Many people today do not seem to realize that the same poisonous philosophy (evolutionism) that justified killing under Hitler1 has also infected the American abortion mentality.
According to documents released in February 10, 1992, “Joseph Mengele, the Auschwitz death-camp doctor known as the ‘Angel of Death’ for his experiments on inmates, practiced medicine in Buenos Aires for several years in the 1950s. He ‘had a reputation as a specialist in abortions,’ which were illegal.”2 It should not be surprising that one who extinguished life at Auschwitz would practice a similar grisly crusade on life in the womb.
Humans Emerging From Embryos?
Carl Sagan encouraged the fiction that life in the womb traces an evolutionary history. We “must decide,” he wrote, “what distinguishes a human being from other animals and when, during gestation, the uniquely human qualities—whatever they are—emerge.”3 He compared the appearance of the developing embryo to “a segmented worm” and added that “something like the gill arches of a fish or an amphibian...become conspicuous, and there is a pronounced tail.” The face becomes “reptilian... (then) somewhat pig-like.” Eventually, it “resembles a primate’s but is still not quite human.”
In the article, evolutionary thinking offered yet again “justification” for extinguishing life thought to be subhuman. This, of course, is pseudo-science and nonsense. The science of genetics has confirmed that the embryo is identifiably human from the moment of conception.
Sanger—“Babies in the Womb”!
Another insidious development occurred earlier in the century (about the time Hitler himself was forming his ideas). It involved Margaret Sanger (1879–1966), the founder of Planned Parenthood (a major promoter of abortions in America today). She has been given the unusual title, “Father of Modern Society.”4 Her evolutionary mentality will be documented below, but first there should be a consideration of her views relating to abortion.
In her Woman and the New Race, Sanger offered a conflicting message about this issue. On the one hand she wrote, “I assert that the hundreds of thousands of abortions performed in America each year are a disgrace to civilization.”5 Pro-lifers would heartily agree! She even referred to “babies” in the womb—not using the now “politically correct” term, fetuses: “There will be no killing of babies in the womb by abortion.”5
Her message was inconsistent, however. Not only did Linda Gordon, author of Woman’s Body, Woman’s Right—a major work dealing with the history of birth control in America—indicate that Margaret Sanger “defended women’s rights to abortion,”6 Sanger herself, in the very volume denouncing abortion already cited, wrote, “The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.”5 This hardly sounds pro-life.
Whatever may be said of Sanger’s confused views, her legacy is an organization that certainly encourages and participates in the killing of thousands and even millions of, to use her phrase, America’s “infant members.” What was it about her philosophy that allowed for this?
“Defectives,” “Dependents,” and “Morons”!
Hitler’s link to evolution has already been documented.1 He put survival-of-the-fittest into action, and millions of “unfit” people died as a result. Many Americans believe that something comparable to what happened under the leadership of Hitler is happening now in America. “Babies in the womb,” most of them healthy and fit, have been slaughtered by the tens of millions in the United States of America—1.21 million in 2008 alone!11
What some may not realize is that the same poisonous philosophy that infected Hitler also influenced Margaret Sanger. She said Charles Darwin observed “that we do not permit helpless human beings to die off, but we create philanthropies and charities, build asylums and hospitals and keep the medical profession busy preserving those who could not otherwise survive.” Her view was that such philanthropies and charities were “ameliorative” at best, and that some so-called benevolences were “positively injurious to the community and the future of the race.”
Her following words (content-wise) sound like they could have been spoken by Adolf Hitler himself: “The most serious charge that can be brought against modern ‘benevolence’ is that it encourages the perpetuation of defectives, delinquents and dependents. These are the most dangerous elements in the world community, the most devastating curse on human progress and expression.”
One wonders how far Sanger would like to have taken her eugenics. She reported a study of the United States Army and concluded that “nearly half—47.3 percent—of the population had the mentality of twelve-year-old children or less—in other words, that they were morons.”7
On the racial dimension, Linda Gordon (cf. above) quotes from a letter written by Margaret Sanger to Clarence Gamble on October 19, 1939: “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out the idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”6 Many years prior, Sanger said, “Whether or not the white races will be ultimately wiped off the face of the earth depends, to my mind, largely upon the conduct and behavior of the white people themselves. (Applause.)”8
Birth control for Sanger was “nothing more or less than the facilitation of the process of weeding out the unfit.” A eugenist, she defined the field as “the attempt to solve the problem from the biological and evolutionary point of view.” She wanted to change things “to the construction and evolution of humanity itself.”8 She advocated applying “a stem and rigid policy of sterilization and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is already tainted, or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to offspring.”9 Revealing pro-choice tendencies, she went on to promote the notion of giving “certain dysgenic groups in our population their choice of segregation or sterilizations.”8 Ms. Sanger assumed “the evolutionary process of man”10 and argued that the “intelligence of a people is of slow evolutional development”5 She hoped for a motherhood that would refuse “to bring forth weaklings.”5 Such a motherhood “withholds the unfit brings forth the fit.”5 She wrote of “woman’s upward struggle”5 and described the “lack of balance between the birth rate of the ‘unfit’ and the ‘fit’” as “the greatest present menace to civilization.”7
Rejection of the Only Solution!
The Lord Jesus Christ sanctified life in the womb by living there Himself for nine months (Is 49:5, cf. Lk 1:35). He also created every womb that was ever made (Jn 1:3). As the promised “seed” of the woman (Gn 3:15), He came to rescue daughters (like those for whom Margaret Sanger expressed concern throughout her writings) from their burdens of pain, suffering, sin, and death. He came to set them free (Jn 9:36), and many women would testify that they have indeed been set free and will be set free even from death.
Margaret Sanger, however, wrote of a different Jesus—“a Jesus who (would) not die upon the cross.”5 In place of the real Jesus who understands suffering intimately, she chose the hollow shell of evolutionary “science.” Sadly, she wrote, “Interest in the vague sentimental fantasies of extra-mundane existence, in pathological or hysterical flights from the realities of our earthiness, will have through atrophy disappeared, for in that dawn men and women will have come to the realization... that here close at hand is our paradise, our everlasting abode, our Heaven and our eternity.”7 But how is Margaret Sanger qualified to make such pronouncements?
Her present bodily “abode” is very undesirable (coffin? charred remains?), but Jesus is alive with a resurrected body in heaven! After He was resurrected, He proclaimed, “I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death” (Rv 1:18, KJV).
Jesus’ teachings about the future, contrary to Margaret Sanger’s preachings, were neither “vague sentimental fantasies” nor “pathological,” and they will never “atrophy.” Heaven and earth may pass—but His words will never pass away (Mt 24:35). He emphatically said, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die” (Jn 11:25–26, KJV).
The evolutionary mentality behind abortion is bad science and leads to bad ethics. On the positive side, Margaret Sanger did encourage attention to a very important subject—to what she called “the titanic strength of the sexual instinct.”7 Indirectly, she was affirming the Scriptural truth that “love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave...Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be condemned” (Sgs 8:6–7, KJV).
She sought to promote birth control. The ultimate need, however, is for Holy Spirit control. The Lord Jesus Christ, after receiving from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, shed Him forth upon the earth for the benefit of His followers (Acts 2:33). The only way an unbeliever can experience this loving presence and control is to bow the heart in repentance and faith before the Sovereign Creator-Savior, Jesus Christ.
(This article is an update of one originally published in Impact #27, May 1992, by the Institute for Creation Research, El Cajon, CA. Reprinted by permission of the author.)
1. Paul G. Humber, “The Ascent of Racism,” Impact (Institute for Creation Research, February 1987). 2. Nathaniel C. Nash, “Mengele an Abortionist, Argentine Files Suggest,” The New York Times, February 11, 1992, p. A8. 3. Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan, “Is It Possible To Be Pro-Life And Pro-Choice?” Parade Magazine, April 22, 1990, pp. 5, 7. 4. Elasah Drogin, Margaret Sanger: Father of Modern Society (New Hope, Ky: CUL Publications, 1989). 5. Margaret Sanger, Woman and the New Race (New York: Brentano’s Publishers, 1920), pp. 44, 45, 63, 126, 159, 226, 229, 232, 234. 6. Linda Gordon, Woman’s Body, Woman’s Right (New York: Grossman Pub., 1976), pp. 223, 332–33. 7. Margaret Sanger, The Pivot of Civilization (New York: Brentano’s Publishers, 1922), pp. 8, 25, 103, 113, 123, 170-171, 263, 275–76. 8. Raymond Pierpoint, Editor, Report of the Fifth International Neo-Malthusian and Birth Control Conference (London: William Heinemann [Medical Books] Ltd., 1922), pp. 31, 199. 9. Margaret Sanger, “A Plan for Peace,” Birth Control Review, April, 1932, pp. 107, 108. 10. Margaret Sanger, Editor, “Self Preservation,” The Woman Rebel, April 1914, p. 16. 11. See http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.html (accessed December 14, 2011).
Introduction The ancient city of Carthage, North Africa (modern Tunisia), began as a fledgling Phoenician colony, and grew into one of the most prosperous and prominent city-states of the ancient world. Its influence and role in central Mediterranean history is often obscured by the legacy of the Greeks and the Romans. Well known for exporting expensive purple dye, they are also known for resisting the Romans during the Punic Wars. Hannibal, the infamous Carthaginian military commander, was a nemesis of Rome for several decades. Most notably, Carthage has the ignominious reputation for performing large scale child sacrifice over a period of several centuries.
Carthage was settled by the Phoenicians in the middle of the ninth century BC. Exactly how they got to North Africa is somewhat obscure. More certain is their place of origin: the Lebanese coast of Canaan. This region was considered Canaanite during the second millennium BC. Near the beginning of the Iron Age (1200 BC), the Phoenicians had taken control of this region. Scholars call the Lebanese coast Phoenicia, the name given to the region by the Greeks, from their word for “purple.” The ancient world’s purple dye industry developed from extracting a fluid from a Mediterranean mollusk, the murex. Not only did the people of the Phoenician coast develop this industry, they specialized in shipping this very valuable commodity all over the Mediterranean world. There are many connections between Israel and the Phoenician territories, most notably, the cities of Tyre and Sidon.1
Like any nation which inhabits a new region, the Phoenicians brought their ancestral Canaanite beliefs and practices with them when they settled at Carthage. Several lines of evidence demonstrate that one of these distinctive practices was child sacrifice. Numerous biblical texts refer to this horrific Canaanite practice. One of the earliest references is found in Deuteronomy 12:31: “You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they [the Canaanites] have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.” Later, God condemns his people for sacrificing their own children to the gods of Canaan in the Hinnom Valley on the south side of Jerusalem (Jer 7:30–32).
