The Origin of Human Life

HOW DID HUMAN LIFE BEGIN? How did the human race originate? The question has kindled debate for centuries in the quest to solve the mystery. Many scientists have promoted the hypothesis that life most likely started from molecules that formed DNA-like material which evolved into mankind. They believe chemical elements spontaneously combined to produce a spark of life. Could life occur from a set of random circumstances where the mathematical probability of happening is actually nil?1 And with such uncertainty emanating from the scientific hierarchy of our society, what should you believe?

    The complexity and harmony of nature, the incredible precision and sophistication of the human mind and body demand a Creator and Designer. Design and order reveal a first cause for life, an Intelligence and Will behind the phenomenal process of the creation of all forms of biological life.

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made. (Rom. 1:20a)2

The magnificence of creation clearly points to the unlimited power and awesome attributes of God as the Designer.

    The Bible unequivocally states that God is the One who created not only “the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1) but all life on earth (Gen. 1:11-12, 20-31). Human life is the pinnacle of God’s creation.

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (Gen. 1:26)

But controversy stirs around God’s ultimate creation. God created the first man and woman, perfectly formed, without physical flaw or sin, placed them in ideal environment, and commanded them to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:27-28). Mankind was mandated to reproduce himself. How was human life to be reproduced? Did God provide the initial spark of life and then entrust the continuation of that life to mankind? Or, does God still breathe the “breath of life” (Gen 2:7) into every human being? If so, when does human life begin?

    Orthodox Christian theology offers two schools of thought explaining the creation of human life subsequent to the original creation of Adam and the woman:3 Traducianism and Creationism. Traducianism holds that the soul, the immaterial part of mankind, as well as the human body originate mediately by propagation; Creationism maintains that a new human soul is created by God immediately at conception, during pregnancy, or at the birth of every individual.4 Both schools have had precedence and support throughout Church history. But which position more closely reflects the biblical explanation of the origin of human life?

THE CREATION OF THE FIRST HUMAN LIFE

The Activity of Creation

    Genesis chapters 1 and 2 contain four Hebrew verbs that depict God’s activity of creating the original human life.

  1. בָּרָא (bara) means “to create,” to make something “from nothing,” ex nihilo in Latin. Bara is found in three verses of Genesis 1. Each usage reflects an essential creative act by God: He generated inorganic matter from no previously existing material when He created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1), and He provided life to animals (Gen. 1:21) and humans (Gen. 1:27) where no life formerly existed.
    And God created [bara] man in His own image, in the image of God He created [bara] him; male and female He created [bara] them. (Gen. 1:27)
  2. Although Adam’s human life was created from nothing, his body was יָעָר (yatsar), “formed” from dust, an already existing material. This second verb, found in Genesis 2:7, refers to the divine formation of the male body as a biologically living organism.
    Then the LORD God formed [yatsar] man [biological life] of dust from the ground. (Gen. 2:7a)

    Biological life exists in all cells of the body and provides the functions necessary to sustain living material. Biological life is material and does not include a human soul, which is immaterial. Therefore, biological life by itself is not human life. By comparison bara describes the life of humanity as a complete and unique creation which never before existed, “created . . . in the image of God.”

  3. עָשָׂה (asah), used in Genesis 1:26, means “to make” or manufacture something after a pattern.
    Then God said, “Let Us make [asah] man in Our image according to Our likeness.” (Gen. 1:26a)

    The pattern God followed in making man was Himself, “in our image,” בְּצֶלֶמ (betselem), and “likeness.” What is this image? In Hebrew usage today “image” refers to a spiritual rather than a bodily facsimile. The meaning of the ancient text of verse 26 is similar if not identical to modern usage.5 Betselem conveys not a physical, visible structure but a “shadow image.” Mankind is not created as a duplication of God, a blasphemous thought, but in His shadow image. Shadow image describes something invisible but real.

        God has bestowed on human beings an immaterial, invisible essence. We are endowed with certain rational, moral, and relational capacities, which God empowers with the spark of life. As the image of God, human beings are the only creatures who uniquely reflect God.

        God has essence which is real but invisible. As the shadow image of God our essence is also real but invisible. And, like God, that essence can be defined only by its characteristics. These characteristics include self-consciousness, mentality, volition, and conscience.6 From a theological viewpoint the soul is the real person, existing within a biologically living body. The human soul is perfect in its creation, but now linked to the sin nature, it functions imperfectly.7 Although this invisible essence is inferior to God’s perfect essence, the soul is the element that establishes man’s superiority over creatures.

Essence of the Human Soul

    Every individual has an identical essence of soul, but each person has a different personality reflecting the combination of the facets in the soul. Let me explain. When negative volition toward the truth impacts mentality and conscience, an unstable, maladjusted personality emerges. When positive volition toward the truth impacts mentality and conscience, a balanced, stable, and well-adjusted personality develops. Heredity and environment also influence the various aspects of personality, but volition ultimately determines the interaction of the facets of the soul.

    Asah in Genesis 1:26 refers to the particular creation of soul life in human beings. Since “make,” asah, and “create,” bara, are both connected with the phrase “in Our image [image of God]” in verses 26-27, then the verbs in both verses must refer to the creation of soul life with a personality. The human soul was “created,” bara, from nothing but was also “made,” asah, after a pattern, which was “the image of God.” Asah and bara, therefore, mark the creation of soul life, a life unique to mankind. Of all God’s creatures no other is said to be made in His image.

  1. In contrast to yatsar, used to describe the creation of biological life in the male (Gen. 2:7), a fourth verb בָּנָה (banah), “to build,” depicts the divine construction of the female body.
    And the LORD God fashioned [banah] into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. (Gen. 2:22)

    As with the formation of the male body, the construction of the female body included conveying biological life. This biological life and soul life were given simultaneously, first to Adam and later to the woman. These four Hebrew verbs are used to designate two of three categories of life.

The Pattern of Creation

    The pattern of initial creation is clearly seen in Genesis 2:7.

Then the LORD God formed [yatsar] man of dust from the ground [biological life], and breathed into [נָפַח, naphach] his nostrils the breath of life [חַיִּים נְשָׁמָת, neshamat chayyim, “soul life”]; and man became a living being [נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה, nephesh chayyah, literally “a soul having life,” i.e., human life]. (Gen. 2:7, italics added)

    The verb naphach, translated “breathed into,” resulting in neshamat chayyim, “the breath of life,” paints a verbal picture of incorporeal soul life bestowed directly to a human being by God. Neshamat refers to the breath of God. God Himself breathed into the first man neshamah (נְשָׁמָה)—a spark of His own life (Isa. 42:5; John 1:3; Col. 1:16). This is the spark that generates human life. Note the striking contrast between the tangible flesh, blood, and bone of biological life and the intangible essence of soul life. Until God exhaled His breath into the first human body, which was “formed” biologically alive, man could not be “a living soul.” This is true for every human being born throughout history.

    Therefore, the joining of soul life, depicted by the verbs bara and asah, with biological life, depicted by the verbs yatsar and banah, formed a third category, human life, nephesh chayyah (Gen. 2:7), in the first man and woman.

THE CATEGORIES OF LIFE

Creation before the Fall

    God’s initial creation of mankind reveals three categories of life inherent in every human being. First, God created biological life from the dust of the ground, the chemicals of the soil. Second, He created soul life out of nothing and imparted that life to biological life. Third, He combined biological life with soul life to create human life.

    Genesis 2:7 narrates a miraculous chain of events. The use in the Hebrew of the וְ (waw) consecutive reveals that each creative act of God succeeds His previous act.8 Therefore, God’s remarkable creations took place in a logical order:

  1. The formation of biological life from dust;
  2.  
  3. The imparting of soul life to biological life;
  4.  
  5. The creation of human life from the joining of soul life to biological life.

