I learn. Unfortunately, I learn. And more and more often these days, when I learn about the Bible, the basis of the religion to which I subscribe, I learn of mistranslations and mis-applications, of curve-fitting and downright dishonesty, of hiding things from the masses for their own good (or for the good of the priestly/clerical class).
I learn that what the Bible often says just is not what I was taught. It’s almost as if the best thing to do to maintain faith is to maintain an ignorance of what is supposed to have been given to us by a loving God to promote faith, or at least to tell the story of unseen things above. . . .
I was reading Numbers the other day and when I got to chapter 5, my breath went away. The whole chapter is rather noxious, beginning with the banishment of lepers from the community, and begs the question (based not just on the remainder of this chapter, but the whole of the Bible): why would they banish and not cure the leper? There is a ritual described in Leviticus (14:49-53) for this, which. while, if performed today by indigenous people, most Christians would refer to as witchcraft or shamanism, was what God apparently described:
And he shall take to cleanse the house two birds, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop: And he shall kill the one of the birds in an earthen vessel over running water: And he shall take the cedar wood, and the hyssop, and the scarlet, and the living bird, and dip them in the blood of the slain bird, and in the running water, and sprinkle the house seven times: And he shall cleanse the house with the blood of the bird, and with the running water, and with the living bird, and with the cedar wood, and with the hyssop, and with the scarlet: But he shall let go the living bird out of the city into the open fields, and make an atonement for the house: and it shall be clean.
Now for the real bug-a-boo about this Chapter, the test for jealousy, to be used when a man gets a feeling that his wife has been unfaithful. This goes on for 21 verses and is extremely difficult to get any serious commentary about the nature and results of the test.
Like the cure for leprosy, it is a magical test, requiring, among other things, the drinking of a potion made with a “bitter herb,” which, if the woman is guilty, will cause her to abort any baby she might be carrying and forever to remain barren. It is a trial by ordeal, and reading it made me think of the test for witchcraft in the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail (as did the leprosy cure).
It is an uncomfortable passage for many reasons, not the least of it is that it is clear that the test involves a supernatural action that, if the woman is in fact guilty, causes her to abort the baby. Much is made by the commenters about the need for purity in the lineage, about how this test actually protects women form unreasonably jealous husbands because there is a test, which, if passed, “proves” innocence, about how the effect of a failed test is the direct result of the bitter sin the woman did. Here is verse 27, the result of a failed test, in a few translations of translations
King James: And when he hath made her to drink the water, then it shall come to pass, that, if she be defiled, and have done trespass against her husband, that the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall rot: and the woman shall be a curse among her people. [Remember that the word “thigh” generally is referring to sexual organs.]
NET: When he has made her drink the water, then, if she has defiled herself and behaved unfaithfully toward her husband, the water that brings a curse will enter her to produce bitterness–her abdomen will swell, her thigh will fall away, and the woman will become a curse among her people.
Probably as clear as mud, so, let’s look at one more, the 2011 NIV:
If she has made herself impure and been unfaithful to her husband, this will be the result: When she is made to drink the water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering, it will enter her, her abdomen will swell and her womb will miscarry, and she will become a curse.
I have been in I don’t know how many churches where the preacher preached the bible “Verse-by-Verse,” expounding on them all and never once heard this. What I heard was what I referred to in the discussion on commentary; it protected the woman from n unreasonably jealous husband the need for purity, to become barren and so on. What I did not hear was that if the woman was guilty of adultery and pregnant from the act, then God’s test caused her to abort the baby.
Still not clear enough?
God kills the unborn babies of women guilty of adultery when this test is enacted.
Most amazingly, some bible “scholars” have concluded that if we knew the identity of the bitter herb which Moses used, the same test would work today.” (See the musings of Martin Ralph DeHaan (March 23, 1891 – December 13, 1965), a Bible teacher, the founder of the Radio Bible Class, and the co-editor of a monthly devotional guide Our Daily Bread.
The upshot of all of this is that not only is there no prohibition in the Bible about abortion, the priests actually cause it in the case of adultery. Life begins at conception? Sanctity of life?
Argue this all you want, but please, do not use the Bible as support.
Ok, I know: I will be told I am taking this out of contextand that we are not bound by the Old Testament anyway, so why bother? To which, I respond: please give me a context that justifies God’s command to kill unborn babies (especially if you also say life begins at conception and all life is sacred) and explain why we ignore this verse and remember the supposed verses on homosexuality, or more tot he point, if we are not under the old law, why don;t we just chunk it altogether?