Question: When does human life begin?
Answer: This question is at the heart of the abortion debate between pro-life and pro-choice advocates. But do the Scriptures shed any light on this question?
One of the many definitions of “life” in the dictionary is: The condition that distinguishes organisms from inorganic objects and dead organisms, being manifested by growth through metabolism, reproduction, and the power of adaptation to environment through changes originating internally. From this definition, undoubtedly most would conclude that life, or in the case of human life, begins at conception, for human embryos surely exhibit the characteristics defined above.
But the Bible also speaks about human souls: “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2: 7). God did not give a soul to man, but He created man a soul or being. The word “soul” is translated from the Hebrew word nephesh, which means “a breathing, sentient being” – that is to say, God formed Adam of the dust of the ground, and breathed, or blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and the result was a living, breathing, animate being. Then for the first time, he could properly be termed a soul.
The word “soul” is not applied to man only, for the lower animals are also referred to as souls, as seen in the first, second and ninth chapters of Genesis. Man as a soul differs from the lower animals as souls because of his higher and finer organism, including his superior intellectual qualities. Additionally, man will be given the opportunity to gain everlasting life, and it will be given to all who faithfully live up to the Creator’s conditions for lasting life; whereas the lower animals receive the privilege of temporary life.
Considering the above, what a privilege God has given to human beings to procreate, a privilege that the angels have not even been given. And what a privilege parents are given, to bring up their children to become conscientious, just and loyal to God and the principles of righteousness (Proverbs 22: 6) – a training that will surely work advantageously toward their children in this life, and when they go on trial for life in the Millennial Age.