The claim that an English translation of the Bible was changed to accommodate the Christian Right to support its anti-abortion stance is biblically and historically bogus. I made note of these points in the previous article on this subject. But there is even more exegetical and historical evidence that the best translation of the text should read in English “so that her children come out” long before there was a Christian political movement that began in the late 1970s.
Umberto Cassuto, also known as Moshe David Cassuto (1883–1951), was a Jewish rabbi and biblical scholar born in Florence, Italy. In his commentary on Exodus, he presents an accurate translation of the passage based on the nuances of the Hebrew:
When men strive together and they hurt unintentionally a woman with child, and her children come forth but no mischief happens—that is, the woman and the children do not die—the one who hurts her shall surely be punished by a fine. But if any mischief happens, that is, if the woman dies or the children, then you shall give life for life.
Cassuto’s commentary was first published in Hebrew in 1951. Before Roe v. Wade and before the rise of the so-called Christian Right. Cassuto was a Jew and not a Christian who knew Hebrew better than Ruttenberg and Zeh.
The Establishment and Limits of Civil Government
The Bible tells us that civil rulers are ministers of God. The Greek word translated ministers is the same word used to describe ministers in a church. There are civil ministers and church ministers. Both serve as God's ministers within their jurisdictions. It is unbiblical to assume that civil rulers are autonomous, that they can legitimately rule independent of Gods limiting authority of them. It is a serious mistake to take Paul's instructions in Romans 13 and claim that civil rulers cannot be challenged by the citizenry.Buy Now
John Gill (1697–1771), in his commentary on the passage, is familiar with the Jewish interpretation:
and yet no mischief follow: to her, as the Targum of Jonathan, and so Jarchi and Aben Ezra restrain it to the woman; and which mischief they interpret of death, as does also the Targum of Onkelos; but it may refer both to the woman and her offspring, and not only to the death of them, but to any hurt or damage to either of them.
The KJV, published in 1611, takes a different translation approach, but it is consistent with the text that “children” are “coming out.” The KJV reads, “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” (Ex. 21:22). The use of the word “fruit” is a descriptive euphemism for a child in the Old Testament (Gen. 30:2) and the New Testament. Elizabeth responded to Mary this way when she learned of Mary’s pregnancy:
And she spake out with a loud voice, and said,
Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb (Luke 1:42).
Mr. Shelton needs to do a bit more investigative digging before he publishes fake history as real history and fake exegesis as real exegesis.
“Do Harm” or “Fully Formed”?
One additional translation point needs to be discussed. Tremper Longman takes the position based on translation ambiguity that “[t]he safest conclusion is that [Exodus 21:22–25] should not be used as a prooftext in support of either a pro-choice or pro-life position.” He argues that the passage does not regard the unborn child (fetus) as fully a person throughout his or her development in the womb. It’s only when the unborn baby is fully formed that personhood can be attributed to the unborn child. At what point does a fetus become “fully formed” so “it” becomes a person? Who gets to make that decision and based on what criteria?
For most people in the Democrat Party, the “fully formed” distinction is irrelevant since a woman can decide to kill her unborn baby anytime during her pregnancy. The Democrats in Congress have repeatedly voted against “born alive” legislation. The legislation would require doctors to care for infants who survive botched abortions. Only two Democrat Senators voted for the legislation in 2021, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey Jr. “By rejecting the born-alive bill for the third time, Democrats have chosen once again to affirm the deadly logic of abortion: the belief that an unwanted child, inside the womb or out of it, never gains rights at all.” (Source)
Longman diverges from the Hebrew text and argues that since the Septuagint was used in Jesus’ day, and “that it was the main translation used not only by Jewish readers but also by the disciples and the early followers of Jesus who did not read Hebrew,” therefore its translation is authoritative for us over against the Hebrew. The Septuagint, often abbreviated as LXX, is a mid-third century BC Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures
The New Testament writers don’t use the Septuagint exclusively. Jesus and the New Testament writers quote from the Hebrew text and the Septuagint. Jesus quotes a part of Exodus 21:24 in Matthew 5:38, but the Hebrew text and Septuagint translation agree. The writers are selective in what they quote. It does not mean that the Septuagint as a whole is authoritative. This is true of the many English translations of the Bible as we’ve seen with the way Exodus 21:22 is translated. In addition, there are numerous diversions from the Hebrew text that obscure important Christian doctrines that are essential to the faith. “The upshot of all this is that the Septuagint should not be preferred to the Masoretic at every turn. At very least the Septuagint should be used along with the Masoretic.”
There’s also the possibility that a “NT writer may have been making his own translation of a Hebrew text (or an Aramaic translation—a targum—for that matter), quoting or paraphrasing from memory, or making a deliberate change for his own theological reasons.” In addition:
A careful analysis of the NT quotations of the OT reveals that practically every quotation has at least minor variants from the Septuagints (or major ones) and is never verbatim. That is significant. Either the NT writers were using different Greek manuscripts to the extant versions of the Septuagints or something else was happening. If the Greek Jewish Scriptures were regarded so highly by the NT writers why do they appear to be so careless in quoting it (if they were indeed quoting it) so as to have so many variants? There isn’t a single quote in the entire New Testament which quotes verbatim from any Septuagint manuscripts that we have….
