “harm” applies only to the mother.

    Also, if “any expert in ancient languages” would tell me that there is a pregnancy, why didn’t the translators of the most carefully literal versions (who actually are experts in Hebrew) include that in their translations. I have made a good effort to find an actual translation (I avoided the expanded, more biassed versions) that gave that interpretation, including a Jewish translation in English, and going so far as to look up a French translation, which I can read, and a Russian translation, which I understand less and so used an automatic translator as an extra check. The results were all the same. No pregnancy, nor abortion/miscarriage are mentioned.

    I am VERY careful about words and I read the words that are there, trying hard not to insert my own ideas.

    I do not live by the Old Testament, nor do I expect others to do so. I am happy to discuss the rights and wrongs of anything.

    But let’s not pretend the text means what the text does not say.

  • Elephile

    I agree – it would be more effective to create conditions where no woman felt the need to have an abortion! But that would mean looking at how society and the economy function, and few are willing to do that.

  • Elephile

    If someone really cares about unborn children they will want societal support for women, such as free healthcare for all, especially for women of childbearing age, the removal of stigma and discrimination against women who are pregnant or have children, and end of war, because pregnant women (and therefore unborn children) die in bombings and crossfire, to name only a few. You can see how serious they are about unborn babies from their attitudes towards those things.

  • Jesusisdemocrat

    The text is completely understood by those who have studied Hewbrew.

  • Elephile

    Who are these people?? You don’t cite even one.

    The fact is that actual experts who have studied Hebrew did literal translations and we know what they say. It is only “expanded”, “explained” and “enhanced” versions (Note: versions, not translations) that come up with this interpretation. So now I’m out of this exchange.

    If you want to discuss the rights and wrongs of the abortion issue, fine. Let’s just stop pretending the OT endorses it, any more than it endorses eating pork or forbids slavery. We don’t have to agree with it; Jesus didn’t agree with everything in the OT.

  • Women are people

    Not for nothing, but if the prolife movement was actually concerned with unborn lives, then the fact that 90% of all fertilized eggs fail to make it to term naturally would be of greater moral urgency than abortion, IVF and not stem cell research combined.

    I’m an evolutionary biologist. It is a biological fact that very few fertilized eggs make it to term. 70% arrest development in blastocyst stage. Science doesn’t have a total picture on why this happens.

    Prolife people will assert that it doesn’t matter because it’s “natural death.” Yet we in the medical community spend trillions on research to cure all manner of natural deaths through cancers, als, Huntington’s, aids, cystic fibrosis, heart disease, diabetes, epilepsy, you name it.

    And yet not a single 5k walk exists for finding a cure for miscarriage despite the fact that more “people” die in reproduction than all the aforementioned diseases/conditions/syndromes combined. Where is the research into ending this?

    It’s almost as if life isn’t the primary concern, but rather making women have babies as punishment for sex

  • Anthony Barber

    Keith, at the start of your article,you set up a straw man, that the Bible supports slavery, etc. It does not. Then you made a false dichotomy between Jesus and the the Bible at the end.

  • Anthony Barber

    That is, to put it nicely, balderdash. Abortion is the ultimate Male chauvinism. The man gets off scot -free, the woman is ripped off, and a baby is ripped apart.