Personhood – Conception and the Soul

When does a pre-born baby take on the status of a person?

In a previous blog posting titled, Personhood – What Is It?, I said that a person has intrinsic value with rights and responsibilities.  Personhood, is to have the intrinsic value of a human being with all the rights and responsibilities that go along with being human.

In the blog posting titled, Personhood – Image of God, I showed that this special intrinsic value is given to mankind as part of their creation and  “included a body formed from the dust of the earth and a soul, breathed into man by God.”  The passages presented show that Adam became a living being when the breath of God was “breathed” into him.  Generally we accept that new born babies are fully human with both body and soul.

The the blog posting titled, Personhood – Which Comes First Death of the Body Or Departure of Soul?, I said that the soul is other than the body.  I said that the soul is the part of us that thinks and that it is not depended on the body to exist, and specifically it is not dependent on the brain.  The soul is dependent on the brain to express thought in the way that we do so on the earth.

The bible teaches that Adam and Eve had souls.  There is biblical evidence that children and adults have souls.  But what about pre-born babies?  As indicated in the blog posting titled, Personhood – Image of God, these things can not be proven by science.  This does not mean that there is not a right answer the question.  In this blog posting I hope to consider something of what the bible teaches about the soul and pre-born babies.

A look a pre-born baby Jesus and pre-born John the Baptist is interesting. In Luke 1:26-38, we learn that John the Baptist was in the womb of Elizabeth when the angel Gabriel came to Mary and told Mary that she would conceive Jesus in her womb. The angel also told Mary that her cousin Elizabeth had already conceived a son who was now in the womb six months. Notice it says that Elizabeth conceived a son. The term “son” describes a person with body and soul, not a collection of cells waiting to receive a soul. Some might say that the description allows for Elizabeth to have conceived this son over a number of months, so that by six months it is possible to call him a son. Is it not possible for the soul to have entred after conception and some time before six months? Before answering this, consider the following. In Luke 1:39-56.  We learn that after Mary was told she would conceive a son in her womb she went with haste to the house of Elizabeth, her cousin. “With haste” likely means that she went very soon after the meeting with the angel, Gabriel. Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months, which was the remaining three months of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Since pregnancies last nine months, The fact that Elizabeth was 6 month pregnant when Mary was told she would conceive as son, and the fact that Mary then stayed with Elizabeth for 3 months, provides support that Mary did not delay in going to Elizabeth’s house.  Elizabeth greeted Mary as the “mother of my Lord,” suggesting that Jesus was already present in Mary’s womb. When Mary arrived at Elizabeth’s house, John the Baptist lept in Elizabeth’s womb for joy. This tells us that John, six months after he was conceived, was able to think and understand the situation. It is likely that the reason that John the Baptist lept for joy was because he was aware of the presence of Jesus in the womb of Mary. At this point, Jesus could only be, at most, a few weeks old. This suggests that preborn babies are full persons from very early on, if not all the way back to conception.

In my blog posting titled Organ Donation – A Dead Man With the Blood of a Live Man, I suggest that a person with life blood still flowing is alive.  If the person is alive then the soul is still connected to the body.  There is more biblical evidence for this truth that I have yet to outline in a blog posting, but that will come.  The pre-born have life blood flowing by about 8 weeks.  Based on life blood we can conclude that the pre-born, after 8 weeks in development, are soul embodied persons.  But what about before the time in development when life blood has begun to flow?  Based on the fact that Mary went quickly to the house of her cousin Elizabeth and that she was able to spend the last 3 months of Elizabeth’s pregnancy with her, Mary arrived at her cousin’s house well before she was eight weeks pregnant, which is before the time that life blood would have started flowing in pre-born Jesus.  Yet, Elizabeth and pre-born John the Baptist responded to pre-born Jesus as a person, even before the time that life blood would be flowing.  Although it is true that the biblical evidence is that if life blood is flowing then the soul has not yet departed, it is likely that the flow of life blood is not absolutely necessary to conclude that the soul is present.  It is likely that from the point that life is present in the cells of the pre-born, that is from conception onward, that the soul is present.

This being the case, another interesting question is raised.  When considering death, should we wait until all living cells have died before making the determination that the soul has departed and the person is, thus, dead?


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