Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
Just WHEN Does Human Life Begin?
The question and the debate over abortion is often nebulous, fraught with emotion, with conflicting opinions and historical uncertainties -- and a general confusion. With all that is available to us today, from science, from the Bible, from history and from ethics, it is unfortunate and somewhat sad that we have continued in confusion. Confusion and indecision are simply NOT acceptable. This article clears away the confusion and PINPOINTS the time when human life begins -- and hence the time when murder becomes the operative word.
John D. Keyser
Abortion has been practiced around the world since ancient times as a crude method of birth control. Although many religions forbade or restricted the practice, abortion was not considered illegal in most countries until the 19th century.
The Controversy That Wont Go Away
There were laws prior to this time, however, that banned abortion after quickening -- that is, the time that fetal movement can first be felt. In 1803 England banned all abortions, and this policy soon spread to Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Throughout the middle and late 1800s, many states in the United States enacted similar laws banning abortion. In the 20th century, however, many nations began to relax their laws against abortion. The former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) legalized abortion in 1920, followed by Japan in 1948, and several Eastern European countries in the 1950s. In the 1960s and 1970s, much of Europe and Asia, along with the United States, legalized abortion.
In the United States, the legalization of abortion began in
1966 when Mississippi passed a law permitting abortion in cases of rape. In the
following four years, other states expanded the use of abortion to include cases
in which a pregnancy threatens a woman’s health, the fetus has serious
abnormalities, or the pregnancy is the result of incest (sexual intercourse
between close relatives).
In early 1973 the Supreme Court of the United States decided two cases, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, that effectively legalized abortion for any reason before the 24th week of pregnancy -- the point when the fetus becomes viable. The ruling allowed individual states to enact laws restricting abortion after viability, except in cases when abortion is necessary to preserve the life or health of the woman.
This decision effectively drew the first line in the sand at the end of the first trimester (12 weeks) because the Court left it to the individual states to restrict abortion after the first trimester, but made exceptions in the case of a pregnancy that might endanger a mother's life or health. This, significantly, included the mother's emotional and social health! Considering that the capabilities of medical care and technology in 1973 concluded that viability was from 24 to 28 weeks, this decision of the Supreme Court was quite surprising.
The Roe v. Wade decision, however, deliberately sidestepped the question of WHEN human life begins. This resulted in an arbitrary legal opinion that a fetus' life and value must, for practical purposes, reach "a compelling point" at the point of viability, when the fetus can survive outside the mother's womb.
An estimated 46 million abortions are performed worldwide each year, of which 20 million are performed in countries where abortion is restricted or prohibited by law. It has been claimed that as many as 10,000 maternal deaths a year from criminal abortions occurred in the United States prior to the Supreme Court ruling of 1973. However, these claims were taken from the 1936 book entitled Abortion, Spontaneous and Induced, by Dr. Frederick Taussig. Taussig -- a leading proponent of legalized abortion -- arrived at this figure by calculating an urban abortion rate based on the records of a New York City birth control clinic and on a rural abortion rate based on some numbers given to him by some doctors in Iowa. He took a guess at a mortality rate, multiplied this by a strangely generated estimate of how many criminal abortions were taking place, and came up with his figure.
Even if his calculations were miraculously correct, they still would have been out of date by the end of WWII. Antibiotics and blood transfusions changed the face of medicine. But not only are the Taussig numbers dated -- they were never accurate to begin with! At a conference in 1942, Taussig himself apologized for using "the wildest estimates" to generate the bogus number.
So how many maternal deaths occurred annually before Roe v. Wade? Peer-reviewed articles published in the decades before Roe v. Wade gave varied estimates of the number of abortion deaths annually in the United States. One study determined that there were approximately 1.3 criminal abortion deaths per year in Minnesota from 1950 through 1965. Commentary on that study pointed out that if researchers combined known criminal abortion deaths with suspected criminal abortion deaths, 4.4 women were dying from criminal abortions per year in Tennessee from 1955 through 1965. A study in California reported 30 total abortion deaths per year during the period studied from 1957 through 1965 -- and as many as 87% of those abortion deaths were due to criminal abortions. This meant a MAXIMUM death rate in California of 26 women per year during the period in question.
But what about the mortality rate nationwide? In 1975 (the first year for which complete numbers are available), Minnesota reported roughly 1.6% of all legal abortions, Tennessee reported about 1.7%, and California about 22%. It is reasonable to assume that the proportion of illegal abortions in each state before legalization would be similar to the proportion of legal abortions in each state after Roe v. Wade. If each of those states had been representative of the nation at large, that would put the national death rate at 78, 225 and 104 respectively. If we combine the totals, we find 31.7 criminal abortion deaths per year in three states, which represented roughly 26% of abortion deaths. This would mean approximately 123 criminal abortion deaths annually in the decades before Roe v. Wade.
How realistic are these numbers? Mary Calderone, who was then the Medical Director of Planned Parenthood, reported on a conference studying abortion in America. She indicated that in 1957 there were 260 abortion deaths nationwide. That number included all abortions -- legal, illegal and spontaneous. The calculations based on state maternal mortality investigations are fairly close to Calderone's numbers based on national data. Taussig's estimates of as many as 10,000 deaths would have meant that Minnesota authorities should have found 80 to 160 deaths per year when all their efforts could only find one or two. Tennessee should have been finding 85 to 170, rather than 4 or 5, and California should have been finding 1100 to 2200 rather than roughly 26. Beware of abortion promoters that cite Taussig's discredited numbers!
Another attempt to provide a political framework for defining a scientific basis for political and social decisions -- one that was not limited to the controversial U.S. Supreme Court -- occurred in Great Britain. Here the government charged the Warnock Committee with setting up rules to govern research into embryonic issues. The Warnock Committee directly addressed the question of WHEN human life begins scientifically. Writes John L. Merritt and J. Lawrence Merritt II --
"After much input and deliberation the Committee adopted a policy that human life begins 14 days after fertilization, a time called gastrulation, when the 'primitive streak,' the precursor to the central nervous system, appeared. The reason for selecting this time was that after gastrulation, spontaneous division of the blastocyst to form twins (known as twinning) was not possible. The Commission reasoned that the embryo, after gastulation, may be unequivocally termed an individual, not a twin. Thus as individual, a person, existed at this point, and consequentially a sacrifice of the embryo for scientific research should be limited. And one must conclude, that on the surface, this reasoning may be attractive. Few could complain that the Warnock Committee in Great Britain has a much more firm scientific foundation than the US Supreme Court's 'practical' compromise [of the Roe v. Wade decision]" (When Does Human Life Begin? -- A Fresh Look at Scientific, Scriptural, and Historical Evidence. Crystal Clear Books, 2010, p. 11).
However, the Warnock Committee's focus was on fetal cell and stem cell research -- not abortion -- and, as a result, is much less well known.
In 1976 the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the right of pregnant girls under the age of 18, known as mature minors, to have abortions. Three years later the Court ruled that states may require the consent of one parent of a minor requesting an abortion. Parental consent is not necessary if a confidential alternative form of review, such as a judicial hearing, is made available for young women who choose not to involve their parents. The Court stated that a judge in a hearing must approve a minor’s abortion, in place of her parents, if the judge finds that the minor is mature enough to make the decision on her own. If the judge finds that the minor is not capable of making this decision on her own, he or she can decide whether the abortion is in the minor’s best interest.
Since these decisions, about 40 states have enacted and enforced parental consent or notification laws, although some laws have been contested in courts for years. In 1990, for example, in Hodgson v. Minnesota, the Supreme Court upheld a law requiring that prior notice be provided to both parents of a minor before an abortion is performed. In a similar case arising in Ohio that same year, the court upheld a requirement for notice or consent of one parent. In 2000, however, the New Jersey Supreme Court struck down a law requiring parental notice for unmarried girls under age 18.
Other state-imposed restrictions regulate who pays for
abortions, where abortions are performed, and what information is provided to
women seeking abortions. For example, in 1977 the Supreme Court allowed states
to limit the use of Medicaid funds (government assistance for health care) for
payment of elective abortions -- that is, those abortions not medically required.
Also in 1977, the Supreme Court allowed the city of St.
Louis, Missouri, to exclude elective abortions from procedures performed in
a public hospital.
A law upheld by the Supreme Court in 1980 restricted the availability of federal Medicaid funding for abortions deemed medically necessary. After that ruling, abortion payments for poor women in many states were limited to cases in which pregnancy threatened the woman’s life.
In 1983 the Court found it unconstitutional to require that a
woman considering an abortion be given information developed by the state about
risks or consequences and wait 24 hours after receiving information before
having the abortion.
Similarly, in 1986 the Court struck down a comprehensive Pennsylvania law requiring that state-developed materials about abortion be offered to women undergoing the procedure.
Since the 1989 Supreme Court decision in Webster v.
Reproductive Health Services, the Court has permitted several state-imposed
restrictions to stand. The Webster case upheld a Missouri law that prohibits the
use of public facilities or public employees for abortion and requires a
physician to determine the viability of a fetus older than 20 weeks before
performing an abortion.
In the 1991 case of Rust v. Sullivan, the Court upheld a federal policy that prevented health-care providers who received federal funding from engaging in any activities that encouraged or promoted abortion as a method of family planning. President Bill Clinton later revoked this policy in 1993.
In 1992 the Supreme Court decided Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, a case in which the Court reaffirmed the central ruling of Roe v. Wade -- that no undue burden on access to abortion should exist for a woman over 18 years of age prior to fetal viability. But the case also permitted states more freedom in regulating abortion. The Court overturned prior rulings, making it possible for states to again require that a woman be given state-developed information about abortion risks and consequences and wait 24 hours before undergoing the procedure.
In 1996 the Congress of the United States enacted a bill banning the practice of so-called partial birth abortions, also known as the intact dilation and extraction procedure. President Clinton vetoed the law because it failed to permit use of the procedure when a fetus displays severe abnormalities or when carrying a pregnancy to term presents a serious threat to a woman’s health or life. Over 30 states passed laws in the 1990s banning use of the procedure.
In June 2000, in Stenberg v. Carhart, the Supreme Court
struck down a Nebraska ban on partial birth abortion. The Court stated that the
ban was an unconstitutional violation of both Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood
of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey.
But after Congress passed the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 and President George W. Bush signed it into law, the Court revisited the issue in a 2007 ruling in Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood and Gonzales v. Carhart. This time, with Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. replacing the retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the Court upheld the ban on the partial birth abortion procedure in a 5 to 4 decision. Under the law, physicians who perform the banned procedure could face fines and up to two years in prison. The law allows for use of intact dilation and extraction only in cases where the mother’s life is endangered without the procedure.
Since the Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion in 1973, opponents of abortion have worked continuously to reverse the decision. They have lobbied state and federal officials to place restrictions on women seeking abortions or on individuals providing abortions. They have also held protests directed at clinics that perform abortions, and, in some cases, have accosted and obstructed patients and health-care providers at such clinics. In May 1994 the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act was enacted, which made it a federal crime to use force, threat of force, or physical obstruction to injure, intimidate, or interfere with reproductive health-care providers and their patients.
That same year, in a case known as Madsen v. Women’s Health Center, the Supreme Court upheld the basic right to protest in peaceful, organized demonstrations outside abortion clinics. But the case upheld a Florida law that created a 36 ft (11 m) buffer zone around a clinic to ensure that demonstrations do not prevent access to clinics or disrupt clinic operations. In February 1997 the Court upheld buffer zones around clinics but struck down certain floating, or moveable, buffer zones around individuals approaching clinics.
The Supreme Court’s ruling in 2007 upholding the federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 was expected to spur further attempts to restrict abortion, if not overturn Roe v. Wade. Supporters of the right to abortion noted that the Court’s majority opinion in the 2007 decision represented the first time since the 1973 Roe ruling that the Court permitted a ban on an abortion procedure, effectively intruding -- so they claim -- on the privacy of a decision between a woman and her physician. Supporters of the ruling countered that the Court’s decision addressed the moral and ethical concerns put forward by opponents of abortion. They cited Justice Anthony Kennedy’s argument in the majority opinion that “the government has a legitimate and substantial interest in preserving and promoting fetal life.”
Today, one of history's greatest debates rages on -- passionately dividing Americans and concerned citizens the world over. This dispute has been waged for most of recorded history and in dozens of other societies. It is indeed remarkable that a clear consensus -- or even consistent reasoning -- is lacking in the reams of information that has been penned by experts in the theological, philosophical, political or scientific fields. While there is a wide diversity of opinions in these fields, a need for clarity is often cited but never attained. "This diversity of opinions," writes Merritt and Merritt, "is often reliant on tradition and personal agendas, often with little scientific, historical or ethical basis. Inflammatory language, misquotes of sources and inconsistent terminology fans the flame of emotion and mistrust. This only serves to complicate ethical and social decisions and policy" (When Does Human Life Begin?, p. 7).
Historical practices, traditions, public health issues, political agendas and scientific and medical promises are all quoted to defend the divergent positions. Different groups use different time-points in the biology of human growth to support their ideas as to WHEN the moment of life actually begins. "They begin by defining a variety of different embryological events, such as gastrulation (formation of the germ layers), first heartbeat, the quickening (first notable movement), recognizable human body shape, neurulation, and first brain waves. Other clinical time points are described, such as: viability, birth (delivery from the uterus), the first breath of air, and finally to specific time marks following delivery at 40 days, 80 days, 90 days, 120 days, 15 weeks, 28 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, and 9 months" (ibid., pp. 7-8).
