Monday, June 29, 2009

God supports abortion Part 2

In this post I want to deal with Numbers 5:11-31:

A Test for Adultery
"11And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 12"Speak to the people of Israel, If any man’s wife goes astray and breaks faith with him, 13if a man(A) lies with her sexually, and it is hidden from the eyes of her husband, and she is undetected though she has defiled herself, and there is no witness against her,(B) since she was not taken in the act, 14and if the spirit of jealousy comes over him and he is jealous of his wife who has defiled herself, or if the spirit of jealousy comes over him and he is jealous of his wife, though she has not defiled herself, 15then the man shall bring his wife to the priest and bring the offering required of her, a tenth of an ephah[a] of barley flour.(C) He shall pour no oil on it and put no frankincense on it, for it is a grain offering of jealousy, a grain offering of remembrance,(D) bringing iniquity to remembrance.
16"And the priest shall bring her near and set her before the LORD. 17And the priest shall take holy water in an earthenware vessel and take some of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle and put it into the water. 18And the priest shall set the woman before the LORD and(E) unbind the hair of the woman’s head and place in her hands the grain offering of remembrance, which is the grain offering of jealousy. And in his hand the priest shall have the water of bitterness that brings the curse. 19Then the priest shall make her take an oath, saying, 'If no man has lain with you, and if you have not turned aside to uncleanness while you were under your husband’s authority, be free from this water of bitterness that brings the curse. 20But if you have gone astray, though you are under your husband’s authority, and if you have defiled yourself, and some man other than your husband has lain with you, 21then' (let the priest make the woman take the oath of the curse, and say to the woman)(F) 'the LORD make you a curse and an oath among your people, when the LORD makes your thigh fall away and your body swell. 22May this water that brings the curse(G) pass into your bowels and make your womb swell and your thigh fall away.' And the woman shall say,(H) 'Amen, Amen.'
23"Then the priest shall write these curses in a book and wash them off into the water of bitterness. 24And he shall make the woman drink the water of bitterness that brings the curse, and the water that brings the curse shall enter into her and cause bitter pain. 25And the priest shall take the grain offering of jealousy out of the woman’s hand(I) and shall wave the grain offering before the LORD and bring it to the altar. 26And the priest(J) shall take a handful of the grain offering, as its memorial portion, and burn it on the altar, and afterward shall make the woman drink the water. 27And when he has made her drink the water, then, if she has defiled herself and has broken faith with her husband, the water that brings the curse shall enter into her and cause bitter pain, and her womb shall swell, and her thigh shall fall away, and the woman(K) shall become a curse among her people. 28But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, then she shall be free and shall conceive children.
29"This is the law in cases of jealousy, when a wife,(L) though under her husband’s authority, goes astray and defiles herself, 30or when the spirit of jealousy comes over a man and he is jealous of his wife. Then he shall set the woman before the LORD, and the priest shall carry out for her all this law. 31The man shall be free from iniquity, but the woman(M) shall bear her iniquity."

This passage is another one, aside from Exodus 21:22-25, that pro-choicers like to parade about as biblical support for abortion. One major piece is missing from this passage to be used as a support for abortion though; the woman is not pregnant. There is no fetus to abort. There is nothing in this passage that explicitly mentions a fetus either before or after the procedure.

There are some, more clever, pro-choice commentators who suggest inference or a logical conclusion of the existence of a fetus. I would like to explore those suggestions.

The NRSV says in verse 21b "when the Lord makes your uterus drop, your womb discharge;" This has been used to suggest that the discharge must be that of a baby. Other translations say "when the LORD makes your thigh fall away and your body swell."

In Hebrew the passage reads "Yahovah nathan yarek naphal beten tsabeh" Yarek can be translated thigh or loins, the root of the word means soft. It can refer to your side, it is even translated breast once. In this context, "loins" seems most fitting. Naphal is a primitive root meaning to fall. It is used contextually in other passages alongside death or a defeat. The idea here being that the loins have failed and died. Beten is translated womb, belly, figuratively as bosom, or body. and Tsabeh simply means to swell.

Naphal is the word in question here. I am frankly at a loss as to how the NRSV gets discharge from Naphal. I cannot find any place where Naphal is ever translated discharge. I can only guess that by implication of fall, they take that to mean that the loins fall which might look like a discharge, I'm not an expert in Hebrew by any stretch of the imagination but I can't see the association. Even further, to take from that weak association that a miscarriage has taken place is even harder to substantiate. A better case would be made to say that the loins have been completely discharged from the body because Naphal here refers back to Yarek, not to a baby, or fetus.

