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My Take: When evangelicals were pro-choice
The author notes that evangelical Christians were once largely pro-abortion rights.
October 30th, 2012
05:54 PM ET

My Take: When evangelicals were pro-choice

Editor's Note: Jonathan Dudley is the author of "Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics."

By Jonathan Dudley, Special to CNN

Over the course of the 2012 election season, evangelical politicians have put their community’s hard-line opposition to abortion on dramatic display.

Missouri Rep. Todd Akin claimed “legitimate rape” doesn’t result in pregnancy. Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock insisted that “even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

While these statements have understandably provoked outrage, they’ve also reinforced a false assumption, shared by liberals and conservatives alike: that uncompromising opposition to abortion is a timeless feature of evangelical Christianity.

The reality is that what conservative Christians now say is the Bible’s clear teaching on the matter was not a widespread interpretation until the late 20th century.

Opinion: Let's get real about abortions

In 1968, Christianity Today published a special issue on contraception and abortion, encapsulating the consensus among evangelical thinkers at the time. In the leading article, professor Bruce Waltke, of the famously conservative Dallas Theological Seminary, explained the Bible plainly teaches that life begins at birth:

“God does not regard the fetus as a soul, no matter how far gestation has progressed. The Law plainly exacts: 'If a man kills any human life he will be put to death' (Lev. 24:17). But according to Exodus 21:22–24, the destruction of the fetus is not a capital offense… Clearly, then, in contrast to the mother, the fetus is not reckoned as a soul.”

The magazine Christian Life agreed, insisting, “The Bible definitely pinpoints a difference in the value of a fetus and an adult.” And the Southern Baptist Convention passed a 1971 resolution affirming abortion should be legal not only to protect the life of the mother, but to protect her emotional health as well.

Opinion: Why the abortion issue won’t go away

These stalwart evangelical institutions and leaders would be heretics by today’s standards. Yet their positions were mainstream at the time, widely believed by born-again Christians to flow from the unambiguous teaching of Scripture.

Televangelist Jerry Falwell spearheaded the reversal of opinion on abortion in the late 1970s, leading his Moral Majority activist group into close political alliance with Catholic organizations against the sexual revolution.

In contrast to evangelicals, Catholics had mobilized against abortion immediately after Roe v. Wade. Drawing on mid-19th century Church doctrines, organizations like the National Right to Life Committee insisted a right to life exists from the moment of conception.

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As evangelical leaders formed common cause with Catholics on topics like feminism and homosexuality, they began re-interpreting the Bible as teaching the Roman Catholic position on abortion.

Falwell’s first major treatment of the issue, in a 1980 book chapter called, significantly, “The Right to Life,” declared, “The Bible clearly states that life begins at conception… (Abortion) is murder according to the Word of God.”

With the megawatt power of his TV presence and mailing list, Falwell and his allies disseminated these interpretations to evangelicals across America.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

By 1984, it became clear these efforts had worked. That year, InterVarsity Press published the book Brave New People, which re-stated the 1970 evangelical consensus: abortion was a tough issue and warranted in many circumstances.

An avalanche of protests met the publication, forcing InterVarsity Press to withdraw a book for the first time in its history.

“The heresy of which I appear to be guilty,” the author lamented, “is that I cannot state categorically that human/personal life commences at day one of gestation.... In order to be labeled an evangelical, it is now essential to hold a particular view of the status of the embryo and fetus.”

What the author quickly realized was that the “biblical view on abortion” had dramatically shifted over the course of a mere 15 years, from clearly stating life begins at birth to just as clearly teaching it begins at conception.

During the 2008 presidential election, Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren demonstrated the depth of this shift when he proclaimed: “The reason I believe life begins at conception is ‘cause the Bible says it.”

It is hard to underestimate the political significance of this reversal. It has required the GOP presidential nominee to switch his views from pro-choice to pro-life to be a viable candidate. It has led conservative Christians to vote for politicians like Akin and Mourdock for an entire generation.

And on November 6, it will lead millions of evangelicals to support Mitt Romney over Barack Obama out of the conviction that the Bible unequivocally forbids abortion.

