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Abortion: Roman Condemnation of Jewish Pro-Life Practice

Updated: Sep 17, 2023

"But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. 'Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.'" (I Peter 3: 14.) "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord." (I Peter 3: 15)

The Bible says nothing about abortion and Jesus didn’t either. Many people push the assumption that silence means permission. However, silence means that the abortion issue was non-existent among Jews during the time of Jesus. As a race, they just did not practice it.

Before we begin, we need to understand the two types of abortion in the Roman world of Jesus and his disciples. The first type involved trying to abort the child through artificial means. This included trying to poke a hole in the amniotic sac to cause the delivery to begin prematurely or taking a poison that would kill the child. Both of these methods resulted in the deaths of many women.

The second type of “abortion” was more common and actually what we now call euthanasia. When a Roman child was born, if the parents wanted to keep it, they picked it up and declared it theirs. If they did not state their ownership of the child, it was taken to the garbage dump and left there to die. This is called “exposure” and was the most common way to kill children since it provided less risk to the mothers.

Most abortions were of little girls. The usual birthrate is 105 boys to 100 girls. In Rome, the rate is estimated as high as 130 boys to 100 girls. Also, any child with a deformity or who didn’t respond well after birth was exposed.

In general, Jews were not well-respected by the Roman philosophers and leaders. Jewish opposition to abortion was only mentioned once around the beginning of the 2nd century by Tacitus. Tacitus was a Roman philosopher who did not like the Jews. Let’s see what he said about their views on abortion.

"Still, they provide for the increase of their numbers. It is a crime among them to kill any newly-born infant." The Histories, Book V, c. 110 CE Tacitus

The Romans knew that the Jews, as a race, did not practice abortion or expose their children after birth. They thought the Jews had no respect for the quality of their race and were only interested in increasing the Jewish race.

Jewish refutation of abortion and their love of children had a massive positive influence on the Christian world as well. Though the New Testament also doesn’t mention abortion or exposure, the silence is the church’s acceptance of Jewish practices.

Be sure to read my blog about the early church writings condemning abortion and exposure just after the New Testament was written. These writings confront any idea that killing a child in the womb or shortly after delivery is wrong.

Peace and grace to you.

Tom Kennedy

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