Case in Point


This blog site will feature essays, columns and musings that deal with the intersection of Christianity and journalism and the American Songbook.

“Bible is clear about the humanness of the unborn” (article: National Right to Life News)

“Christian Perspective” column
National Right to Life News
March 1977

In last month’s “Christian Perspective” I indicated that Bible-believing Christians since the time of the Apostles have condemned abortion as homicide and therefore a violation of the sixth commandment (Ex. 39:13; Deut. 5:17). I also pointed out that one of the corollary axioms of “evangelicalism” (evangel = good news) is a commitment to the Bible as the divinely revealed and inerrant word of God.

This month, I’d like to look at a portion of that errorless Bible as God speaks to the abortion issue.

The passage under consideration in this article is Luke 1 — the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Luke 1:35 is the first key verse we come to. The angel Gabriel is talking to Mary, and he states: “The Holy Sprit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring conceived will be called the Son of God.” Here is plain, simple language. Jesus, “the Son of God,” is called the “holy offspring” at the moment of “conception.” Matthew 1:18 and 20 confirm this biological-spiritual fact.

The next verse in Luke 1 (verse 36) also confirms this in another way — by comparing Jesus with John the Baptist. Gabriel says to Mary in that verse: “And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age . . .” In other words, both Jesus and John took their humanity (male-ness) at the moment of conception.

Farther on in Luke 1 (verse 43) we have Elizabeth (mother of John the Baptist) exclaiming as the news of the conception of the Messiah was told to her: “But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Elizabeth is calling the just conceived Jesus “my Lord”! What a magnificent paean of worship!

A question now presents itself: how old is Jesus when Elizabeth makes this profound theological statement? Three strands of evidence tell us his age. Luke 1:39 tells us that after Gabriel spoke to Mary she “hurried” or “went in haste” to Elizabeth to tell her the wonderful news. Obviously Mary wasted no time in getting to her cousin after Gabriel had appeared to her. Secondly, verse 39 indicates the time frame of this period – “in these days.” The normal interpretation of this phrase would obviously bring to mind the concept of chronological proximity. Indeed, Acts 1:15 uses this same phrase to indicate about a week’s time lapse. Finally, in Luke 1:56 we have the fact that Mary stayed with Elizabeth “about three months.” Add this three month period of time to the sixth month “leaping” of John in Elizabeth’s uterus and we get a normal nine month pregnancy for Elizabeth (1:57).

The point of this chronological discussion is that when Elizabeth called Jesus “my Lord” she was addressing a zygote Messiah! Jesus was probably no more than a week to ten-day-old zygote at the time.

In short, Jesus was the “King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Timothy 6:15) before implantation.

One final point is to be made about Luke 1 and the incarnation narrative. In Luke 1:41 and 44, John the Baptist, while only a six-month intrauterine baby, is called a brephos (Greek).  The word means “baby” or ‘infant” and the physician Luke was precise in his choice of terms describing the biological and pathological aspects of his gospel account. Anyway, it is this “brephos” who leaps at the announcement that the messiah is conceived. Later, in Luke 2:12 and 16, Jesus, as he lay in the cattle staff, is called a brephos. And still later in Luke 8:15 the beloved physician states that many people were bringing their brephos to Jesus so that he might touch them. In Acts 7:19 Luke uses the same word to describe the ancient Egyptian practice of infanticide. Another New Testament writer (Paul) states in 2 Timothy 3:15 that the young Timothy has been taught the “sacred Scriptures” since he was a brephos.

Finally, in 1 Peter 2:2, a third New Testament author uses the word to describe “newborn brephos.” The point of this short word study of brephos is to show that three different biblical authors use the same word to describe unborn children, newborn children and children old enough to understand the Old Testament. Clearly, God sees continuity between the zygote and the young child and uses the same Greek word to describe both children. And He uses a physician to do the describing.

What does this have to do with us? After all, Jesus was a unique individual – the some of God. Surely we cannot find exact parallels in His development with our development. Unique, yes, but unique precisely because he was like us in all respects (except sin) and at the same time like God in all respects. Focusing now on his manhood, let’s look at three passages in the New Testament.

In 1 Corinthians 15:47 we see Paul calling Jesus an anthropos – a man just like Adam. This is the Greek word which gives us “anthropology” – the study of man.

In Hebrews 2:15 we have the following: “Since then the children share in blood and flesh, Jesus Himself likewise partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless (the devil).” The physical (biological) parallels between Jesus and us are clearly in view here with the “blood and flesh,” similarly being noted and with physical “death” being mentioned. In Hebrews 2:17 we read: “Therefore, Jesus had to be made like His brothers in all respects…” Either he was like us in all respects or he wasn’t. And if like us in all respects, then his physical development parallels our physical development – from conception onward.

Philippians 2:5-8 tells us that Jesus “took on the form (body) of a bondservant, being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man…” If made in the “likeness of men,” then biological truth would have all “men” being formed as Jesus was.

This entire discussion is leading to the following Biblical syllogism: Since Jesus was fully human at his conception, and since he was completely like us in all respects (biological development included), then we too assume full humanity at the moment of our conception.

If this were all the Biblical material given by God, it would be more than enough to establish for the evangelical Christian the fact that life (humanness) begins at conception. But God has given us much more to work with and in subsequent months I hope to be looking at some more of that divine material.

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