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Monday, November 14, 2005

Biblical exegesis in the newspaper.

What a weekend for div school nostalgia! The Globe talks about the "anxiety of influence" and the Times asks, So what does the Bible really say about abortion? Ah, the joy of exegesis. (And don't overlook the Times sidebar, which highlights differences between anti-abortion and pro-ambiguity readings of three key passages.)

("On Abortion, It's the Bible of Ambiguity," Michael Luo, New York Times 11.13.05, reg req'd)

Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 14 November 2005 at 7:56 AM

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November 14, 2005 12:02 PM | Permalink for this comment

I saw the Times article yesterday. It bothered me that they used the evangelically-biased NIV for Exodus 21:22-25 (which say that if a pregnant woman is struck and miscarries, but no other harm follows, the appropriate penalty is a money fine rather than life for life, eye for eye, etc. -- IOW, that in those times a fetus in utero was not deemed a live human being). The NIV translates the relevant term "premature birth", but every other translation I've consulted -- JPS, NRSV, NEB, NJB -- calls it a "miscarriage". Even the archaic KJV says "so that her fruit depart from her", which may be a bit vaguer than "miscarriage" but still does not appear to refer to a healthy live birth, which the NIV clearly contemplates.

I thought the Times, in an effort to seem evenhanded and unbiased, in fact allowed the evangelical position to color their reporting. A more accurate report would have said that the evangelical reading of this stretches the meaning beyond what is authentically present in the text, apparently preferring present-day politico-ideological positions over textual fidelity.


November 14, 2005 12:09 PM | Permalink for this comment

Just last night I was asked by a friend for my "religious-scholarly" perspective on the NY Times piece.

What is striking to me is how vague the three Bible passages are. What a stretch to interpret Jesus and John "leaping" in the womb as a text relevant to abortion!

I know it can be a fallacy to construct an argument from the absence of evidence, but it is revealing to me that abortion is an action on which the Bible seems to be silent. Surely, women have taken steps to terminate a pregnancy for thousands and thousands of years. And while it is only recently that medical science has removed the physical risks, abortion is clearly not an invention of modern times. What might it mean then for this not be something the Bible speaks to?


November 14, 2005 12:16 PM | Permalink for this comment

One more thing... last March Forrest Church's Easter sermon (and subsequent NY Times op-ed) was an exegesis of the Deuteronomy passage, "Choose Life."

Chris, can you dig up some links?


November 14, 2005 12:32 PM | Permalink for this comment

RevThom, you're thinking of this sermon: "Life Before Death" (Beliefnet; see also the version in the All Souls sermon archive).

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