Sanctity Of Human Life: An Ancient View

Introduction

On January 13, 1984 President Ronald Reagan designated January 22, 1984 as the first National Sanctity of Human Life Day.

The date coincided with the 11th anniversary of the Roe versus Wade Supreme Court case that legalized abortions in the United States.

It has become an annual time for organized demonstrations where citizens affirm the sanctity and dignity of human life. The Church, that community who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, must be at the forefront of standing firm.

Life is seamless from the womb to the graveside. Every single person’s life is precious because each one is created in the image of God. Whatever else that means it proclaims that we are reflections of his glory, which automatically sanctifies human life.

We have systematically devalued the unborn child and in doing so detrimental repercussions have reverberated across the landscape of our society.

What follows is a review and reminder of what the early Church believed about the sanctity of human life. Many thanks to my good friend Gary Warden who compiled all the research work on this topic.

The result is clear evidence that from its beginnings the Church was consistent in its condemnation of abortion. Also, any consideration that was given about when life begins or when does the soul inhabit the flesh seems to be at conception.

70 AD Josephus

We begin with the Jewish historian Josephus. Though not a Christian he provides some insight into prevailing Jewish thought regarding abortion; it is apparent that first century Jews viewed abortion as murder. This was the backdrop against which Jesus and the Apostles lived.

Josephus, Flavius, The Works of Josephus, Flavius Josephus Against Apion, Book II, 25 - The law, moreover enjoins us to bring up all our offspring, and forbids women to cause abortion of what is begotten, or to destroy it afterward; and if any woman appears to have so done, she will be a murderer of her child, by destroying a living creature, and diminishing humankind.

74 AD The Letter of Barnabas

Letter of Barnabas 19 - The way of light, then, is as follows. If any one desires to travel to the appointed place, he must be zealous in his works. The knowledge, therefore, which is given to us for the purpose of walking in this way, is the following. . . . Thou shalt not slay the child by procuring abortion; nor, again, shalt thou destroy it after it is born. 

137 AD The Apocalypse of Peter

 The Apocalypse of Peter 25 - And near that place I saw another strait place . . . and there sat women . . . And over against them many children who were born to them out of due time sat crying. And there came forth from them rays of fire and smote the women in the eyes. And these were the accursed who conceived and caused abortion.

150 AD Didache

Didache 2:1 - The second commandment of the teaching: You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not seduce boys. You shall not commit fornication. You shall not steal. Do not practice magic. Do not practice sorcery. Neither murder a child by abortion, nor destroy what is born. 

170 AD Mark Felix

Mark Felix, Christian Lawyer, Octavius chapter 30 - There are some women among you who by drinking special potions extinguish the life of the future human in their very bowels, thus committing murder before they even give birth.

177 AD Athenagoras

A Plea for the Christians 35, Embassy chapter 5 - What man of sound mind, therefore, will affirm, while such is our character, that we are murderers? . . . [W]hen we say that those women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder, and will have to give an account to God for the abortion, on what principle should we commit murder? For it does not belong to the same person to regard the very fetus in the womb as a created being, and therefore an object of God's care, and when it has passed into life, to kill it; and not to expose an infant, because those who expose them are chargeable with child-murder, and on the other hand, when it has been reared to destroy it. 

Athenagoras Plea, chapter 35 - What reason would we have to commit murder when 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 fetus in the womb as a living thing and therefore an object of God's care, and at the same time slay it, once it had come to life.

210 AD Tertullian

The Soul 25 - Among surgeons' tools there is a certain instrument, which is formed with a nicely-adjusted flexible frame for opening the uterus first of all and keeping it open; it is further furnished with an annular blade, by means of which the limbs [of the child] within the womb are dissected with anxious but unfaltering care; its last appendage being a blunted or covered hook, wherewith the entire fetus is extracted by a violent delivery. There is also [another instrument in the shape of] a copper needle or spike, by which the actual death is managed in this furtive robbery of life: They give it, from its infanticide function, the name of embruosphaktes, [meaning] "the slayer of the infant," which of course was alive. . . . [The doctors who performed abortions] all knew well enough that a living being had been conceived, and [they] pitied this most luckless infant state, which had first to be put to death, to escape being tortured alive. 