Time Points in Life, Suggested "Beginnings"
|1||Conception -- Sperm-Ova Union|
|2||Zygote -- single cell stage|
|3||Mitosis -- 2 cells in 12 hours; into 4 cells in 24 hours|
|4||Morula -- 16 or more cells|
|5||Functional genotype development, methylation|
|6||Blastocyst -- Inner cell separation, and continuing division|
|7||Blastcyst adherence to uterine endothelium|
|8||Implantation of blastocyst|
|9||Reciprocal chemical exchanges between embryo and mother|
|10||Blood interaction of hormones and nourishment|
|11||Gastrulation: appearance of primitive streak|
|12||Separation into embryonic germ layers|
|13||First heart beat|
|14||Vital organ developments|
|15||First brain waves|
|16||Human form characteristics -- eye, limb development|
|17||Quickening -- maternal detection of fetal movement|
|18||Viability, with technologies|
|19||Viability, without technological support|
|20||Birth, first breath|
|22||Circumcision -- 8 days|
|23||Naming -- 8-40 days, 3-6 months|
|24||Weaning -- 6-9 months|
Opinions vary wildly regarding when life begins and include a curious group of contributors. On the one hand are conservative authorities such as the Pope, the Roman Catholic Church, many Hindu and Buddhist adherents, the orthodox Jewish community, Presidents of the U.S., Christian fundamentalists and the evangelical right and conservative Republicans. They all support a legal position that life begins at fertilization (called conception in humans -- the union of the sperm and egg), with all the implications that this understanding carries with regard to abortion, stem-cell research and contraception.
Picture of a Human Zygote.
The fertilized human egg -- before implantation into the mother's uterus -- is called a zygote. The belief that human life begins at conception is referred to as the personhood of the zygote. While these conservative voices claim a scriptural foundation for their viewpoint, they offer no clear and compelling Biblical proof to support life beginning at conception and for the personhood of the zygote. The texts they offer are usually broad and non-specific, requiring reading one's opinion into the text.
On the other hand, however, abortion rights advocates include many traditional Protestant communities, liberal Catholics, Reformed and Conservative Jews, most Moslems, secular humanists, the non-religious, the ACLU, some moderate Republicans, almost the entire Democratic party, feminists, the political progressive left and, of course, the U.S. Supreme Court.
This inability to arrive at a consensus regarding such an important question as when human life begins has not changed in the last three decades. Just recently (2008) this was underscored by the publication of a report of the President's Council on Bioethics. This commissioned report -- which includes an address to the President -- states that "these essays make it clear that there is no universal agreement on the meaning of the term, human dignity." The report goes on to say, "An appreciation of the variety of these views is critical..." And then called for "a deeper understanding of the foundation upon which we build our answers to life's most challenging questions."
This article will dispel the confusion and present important and compelling arguments that these historic but indecisive deliberations have not considered and reported evidence that will provide fundamental answers to this most challenging question: When does human life begin?
According to the Greeks
The ancient Greeks tolerated abortions but they were not at all common for one very important reason: It was much safer to carry a baby to full term than have an abortion. Perhaps only one in ten mothers survived an abortion. Surviving texts from ancient Greece, however, reveal that the Greeks were well-acquainted with abortion. It was discussed by doctors, philosophers, lawyers, historians and poets. Some found the practice to be good and necessary while others found the practice to be evil and contrary to nature. Those who promoted abortion had a variety of reasons for doing so: to prevent unwanted children, to reduce the number of "weaker" children, to hide sexual activity, to prevent bodily disfigurement, to reduce the number of heirs, to avoid the expenses and burdens of child-rearing, etc. Those who sought abortions generally had two options -- abortifacient drugs or crude surgery. Neither method was very safe.
Those who condemned abortion often did so to protect the rights of the father and to spare a woman from almost certain physical harm or death. Occasionally, abortion was condemned based on the belief that what grows in the womb is a human being.
The ancient Greeks did, however, practice infanticide. If the parents did not want the baby -- usually because it was deformed -- they could simply leave it to die by exposing it to the elements. A parent who abandoned a new-born baby to die was not punished in any way. If a person found such a baby they could take it in as their own. There was also the option of selling the unwanted baby into slavery.
Some ancient Greeks were influenced by the mystical Pythagoreans, who placed an emphasis on the concept of "a soul" as the essence of an individual's existence. They claimed that a human "soul" was created at the time of conception. This reasoning was subsequently reflected in the famous Hippocratic Oath which represented a minority position in ancient Greece. However, it banned abortion by classically trained Greek Aesculapian, Hippocratic physicians.
In The Oath of Hippocrates (400 B.C.) we read the following --
"I swear by Apollo the physician, and Aesculapius, and Health, and All-heal, and all the gods and goddesses, that, according to my ability and judgment, I will keep this Oath...I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous. I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and in like manner I will not give to a woman a pessary [vaginal suppository] to produce abortion."
This Oath expressly forbade giving a woman "a pessary to produce abortion." This is interpreted to forbid abortion by any method and shows that the classical medical profession of the day found abortion to be totally wrong. Hippocrates' disapproval of abortion stemmed from his belief that conception marked the beginning of human life according to the Pythagorean reasoning.
Another text from someone using Hippocrates' name indicates that at times abortion could be promoted in ancient Greece -- notice:
"It was in the following way that I came to see a six-day-old embryo. A kinswoman of mine owned a very valuable danseuse, whom she employed as a prostitute. It was important that this girl should not become pregnant and therefore lose her value. Now this girl had heard the sort of thing women say to each other -- that when a woman is going to conceive, the seed remains inside her and does not fall out...One day she noticed that the seed had not come out again. She told her mistress and the story came to me. When I heard it, I told her to jump up and down, touching her buttocks with her heels at each leap. After she had done this more than seven times, there was a noise, the seed fell out on the ground, and the girl looked at it in great surprise...It was round, and red, and within the membrane could be seen thick white fibers, surrounded by a thick red serum; while on the outer surface of the membrane were clots of blood" (On the Generating Seed and the Nature of the Child).
In Plato's Republic, written around 360 B.C., he records a fictional conversation between Socrates and various others about what constitutes justice -- and it is argued that justice occurs when a person does what he does for the interests of the State. In Book V, in a discussion about women and childbearing, Socrates recommends a method for improving the species genetically whereby certain fetuses should not be allowed to be born or should be killed after birth. He finishes the discourse by saying, "And we grant all this, accompanying the permission with strict orders to prevent any embryo which may come into being from seeing the light; and if any force a way to the birth, the parents must understand that the offspring of such an union cannot be maintained, and arrange accordingly."
In Book 7, section 1335b of Aristotle's Politics (written around 350 B.C.), he recommended that laws should be made promoting abortion and the exposure of newborn children to limit children with deformities and to prevent overpopulation; yet, he also drew a line between lawful and unlawful abortions:
"As to exposing or rearing the children born, let there be a law that no deformed child shall be reared; but on the ground of a number of children, if the regular customs hinder any of those born being exposed, there must be a limit fixed to the procreation of offspring, and if any people have a child as a result of intercourse in contravention of these regulations, abortion must be practiced on it before it has developed sensation and life; for the line between lawful and unlawful abortion will be marked by the fact of having sensation and being alive."
Aristotle also described the concept of "delayed ensoulment" and "animation." Explains Merritt and Merritt,
"Building upon the classical Greek appreciation and elevation of form in nature and life, he taught that a fetus was at first an unformed 'vegetable soul.' This evolved into an 'animal soul' later in gestation. It finally became 'animated' with a formed human soul" (When Does Human Life Begin?, p. 14).
This was the process of "ensoulment." The early Greeks reckoned ensoulment to be at 40 days for male fetuses, and 90 days for females. These concepts dominated western classical thought over the next 600 years.
Abortion in Ancient Rome
While ancient Romans did not openly approve of the practice of abortion, it was not considered a serious offence.
Dionysius of Harlicarnassus (60 B.C. - 7 B.C.) recalled the childrearing laws given by Rome's founder Romulus --
"By these institutions Romulus sufficiently regulated and suitably disposed the city both for peace and for war: and he made it large and populous by the following means. In the first place, he obliged the inhabitants to bring up all their male children and the first-born of the females, and forbade them to destroy any children under three years of age unless they were maimed or monstrous from their very birth. These he did not forbid their parents to expose, provided they first showed them to their five nearest neighbors and these also approved. Against those who disobeyed this law he fixed various penalties, including the confiscation of half their property" (Roman Antiquities, 2.15.1-2)
Plutarch (A.D. 46-120), in the biography Romulus (22.3) recounts a law from Romulus whereby a husband could divorce his wife for using "poisons" -- i.e., drugs that cause abortion:
"He also enacted certain laws, and among them one of severity, which forbids a wife to leave her husband, but permits a husband to put away his wife for using poisons, for substituting children, and for adultery; but if a man for any other reason sends his wife away, the law prescribes that half his substance shall belong to his wife, and the other half be consecrated to Ceres; and whosoever puts away his wife, shall make a sacrifice to the gods of the lower world."
Seneca (3 B.C. - A.D. 65)
disapprovingly states that it was common practice for a woman to induce
abortion in order to maintain the beauty of her figure. In De ira
(On Anger), 1.15, he mentions the common practice of infanticide: "For what
reason have I for hating a man to whom I am offering the greatest service
when I save him from himself? Does a man hate the members of his own body
when he uses the knife upon them? There is no anger there, but the pitying
desire to heal. Mad dogs we knock on the head; the fierce and savage ox we
slay; sickly sheep we put to the knife to keep them from infecting the
flock; unnatural progeny we destroy; we drown even children who at birth are
weakly and abnormal..."
Juvenal (A.D. 57/67 - 127), in his Satires, presents an unfavorable view of abortion --
"These poor women, however, endure the perils of child-birth, and all the troubles of nursing to which their lot condemns them; but how often does a gilded bed contain a woman that is lying in? So great is the skill, so powerful the drugs, of the abortionist, paid to murder mankind within the womb. Rejoice, poor wretch; give her the stuff to drink whatever it be, with your own hand: for were she willing to get big and trouble her womb with bouncing babes, you might perhaps find yourself the father of an Ethiopian; and some day a colored heir, whom you would rather not meet by daylight, would fill all the places in your will" (6.592-601).
In Noctes Atticae (Attic Nights) the Roman writer Aulus Gellius spoke of how the philosopher Favorinus viewed women who aborted to spare their own beauty:
"For it is for that reason...that many of those unnatural women try to dry up and check that sacred fount of the body, the nourisher of mankind, regardless of the danger of diverting and spoiling the milk, because they think it disfigures the charms of their beauty. In so doing they show the same madness as those who strive by evil devices to cause abortion of the fetus itself which they have conceived, in order that their beauty may not be spoiled by the labor of parturition. But since it is an act worthy of public detestation and general abhorrence to destroy a human being in its inception, while it is being fashioned and given life and is still in the hands of Dame Nature, how far does it differ from this to deprive a child, already perfect, of the nourishment of its own familiar and kindred blood?" (12.1).
Christianity and Abortion
We will now examine how Greek or Hellenistic ideas greatly influenced the early development of Christian thought during the early centuries A.D.
2nd Century A.D. to 4th Century A.D. (Abortion = Murder):
There were three main movements within early Christianity. Two did not succeed: Jewish Christianity -- centered in Jerusalem and founded by Jesus' disciples -- and Gnostic Christianity. The third, Roman or Catholic Christianity, flourished and evolved into the so-called Christian Church. It was surrounded by a mosaic of other competing religions within the Roman Empire, including
The Greek state religion
The Roman state religion
Various mystery religions
With the exception of Judaism, most or all of the competing religions allowed women to have abortions and allowed parents to kill new-born babies by strangulation or exposing them as methods of population control.
Writes Merritt and Merritt, "by the end of the 1st Century CE, three competing branches were extant within [so-called] Christianity: Roman Christianity, Gnostic Christians, and Jewish Nazarene-Messianic-Christians. Of these, only the Roman form survived and flourished into the 4th Century [as the Roman Catholic Church], and eventually became the pattern for western Christianity" (When Does Human Life Begin?, p. 18).
We have already seen that abortion -- while not always approved of -- was almost universally practiced, to one degree or another, in the ancient Greek and Roman world where Christianity was to spread. However, the earliest forms of Christianity mirrored early Judaism. There are many writings, letters and petitions of early Christian philosophers and Church Fathers which equated abortion with infanticide and condemned both as murder.
Statements by individuals:
Barnabas: "You shall not kill either the
fetus by abortion or the new born" (Letter of Barnabas, circa 125)
Anon: An unknown author writing circa 135 A.D. in The Apocalypse of Peter:
"I saw a gorge in which the discharge and excrement of the tortured ran down and became like a lake. There sat women, and the discharge came up to their throats; and opposite them sat many children, who were born prematurely, weeping. And from them went forth rays of fire and smote the women on the eyes. These were those who produced children outside of marriage, and who procured abortions."