The open air sanctuary was known as the Tophet, which is typically translated as “roaster” or “place of burning.” Modern scholars have given the name tophet to places where they believe child sacrifice took place around the Mediterranean rim, mostly famously at Carthage. We believe it is apparent that the Phoenicians brought this barbaric practice to Carthage from Canaan, and therefore, evidence of child sacrifice at Carthage provides support for the historicity of the biblical accounts which mention such sacrifices. Even though Carthage is geographically removed from Canaan (approximately 1400 mi distant), it is not religiously or ancestrally removed.
In the past 30 years or so, several scholars have attempted to discredit or diminish the historicity and/or extent of the practice of child sacrifice at Carthage. The implications from this line of argumentation are somewhat obvious for biblical studies: if one can discredit the historicity of child sacrifice at Carthage and its ancestral connections to the same type of barbaric practice in Canaan/Phoenicia, then one might argue that the portrayals of child sacrifice in the OT are fictitious or exaggerated. This issue of Bible and Spade will explore some of these arguments, and outline the significant evidences for the reader. They include evidence from biblical texts, the testimony of ancient historians, and archaeological evidence. We believe the connections are extremely powerful, convincing...and sobering.
In an attempt to restore the historical reputation and heritage of his country, Tunisian scholar M’hamed Hassine Fantar has vociferously argued that charges of Carthaginian child sacrifice are “propaganda.” Because Carthage was definitively defeated and destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC, Fantar contends that the Romans distorted history “to show us as barbarians... to justify their own barbarity.” Roman historians he considers to be more credible, such as Polybius and Livy, do not make mention of these practices at Carthage. This demonstrates, in Fantar’s estimation, that child sacrifice did not take place there. Such is Fantar’s influence that tour guides at Carthage are being instructed to deny child sacrifice took place there. Fantar has also argued that the extensive child burials unearthed at Carthage occurred because of notoriously high infant mortality rates in antiquity.2 Italian scholar Sergio Ribichini supported Fantar’s contention, stating that the tophet at Carthage was “a child necropolis designed to receive the remains of infants who had died prematurely of sickness or other natural causes, and who for this reason were ‘offered’ to specific deities and buried in a place different from the one reserved for the ordinary dead.”3 Thus, in finding some support from other scholars, Fantar concludes:
Carthaginians did not sacrifice their children to Ba’al Hammon in the Tophet. This open air site...was a sanctuary presided over by Ba’al Hammon and his consort, Tanit...To this sanctuary came grieving parents, who gave their children back to Ba’al Hammon and Tanit.4
Harvard archaeologist Lawrence E. Stager has argued against Fantar’s position for many years in various forums, primarily as a result of his excavation work conducted at Carthage in the 1970’s under the auspices of the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute.5 His most widely circulated work is the article he co-authored with Samuel R. Wolff in the Jan/Feb 1984 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, entitled: “Child Sacrifice at Carthage: Religious Rite or Population Control?”6 This extensive article lays out the evidence for Carthaginian child sacrifice, and makes several connections to Phoenicia’s geographical roots in coastal Lebanon and its religious roots in Canaanite cultic practices and beliefs. This important issue of Bible and Spade will partially draw on the extensive research conducted by Stager and his team.
Stager’s team of scholars included a physical anthropologist from the University of Pittsburgh, Jeffrey Schwartz. Ironically, Schwartz has recently quasi-joined Fantar’s camp in casting doubt on the practice of child sacrifice at Carthage, or, at the very least, seeks to diminish the extent and volume of sacrifices that took place there. Schwartz’s primary arguments are not oriented toward defending Tunisian history and impugning alleged Roman historical revisionism. Rather, they are based on his interpretation of the anthropological evidence uncovered at Carthage. Schwartz’s team claims that its examination of the remains of 348 cremated babies found in urns from the tophet at Carthage indicates “that most infants perished prenatally or very shortly after birth and were unlikely to have lived long enough to be sacrificed.” Based upon the tooth remains of 50 cremated children, Schwartz and his team concluded, “26 individuals died prenatally or within two weeks of birth.” The remaining 24 were older infants. Schwartz, who is the president of World Academy of Art and Science, is quoted in a press release issued by the University of Pittsburgh as saying:
Our study emphasizes that historical scientists must consider all evidence when deciphering ancient societal behavior. The idea of regular infant sacrifice in Carthage is not based on a study of the cremated remains, but on instances of human sacrifice reported by a few ancient chroniclers, inferred from ambiguous Carthaginian inscriptions, and referenced in the OT. Our results show that some children were sacrificed, but they contradict the conclusion that Carthaginians were a brutal bunch who regularly sacrificed their own children.
Schwartz and his team thus concluded, “very young Punic [Phoenician]7 children were cremated and interred in burial urns regardless of how they died.” Schwartz also claims that his team disproved the commonly held theory that only firstborn males were sacrificed. His team’s study of pelvic bones from the burial urns from the Carthage tophet proved that “38 pelvises came from females and 26 from males.”8
Brief Critique of Schwartz by the Editors ofArtifax
There is much that is wrong with Schwartz’s conclusions. First, Schwartz and his team admit, “some children were sacrificed.” He is thus forced to argue that the tophet at Carthage contains a mixture of both sacrificed babies and unsacrificed babies that died natural deaths.
Schwartz also fails to explain why adults and older children, who are known to have died natural deaths, are not found in the Carthage tophet, or for that matter in any other tophet that has been discovered. Incidentally, the OT indicates that the bones of non-sacrificed humans could be used to religiously defile a tophet (2 Kgs 23:14).
Second, Schwartz’s conclusion that the Carthaginians did not regularly practice child sacrifice is based upon “26 individuals (who) died prenatally or within two weeks of birth.” Schwartz’s evidence could and probably should be interpreted as meaning that about half of the children sacrificed in the tophet at Carthage were newborn infants. In addition, his “26 individuals” out of the 50 studied may have included live-born infants who were born prematurely. Schwartz stresses the possibility that some of these 26 might have been stillborn infants, but his own scientific evidence does not prove that they were.
Third, as Schwartz’s press release indicates, a small minority of urns in the Carthage tophet contains the bones of cremated sheep. These were unquestionably animals offered as religious sacrifices. The very presence of these sacrificed animals very strongly suggests that the tophet at Carthage was only used as burial site for victims of religious sacrifices.
Fourth, Schwartz and his team concluded, “very young Punic children were cremated and interred in burial urns regardless of how they died.” There is no indication in his press release that Schwarz and his team ever determined scientifically how these babies died. He argues with very faulty reasoning: some babies may have been prenatal, some were therefore probably stillborn, and hence some were not sacrificed.
Fifth, it has long been known that the infants found in the tophet at Carthage were both male and female, and thus Schwartz’s team does not provide any truly new information on this subject. However, the fact that Schwartz’s study identified 38 females and only 26 males in 70 studied urns from the Carthage tophet may be significant. It suggests that the Carthaginians may have practiced some sort of selection process. If so, it would disprove Schwartz’s conclusion that most of these infants died natural deaths.
And sixth, Schwartz too lightly dismisses historical evidence from Greek and Roman sources, and also from the OT. This historical evidence clearly indicates the extensive practice of child sacrifice by the Carthaginians/ Canaanites/Phoenicians, and also by the Israelites. The OT is particularly valuable because it clearly relates that tophets were religious sites that were originally larger and much more than just cemeteries for cremated babies.
Archaeological inscriptions mentioning Carthaginian deities and engravings of a religious nature found in the Carthage tophet provide strong support for the OT’s depiction of tophets as sacred outdoor sanctuaries where religious rituals were practiced. Some of these religious rituals included, but were certainly not limited to, the sacrificing of babies.9
Further Considerations and Biblical Connections
The editors of Artifax have touched upon numerous problems associated with Schwartz’s and Fantar’s position(s). This section will explore these arguments a bit further, adding some additional detail and making biblical connections.
First, Fantar’s zeal to redeem his country’s reputation may be admirable, but it actually serves to undermine his case. Demeaning rhetoric concerning the Roman and Greek sources without a shred of proof to substantiate the charge is not convincing, and then selectively appealing to other Roman historians who do not mention child sacrifice is problematic at best. One can easily see this appeal is both inflammatory and an erroneous argument from silence. Nary is a mention made of the Church Father, Tertullian of Carthage, who appeared to know Carthaginian history all too well. Stager and Greene hold a more persuasive posture, writing: “Our purpose in making this case is not to malign the Phoenicians, but to understand them."10
Second, Stager and a team of other scholars have recently published an updated analysis of the cremated remains from the burial urns at Carthage. Their in-depth study indicates many of the infants died during a very limited lifespan range, militating against Fantar’s view that the tophet at Carthage was a mere cemetery filled with thousands of children who died of natural causes. They state:
...the argument for infant sacrifice depends largely on a skewed age profile, and age is not easy to determine. The authors approach this problem with a battery of new techniques, showing that in the Tophet of Carthage the majority of the infants died between one and one and a half months...The age profile of the Tophet infants is markedly different from that expected in the case of death from natural causes.11
Third, the engravings found on the funerary stelae at Carthage are devastating to the skeptical position—under the stelae are urns containing the burnt remains of the children. In particular, there is a certain Semitic inscription, mlk, which has a very close connection to the OT. Hebrew, like other Semitic languages, was originally written without vowels.12 Based on epigraphical studies by Paul Mosca,13 these Semitic inscriptions have been translated as mulk. Stager explains: “Mulk is a technical word in Semitic for a live sacrifice fulfillment of a Tophet vow, just as other Semitic words are used to indicate cereal offerings and other kinds of animal sacrifices” (emphasis added).14 This evidence directly contradicts Fantar’s contention, as the Semitic inscription mlk is compelling evidence that the children were still alive when they were brought to the sacrificial fires, corroborated by the Greek and Roman sources.15
Fourth, Stager and Wolff suggest the possibility that “the fire of Molech,” mentioned in Jeremiah 32:35 and 2 Kings 23:10, may be better translated as mulk. The same Hebrew consonants appear here in these texts as on the funerary stelae at Carthage, mlk. A mulk sacrifice most certainly refers to a living sacrifice of either a child or animal substitute. The presence of animal remains, which appear to have occasionally substituted for children, demonstrates that the tophet at Carthage was not just a cemetery.
