Abortion in ProphecyBy Scott Nelson
In the gospel of Luke, Yeshua made a statement to a group of women who were lamenting his impending crucifixion which made little sense to me until recently. I now have no doubt that it was a prophecy concerning our day and the subject of abortion. Those who have even a little respect for the words of Yeshua will sense the gravity of the implications involved. Indeed, this should trouble everyone.
In the New King James translation, the passage reads:
"But Yeshua, turning to them, said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, 'Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore, and the breasts which never nursed!' Then they will begin to say to the mountains, "fall on us!" and to the hills, "cover us!" For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?" Luke 23:28-31
There are two common interpretations of this prophecy. I
would first like to deal with the problems of those interpretations before going on to
what I believe Yeshua was saying here.
Dismantling old Interpretations
The first interpretation involves taking the prophecy at face value and is the conclusion many come to the first time they read this passage. It is clear that Yeshua was telling the women to weep for a greater evil than his crucifixion. Therefore, the reasoning goes, Yeshua was making a statement that refraining from having children is evil.
The problem with this interpretation is that if it is true, then it would seem that Yeshua is not making much of a significant statement about the injustice being done to him. To be sure, children are one of the greatest blessings man can receive. But at the same time, Yeshua taught that there can be blessings involved in giving up certain things for the greater glory of the Kingdom of God among which are marriage and children. See Matt. 19:11-12, Mark 10:29-30 Luke 18:29-30. How then could Yeshua say on the one hand that not having children has it's rewards, and then suggest that such a state of mind is a greater evil than his crucifixion?
Seeing the weakness of this interpretation, most scholars have rejected it in favor of another more common interpretation. Quoting from the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, published by Baker Book House, page 837, we have a classic example of a modern interpretation:
"Some women who were present began to weep for Jesus. Jesus warns that their tears should be reserved for their own fate. The judgment on Jerusalem will be so horrible that the unhappy state of barrenness will be preferred (cf. Luke 1:25). People will call to the mountains and hills to shield them from the impending judgment. Verse 31 probably is saying that if the judgment is severe on the innocent Jesus, then it will be incredibly harsh for guilty Jerusalem."
These interpretations assume that Yeshua was prophesying of the horrible siege and eventual fall of Jerusalem almost forty years later in 70 AD. Yeshua had certainly prophesied of the destruction of Jerusalem in Luke 19:41-44, and chapter 21:20-24. And from the sound of these passages one might easily jump to the conclusion that Yeshua was speaking of the same event again in the passage we are dealing with. But there are several things in this quote from the commentary that immediately jump out and call this type of interpretation into serious question.
The first and the worst, is the idea that Yeshua would have been in a vindictive state of mind to turn to a group of weeping women and in essence say to them... Save it for yourselves ladies because you're going to need it! The score for this injustice will be settled on your heads. Yeshua was never in a get-even frame of mind. Only three verses later, as he was being crucified, it is recorded that he said, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." How could Yeshua in one minute pronounce a curse on a group of women who were clearly opposed to-and grieving over his impending crucifixion, and then only a few minutes later forgive the very men who were carrying it out? There is no consistency to this interpretation. Yeshua was never unsympathetic toward the women's grief.
The phrase, "Daughters of Jerusalem", should not be considered indicative of who the prophecy is directed toward. Yeshua was simply addressing the women for who they were... residents of Jerusalem. The phrase should be recognized as a loving term-of-endearment, and not as an address to the recipients of a prophetic curse.
Secondly, if Yeshua was referring to Jerusalem's siege and fall, it would be hard to picture the residents of Jerusalem crying to the mountains to bury them alive for deliverance from the Roman armies. Anyone would consider being buried alive by a mountain to be an even worse fate! We can safely assume that cries for deliverance during the siege were directed toward the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Crying to the mountains on the other hand has all the earmarks of attempting to hide from the direct judgment of God Himself. Experiencing the wrath of God would definitely be a fate worse than physical death. In the book of Revelation there is an interestingly similar quote.