Apology 9:8 - In our case, a murder being once for all forbidden, we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from the other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter whether 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 its seed.  

Apology 27 - Now we allow that life begins with conception because we contend that the soul also begins from conception; life taking its commencement at the same moment and place that the soul does.

226 AD Minucius Felix

Octavius 30 - There are some [pagan] women who, by drinking medical preparations, extinguish the source of the future man in their very bowels and thus commit a parricide before they bring forth. And these things assuredly come down from the teaching of your [false] gods. . . . To us [Christians] it is not lawful either to see or hear of homicide.

228 AD Hippolytus

Refutation of All Heresies - Women who were reputed to be believers began to take drugs to render themselves sterile, and to bind themselves tightly so as to expel what was being conceived, since they would not, on account of relatives and excess wealth, want to have a child by a slave or by any insignificant person. See, then, into what great impiety that lawless one has proceeded, by teaching adultery and murder at the same time!

306 AD Council of Elvira

Nineteen bishops and twenty-six priests attended the council.  Canon 63 states: “If a woman conceives in adultery and then had an abortion, she may not commune again, even as death approaches, because she has sinned twice.”

307 AD Lactantius

Divine Institutes 6:20 - When God forbids us to kill, he not only prohibits us from open violence, which is not even allowed by the public laws, but he warns us against the commission of those things which are esteemed lawful among men. Therefore, let no one imagine that even this is allowed, to strangle newly-born children, which is the greatest impiety; for God breathes into their souls for life, and not for death. But men, that there may be no crime with which they may not pollute their hands, deprive [unborn] souls as yet innocent and simple of the light which they themselves have not given. Can anyone, indeed, expect that they would abstain from the blood of others who do not abstain even from their own? But these are, without any controversy, wicked and unjust.

374 AD Basil the Great

First Canonical Letter, canon 8 - He that kills another with a sword, or hurls an axe at his own wife and kills her, is guilty of willful murder; not he who throws a stone at a dog, and unintentionally kills a man, or who corrects one with a rod, or scourge, in order to reform him, or who kills a man in his own defense, when he only designed to hurt him. But the man, or woman, is a murderer that gives a philtrum, if the man that takes it die upon it; so are they who take medicines to procure abortion; and so are they who kill on the highway, and rapparees.

391 AD John Chrysostom

Homilies on Romans 24 - Wherefore I beseech you, flee fornication . . . 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 even the harlot you do not let continue a mere harlot, but make her a murderess also. You see how drunkenness leads to prostitution, prostitution to adultery, adultery to murder; or rather to a something even worse than murder. For I have no name to give it, since it does not take off the thing born, but prevents its being born. Why then do thou abuse the gift of God, and fight with His laws, and follow after what is a curse as if a blessing, and make the chamber of procreation a chamber for murder, and arm the woman that was given for childbearing unto slaughter? For with a view to drawing more money by being agreeable and an object of longing to her lovers, even this she is not backward to do, so heaping upon thy head a great pile of fire. For even if the daring deed be hers, yet the causing of it is thine.

396 AD Jerome

Letters 22:13 - I cannot bring myself to speak of the many virgins who daily fall and are lost to the bosom of the Church, their mother . . . Some go so far as to take potions, that they may insure barrenness, and thus murder human beings almost before their conception. Some, when they find themselves with child through their sin, use drugs to procure abortion, and when, as often happens, they die with their offspring, they enter the lower world laden with the guilt not only of adultery against Christ but also of suicide and child murder.

692 AD The Council of Trullo

Canon 41 - Those who give drugs for procuring abortion, and those who receive poisons to kill the fetus, are subjected to the penalty of murder.

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Conclusion

It is interesting to note that from the earliest times the Church had the same issues, arguments and case histories of abortion that we do in our day. The stand consistently taken by the Church was to just plainly call abortion murder.

There were exceptions for the life of the mother, but zero evidence to suggest any leader ever put forward the notion that abortion was a women's moral and legal right to choose. Enlightened jurists in the twentieth century discovered abortion on-demand rights emanating from some between the lines place in the American Constitution.

