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.

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