So the case cannot be made that the scripture explicitly reflects a miscarried pregnancy. The next attempt is made by suggesting that a pregnancy could be the result of the adultery, theoretically, and making the woman barren at that point would also kill the fetus. While I enjoy hearing absolute statements being made solely on theoretical arguments, This one fails to take a few things into account.

1) God is the author of life, If he knew he was going to make a woman barren, he could just as easy, theoretically, keep her from becoming pregnant.

2) Assuming she were pregnant, God is also within His rights to dictate death. The bible records times when God used death as a punishment for another's sin. David suffered the loss of his child because of his adultery, Egypt suffered the loss of many children because of their disobedience. One can't make the case that, because God gets to do it, we get to do it too. You would also have to conclude that murder is supported by God because he punitively took the lives of adults who disobeyed as well. One person died because he tried to steady the Ark of the Covenant. Two people died when they misreported their tithing. Imagine the influx of tithes we could expect in the church today if we could cast similar punishment.

Some will say that the potion given to the woman is an abortifacent. The potion is made up of water used by priests to cleanse themselves, tabernacle dust off of the floor, and ink from the book in which the oath was written. Ink was composed of powdered charcoal or soot mixed with water. I have ingested much worse things as a teenager. Clearly this concoction would not be enough to render a woman barren or to cause a miscarriage.
Even if this were a recipe for an abortifacent, one then has to acknowledge that it would make all women barren who drank it. This passage clearly exonerates the innocent. How could the innocent be free from punishment if this abortifacent had to be drunk by any woman who was accused and brought before the priest?
Also how could the husband ever be sure that this abortifacent would not kill his own child? What father would take that risk if a miscarriage was always the result of this trial? Surely this cannot be a simple medical procedure that has been romanticized by Hebrews in their attempt to justify God's existence.

Other cultures had interesting variations on this test. In the Code of Hammurabi (c. 1720 BC.), women who were suspected of this type of infidelity were required to throw themselves into the Euphrates river--if they drown, they were guilty; if not, they were innocent! I am reminded of Monty Python's test for witches.

The passage is describing a supernatural trial that takes place in the natural. A jealous man can take his wife before the priest and have an instant answer to his question of her faithfulness. Likewise the wife has a sure way of proving her fidelity to her husband and squelching any spirit of jealousy that would seek to tear this marriage apart. The elements used are symbolic. The test itself is of divine revelation.

There simply is not any justification within this passage to suggest that God supports abortion. There is not even a pregnancy to abort here. Even if there was it would not change the fact the God is the one casting judgement. A miscarriage is not an elective abortion. Life and death are His alone to command.

Monday, June 22, 2009

God supports abortion Part 1

I rarely invoke religious based arguments in the fight against elective abortions. The American court system would ignore all religious based arguments so I find it more profitable to develop pro-life arguments based on secular reasoning. The bible is generally silent on the topic with only implication, at best, being the source of biblical standard against abortion. I personally believe it is consistent with scripture to be anti-abortion but again, I have not found any scripture that would specifically ban the procedure.

Having said that, I also will not sit back and ignore the pro-choice camp when they invoke scripture to defend a belief that God supports abortion. While this argument would never have an affect in the court of law, it does have an affect on me. The idea of twisting, or perhaps only misunderstanding, scripture to support such a repulsive statement demands that it be reproved and dismissed.

I have seen two scriptures used to support the idea of God supporting abortion; Exodus 21:22-25 and Numbers 5:11-31.

Exodus 21:22-25 "When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe." ESV.

In this passage we have a pregnant woman who has been beaten, seemingly by accident from two men who were fighting. The pregnant woman, being hit, has a premature birth. A fine is levied against the one who hit her depending on the degree of damage done.

Pro-choicers will suggest in this passage that the premature birth has nothing to do with the punishment. When it says "there is no harm" or " there is harm" they suggest it is referring to the woman alone. They also suggest that the premature birth is assumed to have caused a death for the child. Some texts will say the woman miscarries.

Let's look at the aspect of the premature birth. Does scripture say that the child always dies in this case? The relevant phrase in the passage, “...her children come out...,” reads w˚yase û ye ladêhâ in the Hebrew. It’s a combination of a Hebrew noun--yeled--and a verb--yasa--and literally means “the child comes forth.”

