a Response to Prof Cox's Letter in the Morning Call
First, Professor Cox's Letter in the Morning Call
read it here
Biblical passage addresses abortion
Recent discussion in the Town Square pages about abortion in the Bible has overlooked the only specific mention of it there, found in Numbers 5:11-31. It is a case law:
A wife suspected of adultery by her husband is brought to the priest, who requires her to submit to a prescribed procedure. She is made to drink a potion of water mixed with some of the dust from the floor of the tabernacle. She is told that if she is guilty it is intended to create bitter pain, which no doubt — regardless of her guilt — it does. Further, it is intended to discharge what is in her womb, which no doubt it does. However, if she is innocent, "she shall be exempt from punishment and shall be able to bear children."
This passage is a clear example of the need to read a literary unit of the Bible within its own historical context. What was at stake in ancient Israel was the integrity of the family and the purity of the blood line. The genealogies emphasize the importance of the ancestral lineage. While biblical families always treasured births, circumstances could require abortion for the sake of the integrity of the family.
The writer is a professor emeritus
of the Old Testament at
Moravian Theological Seminary.
Professor Cox brings up an interesting text for us to consider. The headline invites the reader to believe that the Bible does address abortion in a favorable light. His comments go on to drive this point home, when he concludes "while biblical families always treasured births, circumstances could require abortion for the sake of the integrity of the family." What circumstances might "require" abortion according to Prof. Cox? A child conceived through adultery. He uses Numbers 5:11-31 as his text.
The mistake he made with using this text to validate his argument is basic: the text does not say that the wife's unfaithfulness caused a pregnancy. It simply says "you have defiled yourself and a man other than your husband has had intercourse with you" (Numbers 5:20). Prof. Cox furthers his incorrect argument by asserting that this ceremonial potion "is intended to discharge what is in her womb." Where does the text say that?
First, the text does not say that she is pregnant. Second, the text does not say that this ceremony aborts the pregnancy. Third, the Bible is not, as Prof. Cox asserts, interested in preserving "the integrity of the family and the purity of the bloodline" through the means of abortion but rather through the means of marital faithfulness.
This text is not about abortion as Prof. Cox's headline would have the reader believe. This text is about adultery and the jealousy of the wounded party. God cares that marriages are safe, happy, and playful. When a spouse believes they have been cheated on yet they have no proof, God can put your racing mind at ease so that your marriage can continue to be safe, happy, and playful with renewed mutual trust.
NOTE: I am sending my response to Professor Cox and I'm posting it here. I do not intend to send it in to the Call. I think they are tired of it. I'm frankly disinterested in writing on it. I'm much more interested in the Gospel than this issue. Priorities... priorities...