Exodus 21:22-23, Is Abortion a Sin? part II of II

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; and he shall pay as the judges determine. If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life …

//Yesterday, we discussed a few verses that might help pin down this slippery topic of whether or not abortion is a sin. In the minds of most people, it comes down to a question of when the fetus is alive.

Today’s verse may contain the Biblical answer. If a pregnant woman is caused to have a miscarriage, but she herself is not harmed, the person who hurt her is fined. But no consideration is given to the lost baby; the fetus is not considered alive, and only the life of the woman is considered.

However, this is not the end of the story. When the original Hebrew was translated into Greek in the Septuagint, the wording changed. “If two men fight and they strike a woman who is pregnant, and her child comes out while not yet fully formed, he will be forced to pay a fine … but if it is fully formed, he will give life for life …”

So, while the original Hebrew seems to indicate that life begins at birth (the Mishnah agrees; see Niddah 5:3), the Greek translators, one or two centuries before Christ, were troubled by this, and decided that life begins “when fully formed.”

The debate continues even today.

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