Moses had words in his vocabulary that literally meant abortion or miscarriage, but he didn’t use them in Exodus 21:22. Instead, he chose the same word he used in many other places to signify a living child being brought forth.
Yasa doesn’t mean miscarriage in the sense we think of that word. Instead, the combination of yeled with yasa suggests a living child coming forth from the womb. Nowhere else is this word ever translated “miscarriage.” Why? Because the word doesn’t mean the baby is still-born. It simply means the child comes out.

The Hebrew noun translated “child” in this passage is yeled (yeladim in the plural), and means “child, son, boy, or youth.” It comes from the primary root word yalad, meaning “to bear, bring forth, or beget.” In the NASB yalad is translated “childbirth” 10 times, some form of “gave birth” over 50 times, and either “bore,” “born,” or “borne” 180 times.

The verb yasa is a primary, primitive root that means “to go or come out.” It is used over a thousand times in the Hebrew Scriptures and has been translated 165 different ways in the NASB--escape, exported, go forth, proceed, take out, to name a few. This gives us a rich source for exegetical comparison. It’s translated with some form of “coming out” (e.g., “comes out,” “came out,” etc.) 103 times, and some form of “going” 445 times.

it’s common for yasa to describe the “coming forth” of something living, frequently a child. There is only one time yasa is clearly used for a dead child. Numbers 12:12 says, “Oh, do not let her be like one dead, whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes from his mother’s womb!”
Note here, that we don’t infer the child’s death from the word yasa, but from explicit statements in the context. This is a still-birth, not a miscarriage. The child is dead before the birth (“whose flesh is half eaten away”), and doesn’t die as a result of the untimely delivery, as in a miscarriage.
Yasa is used 1,061 times in the Hebrew Bible. It is never translated “miscarriage” in any other case.

Also, consider this. If the passage deals only with fines levied for the benefit of the woman's injuries, then why have her be pregnant in the scenario at all? Why is there not another passage that deals with injuries sustained by a non-pregnant wife? Is the bible suggesting that it is ok to injure a woman as long as she isn't pregnant? If God doesn't care about the baby then why levy a fine or punishment for a pregnant woman but not for any other woman?

To suggest that Exodus supports abortion, or reveals that the fetus is not important to God, brings about a lot more questions concerning how God feels about women if the passage is to be interpreted according to the pro-choice view. They suddenly have to accept that if the pregnant woman is the only one to be legally protected then God actually places MORE value on the fetus than He does on women because there is no other equivalent passage that offers legal protection for a woman who is not pregnant.

The truth is this passage supports the value of the fetus as much as it supports the value of the woman who is beaten. The fines and punishment levied against the attacker is due for injuries sustained by both the woman and the baby. This offers legal protection for both because God values all life.

I will deal with Numbers 5:11-31 next time.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Is the Fetus a Parasite?

There is apparently some question as to whether or not the fetus qualifies as a parasitical animal. I am just as surprised as you are at this notion but in the interest of fairness, I am willing to present my thoughts as to why the fetus does not qualify as a parasite.

The first step is to define the criteria for what classifies a parasite. One of the most important criteria for a parasite is that the parasite is always a different species from it's host. When I look up the definition for parasite I find the following.

Temporary parasites.
These parasites spend only part of their lives as a parasite and another part as free-living organism. Examples are: Fasciola hepatica (Liver fluke (douve)) Schistosoma Ascaris Haemonchus

Here is a much clearer scientific description of parasitism in the Encyclopedia Britannica: (emphasis added)
Encyclopedia Britannica Article
Page 1 of 1 relationship between two species of plants or animals in which one benefits at the expense of the other, sometimes without killing it. Parasitism is differentiated from parasitoidism, a relationship in which the host is always killed by the parasite; parasitoidism occurs in some Hymenoptera (ants, wasps, and bees), Diptera (flies), and a few Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths): the female lays her eggs in or on the host, upon which the larvae feed on hatching. (free temporary subscription required)

And here is a definition from Online Medical Dictionary: (emphasis added)
A type of symbiosis where two (or more) organisms from different species live in close proximity to one another, in which one member depends on another for its nutrients, protection, and/or other life functions. The dependent member (the parasite) benefits from the relationship while the other one (the host) is harmed by it.