And the kings of the earth, the great men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?" Rev. 6:15-17 NKJV
This prophecy has not been fulfilled, but many like myself believe its fulfillment is near. We are living at that time near the close of the age.
Notice the similarities between this reference in Revelation, to the cry unto the mountains and hills of Luke 23. I believe these two references are of the same event. If they are, this would also indicate that Yeshua's prophecy is concerning our time just before his return.
The phrase, "Then they will begin to say to the mountains..." is somewhat obscure. How does one "begin" to say something? The Greek word translated "begin" means, "to be the first to do anything". See Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, #757. Page 78, definition (1). What Yeshua was indicating is that those who are guilty of the sin he is painting a picture of, will be the first ones to experience the wrath of God when it is poured out on man. And so they will begin, or take the lead, or lead off, as the first of those who will cry to the mountains for deliverance. Literally, "They will begin the saying to the mountains..."
And now we come to the interpretation of the 31st verse. It should be evident that Yeshua was drawing a connection between what man was doing to him at that time, to what man would do in the future... as opposed to what God would do in the future in response to what man was doing then. The subject of the sentence is "they". The verse could legitimately read like this:
"For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done (by them) in the dry?"
Yeshua was clearly indicating that man's behavior will become much worse. This is the unifying theme to Yeshua's entire prophecy. When he said to the women at the beginning of his statement, "weep for yourselves and for your children", he was telling them that they should weep for themselves as members of the human race. In their case, the child-bearing members. And he was telling them to weep for their descendants, for it would be mankinds descendants who would grow worse and worse until they came to the point of such barbaric nature, they would commit the evil acts that he goes on to describe.
The terms "green wood" (sap wood), and "dry",
should be recognized as metaphors for life and death. Or more specifically, the love
of life and its sanctity, and the future lack thereof.
The Translation Problem
If Yeshua was not teaching that it is a great evil to refrain from having children, and he was not prophesying of the destruction of Jerusalem, then of what was he prophesying?
I'm sure there have been others like myself, who while reading this passage had a light come on and gone scrambling for the nearest Strong's Concordance to look up the Greek word for "barren", thinking that it might mean abortion. After all, it is the only interpretation that makes any sense. Only then have we found that the Greek word "stiros" means "sterile", or "incapable of conceiving", and by extension "barren". The theory is effectively blown out of the sky and we have found ourselves back at square one scratching our heads!
Many fail to realize that Yeshua did not speak to the people in the Greek language. he surely didn't speak to them in King James English, and even the Hebrew language had dwindled in usage and was for the most part used only by the religious leaders. Most of the time Yeshua would have spoken to the people in the everyday language of Aramaic. This historical fact appears quite well established by scholars.
Since Yeshua undoubtedly spoke to the women that day in Aramaic, it only stands to reason that someone, somewhere, had to translate those Aramaic words into the Greek language. Whether those Aramaic words ever saw print or not is beside the point. The point is that some human is responsible for making the difficult translation from Aramaic to Greek.
Aramaic is a Semitic language closely related to Hebrew. It used the same script and is grammatically very similar. The difference between Hebrew and Aramaic is very little compared to the difference between Aramaic and Greek. The difference between Greek and English is also much smaller than the difference between Aramaic and Greek. In the figure below, the relative distance between the words gives a little idea of the relative difference between the languages.
Hebrew Aramaic Greek English
The translation of the Gospels from the oldest Greek manuscripts to the English language has not been without its own difficulties, and this is in spite of the fact that they have been subjected to centuries of scholarly scrutiny. So to assume that the much more difficult task of translating Aramaic into Greek was accomplished flawlessly by what was likely only one person (in this case maybe Luke himself) is wishful thinking. It is the very words that Yeshua spoke that are perfect in truth. It is the man-handling of those words that is subject to error.