"Those who slew the unborn children will be tortured forever, for God wills it to so."
Athenagoras: "We say that women who induce
abortions are murderers, and will have to give account of it to God. For the
same person, would not regard the child in the womb as a living being and
therefore an object of God's care and then kill it.... But we are altogether
consistent in our conduct. We obey reason and do not override it" (Petition to
Emperor Marcus Aurelius (121-180 A.D.), circa 150 A.D.).
Clement of Alexandria: (circa 150 - 215
A.D.) "Our whole life can go on in observation of the laws of nature, if we gain
dominion over our desires from the beginning and if we do not kill, by various
means of a perverse art, the human offspring, born according to the designs of
divine providence; for these women who, if order to hide their immorality, use
abortive drugs which expel the child completely dead, abort at the same time
their own human feelings" (Paedagogus 2).
Tertullian (circa 155 - 225 A.D.):
"...we are not permitted, since murder has been prohibited to us once and
for all, even to destroy ...the fetus in the womb. It makes no difference
whether one destroys a life that has already been born or one that is in the
process of birth" (Apology 9:7-8).
St. Hippolytus (circa 170-236 A.D.):
"Reputed believers began to resort to drugs for producing Sterility and to gird
themselves round, so as to expel what was conceived on account of their not
wanting to have a child either by a slave or by any paltry fellow, for the sake
of their family and excessive wealth. Behold, into how great impiety that
lawless one has proceeded, by inculcating adultery and murder at the same time"
(from Refutation of all Heresies, 9:7).
Minicius Felix (a Christian lawyer; circa
180 - 225 A.D.): "Some women take medicines to destroy the germ of future life in
their own bodies. They commit infanticide before they have given birth to the
infant" (Octavious 30, 2).
St. Basil the Great (circa 330 - 379
"She who has deliberately destroyed a fetus has to pay the penalty of
murder...here it is not only the child to be born that is vindicated, but also
the woman herself who made an attempt against her own life, because usually the
women die in such attempts. Furthermore, added to this is the destruction of the
child, another murder... Moreover, those, too, who give drugs causing abortion
are deliberate murderers themselves, as well as those receiving the poison which
kills the fetus" (Letter 188:2).
St. Ambrose: (339 to 397 A.D.) "The poor
expose their children, the rich kill the fruit of their own bodies in the womb,
lest their property be divided up, and they destroy their own children in the
womb with murderous poisons. and before life has been passed on, it is
annihilated" (Hexaemeron 5, 18, 58).
St. John Chrysostom (circa 340 - 407 A.D.): "Why sow where the ground makes it its care to destroy the fruit? Where there are many efforts at abortion? Where there is murder before the birth? For you do not even let the harlot remain a mere harlot, but make her a murderer also. You see how drunkenness leads to whoredom, whoredom to adultery, adultery to murder; or rather something even worse than murder. For I have no real name to give it, since it does not destroy the thing born but prevents its being born. Why then do you abuse the gift of God and fight with His laws, and follow after what is a curse as if a blessing, and make the place of procreation a chamber for murder, and arm the woman that was given for childbearing unto slaughter?" (Homily on Romans).
St. Jerome (circa 342-420 A.D.): "They drink potions to ensure sterility and are guilty of murdering a human being not yet conceived. Some, when they learn that they are with child through sin, practice abortion by the use of drugs. Frequently they die themselves and are brought before the rulers of the lower world guilty of three crimes: suicide, adultery against Christ, and murder of an unborn child" (Letter 22:13).
Jerome in his Study
Tertullian circa 155-225 A.D.: "For us [Christians] we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter when you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to birth. That is a man which is going to be one: you have the fruit already in the seed" (Apology 9:6).
"They [John and Jesus] were both alive while still in the womb. Elizabeth rejoiced as the infant leaped in her womb; Mary glorifies the Lord because Christ within inspired her. Each mother recognizes her child and is known by her child who is alive, being not merely souls but also spirits" (De A ninta 26:4).
Statements by groups:
The Didache (also known as "The Teaching
of the Twelve Apostles") dates from the first half of the second century
states: "Thou shalt not murder a child by abortion." (2:2) It also says that
"The Way of Death is filled with people who are...murderers of children and
abortionists of God's creatures" (5:1-2).
The Synod of Elvira, held in Spain in 306
A.D.: "If a woman becomes pregnant by committing adultery, while her husband is
absent, and after the act she destroys the child, it is proper to keep her from
communion until death, because she has doubled her crime" (Canon 63).
The Synod of Ancyra, held in 314
condemned abortion. The penalty was 10 years of penance.
The Apostolic Constitutions (circa 380 A.D.) allowed abortion if it was done early enough in pregnancy. But it condemned abortion if the fetus was of human shape. "Thou shalt not slay the child by causing abortion, nor kill that which is begotten. For everything that is shaped, and his received a soul from God, if slain, it shall be avenged, as being unjustly destroyed" (7:3:15). This document claimed to have been written by the apostles. However, it was actually written late in the 4th century A.D. at about the time that Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire and serious oppression of Paganism started.
Priests for Life quote this passage on their website, but delete the words after "begotten" and before "If" -- thus reversing the meaning of the passage.
5th to 16th Century A.D. (Various beliefs on whether abortion is murder):
"Over the centuries," notes Merritt and Merritt, "Hellenistic influences and especially influences from Aristotle and Plato became increasingly influential. These writings greatly influenced St. Augustine, as he became the most prolific and influential writer of the early Christian Church Fathers" (When Does Human Life Begin?, p. 21).
St. Augustine (354-430 A.D.) reversed centuries of Christian teaching in Western Europe, by returning to the Aristotelian Pagan concept of "delayed ensoulment." He wrote that a human soul cannot live in an unformed body. Thus, early in pregnancy, an abortion is not murder because no soul is destroyed (or, more accurately, only a vegetable or animal soul is terminated). He wrote extensively on sexual matters, teaching that the original sin of Adam and Eve are passed to each successive generation through the pleasure generated during sexual intercourse. This passed into the church's canon law. Only abortion of a more fully developed "fetus animatus" (animated fetus) was punished as murder.
Augustine had little influence over the beliefs of Orthodox Christianity. They retained their original anti-abortion stance.
St. Jerome wrote in a letter to Aglasia:
"The seed gradually takes shape in the uterus, and it [abortion] does not count as killing until the individual elements have acquired their external appearance and their limbs" (Epistle 121, 4).
Starting in the 7th century A.D., a series of penitentials were written in the West. These listed an array of sins, with the penance that a person must observe as punishment for the sin. Certain "sins" which prevented conception had particularly heavy penalties. These included: (1) Practicing a particularly ineffective form of birth control, coitus interruptus (withdrawal of the penis prior to ejaculation), (2) engaging in oral sex or anal sex and (3) becoming sterile by artificial means, such as by consuming sterilizing poisons.
Abortion, on the other hand, required a less serious penance. Theodore, who organized the English church, assembled a penitential about 700 A.D. Oral intercourse required from 7 years to a lifetime of penance; an abortion required only 120 days.
Pope Stephen V (served 885-891) wrote in
887 A.D.: "If he who destroys what is conceived in the womb by abortion is a
murderer, how much more is he unable to excuse himself of murder who kills a
child even one day old" (Epistle to Archbishop of Mainz).
Pope Innocent III (circa 1161-1216) wrote a letter which ruled on a case of a Carthusian monk who had arranged for his female lover to obtain an abortion. The Pope decided that the monk was not guilty of homicide if the fetus was not "animated."
Early in the 13th century he stated that the soul enters the body of the fetus at the time of "quickening" -- when the woman first feels movement of the fetus. After ensoulment, abortion was equated with murder; before that time, it was a less serious sin, because it terminated only potential human life, not human life.
St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) also
considered only the abortion of an "animated" fetus as murder.
Pope Sixtus V (1471-1484) issued a Papal
bull "Effraenatam" in 1588 which threatened those who carried out abortions at
any stage of gestation with excommunication and the death penalty.
Pope Gregory XIV (1535-1591) revoked the Papal bull shortly after taking office in 1591. He reinstated the "quickening" test, which he determined happened 116 days into pregnancy (16½ weeks).
17th to 19th Century A.D. (Abortion becomes murder again):
In the 17th century, the concept of "simultaneous animation" gained acceptance within the medical and church communities in Western Europe (Uta Ranke-Heinemann, op cit., pp. 298-311). This is the belief that an embryo acquires a soul at conception, not at 40, 80. or 116 days into gestation as the church was teaching.
Hieronymus Florentinius, a Franciscan monk, asserted In 1658 that all embryos or fetuses, regardless of their gestational age, which were in danger of death must be baptized. However, his opinion did not change the status of abortion as seen by the church.
Pope Pius IX (1792-1878) reversed the stance of the Roman Catholic church once more. He dropped the distinction between the "fetus animatus" and "fetus inanimatus" in 1869.
Pope Pius IX
According to Merritt and Merritt "Pope Pius IX was also responsible for the canonization of Mary and with the declaration that Mary was born without sin and that the pope was infallible. Her miraculous, sinless beginning was defined at her conception. This doctrine linked her beginning, and therefore human beginning with conception" (When Does Human Life Begin?, p. 28).
Continues Merritt and Merritt --
time. This is also the link to Pope Pius IX's later declaration about abortion and is very natural and quite logical. If Mary's life began with her 'Immaculate Conception' there was no 'delayed ensoulment.' And if there is no delayed ensoulment, and life begins at conception, for Mary and all others, any termination of the conceptus must be abortion" (ibid., p. 28).
"This is extremely important in defining Catholic doctrine relating to 'when does life begin,' down to our
Nonetheless, the Greek/Hellenistic understanding of delayed ensoulment dominated Roman Catholic dogma for over 14 centuries -- although some different views persisted within the Catholic Church from the 16th into the 19th centuries. "When in 1869 CE, Pope Pius IX, declared the punishment for abortion to be excommunication, he reasoned that since he couldn't and we cannot know with certainty the time at which human life begins, it should have protection from the earliest possible time, that of conception" (ibid., p. 30).
Despite these differences over the centuries, for the last 140 years or so the Roman Church has stood firm on its conviction, and has powerfully influenced other religions and political positions.
Leo XIII (1878-1903) issued a decree in 1884 that prohibited craniotomies. This is an unusual form of abortion used late in pregnancy and is occasionally needed to save the life of the pregnant woman.
He issued a second degree in 1886 that prohibited all procedures that directly killed the fetus, even if done to save the woman's life. The tolerant approach to abortion which had prevailed in the Roman Catholic Church for previous centuries ended. The church required excommunication for abortions at any stage of pregnancy. This position has continued to the present time.
Canon law was revised in 1917 and 1983 and to refer simply to "the fetus."
This brings us down to the present-day Roman Catholic doctrine that the Church has consistently maintained for the past 140 plus years -- the belief in "immediate animation." According to the Catholic viewpoint this is the instant at which the zygote is imbued with life, including a "soul" from YEHOVAH God. This is supposed to happen at the moment of fertilization. Over the last 150 years Catholic theologians have also argued that the "rational human soul" begins at the time of conception because such an infusion is considered a divine act.
"This designation," explain Merritt and Merritt, "established that 'ensoulment' occurred at conception, and the zygote-blastocyst-fetus should be designated a status independent of its parents. The fetus was considered a separate entity; no longer an automatic derivative of its parents, hence it had now obtained a status of humanness as early as conception -- a real and literal 'personhood of the zygote'" (When Does Human Life Begin?, p. 29).
So today we have the Roman Catholic Church's highly influential belief that human life begins at conception. This belief assumes that potential life -- even in the earliest stages of gestation -- has the same value as any existing life. This position of the Catholic Church has been adopted without question by the vast majority of Protestants -- including evangelical, fundamentalist, charismatic Christians and many other politically conservative people. It should be noted that Orthodox Jews are also anti-abortion -- but for different Torah-based and Halaka reasons. It should also be noted that when advocates of the conception-life origin are asked for scientific or scriptural evidence of life beginning at conception, the proof they offer is totally lacking in substance. They usually rely on simple and obvious emotional and traditional arguments without fully understanding the crux of the matter.
This article will reveal what YEHOVAH's Word, the Bible, REALLY says about the beginning of life -- and what science clearly has uncovered.
The Concept of Ensoulment
Up to this point we have seen a number of references to "ensoulment" -- what exactly does this term mean? Ensoulment refers to the creation of a "soul" within a human being or other creature. It is discussed most often, as we have seen, in reference to abortion, because many religious denominations consider the presence of a soul to be what makes abortion, infanticide and murder all equally wrong.
There are, broadly speaking, four possibilities as to when a human being may be said to acquire a rational "soul" -- or, to state the matter in another fashion, four possibilities as to when the life of a human being may be said to begin. A human being may acquire a soul
(1) at the moment of conception,
(2) some time between conception and birth,
(3) at the moment of birth, or
(4) some time after birth.
Each of these assumed possibilities found some support in the ancient world.
Some ancient authors argued that the human being began at conception -- thought to be the moment when the seed-mixture "set" to produce a living embryo, a few days after insemination. This first possibility is associated with the Pythagoreans, but it may well have also been the view of Aristotle.