And here is another from the U of Penn Vet School: (emphasis added)
The term parasitism may be defined as a two-species association in which one species, the parasite, lives on or in a second species, the host, for a significant period of its life and obtains nourishment from it. This is a commonly accepted working definition of parasitism and using it we can emphasize several important features of the host-parasite relationship. Parasitism always involves two species, the parasite and the host.

And here's another one from the U of MN (emphasis added)
A Parasite is by definition any organism which lives on or in the body of another organism of a different species (i.e., the host). This definition allows the name 'parasite' to be attached to many living species, including bacteria, fungi and viruses.

And here is a definition from Aberystwyth University, Wales (emphasis added)
Parasitism is, like most other animal associations defined in terms of two different species, who form a regular association, although this seems sensible, and it does exclude consideration of the mammalian foetus as being parasitic upon its mother, there are some very interesting immunological parallels between the mechanisms the foetus uses to avoid being rejected by the immune response of its mother and the ways in which the parasites of mammals seek to avoid their hosts immune response. http:// defines parasite as
Parasite: An organism that lives in or on and takes its nourishment from another organism. A parasite cannot live independently.

Notice that in that last definition there is an omission of the technicality that the organism is from a different species. Is this significant to you? When I discuss this topic with a pro-choicer they are quick to point out any definition that has this omission. The question though is whether or not this really is a factual omission or an editorial omission.
An editorial omission would be done for the sake of brevity. Certain elements of a definition may be glossed over when it is considered to either be common knowledge, or secondary to what the author considers important information.

Note this quote from a parasitology textbook:
A parasite is defined as an organism of one species living in or on an organism of another species (a hetero specific relationship) and deriving its nourishment from the host (is metabolically dependent on the host). (See Cheng, T.C., General Parasitology, p. 7, 1973.)

This comes from an authority in the field. With so many sources citing the criteria of differing species, it is disingenuous, at best, to take a generalized definition and submit it above all of the other highly credible sources as the only source that matters.

The fetus is the same species as the mother so biologically speaking, the fetus is not a parasite. Now it is acceptable if one wants to make the case that a fetus exhibits parasitic behavior. There are certainly limited similarities. The fetus also shares some similarities to a car but it would be scientifically inaccurate to say that a fetus IS a car.

Why is this even being brought up in serious debate? The answer is that pro-choicers object to the usage of terms like child, or baby, when describing the fetus. They accuse us of emotionalizing the debate needlessly. So they have brought their own term for the fetus into the discussion in their own attempt to emotionalize the debate. The parasite argument is nothing more than a strawman meant to distract from the real issues of abortion.

Let me clarify a few things about parasite just to make sure we can put this to rest.

A parasite is always from another kind of species.
A parasite is an invading organism -- coming to parasitize the host from an outside source.
A parasite makes direct contact with the host's tissues, often holding on by either mouth parts, hooks or suckers to the tissues involved (intestinal lining, lungs, connective tissue, etc.).
A parasite is an organism that, once it invades the definitive host, will usually remain with host for life (as long as it or the host survives).

also, with few exceptions, a parasite will remain a parasite for it's entire life. It cannot survive without a host.

It is not scientifically accurate to associate a human fetus with a parasite.

Let me go one step further, Is it accurate to associate a Zygote, Embryo, Fetus with a baby, or a child?

Let me give you a definition of baby.

n. pl. ba·bies
a. A very young child; an infant.
b. An unborn child; a fetus.
c. The youngest member of a family or group.
d. A very young animal

From the online free dictionary we see that the unborn are considered a proper application for the term "baby'. A Google search will reveal many sources that list the unborn as a proper definition.

Let's look at "child"

n. pl. chil·dren
1. A person between birth and puberty.
a. An unborn infant; a fetus.
b. An infant; a baby.

Again we see that the unborn are included among the proper applications for the word child.

So where does that leave the pro-choicer? Well, they have every right to use the term parasite metaphorically, but they have no grounds to use it scientifically. However, pro-lifers still seem to be on very good ground for referring to the fetus as a baby or a child.

I am all about accuracy when it comes to this debate. I seek truth no matter what the implications are for me. I am open to correction on this, or any other topic.

I will stand corrected:
If I can be shown an example of a parasite in nature that is the same species as it's host. I suppose one might bring up the Angler fish as an example. This is not a true parasitic relationship though because it is their reproductive method, which means that it is a symbiotic relationship.

or If I can be shown a credible source of parasitology that specifies gestating unborn as meeting the criteria for classification of parasite.