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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Abortion #2: Is the Life in the Womb a Human Individual?

Consider now the Bible teaching about abortion. The fundamental question to be answered is whether or not the life conceived in the mother's womb is a human person, separate and distinct as an individual from the mother.

Some Important Preliminary Considerations
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The life in the mother's womb is definitely human.
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There can be no doubt that we are discussing something that is alive. If it were not alive, why would we discuss whether or not it is right to kill it? The question is what kind of life it is.

In the beginning God created only three basic classes of life, each of which reproduces after its own kind. (1) He created plants that reproduce after their kind because of the power of the seed (Gen. 1:11,12). (2) He created animals that reproduce after their own kind (Gen. 1:20-25). (3) He also created people in God's own image (Gen. 1:26-30). People are distinct from the animals, they rule the animals, and they also reproduce in their own image, after their own kind (Gen. 5:3).

In which of these three categories should a living, unborn baby be classed? It cannot be considered plant or animal because plants and animals reproduce after their own kind, and it is not the result of plant or animal reproduction. It is the result of human reproduction, and humans are distinct from the plants and animals. Therefore the life in the womb of a human mother must necessarily be human! It is the result of human reproduction, and humans beget in their own image; hence, what has been begotten must be human.

Note that Genesis 5:3 clearly shows that conception ("begetting") is what causes the son or daughter of humans to be in the image of the parents. The context refers to specific historic events in which fathers "beget" children. This must refer to conception since that is the only role the father plays in the forming of a child.

Hence, the life in the mother's womb is human life. The only question that remains is this: is it just a part of the mother's body, or is it a separate and distinct individual from the mother? If it is just part of the mother, like a hand, foot, or appendix, it could be removed without committing murder. But if it is a separate individual, then killing it constitutes murder. This is the issue we must resolve.

How does the Bible identify a human being or person?
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The Bible (King James and other older versions) nowhere uses the terms "human" or "human being," but instead uses other equivalent phrases. Further, the Bible has no unique word for "person." When this word occurs in English translations, it is simply an alternative translation for words more commonly translated "man," etc. We cannot determine whether the unborn is a human individual simply by searching for the terms "human being" or "person," because the Bible generally does not use these words in this way.

Instead, the Bible identifies a human person by calling it simply a "man," "woman," "child," "son," "daughter," "baby," "infant," etc. When used regarding the offspring of a human mother and father, these Bible terms refer to a human individual who is separate and distinct from his mother and father. You will not find a more technical name than these for any human, born or unborn, anywhere in the Bible. If the Bible uses these terms for an unborn baby, that will constitute definite proof that the unborn is a human individual.

What we need to know, then, is whether or not the Bible refers to the unborn baby by terms that imply humanity, just as it does for other humans.

God's Terms for Unborn Human Life
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"Children" or "sons" in the womb - Genesis 25:21,22; 2 Kings 19:3; Ruth 1:11
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In Genesis 25:21,22, Rebekah conceived twins, and "the children struggled together within her." Note the connection between the conception and "children." That which was conceived was called "children" (Heb. BEN) between the conception and the birth.

In 2 Kings 19:3 (and Isaiah 37:3), Hezekiah compares himself to an expectant mother who lacks strength for the labor. He says, "the children have come to birth, but there is no strength to bring them forth." The life in the mother's womb is here called "children" (Heb. BEN).

In Ruth 1:11, Naomi's husband and her two sons had died. She explains to her two widowed daughters-in-law that she could never provide sons for them to marry after the custom of that day. She asks, "Are there still sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?" Again the term "sons" (Heb. BEN) describes the unborn life.

This Hebrew word (BEN) is the most common Old Testament word for a child or son. It has various meanings, including figurative uses. But when used for the physical offspring of humans (as in these cases), it consistently refers to distinct human individuals. This is the literal meaning of the word.

For example, Genesis 25:1-4 names the "children" of Keturah. In Genesis 3:16 Eve was told she would conceive and "bring forth children." Surely this means she would conceive and give birth to human individuals. But this same term is used to describe the unborn life in the womb. Why doesn't this mean human individuals too? There is no scriptural reason to distinguish them. The word means the same in both cases: a human individual, separate and distinct as an individual from its parents. It is a human individual when it has been "conceived," just the same as it is when it has been born. [Cf. 2 Kings 17:31; Ruth 1:1.]

A "male child" is conceived - Job 3:3
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Job here distinguishes the day of his birth from the night of his conception. He grieves over the "day" he was "born" (v. 3a, cf. v. 4,5), then over the "night" he was "conceived" (v. 3b, cf. v. 6,7). On that night it could have been said, "A male-child is conceived." That which was conceived was a "male-child" ("man child" - ASV) on the very night of its conception!