God established this same sequence for Adam’s progeny, the human race.

Creation after the Fall

    Biological life and soul life were given directly and simultaneously first to Adam and then to the woman. This would never be repeated again. God created biological life immediately only twice in history. Since human life would be perpetuated after the Fall (Gen. 3:16), how would mankind be reproduced in human history? After Adam, biological life would be conceived as a result of copulation and then undergo development in the uterus. Soul life would always be created by God and imparted immediately to biological life at the moment of birth. Differentiating between the origins of biological life and soul life is critical for discerning how human life is perpetuated after the fall of Adam and the woman.

    The development of biological life in the womb is entirely dependent on the mother. Soul life is dependent entirely on God. The original breath of life—the moment Adam became a human being—set the pattern for the first dramatic instant of human life for all humanity. A newborn baby draws its first breath when God imparts His divine breath into the infant’s nostrils. This is soul life created and combined with the biological life of the newly emerged child. Why cannot human life begin another way?

    Because of Adam’s original sin and the subsequent introduction of the sin nature after the Fall, biological life can no longer be given immediately by God.

Therefore, just as through one man [Adam] sin [the sin nature] entered into the world, and [spiritual] death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned [when Adam sinned]. (Rom. 5:12)

All mankind was present in a seminal way when Adam sinned by an act of his own volition.9 Because of his sin Adam died spiritually and corrupted his nature. The resulting sin nature was passed down through Adam’s sperm to his progeny, the human race. Therefore, biological life transmits the sin nature. The guilt or condemnation due Adam’s sin is imputed to each of us by God at physical birth because it is our own sin.10

    God cannot create imperfection without compromising the perfection of His own character. Therefore, He creates our soul immediately at birth apart from the stain of the sin nature inherent in biological life. He never condones or implicates Himself in the sin of Adam, which would make Him the author of sin, a blasphemous thought.11

God Continues to Create Human Life

    Certain passages of Scripture declare the continuation of God’s direct role in creating human life after the Fall. These passages speak literally of immediate, not mediate, creation by God.

Stop regarding man, whose breath of life [neshamah chayyah] is in his nostrils. (Isa. 2:22a)

Isaiah uses the words “breath of life” and “nostrils” to describe soul life in humanity after the Fall. This is the same description used for the creation of Adam’s soul life in Genesis 2:7. Mankind is forever dependent upon God for soul life. That God creates this soul life immediately becomes apparent from another verse in Isaiah.

“For I will not contend forever [with Israel],
Neither will I always be angry;
For the spirit [רוּחַ, ruach, “human life”] would grow faint before Me,
And the breath [neshamah, “spark of life,” “soul life”] of those whom I have made [asah].” (Isa. 57:16)

    “Spirit,” ruach in the Hebrew, refers in this context to human life, which God generated through breathing neshamah into the nostrils of Adam, and likewise imparts to each person (verse 16b). What God breathes into the nostrils is soul life. The words neshamah, used for the spark of soul life in Genesis 2:7, and asah, the verb for making soul life in Genesis 1:26, are both featured in Isaiah 57:16b. This verse reminds us that God creates soul life, and hence, human life immediately, not only for Adam but for all humanity.

    Numerous other passages of Old Testament Scripture confirm God as the continuing Creator of human life. After the Fall He did not delegate the prerogative of reproducing human life to mankind. Man can reproduce only biological life. The Book of Job affirms that God continues to establish human life. During overwhelming suffering Job unquestionably recognizes God’s indispensable role. After Job lost his wealth and saw his servants and children slain, he states:

“Naked I came [out] from my mother’s womb [birth],
And naked I shall return there.
The LORD gave [human life and prosperity] and the LORD has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21)

At the time of God’s choosing, soul life and biological life separate and physical death results.12 The destiny of these two categories of human life at physical death is the subject of another passage.

Then the dust [biological life] will return to the earth as it was, and the breath [soul life] will return to God who gave it. (Eccl. 12:7)

    When the soul departs from the body, physical death occurs. At that time biological life ends and returns to dust. “Dust” is the same Hebrew word, עָפָר (aphar), used to describe the substance from which biological life was formed in Genesis 2:7. Biological life is organic and genetic. Biological life does not return to God but to the earth from whence it came. But soul life, ruach, “breath,” given by God, returns to Him at physical death for eternal disposition.13 Solomon, the human author of Ecclesiastes, recognized that God gave him soul life directly, and hence, human life. What God gave to Solomon, He also gives to every human being. “The breath will return to God who gave it” concisely describes the origin and destiny of soul life after the Fall.

    Isaiah further substantiates the Old Testament assurance of God’s immediate formation of soul life.

Thus says God the LORD,
Who created the heavens and stretched them out,
Who spread out the earth and its offspring,
Who gives breath [neshamah, “spark of life,” “soul life”] to the people on it,
And spirit [ruach, “human life”] to those who walk in it.
    (Isa. 42:5)

Neshamah, the word for “spark of life,” refers not only to original creation but also to the imparting of soul life after the Fall. Note the first part of verse 5 describes God’s past activity of creation; the verbs are in the past tense. In contrast the last verb “gives” is in the present tense. From Adam, through the time Isaiah wrote, and until the end of human history, God sovereignly bestows His “breath,” the spark of life, to anyone He so chooses as they emerge from the womb.

    When God gave soul life to Adam, He set the pattern for imparting all human life subsequent to the Garden. Another passage from the Book of Job verifies God’s immediate provision of soul life.

“The Spirit of God has made [asah] me [a human being],
And the breath [neshamah, “soul life”] of [from] the Almighty gives me life [chayyah, “human life”].”
    (Job 33:4)

The second phrase of Job 33:4 elaborates on the first phrase. God imparts human life to every human being by breathing into each one the “breath” of soul life.

    These words are spoken to Job by Elihu, a well-meaning but misguided friend. Elihu, an impetuous and arrogant young aristocrat (Job 32:1-5), is angry over the reprimands given by Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar to Job during his prolonged suffering. These three friends, who are older and supposedly wiser, wrongly assume Job sinned against God and now suffers from God’s discipline. Job correctly denies this cause for his suffering, maintaining his innocence. Although Elihu also believes that the unrighteousness of Job is the cause of his disaster, he does not think the three friends accurately stated their case against Job.

    Elihu then makes his case against Job in chapter 33. Much of what he says is not divine viewpoint.14 His false wisdom actually becomes additional testing for Job. But in presenting his credentials as a worthy counselor in the preamble to the speech (verse 4), Elihu expresses the correct viewpoint concerning the impartation of soul life. Elihu reflects this understanding of human life as a way to gain instant credibility in presenting his flawed case against Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. Despite the arrogance and error that Elihu expresses in the body of his speech, his premise is based on certain divine truths. The “breath of the Almighty [God]” is life, the source of human life. Even after the Fall, God, not procreation, creates soul life and hence, human life.

HISTORICAL VIEWS OF THE SOUL

    Human life cannot exist on earth without the union of body and soul. The mystery of the formation and function of the body, the material part of mankind, continues to be unlocked through scientific and medical study. But the soul, the invisible, immaterial part, cannot be examined through scientific observation. The origin, structure, and activity of the soul traditionally fall to the realm of theology or philosophy. Orthodox Christian theology has viewed the origin of the soul, and hence, human origin from two positions: Traducianism and Creationism. Both views are obtained from biblical interpretation, but neither view adequately explains the Bible’s position.