This raises some very interesting questions when we consider the formation of twins! In the case of the creation of a single baby, a sperm fertilizes an egg, the egg implants, and the whole thing is on its way to being born. The fertilized egg, as we have already seen, is called a zygote. Now TWINS are formed in one of two ways:
(1) Dizygotic twins are formed when two individual sperms fertilize two individual eggs.
(2) Monozygotic twins are formed when a single sperm fertilizes a single egg -- just like the case of a single baby. However, at some point in time during the early development (a point that varies from case to case), the collection of cells of the baby splits apart and the two resultant parts continue on, growing as two distinct people (i.e., two babies are born).
Now the fun begins! Any intellectually satisfactory theory of ensoulment must be able to explain the ensoulment of monozygotic twins. Several possible explanations have been tended by those convinced that life begins at conception:
(1) The single zygote is ensouled exactly at the point of fertilization -- and the soul also splits into two souls at the point when the zygote or blastocyst splits.
(2) The single zygote is ensouled exactly at the point of fertilization and, at the time of splitting, one part retains the soul while the second part is ensouled at that moment with a second, distinct soul.
(3) The single zygote has no soul at the point of fertilization and, at the time of splitting, BOTH parts are ensouled.
(4) Each part is eventually ensouled some time AFTER the split -- perhaps at different times!
(5)The single zygote is ensouled with TWO SOULS and, at the time of splitting, each part retains one soul.
Take your pick -- or maybe toss a coin in the air!
Another view was that the human being
began sometime between conception and birth, either when the form was
complete (formation) or when the fetus started to move about (quickening).
This second possibility is associated particularly with Aristotelians and
seems also to have been the view of Philo of Alexandria.
There were many who argued that the
human being began immediately after birth when the fetus was physically
separate from his or her mother and began to breathe air. This third view is
associated with the Stoics and the Platonists, though what Plato himself
thought is unclear.
There were also attitudes and practices common in the ancient world (most notably the toleration of infanticide) that might seem to imply that even long after birth a child was not considered to have full status as a human being. Nevertheless, ancient writers did not seem to have understood this in terms of the delayed acquisition of the soul. It was simply that young children -- like women, slaves and barbarians -- did not have the legal or ethical status that depended on free citizenship.
Jewish opinion in the ancient world was also divided. Several texts in early Judaism imply that the soul was given with the seed at the moment of conception -- or even before. While some ancient Jewish texts express the view that the soul is given at the very beginning, others take the moment of birth as the ethically significant point. This is evident from a passage in the Mishnah.
In addition to these two incompatible view points there are many passages in the Talmud that support the view that 40 days marks the transition from unformed embryo to human being. Until this time the embryo is neither male nor female (Babylonian Talmud, Berakoth 60a). If the woman miscarries before the 41st day it is not a valid childbirth (ibid., Niddah 30a-b). In another place the embryo is described as mere fluid before 40 days (ibid., Berakoth 60a).
What is to be made of the presence of these disparate Jewish theories on the timing of ensoulment? It may be possible to harmonize some of the disagreement (for example, by referring to more than one kind of soul), but this does not resolve all the problems -- and there is no consensus among Jewish scholars regarding this question. One scholar summarizes the rabbinic outlook by saying that the timing of ensoulment is something that belongs to the "secrets of God." In summary, different Talmudic texts support different views as to when a human being receives a soul: at conception; at formation (40 days after insemination); or at birth.
This breadth of opinion in rabbinic Judaism provides a helpful context within which to understand Christian accounts of ensoulment. Among early "Christians" there was unanimity in REJECTING the view point that the soul was given at or after birth. These early Christians were certain that the living fetus had a soul. However, there was NO CONSENSUS as to precisely WHEN during pregnancy it acquired a soul.
In the second century A.D. the first systematic "Christian" account of the soul was written by Tertullian. Central to his account is the claim that the soul is corporeal and that it does not come from outside but is generated by the parents (or more particularly, by the father). "It is for this reason that children resemble their parents in disposition and not only in physical stature" (On the Soul, 25). However, if the "soul" is generated by the parents then it seems obvious that it is present from the beginning!
Later Tertullian came up with a second idea that the embryo becomes a human being IN THE WOMB from the moment that its FORM is completed. "The law of Moses, indeed, punishes with due penalties the man who shall cause abortion, inasmuch as there exists already the rudiment of a human being" (On the Soul, 37). Tertullian seems untroubled at the apparent contradiction between this and the earlier passage in his same work where he asserted "the soul also begins from conception" (On the Soul, 27).
In the fourth century A.D. we first find "Christians" voicing the opinion that ensoulment happens between conception and birth and, in particular, that it occurs at the moment that FORMATION is complete. This opinion seems to derive from a passage in the Apostolic Constitutions: "You shall not kill a child by abortion, nor kill it after it is born. For everything that is shaped and has received a soul from God, if killed, shall be avenged, as having been unjustly destroyed" (Apostolic Constitutions, 7.3).
It is more clearly expressed in a work written in the fourth century which was, for many years, attributed to Augustine: "Moses handed down that if someone strikes a pregnant woman and causes a miscarriage, if it is FORMED he should give life for life, but if it is unformed he should be punished with a fine, thus proving that there is no soul before FORM" (Questions On the Old and New Testament, 23). The anonymous writer seeks further support from the Bible for the view that ensoulment does not occur until the body is FORMED. He argues that as YEHOVAH God first formed Adam's body and then breathed in THE BREATH OF LIVE, so YEHOVAH God first FORMS the body of the embryo and only after this is complete gives the soul.
Is your head spinning with all these contradictory theories regarding ensoulment? Then take heart because YEHOVAH's Word, the Bible, cuts through all the deliberations of man and makes plain YEHOVAH's eternal truth!
The HUGE Problem With the Ensoulment Theory
There is one HUGE problem with all these ensoulment theories -- man DOES NOT have a soul -- he IS a soul!
Amazing as it may seem to many, the Bible teaches that human kind does not have an "immortal soul," as so many religions teach. Angels are composed of spirit, they are spirit beings (Psalm 104:4). But man is flesh and blood, composed of the dust of the earth -- "And the LORD God formed MAN of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life [air, with oxygen]; and man BECAME a living soul" (Genesis 2:7).
In the Psalms of David we also read of man, "His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts PERISH" (Psalm 146:4).
In other words, when a man dies, he "dies like Rover -- he dies all over." There is no thinking, no planning, no thoughts of any kind, in the grave, where a man goes at death. All vital functions cease; life is extinguished. Dead means just that --- dead!
Contrary to the religious beliefs of many people, including many mainstream "Christians," mankind does NOT possess an "immortal soul." This belief is pagan to the very core. Rather than possessing an "immortal soul," the Scriptures teach that man IS a "soul" -- that is, a mortal "soul" -- for Ezekiel said, "The soul that sinneth, it [the "soul" itself!] shall die" (Ezekiel 18:4, 20). He said this twice!
The Hebrew word here for soul is nephesh, #5315 in Strong's Concordance, and means "a breathing creature, i.e., animal or (abstract) vitality," and is translated in a wide variety of ways -- "appetite, beast, body, breath, creature, man, mortality," etc.
Notice how this word is used in the Scriptures. We read: "And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul [nephesh] shall be CUT OFF from his people" (Genesis 17:14). Thus a "soul" can be "cut off" -- that is, KILLED!
Abraham was afraid for his life, on another occasion, because his wife Sarah was so beautiful. He thought Pharaoh of Egypt might seize her and kill him to get her, so he asked Sarah to pretend to merely be his "sister." He told her, "Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul may live because of thee" (Genesis 12:13). Clearly, then, "souls" can DIE!
Many Scriptures show that "souls" can be "cut off," or killed (Exodus 12:15, 19; 31:14; Leviticus 19:8, 22:3, etc.). We read further of any man who would defile the Day of Atonement by working upon it, "And whatsoever soul that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I DESTROY from among his people" (Leviticus 23:30). Thus human souls can be destroyed! Obviously, then, the "soul" of man is NOT "immortal"!
Showing that the "soul" or nephesh is a temporal, fleshly, entity which can die, or be killed, the very same word is used in the Bible translated as "creature." We read: "And God created great whales, and every living creature [nephesh] that moveth" Genesis 1:21). "And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature [nephesh] after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth..." (v. 24). After the Flood, God said to Noah, "And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; and with every living creature [nephesh] that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast..." (Genesis 9:9-10).
The word nephesh is also used of "DEAD BODIES" in the Scriptures. Notice!
"Neither shall he go in to a dead body [nephesh], nor defile himself for his father, or for his mother" (Leviticus 21:11).
A man under a Nazarite vow was commanded, "All the days that he separateth himself unto the LORD, he shall come at no dead body [nephesh]" (Numbers 6:6).
This principle that a nephesh is not an "immortal soul," although it is sometimes translated as "soul" in the Old Testament, is further shown in Numbers 9 where we read: "And there were certain men who were defiled by the dead body [nephesh] of a man, that they could not keep the passover on that day....And those men said unto him [Aaron], We are defiled by the dead body [nephesh] of a man..." (Numbers 9:6-7). YEHOVAH God then told Israel that if any man were "unclean by reason of a dead body [nephesh]," then they could sacrifice and observe the Passover at a specially appointed date, exactly one month after the normal Passover (verse 10-11).
Plainly, then, "souls" are the same things as "bodies" and can DIE!
This proves beyond any doubt that the "soul" of man can DIE! The word nephesh refers in the Scriptures to mere animal, sentient LIFE! It often refers directly to animals, and men, as well as living or dead creatures. There is nothing "immortal" about it!In other words, there is nothing immortal about mankind, in his present existence! We are created from the dust of the earth, and we return to the dust when we die!
And what about the NEW Testament?
Yeshua the Messiah is the central figure of the New Testament. And HIS DEATH is one of the major FACTS of the New Testament. But WAS HE REALLY DEAD? Or did just his BODY die?
Let's let HIM answer. After all, HE should know! If you have a "Red Letter" Bible; that is, a Bible with the first-person quotations from the Messiah in red ink , you'll notice some of the words in Revelation are in red! Many of them were spoken DIRECTLY to John from the Messiah himself!
Notice what he said about his death! "I am He that LIVETH, and WAS DEAD!" (Revelation 1:18).
The Messiah predicted he would DIE -- that he would be KILLED! Isaiah prophesied, "...because He hath poured out His soul unto death: and He was numbered with the transgressors; and He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:12).
Notice, He "poured out" his SOUL (Hebrew nephesh). What WAS it the Messiah "poured out" on Golgotha? His BLOOD! Always the Bible speaks of the shed BLOOD of the Messiah, of the BLOOD of the "Lamb" -- just as typified in the Passover (I Corinthians 10:16; Ephesians 2:13).
Of course he poured out his blood -- because the LIFE of every flesh and BLOOD creature is IN THE BLOOD! (Leviticus 17:11).
No wonder it speaks of pouring out the "soul," or the nephesh (LIFE) -- and no wonder it plainly says DEATH results!
The Messiah DIED! He said so, himself! The wages of sin is DEATH (Romans 6:23) not eternal life in some other geographical location. And the Messiah took upon himself the PENALTY of OUR sins -- DEATH. It was COMPLETE death; REAL death; the complete absence of LIFE. He really DIED!
So what IS death? It is the absence of life. It is complete UNconsciousness -- total oblivion -- NOTHING remaining alive.
As human beings, then, we are distinctly "mortal,' and capable of DEATH! And, unless at some future point in time YEHOVAH God GIVES us "immortality," we shall all PERISH!
So, clearly, the Word of YEHOVAH God blows all the theories of ensoulment right out of the water!! So WHAT, then, does the Bible really say about the beginning of human life?
Before tackling this question, let's take a look at the biology of pregnancy.
The Biology of Pregnancy
Before we can understand the basis for the debates regarding the beginning of human life, we must first take a look at the biology of human reproduction.
Every cell in our body stores our genes on structures called chromosomes. Each chromosome is an organized structure of DNA and protein. DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is shaped like a spiral staircase -- the famous "double helix" with the steps of the staircase being its complimentary nucleotides. When arranged in particular orders, the nucleotides (the four chemical bases which are normally represented by their first letters) spell out, or code for "words" -- the amino acids. Then, these 20 amino acids form "sentences" when arranged in a particular order: the proteins. Proteins are built into cells, and cells make up the organs of the body. The DNA is the material that contains the instructions for each cell in our body to perform its normal function. The portions of the DNA chain that code for proteins or other useful processes are known as "genes."
"Each protein," explain Merritt and Merritt, "has a specific function within the cell and allows the cell to function, or 'live.' Each of the estimated 75 trillion cells of every human being contains about 22,000 pairs of genes -- as we inherit one copy of each gene from our mother and one from our father. So we will have one copy of each gene on each chromosome -- so that there are on average nearly 1,000 genes on each chromosome. Humans have 46 chromosomes, or 23 pairs. Chromosome pairs 1 through 22 are called autosomes. The 23rd pair is the sex chromosome -- an X and a Y chromosome. Females have two X chromosomes. Males have one X and one Y chromosome" (When Does Human Life Begin?, p. 39).