May the God of all peace, the One who entered human history in the womb of a peasant woman, grant the modern Church the wisdom of the ancients; may we have the fortitude to remain steadfast in defense of the sanctity of human life.

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Comments 50 comments

peacenhim 6 years ago

Let me commend you on an excellent Hub! Great research, and conclusion!

"God is the Giver of Life!" Peace!


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Thank you, peacenhim. Amen.


DeBorrah K. Ogans profile image

DeBorrah K. Ogans 6 years ago

Ken R. Abell, Interesting and thought provoking hub! God is the Giver and Sustainer of Life! Thank you for sharing, Blessings!


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

DeBorrah - Thank you. And amen.


Saintatlarge profile image

Saintatlarge 6 years ago from Canada

Thank you Ken, for an astounding amount of info to reflect upon. I know the blood cries from the ground unto the heavens. African women bring mutilation to themselves and practice these things yet today. I know that there is leadership with a voice, but it gets silenced quickly in all countries. Thank you for noting the time and date and posting this. May it be well read.


RevLady profile image

RevLady 6 years ago from Lantana, Florida

To think of how little some value life is sad. When I think about life, something so tremendous, potent, and marvelous that no scholar has ever been smart enough to detail its composition or understand from where it derives its sustaining energy, a force so complex that it cannot be duplicated, I wonder how it can be denied existence, once conceived.

This thought arousing hub is troubling to my spirit. Blessings dear one.


itakins profile image

itakins 6 years ago from Irl

Brilliant hub-so sad it's necessary!God Bless.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Saintatlarge - You're welcome. Thank you for stopping in & sharing thoughtful comments.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

RevLady - It is indeed a very troubling topic. More so, when we consider the reality of on-demand abortion. May God have mercy on us.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

itakins - Thank you. Blessings to you.


Cari Jean profile image

Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND

You did an amzing job with this hub. The facts you found about what the early church believed was so interesting. The early church spoke truth with no apologies - it was so very black and white when it came to abortion. Today some in the church try to tip toe around the subject as to not to offend anyone but we must call it what the early church called it - child murder.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States

Ken, The history was amazing and so well documented. I had no clue that the early church spoke so clearly about abortion. This was all very interesting. Excellent work!


Judah's Daughter profile image

Judah's Daughter 6 years ago from Roseville, CA

I've read hubs on abortion, but this one is outstanding! It's awesome that you quoted so many documented facts throughout church history!

Many that fall into the ongoing sin of fornication or adultery conceive children and simply kill the child as a form of "cover up" or "birth control". Others, even within marriage simply don't want another child. Teens that don't want to raise a child at such a young age or will face rejection from family members terminate pregnancies. So many loving families that cannot have children are waiting to adopt them! There is hope!

Murder is murder. God calls all to repent; He will forgive those who repent of such things and cleanse them from all unrighteousness. That is the good news!


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Cari Jean - Thanks. The evidence is overwhelmingly on the side of life. Blessings.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Thank you, Pamela. I had no idea either until my friend Gary dug it all out. Interesting information to be sure.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Judah's Daughter - Thank you for your thoughtful words. The ancients had a wisdom that surpasses our own.


A M Werner profile image

A M Werner 6 years ago from West Allis

Abortion is an amazing dilemna Ken. You did a wonderful job pulling together a variety of historical statements supporting the anti-abortion stance. I couldn't agree more with your conclusion. Abortion is simply another word for murder. Peace.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

A M - Thank you for stopping in & sharing. The visit is much appreciated. Blessings.


christinecook profile image

christinecook 6 years ago

It never ceases to amaze me,that as humans who think we have evolved.How much have we really changed? Abortion is horrible,yet what about us Christians who think nothing of birth control. Are we not in some way doing the same thing. Taking control,stopping Gods natural purpose?

I love the church Fathers writings,I have read many and highly recommend them.Every Christian should read them,they are inspiring and informative.