Traducianism

    Traducianism derives from the Latin word traducere, meaning “to transfer,” and refers to the propagation of the soul by human generation. Traducianism is the view that was held by Tertullian (A.D. 155-220),15 by the Eastern Orthodox Church, by many Lutherans, and by two modern theologians, William Shedd (Reformed) and Augustus Strong (Baptist).16

    Traducianism denies the creation of the soul directly or immediately by God after the Fall. Traducianists believe that both the material, mortal body and the immaterial, immortal soul are the genetic products of procreation. Human life is viewed as beginning in the womb at conception. If the soul and body are propagated through the sperm of the male and the egg of the female, this would imply that the soul and the body are both material and mortal. But anything material is biological life, while soul life is immaterial, immortal and invisible—the breath of God. The tenets of Traducianism make no clear distinction between the origin of material and mortal, and the origin of immaterial and immortal.

Creationism

    Creationists contend that the soul of every human being is immediately created by God and joined with the mediately formed, material part of the human being. Creationists differ from Traducianists and with each other as to the time of ensoulment. Soul Creationists believe ensoulment occurs at conception, others believe at some time during the nine months of gestation, and still others believe ensoulment occurs at birth. The Creationist view was held by Jerome (A.D. 347-419), a distinguished early expositor of the Scriptures, and Thomas Aquinas (A.D. 1225-1274).17 Among Protestants, most Reformed theologians, including John Calvin, Louis Berkhof, and Charles Hodge (Presbyterian), were Creationists.18

    Creationism distinguishes between the origin of man’s soul and the origin of his body—between soul life and biological life. The Bible supports these distinctions in passages already cited (Eccl. 12:7; Isa. 42:5; 57:16b).

Thus declares the LORD who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit [ruach, “human life”] of man within him [reference to the soul as opposed to the outward material part]. (Zech. 12:1b, italics added)

The key to Creationism: It is impossible for a human being to generate the soul. However, the Creationist view also has opposition. If God imputes soul life immediately, when does ensoulment take place? If God originates the soul directly, how do we explain inherited mental and behavioral characteristics similar to those of our parents? If God continues to create each soul for depraved humanity after the Fall, would not that make God the author of sin—an impossible violation of His character? And further, if God creates a soul untainted, then puts that soul directly into a corrupt body, would not this action make Him indirectly the author of sin? These are major objections to the Creationist point of view which must be clarified.

Creationism Clarified

    Focusing on the differences between biological life and soul life provides answers to these objections to Creationism. Biological life comes from our parents at conception and soul life originates from God at birth. Once conceived, biological life continues in two stages:

  1. The gestational stage during which time the fertilized egg develops into a blastocyst, then an embryo, and finally a fetus;
  2.  
  3. The human life stage from physical birth to physical death.

Before the second stage there is no soul life, and consequently in theological terms, no human life from conception. Not until the fetus emerges from the womb does God impart soul life.

The Zygote Principle19

    At the moment of conception a mature female egg or ovum is fertilized by a male sperm. This fertilized egg is called a zygote. The zygote later splits or separates. Traducianists erroneously believe that this one fertilized cell begins human life. In terms of molecular biology, it would be inaccurate to maintain that the zygote possesses all the informing molecules (genetic information) for the development of an embryo and subsequent human development. At most, the zygote possesses molecules that have the potential to acquire informing capacity.20 A zygote by itself cannot determine that a person will develop.21

    After conception the zygote begins to split into two cells, then into four, then into eight, until at a certain point it becomes a cell mass or morula, capable of undergoing differentiation. The morula then separates into specialized cells, some of which form the placenta, others the fetal membranes, and still others become the embryo. Only the embryo is a potential human being; the placenta and membrane are not.22 Thus, the zygote can give rise to biological entities, such as the placenta or the membranes, that do not become a person.23 If the zygote were ensouled human life at conception, it would produce only an embryo that possesses human life. But the zygote does not produce an embryo only. Based on the biological necessities of development, the placenta and membranes, as well as the embryo, always originate from the same zygote after the fertilized egg divides into a morula.

    The zygote depends heavily upon genetic information from the mother to form the embryo. If the zygote were independent of the mother as the informing (genetic) source, then the zygote possesses

Biological Life in the Womb

only enough information to form human tissue (biological life) but not enough to become an individual human being.24 The zygote is not yet a union of the immortal soul and the corporeal matter that constitute a human being. The zygote is not human life, and conception is not the beginning of human life, only the beginning of biological life.

    Some Creationists might argue that God imparts soul life to the embryo when it is first formed from the specialized cells. However, Scriptures we will examine refute this idea. Human life does not begin during pregnancy. That which develops in the womb is mother-dependent and is biological life only. Human life begins when the baby is separated from the mother. In the womb the embryo and fetus are potential human life—biologically alive, genetically informed, but without soul life and dependent on the mother.

    Whereas soul life is provided by God at the moment of physical birth and is eternal, biological life begins in the womb and terminates at the point of physical death. At physical death soul life and biological life again separate (Eccl. 12:7). The soul as the real but invisible creation of God is immortal, while biological life is mortal and undergoes change and disintegration at physical death. This is the backdrop for Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians:

Prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. (2 Cor. 5:8b)

Therefore, biological life and soul life must be considered as being formed separately, uniting at physical birth, and again separating at physical death.

Format Soul

    If God immediately creates the soul of every human being at birth, then how can inherited mental and behavioral traits be explained? The concept of a format for the soul answers this question. As biological life develops within the mother’s womb, there develops within the brain of the fetus a biological home for the soul called the format soul. This developing biological home, which awaits the imparted, immaterial soul, consists of a genetic format inherited through the transmission of genes obtained from both parents. Not only are size, gender, and other physical characteristics determined as biological life develops, but also every fetus contains the potential to acquire similar mental and personal traits from the combination of genes. Remember, the soul is a separate immaterial entity and, although not part of the material brain, manifests itself through the biological faculties of the brain.

    The format soul is biological life, the material qualities of the developing brain. Following birth, the material brain becomes the vehicle through which the immaterial soul expresses itself. The Hebrew word nephesh, often translated “soul” or “life,” refers to the soul’s fully formed, immaterial essence that is provided by God at the moment the spark of life is given. The breath of life transforms the fetus and its format soul into “a living soul” (Gen. 2:7). The format soul becomes the home for the impartation of soul life. The spark of life ignites the format soul, and only upon ignition at the moment of birth does the fetus become a living human being. The format soul explains how we inherit mental and behavioral traits from our parents.

Impartation of Soul Life at Birth

God Is Not The Author Of Sin

    The corrupted nature of man (the sin nature) is passed genetically through biological life and resides in the cell structure of the human body. That is why this inherent corrupter of humanity is called the “flesh” (Rom. 7:7-18; 8:3-5), the “body of sin” (Rom. 6:6), and the “sin” that “reign[s] in your mortal body” (Rom. 6:12). God’s perfect character excludes any contact or compromise with sin.25 Therefore, it is correct to think of biological life as formed by God through the laws of nature and not created directly by God.

    During the formation of biological life, which means the formation of the human body and format soul in the womb, there is no active sin nature (Ps. 58:3).26 The Bible does not teach that there are two operating sin natures in the pregnant woman. If the fetus were a human being, Traducianists would be forced to admit that a pregnant woman and the fetus in her womb both have active sin natures. But, until birth the sin nature remains dormant in the fetus. The sin nature becomes

Human Life and Spiritual Death at Birth

active only when soul life and biological life are united. Once united the sentence of spiritual death is pronounced to avoid any compromise with the holiness of God.

    At birth our activated sin nature receives the imputation of Adam’s original sin. Until the sin nature becomes active, there is no reason for the imputation of Adam’s sin (Rom. 5:12-21). Our sin nature is the home for Adam’s sin because there is an affinity between the two—between Adam’s act of disobedience and the imperfection caused by his disobedience.