Additionally, Jeremiah 32:35 refers to “the high places of Baal, in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom,” connecting the practice of child sacrifice to Ba’al worship.16 Hundreds of funerary stelae at Carthage are inscribed with the images of the goddess Tanit, and her consort, Ba’al Hammon, a deity of Canaanite origin. The remains of thousands of incinerated children were buried under these funerary stelae with Semitic inscriptions that refer to living sacrifices, mlk. In the OT, we find child sacrifice directly associated with Ba’al worship and with Molech, possibly mulk. Some scholars commonly identify the Ba’al of the OT as Ba’al Hadad, often hesitating to connect the OT references to the Ba’al Hammon of Carthaginian/Phoenician inscriptions. Others have argued that the references to Ba’al(im) in the plural form in the OT are references to Canaanite deities in general, leaving open the possibility that Ba’al Hammon could be in view. While we cannot be dogmatic, the totality of overall evidence certainly lends merit to such a connection.17
Fifth, an ivory plaque measuring 2 by 1.3 inches was discovered at the excavations at the Phoenician city of Sarepta (biblical Zarephath) in 1974. This discovery, dated to the seventh century BC, was reported by ABR Director of Research, Bryant Wood, in the Winter 1975 issue of Bible and Spade as follows:
In the 1971 season a small shrine dating to the Iron Age (1200–600 B.C.) was discovered at Zarephath. This was the first homeland Phoenician shrine to be found. In 1974, excavations in the shrine produced an assortment of votive objects and cultic equipment, including figurines, carved ivory, beads, masks, amulets, cosmetic equipment and saucer lamps. Among the objects found in the shrine was an ivory plaque with an inscription on it. The plaque was probably originally fastened to a wooden statue.
The four-line inscription of the plaque, written in ancient Phoenician characters, reads “This statue made (by) Shillem, son of Mabaal, son of Inai for Tanit-Ashtart.” This is the oldest reference to Tanit found to date and it identifies the shrine and cultic objects as dedicated to Tanit and another Phoenician deity, Ashtart or Astarte, goddess of fertility. Astarte [Ashtoreth] is mentioned in the Bible at a number of places, e.g. Judges 10:6, 1 Kings 11:5, 33 and 2 Kings 23:13.18
With the discovery of this inscription, a definitive connection between Tanit at Carthage and Tanit-Ashtart in the Phoenician homeland was made. Interestingly, the author of Judges put Tanit and Ba'al together hundreds of years before Carthage was even founded: “The people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth...And they forsook the LORD and did not serve him” (Judges 10:6, ESV). Later, 2 Kings 23:13 refers to “Ashtoreth, the abomination of the Sidonians.” Sidon is located about 25 miles north of Tyre in the Phoenician mainland. Again, we see strong biblical connections to Phoenicia and deities to whom children were sacrificed.
Tanit-Ashtart and Ba’al Hammon have distinctive Canaanite origins, both affirmed by archaeology. Tanit is represented on some of the Carthaginian stelae with an upraised hand(s) or triangles with extended lines and circles that represent upraised hands. Ba’al Hammon is typically represented by a disk and crescent.19 ABR founder David Livingston explains their earlier manifestations in Canaan:
Early in Canaanite religion, the male Moon-god, “Yerach,” was the chief god of the pantheon. And the female sun-god, “Shamash,” was his consort. Later, these were changed to Baal and Ashteroth.20
At Hazor, archaeologist Yigael Yadin discovered several stelae from Late Bronze I (ca. 1483–1400 BC), one of which contained the carved relief of upraised hands, along with a disk and crescent. This stela predates the Carthaginian versions by several centuries. It is fascinating to see the similarity in the designs preserved for such a long period of time. Yadin believed that the hands, disk and crescent represent the same gods, stating: “it is quite clear that the Punic culture preserved elements of the Phoenician culture, and the latter was definitively influenced by Canaanite elements, similar to the ones uncovered at Hazor.”21 This connection to the Canaanite city of Hazor provides more powerful evidence from archaeology connecting the Carthaginian deities to Canaan.
Finally, the American University of Beirut published a study in 1991 analyzing artifacts and remains discovered in Tyre that may point to child sacrifice. Of interest are two cinerary urns whose closest parallel, according to the authors, were found in the Carthaginian tophet, dated to the eighth century BC. Several of the urns discovered at Tyre contained human bone fragments, many of which appear to have been incinerated at high temperatures. Multiple stelae have been discovered and examined as well. While we ought to be cautious in drawing connections, further research may provide more definitive evidence placing an actual tophet in the prominent and important biblical city of Tyre, right in the Phoenician homeland.22
Much more could be said in making the connections between the biblical accounts and child sacrifice at the Carthaginian tophet. The Phoenicians evidently inherited this demonic practice from their Canaanite ancestors, affirming the biblical references. This issue of Bible and Spade will continue to explore those connections, and, with sober consideration, connect the practice of child sacrifice in the ancient world to the perpetuation of legalized abortion on demand in the United States in the present day. It is this subject to which I will now briefly turn.
The Bible and the Practice of Abortion
The Christian who takes seriously the authority, inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible must reckon with the obvious teaching of Scripture concerning the beginning of human life and the value God places on human beings created in His image.
Many professing Christians have taken the position that abortion is a private, personal matter, or a fetus is not human until it reaches some particular state of development, or Christians should not be focused on changing public policy with respect to abortion (after all, politics is a “dirty business”). When taken in its totality, the biblical testimony is clearly in opposition to these positions. We pray these brothers and sisters in Christ will be persuaded to change their minds on such an important matter. If you are a believer and have doubts about this assertion, please consider the following passages from the Bible (all ESV).
Conception is a gift from God23
The LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did to Sarah as he had promised. And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him (Gn 21:1–2).
And Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren. And the LORD granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived (Gn 25:21).
Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb. She conceived and bore a son and said, “God has taken away my reproach” (Gn 30:22–23).
...in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the LORD” (1 Sm 1:20).
But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John (Lk 1:13).24
God is the Creator of the Unborn
Your hands fashioned and made me...Remember that you have made me like clay...You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews (Job 10: 8a, 9a, 11).
Did not he who made me in the womb make him? And did not one fashion us in the womb? (Job 31:15).
Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jer 1:4–5).
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My name was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them (Ps 139:13–16).
As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything (Ecc 11:5)
Thus says the LORD who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you... (Is 44:2)25
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me (Ps 51:5).26
The Unborn Responds to God ...for he will be great before the Lord...and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb (Lk 1:15).
And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “...For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy” (Lk 1:41–44).
Prohibitions Against Unlawful Killing27
“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image (Gn 9:6).
You shall not murder (Ex 20:13).
Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives...“When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.” But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live (Ex 1:15–18).
“When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined...But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life...” (Ex 21:22–23). (Note that the punishment in the Mosaic Law for the accidental killing of a child in the womb is death. How much more so if the child were killed deliberately!) 28
This biblical data unequivocally teaches us the following:
1. God is the Creator of all human life 2. Human life begins at conception, and all people are sinners from conception 3. God distinguishes between children inside and outside the womb, but considers them both equally human29 4. The taking of life in the womb or outside the womb with prior deliberation (which is the case with an abortion) is tantamount to murder 5. The fetus is to be afforded legal protection by civil authorities 6. It is appropriate to disobey civil authorities (or any other authority) if one is being ordered or coerced into unlawfully killing a child, whether born or unborn30
Some of our Christian brothers and sisters tend to focus on the fact that there is not specific mention of abortion in the Bible, and therefore, we do not have warrant to oppose it. Technically speaking, this lack of mention is correct, but the above passages certainly demolish such a superficial, intellectually lazy, and morally suspect argument. Meredith Kline deals with this objection, and summarizes thus:
The most significant thing about abortion legislation in Biblical law is that there is none. It was so unthinkable that an Israelite woman should desire an abortion that there was no need to mention this offense in the criminal code...The Middle Assyrian laws attest to an abhorrence that was felt for this crime even in the midst of the heathendom around Israel, lacking though it did the illumination of special revelation. For in those laws a woman guilty of abortion was condemned to be impaled on stakes...It is hard to imagine a more damning commentary on what is taking place in enlightened America today than that provided by this legal witness out of the conscience of benighted ancient paganism!31
Since 1973, over 53 million unborn children, image-bearers of God Himself, have perished at the secularist altar of self. Considering God’s attitude of wrathful anger towards the Israelites when it came to child sacrifice, do Christians really think our nation is exempt from wrathful, divine displeasure when we defend, support or ignore the practice of legalized infanticide? Christian Americans, in particular, with the infallible guide of God’s special revelation, and the freedom to worship the Lord Jesus without persecution, ought to know better. We will be held to a higher account on the Day of Judgment. May we repent, both corporately and individually, and turn from our partnership with such horrific evil. May we also pray for our churches, ourselves and our nation, that we might have the moral courage to oppose this sanitized, but equally horrific, modern day child sacrifice.