Elisa Yager 6 years ago

Ken - As always, a great hub. Thank you for compiling and sharing your thoughts with us. It is such a heartbreak that the "disposable" society in which we live feels that unborn babies are "disposable" too. How much this breaks God's heart! When Christians become complacent over these issues, as we did in the 1960's allowing prayer to come out of schools, humanity suffers.

Thank you for reminding us to stand firm for what we believe - the sanctity of life!

Again, many thanks, bro for a great hub!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

You did a great job on gathering these quotes on abortion. I didn't realize that there were so many specific condemnations of abortion in the Bible. I have always based my objections on Natural Law.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

christinecook - Thank you for your thoughtful words. Yes, the early church leaders were brilliant thinkers & their work should still be required reading. Blessings to you.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Elisa - Thank you for your kind & encouraging words. Yes, it is tragic that babies have become disposable in our society. May God have mercy on us. Blessings & peace to you.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

dahoglund - Thank you for your words of affirmation. Natural law is a logical approach to many issues we humans manage to mess up. Blessings to you.


aguasilver profile image

aguasilver 6 years ago from Malaga, Spain

Good fact gathering, and as dahoglund says, so many source references hereto with unknown to me, many thanks for the exposition.

John


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

You're welcome, John. Thanks for the visit.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa

Interesting Hub on a contentious subject. I often wonder, though, about the fact that so many condemn abortion but say nothing about the death penalty, which, in my view, is equally, if not more, a case of murder. The death penalty brutalises and degrades society. If the churches that campaigned so well against abortion would also witness against the death penalty I, for one, would take their stance against abortion more seriously.

I am not for abortion, which I think is a terrible thing. But at the same time thousands upon thousands of women die from botched illegal abortions. So it is not a cut-and-dried thing.

I do appreciate the research that you have put into this interesting Hub.

Love and peace

Tony


Dave Mathews profile image

Dave Mathews 6 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

Magnificent Hub Ken my brother. You started your Thesis defence with, 70 AD Josephus, not a bad place to start, But I think I can do you one better than that, how about

Exodus 20:13 we might as well take this one all the way back to the Author of Law Himself, The Alpha and Omega.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

tonymac04 - Thanks for the visit. Very intriguing comments. I doubt that "thousands upon thousands of women die from botched illegal abortions". In today's legal, safe & on-demand abortion climate where exactly would one get an "illegal" abortion?

Peace & blessings to you.


HOOWANTSTONO profile image

HOOWANTSTONO 6 years ago

Good one bro he knew us before he formed us.

Peace


maven101 profile image

maven101 6 years ago from Northern Arizona

Ken..This is a very well researched and informative Hub written with skill...My personal thoughts on abortion do not come from a religious perspective..rather, a critical debate involving ethics and morality...

Why is it considered " humanitarian " to rescue turtle eggs, and pass laws prohibiting their removal or destruction, when they are simply protoplasm, yet are given the status of " turtle "...surely human protoplasm should receive the same protection and recognition as a turtle...Larry


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Dave - Thanks for the encouraging comments. Good to go back to Exodus, which is where the early Church Fathers certainly went & their writings were my focus. Blessings to you.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Thank you, HOOWANTSTONO.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

maven101 - Thank you. Very good point about the turtle eggs. We humans are a screwed up lot, aren't we?


ladyjane1 profile image

ladyjane1 6 years ago from Texas

Once again Ken you really did a great job speaking the truth and the ugly truth at that. Abortion is murder no matter what one thinks about the bible or religion. When I was 18 and I got pregnant with my son my best friend got pregnant as well. Her mother was willing to pay for an abortion for both her daughter and myself, she chose to do it but I didn't and I have never regretted that decision, I do however cringe at the thought of never having had my son and what could have happened. He would have never been a blessing in my life and I would have stolen his precious life. Bless you. Great Hub.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa

Ken - I should rather have said "unsafe abortions" - the latest Workd Health Organisation statistics for the year 2006 show that around 68000 women die from unsafe abortions every year. They are dying because in their desperation not to have a child (and who can know why they don't want the child?) they go to backstreet abortionists and get rid of the child in that way. If they are so desperate that they will risk their lives I think that needs to be taken seriously and they should not be piously condemned. A quote from the WHO: "These statistics represent an appalling catalogue of human tragedy," says Joy Phumaphi, WHO Assistant Director-General for Family and Community Health. "Far from making progress we seem to have been going backwards since the notion of reproductive health was born in Cairo in 1994. The issue is dropping down the international agenda and governments seem to be reluctant to tackle this most fundamental threat to health and well-being."