    As a result of the imputation of Adam’s original sin we are born physically alive but spiritually dead.27 The justice of God imputes Adam’s original sin only where human life exists—at birth. God’s imputation of Adam’s condemnation to us and His simultaneous creation of our soul life make Him responsible for the spark of human life, but not for the sin Adam committed. The cause of our imperfection is not God but our position of spiritual death in Adam. There can be no compromise to the holiness of God.

    God creates our soul without depravity and imparts soul life to the biological format soul that emerges from the womb. At the same time, He imputes the guilt of Adam’s original sin to every newly born human being. God’s perfect justice and righteousness, therefore, are not compromised. Adam was the one who sinned and we with him because we were seminally in Adam. God’s provision of mentality and volition to Adam’s progeny does not make God responsible for our depravity any more than it makes Him responsible for Adam’s original disobedience. Therefore, God is not the perpetrator or perpetuator of sin, even indirectly. The originator of sin and depravity has always been Adam’s volition.

    God perpetuates human life as the means to resolve the angelic conflict.28 God created man who would duplicate the conditions of that prehistoric revolt.29 Volition links man’s creation to resolve the angelic conflict with the imputation of Adam’s sin to the sin nature at birth. Just as Satan fell through an act of his volition, likewise Adam fell and with him the human race. The perpetuation of the sin nature must always be attributed to the volition of Adam. He is responsible for the imputation of sin to the human race by his choice to disobey God. God graciously grants human life; Adam corrupts human life with spiritual death.

    God in His grace provides a means for humanity to escape spiritual death and ultimately the depravity of our position in Adam. Jesus Christ as our substitute died on the cross for all our sins. One simple act of faith in Him (Eph. 2:8-9) gives not only spiritual life, but also a way to defeat the sin problem.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died [as a substitute] for us. (Rom. 5:8)

    This clarifies the Creationist view. Ensoulment takes place at birth. Human beings inherit mental and behavioral traits from their parents through the genetically acquired format for the soul. Finally, Adam’s original sin, not God’s creation and impartation of the soul to every newly born child, is the cause for sin in the human race.

THE BOUNDARIES OF HUMAN LIFE

    Human life exists from the moment the fetus emerges from the womb, when God “breathes” soul life into the newly born child, and continues until soul life and biological life separate at physical death. The Bible emphasizes physical birth as the beginning of human life.

A time to give birth, and a time to die [birth and physical death understood as the limits for human life]. (Eccl. 3:2a, italics added)
 
For a child will be born to us [the humanity of Jesus Christ in hypostatic union begins at the moment of birth],30 a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. (Isa. 9:6, italics added)
 
“Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist.” (Matt. 11:11a, italics added)
 
And the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11, italics added)

The angels rejoiced at the birth of Jesus, not at His conception (Luke 2:7-14). The main premise of all these passages establishes birth, not conception, as the opening moment of human life. A plethora of examples in the Old Testament Book of Job also verify this fact. Job believes that human life commences at birth.

Man, who is born of woman,
Is short-lived [birth and living equated] and full of turmoil. (Job 14:1)
 
“What is man, that he should be pure,
Or he who is born of woman, that he should be righteous [the integrity of man assigned after birth]?” (Job 15:14)
 
“You know, for you were born then [mentality, a part of the soul, is not available until birth],
And the number of your days is great!” (Job 38:21)

    Besides these direct statements and Job 1:21, Job suggests the same belief in chapter 3.

“Why did I not die at birth [separated from the womb],
Come forth from the womb and expire?” (Job 3:11)

In a lament over his pitiful condition Job desires death. Rather than endure such misery he wishes he had perished shortly after emerging from his mother’s womb. Notice, Job knows he cannot die unless he has first been born, and he cannot be born until he is separated from the womb. Job understands the physical death described in Ecclesiastes 12:7 cannot occur until human life is given at birth. Job bases his lamentation on the premise that human life exists exclusively outside the womb.

    Another passage found in Job 10 clearly expresses the boundaries of human life on earth.

“Why then hast Thou brought me out of [outside] the womb [why have I been born]?
Would that I had died and no eye had seen me!
I should have been as though I had not been [human existence],
Carried from [out of] womb [birth] to tomb [physical death].” (Job 10:18-19)

As in Job 3:11, Job declares his wish to have died at birth, never to have been given human life. Had Job died at birth, moments after receiving the breath of life, it would have been “as though” he had never existed. Had Job been transported directly after separation “from womb to tomb,” no one would have ever laid eyes on him. In other words, he would not now be enduring the continuing agony of his circumstance.

    Chapter 10 reveals Job wallowing in monumental self-pity. In a blasphemous poetic requiem, Job blames the Lord for his trouble. The first two verses clearly reveal that Job regards his current plight with unrestrained bitterness. While in an overemotional, irrational state, he fails to properly distinguish between the mediate and immediate creations of God. He falsely equates biological life with human life, demonstrating how quickly bitterness can destroy understanding of and dependence on the principles of Bible doctrine.

“Thy hands fashioned and made me altogether,
And wouldst Thou destroy me?
Remember now, that Thou hast made me [created like Adam immediately, biological life and soul life] as clay;
And wouldst Thou turn me into dust again [death]?” (Job 10:8-9)
 
“Clothe me with skin and flesh,
And knit me together with bones and sinews [immediate biological life]?
Thou hast granted me [human] life and lovingkindness.” (Job 10:11-12a)

Job correctly identifies his human life as being immediately bestowed by God, “Thou hast granted me [human] life.” He incorrectly perceives his biological life as an immediate creation of God, “Thou hast made me as clay . . . and knit me together with bones and sinews.”

    In bitterness Job perceives God as the antagonist, and becomes irresponsible in portraying God’s character (verses 13-17). In his distress Job does not make precise distinctions between the origin of the different categories of life. The direct bestowal of biological life is erroneously attributed to God.

    Despite Job’s temporary distraction and confusion he still accurately portrays human life as not beginning until birth (verses 18-19). Although Job temporarily blurs the distinction between the origins of soul life and biological life, he correctly states in chapters 1 and 3 that the parameters of human life are from birth to death, not conception to death.

The Hebrew Preposition “Min

Job’s Usage

    Three of the above passages from the Book of Job contain the Hebrew preposition מִן (min), “from,” followed by the noun beten, “womb.” In fact, the Hebrew combines these two words to form one word, מִבֶּטֶן (mibeten), translated “from the womb.”

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb.” (Job 1:21a, italics added)
 
“Come forth from the womb and expire?” (Job 3:11b, italics added)
 
“Carried from womb to tomb.” (Job 10:19b, italics added)

    The preposition min becomes extraordinarily explicit when used with verbs that express or imply separation or removal. In connection with these verbs the meaning of min is “away from,” “separated from,” or “out from.”31 Also of significance, the basic and primary lexical meaning of min is separation.32 Therefore, mibeten, used with the verbs “come” (Job 1:21), “come forth” (Job 3:11), and “carried” (Job 10:19), confirm that Job specifically employs “from the womb” to mean separated from the womb, which is birth.

David’s Usage

    In the Psalms mibeten indicates this same understanding of life as beginning at birth.

Yet Thou art He who didst bring me forth from [out of] the womb [mibeten];
Thou didst make me trust when upon my mother’s breasts.
Upon Thee I was cast [out] from birth [the womb];
Thou hast been my God [apart] from my mother’s womb [mibeten]. (Ps. 22:9-10)

Notice that the first mibeten in verse 9 follows the verb of separation, “bring forth.” The second mibeten in verse 10 does not follow a verb of separation but is certainly parallel in meaning to the mibeten of verse 9. The second mibeten is an example of the general use of min for separation without being preceded by a verb of separation.