The word for "male-child" (Heb. GEBER) elsewhere means "man," i.e., a human individual. See Job 3:23; 4:17; 10:5; Psalms 127:5; 128:4; etc. (or consult a concordance). This word inherently, without exception, refers to a human individual. Hence, Job is affirming that he was a human individual from the very night he was conceived.

"Infants" who never saw light - Job 3:16
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Job speaks of babies that die before birth (a "stillborn child" - NKJV) as "infants" who never saw light. This is exactly like babies that are aborted, but the passage refers to them as "infants" (Heb. OLEL). This word always and without exception refers to human individuals (cf. Hosea 13:16; Psalm 8:2 - "babes"). Joel 2:16 lists "children" (OLEL) as "people."

Hence, babies that die in their mother's womb, like aborted babies, are "infants" - human individuals separate and distinct from other human beings.

A "brother" in the womb - Hosea 12:3
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Jacob and Esau were twins. While still in the womb, Jacob took his "brother" by the heel. The word for "brother" (Heb. ACH) is the primary Old Testament word for a brother - a human individual conceived by the same mother. Jacob was Esau's "brother" before they were born just the same as afterward (Gen. 27:41).

Here is another Bible term for a human individual which is used to refer to an unborn baby. Life conceived in your mother's womb, even before it is born, is your "brother" or "sister."

A "mother" of an unborn child - Numbers 12:12; Luke 1:43
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In Numbers 12:12, when Miriam became leprous, she was described "as one dead, whose flesh is half consumed when he comes out of his mother's womb." So if a woman conceives and the baby dies before it is born - as in an abortion - the woman is still called a "mother."

In Luke 1:43, Elizabeth addressed Mary as "the mother of my Lord" before Jesus was born, very soon after He was conceived (compare verse 36 to verses 56,57).

The word "mother" (Heb. EM; Greek METER) has many uses; but in contexts referring to physical human reproduction, it always refers to one who has procreated or formed another human individual, a separate and distinct individual from the mother herself. (See for example Num. 6:7; Gen. 3:20; Luke 1:60; and see a concordance.) There is no exception to this meaning in the Bible.

A woman who has conceived, even if the child is not yet born and even if it dies before birth, is a "mother." She has produced a human individual.

A "baby" in the mother's womb - Luke 1:41,44
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Elizabeth conceived (v24), and the life "in her womb" is called a "babe" or "baby" (Greek BREPHOS). This is the second-most-common New Testament word for a baby. It is always used, without exception, for that which is a human individual separate and distinct from its mother. Jesus, for example, is called a "babe" (BREPHOS) lying in a manger (Luke 2:12,16). (See Acts 7:19 and a concordance.)

Hence, before he was born, John was a "baby" in his mother's womb - a living human being.

A woman conceived a "son" - Luke 1:36
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Again, the life conceived in Elizabeth's womb, before it was born, is called "a son."

The word "son" (Greek HUIOS) also has various meanings. But in contexts that refer to the physical offspring of humans, the word always and without exception refers to that which is a human individual separate and distinct as an individual from its parents. It is the most common New Testament word for a "son" (see Matt. 1:21,23,25; Luke 1:13,31; 2:7; etc.)

Compare John's conception to his birth:

Luke 1:36 - Elizabeth "conceived a son."
Luke 1:57 - Elizabeth "brought forth a son."

These verses refer to the same mother and the same son in the same context. One verse describes the conception and the other describes the birth, but both call the child a "son." Surely the word means the same in both cases. If John was a human being when he had been born, then he was a human being from the time of his conception.

Sons and daughters begotten in the father's likeness - Genesis 5:1-3
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Adam begot a son in his own likeness or image (v3). The term "beget" (Heb. YALAD) has various meanings, literal and figurative. When used for the father's role in the literal, historical event of human procreation, it always refers to conception or fertilization since this is the only role the father has in the birth of the child.

But that which is begotten is in the likeness or image of the father. So humans reproduce after their own kind, and what has been conceived is in the image of the father as a result of the conception and from the time of the conception. But what was the son in the image of? He was in the image of "man" (ADAM - vv. 1,2). This is the second-most-common word for man in the Old Testament, and is the same word used for man at creation in Gen. 1:26f. The son is in the image of "man" from conception on!

Further, God made man and woman in the likeness of God (v1). Then the man begot sons and daughters in his image. Therefore the sons and daughters must be in the image of God just as the parents are, and this is the result of conception. Hence, that which man begets is itself man, in the image of God from conception on!

