From: George Athas (
Date: Wed Mar 11 1998 - 16:59:09 EST

Steven Cox wrote:

> Dear all
> I'm sorry I fear this is a very 20th Century question of the sort that
> raises bloodpressure, but I can't answer it so am passing the buck to b-greek.
> The question is: "Does EKTRWMA include abortion as well as miscarriage?"
> (the original question was "Does the Bible mention abortion?" but I don't
> see the need to address that here)
> In Num12:12 it is "miscarriage", but Job3:16, Eccl6:3, 1Cor15:8?
> And more to the point - external evidence?
> I don't think Perseus has Philo up yet (Philo Leg.All.1:76)

A very legitimate question and one not to be considered a purely 20th century
question. In Num 12:12, the LXX gives EKTRWMA whereas the Hebrew merely says "one
which is dead when it exits the womb of its mother with half its flesh consumed."
This doesn't really shed much light on the matter since such a child could have
either been aborted or simply miscarried and stillborn. It certainly doesn't refer
to a miscarriage early on in a pregnancy when the "flesh" of the foetus is merely
flushed out of the mother's body. It refers to the rotted flesh of a 'dead' child.

Job 3:16 doesn't really help us either. The Hebrew word hear for the Greek EKTRWMA
is NEFEL. This could refer to either a stillborn child or an aborted child. It
comes from a root meaning 'to fall' which would suggest abortion rather than
miscarriage/stillborn. Ecc 6:3 uses the same word.
For I Cor 15:8, I think 'aborted' child would better fit the context of v9. Paul
was as one unwanted, to be discarded without a name. As such, it would appear that
Paul is not worthy of the title 'Apostle' anymore than an unwanted, aborted child
is worthy of carrying name/title etc.
However, "abortion" in the ancient world was not merely the removal of the child
from the womb. "Abortion" was also carried out by bringing the child to full term,
giving the child birth, and then discarding it in an open field. Such a child was
considered "dead". Cf Ezek 16:1-6.

Best regards!
George Athas
 PhD (Cand.), University of Sydney
 Tutor of Hebrew, Moore Theological College
Phone: 0414 839 964 ICQ#: 5866591

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