The translation process is not a clear cut word for word exchange. Many words in various languages have more than one meaning. It depends upon the translators ability to understand how a word is being used and what is being said as to whether or not he will choose the right new word for the old. A translators abilities can only be as good as his ability to understand what is being said in the first place. Therefore, translating the words of someone like Yeshua, who regularly spoke in abbreviated and often veiled-in-metaphor speech can be a translators worst nightmare. There were even times when Yeshua said something, and everyone who heard him was perfectly perplexed about what he had said in spite of the fact that he had spoken in their native tongue.
Each word in a given language has at least one meaning, and many words have multiple meanings. For example, Barren in English may mean without children, or it may mean lifeless like a desert. Imagine someone of a different language translating the English sentence; "The desert was barren", into his own language as "The desert had no children". It wouldn't make any sense to the people of his native tongue. This is clearly what has happened to Yeshua's original Aramaic word now rendered "barren" in its first generation translation to Greek.
For the most part, we can only speculate what Aramaic words Yeshua might have used when speaking to the people. But in this case, I am able to find only one Aramaic word that a Greek speaking person would render as "sterile" in the "barren" or "childless" sense of the word. It is te-khal', and it has the same in meaning as the Hebrew word shaw-kole'. And guess what! It has another meaning... "to cause, or make abortion". The Hebrew word can be found in Strong's Concordance Dictionary under #7921. The Aramaic word is found in Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament, published by Baker Book House, under the same numerical code of #7921. See definition (2).
No Doubt, it is this word "te-khal" that Yeshua used when he was speaking to the women that day. But the person who translated it didn't understand the prophecy. How could he? The people who followed Yeshua could hardly conceive of the idea that anyone would want to terminate a pregnancy, let alone understand that man would someday possess the technology to carry it out by the multiple millions with little pain or risk to the mother's health. Consequently, not being able to comprehend this picture, the translator of Yeshua's Aramaic word rendered it in the Greek as "sti'-ros", meaning not only childless, but also sterile and incapable of conceiving. This has had the effect of cutting off future generations from the picture of terminating a pregnancy after conception which Yeshua's original word certainly included.
It should also be mentioned that the other interpretations
given to this passage are far older than the modern day phenomenon of
abortion. Scholars simply have not had much in the way of other possible interpretations
to choose from.
Yeshua was prophesying of our day, shortly before the end of the age when man's behavior would sink to new barbaric lows. And he was comparing it to the unjust murdering of himself by exhorting the women to weep for what he considered an even greater evil... the mass slaughter of innocence to come... abortion. Since this is the case, it only follows that the "wombs that never bore", and "the breasts that never nursed" are of those who experienced the abortions. Notice, Yeshua did not say, ...the wombs that never conceived... as one might expect him to have said if indeed the previous phrase meant, blessed are the sterile. He said, "the wombs that never gave birth". Here again, he is implying these are the wombs that had conceived but never bore, and the breasts that were preparing to nurse, but never did.
To sum it all up, if Yeshua had taken the time to flesh out this picture and had spoken this prophecy in the English language, he might well have spoken these words:
Precious daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me over this great injustice. Yes, they are going to crucify an innocent man. But this is small compared to what men will do in the future. Weep instead for yourselves as the childbearing members of man's race, and weep for your descendants. For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, "Blessed are those who have an abortion, and the wombs that conceived but never gave birth, and the breasts that were preparing but never nursed the children for whom they were preparing." Then they will murder the innocent unborn by the untold millions, and for this, they will be the first of those who will cry to the mountains. They will say, "Fall on us." ...and to the hills they will say, "Cover us, and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb." as judgment falls on them for their unspeakable deeds. For if man, this day, is able to justify murdering me, while there yet remains some love of life in the world, what will man be capable of ...when that love is gone?
Now read again Yeshuas words as recorded in Luke and see for yourself if this isnt exactly what he meant!
"But Yeshua, turning to them, said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, 'Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore, and the breasts which never nursed!' Then they will begin to say to the mountains, "fall on us!" and to the hills, "cover us!" For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?"
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