Abortion is perhaps the most highly debated social issue of our time. With more than 27 million abortions that have occurred in the period from 1973 to 1991, almost everyone has an opinion on the issue. The abortion issue has been used as a symbol of independence in the feminist movement, and has been clouded by many other issues such as rape and incest. However, in order to obtain a Biblical view of abortion, one must take away the muck which obscures the main questions about abortion, and concentrate on the issue’s essence.
Abortion, infanticide and child abandonment were permitted under Roman law at the time of Jesus (Bokenkotter, 1990). Surprisingly, abortion is never mentioned in the Bible, despite the fact that it has been practiced since ancient times by a variety of means. However, a number of Bible passages have been cited as being relevant to the abortion issue. They may well state some general principles that are relevant, but none of them were originally intended as statements about abortion.
The primary point of conflict in the entire abortion debate is the question of when life begins. If indeed life begins in the womb, then no one could disagree that the fetus (latin for `little one’) is a human being, and is subject to the rights (God’s laws concerning humanity) which befit a human being. The Bible establishes that God recognizes a person even before he or she is born (Isa. 49:1).
THE BIBLE AND ABORTION
The Bible Condemns Murder
First of all, the Bible clearly condemns murder, and by murder I don’t mean all killing. The Bible obviously allows animals to be killed, accidental killing of human beings is not condemned, and human beings may, in fact, be deliberately killed if they’ve committed a capital offense. You see the real issue is murder not killing, and murder is the intentional killing of an innocent human being.
First of all, abortion certainly kills something: because obviously the fetus is a living organism, biologically distinct from the mother. The fetus also is certainly innocent — no one aborts a fetus because of something the fetus has supposedly done. And, with the exception of abortion to save the mother’s life, abortion is always done with the clear intent of killing the fetus.
A Fetus Is a Human Being
Numerous philosophers and scientists have shown conclusively that the fetus is a human being from the moment of conception. In addition, the Bible, which ought to be our first authority, supports the very same conclusion. For example, in Psalm 51 David confesses that he was a sinner by nature from his very conception in the womb (Psa. 51:5).
The Bible consistently uses the same word for a “born” or “unborn” baby (Alcorn, 2006). This is because the divine Author of the Bible did not recognize a material difference between the two. In Scripture, there is not some special event when a “human being” becomes a “person”. Rather, he or she is a person from the beginning who goes through growth and development both inside and outside of the womb.
In the New Testament the Greek word “brephos” is used to describe the unborn, newborns and youth. In Luke 1:44, the word is used to mean unborn baby: “For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy.” Then, in Luke 2:12, it means a newborn: “So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.” And in Luke 18:15, “brephos” refers to a young child: “And they were bringing even their babies to Him so that He would touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them.”
In the Old Testament the Hebrew word “yeled” is used in the same way. In Exodus 21:22 it means an unborn child, “If men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she gives birth prematurely…”. And yet, in other Old Testament usages, it means “youth” or even a teenager.
As late as the 16th century in our own culture, “child” was the word used for both the born and unborn baby. Late in the game, we have developed a new word, “fetus”, to describe a developing baby (Reiman, 1998) (even this word is defined in some dictionaries as an “unborn human being” (Schiff, 2002). Today, we often reserve the word “child” for a person already born.
Abortion is Murder
In short, while the Bible does not mention abortion specifically, it is clear by implication that abortion is murder. And don’t forget that Psalm 139 tells us that God created our inmost being, He knit us together in our mother’s womb and that all the days ordained for us were written in his book before even one of them came to be. The Bible clearly prohibits taking the life of an innocent person. It follows that if the developing baby is a “qualified” member of the human race, all of these scriptures apply: Genesis 9:6 – Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man. Exodus 20:13 – You shall not murder. Deuteronomy 27:25a – Cursed is he who accepts a bribe to strike down an innocent person. Proverbs 6:16-19 – There are six things which the LORD hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood. Cf: Exodus 23:7 and Deuteronomy 19:11-12.
Mercy killing” is “the act of putting a person or animal to death painlessly or allowing them to die by withholding medical services, usually because of a painful and incurable disease.” Mercy killing is also referred to as “euthanasia.”
The Greek word euthanasia translates to “good death,” making it and mercy killing terms that can be comforting in the face of difficult medical situations. When any person, especially a family member or close friend, is experiencing pain, mental degeneration, or other adverse condition, our instinct is to relieve the person in any way possible. Sometimes, this desire to alleviate pain can become so strong in the caregiver or patient that it overrides our deeper impulse to preserve life and survive (Hoekema, 1986).
This struggle between the desire to end suffering and the desire to survive is not new to humanity. In fact, one of the oldest stories in the Bible tells of Job’s longing for death in the midst of his suffering. Job laments his life, even requesting God to kill him rather than allow his pain—emotional, physical, and spiritual—to continue (Job 6:8-11). Most pertinently, Job declares, “I prefer strangling and death, rather than this body of mine. I despise my life; I would not live forever. Let me alone; my days have no meaning” (Job 7:15-16).
THE BIBLE AND EUTHANASIA
Created in God’s Image
The Bible does not specifically mention euthanasia, but it does address issues closely related to it. Euthanasia is known by different terms such as mercy killing, assisted suicide, etc. It is the act of assisting someone in his or her own death who is terminally ill, suffering, and in great pain. The goal of the assisted suicide is to prevent the continuation of pain (Slick, 2015).