But before casting their ballots, such evangelicals would benefit from pausing to look back at their own history. In doing so, they might consider the possibility that they aren’t submitting to the dictates of a timeless biblical truth, but instead, to the goals of a well-organized political initiative only a little more than 30 years old.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jonathan Dudley.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Abortion • Catholic Church • Christianity • Opinion

soundoff (2,844 Responses)
  1. CatSh

    These people keep saying that the Bible says life begins with conception, but no one is giving the scripture that supports it.
    I would also think the argument wouldn't be about the start of life – a bug is alive – but when that life becomes a soul and sacred.
    I respect opinion, but if you use the Bible as your primary support, you should provide chapter and verse.

    October 30, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
    • Trace

      Genesis 1:1 "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth."

      How much clearer could the Bible be that abortion is murder????

      October 30, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
    • CatSh

      Trace – by that argument roaches are also sacred. They are alive and created by God.

      October 30, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Yep, no antibiotics for Trace, that would be MURDER.

      Book 'em Danno – Bacteriacide.

      October 30, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
    • Vic

      Please look up Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed you in the womb I knew you

      October 30, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
    • CatSh

      Vic, that passage is specific to Jeremiah. Anything speaking to people in general?

      October 30, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
    • Vic

      If He knew Jeremiah, He could know us as well. He is perfect and knows all. Alot of the bible is written to Israel, but we can apply the principals as well.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:23 am |
    • jim

      But it says "before I formed you in the womb". Does that mean life begins before conception? I guess so.

      October 31, 2012 at 8:27 am |
    • dave

      These people keep saying that the Bible says life begins with conception, but no one is giving the scripture that supports it.
      I would also think the argument wouldn't be about the start of life – a bug is alive – but when that life becomes a soul and sacred.
      I respect opinion, but if you use the Bible as your primary support, you should provide chapter and verse.
      I'm sure you know this, but no verse explicitly states life begins with conception. The church has struggled with this point for centuries. The biblical interpretations have gone back and forth since the early church. St. Augustine, for example, had this to say: "And therefore the following question may be very carefully inquired into and discussed by learned men, though I do not know whether it is in man's power to resolve it: At what time the infant begins to live in the womb: whether life exists in a latent form before it manifests itself in the motions of the living being."
      Even Augustine, though he seemed to lean towards the unborn being alive at the time of "quickening," couldn't say for certain. It's pretty audacious then for Evangelicals to claim with absolute certainty that life begins at conception, when someone like St. Augustine couldn't even work it out.

      October 31, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  2. realbuckyball

    Fallacy #1 ; Without first establishing the authority of scripture all the rest is baloney. Scripture was written by humans, who appropriated the HUMAN law and customs of the day and religion LATER sanctioned it. Religion RECEIVED the law, it did not pive the law.

    Fallacy #2 : There is not one person here who can define for us what exactly what the "moment of conception " actually is.

    October 30, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • Trace

      The moment of conception is the moment the sperm penetrates the egg.

      October 30, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      No, it isn't, Trace.

      October 30, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      There is no "moment" of penetration. It's a *relatively* long process. You made that up. No one else says that. Di you mean "nanosecond of penetration". I have a better clock.
      Try harder.

      October 30, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      He can't, bucky. Trace is suffering from brain cramp already.

      October 30, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
    • CatSh

      And even after penetration there is a whole genetic process that has to take place to join and activate the genetic material from both parents. Sometimes that doesn't work and the cells die. At what point can you say for certain a viable life has been created and has a soul?
      Are twins one soul or two?
      What about a chimera?

      October 30, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
  3. Jackson Z

    Incidentally, it's hard to dismiss this argument by saying abortion wasn't even an issue at the time because it was before Roe v. Wade when evangelicals were explicitly talking about abortion!

    October 30, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • Meatwad

      If we are dismissed, I want to go to my room. I think I left it on fire.

      October 30, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
  4. Jackson Z

    Still waiting for an intelligent counter-argument. Guess I might have to just come back in the morning...or next week.....

