Rev. Jim Rigby doesn’t accept your biblical interpretation.
I saw your comments yesterday, but did not have the time or energy to enter into a conversation that will almost certainly be two ships passing in the night. I will share what I consider faulty in your arguments, but then I want to express my central concern at the end of this post.
Nowhere in the Bible does it say, “Thou shall not have an abortion.” The biblical case against abortion is extremely weak which is why opponents are reduced to using Psalms about God knowing us in the womb, or begging the question by presuming that every reference to murder is a condemnation of abortion as well.
“Telescoping” is the practice of projecting modern concepts onto ancient texts. So the opponents of Galileo were able to “prove” the earth does not orbit the sun treating ancient poems as if they were scientific. It is the same error to take poems not directly addressing abortion and using them as “proof.”
Another exhausting technique is called “dump trucking” which means to dump a bunch of scripture passages and force your opponent to refute them all. You listed a bunch of passages, but only three remotely approach the topic at hand -Psalm 139:13-16, Jeremiah 1:4-5 (saying God knows us in the womb) and Ex. 21:22-25)
You claimed that your opponents don’t care about scripture, but I have studied scripture my entire adult life in Greek and Hebrew which is why I can point out the emptiness of your argument. The idea that our souls enter the body at conception comes from Aristotle, not scripture. The word for “soul” or “spirit” means “breath” in Hebrew and the ancient Rabbi’s (before Greek influences) generally held that personhood begins at birth.
The two passages about God knowing us in the womb say nothing about the question of when personhood begins. God also knows the chick in the egg, but that doesn’t make it a person. We misuse the text when we twist it out of context and claim it is making a scientific claim. This was the error of Galileo’s opponents.
Finally, you quoted Exodus 21:22-25 which seems to make your case, but the text can be read in different ways. The NRSV quotes the passage in a way that sounds to say the fetus does not have personhood status. In that translation, injuring a woman should be punished by an eye for an eye, but inducing a miscarriage should be punished by a fine.
“22 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. 23 If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”
If you look at the rest of the chapter it talks about slaves and women as property. I may love scripture, but I don’t want to bring that horror back to life in modern jurisprudence. There is much in the Bible that would be abhorrent if applied today.
So my three concerns can be summarized as follows: I do not accept your biblical interpretation, I do not accept your claim to be judge of other peoples’ lives, and I don’t want to live in the theocracy for which you advocate.
This article originally appeared on Jim Rigby’s Blog.
Photo credit: George Redgrave/flickr