    Psalm 22 is an extremely important Messianic Psalm. The prophetic topic concerns the crucifixion of the Messiah. Although David is describing himself in the passage, he is also prophesying the thoughts and words of his greater Son, Jesus Christ (Ps. 22:1; cf. Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34).33 Verses 9 and 10 speak of the “birth” of Christ—His removal from the womb of His mother. Notice that Jesus is not described as dependent upon God in the womb, only outside of the womb. Jesus Christ could not be God-dependent inside the womb because He was not a human being until God the Father imparted soul life to His biological life outside of the womb. Neither does David make reference to “trust” inside the womb because there is no human life in the womb.

The wicked are estranged [out] from the womb;
These who speak lies go astray from birth [literally, from the womb (mibeten)]. (Ps. 58:3)

    “Estranged” and “go astray” are both verbs of separation connected with the preposition min. The prepositional phrase that follows each verb conveys removal “from the womb.” This verse indicates there can be no wickedness until a person is separated from the womb. At the moment of birth when soul life is imparted, the sin nature is also activated. Adam’s original sin is imputed to the genetically formed sin nature. The sin nature, which is passed on through biological life, is not operational until birth. No one can be “wicked” or “speak lies” until they are born. The axiom upon which Psalm 58:3 is built: One becomes a human being after birth when “the wicked” acquire a soul and an activated sin nature.34

Isaiah’s Usage

    The Book of Isaiah contains several passages in which mibeten appears along with the verb yatsar, “to form” or “to create.” Remember, yatsar in Genesis 2:7 refers to the immediate divine formation of Adam’s biological life. Yatsar often refers to immediate creation by God (Ps. 95:5; Isa. 45:18; 64:8; Jer. 33:2; Amos 4:13). But, after Genesis 2 yatsar no longer points to His immediate creation of biological life. Why? Because after the Fall biological life is formed mediately through procreation. Thus, when yatsar is used with mibeten in the following verses, it describes the immediate creation of human life by God after the fetus separates from the womb.

“Thus says the LORD who made you
And formed [yatsar, “created”] you [your human life] from [after leaving] the womb [mibeten], who will help you,
‘Do not fear, O Jacob My servant;
And you Jeshurun whom I have chosen.’ ” (Isa. 44:2)
 
Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, and the one who formed [yatsar, “created”] you [human life] from [after leaving] the womb [mibeten],
“I, the LORD, am the maker of all things,
Stretching out the heavens by Myself,
And spreading out the earth all alone.” (Isa. 44:24)

    The temporal uses of mibeten in the excerpts above mark the point of physical birth, after which time human life continues—“the anterior limit of a continuous period.”35 Min used temporarily like this can be translated “since” or “after.” By using this grammatical construction Isaiah creates a dramatic image in his poetry. He depicts birth, which occurs after separation “from the womb,” as the beginning of human life.

    Birth is the starting point after which life continues. By analogy Isaiah portrays birth as the beginning point of the race and the spiritual life of Israel, the commencement of the Lord’s continuing commitment to Israel in history. Isaiah uses the birth of one man, Jacob, to personify the physical birth and spiritual birth of the entire race, the nation of Israel (Isa. 44:1-2; 49:5).

    The Jewish race began with the spiritual birth of Abraham and was perpetuated racially through the physical birth of his son, Isaac, and grandson, Jacob. Isaiah 44:2 and 24 represent the beginning of the new race as if it were the birth of one person. Jacob was “formed” as the servant of God after leaving the womb, the “Jeshurun whom I have chosen.” Just as with Jacob the existence of the Jewish race began after leaving “the womb.”

    Old Testament Jews were not just a race of people born physically with the genes of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. If they expressed the faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who believed in the Lord, they could also be regenerated or “born again.”36 Through regeneration the Jew received the same spiritual life as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This is why Jesus Christ is said to be their God (Ex. 3:6, 15-16; 4:5; cf. Matt. 22:32; Mark 12:26; Luke 20:37; Acts 7:32). True Jews were not only born physically alive as a race of people but were also reborn spiritually alive through faith in the Lord as the chosen people of God.37

    The physical birth and spiritual birth of the nation Israel represent a point of time after which (min) the physical life and spiritual life of Israel continues. Isaiah’s message accepts birth as the beginning of human life. But Isaiah’s analogy would not be effective if birth as the beginning of human life were not accepted as true by those who heard his message.

And now says the Lord, who formed [yatsar, “created”] Me [human life, the humanity of Jesus Christ] from [after leaving] the womb [mibeten] to be His Servant,
To bring Jacob back to Him, in order that Israel might be gathered to Him. (Isa. 49:5a)

    Isaiah 49:5, another temporal use of mibeten, portrays the birth of the One who will gather Israel and will “bring Jacob [Israel] back to Him.” From the time of His birth this child was destined to be the “Servant” of God for the redemption of Israel.

Listen to Me, O islands [Greeks],
And pay attention, you peoples from afar [Gentiles].
The Lord called Me from [after leaving] the womb [mibeten];
[Out] from the body of My mother He named Me. (Isa. 49:1)

The One who is “called” and “named” in verse 1 is the Messiah, Jesus Christ, identified as the “Servant” in verse 5. He was born to redeem not only Israel but also the Gentiles. As eternal God He became true humanity at the time He was separated from the womb (not before), so that the critical mission of redemption could be accomplished for Jew and Gentile alike.38

    Therefore, the imagery of separation from the womb in Isaiah’s poetry using the preposition min determines the terminus a quo of redemption—the beginning point of the redeeming work of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, for all humanity. Isaiah’s effective communication of when and how this redemptive process starts depended on his readers’ understanding of birth as the beginning of life. Just as human life begins at birth, so the work of redemption for Israel and the Gentiles began at the birth of the Messiah and culminated at the cross.

The Greek Preposition “Ek

    How can we be certain that the Old Testament authors originally intended min to mean “out from,” “separated from,” or “after leaving” in the above passages from Job, the Psalms, and Isaiah? One vital consideration in answering this question is the evidence from the Septuagint (abbreviated LXX). The LXX was begun in the third century B.C., and is the most important Greek translation of the Old Testament.39 Significantly, the translators of the LXX used the Greek preposition ek to represent min in Job 1:21; 3:11; 10:19; Psalm 22:9-10; Isaiah 44:2, 24; and 49:1, 5.

    The primary purpose of ek is to denote separation. In the LXX version of the previous verses cited from Job, Psalms, and Isaiah, mibeten is represented by two Greek phrases, ἐκ κοιλία (ek koilia) and ἐκ γαστρός (ek gastros). In every reference from Job and the Psalms, a verb of motion precedes these phrases. Ek following verbs of motion “introduce[s] the place from which the separation takes place.”40 Therefore, the phrase ek koilia or ek gastros in Job and the Psalms signify “out of” or “separated from the womb.”

    But the Greek preposition also has a temporal sense. Mibeten, which is translated ek koilia in the LXX version of Isaiah 49:1, is noted by Arndt and Gingrich as a primary example of the temporal interpretation of ek—“of the time when something begins.” Their lexicon translates the temporal Greek prepositional phrase in Isaiah 49:1 “from birth,” denoting “from birth on.”41 All four of the verses cited (Isa. 44:2, 24; 49:1, 5) are temporal usages. Consequently, the phrase ek koilia in each verse has a synonymous meaning: “[out] from the womb” or “from birth.” The LXX translators believed that the original intent of the authors of all the passages previously cited in Job, the Psalms, and Isaiah was to convey the meaning of mibeten as “out of” or “separated from the womb.”