    October 30, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
  5. Jon

    As someone who believes the Gospels but not many white male Evangelical leaders, I think the term "biblical values" is one of the most abused phrases in recent times. Especially this political cycle. I mean, Ralph Reed?! Dear Jesus, save us from the knuckeheads who are trying to franchise your name to sell their political pottage. "Biblical values" are more overarching principles than they are exactly defined rules and regulations: for governance, for economics, for personal morality. There are some specifics, yes. But when I see things such as the recent Billy Graham ad touting "biblical values" and then listing abortion, gay marriage, and ISRAEL fer cryin' out loud... I wanna hand in my Jesus Card! Not really, just my Evangelical card. But I guess I did that already. Heh.

    October 30, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
    • Jackson Z

      amen, brother!

      October 30, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
    • No Religion

      Jon, if you are a Christian you are very stupid. You have to be stupid in order to be a Christian.

      October 30, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
    • David

      @No Religion

      But I guess it takes deep intellect to be a bigot?

      October 31, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  6. lolwut

    Who cares? I mean, if your position is that women have a right to do whatever they want with their own bodies, then that's the end of it, isn't it? If you don't think there's anything wrong with it, then why get squeamish at this point and try to hide behind these sorts of esoteric rationalizations to justify the decision? Face it: abortion's legal. The "pro-choice" side, or whatever you want to call it, won. Realistically, the judicial system being what it is now, it's not going away, so who exactly are you still trying to convince by marching your armies back and forth over the battleground? Is it not enough to have won? The other side must validate your position, as well? Of course, as easy as it is to howl with laughter at the catholic philosophy on these things as an anachronism, I get the sense that the opposition is actually a little envious of its simple coherence on the subject of life; but then it's impossible to have a philosophical discussion about this topic without it immediately degenerating into partisan screaming.

    October 30, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
  7. godNotneeded

    The problem is that many if not all pro-lifers are really pro-birth for once a child is born and that child's mother needs help to raise that child pro-lifers will turn their back on that mother and child.... Pro-lifers do not support welfare

    Furthermore making abortion illegal will not make the issue go away.. What will end up happening is women who want to have one will seek it out in back alleys and then what? You will have an increase in women dying due to unlicensed or unqualified medical personnel.... Of course the pro-lifers will tun around and claim that it was Gods will or Gods plan for those women to have died...

    I do not see pro-lifers getting in line at adoptions centers...

    October 30, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
    • Meatwad

      I was aborted but I turned out ok ya'll.

      October 30, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
    • GGinBhamAL

      Way to go. Making sweeping generalizations is always a good idea.

      October 30, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
  8. Professor

    Well written article articulating a clear point that: The notion that life begins at the exact moment of conception is a relatively new idea among protestant evangelicals. The evidence he cites is flimsy. I would have consulted a religious scholar but let me just guess that the author is not good friends with many of them? Still, the only rational objection I have read so far to his proposition is that abortion did not become an issue until after Roe. This is dead wrong- Abortion WAS an issue well before the 1960's and there were constant debates in the States.

    October 30, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Sources?

      October 30, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
    • Michael

      And always have been illegal abortions.
      Prohibition does not work when there is demand.

      October 30, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
    • Jackson Z

      Yes I'm sure he doesn't know any religious scholars having gone to Yale Divinity School and written a book endorsed by several religious scholars.

      October 30, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
  9. Jon

    I tried to read this with an open mind as I'm not a pro choice guy but willing to listen to an argument..then I went and read the bible verse he quoted from Exodus and found no correlation from the verses and his argument...
    “If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely[a] but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. 23 But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,"

    Don't know that this man cares about reason more just trying to make his point at any cost of logic. Many on both sides do. You just have to decide where you think life begins. For me it is at conception. Many of my Catholic friends say it is the moment of intercourse...guess we all have out limits. Gods Peace all

    October 30, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Can you cite any sources for this assertion?

      October 30, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
    • 24HCC

      Jon, who cares what you think? Who cares what I think? It is not about you and me. It is about freedom.