1 For more on these connections, see: Gary Byers, “The Biblical Cities of Tyre and Sidon”, Bible and Spade, Fall 2002, pp. 107–110. 2 Fantar’s position is further expressed in an online interview at http://www.postgazette.com/pg/05146/510878.stm. Last accessed November 29, 2011. 3 Sergio Ribichini, “Beliefs and Religious Life” in The Phoenicians. Sabatino Moscati, ed. (NY: I.B Tauris, 1988), p. 141. According to Fantar, Moscati is the scholar who first caused him to doubt that child sacrifice had taken place at Carthage. 4 M’hamed Fantar, “Were Living Children Sacrificed to the Gods?” Archaeology Odyssey, Nov./Dec. 2000, p. 30. 5 Stager (along with Joseph Greene) and Fantar engaged in a debate, “Were Living Children Sacrificed to the Gods?” pp. 28–31. Their opposing viewpoints are also spelled out in an online forum at http://phoenicia.org/childsacrifice. html. Last accessed November 29, 2011. 6 Stager and Wolff also cite other scholars who hold the general view of Fantar and Schwartz: Stager, L.E. and Wolff, S.R., “Child Sacrifice at Carthage— Religious Rite or Population Control?”, Biblical Archaeology Review, Jan./Feb. 1984, p. 38. 7 “Punic” is the term the Romans used for the Phoenicians. 8 This report is from a University of Pittsburgh press release, dated February 17, 2010. Reproduced from: “Carthaginian Baby Burning Reportedly Debunked”, Artifax, Spring 2010, p. 18. 9 Ibid. 10 “Were Living Children Sacrificed to the Gods?”, 31. 11 P. Smith, G. Avishai, J.A. Greene and L.E. Stager, “Aging Cremated Infants: The Problem of Sacrifice at the Tophet of Carthage,” Antiquity, September 2011, 85/329, p. 859, 871. 12 Vowel points were added to the OT by the Masoretes in the 7th to 11th centuries AD, and are technically not part of the original, inspired text of the OT. 13 Mosca did his dissertation on this subject: Child Sacrifice in Canaanite and Israelite Religion, Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, 1975. 14 Stager and Wolff, p. 45. We also see the Hebrew word for king, melech, spelled with the same letters, mlk. Context is what determines the translation. Emphasis added. 15 It is not fully clear from the evidence whether the children were first killed on the altar, and then burned, or if they actually perished in the fire itself. Some OT texts seem to indicate they burned to death in the fire, a horrific way to die. 16 Child sacrifice is not connected to Ba’al in every context mentioned in the OT. There is not “one fixed formula” in the OT describing child sacrifice. Rather, it is presented in a variety of ways and contexts. For more, see: J. Andrew Dearman, “The Tophet in Jerusalem: Archaeology and Cultural Profile,” Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages, 22/1 1996, p. 62. 17 Dearman, p. 67, n. 14. 18 Bryant Wood, “Evidence of Child Sacrifice Found at Zarapath,” Bible and Spade, Winter 1975, p. 23. For further information on this discovery, see James B. Pritchard, Recovering Sarepta, A Phoenician City (Princeton: Princeton University Press), 1978. 19 Stager and Wolff, 46. 20 David Livingston, “Fall of the Moon City,” Bible and Spade, Spring 2011, p. 50. 21 Yigael Yadin, “Symbols of Deities at Zingirli, Carthage and Hazor,” in James A. Sanders ed., Near Eastern Archaeology in the Twentieth Century: Essays in Honor of Nelson Glueck (NY: Garden City, 1970), 199–231. 22 Helga Seeden, “A Tophet in Tyre?”, Berytus, Vol. 34, 1991, pp. 39–82. Online at http://almashriq.hiof.no/ddc/projects/archaeology/berytus-back/berytus39/seeden-tophet/. Last Accessed November 29, 2011 23 Also, Genesis 5:3; 18:9–15; 29:31–35. 24 Also, Luke 1:26–38 concerning the birth of the Lord Jesus Himself. 25 “Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb...” (Isaiah 44:24a). 26 Note that only a human being who is alive can be sinful. 27 See also Amos 1:13 and 2 Kings 8:12 concerning pregnant women. 28 For an excellent exegetical study of this passage which affirms that the fetus in the womb is considered by God to be a human life at any stage of development, see: Meredith Kline, “Lex Talionis and the Human Fetus,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 20.3, 1977, p. 193–201. The Christian who wrongly tries to separate the OT from the NT misses the obvious fact that the moral content of the OT legislation has not been abrogated by the mission of Jesus and the apostles. Rather, it applies to believers in an even greater way because of the Gospel. See The Westminster Confession of Faith 19:5. 29 Kline calls this: “a continuum of identity,” p. 200. 30 Romans 13:1–7 teaches that we are to submit to the civil authorities, but the command is not absolute when other biblical data is considered. This admonition by Paul is hedged by the midwives’ disobedience of Pharaoh in Exodus 1:15– 18. See also Daniel 6:22–23; Acts 5:59; Hosea 5:11,13; and I Kings 12:30. The context of Romans 13 indicates the governing authorities are supposed to approve of good conduct, not write and advocate laws which allow citizens to freely destroy human life. In the words of John Calvin, Christians ought to recognize legalized abortion as an "impious edict." 31 Kline, 193, 200-201.
The Didache, also called the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, is a late first century AD Christian document and is one of the earliest extra-canonical Christian texts known to exist. For a period of time, some Church Fathers considered it to be part of the NT canon. It was previously known only through secondary sources, such as Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History. Approximately the size of the epistle to the Galatians, it contains three main sections, primarily dealing with Christian ethical conduct.
Chapter two contains a list of prohibitions, clearly derived from Old and New Testament ethical admonitions. Of particular interest is Didache 2:2, which states:
You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not corrupt children, you shall not fornicate. You shall not steal. You shall not practice magic. You shall not mix poison. You shall not murder a child, whether by abortion or by killing it once it is born (emphasis added).
Hilarion to his sister Alis, many greetings, likewise to my lady [his mother] and Apollonarion [likely his son]. Know that we are still even now in Alexandria. Do not worry if they all come back and I stay in Alexandria. I urge and beg you, be concerned about the child and if I receive my wages soon, I will send them up to you. If by chance you give birth, if it is a boy, let it be, if it is a girl, throw it out. You have said to Aphrodisias, “Do not forget me.” How can I forget you? So, I urge you not to worry (emphasis added).
Discovered amongst thousands of papyri at Oxyrhynchus, Egypt, in the late 19th century, this letter exemplifies ancient attitudes about infants and children. Note the casual and flippant way in which the father discusses family business, tells the mother to throw the baby out, then returns to other concerns.Several important observations should be made from this important text. First, we clearly see that the earliest Christians recognized that a child’s life should be protected, whether inside or outside the womb. Second, there is no distinction made between them concerning personhood; both are equally human. The Greek term used here for child is teknon. It is found in the NT in many places, and refers to children of varying ages. The non-canonical Epistle of Barnabas (19:5) contains identical phraseology concerning the condemnation of abortion. The early Church recognized the unborn child as a teknon, and so should we. Third, the writer uses distinct terms to distinguish the act of killing the child inside or outside the womb. For the child outside the womb, the common Greek term for killing is used, apokteinō. For killing the unborn child in the womb, the specific Greek term used is phthora, which is often translated as corruption, ruin, decay (Rom 8:21). Ancient writers such as Josephus, Plutarch, Philo and Clement of Alexandria use this particular term to describe ancient abortion as well.
The author of the Didache no doubt mentions abortion and the killing of infants because of their prevalence in the ancient world. The medical risks associated with aborting a child in the womb were great, yet, there was still a willingness to commit such a dangerous and horrific act. Killing a newborn through abandonment and exposure was much more common. Many studies have been undertaken to document these horrors, both in the Roman Empire and throughout the ancient world generally.
Consider, for example, an excerpt from a letter from a certain Hilarion to his “sister” (i.e., his wife), in which he tries to manage family life while earning a living in the distant metropolis of Alexandria:
The most complete and best preserved manuscript of the Didache is called the Jerusalem Manuscript (H) and is dated to the 11th century AD. A Greek parchment containing several Christian writings, it was re-discovered in 1873 by Philotheos Bryennios in the monastery of the Holy Sepulcher in Constantinople. Included was the text of the famous Didache.
Similarly, we can only imagine the millions of casual conversations that have taken place in the present day, whereby men and women frivolously discuss aborting a precious child in the womb. Government policy creates conditions for a rampant and indifferent culture of death. Legalized infanticide sears the human conscience, reminding us of the sober words of the prophet: “Woe to those who call good evil, and evil good...” (Isa 5:20). Our nation is not unlike the author of this letter, or the ancient citizens throughout the Roman Empire and beyond. May we pray for our nation’s heart, mind and conscience to be turned to the righteousness of the Gospel, and for moral transformation from within so that we might corporately turn from destroying children in the womb.
At the risk on the one hand of pointing out obvious parallels and on the other hand of suggesting parallels which some may say are forced, we compare the ancient practice of child sacrifice with the modern practice of abortion. However, before going any further it should be noted that the parallels between the two have been recognized for centuries. The Church Father, Tertullian of Carthage (160–220 AD), commenting on the Roman practice of infanticide by comparing it to the Carthaginian practice of child sacrifice, admonishes:
...there is no difference as to baby killing whether you do it as a sacred rite or just because you choose to do it.
For us murder is once for all forbidden; so even the child in the womb, while yet the mother’s blood is still being drawn on to form the human being, it is not lawful to destroy. To forbid birth is only quicker murder. It makes no difference whether one take away the life once born or destroy it as it comes to birth. He is a man, who is to be a man, the fruit is always present in the seed.1
The most obvious parallel between the rite of child sacrifice and the practice of abortion is the sober fact that the parents actually kill their own offspring. There are however many other parallels. At Carthage, the main reason for sacrificing a child was to avert potential dangers in a crisis or to gain success through fulfilling a vow.2 Today many times when a woman faces an unwanted pregnancy, abortion seems to be the only way to resolve the crisis she finds herself in. The potential danger to reputation, education, career, etc., becomes overwhelming. To avert the seemingly terrifying consequences of carrying a pregnancy to term, the woman may turn to abortion as a means of escape. Another woman may experience much less of the anxiety and fear that accompany a crisis. She may simply see the pregnancy as an intrusion into her self-serving lifestyle and an obstacle in the way of the road to her success. Sadly, this woman’s offspring must be sacrificed so that she can continue uninterrupted with her plans for the future.3 It is no secret that in American society extramarital sexual intercourse (fornication and adultery) is the cause of most pregnancies that end in abortion.4 Pregnancy is a risk many are willing to take knowing that any undesired consequences can be eliminated by abortion. Theologian Carl Henry recognizes this fact in calling abortion “the horrendous modern immolation of millions of fetuses on the altar of sex gratification.”5 Child sacrifice in Canaan may have been a convenient way to dispose of the consequences of the illicit sexual practice of temple prostitution associated with the cult of Molech. If so, the modern practice of men irresponsibly engaging in sexual intercourse with women to whom they do not intend to commit themselves and provide for parallels the wayward Israelite man engaging in extramarital relations with a temple prostitute. In both cases, the men leave the women to bear the consequences of their aberrant sexual practices.
