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View Diary: Where in the Bible? (22 comments)

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  •  Political translations. (2+ / 0-)
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    wilderness voice, Dogs are fuzzy

    The Bible is actually quite ambiguous about abortion.

    Start with "test for an unfaithful wife" found at Numbers 5:11-31.  The priest gives an accused woman some holy water mixed with dust from the tabernacle floor and makes her drink it along with taking an oath.

    The result:

    But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have made yourself impure by having sexual relations with a man other than your husband”— 21 here the priest is to put the woman under this curse—“may the Lord cause you to become a curse[d] among your people when he makes your womb miscarry and your abdomen swell. 22 May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries.”
    Clearly, if the woman has been unfaithful, the purpose of this test is to cause an abortion.

    This translation is NIV, and uses the word "miscarriage."  Why I've chosen the right-wing NIV will be clear shortly.

    Another passage is found in the "Book of the Covenant" in Exodus, among some of the oldest material in the Hebrew bible.

    Exodus 21:22 (again, NIV):

    If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely[e] but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. 23 But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
    Again, NIV.  Notice the phrase "gives birth prematurely."  In fact, it's clear from the Hebrew that the fetus is aborted.  The less politically motivated KJV translates it this way:
    If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.

    23 And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life,

    24 Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,

    25 Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

    The "yet no mischief follow" refers to the status of the woman.

    The Hebrew indicates that a blow to a woman that causes a miscarriage is not a capital crime but is to be compensated as a civil matter.  If the blow kills the woman or destroys the woman's capacity to bear other children, then it's a more serious matter.

    This has always been the view of Jewish commentators:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...

    All of this is in the context of writings drawn from an ancient, patriarchal world that we would find harsh, even horrifying.  Also, the Hebrew bible is a collection of writings from a period of nearly 1,000 years and includes writers who vehemently disagree with each other on many matters of theology and ethics.

    The details of the history of this NIV translation, done in 1973, are fascinating.  There was a lot of political intrigue behind this change in translation, and it was closely related to Roe v. Wade and the Right's effort to draw in Evangelicals on the abortion issue.

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