      October 30, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
    • Jackson Z

      Let me make it clear: Exodus 21 says that if a man causes a miscarriage (i.e. kills the fetus) he must pay a fine. If he kills the mother then it is "life for life." Killing a fetus requires a fine; killing a mother requires execution. This suggests that the two are not viewed as moral equals. Get it?

      October 30, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
    • Jon

      My Bad... this is from an online NIV Bible # Tom, Tom

      October 30, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Jon,

      the old testament view (clearly illustrated by the Ex 21 passage) is that life does not begin at conception.

      The man who harms the woman is to be punished, but not necessarily with death (which is the punishment for murder). From this we conclude that the OT view is that causing is miscarriage is a lesser crime than murder.

      Plus you have the 'valuations' where a child is worth nothing until a month old.

      October 30, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Jackson Z

      you beat me to it. That was the point I wanted to make.

      October 30, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • Jon

      That is not how I read that .. I see if the premature birth results in death then the old testemant eye for and eye" is applied.

      October 30, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Jon,

      I suggest you look at it again.

      Exodus 21:22–25
      22 If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.
      23 And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life,
      24 Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
      25 Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

      The ideas so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow go together.

      It means the fetus miscarries, but the woman is not harmed. Then the man is punished, but *not* with death.

      All the life for a life stuff refers to harming the woman.

      October 30, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
    • Loki

      That is because you are reading a revised version of that bible verse. One that was specifically rewritten by partisan hacks in order to make the bible conform to their anti-abortion agenda. Every translation prior 1979 categorically states "Miscarriage" not "premature birth."

      Wycliffe Bible (1382): “If men chide, and a man smiteth a woman with child, and soothly he maketh the child dead-born, but the woman liveth over that smiting, he shall be subject to the harm (he shall be subject to a fine), as much as the woman’s husband asketh (for), and as the judges deem (appropriate).”

      New English Bible (1971): “When, in the course of a brawl, a man knocks against a pregnant woman so that she has a miscarriage but suffers no further hurt, then the offender must pay whatever fine the woman’s husband demands for assessment.”

      I could keep listing translations, but you get the point. There was no great scholarly discovery about that passage in 1979, there was just the obsession to wipe out the fact that the bible clearly does not consider a fetus a human life.

      October 30, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Loki,

      but the bible is the inerrant word of God, the absolute source of morality, constant and unchanging! ;)

      October 30, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Then of course there's always Leviticus 27:

      1 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
      2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When a man shall make a singular vow, the persons shall be for the Lord by thy estimation.
      3 And thy estimation shall be of the male from twenty years old even unto sixty years old, even thy estimation shall be fifty shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary.
      4 And if it be a female, then thy estimation shall be thirty shekels.
      5 And if it be from five years old even unto twenty years old, then thy estimation shall be of the male twenty shekels, and for the female ten shekels.
      6 And if it be from a month old even unto five years old, then thy estimation shall be of the male five shekels of silver, and for the female thy estimation shall be three shekels of silver.
      7 And if it be from sixty years old and above; if it be a male, then thy estimation shall be fifteen shekels, and for the female ten shekels.

      And if it be less than a month old – it's not worth any shekels. Babies were't considered viable until a month old under Mosaic law.

      October 30, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
    • David

      @Loki

      You quote early translations without the contemporary notes. Here is the version from the Geneva Bible in 1611:
      "Also is men strike and hurt a woman with child, so that her child depart from her, and *death follow not, he shall be surely punished according as the womans husband shall appoint him, or he shall pay as the Judges determine"

      And the marginal notation states:
      * "of the mother or child"

      So the interpretation in 1611 was that the phrase 'death follow not' applied to both the mother and child, not just the mother.

      October 31, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • Atenay

      It seems that translating the passage in Exodus to reference "miscarraige" is not really the best translation. Based on context and based on the fact that there are several other words that would have specifically meant miscarraige or abortion (If the passage in Exodus had used the word "nephel" as in Job 3:16 or "shakol" as in Ex 23:26 then misscairage and the concept put forth by the author would make sense). The word the author of this article suggest should be translated as miscarriage is the hebrew word "yatsa" in the 1069 times the word is used it is never translated as miscarriage. It is often used in reference to the coming forth of life. Gen 1:24, 1 Kings 8:19, Jer 1:5 to list a few.