[From a number of examples] I think we could conclude that the NT writers were either using a different Greek text to our Septuagints, they were making their own translation from the Hebrew, or they were using a Septuagint but changing it or improving it as they went, but more examples will follow.
The following translation from some Septuagint version of Exodus 21:22–25 is from Longman’s book The Bible and the Ballot:
If two men fight and they strike a woman who is pregnant, and her child comes but while not yet fully formed, he will be forced to pay a fine; whatever the woman’s husband imposes, he will pay with a valuation. But if it is fully formed, he will give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
Instead of translating the Hebrew word ’ason as “harm,” the Septuagint translates it as “not yet fully formed.” This is not a translation but an interpretation and a bad one at that. The Samaritan Pentateuch, like the Septuagint, differs from the Hebrew Masoretic Text in numerous places but agrees with the Hebrew on Exodus 21:22–25:
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. And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, smiting for smiting, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
The translation issue between the Hebrew Text and Septuagint comes down to the following:
How did the Septuagint come to translate the Hebrew word ’ason (‘harm’) by the Greek word exeikonismenon (‘fully formed’)? Many scholars have pointed to the influence of Greek philosophical ideas. For Aristotle, an unformed embryo was not yet a human being. If the foetus is ‘fully formed’ then miscarriage would harm a human being. However, if it is unformed then it is not yet human and so there is no serious harm. This seems to be the underlying idea.
The claim is made by Thomas F. McDaniel that “[o]nce upon a time there were two distinctly different Hebrew words which were spelled consonantly as אסון. [There are no vowel letters in Hebrew.] There was the well-recognized אָסוֹן, cited in all the standard Hebrew lexicons,… There was also another אסון in the early Israelite and Alexandrian dialects of Hebrew which became lost in the later Judean and Samaritan Hebrew dialects.” As far as I have been able to determine, McDaniel does not offer any evidence for his claim. “Once upon a time” is not evidence.
By This Standard
Millions of Christians, sadly, have not recognized the continuing authority of God's law or its many applications to modern society. They have thereby reaped the whirlwind of cultural and intellectual impotence. They implicitly denied the power of the death and resurrection of Christ. They have served as footstools for the enemies of God. But humanism's free ride is coming to an end. This book serves as an introduction to this woefully neglected topic.Buy Now
Following the Septuagint translation, “fully formed” only applies to the fetus. This means that nothing is being said about the mother in Exodus 21:22–25. What if she is injured? According to the Septuagint translation, she is not considered in the judicial judgment since “fully formed” does not apply to her. The use of the Hebrew ’ason (“harm”) applies to the mother and unborn child (see above). The Septuagint has gone beyond translation to interpretation. In addition, why is the Hebrew word yeled, used elsewhere for a born child, identified as not fully formed? It seems that some neutral word or phrase like “product of conception” would have been used.
Democrats Support Aborting “Fully Formed” Babies
The major problem with Longman’s view on the abortion issue in his support for Biden and the Democrat Party is that the Democrats believe that even a “fully formed” unborn baby can be killed. This is hardly the Christian position even by Septuagint translation standards. Since the Democrat Party supports abortion throughout a woman’s pregnancy it would mean that the abortion of Jacob and Esau, John the Baptist, and Jesus would have been lawful any time up to birth. Longman certainly does not believe the Bible or common sense would support such a position, but that’s the political party he supported in the 2020 election.
In the final analysis, the Democrat Party supports the right of the mother to kill him or her even when fully formed. In addition, the Democrat Party is calling for the end of the Hyde Amendment that prohibited tax dollars from being used to pay for abortions. Here’s how Rep. Barbara Lee, a Democrat from Oakland, CA, defends taxpayer funding of abortion:
It’s an issue of racial justice and it’s an issue of discrimination against low-income women, women of color, women who don’t have access to what middle- and upper-income women have in terms of the choice to have an abortion.
In the United States, the abortion rate for black women is almost five times that of white women. “The Black Panthers in the early 1970s claimed that legalized abortion would ‘destroy our people.’ Jesse Jackson, in a 1970s interview with Jet magazine, characterized abortion as ‘black genocide.’”
It’s gotten so bad that “[t]here are some who advocate that a mother should have the right to euthanize her infant up until 3 months of age because there may be a defect that didn’t express itself at birth.” Why not four months? Given the operating assumptions of a consistent materialist worldview, who’s to say that any life can’t be terminated given enough authority by the Administrative State in the name of “saving the world”? If the Administrative State can force people to be vaccinated for the good of the world, what can’t it mandate?
Umberto Cassuto, Commentary on the Book of Exodus (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, The Hebrew University, 1967), 275.
Tremper Longman III, The Bible and the Ballot: Using Scripture in Political Decisions (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2020), 141.
Longman, The Bible and the Ballot, 142.
There is no single authoritative Septuagint.
See sub voce: (a) Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and C. A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament with an Appendix Containing the Biblical Aramaic; (b) David J. A. Clines, The Dictionary of Classical Hebrew; and (c) Ludwig. Koehler and W. Baumgartner, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament.
Jon Rappoport, “The Abortion Culture” (October 28, 2021): https://www.lewrockwell.com/2021/10/jon-rappoport/the-abortion-culture/