Two Births—The Analogy of John 3

    Human life begins with the impartation of soul life at birth. The soul is immortal. But the immortality of the soul does not qualify a person to live with God forever. Soul life can live forever in hell. The qualification to live with God, to receive eternal life, is regeneration or the second birth.

Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. (John 3:1)
 
This man came to Him by night, and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” (John 3:2)
 
Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)
 
Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” (John 3:4)
 
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3:5)
 
“That which is born of flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:6)
 
“Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ ” (John 3:7)

    In verses 1 and 2 Jesus is approached at night by a Pharisee named Nicodemus.42 This encounter with a ruler of the Jews portrays Israel’s dependence upon their physical birth as descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob for salvation. Nicodemus had obviously observed Jesus’ ministry and miracles and concluded He was worth pursuing. Like many people of his time Nicodemus was seeking salvation, the Messiah, and the kingdom of God. Anticipating the purpose behind Nicodemus’ first question, Jesus wastes no time. He stuns Nicodemus with His quick assessment of Nicodemus’ true motive. Without any preamble Jesus curtly instructs Nicodemus that to see the kingdom of God, a person must be “born again” (verse 3).

    Nicodemus responds with skepticism and misunderstanding. “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” (verse 4). From his question it is clear that Nicodemus has focused on the phrase “born again,” which he wrongly assumes to mean physical birth. In his error, however, Nicodemus shows he recognizes the underlying premise of the analogy Jesus will develop: Birth, not conception, begins human life. Notice, Jesus does not say, “You must be conceived again.”

    In verses 5 and 6 the Lord reveals His analogy. He will compare physical birth, which Nicodemus introduces in verse 4, with spiritual birth. Jesus’ analogy equates the starting point of human life, which is physical birth, with the starting point of spiritual life, which is regeneration or being born again. For the analogy to work physical birth must initiate human life. Certainly, the Lord Jesus Christ understood this truth and now uses the comparison in this remarkable illustration of regeneration. Because Nicodemus also believes that human life begins at birth, he will ultimately perceive Jesus’ analogy that being born again is the beginning of, and the requirement for, spiritual life.

    Pride in racial antecedence caused Israel to emphasize physical birth. But Jesus Christ points out that entrance into the kingdom of God requires another birth, a second birth. The genes of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are not the basis for God’s choice (election) of Israel. Regeneration by faith in the Lord (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:1-3) is the basis for entrance into the kingdom of God and the starting point for spiritual life.

    “Born of water” in verse 5 implies physical birth, not water baptism. Water baptism is not implicated in John chapter 3, only physical birth, which is essential to the context. Moreover, water baptism is never a condition for entrance into “the kingdom of God.” Spirit baptism (1 Cor. 12:13), which occurs at the moment of faith in Christ, is a prerequisite and an integral part of being “born of the Spirit,” not “born of water.”43

    Water is associated with physical birth in an obvious way. When the fetus is ready to emerge from the womb the membrane that surrounds the fetus in the uterus usually ruptures, releasing amniotic fluid. This amniotic fluid is essentially water. Anyone remotely familiar with the birth of a baby understands that the water breaking warns of the imminent emergence of the fetus and is closely identified with birth. Therefore, “born of water” identifies physical birth; “born of the Spirit” identifies spiritual birth.

    Physical birth includes spiritual death, a fact which Jesus ingeniously uses to introduce the need for being “born again.” Verse 5 states that physical birth and spiritual birth are necessary to “enter into the kingdom of God.” Verse 6 simply restates the analogy of birth in the physical realm and the spiritual realm as the initiation point of life in each realm. Remember, every person is born humanly alive but spiritually dead because of the inherited sin nature of Adam. Since Nicodemus has already passed the stage of physical birth and is spiritually dead, he is forced to rely on the only declared way to enter the kingdom of God: the second birth by faith in Jesus Christ.

    In John chapter 3 Jesus confirms that physical birth is the beginning of human life just as the second birth is the beginning of spiritual and eternal life. The effectiveness of Jesus’ explanation of the second birth depends exclusively upon His analogy to physical birth as the starting point of human life. Would Jesus mislead Nicodemus or anyone else about spiritual life? No! There is only one inescapable conclusion: The inception of life in both the physical and spiritual realms is bound to the concept of birth, not conception or pregnancy.

    The focus in the Scripture is always on birth as the beginning of life. Conception cannot produce human life; only the creative act of God at birth produces human life. At the second birth the creative act of God establishes a regenerate human being with a spiritual life.

MISUNDERSTOOD PASSAGES

    There are several verses in Scripture that appear to contradict the major premise of this book—that human life begins at physical birth. Let us now examine some of the biblical texts often cited as proof that human life begins in the womb and determine if there is any conflict or contradiction.

Psalm 139:13

For Thou didst form [קָנָה, qanah] my inward parts;
Thou didst weave me in my mother’s womb [בְּבֶטֶן, bebeten].
I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Thy works,
And my soul knows it very well. (Ps. 139:13-14)

    This passage in the Psalms is often quoted as evidence that human life resides in the womb. An expositor of verse 13 might assert that if God “weave[d] me in my mother’s womb,” then God is personally concerned for the fetus before birth, and therefore, human life resides in the womb. Such an explanation would deny the understanding of physical birth as the starting point of human life concluded from passages already examined.

    The presence of the Hebrew preposition be with the noun beten in verse 13, combined as bebeten, appears to proclaim the womb as the weaving or nurturing place for human life. Bebeten means “in the womb.” David, the author of this Psalm, is clearly expressing his gratitude to his Creator for forming his “inward parts” in the womb. Undoubtedly, David meant to portray a construction inside the womb, not outside the womb.

    What are “inward parts”? The term refers literally to physical or internal organs. Internal organs are the most intricate and essential parts of the body. The weaving of inward parts is analogous to the development of the embryo and fetus from the zygote. Therefore, “inward parts” indicate biological life in this context. When the internal organs and format soul are sufficiently formed, the fetus separates from the womb and God imparts soul life to the format soul. The fetus then becomes a human being, able to exist independently of the mother.

    The verb used to designate formation of this biological life does not imply immediate creation, but rather mediate creation—qanah, “to get” or “to acquire.” Traducianists and Creationists would likely agree at this point. Even though this verse attributes God with forming the inward parts of the fetus, the formation is an indirect or mediate one. Biological life is formed through procreation and the transmission of genetic material, a process which God Himself set in motion after the fall of Adam. “Weave me in my mother’s womb” describes this mediate formation. But biological life must be differentiated from soul life. No direct evidence exists in this passage to conclude that God’s weaving of inward parts means His mediate creation of soul life. Rather, verse 13 refers specifically to God’s continuing mediate creation of biological life.

    While God’s viewpoint has been established with regard to the origin of human life, passages like Psalm 139:13 clearly express exalted respect for biological life in the womb. The meaning of such passages is related to the doctrine of divine decree and the omniscience of God.44 From eternity past God has known all that is knowable. He knew every person who would be born and every event of their life long before they lived. He designed and created the body and soul of humanity and we are truly “fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Thy works.”

    Psalm 139:13-14 is a tribute to God’s everlasting knowledge and design of each of us even before we were in the womb. However, it is not logical or judicious to conclude from this passage that human life exists in the womb, especially with so much scriptural evidence to the contrary.

Jeremiah 1:5

“Before I formed [yatsar] you in [by means of] the womb I knew you,
And before you were born I consecrated you;
I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jer. 1:5)

    Isolated from its context this verse has convinced many people that God forms human life in the womb. But the explanation of Jeremiah 1:5, like Psalm 139:13, is related to God’s omniscience and the doctrine of the divine decree. Jeremiah is describing his own call to the ministry. The omniscience of God knew everything knowable about Jeremiah even before he was conceived. In fact, the omniscience of God knew in eternity past all the actual thoughts, decisions, and actions of Jeremiah and every other human being. The divine decree is the printout of these activities. Even though many of those thoughts, decisions, and actions are contrary to God’s desires, He nonetheless knew that these events would take place.45 Jeremiah was in awe of God’s infinite knowledge and sovereignty. In verse 5 he reports one of these decreed events—his appointment as a prophet to Israel.