As noted by Stager and Wolff, child sacrifice may have been a means of population control at Carthage.6 At present, abortion is sanctioned around the world, even encouraged, by some societies as a means of population control. In China, communist party agents actually impose great social and economic pressure on couples to abort their offspring if they already have one child. In this country, the sanctions are more subtle. Presumably, Medicaid-funded abortions afford the poor equal access to medical care, but one wonders whether some wealthy policy makers hope to control population growth among the poor under the guise of good will. In this, there is an intimation of a parallel to the Carthaginian practice of the wealthy buying the poor’s offspring to sacrifice in place of their own children. Apart from state funding, occasionally both the rich and the poor will abort later pregnancies if they feel their families are large enough. As at Carthage, socioeconomic concerns often play a prominent role in the decision.
Two inscriptions at Carthage show that occasionally the parents would sacrifice a defective child hoping to later receive a healthy one as a substitute. In one inscription, a man named Tuscus says that he gave Ba’al “his mute son Bod’astart, a defective child, in exchange for a healthy one.”7 It is now standard medical practice to do an amniocentesis at an early stage of pregnancy when congenital abnormalities are suspected. If impairment is confirmed, the parents are advised to consider terminating the pregnancy. To carry to term and raise a defective child is not expected of the parents since they can exchange the frail one they now have for a healthy one in the future. In some states, obstetricians who fail to advise their patients of the need for an amniocentesis can be successfully sued for malpractice on the legal grounds that the delivered infants are “wrongful life.”8
Even the actual rite of child sacrifice has modern parallels in the medical techniques used to perform abortions. In the saline abortion, the dying infant is chemically burned as it thrashes about for minutes to hours before finally succumbing. In the suction abortion, the loud whir of the vacuum pump muffles the sound of the mother crying out in pain and sadness and the ripping and gushing sound of the infant being torn piecemeal from the womb.
Finally, the flourishing of abortion in modern America, like child sacrifice in ancient Carthage at the height of its civilization, is an unmistakable parallel. The words written by P. Mosca at the conclusion of his doctoral dissertation dealing with child sacrifice might well be written of abortion today:
...it is impossible to deal with this subject at any length without coming to terms with the human dimension: how could a culture so well developed morally, intellectually and materially tolerate so ‘abominable’ a custom? How could a sophisticated people sanction what seems to be such a barbaric practice for so long a time? How at the most visceral and critical level could human parents bring about the destruction of their own child?9
One religious truth emerges in comparing ancient child sacrifice to modern abortion, i.e., people become like the gods/god they worship. The Carthaginians worshipped Ba’al Hammon, equivalent to Kronos and Saturn. Not surprisingly they became like him, willing to sacrifice their children to avert potential danger and gain success in their self-serving endeavors. Modern autonomous man worships himself and is willing to abort his own offspring in order to resolve crises and achieve his own goals. In serving the idolatrous self, men become more and more like the self-serving idol they worship, i.e. sinful man. They are willing to disregard any of God’s gracious laws in order to accomplish their own ends. In their self-idolatry, men have set themselves on a downward spiral of depravity and destruction from which only God’s gracious mercy can deliver them.
In contrast to those who worship themselves, those who worship the holy God become holy. God sets Himself before His people as the standard of righteousness, “Be holy because I the Lord your God am holy” (Lev. 19:2). In serving this righteous God, men and women become more and more like Him in righteousness. Of course, even the holy people of God have faith not in their own righteousness, but in the saving work of their righteous Lord, Jesus Christ.
Conclusions Since there are many parallels between ancient child sacrifice and modern abortion, it is reasonable to conclude that the attitude of our unchanging God towards abortion today is similar to His attitude towards child sacrifice in the past. What then can we rationally surmise is God’s judgment regarding the practice of abortion both among Christians and those who are not His people?
Like child sacrifice in ancient Israel, the practice of abortion by Christians is spiritual prostitution to an idol, defiles God’s sanctuary and profanes His holy name. God alone is the Author of life and it is not the creature’s prerogative to question the Creator’s wisdom in bringing to life a fellow human being at conception. Whenever men disregard their Creator’s wise judgment by destroying His innocent creation, they are serving another god. They are, in fact, spiritually prostituting themselves to the idolatrous self whom they believe is wiser in its value judgments. Some values which are put forward to justify abortion are clearly idolatrous, e.g., the mother’s right to choose, which is placed at the top of the pyramid of values by those who call themselves pro-choice. Other idolatrous values are more subtle, e.g., empathy for a mother’s suffering in the midst of the crisis arising from an unwanted pregnancy or concern for the quality of life of a defective fetus. Both of these later values are good in themselves but become idolatrous when they abrogate the Creator’s wise judgment in creating human life. It is not as though God fails to realize in creating some human beings that they may become a source of conflict in an unplanned conception or that a handicapped person will indeed face difficulties.
Whenever Christians disregard the Creator’s true value judgments, they dethrone God and by their sin defile the temple in which He dwells, the temple of their own body (I Cor 6:19). Dethroned and defiled by the idolatrous sin of abortion, God threatens to abandon the wayward Christian unless there is repentance. For God will not dwell in a temple in which another god is enthroned and a sanctuary polluted by sin. And the Christian who approves of or participates in the sin of abortion not only affects himself but he profanes God’s holy name. People intuitively know that a man’s attitude and behavior reflect his values. The Christian claims that God’s authoritative Word determines his values. If a Christian then speaks or acts in a way that is contrary to that Word, he brings dishonor to God’s name. For to those who do not know God, the Christian is their chief witness to the Word of God. And the Christian who approves of or participates in the practice of abortion is testifying to the world that his God condones the practice. He is in reality bearing false witness, for by his attitude and behavior he infers that the Creator consents to His creatures destroying innocent fellow creatures. This false witness actually implies through his testimony that God is at odds with Himself. For in creating a human being God has clearly judged that person to be of value. If God approved of abortion, He would be essentially saying that his value judgments are sometimes wrong.
Many Christians who accept or take part in the practice of abortion have not made a conscious decision to sin and bring dishonor to God by condoning idolatrous values. Regardless of the motive, however, these Christians are unacceptably serving God. Indeed God hates the detestable sin of abortion. For not only is abortion a sin against God and His innocent creation but it is a sin against the family and community as well. Scripture throughout teaches that children are a blessing from the Lord and that loving nurture is the godly response of parents toward their offspring. Abortion is the rejection of the God-given role to parent His creation. For an unmarried woman unable to cope with the doubly difficult role of single parenting, the child may be God’s gift through her to a barren couple within the community. Whether God’s blessing is received and lovingly nurtured by the biologic parents or given to adoptive parents, the birth of a child is a blessing to the family and community.
Often abortion is the evil solution to the consequences of a sexual sin. Whether a pregnancy results from fornication or adultery, where the mother is a guilty participant in the sin, or a pregnancy results from rape or incest, where the mother usually is the guiltless victim of another’s sin, abortion is an ungodly solution. For the Sovereign Redeemer is able to bring about good where there was evil. A new creation resulting from a sexual sin is an extraordinary witness to this redemptive truth.
Sadly, many Christians refuse to completely submit to the Lordship of the Creator and fail to appreciate the redemptive power of their God to save man from the full consequences of sin. The defective fetus is the victim of that original sin which resulted in the fall of all creation. A mother may be the victim of her own or another’s sexual sin or the victim of corporate societal sin, e.g., unjust poverty. In all of these situations, abortion has no redeeming character; for God never deals with sin or its consequences by countering it with sin but with righteousness. The unhealthy child should be loved and cared for more because of its weakness, not less. The pregnant woman should be counseled to do what is right and given assistance in every possible way to support a godly decision to nurture in her body God’s creation during its first nine months of life. Christians must always affirm, both by word and deed, the sovereignty of the Creator and recognize His power to righteously redeem mankind from the results of sin.
Up to this point we have been trying to discover God’s attitude towards abortion among Christians, based on Scripture’s testimony of His attitude towards child sacrifice among the Israelites. We now turn to God’s judgment regarding abortion among those who are not Christians and the Christian response to the practice among them.
As previously noted, in the theocratic nation of Israel, some non-Israelite customs were tolerated and some, like child sacrifice, were not. Today God’s people in the United States do not live in a theocracy; rather, they live in a democratic state. As such, Christians must determine, based on the principles of God’s law, when they should become actively involved in the democratic process to restrict the behavior of some individuals in the interest of other individuals and society-at-large and when they should tolerate different values and customs. Abortion is clearly a practice which is intolerable and must be restrained by the state (Rom 13:3–5), instead of receiving its endorsement and protection. For abortion is the denial of the inalienable God-given right to life10 of an innocent human being and it is an attack at the very foundation of our society, i.e., the family and community. Even many of those who are not Christians acknowledge that abortion is wrong. For God’s law is written on the hearts of men and women to which their conscience bears witness (Rom 2:14). Others have suppressed God’s truth by substituting their own self-serving idolatrous values. The truth of God’s power and divinity have been revealed in creation (Rom 1:18ff). But men and women have suppressed this truth, and their rejection of this revelation of God is clearly evident in the sin of abortion. For scarcely is the power and divinity of God more clearly seen than in His creative power bringing to life each human being, everyone made in His own divine image (Gn 1:27; 5:1–3; Jas 3:9). No manmade technology has the power to create life, much less a human life stamped with the divine imprimatur. Rather, through the medical technology of abortion, mankind rebels against the creative power of the Almighty by destroying divine image bearers. No, abortion is not acceptable as practice by Christians or non-Christians and must not be tolerated by this or any other society. Those individuals who fail to heed God’s law by condoning abortion will surely face God’s judgment if they remain impenitent. Even those who do not condone abortion but fail to take action against it will face judgment as well. Leviticus 20:1–5 indicates that both the Israelite who sacrificed his child to Molech and those who closed their eyes to the sin faced the judgment of God. And if a society as a whole persistently rejects God’s laws, it will surely corporately face God’s judgment. The city of Carthage and the nation of Israel are but two of many historical testimonies to the outpouring of God’s wrath against unrelenting corporate sin.11
Something is happening in this land which God did not command nor did it enter His mind—this place is being filled with the blood of the innocent. So beware, for blood is on our hands and God will set his face against us unless we repent and are cleansed by his merciful forgiveness.