Mitosis is the process whereby a cell separates the chromosomes in its cell nucleus into TWO IDENTICAL SETS in two nuclei. It is generally followed immediately by the process known as cytokinesis, which divides the nuclei components into two cells -- containing roughly equal shares of these cellular components. Mitosis and cytokinesis together define what is called the mitotic (M) phase of the cell cycle -- the division of the mother cell into two daughter cells, genetically IDENTICAL to each other and to their parent cell. While genetic errors can occur during this process, each daughter cell will have the same DNA and the same set of genes as the parent cell.
Meiosis is a type of cell division that, in human beings, occurs only in male testes and female ovary tissue and, together with fertilization, it is the process that is characteristic of sexual reproduction. Meiosis serves two important purposes -- it keeps the number of chromosomes from doubling each generation, and it provides genetic diversity in offspring. In this it differs from mitosis which, as we have seen, is the process of cell division that occurs in all somatic cells. Meiosis is the process in which a cell divides its DNA into four IDENTICAL daughter cells, each of which then contains only ONE HALF the normal copies of genes.
Human Cells: Reproduction Terminology
|Mitosis||Classical Cellular Reproduction|
|Meiosis||Sexual Cellular Reproduction|
|Human Cells||46 Chromosomes|
|Daughter Cells||Half the number of Chromosomes (23)|
|Autosomal Chromosomes||Humans -- 22 pair|
|Sex Chromosomes||Humans -- 2 X or 1 X & 1 Y|
|Zygote||"Tethered together," the unified egg and sperm|
|Morula||"Mulberry" 16 cells enters the uterine cavity|
|Early Blastocyst||Cyst -- blastocele -- develops within the cell mass|
|Mature Blastocyst||Inner cell mass -- future embryo|
|Implanted Blastocyst||Inner cell mass -- contact with blood from uterine capillaries|
|Embryo||Implantation to 8 weeks|
It is important for us to remember that in mitosis each resulting cell contains a FULL SET of 46 chromosomes. "Each of these new cells is a fully capable and fully functional cell. They perform the SAME functions as the original parent cell. In meiosis, however, each resulting daughter cell will have only 23 chromosomes. This is only one half of the amount of DNA needed for normal cellular functions -- so they only have limited capabilities" (ibid., p. 41).
Daughter cells have only a limited function and purpose. In the female these four daughter cells are known as primary and then secondary oocytes. Only one of the four daughter cells will develop into an egg cell. In the male all four of the daughter cells become four identical spermatids. These four then mature into hundreds of thousands of fully functional sperm cells.
Sexual reproduction is a biological process by which organisms create descendants through the combining of their genetic material. Such organisms have two different adult sexes (male and female) and produce sex cells (sperm, ovum) through a unique type of cell division called meiosis (see above). These unique cells possess only half of the DNA of normal cells, and are genetically unique from all others in the body due to genetic recombination. Offspring are then produced following the FUSION of the haploid cells to form a zygote. After fertilization, the resulting zygote is a single diploid cell in possession of DNA from both parents, and all the information required to build the adult organism.
The female egg cell (oocyte) has been stored since before the female's birth until the day it may be released from the ovary -- becoming a unique and very special target. It may then be involved in a fusion with one of the millions of sperm cells from the male. This is called fertilization and usually occurs in the ampulla of the fallopian tube. In humans fertilization is known as conception.
The term conception commonly refers to fertilization, the successful fusion of gametes to form a new organism. "Conception" is used by some to refer to implantation and is thus a subject of semantic arguments about the beginning of pregnancy, typically in the context of the abortion debate. Gastrulation, which occurs around 16 days after fertilization, is the point in development when the implanted blastocyst develops three germ layers, the endoderm, the ectoderm and the mesoderm. It is at this point that the genetic code of the father becomes fully involved in the development of the embryo. Until this point in development, twinning (the forming of twins) is possible. Additionally, interspecies hybrids survive only until gastrulation, and have no chance of development afterward.
The fusion of the sperm cell and the oocyte is a complex biochemical process that involves a multitude of cellular and biological arrangements at the membrane and the cytoplasmic and nuclear levels.
Oocyte (Egg Cell):
Because the fate of an oocyte is to become fertilized and ultimately grow into a fully-functioning organism, it must be ready to regulate multiple cellular and developmental processes. The oocyte -- a large and complex cell -- must be supplied with numerous molecules that will direct the growth of the embryo and control cellular activities. As the oocyte is a product of female gametogenesis, the maternal contribution to the oocyte and, consequently, the newly fertilized egg is enormous. There are many types of molecules that are maternally supplied to the oocyte which will direct various activities within the growing zygote.
We saw above that the oocyte or egg cell is amazingly paused at the midway through the second part of meiosis since before the female is born. It "then proceeds to complete the second part of its meiotic cycle following the fusion of the cell membranes of the sperm and oocyte. The result is then a restoration of the full diploid (46) number of chromosomes. At this point the sex of the future individual has been determined" (When Does Human Life Begin?, p. 42).
From now on the fertilized female egg becomes known as a zygote. Once the egg is fertilized, the zygote begins a two-week period of rapid cell division and will eventually become an embryo. The zygote divides through a process known as mitosis, in which each cell doubles by dividing into two cells. This two-week stage is known as the germinal period of development and includes the time of conception to the implantation of the embryo in the uterus. The zygote has a unique complement of DNA and its gender has been determined. However, this union in human beings is only the BEGINNING of a unique and complex journey -- see previous tables.
The blastocyst is a structure formed in the early embryogenesis of mammals, after the formation of the morula. It possesses an inner cell mass (ICM), or embryoblast, which subsequently forms the embryo, and an outer layer of cells, or trophoblast, which later forms the placenta. The trophoblast surrounds the inner cell mass and a fluid-filled blastocyst cavity known as the blastocoele or the blastocystic cavity. The human blastocyst comprises 70-100 cells.
Blastocyst formation begins at day 4 after fertilization in humans, when the blastocoele opens up in the morula.
The blastocyst reaches the womb (uterus) around day 5, and starts the implantation process into the uterine wall on day 6. At this point in the mother's menstrual cycle, the lining of the uterus has grown and is ready to support a baby. The blastocyst sticks tightly to the lining, where it receives nourishment via the mother's bloodstream starting on day 8.
The Unique and Complex Journey
Day 1: On the first day, as it travels down the fallopian tube towards the uterus, the zygote starts to divide. The new SINGLE CELL divides through the normal mitotic process -- with new divisions occurring roughly every twenty hours. When 16 cells have been reached the zygote is called a morula, which means "mulberry."
Day 4: By the fourth day the morula enters the uterine cavity from the fallopian tube while cell division continues. A cavity known as a blastocele then forms within the center of the morula. "Individual cells of the morula now begin to flatten. They become more compact on the inside of the cavity. The developing embryo is now called a blastocyst [see table]. Two types of cells now form: the inner cell mass, a cluster of cells together on one pole of the inside surface of the blastocele cavity, and the trophoblast, cells lining the sphere of the blastocyst. The inner cell mass is what becomes the future embryo" (ibid., p. 43).
Day 6: On day six the blastocyst attaches itself to the uterus wall. The tissue of the uterine cavity (endometrial epithelium) has undergone changes during this time in response to a maternal hormone called progesterone. "The trophoblasts [cells forming the outer layer of the blastocyst that provide nutrients to the embryo and develop into a large part of the placenta] on the side of the blastocyst with the inner cell mass then selectively attach to the uterine wall initiating a process called IMPLANTATION" (ibid., p. 43).
The site where the blastocyst attaches itself to the uterine wall rapidly becomes swollen with new BLOOD VESSELS called capillaries. These vessels and their supporting cells form what is known as the decidua. The decidua will further develop and eventually become a large part of the placenta during pregnancy.
Day 7: By day seven the blastocyst has invaded the uterine tissue -- the outermost lining of the uterus that has, by this time, reached a special state of readiness due to the maternal hormone. Shortly the invading blastocyst will contact the mother's BLOOD. "Small blastocyst-trophoblast cavities develop to receive the mother's blood. Both mother's uterus and the blastocyst-trophoblast are simultaneously and rapidly preparing for the important step -- CONTACT WITH A MOTHER'S BLOOD. The blood will now begin to nourish the new embryo" (When Does Human Life Begin?, p. 44).
Day 8: By day eight the mother's BLOOD has reached the embryo and begins to provide life-giving nutrients and OXYGEN. Also, the newly-established blood circulation is now cleaning out the toxic byproducts of advancing and accelerating multicellular metabolism. BLOOD FLOW -- life's unique mechanism -- now providing OXYGEN and nutrients from the mother while clearing out carbon dioxide and other metabolic toxins -- HAS BEEN ESTABLISHED!
Many benchmarks in the development of the embryo then fetus occur over the next few weeks and months. These include: gastrulation, first heartbeat, neurulation, a recognizable body shape, first brain waves, quickening and fetal viability. While all of these benchmarks are fascinating and vital steps in the growth and development of the soon-to-be-born baby, NO benchmark surpasses the creative event of IMPLANTATION -- along with the unique contact with the mother's LIVE-GIVING BLOOD that occurs on days seven and eight.
Genetic imprinting is the phenomenon that controls how genes inherited from the mother and father are expressed in different ways. At the present time there are approximately 50 known human genes. The imprinted expression of genes may be transient and highly tissue-specific -- and there are potentially hundreds of other, as yet undiscovered, imprinted transcripts. The placenta is notable among organs for its high and prolific expression of imprinted genes. Imprinting is potentially a mechanism to balance parental resource allocation, and it plays an important role in growth. The placenta -- as the interface between mother and fetus -- is central to potential growth control.
There are also significant events that occur in genetic imprinting in the early zygote that continues throughout development. The genomes (carriers of the entirety of an organism's hereditary information) of the sperm and egg are both INACTIVE at the time of fertilization as a result of imprinting. It is not until the blastocyst stage -- around 8 DAYS AFTER FERTILIZATION and immediately prior to or during implantation -- that signs of new methylation (a mechanism used to regulate genes and protect DNA from some types of cleavage) specific to the future embryo appear. This imprinting process following conception clearly shows that biologically the genetic identity of a NEW LIFE is not determined until 8 DAYS AFTER FERTILIZATION -- at the time when the blastocyst has developed and as implantation is occurring.
"This review of embryologic development and genetics," write Merritt and Merritt, "has to be compared with the current opinions on WHEN does human life begin. We have seen there is a continuous process where the sperm and egg are specifically formed and then come together at a unique point -- conception. This is the earliest point at which there is a complete set of DNA. All 46 chromosomes are present. This new genome, however, is not active and DOES NOT BECOME ACTIVE UNTIL AROUND THE 8TH DAY POST-FERTILIZATION. Prior to that time, the cells divide while maintaining their own energy needs -- as there is no external nourishment for the zygote as it becomes two, then four, then eight, then the sixteen cell morula" (ibid., p. 48).
Bottom line -- the imprinting process following fertilization shows that biologically the GENETIC IDENTITY of a new life is not determined until 8 days after fertilization -- interestingly at THE SAME TIME when the blastocyst has implanted and a mother's BLOOD is beginning to nourish a NEW LIFE!
A popular argument among pro-lifers is that the completion of all 46 chromosomes represents the earliest moment of a unique individual -- with unique genetic identity. However, in light of what we now understand about genomic imprinting, this argument can NO LONGER be accurately defended. If the completion of all 46 chromosomes represents the earliest moment of a unique individual, what do we do with the FACT that there is a very high spontaneous miscarriage rate during the first few days after conception?
Many zygotes do NOT reach the blastocyst stage, MANY MORE fail to implant and pass through with the mother's next monthly period. In addition to this is the INACTIVITY of either the paternal and or the maternal halves of the new genome until the 8TH DAY AFTER FERTILIZATION. This important fact cries out to us that these cells do NOT yet compose a new genetic individual. State Merritt and Merritt: "While the morula will have specific sex chromosomes to determine the future sex of the individual, these cells DO NOT have a specific gender nor are the newly combined maternal and paternal 'halves' of DNA functionally active. While sexual identity is a simple measure of identity, there is obviously a great deal more involved with the expression of thousands of different genes. Many other individual determinates are also NOT SET until that SAME TIME POINT -- when the blastocyst then begins implantation" (ibid., p. 49).
And WHEN does this occur? The 8TH DAY AFTER FERTILIZATION!
Blastocyst Viability and Stem Cell Research:
Another prevalent misunderstanding that needs to be addressed is how the beginning of human life bears on the question of blastocyst viability. As we have learned, the blastocyst is the earliest stage from which the new life can then begin. In the laboratory and away from the mother an artificially fertilized egg that has been isolated from its usual biological context (in vitro) can develop into a zygote and then a morula. But note this: while it may have the genome to become a new life -- it can NEVER become a human life without first becoming a blastocyst which must then be implanted in a mother's uterus!
If the blastocyst is not implanted in the mother's uterus it will DIE and disintegrate on its own -- just as the uterus will not support the blastocyst if it is not PRECISELY prepared at that EXACT time! "The zygote-morula-blastocyst contains limited energy reserve -- just enough to get it to the implantation time" (When Does Human Life Begin?, p.50).