      The word "yatsa" means to come forth, or deliver even. There is no indication that there is a death in the passage. So why assume one? The context seems to imply that if the struck woman gives birth prematurely but there is no harm that follows the birth, then there is a fine. But if there is harm that follows the birth, then take life for life.

      Seems pretty straight to me.

      November 1, 2012 at 10:00 am |
  10. Michael

    There is no one who is pro abortion.
    Doesn't mean that folks don't want it available.
    This is America, If you don't like the way it is
    move out of the country to someplace where
    abortion is illegal. Your morality doesn't suit me.

    October 30, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
    • Somebody

      @Michael – Abortion wasn't always legal in America.

      October 31, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
  11. Jackson Z

    I would like to see ONE intelligent response to this article. Still waiting.....

    October 30, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
    • Meatwad

      Hell yeah boy, that sounds like a challenge!

      October 30, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
  12. MashaSobaka

    Evangelicals will take whatever stance they want on abortion and will enforce it as the absolute truth. There is neither logic nor reason behind their doctrines and their dogma. Asking for them to employ it is just ludicrous. It is the responsibility of the civilized world to keep religion in check. I take that responsibility seriously. But I will not waste time on a worthless enterprise. Religious folks will believe whatever is convenient. My job is to make sure that their whims do not cost other people their lives.

    October 30, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
  13. Cherries

    The man in the picture looks like Lucifer himself!!!

    October 30, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
    • truth be told

      Do you see Lucifer a lot?

      October 30, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
    • Cherries

      If I did, he would look like that guy. The look on his face is just pure evil!

      October 30, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Do you see your large intestine a lot? You certainly seem to spend most of your time with your head in it, Turdy.

      October 30, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • Cherries

      Tom, are you talking to me or truth be told? You can't tell me that guy doesn't look totally scary.

      October 30, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
    • truth be told

      So if Lucifer was in a police line up you could pick him out? Did you know Lucifer appears as an angel of light?

      October 30, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I'm talking to that brain-dead azzhole Turdy.

      October 30, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • truth be told

      We can't tell who Tom is talking to its probably on the wrong thread as no one has posted under the handle it is addressing. Tom isn't all there.

      October 30, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • truth be told

      We can't tell who Tom is talking to its probably on the wrong thread as no one has posted under the handle it is addressing. Tom isn't all there, is it?

      October 30, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      If I'm talking to a walking pos, Turdy, you can bet your life it's you.

      Have you managed to memorize the spelling of "gall" and "gaul" yet, honey? Figured out what a "pun" is?

      Do alert the media when you resemble a sentient being.

      October 30, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Poor little Turdy be Told is embarrassed because she's been exposed as a compete fool. It would be far too humiliating for her to admit that she recognizes her nickname on here.

      October 30, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
  14. Abortion is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things,

    October 30, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • HeavenSense

      Hi prayerbot..

      October 30, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
    • Michael

      So does moving out of the USA to a place that shares your view.

      October 30, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
    • truth be told

      America one nation under God. Who needs to move?

      October 30, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      People like you who want to force others to live by your religious beliefs.

      October 30, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
  15. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    October 30, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • HeavenSense

      Hi prayerbot...

      October 30, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
    • godNotneeded

      Prayer changes things? Really? Still waiting to see a prayer cause a limb on an amputee to spontaneously regrow.

      October 30, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
    • truth be told

      Since you do not have personal knowledge of every amputee you cannot say that such an event has not happened. It is a very unique individual that will use another persons misfortunes or sufferings to bolster their hate based opinion and ego. Are you proud of yourself using the plight of others that way? What a "wonderful" human being you must be.