Love and peace

Tony


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

ladyjane - Thank you for your words of affirmation. And thank you for sharing your story. Blessings to you & your son.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

tonymac04 - Thanks for that information. It is indeed desperate.


LeslieAdrienne profile image

LeslieAdrienne 6 years ago from Georgia

Great Hub....


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

LeslieAdrienne - Thank you.


Mark Knowles profile image

Mark Knowles 6 years ago

This is the same christian church that was burning people at the stake and fighting wars in god's name - right? LOLOL

So - hypocrisy from day one then.

Thank god the church can no longer foist their irrational double standards on us any more.

Interesting that you have only taken the 100% one sided view here and neglect to mention that this has been a contentious issue from the first time a christian opened his mouth and voiced an opinion on what other people should be doing.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Mark - Thanks for the visit & comments. I respectfully disagree with your view. Peace.


Mark Knowles profile image

Mark Knowles 6 years ago

Oh - no war intended. Just noticed a link to your hub in the forum.

Well written, but extremely one sided I thought.

Numbers 5:21 "may the LORD cause your people to curse and denounce you when he causes your thigh to waste away and your abdomen to swell "

Exodus 21:22,23 "If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman's husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life."

Hosea 9:14 Give them, O LORD — what will you give them? Give them wombs that miscarry and breasts that are dry.

Hosea 13:16 because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open.

2 Kings 15:16 At that time Menahem, starting out from Tirzah, attacked Tiphsah and everyone in the city and its vicinity, because they refused to open their gates. He sacked Tiphsah and ripped open all the pregnant women.

Numbers 31:17 "And kill every woman who has slept with a man."

Psalm 137:8-9 O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.

Not completely anti-abortion in some cases it seems. :)


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Thanks again for the visit, Mark. Those OT passages are all interesting. Take care. And happy hubbing.


terced ojos profile image

terced ojos 6 years ago from terced_ojos@yahoo.com

Abortion is murder.

I've never met much less heard of a woman who took pleasure in the thought of someone entering her body to kill the baby that was growing inside her womb. Accept on rare occasions those women traumatized by someone who raped and impregnated them.

Every woman understands instinctively that abortion is murder.

The Sanctity of Life should be written to say..."The Sanctity of Newborn Innocent Life." or "The Sanctity of Developing Unborn Innocent Life." Unfortunately the church has killed millions of innocent people in the name of a Judeo-Christian God. To a great many people "The Sanctity of Life;" as prescribed by Christians is wholly hypocritical and selective.

Christendome has a great deal of repenting to do within itself before it can hope to judge a non-believing world much less be taken seriously.

If my point has been lost let me put it this way. If a serial killer said to you; "it's wrong to kill multiple numbers of people just because you can and I want to be an advocate for victims of serial killers." Are you likely to respect the serial killer or are you more likely to question the sincerity of their advocacy?

A little bit of leaven...

In any case Mr. Abell your point is well taken and I like you am Pro-Life. Abortion is murder.

Excellent hub. God Bless.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

terced ojos - Thank you for sharing a little bit of leaven. It is well taken. Peace & blessings to you.


Chief Apathetic 6 years ago

And God ushered in Creation, and there was history all over the place upon planet earth, and here we all are now.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Chief Apathetic - Thanks for the visit & comments. Blessings to you.


bonny2010 profile image

bonny2010 6 years ago from outback queensland

This a really good hub - I don't believe in abortion and I find that a lot of young people who go ahead and have babies are also no believers. Many of these kids defy their parents advice to have the baby aborted and it cause some realy severe rifts in the family - this article would perhaps go along way to enlightening those parents and helping those kids who made the right choice - despite the hardships they are bring on themselves - thanks for the read.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

bonny2010 - Thank you for visiting & your good comments. Much appreciated. Blessings to you.

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