The Bible tells us that we are not to murder (Exodus 20:13). Murder is the unlawful taking of life, and killing is the lawful taking of life. Technically speaking, if a nation said that euthanasia was legal, then on a human level it would not be murder. But as societies often legislate moral issues in contradiction to the Bible, just because a society might say that euthanasia is good does not mean that it is. We are to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). We are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26), and it is the Lord God who gives us life (Job 33:4) and who has numbered our days (Job 14:5). This means that God is the sovereign Lord who determines the day that we die. Therefore, we are not to usurp God’s authority.
David and Euthanasia
There is an account of requested euthanasia (in which one person asks another to kill them, in order to alleviate the first person’s suffering) involving King Saul and an Amalekite. The unnamed Amalekite tells King David that he killed Saul at Saul’s request, as Saul was wounded in battle. David’s response is to kill the Amalekite for touching God’s anointed. If euthanasia were a beneficial practice, David would have rewarded the Amalekite, not sentenced him to death because of his deed (Woods, 2016).
And he said unto me, Who art thou? And I answered him, I am an Amalekite. He said unto me again, Stand, I pray thee, upon me, and slay me: for anguish is come upon me, because my life is yet whole in me. So I stood upon him, and slew him, because I was sure that he could not live after that he was fallen: and I took the crown that was upon his head, and the bracelet that was on his arm, and have brought them hither unto my lord… And David said unto him, Thy blood be upon thy head; for thy mouth hath testified against thee, saying, I have slain the LORD’S anointed. And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son… 2 Samuel 1:8-17
God does not support Mercy Killing
Job laments about his life, even requesting God to kill him rather than allow his pain—emotional, physical, and spiritual—to continue (Job 6:8-11). Most pertinently, Job declares, “I prefer strangling and death, rather than this body of mine. I despise my life; I would not live forever. Let me alone; my days have no meaning” (Job 7:15-16).
Does the Bible endorse Job’s feelings? It certainly recognizes that such feelings exist. Other characters in Scripture have, in desperation, asked for an early end to their lives, including Elijah (1 Kings 19:4) and Saul (1 Chronicles 10:4). Scripture acknowledges that emotion and even logic can support the idea of a “mercy killing.” However, we do not live by emotion or logic but by faith (Romans 1:17). God has plans and an understanding we can never grasp. He is the Giver and Sustainer of life (Nehemiah 9:6), and we do not have the right to usurp His authority. Near the end of Job’s story, his friend Elihu warns him, “Beware of turning to evil, which you seem to prefer to affliction” (Job 36:21). It is not our place to decide the time or manner of our death. Mercy killing is a sin against God’s plan and power (Miller, 2013).
What to do when facing Challenges
The Lord will deliver you: The Lord promises to deliver us and give us His grace and strength, no matter what we may face. Even if we suffer in this life, there is coming a day we will no longer suffer and God will make all things new (John 16:33; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Philippians 4:11,13,19; Psalm 34:19).
Go Deeper in knowledge of God: In this world we all experience suffering. However, God sent Jesus to redeem us from the suffering that Satan put upon mankind. Jesus suffered on the cross to relieve us of these types of suffering sickness, depression, fear, poverty, filth, torment, emotional pain stemming from divorce or broken relationships, anxiety, loneliness, grief, stress, disorder, confusion, etc. when faced with this kind of suffering we are to resist and ask God, in faith, to deliver us and heal us. God wants to extend His grace and love through us to a hurting world (Philippians 3:10-11; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
The God of the Bible is a God of life, not death. All forms of abortion, euthanasia, known as mercy killing and assisted suicide, are considered the same as acts of murder in the Bible. Saving someone from pain is not a reason to kill them, nor is it lawful to kill oneself to save oneself from pain. God has made a way for us to overcome sickness, suffering and pain by His death on the cross. He has promised deliverance and healing to all that come to Him in faith. When someone is a party to taking another’s life, it is a direct act of not only murder, but idolatry as well, for they assume the role of God. The Bible says in:
I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them. Deuteronomy 30:19-20
According to these scriptures, it is God who gives us life and sets the length of our days according to His plans for us, and our response to that plan. When any human being chooses death for another and does not try to preserve life, it is murder. That is the reason abortion is murder as well. When a woman chooses to destroy her own child, she chooses death for that baby and is guilty of breaking the sixth commandment found in Exodus 20:13: “Thou shalt not kill.” We are not to murder each other, or ourselves. God created human beings in His image and each of us carries within us the potential to overcome the evil in this world.
Alcorn, Randy (2006), Abortion in the Bible and Church History, www.epm.org/ articles/aborhistory.html.
Bokenkotter, Thomas, A Concise History of the Catholic Church, Doubleday, 1990.
Hoekema, Anthony (1986). Created in God’s Image. Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Miller, Betty (2013). Mercy Killing: What the Bible Says about Euthanasia. Bible Resources: Christ Unlimited Ministries.
Reiman, Jeffrey H. (1998), Abortion and the Ways We Value Human Life. Rowman & Littlefield.
Schiff, Daniel (2002). Abortion in Judaism. Cambridge University Press.
Slick, Matt. (2015). What does the Bible say about Euthanasia? Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry.
Woods, Mark (2016). Christians And Mercy Killing: Is It Really Just Killing? Christian today, 23 September.