Abortion and the Bible

Abortion and the Bible January 27, 2014

It is common for people to think that the Bible contains clear teaching about abortion.

This state of affairs goes back at least as far as Flavius Josephus in the first century. He wrote in Contra Apion II, 202: “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…” (See also Antiquities IV).

Yet the irony is that there is no unambiguous mention of abortion at all, even though it is clear from ancient laws of neighboring societies that the attempt to provoke a miscarriage – whether by ingesting something or by other means – was not unknown. (For the one possible reference to abortion in the Bible, which is not a criticism of it, see Numbers 5:16-28.)

There are all sorts of cases which can be made regarding abortion. But one that ought not to be made, and ought to be treated with scorn if it is, is any that claims “the Bible says” that “abortion is murder” or makes other such false claims. The Bible says no such thing.

That doesn’t mean that abortion therefore ought to be accepted – that is a different question. But what it does mean is that some people in our time prefer to lie about the Bible, rather than engage in the hard work of trying to make a reasonable case for their viewpoint.

 

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