      October 30, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
    • truth be told

      Since you do not have personal knowledge of every amputee you cannot say that such an event has not happened. It is a very unique individual that will use another persons misfortunes or sufferings to bolster their hate based opinion and ego. Are you proud of yourself using the plight of others that way? What a "wonderful" human being you must be.

      October 30, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What a hypocrite you are, Turdy. If you could find any amputee whose limb grew back as a result of prayer, you'd be the first one braying about it from every street corner.

      October 30, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
  16. Rudy Betancourt

    MAN talk about now knowing your Bible.. Ex 21 :22 “If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 But if ANY harm follows, then you shall give LIFE FOR LIFE, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

    Esh STUPID LIBERALS.....

    October 30, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • Kristen

      And yet, the verse says nothing about if you harm the "baby". Simply if there is "harm". You assume this means to the baby.Chances are also it is referring to the life of the mother. If she dies or is harmed, it is eye for eye, etc. for her life. Again, you're taking a verse and enforcing your own personal interpretation of it.

      October 30, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
    • Loki

      That's because you are reading a revision put into the bible by partisan hacks specifically to hide the fact that the bible absolutely does not state that life begins at conception. Any translation written before 1979 will have some variation of "miscarriage" and not "premature birth."

      The Jerusalem Bible (1966): “If, when men come to blows, they hurt a woman who is pregnant and she suffers a miscarriage, though she does not die of it, the man responsible must pay the compensation demanded of him by the woman’s master; he shall hand it over, after arbitration.”

      October 30, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
    • sean

      Odd. My bible, which shows an old testament revised publishing date of 1952 reads as follows from Exodus 21:22 'When men strive together, and hurt a woman with child, so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no harm follows, the one who hurt her shall be fined, according as the woman's husband shall lay upon him..' I think it is a fair argument to make that if you follow literal teaching that there is some distinction between the life of a fetus than the life of a living person. It is also a fair point to make that certain religious leaders such as J Fallwell have led their congregations to follow and not consider opposing viewpoints on this subject. It is a topic that deserves greater understanding with how the issue has evolved. I'd certainly welcome further details on the subject.

      October 30, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @sean,

      yours appears to be a King James Bible and your argument is cogent.

      The insidousness of revisionism mocks the idea of 'absolute' morality.

      October 30, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
    • Evritt

      I agree 100% that this interpretation is WAY off. Kind of scary what has been done to the standard really. However, it is also clear that the scenario described in Exodus is about a pregnant woman injured as a bystander. Folks, that's called manslaughter now-a-days. Don't pretend you didn't notice that either, just because it wasn't pointed out. See Numbers 35 for more on NOT killing a person for manslaughter. Also, note that it is up to the husband as to the punishment, so probably not going to fare to well anyway.

      October 31, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • David

      Expect 'miscarriage' at the time of your translation meant any premature birth, live or otherwise:
      see http://www.gutenberg.org/files/29765/29765-8.txt

      The 17th century interpretations of this verse specifically state that no harm comes to the child or mother, not just the other.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  17. Rudy Betancourt

    MAN talk about now knowing your Bible.. Ex 21 :22 “If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 But if ANY harm follows, then you shall give LIFE FOR LIFE, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

    Esh STUPID LIBERALS....

    October 30, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
  18. Rudy Betancourt

    MAN talk about now knowing your Bible.. Ex 21 :22 “If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 But if ANY harm follows, then you shall give LIFE FOR LIFE, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

    Esh STUPID LIBERALS

    October 30, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
  19. Rudy Betancourt

    MAN talk about now knowing your Bible.. Ex 21 :22 “If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 But if ANY harm follows, then you shall give LIFE FOR LIFE, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

    Esh STUPID LIBERALS.

    October 30, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
  20. Rudy Betancourt

    MAN talk about now knowing your Bible.. Ex 21 :22 “If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 But if ANY harm follows, then you shall give LIFE FOR LIFE, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

    Esh STUPID LIBERALS..

    October 30, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • Vic

      Perfect Rudy, the lib writer left out the next verses. Please look up Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed you in the womb I knew you. NIV If people men and women simply take responsibility for their actions, abortions would be cut by 90%

      October 30, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.