This is what the Lord says:
Look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. So turn from your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions (Jer 18:11).
Oh, that we might not respond like ancient Israel: It is no use. We will continue with our own plans, each of us will follow the stubbornness of his evil heart (Jer 18:12).
[This article was first published in the Journal of Biblical Ethics in Medicine, and has been reproduced here with permission in an abridged and edited format.]
1 Tertullian, Apologeticus IX. 6,8. The Loeb Classical Library. 2 Stager, L.E. and Wolff, S.R., “Child Sacrifice at Carthage—Religious Rite or Population Control?”, Biblical Archaeology Review, Jan./Feb. 1984, p. 45. 3 ABR editorial note: Perhaps the most egregious and morally repugnant example of this can be seen in so-called “twin reduction”. This sanitized term describes a practice whereby a woman (often with the approval of her male partner) chooses to eliminate one of her perfectly healthy twin babies in utero, primarily because of prospective financial hardship or interference with career ambitions. See this highly disturbing story online, The Two Minus One Pregnancy, at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/14/magazine/the-two-minus-one-pregnancyLast accessed November 17, 2011. 4 ABR editorial note: Estimates vary slightly amongst reporting agencies, but about 82 percent of the women having abortions are unmarried or separated. See http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/ss/ss6001.pdf Last accessed November 21, 2011. 5 Henry, C. in a review of Gareth Jones’ book, Brave New People, 1985, Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans. Book cover. 6 Stager and Wolff. 7 Kennedy, C., “Queries/Comments,” Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 1984, p. 20, citing J. Feuvie’s article “Une Sacrifice d’Enfantchez les Numides,” Annuaire de l’Institut de Philogic et d’Histoire Orientales et Slave, 1953. 8 Schmidt, S.M., “Wrongful Life,” Journal of the American Medical Association, Oct. 28, 1983, Vol. 250, pp. 2209–10. 9 Mosca, P.G., Child Sacrifice in Canaanite and Israelite Religion, Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, 1975, pp. 273–74. 10 The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, July 4, 1776. 11 ABR editorial note: It does seem quite natural to make the connection between Carthaginian child sacrifice and their civilization’s subsequent destruction by the Roman Empire. We know from the testimony of Scripture that God judged Israel through both the Assyrians and the Babylonians because of Israel’s idolatry, which included child sacrifice. We do not have such explicit testimony from Scripture concerning the Carthaginians, and so we must urge caution in interpreting God’s purposes in extra-biblical historical events not explained in Scripture. There are, however, many passages which warn nations not to engage in such evil and immoral practices. We can confidently affirm that, if a nation perpetually persists in defying the laws of God, God will eventually bring judgment in His way, and in His time. As Christians, we can urge our nation(s) to repent before such divine acts take place.
People often ask me what has been my most interesting and rewarding archaeological experience. Apart from watching Raiders of the Lost Ark five times, I would have to say it was serving as a Field Supervisor of the excavations at Carthage in Tunisia. The effort to unearth the city of Carthage has been a tremendous international endeavor, including archaeological teams from Germany, Japan, Italy, Canada, the United States, and elsewhere. The city has undergone intensive, full-scale excavations from the 1970’s until today.
Carthage is a port site located in northern Tunisia on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It was founded by the Phoenicians in the eighth century BC, roughly the time that Ahab and Jezebel were on the thrones of Israel. The Phoenicians resided on the northern coast of Israel and were well-known for their seafaring exploits. They colonized much of the Mediterranean world in antiquity, moving from Phoenicia to Cyprus, North Africa, Italy, Corsica, and Spain (some have even suggested that they discovered the New World).
The most important colony founded by the Phoenicians was Carthage. Many people know of the city because of famous events associated with it, such as the great wars with Rome, Hannibal and his elephants, or Virgil’s Aeneid.
The most significant part of the American excavations occurred in the Tophet. The word Tophet comes from the Old Testament (e.g., 2 Kgs 23:10; Jer 7:30–32), referring to a place of a child sacrifice and burial. Modern excavators applied the term Tophet to a cemetery we excavated bearing remains of children who had been ritually sacrificed as burnt offerings. It is the largest sacrificial cemetery ever found, measuring at least 60,000 square feet. Most stunning is the number of children sacrificed here—estimated at a minimum of 20,000 burials between 400–200 BC during only one-third the life of the cemetery!
The Phoenicians’ barbaric practice of child sacrifice was well-attested in antiquity. Consider, for example, the comments of the Greek author Kleitarchos in the third century BC:
Out of reverence for Kronos (Ba'al Hammon), the Phoenicians, and especially the Carthaginians, whenever they seek to obtain some great favor, vow one of their children, burning it as a sacrifice to the deity, if they are especially eager to gain success. There stands in their midst a bronze statue of Kronos, its hands extended over a bronze brazier, the flames of which engulf the child. When the flames fall on the body, the limbs contract and the open mouth seems almost to be laughing, until the contracted body slips quietly into the brazier.
Ironically, the Carthaginians called the immolations the "act of laughing".
Blood for Blood The American excavations unearthed nine stratified levels of Tophet burials. These have been divided into three basic periods: Tanit I = 750–600 BC Tanit II = 600–300 BC Tanit III = 300–146 BC
The excavators named the periods after Tanit, the Canaanite goddess of love and war. Child sacrifices at Carthage were dedicated to her and to the god Ba'al Hammon, a name that means “Lord of the Brazier.” They were brother and sister, as well as husband and wife!
The manner in which we found the burials is quite revealing. First, we would uncover a cippus or a burial monument. A grave marker, of course, indicated that a burial lay beneath. A variety of inscriptions and motifs were engraved on some of the monuments. Many of them bore the cult symbols of Tanit and Ba'al Hammon. Others had carvings, such as a priest carrying a child to an altar in the usual position for offering a lamb. One read, “…breath for breath, blood for blood, life for life.”
We usually found two things in each urn: the charred remains of an infant or an animal, and different types of jewelry and trinkets that parents likely buried with the child. Valuable and well-crafted jewelry, such as ivory amulets were also often interred with the deceased.
Scholars vigorously debate the purpose of child sacrifice at Carthage. Some ancient cultures sacrificed humans to gain an increase from the gods. In Aztec culture, the most important time in the calendar was the month of first-fruits, when the Aztecs sacrificed children in the temple of Xipe, the god of planting and seedtime. At that time they also burned humans to the sun god Tonatiuh. The reason for those offerings was simply to pacify the gods so they would bless the Aztecs with good crops.
The ancient Australians believed the offering of a morsel of kangaroo fat made the fat of the kangaroo increase! So, if one wanted many crops, he would offer the first-fruits of the crops to the gods; if one desired a larger flock, he would sacrifice the first-born animals; if one hoped for the blessing of many children, he would slay his first-born to honor the gods.
Other cultures sacrificed humans in order to avert or dispel evil things. Thus, if one built a house or went to war, his children were sacrificed to keep evil or the bad gods away. In all of these instances, the object of child sacrifice was a form of manipulating the pagan deity. It was an attempt to satisfy the blood-thirstiness of the gods at the expense of certain individuals so that nothing was left to chance. Many scholars are convinced that this religious conniving was the basis of child sacrifice at Carthage.
These cultic rituals played a major role in the practice of child sacrifice at Carthage. However, they do not account for all aspects of it. For example, we should note that most children were sacrificed at Carthage when the city was at its height, prosperous and militarily powerful. Conversely, when Carthage was at its most vulnerable, during the wars with Rome, fewer child immolations occurred. If human sacrifice were merely for the intervention of the divine, we would expect the exact opposite. Why were there not more sacrifices later when Carthage really could have used the gods’ help?
Ancient Birth Control
Such problems have led archaeologists at Carthage to suggest another possibility: what appeared at Carthage was really infanticide for the purpose of population control. In other words, child sacrifice was not merely religious ritual, but was also a practical solution to a civic problem overpopulation. We know that at its height Carthage sustained a population of about 200,000 people. Recent scholarly studies have shown that the agricultural capacity of the area simply could not support such a large group. So, archaeologists have theorized that the Carthaginians helped to ease the population strain by destroying a non-threatening segment of the city’s inhabitants.
Whether or not this theory is correct is debatable; we must await further materials from excavation and an analysis of literary remains before solid conclusions may be drawn. At this time, however, it does appear to be a plausible reconstruction of the evidence available to us. With that in mind, I would like to suggest that this theory raises some interesting parallels with modern abortion and infanticide practices.
Rarely do pro-abortion groups today fail to mention what they perceive as a noble advantage of their position: abortion is a means of population control in a world that cannot sustain the people already here. In other words, since the world contains so many starving, unclothed, poor people, they claim we must take action; abortion and infanticide, they say, are proper means to help solve these social ills. Frankly, that appears to be the same logic used by the ancient Carthaginians.
Some critics have responded by saying that such a parallel is bogus because modern societies are more enlightened or “civilized” than ancient Carthage. Is this really true? Are we really more “civilized” than the Carthaginians?
It is interesting to note that of all the societies I have studied, primitive cultures have little evidence of abortion or infanticide; they are primarily the practices of the higher cultures of antiquity. It seems to me that the only enlightening difference between our societies and Carthage of old is that we have sanitized the process. We do not offer our children to some idol; we destroy them in a hospital, in a most orderly and hygienic fashion. Ours are sacrifices of convenience without any façade of religious motivation. In truth, we are merely unmasked Carthaginians.
(Reprinted from Ministry magazine, Vol. 12, No. 2, Summer 1993, by permission of Reformed Theological Seminary.)
John Currid is Carl W. McMurray Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC; PhD, University of Chicago. Dr. Currid has been part of the Reformed Theological Seminary faculty for 15 years, serving as both Chair of the Biblical Studies Division in Jackson and Professor of Old Testament in Charlotte. Prior to coming to RTS, he served as Associate Professor of Religion at Grove City College, as Byington Hebrew Teaching Fellow at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and as a member of the faculty at Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies in Jerusalem, Israel. Dr. Currid serves as Project Director of Bethsaida Excavations Project in Israel (1995–present). He lectures and preaches in many countries including Russia, Ukraine, Great Britain, Australia, and Brazil. He also continues a pastoral ministry in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.