    The verb Jeremiah uses for “formed” is yatsar. The use of yatsar suggests Jeremiah is referring to the formation of his biological life. This is the same verb found in Genesis 2:7 for the immediate creation of Adam’s biological life. However, yatsar in Jeremiah 1:5, as in Isaiah 44:2 and 44:24, does not signify immediate, but mediate creation of biological life. Remember, God created biological life only twice before the Fall. After the Fall biological life is reproduced naturally at conception and is formed in the mother’s womb. This process Jeremiah recognizes as taking place bebeten, “in the womb” or “by means of the womb.”46 His biological life is formed mediately by means of the womb.

    Yatsar is preceded by the word “before,” an adverb indicating a time predating the formation of Jeremiah’s biological life and his birth. Only the omniscience of God, which set forth the divine decree, could know and consecrate Jeremiah before his biological life was formed or his soul life was given, and thus his human life created.

    Those who heard Jeremiah’s message were aware that “I formed you in the womb” and “before you were born I consecrated you” refer to a time before any human life existed. In this statement the incomparable essence and power of the God of Israel were proclaimed. Who but sovereign, omniscient God could designate Jeremiah “a prophet to the nations” before Jeremiah was a human being?

    The statement of God’s omniscience in the consecration of Jeremiah before he was born is not evidence that human life exists in the womb. The thrust of verse 5 is to praise the omniscience and sovereignty of God in calling Jeremiah to the ministry. Only God knew in eternity past that Jeremiah would exist, express faith in the Lord, and become the great spiritual leader of his age. God set him apart in eternity past to serve Israel. Even as God created Adam’s biological life and soul life, He already knew that in 626 B.C. Jeremiah would begin a prolific ministry that would span the rule of the Jewish kings Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah. Those to whom Jeremiah ministered would be impressed with these credentials: God called him even before he was conceived (biological life) or born (human life). The message of Jeremiah is a testimony not to human life in the womb but to the omniscience of God.

Luke 1:15

“For he [John the Baptist] will be great in the sight of the Lord, and he will drink no wine or liquor; and he will be filled [empowered] with the Holy Spirit, while yet [in the future] in his mother’s womb [ek koilias, “separated from”].” (Luke 1:15)

    The context of Luke 1:15 reveals the angel Gabriel’s prophecy to Zacharias, husband of Elizabeth, concerning his future son, John the Baptist. Critical to the meaning of this verse is understanding the last phrase, “while yet in his mother’s womb.”47

    Ek koilias, used again here, is inadequately translated in verse 15 “in the womb.”48 Koilias is the ablative singular of koilia, “womb.” The ablative case preceded by the preposition ek denotes separation. Ek must be understood as connoting separation: “out from” or “away from.” The phrase in question should be translated, “yet [in the future] separated from his mother’s womb.” Luke, the human author, is continuing the connotation of separation found with the use of mibeten in the Old Testament and ek koilias in the LXX. In other words, the ablative of separation indicates John must be born before he can be empowered or endued by the Spirit.

    The enduement of the Holy Spirit in Old Testament times was available to only a few believers and was a temporary bestowal for the achievement of unusual responsibility (Num. 11:16-17; 27:8-20; Judg. 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 13:25; 14:6; 15:14; 1 Sam. 10:6-10; 11:6; 16:13). In our dispensation, the Church Age, the Holy Spirit permanently indwells every believer (Rom. 8:11; 1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19; 2 Cor. 6:16).49 But John the Baptist was born under the dispensational policies and procedures of the Old Testament before the commencement of the Church Age. The announcement of John’s enduement marks him as a man with a divinely ordained task to perform. John the Baptist will receive a special enduement of the Holy Spirit to accomplish a unique mission, the herald of the Messiah, Jesus Christ (Luke 3:4).

    If John the Baptist were endued with the Holy Spirit “in his mother’s womb,” this would indicate the presence of more than just biological life in the womb. Such is not the case! In fact, Luke 1:41 represents Elizabeth, his mother, as the one who is endued with the Holy Spirit. The Scripture always represents the Holy Spirit as being given to human beings (born physically alive) who are regenerate.

    There is no biblical precedent for a fetus being filled with the Holy Spirit in the womb. No one can be filled with the Holy Spirit until he or she is born twice. The first birth is physical, the point at which human life begins. The second birth is spiritual, the moment of faith in Jesus Christ and the point at which spiritual life begins. Therefore, John the Baptist would be “yet [in the future]” endued with the Holy Spirit after regeneration, or being born again. Luke 1:15 and surrounding context (verses 13-14) present birth, not the womb, as the beginning of human life.

Luke 1:41

And it came about that when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby [fetus which will be John the Baptist] leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. (Luke 1:41)

    Verse 41 touches a resounding cord of emotion with many women who remember the movement of the fetus in their own womb. Any woman who has been pregnant clearly recalls those times when the developing fetus kicks or moves. However, such poignant and emotional memories are not the foundation for understanding this passage.

    In Luke 1:35-36 Mary has been informed by the angel Gabriel that while still a virgin she will conceive and her “offspring” will be the “Son of God.”50 Mary is also told that her relative, Elizabeth, who although barren and past childbearing age, has miraculously conceived and is in her sixth month of pregnancy. Following the angelic announcement Mary goes to visit Elizabeth.

“For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby [βρέφος, brephos, “fetus”] leaped [moved about] in my womb for [because of] joy [excitement that quickens the pulse].” (Luke 1:44)

    When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting the brephos, “the unborn fetus,” moved about “in her womb.”51 The translation of this passage gives the impression that the fetus is responding “for joy.” But if the emotion of joy were already present in the fetus, then the fetus would be ensouled, a possessor of human life. “Joy” actually refers to the emotional reaction of the mother which, combined with the external sound of Mary’s voice, caused the subsequent reflexive movement of the brephos.

    An expectant mother may be aware that the fetus responds to the voice of mother, father, music, or other sounds. Medical studies demonstrate that the fetus responds to sounds with a startle reflex.52 The startle reflex is one example of reflexive movement or reflex motility.53

    When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth became excited by Mary’s presence. This observation is confirmed by Elizabeth’s reaction:

And she [Elizabeth] cried out with a loud voice [with great emotion], and said, “Blessed among women are you [Mary], and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:42-43)

When anyone becomes excited their pulse rate quickens as the body produces adrenalin and other chemicals which enter the bloodstream. As the pulse rate quickens in the pregnant woman, her blood passes more rapidly through the placenta. The adrenalin enters the bloodstream of the fetus, producing movement. Excitement may also cause contractions in the uterine wall, another cause of fetal movement. The fetus responds to the physiological effect of the mother’s emotions and moves in response to the mother’s physiological change. The episode is a primary example of mother-dependence, not independent action by the fetus. The fetus is biological life responding to biological stimuli. The sound of Mary’s voice and the corresponding emotion in Elizabeth caused the fetal reflexive movement.

    Fetal motility is a function of biological life, which does not require the presence of soul life. Fetal movement arouses strong emotions in the mother and emotional experience can be unstable and misleading. Where emotional experience conflicts with the statement of Scripture, the experience is invalid. Mother-induced fetal movement in utero, which is evidence of biological life in the womb, is not to be mistaken for the independent volitional action of a human being with a living soul. Fetal movement and reflex motility are natural functions of biological life, never soul life.