In vitro fertilization clinics and stem cell research labs that handle human embryonic stem cells (cells that can develop into many different cell types of the body) isolate the cells from human embryos that are a few days old and also from fetal tissue older than 8 weeks of development. They have found that unless these cells are quickly frozen the blastocyst will wither and disintegrate, and the same thing occurs if they are not implanted. The next natural step in the stem cell process -- implantation -- marks the critical step in the development process. If the blastocyst is not precisely prepared at the exact time the implantation will fail!
The in vitro blastocyst has three paths, and three paths only: natural disintegration, frozen status or implantation. "While cells may be taken out of the central cell mass for stem cell research such as cloning; even these cells -- which could be cultured into new zygotes, or morula, or blastocysts -- will face the SAME ULTIMATE FATE: natural disintegration, frozen status, or implantation" (ibid., p. 50). NO NEW FETUS, BABY, OR PERSON CAN BE BROUGHT FORTH INTO THIS WORLD WITHOUT FIRST BEING IMPLANTED INTO A MOTHER'S UTERUS AND BEING NOURISHED BY HER BLOOD!
Research into human embryonic stem cells has generated much interest and public debate. The KEY to this debate is, of course, WHEN does human life begin. As science and technology continue to advance, so do ethical viewpoints surrounding these developments. The information so far covered in this article clearly shows that from a scientific, biological and genetic viewpoint the REAL BEGINNING of human life commences ON DAY 8 -- shortly after implantation and contact with a mother's BLOOD! For those who are only interested in a secular viewpoint we submit -- without reservation -- that the best scientific, biological and genetic markers for the beginning of human life is immediately AFTER implantation when a mother's blood begins to feed the otherwise doomed blastocyst.
For those who are interested in what YEHOVAH God has to say regarding this issue, we will now delve into His Word -- the Bible -- and see if it backs up what we have already discovered.
The Breath, the Womb and the Blood
The BIG QUESTION that we are attempting to answer in this article is: WHEN does an individual human life begin? The popular view among the pro-lifers -- for various reasons that we have already reviewed -- is that life begins at conception, the time of the union of the sperm and the egg -- i.e., fertilization. But is this COMMON VIEW supported by all the evidence of embryonic development documented above? The FACT is -- we simply DO NOT find that this is fully supported by modern biology, embryology and genetics. The biological evidence we have just reviewed clearly supports the FACT that it is NOT at conception but at implantation on the 8TH DAY -- when the blastocyst makes contact with the maternal blood supply. This, as we have seen, COINCIDES with important changes in genetic expression as a result of imprinting that also occurs at DAY 8.
So is biology the final determinate? Does YEHOVAH's Word -- the Bible -- support a focus on this time point? Do the scriptures support or contradict the biology and genetics of WHEN human life begins?
In the Beginning...
Let's start at the beginning -- in the Old Testament book of Genesis. The Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths all share a common foundation of instruction that stems from the verses of Genesis. But, strangely and unfortunately, the story of YEHOVAH's creation of man is mostly overlooked and unreferenced in researching the story of the beginning of human life.
In the 2008 discussions by the Presidential Council of Bioethics -- as well as in all the "Christian" deliberations that span from Augustine to Pope Pius IX -- there is NOT ONE single reference to the pivotal event of the creation of Adam found in the book of Genesis! So we will buck the trend and start where we should, at the very beginning, using the Genesis record as a foundation. From here we will expand to other and later writings.
Let me make it perfectly CLEAR -- or as a former President once said, "read my lips" -- there are absolutely NO verses in the Bible that state human life begins at conception. There are, however, a number of references that show life is present in the mother's WOMB.
We will start by turning our attention to that singular and most momentous event when the first man drew the "breath of life." "This is the point of the origin of humanity according to the Bible and is often overlooked. This event, where the breath of life is given to Adam, marks a clear defining moment -- the beginning of a specific human life" (When Does Human Life Begin?, p. 54). Many who support the right to abortion hold that this means that life begins with the first breath. They point to the use of this phrase with reference to Adam: "Then the LORD God formed man of the dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man BECAME A LIVING BEING" (Genesis 2:7). Clearly, Adam had no living existence until that first breath. However, there is NO BIBLICAL INDICATION whether this same process applies to newborns created in utero -- to whom the mother supplies oxygenated blood through the umbilical cord.
Genesis 2:7 is the earliest Biblical reference to the beginning of human life. In this verse is an important link -- breath of life and living being (soul). In order for man to become a living soul (Hebrew: nephesh chaya), YEHOVAH God "breathed (Hebrew: naphach) into his nostrils the breath of life" (Hebrew: neshmat chayim). The Hebrew words reveal a lot about this tight relationship, making it an important foundation for our enquiry. The Hebrew words for soul and breath have the SAME root -- nephesh. Neshmat chayim literally means "breath of life," and in this phrase neshmat CANNOT stand alone and is linked to chayim (life).
There is another word used in the Old Testament -- ruach. This word is most often translated as wind or breath or spirit and is often used interchangeably with nishama -- the word from which we get neshmat in Genesis 2:7.
When we take a look at other verses that use the words ruach and neshmat we will clearly see that it is the spirit or breath of YEHOVAH God that imparts life to His creation. Here are some examples of the many found in the Old Testament --
Job 33:4: "The
spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives
me life" (NKJV).
Ezekiel 37:10: "So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army" (ibid.).
On the other hand, the LOSS of that breath of life results in DEATH --
Genesis 6:17: "And
behold, I Myself am bringing the flood of waters on the earth, to destroy
from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; and
everything that is on the earth shall die" (NKJV).
Genesis 7:22: "All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, all that was on dry land, died" (ibid.).
The New Testament:
This breath-life relationship is not at all restricted to the Old Testament; the Greek New Testament scriptures do mostly mirror their Hebraic roots. "The Greek word psuche is similar to the Hebrew nephesh, meaning soul, or a breathing being. The Greek pneuma is like the Hebrew neshama and ruach, and also means breath, wind, and spirit. Zoe, the Greek word for life, is analogous to the Hebrew chai" (When Does Human Life Begin?, p. 56). We can clearly see that these Greek terms -- like their Hebrew counterparts -- associate breath and life with the breathing, living soul. Let's take a look at some New Testament examples --
Acts 17:24-25: "The
God that made the world and all the things in it, being, as this One is,
Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in handmade temples, neither is He
attended to by human hands as if he needed anything, because He Himself
gives to all [persons] life and breath and all things" (The
Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures).
I Corinthians 15:45:
"And so it is written, 'The first man Adam became a living being.'
The last Adam [the Messiah] became a life-giving spirit" (NKJV).
James 2:26: "For as
the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead
Revelation 16:3: "And the second one poured out his bowl into the sea. And it became blood as of a dead man, and every living soul died, yes, the things in the sea" (The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures).
Now that we have reviewed and understand this important link of words in the Hebrew and Greek, does this force us into the conclusion that life begins at one's first breath, i.e. -- at birth?
That seems like a logical conclusion in light of the evidence we have just studied. After confirming this word association in both the Old and New Testaments, one could easily conclude that human life begins when the fetus emerges from its mother's womb and takes in its "first breath" of air and oxygen. With the evidence presented so far, this may seem like a correct interpretation -- but is this the WHOLE story?
The fact is -- there is still a lot more to consider. We have made a good start, but we do not yet have all the evidence in order to come to the CORRECT conclusion.
Called from the Womb
The Bible declares that YEHOVAH God values all human life and that He wants all people to come to repentance and to inherit eternal life in the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God here on this earth. The Bible explains that the entire life of a human -- from the beginning to the end -- is sacred, since YEHOVAH determines the length of those days. Notice Psalm 139:16 --
"Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them" (NKJV).
So WHEN does human life really begin? Let's see what else the Bible has to say.
Many Christians believe that the Bible is silent in regard to YEHOVAH's view on life -- if any -- before birth. Does the Bible actually pinpoint a time during pregnancy when life might begin, and does it give us enough information to even determine a time-frame during pregnancy?
The Messiah demonstrated the love of YEHOVAH God for children often during his three-year ministry. We read of this in Matthew 18:10 --
"Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven" (NKJV).
Here the Messiah tells us not to despise or look down upon the least powerful and significant (by human standards) of human beings. It is indeed ironic that the most helpless humans in our society today are those inside the womb. Of all the risks that we must face in our lives, the most dangerous place we can be is in the womb, since fully one third of all human babies are aborted in the United States -- over one million every year! And not only that, but greater than 98% of all abortions are done for non-medical reasons!
The Old Testament or Torah provides most of the information on YEHOVAH's view of life before birth -- since it gives us YEHOVAH's law. The law specifically addresses the issue of taking the life of a fetus in the book of Exodus, notice!
"If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no lasting harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman's husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if any lasting harm follows, then you shall give life for life" (Exodus 21:22-23, NKJV).
Clearly, YEHOVAH's law tells us that a man who induces an abortion or miscarriage is to be punished, indicating that YEHOVAH God values life BEFORE BIRTH. A verse from Hosea says that abortion is a punishment for sin, indicating that YEHOVAH views it as bad: "Give them, O LORD -- What will You give? Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts" (9:14). Similarly, YEHOVAH God expresses His disgust for the Ammonites, who "ripped open the pregnant women of Gilead."
So WHEN does this life begin?
We must now take into account the many Biblical passages that reveal an individual life as already in existence in utero, in the womb -- before birth. These references would not logically be true if a human life -- a living soul -- began at first breath, i.e., at birth.
The Bible tells us that YEHOVAH is involved in our creation from the WOMB -- notice!
"Did not He who made me IN THE WOMB make them? Did not
the same One fashion us IN THE WOMB?" (Job 31:15).
"But You are He who took me out of the WOMB; You made me
trust when I was on my mother's breasts. I was cast upon You from birth. From my mother's womb You have been my God" (Psalm 22:9-10).
"For You have formed my inward parts; You have covered me
IN MY MOTHER'S WOMB. I will praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully
made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul [body, being] knows very
well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and
skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my
substance, BEING YET UNFORMED. And in Your book they all were written, the
days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them" (Psalm
"Thus says the LORD who made you and formed you FROM THE
WOMB, who will help you: Fear not, O Jacob My servant; and you, Jeshurun,
whom I have chosen" (Isaiah 44:2).
"Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, and He who formed you FROM THE WOMB: 'I am the LORD, who makes all things, who stretches out the heavens all alone...'" (Isaiah 44:24).
In addition there are a number of great men -- including the Messiah -- who were called to be YEHOVAH's servants from the womb:
"Then the woman came and told her husband, saying 'A man of God came to me and his appearance was like the appearance of the angel of God, very awesome. And I did not ask him where he came from, nor did he tell me his name. But he sais to me, "Behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son, and now you shall not drink wine or strong drink nor eat any unclean thing, for the boy shall be a Nazarite to God FROM THE WOMB to the day of his death" (Judges 13:6-7).
Yeshua the Messiah (prophecy):
"Listen to Me, O islands, and pay attention, you peoples from afar. The LORD called me FROM THE WOMB; from the body of my mother He name me" (Isaiah 49:1).
"And now says the LORD, WHO FORMED ME FROM THE WOMB to be His servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, in order that Israel might be gathered to Him (for I am honored in the sight of the LORD, and my God is my strength)" (Isaiah 49:5).
"Yet Thou art He who didst bring me forth FROM THE WOMB; Thou didst make me trust when upon my mother's breasts. Upon Thee I was cast from birth; Thou hast been my God FROM MY MOTHER'S Womb" (Psalm 22:9-10, KJV).
"Before I FORMED YOU IN THE WOMB I knew you, and BEFORE YOU WERE BORN I CONSECRATED YOU; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations" (Jeremiah 1:5).
According to Merritt and Merritt this reference from Jeremiah is famous because it is often considered a primary Bible proof-text for life beginning at conception. However, state Merritt and Merritt, "although this verse does NOT specifically say that God recognized Jeremiah as an individual at conception, it clearly does state that God knew Jeremiah as a special individual, with an anointed destiny, before he was born -- while he was in the womb" (When Does Human Life Begin?, p. 58).
Explaining further, Merritt and Merritt go on to say --
"The Hebrew word here [for "formed" -- in this passage from Jeremiah] is not create (Hebrew bara'), or made (Hebrew asah), but a little used word (Hebrew etzor) that actually directly refers to sculpturing, as in shaping, like in pottery, into literal physical form. The reference if read literally extends the individuality of Jeremiah back to a time before he had a recognizable human form, while in his mother's uterus...this scripture provides one FIRM WITNESS that does describe life in utero and PREDATES later time points such as viability and birth" (ibid., p.58).
There is another passage in the book of Jeremiah that covers the same subject. Here the prophet is lamenting how he was alive and not killed while in his mother's womb -- and that this did not become his "grave." Notice --
"Because he did not kill me in the womb, so my mother would have been my grave, and her womb forever great. Why did I come out from the womb, to see toil and sorrow, and spend my days in shame?" (Jeremiah 20:17).
This melancholy passage -- just as in the previous example -- describes Jeremiah as BEING ALIVE in his mother's womb. He wishes that the womb would become his grave, were he to die in utero, and by wishing so implies that he was ALIVE while inside the womb.
John the Baptist:
"For he will be great in the sight of the LORD, and he will drink no wine or liquor; and he will be filled with the holy spirit, WHILE YET IN HIS MOTHER'S WOMB" (Luke 1:15).
