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Considerations from the early christians about abortion.

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Considerations from the early christians about abortion.

Mensagem por Jan Mozol em Ter 28 Jul 2009, 10:09 pm

The earliest source is an anonymous church manual of the late first century called The Didache. It commands “thou shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is begotten.” (at 2.2)The Epistle of Barnabas
contains a similar guide to Christian morality. It was composed
sometime between A.D. 70 and 132 and was included in some early
versions of the New Testament. In the midst of several chapters of
instructions on ethics, it states: “Thou shall not slay the child by
procuring abortion; nor, again, shalt thou destroy it after it is
born.” (19.5) The latter phrase refers to the ancient Greek and Roman
practice of abandoning newborns to die in unpopulated areas if the baby
was the “wrong” sex or suspected of health problems. To the author of Barnabas, this practice and abortion were equal in sinfulness.
Dating from just before A.D. 150, the Revelation of Peter
was still read in church services in fifth-century Palestine. It
describes in detail the various punishments in hell according to
different types of sin. The punishment for women who induced
miscarriage was to sit up to their necks in blood and dirt while the
aborted children shot sparks of fire into their eyes (Chapter
25). Clement of Alexandria, the principal of Christendom's foremost
Christian educational institution at the end of the second century,
accepted these statements as an accurate exposition of the Faith (Extracts from the Prophets 41; 48; 49).
In Paedagogus
2.10.96 Clement spoke negatively of women who “apply lethal drugs which
directly lead to death, destroying all humane feeling simultaneously
with the fetus.”
Clement and other early Christian writers often quoted from the Sibylline Oracles as the work of a pagan prophet who had predicted the coming Christ like the Jewish ones. Later, the Sibyllines
were rewritten to increase the proportion of Christian ethical
teaching. Oracle 2 describes abortion as contrary to God's law, while
Oracle 3 commands people to raise their children instead of angering
God by killing them.
A Plea for the Christians
was written around A.D. 177 by “Athenagoras the Athenian, Philosopher
and Christian”, partly to convince the Roman Emperor that there was no
truth in the rumor that Christians ritually murdered and ate babies. In
declaring that such a practice was contrary to Christian ethics,
Athenagoras emphasized the sacredness of unborn life:

when we say that those women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit
murder, and will have to give an account to God for the abortion, on
what principle should we commit murder? For it does not belong to the
same person to regard the very foetus in the womb as a created being,
and therefore an object of God's care, and when it has passed into
life, to kill it; and not to expose an infant, because those who expose
them are chargeable with child-murder. (Chapter 35)
To Athenagoras, abortion was the same as abandoning a newborn and other murder.The Octavius
of Minucius Felix was composed sometime between A.D. 166 and 210, in
part to prove that Christians had a higher morality than pagans. In
condemning pagan practices, Chapter 30 deplores the fact that “There
are some women who, by drinking medical preparations, extinguish the
source of the future man in their very bowels, and thus commit [murder]
before they bring forth.”
next author is Tertullian, a lawyer who became a Christian and a
theological writer. He wrote a large number of books on Christianity,
three of which mention abortion: Apologeticum (A.D. 197), An Exhortation to Chastity (around A.D. 204) and On the Soul (between A.D. 210 and 213). The Apologeticum
was an introduction to Christianity for inquirers who wished to learn
about it. Chapter 9 acquaints readers with the Christian position on

being once for all forbidden, we [Christians] may not destroy even the
foetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from
other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely
a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter whether you take away a life
that is born, or destroy one that is coming to the birth.
On the Soul
was the longest work related to abortion in the first three centuries
of Christianity. According to Chapter 37, “The embryo therefore becomes
a human being in the womb from the moment that its form is
completed. The law of Moses, indeed, punishes with due penalties the
man who shall cause abortion, inasmuch as there exists already the
rudiment of a human being.”
In An Exhortation to Chastity
Tertullian mentioned that there were many difficulties in raising
children but he asked: “Are you to dissolve the conception by aid of
drugs?” and answers his own question with “I think to us [Christians]
it is no more lawful to hurt a child in the process of birth, than one
already born.” He recommended that life-long celibacy makes life freer
because it relieves a Christian from the burdens of raising children;
there is no alternative because, after a child is conceived, it is
forbidden to kill it.
the early decades of the third century, Hippolytus was a bishop in
central Italy. Later, his followers purported to elect him bishop of
Rome in opposition to another candidate, thus becoming the first
“antipope.” For a few years Hippolytus and his rival operated competing
church organizations. In his Refutation of All Heresies he
made many accusations of lax morality against the opposing side in an
attempt to maintain that it had departed from the standard of behavior
commanded by the gospel. Among other practices, he charged that in the
opposite camp,

reputed believers, began to resort to drugs for producing sterility,
and to gird themselves round, so to expel what was being conceived on
account of their not wishing to have a child either by a slave or by
any paltry fellow, for the sake of their family and excessive wealth.
Whatever the
truth in these allegations against Hippolytus’ opponents, this passage
indicates common disapproval of abortion, sexual promiscuity and
placing material considerations above the life of unborn children.
generation after Tertullian, Cyprian, the bishop of his city, listed
abortion among the sins of a Christian who was causing a deep rift in
the universal Church (Letter 52.2). By including the reference, he
indicated that it was impermissible among Christians.
The Apostolic Church Order or Ecclesiastical Canons of the Apostles
were composed around A.D. 300 as a short law-book for Christians,
ostensibly by eleven apostles. Its wide popularity is evidenced by the
fact that it was translated into several languages. Included in Chapter
6 is a prohibition that Christians shall not kill a child, at birth or
Christianity was legalized, congregations in various regions held
conferences to regulate the affairs of the Church. One objective was to
standardize the practices of excommunication. About time of
Constantine’s conversion, or perhaps a few years before, the Council of
Elvira in Spain decreed that anyone who committed abortion was to be
given the Eucharist only when in danger of death (Canon 63). This was
the same penalty as for repeated adultery and child-molesting (Canons
47 and 71). The more lenient Council of Ancyra in Turkey (A.D. 314)
enacted a ten-year suspension for women who caused abortion and for
makers of drugs that induced miscarriage (Canon 21). The first
ecumenical council, held at Nicaea in A.D. 325, did not itself condemn
abortion but the third ecumenical council (Chalcedon, A.D. 451) adopted
the decrees of Ancyra, including those against abortion.
short, in the first three centuries after Jesus all Christian authors
who mentioned abortion considered it a grave sin. This opposition was
not merely local: Christian sources in Spain, Italy, Tunisia, Greece,
Egypt, Turkey and Syria recognized abortion as forbidden by God and in
the same category as any other murder. The condemnation was universal
and unanimous.
Jan Mozol

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