This article was first published in the Journal of Ministry and Theology, Fall 2013, Volume 7, Number 2, pp. 90-125.
History is replete with civilizations that have held morally repugnant attitudes concerning infants and children. The Nazis carried Jewish children off to killing fields and the gas chambers at Auschwitz. The Aztecs and Mayans sacrificed both children and adults to their gods. Exposing an unwanted child to the elements or wild animals was a common practice throughout the Greco-Roman world. The Carthaginians of North Africa sacrificed their infants and children to pagan gods over a period of several centuries.
Old Testament passages referring to child sacrifice are both numerous and dreadful. The Israelites, delivered from the bondage of Egypt by the mighty hand of Yahweh, the Lord of heaven and earth, did not simply engage in idolatry. They were guilty of adopting the ghastly Canaanite practice of child sacrifice. In some cases, they attempted to attach this practice to worship of the Lord (Ezek 23:39). In others, they rejected Yahweh worship altogether and fully turned themselves over to the idols of Canaan (2 Kgs 17:14-17). Kings Ahaz and Manasseh, the “shepherds of Israel,” even burned their own sons in the fires of sacrifice (2 Chr 28:2-3; 33:6). Certain Israelites stood by and did nothing (Lev 20:4-5). Despite manifold warnings and admonitions from the Lord (Deut 12:29-31; 18:10), the Israelites persisted. As a result, God brought dreadful judgment upon their entire nation (Jer 19:3b-6).
The most foundational doctrine of the Christian faith is the Doctrine of Scripture, for in the pages of Holy Scripture we find the revelation of God concerning Himself and His glorious Son, Jesus Christ. All of Christian doctrine is found in the pages of Scripture, and thus it is our absolute foundation of knowledge and truth.
This doctrine continues to be under assault from within the ranks of the Church, and of course, by those outside the faith. In the interest of clearly communicating to ABR supporters, sincere seekers, and the Church at large, the ABR staff hereby reiterates its affirmation of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, which clearly and concisely spells out our understanding of the Bible and its inherent Divine authority. In addition to the Chicago Statement itself, the ABR staff has provided minor comments denoted by an asterisk * at the end of the Chicago Statement. These comments bear directly on ABRâ€™s mission as an archaeological and apologetic research ministry, but are not intended to amend the Statement itself.
We trust that this reiteration will help to clearly communicate the absolute foundation of the ABR mission: To affirm the Bible as the very Word of the Living God and to proclaim the truth of the Gospel.
The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy
The authority of Scripture is a key issue for the Christian church in this and every age. Those who profess faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are called to show the reality of their discipleship by humbly and faithfully obeying God's written Word. To stray from Scripture in faith or conduct is disloyalty to our Master. Recognition of the total truth and trustworthiness of Holy Scripture is essential to a full grasp and adequate confession of its authority.
The following Statement affirms this inerrancy of Scripture afresh, making clear our understanding of it and warning against its denial. We are persuaded that to deny it is to set aside the witness of Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit and to refuse that submission to the claims of God's own Word which marks true Christian faith. We see it as our timely duty to make this affirmation in the face of current lapses from the truth of inerrancy among our fellow Christians and misunderstandings of this doctrine in the world at large.
This Statement consists of three parts: a Summary Statement, Articles of Affirmation and Denial, and an accompanying Exposition. It has been prepared in the course of a three-day consultation in Chicago. Those who have signed the Summary Statement and the Articles wish to affirm their own conviction as to the inerrancy of Scripture and to encourage and challenge one another and all Christians to growing appreciation and understanding of this doctrine. We acknowledge the limitations of a document prepared in a brief, intensive conference and do not propose that this Statement be given creedal weight. Yet we rejoice in the deepening of our own convictions through our discussions together, and we pray that the Statement we have signed may be used to the glory of our God toward a new reformation of the Church in its faith, life, and mission.
We offer this Statement in a spirit, not of contention, but of humility and love, which we purpose by God's grace to maintain in any future dialogue arising out of what we have said. We gladly acknowledge that many who deny the inerrancy of Scripture do not display the consequences of this denial in the rest of their belief and behavior, and we are conscious that we who confess this doctrine often deny it in life by failing to bring our thoughts and deeds, our traditions and habits, into true subjection to the divine Word.
We invite response to this statement from any who see reason to amend its affirmations about Scripture by the light of Scripture itself, under whose infallible authority we stand as we speak. We claim no personal infallibility for the witness we bear, and for any help which enables us to strengthen this testimony to God's Word we shall be grateful.
— The Draft Committee
A Short Statement
1. God, who is Himself Truth and speaks truth only, has inspired Holy Scripture in order thereby to reveal Himself to lost mankind through Jesus Christ as Creator and Lord, Redeemer and Judge. Holy Scripture is God's witness to Himself.
2. Holy Scripture, being God's own Word, written by men prepared and superintended by His Spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches: it is to be believed, as God's instruction, in all that it affirms: obeyed, as God's command, in all that it requires; embraced, as God's pledge, in all that it promises.
3. The Holy Spirit, Scripture's divine Author, both authenticates it to us by His inward witness and opens our minds to understand its meaning.
4. Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God's acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God's saving grace in individual lives.
5. The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this total divine inerrancy is in any way limited or disregarded, or made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible's own; and such lapses bring serious loss to both the individual and the Church.
Articles of Affirmation and Denial
WE AFFIRM that the Holy Scriptures are to be received as the authoritative Word of God.
WE DENY that the Scriptures receive their authority from the Church, tradition, or any other human source.
WE AFFIRM that the Scriptures are the supreme written norm by which God binds the conscience, and that the authority of the Church is subordinate to that of Scripture.
WE DENY that Church creeds, councils, or declarations have authority greater than or equal to the authority of the Bible.
WE AFFIRM that the written Word in its entirety is revelation given by God.
WE DENY that the Bible is merely a witness to revelation, or only becomes revelation in encounter, or depends on the responses of men for its validity.
WE AFFIRM that God who made mankind in His image has used language as a means of revelation.
WE DENY that human language is so limited by our creatureliness that it is rendered inadequate as a vehicle for divine revelation. We further deny that the corruption of human culture and language through sin has thwarted God's work of inspiration.
WE AFFIRM that God's revelation within the Holy Scriptures was progressive.
WE DENY that later revelation, which may fulfill earlier revelation, ever corrects or contradicts it. We further deny that any normative revelation has been given since the completion of the New Testament writings.
WE AFFIRM that the whole of Scripture and all its parts, down to the very words of the original, were given by divine inspiration.
WE DENY that the inspiration of Scripture can rightly be affirmed of the whole without the parts, or of some parts but not the whole.
WE AFFIRM that inspiration was the work in which God by His Spirit, through human writers, gave us His Word. The origin of Scripture is divine. The mode of divine inspiration remains largely a mystery to us.
WE DENY that inspiration can be reduced to human insight, or to heightened states of consciousness of any kind.
WE AFFIRM that God in His work of inspiration utilized the distinctive personalities and literary styles of the writers whom He had chosen and prepared.
WE DENY that God, in causing these writers to use the very words that He chose, overrode their personalities.
WE AFFIRM that inspiration, though not conferring omniscience, guaranteed true and trustworthy utterance on all matters of which the Biblical authors were moved to speak and write.
WE DENY that the finitude or fallenness of these writers, by necessity or otherwise, introduced distortion or falsehood into God's Word.
WE AFFIRM that inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the autographic text of Scripture, which in the providence of God can be ascertained from available manuscripts with great accuracy. We further affirm that copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original.
WE DENY that any essential element of the Christian faith is affected by the absence of the autographs. We further deny that this absence renders the assertion of Biblical inerrancy invalid or irrelevant.
WE AFFIRM that Scripture, having been given by divine inspiration, is infallible, so that, far from misleading us, it is true and reliable in all the matters it addresses.
WE DENY that it is possible for the Bible to be at the same time infallible and errant in its assertions. Infallibility and inerrancy may be distinguished, but not separated.
WE AFFIRM that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit.
WE DENY that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.
WE AFFIRM the propriety of using inerrancy as a theological term with reference to the complete truthfulness of Scripture.
WE DENY that it is proper to evaluate Scripture according to standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage or purpose. We further deny that inerrancy is negated by Biblical phenomena such as a lack of modern technical precision, irregularities of grammar or spelling, observational descriptions of nature, the reporting of falsehoods, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, the topical arrangement of material, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, or the use of free citations.
WE AFFIRM the unity and internal consistency of Scripture.
WE DENY that alleged errors and discrepancies that have not yet been resolved vitiate the truth claims of the Bible.
WE AFFIRM that the doctrine of inerrancy is grounded in the teaching of the Bible about inspiration.
WE DENY that Jesus' teaching about Scripture may be dismissed by appeals to accommodation or to any natural limitation of His humanity.
WE AFFIRM that the doctrine of inerrancy has been integral to the Church's faith throughout its history.
WE DENY that inerrancy is a doctrine invented by scholastic Protestantism, or is a reactionary position postulated in response to negative higher criticism.
WE AFFIRM that the Holy Spirit bears witness to the Scriptures, assuring believers of the truthfulness of God's written Word.
WE DENY that this witness of the Holy Spirit operates in isolation from or against Scripture.
WE AFFIRM that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture.
WE DENY the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or quest for sources lying behind it that leads to relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claims to authorship.
WE AFFIRM that a confession of the full authority, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture is vital to a sound understanding of the whole of the Christian faith. We further affirm that such confession should lead to increasing conformity to the image of Christ.
WE DENY that such confession is necessary for salvation. However, we further deny that inerrancy can be rejected without grave consequences, both to the individual and to the Church.