Luke 11:27-28

And it came about He [Jesus Christ] said these things [discourse on demonism], one of the women in the crowd raised her voice, and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts at which You nursed.” (Luke 11:27)

    This woman who rudely interrupts the Lord’s teaching wishes to change His discourse from demonism to motherhood.54 She aspires to replace “the word of God” with her own opinion. Her “raised” voice and audacious manner indicate intensity, a woman who takes herself very seriously. In arrogance she demands attention. Her wrath is aroused. By mentioning “the womb” the woman attempts to manipulate Jesus into changing to a subject she thinks He dare not neglect. She erroneously reasons, How could Jesus not stop and praise His mother, the one who gave Him life! Sadly, this woman does not understand the origin of human life, and is more concerned with her own ideas than with the teachings of Jesus Christ, who is God (John 1:1-2).

    Whatever the true motivation of this rude and arrogant woman, she chooses to make an issue of the womb. By her outburst the woman implies that since Jesus came from His mother’s womb, motherhood is to be praised for His very existence. Slyly this woman introduces a false doctrine: the beginning of human life in the womb. Yet unconsciously she makes a distinction between sustaining biological life in the womb and nourishing human life at the mother’s breast.

    The Lord did not argue with her, debate with her, or humiliate her. He simply replied with the truth.

But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God, and observe [obey] it.” (Luke 11:28)

Jesus’ first word to this woman is the classical Greek particle μενοῦν (menoun), “on the contrary.” Menoun was a one-word particle the Greeks used to indicate their disagreement with an assertion. When a person used menoun, all or part of what was just said was wrong and a correction would soon follow. From this particle we know Jesus opposed the woman’s outcry. Subsequently, Jesus substitutes His own declaration for her misleading and false proclamation. The Lord’s correction addresses the issue of blessing.

    By ignoring the woman’s contention, Jesus astutely rejects the womb as the source of human life and blessing. This woman has stated what many people wrongly believe: the womb supplies human life and, therefore, blessing to humanity. She attempts to use Jesus as a pawn to advance the superiority of women because she erroneously believes women carry human life in their wombs. But Jesus discounts the gender and womb issue, focusing instead on the real issue: hearing “the word of God” for blessing.

    This woman’s false concept could have been corrected had she learned and obeyed the Word of God. Ironically, the greatest blessing to the human race was standing in front of her at that moment speaking God’s Word. Our Lord’s reply stresses the surpassing importance of hearing and obeying His Word. Jesus exhorts everyone present to consider God’s absolute truth, not this woman’s opinion. Today we hear His Word from the Bible, and from no other source.

    Hearing and obeying God’s Word is invaluable to our study of the origin of human life. Regardless of our personal feelings or emotional involvement with the subject, if we are to understand the truth we must accept what the Bible says. Do not let the tender experience of pregnancy take precedence over the paramount issue in the Christian life; blessing through hearing and obeying God’s Word.

Exodus 21:22-25

“And if men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she has a miscarriage [יָצָא, yatsa, her child “comes forth”], yet there is no further [not present in the Hebrew] injury [to mother or child who is born], he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him; and he shall pay as the judges decide. (Ex. 21:22)
 
“But if there is any further [not present in Hebrew] injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life [capital punishment], eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.” (Ex. 21:23-25)

    Lex Talionis, the law of retaliation, was a standard feature in Ancient Near Eastern legal codes. Any injury or death to an individual by another person would be repaid to the offender in kind. The Mosaic Law is the epitome of Ancient Near Eastern legal codes. Exodus 21:22-25 is an example of retaliatory law in the Mosaic code.55 To accurately understand the legal implications of this passage, we must correctly differentiate biological life in the womb and human life bestowed at birth.

    The meaning of the Hebrew verb yatsa in verse 22 provides the key to understanding the scope and aim of the judicial retribution. Yatsa is rendered “miscarriage” in the New American Standard translation of the Bible, but literally means “come forth” or “go out.” When the fetus emerges or goes out from the womb, yatsa is describing birth. In this case yatsa carries the same idea as mibeten, “out from the womb.”

    The premature birth described in verse 22 was caused by two men fighting who strike a woman so that she goes into labor and delivers.56 The assumption of the statute is that the mother survives the ordeal and the child is born alive, a living, ensouled human being. There is no supposition of human life present in the womb. The law applies only to the child after birth. The child must receive soul life at birth before it can be legally injured or die.

    Once the child is born and has received the “breath of life” from God, the law offers two options for retaliation. The first option requires the one who struck the woman to pay a fine “as the husband may demand” and “as the judges decide.” Since there is no significant damage to the mother or the now living child other than the rigors of premature birth or some minor injury, a fine is all the law demands.

    The second retaliation option described in Exodus 21:23-25 depends upon the extent of the injury to either the mother or the living child after birth. A less than mortal injury to either the mother or child or both would receive the recompense of an “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.” The death sentence, “life for life,” may be ruled as punishment only if the fightning men cause a mortal injury to the mother or child.

    The blow was struck while the fetus was still in the womb. This caused the woman to go into labor. Damage to the fetus could have occurred from the impact, and the pregnancy could have terminated from the shock of the blow. But Lex Talionis in this context is clearly applied to a time after birth. The law does not address the fetus in the womb. The fetus is biological life only and not an issue before the law. No punishment or compensation is pronounced on the offending party for injury to the fetus in the womb or for a stillborn child.

    The principle of protection and care of biological life in the womb is always a concern because the fetus is a potential person. But Moses, the human author, does not include any legal contingency concerning the fetus. The child must be born and receive the breath of life before restitution or retribution is exacted. If the child is stillborn there can be no restitution demanded. However, either restitution or retribution may be demanded for the mother. The law of retaliation was written for the protection of living human beings, not biological life in the womb. Exodus 21:22-25 does not prove that human life begins in the womb.

HUMAN LIFE TO ETERNAL LIFE

    The origin of human life and subsequent depravity of our human existence have both theological and personal repercussions. Passed down mediately to each of us through procreation and genetics is biological life, including a format soul and a sin nature. God Himself is the immediate author of human life. When biological life emerges from the womb, God creates soul life and only then does human life exist. As we have seen, no human life is generated or formed in the womb.

    The fetus becomes a living human being only after emerging from the womb. At physical birth sovereign, omnipotent God imparts immortal soul life to mortal biological life. At the same time the justice of God imputes Adam’s original sin to the dormant sin nature. We are now human beings who are spiritually dead, unable to have fellowship with the perfect righteousness of God. We possess human life but need to be born again to possess spiritual life.

    Just as physical birth is the beginning of human life, so spiritual birth is the beginning of eternal life, an eternal relationship with God. Spiritual birth takes place in only one way: faith alone in Christ alone.

But as many as received Him [by faith in Christ], to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name. (John 1:12)

Jesus Christ, the only perfect human being born without a sin nature, was uniquely qualified to pay the penalty of Adam’s sin. In God’s eyes we deserve nothing but death because of our position in Adam. Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself to satisfy the wrath of God’s justice. He bore our sins on the cross and they are no longer an issue. Eternal life is open to all because He was judged in our place. We simply believe in Christ.57

“He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey [the command to believe in] the Son shall not see [eternal] life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36)

    From the moment of birth you are destined for death, eternal separation from God. From the moment of the second birth you are destined to live for eternity with God. Once you have been given human life, the decision is yours: eternal condemnation or eternal life.

    The soul is immortal. Man cannot create immortality. The egg and sperm cannot generate immortality in the womb as a result of conception. Mortals can only generate biological life, perpetuate spiritual death, and ultimately surrender to physical death. Only eternal God can create the immortal soul and impart it to the fetus at birth. Mortality cannot produce immortality.