The Apostle Paul:
"But when He who had set me apart, even FROM MY MOTHER'S WOMB, and called me through His grace, was pleased" (Galatians 1:15).
In addition, YEHOVAH's Word tells us that the wicked are estranged or enemies of YEHOVAH God from the womb -- notice:
"The wicked are estranged FROM THE WOMB; these who speak lies go astray from birth" (Psalm 58:3).
All the above passages clearly instruct us that YEHOVAH God considers us to be human BEFORE WE ARE BORN, WHILE WE ARE STILL IN THE WOMB -- however, they don't answer the question of exactly WHEN in the womb we actually become so. But there is a way to know what YEHOVAH God considers the latest point in development at which we must consider a fetus to be a LIVING HUMAN BEING. Even before YEHOVAH God gave Moses the law -- when He gave Noah and his family all the clean animals for food (in addition to the plants) -- He told them, "Only you shall NOT eat flesh WITH ITS LIFE, that is, its BLOOD" (Genesis 9:4). At the same time, YEHOVAH gave the law and penalty for murder -- described as the shedding of "MAN'S BLOOD." Therefore, YEHOVAH God considers BLOOD to be the basis for life, and the shedding of human blood (which results in death) to be murder!
The initial evidence we reviewed above SEEMED to indicate that the beginning of human life is closely associated with the ability of a new-born baby to actually breathe air as the breath of life. However, when we delved further into YEHOVAH's Word we found this seeming foregone conclusion to be CONTRADICTED by the many verses referring to YEHOVAH's prophets as being specially called individuals while STILL IN THE WOMB -- in utero and before birth!
So what do we do with this, how can we reconcile these two different concepts and explain the apparent idea of human life existing before birth -- and therefore before taking their first breath, the breath of life?
The Blood is the KEY:
A cursory examination of the Bible will quickly acquaint us with the fact that YEHOVAH God places great importance on the BLOOD of a being -- whether human or animal. The Old Testament in particular places a SPECIAL EMPHASIS on the blood of an animal, and there are clear-cut warnings against eating or drinking blood. Notice Leviticus 17:10 --
"And anyone of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that reside among them, who eats any manner of BLOOD, I will set My face against that person who eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people" (The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible).
Also, in Deuteronomy 12:23:
"Be sure that you eat NOT the blood."
YEHOVAH's prohibition against the eating of blood can also be found in the New Testament -- in the early Christian church period. In Acts 15 we find the Jerusalem Council laying out certain requirements to be followed by Gentile converts to YEHOVAH's way of life -- notice!
"For it seemed good to the Ruach HaKodesh and to us not to lay any heavier burden on you than the following requirements: to abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, FROM BLOOD, from things STRANGLED, and from fornication. If you keep yourselves from these, you will be doing the right thing" (Acts 15:28-29 -- Jewish New Testament).
One of these particular prohibitions centered around preventing one from eating blood -- animals that are strangled contain undrained blood. But WHY did YEHOVAH God have such strict warnings against drinking or eating anything with blood in it? And WHY was this such a central issue in the early New Testament Ecclesia of YEHOVAH God? The answer to this is found by reading the concluding verses from Leviticus and Deuteronomy -- notice!
Leviticus 17:11: "For the life [Hebrew: nephesh] of all flesh is in its blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; for it is the BLOOD that makes atonement by reason of the life" (The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible).
Deuteronomy 12:23: "Only be sure that you eat NOT the blood, for the BLOOD is the life (Hebrew: nephesh); and you may NOT eat the life with the meat."
YEHOVAH's Word makes it extremely clear that the reason YEHOVAH forbids the consuming of blood is because THE LIFE OF THE ANIMAL IS IN THE BLOOD! These warnings against eating blood are certainly NOT alone in the CENTRAL ROLE that blood plays in Hebrew and Christian worship, morality and theology. Following are some of the KEY themes involving blood that are found in both the Old and New Testaments --
The life of an animal came to an end when it was
sacrificed and its blood spilled.
The Temple sacrificial system was based around the Old
Testament blood rituals.
The Passover and the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt.
The shedding of blood was necessary for the personal and
corporate atonement of the nation of Israel.
Yeshua the Messiah's blood atonement is central to New
The Kiddush has associations with the significance of the Messiah's shed blood.
Even the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon confirms that the term nephesh is clearly linked with both breath and blood. It says that, "nephesh with chai, is specifically: A LIVING BEING WHOSE LIFE RESIDES IN THE BLOOD." Strong's Concordance says: "nephesh, neh'-fesh; from 5314; prop. A BREATHING CREATURE..."
The Missing Link:
From lucid and compelling Biblical evidence we have noted that human life first appears to begin with the breath of life -- presumably at the first breath of air. Then we reviewed verses that led us to clearly see that life actually EXISTS EARLIER in the womb -- BEFORE birth. And we have also noted that life comes to an end when the breath of life no longer exists -- when the shedding of blood ends life.
So now we have a problem -- the two time-points, as written in the Bible, do not meet. There appears to be a gap in our understanding of when life begins. How do we UNITE the common elements at these points to produce a unifying theme? This, of course, has led to numerous proposals of the various time-points in human embryonic development "such as the presence of a heartbeat, or a nervous system, or the form and movement of an individual person" (When Does Human Life Begin?, p. 63).
Taking into account ALL the evidence above, including the biological science and the Biblical definition of life, we must come to the conclusion that it is THE PRESENCE OF BLOOD that is common in all of these descriptions. "BLOOD -- carrying the breath -- is what defines WHEN life is beginning, and when it is ending. Life's first breath is NOT the presence of air in the lungs, but the presence of a mother's blood to provide the vital element (or in reality, the OXYGEN from the air) for life (Hebrew: nephesh chaya) to begin" (ibid., p. 64).
The most commonly held view today among the traditional, non-modernist "Christian" community (in other words, those that believe in the pagan concept of the immortal soul) is that human life begins a conception. However, as we have seen, this presents an inconsistency with the NECESSITY of blood being a VITAL element of life since, at conception, there is no breath of life provided by the blood.
The Case for Implantation
We will now show how the Bible and biology do indeed AGREE on how life begins immediately after the implantation of the embryo into the mother's uterus eight days after conception. At that point, a mother's BLOOD begins to supply the breath of life by means of the life-giving and life-supporting OXYGEN found in that blood. This creates a nephesh chai -- a living soul with the breath of life in it!
We can now see that human life begins at IMPLANTATION -- not at the various time-points that have been proposed such as at birth, at conception, and certainly not at "viability" nor at forty days. This perspective, while not even unknown or even new, is so straight-forward, so simple and so logical. Not only that, but this understanding offers a SOLU-TION that is founded upon a solid, scientific knowledge of human reproduction, genetics and embryology that is also consistent with the Bible.
The bottom-line is that abortion is MURDER, plain and simple -- it is the unwarranted destruction of life (nephesh chaya) and an ABOMINATION to YEHOVAH God! However -- life is NOT destroyed until after IMPLANTATION, which is the time contact is made with the mother's life-giving BLOOD that carries essential nourishment (including the breath of life) to the embryo and giving it life (nephesh chaya) on the 8TH DAY after conception. The union of a human egg and human sperm CANNOT become a living soul (nephesh chaya) without IMPLANTATION into the mother's uterus -- which then provides nourishment from the mother's BLOOD which carries the breath of life (oxygen).
It is a shame that the Roe vs. Wade decision of 1973 didn't include a clear-cut understanding of WHEN human life really begins. Instead of earnestly tackling this issue, Justice Blackmun and his Court skirted around it and rested their decision on traditions, guesses and political compromises. This has resulted in even more radical polarization, confusion and ever-increasing conflicts. In the course of time this confusion caught up with and influenced issues of contraception and then stem cell research that did not even exist in 1973. The Supreme Court's inability to find a scientific, historical and Biblical answer to when life begins CANNOT, however, now be sustained in view of the evidence presented in this article.
The OVERWHELMING CONCLUSION is that the union between a human egg and human sperm CANNOT become a nephesh chaya -- a living soul -- without IMPLANTATION into the uterus, which then supplies nourishment from the mother's blood which carries the breath of life.
Writes Merritt and Merritt, "even an in vitro artificially fertilized egg, zygote, or morula can NEVER become a human life -- without first becoming a blastocyst AND then being implanted into a uterus. It is EMPHASIZED that for in vitro fertilized and cloned embryos, as well as for naturally conceived zygotes, that IMPLANTATION is the seminal event -- and the best point to mark the BEGINNING of human life" (When Does Human Life Begin?, p. 67).
To underscore what Merritt and Merritt just said -- in order to become a human life, ALL future embryos MUST reach the blastocyst stage and then be IMPLANTED into the uterus where it receives the BREATH OF LIFE through the oxygen present in the mother's BLOOD!
Carefully NOTE the following --
1). A human embryo CANNOT grow -- via a placenta -- outside of the uterus.
2). There is NO SUCH THING as a test-tube baby -- no human being can be grown in a test-tube or a biotic chamber.
3). NO cloning products -- or even in vitro fertilization -- can become a human life without IMPLANTATION.
4). Cloned beings are NOT births from a test-tube -- they ALL must proceed through the IMPLANTATION stage of the blastocyst to be born ONLY from a uterus.
And now a further note about stem cell research: cells that are harvested from the central cell mass of the blastocyst BEFORE implantation are good candidates for stem cell research and DO NOT contradict YEHOVAH God's laws regarding abortion and murder. These particular cells -- which have NEVER come in contact with the mother's blood with its oxygen-producing "breath of life -- can be grown in tissue cultures to produce individual nerve, muscle or bone tissues -- or whatever the scientists desire. These amazing cells, however, CANNOT become a NEW individual human life (nephesh chaya) without implantation into the uterus.
Human life begins within hours of the IMPLANTATION of a blastocyst into the uterine mucosa EIGHT DAYS AFTER CONCEPTION! At this time,
there is a MASSIVE burst of biochemical and cellular events
most imprinting -- methylation has peaked
the inner cell mass of the blastocyst starts to receive oxygen from the mother's blood -- along with essential nutrients
the mother's blood can clear away toxic metabolic waste products
the blastocyst has truly become an embryo -- in the classical sense
the new embryo is receiving the Breath of Life from the mother's blood
It is at this time -- when a NEW life (a nephesh chaya) -- begins!
Tertullian, writing in his Apology (A.D. 197), got it right when he said --
"But for us, to whom homicide has been once for all forbidden, it is not permitted to break up even what has been conceived in the womb, WHILE BLOOD IS STILL BEING DRAWN FROM THE MOTHER'S BODY TO MAKE A NEW CREATURE. Prevention of birth is premature murder, and it makes no difference whether it is a life already born that one snatches away or a life that is coming to birth that one destroys."
Let us now confirm the IMPORTANCE of the number 8 in YEHOVAH's Mind.
The Importance of the Number Eight
Numbers are very important to YEHOVAH God. According to the Bible, eight has a special meaning for YEHOVAH, as He chose the eighth day to mark the beginning of the new week. Everything that has a new beginning in the Bible has the number eight associated with it. The Number eight is associated with the beginning of a new era or that of a new order. In the bible one can find many examples which bring forth and which associate the number eight with a new beginning.
One such example is of Noah. When the whole earth was covered in floods, it was Noah the eighth person who stepped out and took the responsibility of starting a new era of life, to commence new order of things. The resurrection of the Messiah is also one fine example of this. The resurrection of Yeshua is the ultimate new beginning. It is said in the Bible that the Messiah rose on the first day of the next week from the day he was crucified. Thus again it was the eighth day which was chosen by YEHOVAH God. The eighth day marked the beginning of new life form. Thus we can see that the number eight in the Bible signifies resurrection and new beginning.
The historic Christian Church has traditionally associated the number 8 with the entrance into the covenant of YEHOVAH God. This understanding came from YEHOVAH Himself who commanded circumcision -- the sign of the covenant -- to be performed on the EIGHTH DAY after birth. Notice Genesis 17:10, 12: "This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised....He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised..." (NKJV).
YEHOVAH used the same language when He gave the rainbow in Genesis 9:13 -- "I set my rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth." Given the extreme significance of circumcision as the sign of the covenant, it is no wonder that the rabbis have long expounded on the spiritual significance of the number eight and its relationship to YEHOVAH's covenant. For example, in his book Alef-Beit, Rabbi Yitzchak declares --
"The Torah prescribes that the circumcision of a male child take place on the EIGHTH DAY from birth. These eight days always include at least one Shabbat, the seventh day, which corresponds to the experience of perfect harmony with nature. The eighth day of circumcision represents the power of the soul to contact that light which totally transcends nature. Through circumcision the Jew is given the power, throughout his life, to overcome all the obstacles nature may seem to place in the face of his service of God" (page 134).