"Her fruit depart" / "life for life" - Exodus 21:22-25
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Men fight and "hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart" (KJV, ASV). The life in the mother's womb is her "fruit" (Heb. YELED). This word is elsewhere translated "child," "boy," "son," or "young man." It is the second-most-common Old Testament word for "child." It is so used for Moses in Exodus 2:3-10 (cf. Ex. 1:17,18; Gen. 21:8; Ruth 4:16; etc.). Exodus 21:22 is the only place where this word is translated "fruit."

When referring to human offspring, this word without exception refers to that which is a human individual, a separate and distinct individual from its parents. Hence, this passage gives us another case where the life in the mother's womb is described as a human being.

(Note that other Hebrew words are translated "fruit" in the KJV, clearly referring to human beings - Deut. 28:4,11,18,53; 30:9; Psa. 132:11; etc. Hence, the KJV is not denying the humanity of the unborn in Ex. 21:22-25).

When we return to this passage later, we will learn that it requires punishment for a man who causes an expectant mother to give birth prematurely. If the baby is born dead or injured, the man should have inflicted on him the same harm he caused to the baby, even "life for life."

The Hebrew word for "life" in both cases is NEPHESH, which has many meanings, but its most common translations are "soul" (428 times), then "life" (119 times) then "person" (30 times). This expression, then, means that the unborn baby has "life" in exactly the same sense as does the man who caused the harm, i.e. human life. Further, the "life" is contrasted to eye, hand, foot, etc. - body parts. Hence, the baby is not just a body part! He has "life." The unborn baby is a human being just as much as the man is!

Observations about the Passages
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That which has been conceived and lives in the mother's womb from conception on is referred to by God as a "child," a "son" or "daughter," an "infant," a "baby," a "man-child," etc. The woman in whose womb it lives is a "mother." No human being anywhere in the Bible is identified by terms that are more distinctly human than these terms; yet God repeatedly chose these terms to describe unborn life. God makes no distinction between born and unborn life. He uses exactly the same terms for both. To Him they are the same, therefore we should view them as having the same nature.

Remember that we established from the beginning that the life in the mother's womb is human life. The only question to be settled was whether it is a distinct individual from its mother or just part of the mother's body. Consider the force of the evidence we have now examined:

Where does the Bible ever refer to parts of the mother's body as her "child," "son," "baby," etc.?
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Hands, feet, eyes, fingers, etc., are parts of a mother's body, but they are never referred to by the terms that are used for unborn babies. Nor is a woman ever called a "mother" just because she has these body parts.

Why is this so? Because "child," "son," "baby," etc., are terms that clearly imply a separate human individual, not just a part of the mother's body. God's choice of terms distinguishes the unborn baby from the mother's body. The unborn is a separate individual, not just part of the mother.

Contrast God's terms to the terms used by people who defend abortion.
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Abortion defenders universally refuse to use Bible language when referring to an unborn baby. They call it a "fetus" or "the product of conception" or "an unwanted pregnancy" or "foreign tissue." Never, never will they call it a "baby," a "child," an "infant," nor will they ever refer to the pregnant woman as a "mother." In fact, workers in abortion clinics are trained to avoid these terms (Rutherford Institute, Spring, 1988).

Why do abortion defenders refuse to use the terms that God uses for the unborn baby (1 Peter 4:11)? Because they refuse to admit it has the nature that God believes it has! This is a deliberate effort to disguise the humanity of the unborn child. The very fact that these folks refuse to use terms like "baby," "child," "son," "infant," etc., proves that they know these terms imply a separate human individual. Abortion defenders do not speak as God speaks, because they do not believe what God believes!

Consider the parallel to the distinct individuals in the Godhead.
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Some folks claim that God the Father and Jesus are the same individual, not separate individuals. We refer them to the many passages that mention Jesus as the Son of God the Father. A person cannot be his own father or his own son. A father and his son make two separate individuals (cf. John 8:16-18).

Likewise we know that, when a woman has given birth to a son, she and her son are two separate individuals. A mother cannot be the same person as her son.

But we have now learned that, when a woman has conceived, the life in her womb is her "son" (or "daughter") and she is its "mother." If God the Father is a separate individual from Jesus Christ His Son, and if a mother is a separate individual from a son to whom she has given birth, then in the very same way a mother must be a separate individual from the son or daughter in her womb.

Bible believers must conclude that the child who has been conceived and lives in its mother's womb is a separate and distinct individual from its parents - a living human being. May we then deliberately kill this human being?

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