Our understanding of the doctrine of inerrancy must be set in the context of the broader teachings of the Scripture concerning itself. This exposition gives an account of the outline of doctrine from which our summary statement and articles are drawn. Creation, Revelation and Inspiration
The Triune God, who formed all things by his creative utterances and governs all things by His Word of decree, made mankind in His own image for a life of communion with Himself, on the model of the eternal fellowship of loving communication within the Godhead. As God's image-bearer, man was to hear God's Word addressed to him and to respond in the joy of adoring obedience. Over and above God's self-disclosure in the created order and the sequence of events within it, human beings from Adam on have received verbal messages from Him, either directly, as stated in Scripture, or indirectly in the form of part or all of Scripture itself.
When Adam fell, the Creator did not abandon mankind to final judgment but promised salvation and began to reveal Himself as Redeemer in a sequence of historical events centering on Abraham's family and culminating in the life, death, resurrection, present heavenly ministry, and promised return of Jesus Christ. Within this frame God has from time to time spoken specific words of judgment and mercy, promise and command, to sinful human beings so drawing them into a covenant relation of mutual commitment between Him and them in which He blesses them with gifts of grace and they bless Him in responsive adoration. Moses, whom God used as mediator to carry His words to His people at the time of the Exodus, stands at the head of a long line of prophets in whose mouths and writings God put His words for delivery to Israel. God's purpose in this succession of messages was to maintain His covenant by causing His people to know His Nameâ€”that is, His natureâ€”and His will both of precept and purpose in the present and for the future. This line of prophetic spokesmen from God came to completion in Jesus Christ, God's incarnate Word, who was Himself a prophetâ€”more than a prophet, but not lessâ€”and in the apostles and prophets of the first Christian generation. When God's final and climactic message, His word to the world concerning Jesus Christ, had been spoken and elucidated by those in the apostolic circle, the sequence of revealed messages ceased. Henceforth the Church was to live and know God by what He had already said, and said for all time.
At Sinai God wrote the terms of His covenant on tables of stone, as His enduring witness and for lasting accessibility, and throughout the period of prophetic and apostolic revelation He prompted men to write the messages given to and through them, along with celebratory records of His dealings with His people, plus moral reflections on covenant life and forms of praise and prayer for covenant mercy. The theological reality of inspiration in the producing of Biblical documents corresponds to that of spoken prophecies: although the human writers' personalities were expressed in what they wrote, the words were divinely constituted. Thus, what Scripture says, God says; its authority is His authority, for He is its ultimate Author, having given it through the minds and words of chosen and prepared men who in freedom and faithfulness "spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Pet. 1:21). Holy Scripture must be acknowledged as the Word of God by virtue of its divine origin. Authority: Christ and the Bible
Jesus Christ, the Son of God who is the Word made flesh, our Prophet, Priest, and King, is the ultimate Mediator of God's communication to man, as He is of all God's gifts of grace. The revelation He gave was more than verbal; He revealed the Father by His presence and His deeds as well. Yet His words were crucially important; for He was God, He spoke from the Father, and His words will judge all men at the last day.
As the prophesied Messiah, Jesus Christ is the central theme of Scripture. The Old Testament looked ahead to Him; the New Testament looks back to His first coming and on to His second. Canonical Scripture is the divinely inspired and therefore normative witness to Christ. No hermeneutic, therefore, of which the historical Christ is not the focal point is acceptable. Holy Scripture must be treated as what it essentially isâ€”the witness of the Father to the Incarnate Son.
It appears that the Old Testament canon had been fixed by the time of Jesus. The New Testament canon is likewise now closed inasmuch as no new apostolic witness to the historical Christ can now be borne. No new revelation (as distinct from Spirit-given understanding of existing revelation) will be given until Christ comes again. The canon was created in principle by divine inspiration. The Church's part was to discern the canon which God had created, not to devise one of its own.
The word canon, signifying a rule or standard, is a pointer to authority, which means the right to rule and control. Authority in Christianity belongs to God in His revelation, which means, on the one hand, Jesus Christ, the living Word, and, on the other hand, Holy Scripture, the written Word. But the authority of Christ and that of Scripture are one. As our Prophet, Christ testified that Scripture cannot be broken. As our Priest and King, He devoted His earthly life to fulfilling the law and the prophets, even dying in obedience to the words of Messianic prophecy. Thus, as He saw Scripture attesting Him and His authority, so by His own submission to Scripture He attested its authority. As He bowed to His Father's instruction given in His Bible (our Old Testament), so He requires His disciples to doâ€”not, however, in isolation but in conjunction with the apostolic witness to Himself which He undertook to inspire by His gift of the Holy Spirit. So Christians show themselves faithful servants of their Lord by bowing to the divine instruction given in the prophetic and apostolic writings which together make up our Bible.
By authenticating each other's authority, Christ and Scripture coalesce into a single fount of authority. The Biblically-interpreted Christ and the Christ-centered, Christ-proclaiming Bible are from this standpoint one. As from the fact of inspiration we infer that what Scripture says, God says, so from the revealed relation between Jesus Christ and Scripture we may equally declare that what Scripture says, Christ says.
Infallibility, Inerrancy, Interpretation
Holy Scripture, as the inspired Word of God witnessing authoritatively to Jesus Christ, may properly be called infallible and inerrant. These negative terms have a special value, for they explicitly safeguard crucial positive truths.
lnfallible signifies the quality of neither misleading nor being misled and so safeguards in categorical terms the truth that Holy Scripture is a sure, safe, and reliable rule and guide in all matters.
Similarly, inerrant signifies the quality of being free from all falsehood or mistake and so safeguards the truth that Holy Scripture is entirely true and trustworthy in all its assertions.
We affirm that canonical Scripture should always be interpreted on the basis that it is infallible and inerrant. However, in determining what the God-taught writer is asserting in each passage, we must pay the most careful attention to its claims and character as a human production. In inspiration, God utilized the culture and conventions of His penman's milieu, a milieu that God controls in His sovereign providence; it is misinterpretation to imagine otherwise.
So history must be treated as history, poetry as poetry, hyperbole and metaphor as hyperbole and metaphor, generalization and approximation as what they are, and so forth. Differences between literary conventions in Bible times and in ours must also be observed: since, for instance, non-chronological narration and imprecise citation were conventional and acceptable and violated no expectations in those days, we must not regard these things as faults when we find them in Bible writers. When total precision of a particular kind was not expected nor aimed at, it is no error not to have achieved it. Scripture is inerrant, not in the sense of being absolutely precise by modern standards, but in the sense of making good its claims and achieving that measure of focused truth at which its authors aimed.
The truthfulness of Scripture is not negated by the appearance in it of irregularities of grammar or spelling, phenomenal descriptions of nature, reports of false statements (e.g., the lies of Satan), or seeming discrepancies between one passage and another. It is not right to set the so-called "phenomena" of Scripture against the teaching of Scripture about itself. Apparent inconsistencies should not be ignored. Solution of them, where this can be convincingly achieved, will encourage our faith, and where for the present no convincing solution is at hand we shall significantly honor God by trusting His assurance that His Word is true, despite these appearances, and by maintaining our confidence that one day they will be seen to have been illusions.
Inasmuch as all Scripture is the product of a single divine mind, interpretation must stay within the bounds of the analogy of Scripture and eschew hypotheses that would correct one Biblical passage by another, whether in the name of progressive revelation or of the imperfect enlightenment of the inspired writer's mind.
Although Holy Scripture is nowhere culture-bound in the sense that its teaching lacks universal validity, it is sometimes culturally conditioned by the customs and conventional views of a particular period, so that the application of its principles today calls for a different sort of action.
Skepticism and Criticism
Since the Renaissance, and more particularly since the Enlightenment, world-views have been developed which involve skepticism about basic Christian tenets. Such are the agnosticism which denies that God is knowable, the rationalism which denies that He is incomprehensible, the idealism which denies that He is transcendent, and the existentialism which denies rationality in His relationships with us. When these un- and anti-biblical principles seep into men's theologies at [a] presuppositional level, as today they frequently do, faithful interpretation of Holy Scripture becomes impossible. Transmission and Translation
Since God has nowhere promised an inerrant transmission of Scripture, it is necessary to affirm that only the autographic text of the original documents was inspired and to maintain the need of textual criticism as a means of detecting any slips that may have crept into the text in the course of its transmission. The verdict of this science, however, is that the Hebrew and Greek text appear to be amazingly well preserved, so that we are amply justified in affirming, with the Westminster Confession, a singular providence of God in this matter and in declaring that the authority of Scripture is in no way jeopardized by the fact that the copies we possess are not entirely error-free.
Similarly, no translation is or can be perfect, and all translations are an additional step away from the autographa. Yet the verdict of linguistic science is that English-speaking Christians, at least, are exceedingly well served in these days with a host of excellent translations and have no cause for hesitating to conclude that the true Word of God is within their reach. Indeed, in view of the frequent repetition in Scripture of the main matters with which it deals and also of the Holy Spirit's constant witness to and through the Word, no serious translation of Holy Scripture will so destroy its meaning as to render it unable to make its reader "wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 3:15).
Inerrancy and Authority
In our affirmation of the authority of Scripture as involving its total truth, we are consciously standing with Christ and His apostles, indeed with the whole Bible and with the main stream of Church history from the first days until very recently. We are concerned at the casual, inadvertent, and seemingly thoughtless way in which a belief of such far-reaching importance has been given up by so many in our day.
We are conscious too that great and grave confusion results from ceasing to maintain the total truth of the Bible whose authority one professes to acknowledge. The result of taking this step is that the Bible which God gave loses its authority, and what has authority instead is a Bible reduced in content according to the demands of one's critical reasonings and in principle reducible still further once one has started. This means that at bottom independent reason now has authority, as opposed to Scriptural teaching. If this is not seen and if for the time being basic evangelical doctrines are still held, persons denying the full truth of Scripture may claim an evangelical identity while methodologically they have moved away from the evangelical principle of knowledge to an unstable subjectivism, and will find it hard not to move further.
We affirm that what Scripture says, God says. May He be glorified. Amen and Amen.
*Brief Comments from the ABR Staff
1. The ABR staff affirms that the 39 books of the Old Testament, and the 27 books of the New Testament, 66 books in total, are the very Word of God written. All other books are of human origin, and have no binding authority on the Church or the ABR ministry.
2. The ABR staff denies that any archaeological discovery or interpretation of any archaeological discovery may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture with regard to the historical events recorded therein.
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