Aside from the 8th day circumcision being a sign of the covenant, there is perfectly good BIOLOGICAL REASON why circumcision must be performed on the 8th day after birth. YEHOVAH God commanded Abraham to circumcise newborn males on the eighth day. Why that day? Blood clotting depends heavily upon two nutrients: vitamin K and prothrombin. A baby boy’s body does not produce adequate levels of vitamin K until days 5-7. On the 8th day, prothrombin is elevated high above 100% of normal. This is the only day in a male’s life that this will occur. A medical doctor once observed, “Abraham did not pick the eighth day after many centuries of trial and error…it was a day picked by the Creator of vitamin K” (McMillen, S. I., None of These Diseases. 1963, p. 21). Who better understands the function of a machine than its inventor? It wasn’t a lucky guess. It was a divine command made through the perfect knowledge of YEHOVAH God -- which ties in perfectly with YEHOVAH God planning the start of human life on the 8th day after conception!
The transcendence associated with the number eight -- recognized by both Jews and Christians alike -- ultimately manifests in the everlasting NEW BEGINNING found in the resurrection of the Messiah. Circumcision of the EIGHTH DAY, it is said, is a supernatural typological prophecy of the RENEWAL that comes through entrance into YEHOVAH's covenant, which manifests as baptism in the New Testament and, ultimately, as a symbol of the EVERLASTING LIFE given through the resurrection of the Messiah.
The Number 8, Baptism and the Ark:
In the New Testament baptism is the sign of the covenant. Like circumcision, it involves a "cutting off" of the flesh -- only now it is a symbol of being crucified with the Messiah, "through immersion into his death we were buried with him; so that just as, through the glory of the Father, the Messiah was raised from the dead, likewise we too might live a NEW LIFE" (Romans 6:4, Jewish New Testament). YEHOVAH God reveals the connection with the number eight in I Peter 3:18-21 -- notice!
"For the Messiah himself died for sins, once and for all, a righteous person on behalf of unrighteous people, so that he might bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh but brought to life by the spirit; and in this form he went and made a proclamation to the imprisoned spirits, to those who were disobedient long ago, in the days of Noach [Noah], when God waited patiently during the building of the ark, in which a few people -- to be specific, EIGHT -- were delivered by means of water. This also prefigures what delivers us now, the water of immersion, which is not the removal of dirt from the body, but one's pledge to keep a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of the Messiah" (ibid.).
There is a STRONG typological association between Noah's Flood which washed away the sinful people of the land and baptism which is the symbol of the washing away of our sins. The correlation is simply astounding -- it is a typological prophecy that everyone can see fulfilled in Christian baptism. Of particular beauty is the correlation with the baptism of the Messiah when the holy spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove -- the very bird released by Noah from the ark as the SIGN OF THE NEW BEGINNING!
We have multiple independent converging lines of association between baptism, salvation through the Flood, resurrection and THE NUMBER EIGHT that points clearly to the deliberate design and teaching of YEHOVAH's wisdom.
The Number 8 and the Resurrection:
We read the following in John 20:24-26 --
"But Thomas, that one of the twelve being called Didymus, was not with them, when Jesus came. The other disciples, therefore, said to him, 'We have seen the Lord.' But he said to them, 'If I do not see in his hands the impression of the nails, and put my finger into the impression of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will by no means believe.' And After EIGHT DAYS his disciples were again within, and Thomas with them. The doors having been closed, Jesus comes into the midst, and stood, and said, 'Peace be with you!'"
The resurrection of the Messiah is the ultimate NEW BEGINNING. In the perfect wisdom of YEHOVAH God, it occurred on the first day of the week -- which is simultaneously the EIGHTH DAY of the week!
It is the worldly equivalent of the Octave -- established from the foundation of the world to teach us the glory of the resurrected Messiah and that we can be like him. This is reiterated yet again in the Messiah's appearance to Thomas on the EIGHTH DAY after his resurrection. The EIGHTH DAY is the first day of the NEW WEEK -- precisely as the Octave is the EIGHTH NOTE that begins the musical cycle ANEW on a higher level. This meaning clearly applies to the shape of the Arabic number 8 -- the figure eight -- which is an image of the physical shape of the standing wave of the Octave. All this naturally integrates with the resurrection of the Messiah.
The Temple Service:
The number 8 is involved in various aspects of the Temple service:
The EIGHT HOLY VESTMENTS of the High Priest. The Kohen Gadol, or High Priest, had eight vestments made especially for him. These included a pair of linen pants, a linen checkered tunic, a linen turban and an embroidered sash. Over the tunic he wore a blue, woolen, sleeveless robe called a Me'il. Over the Me'il he wore an Ephod -- an apron-like garment with shoulder straps. A golden breastplate called the Choshen was connected to the Ephod. The EIGHTH vestment was a golden head plate called a Tzitz. It was worn on the High Priest's forehead.
The High Priest changed garments EIGHT TIMES on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) in his attempt to transcend the physical.
EIGHT VARIETIES OF SPICES -- four for the oil of ointment and four for the incense -- were used in the Temple service. We read about this in the book of Exodus:
"Take for yourself the finest spices: of flowing MYRRH five hundred shekels, and of sweet CINNAMON half so much, two hundred and fifty, and of sweet CANE two hundred and fifty, and of CASSIA five hundred, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and of olive oil a hin" (Exodus 30:23-24, The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible).
"And the LORD said to Moses, 'Take sweet spices, STACTE, and ONYCHA, and GALBANUM; sweet spices with pure FRANKINCENSE; there shall be an equal part of each. And you shall make incense of it, a perfume, the work of the perfumer, salted, pure, and holy'" (Exodus 30:34-35, ibid.).
EIGHT POLES for carrying the vessel in the Sanctuary:
TWO for the Ark,
TWO for the Table,
TWO for the Golden Altar, and
TWO for the Copper Altar.
EIGHT MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS accompanying the psalms of the Levites during the service, i.e., SEVEN instruments and the CHOIR itself -- for a total of EIGHT:
Stringed instruments -- Psalm 4:1
Flutes -- Psalm 5:1
Gitis -- Psalm 8:1
Machalas Le'annos -- Psalm 88:1
Yedusun -- Psalm 39:1
Harp -- Psalm 33:2
Lyre -- Psalm 33:2
ANIMALS, FROM THE EIGHTH DAY after their birth onwards, could be offered as sacrifices in the Temple.
It is no accident or coincidence that life begins 8 days after conception. As we have just seen, the number eight symbolizes NEW BIRTH, NEW CREATION and/or NEW BEGINNINGS and is a number that YEHOVAH God uses extensively in His creation and in His plan for mankind.
There is another concept to consider -- the reason WHY YEHOVAH God considers life in the womb to be so precious in His sight.
Human Reproduction the TYPE of YEHOVAH God Reproducing Himself
Few people realize that human reproduction has a sacred and God-Plane meaning not applicable to any other kind of life. Human reproduction pictures spiritual salvation -- which is actually YEHOVAH God the Father reproducing Himself in the God Family. Understand the astounding comparison!
Man is composed wholly of MATTER from the ground (Genesis 2:7 and 3:19). But HOW can YEHOVAH God bridge the gap, in reproducing Himself, of converting a wholly physical man into a wholly spirit-composed member of the God Family?
It starts with a spirit (a portion of spirit essence) IN the wholly physical man. This spirit is NOT the man -- is not an "immortal soul" -- only something IN the man. This spirit cannot see, hear or think. The MAN (soul) sees, hears and thinks through his physical brain and the five senses of seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling and feeling. The spirit in man imparts the power of PHYSICAL INTELLECT to the physical brain -- thus forming human MIND.
This spirit acts, among other things, as a COMPUTER, adding to the brain the psychic and intellectual power. Knowledge received in the brain through the eye, ear and the senses is immediately "programmed" into the spirit computer. All memory is stored in this spirit computer. This "computer" gives the brain instant recall of whatever portion of millions of bits of knowledge may be needed in the reasoning process. That is to say the MEMORY is recorded in the human spirit -- whether or not it also is recorded in the "gray matter" of the BRAIN.
This human spirit also adds to man a spiritual and moral faculty not possessed by animals.
YEHOVAH God had made the needed second spirit -- the HOLY SPIRIT -- available to Adam. But on Adam's rebellion and taking of the forbidden fruit, YEHOVAH had to drive Adam out of the Garden of Eden and close all access to the tree of LIFE -- symbolic of His holy spirit.
Yet, through the Messiah, a repentant humanity may eventually receive YEHOVAH's GIFT of His holy spirit. To Nicodemus the Messiah said, "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." Of course, Nicodemus could not quite understand what the Messiah was saying. Almost no one today understands it either. The Messiah explained, "That which is born of the flesh IS FLESH, and that which is born of the spirit IS SPIRIT" (John 3:6). Man came from the ground. He IS flesh. The Messiah was not talking about another physical birth or experience of conversion in this life -- but about a spiritual birth -- when man shall BE spirit, no longer composed of matter, but composed wholly of spirit! LITERALLY!! Then he shall have been born of YEHOVAH God. YEHOVAH is spirit (John 4:24, RSV).
Now to become human, each of us had to be begotten by our human father. In a similar fashion, to be born again -- of THE SPIRIT which is of YEHOVAH God the Father, one must first be begotten of the SPIRITUAL FATHER -- of YEHOVAH God. This is explained in Romans 8:16-17 -- notice! "The spirit [of YEHOVAH God] itself bears witness with our spirit that we are [begotten] children of God, and if children, then heirs [not yet inheritors or possessors] -- heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ...."
And YEHOVAH's holy spirit -- now combined with our human spirit in the human MIND -- does two things: (1) begets the human with divine eternal life to be later BORN into the GOD FAMILY, then composed wholly of spirit; (2) imparts to the human mind power to comprehend SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE -- to understand the things of YEHOVAH God (I Corinthians 2:11). Also, YEHOVAH's holy spirit imparts divine love, faith and POWER to overcome Satan and sin.
This spirit-begotten Christian now has, conditionally, the PRESENCE OF ETERNAL LIFE within him or her, but he is NOT YET an immortal spirit being -- not yet composed wholly of spirit. He is now an heir of YEHOVAH God as the son of a wealthy man is the heir of his father -- but NOT YET "born again" -- NOT YET an inheritor or a possessor. But if His holy spirit dwells in us, YEHOVAH will -- at His coming back to earth as King of kings and Lord of lords -- "quicken" to immortality our mortal bodies BY His spirit that dwells in us (Romans 8:11; I Corinthians 15:49-53).
Now let's see how this astonishing analogy continues --
Just as in human reproduction, the impregnated EMBRYO, which later becomes the FETUS, is not yet BORN, but is still being nourished through the human mother; so too the begotten Christian is not yet BORN into the God Family. The divine life has merely been begotten.
Satan has managed to deceive most of fundamentalist Christianity into believing they already are "born again" on accepting the Messiah. But just as in human reproduction when the HUMAN characteristics of form and shape and the human body and brain gradually begin to develop during the period of GESTATION, so now the RIGHTEOUS and HOLY CHARACTER of YEHOVAH God begins to develop and grow.
However, in many, this divine CHARACTER may form so slowly it seems hardly in evidence at first, except that in some there will appear the glow of that ecstasy of spiritual "romance" -- which may radiate in that "first love" of spiritual conversion. But, so far as growing in SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE (II Peter 3:18) and spiritual CHARACTER goes, most of that is still to be learned and developed.
When newly converted, one is now a spiritual "EMBRYO." Now he must be nourished and fed SPIRITUAL FOOD by the mother -- the Church! The Messiah said man must not live by bread (physical food) alone, but by EVERY WORD OF YEHOVAH GOD. The Bible is the written Word of YEHOVAH God, just as the Messiah is the personal Word of YEHOVAH God. This growth is the character development that REQUIRES TIME (just like the FETUS takes time to grow in the mother's WOMB) and comes largely by EXPERIENCE. Above all, it requires continual BIBLE STUDY to show one's self approved of YEHOVAH God -- as well as much continual and earnest PRAYER.
Further, just as the human physical EMBRYO and FETUS are given physical nourishment in the womb through the human mother, YEHOVAH's Ecclesia is the spiritual MOTHER of its members. YEHOVAH's Ecclesia is called "Jerusalem above, which is the MOTHER of us all" (Galatians 4:26).
Notice the exact parallel. YEHOVAH God has placed called and chosen ministers in His Ecclesia to feed the flock, "for the perfecting of the saints, for THE WORK OF THE MINISTRY [proclaiming the Good News of the soon-coming Kingdom of YEHOVAH God], for the edifying of the body [Ecclesia] of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:12-13).
It is the duty of the Messiah's true ministers (and how few they are today) to PROTECT the begotten but yet unborn saints from false doctrines and from false ministers!
What a wonderful picture of YEHOVAH reproducing Himself is human reproduction!
And remember, YEHOVAH God intended human reproduction to be a FAMILY matter. It adds human children to the human FAMILY. The HUMAN FAMILY is the exact TYPE of the God Family. YEHOVAH has bestowed MARRIAGE and FAMILY life on NO OTHER form of life except on humans -- whose potential it is to enter into the Family of YEHOVAH God! But consider further! As the physical human FETUS must grow physically large enough to be born, so too the begotten Christian must grow spiritually in grace and knowledge of the Messiah (II Peter 3:18) -- must overcome, develop in spiritual character, during this life, to be born into the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God!
Hope of Israel Ministries -- Proclaiming the Good News of the Soon-Coming Kingdom of YEHOVAH God!
Hope of Israel Ministries
P.O. Box 2186
Temple City, CA 91780, U.S.A.