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Thank you for taking my question. In light of the recent change in abortion laws, I have been in a debate with some of my family members who are of the belief that "soul" life does not begin until a baby is born and the baby takes its first breath. They believe that there is biological life in the womb, but that a baby does not become a living soul until he/she takes their first breath. They site Genesis 2:7 with the Hebrew translation of "life" referring to soul. When I refer to Psalm 139, I'm told that I'm basing my belief against abortion and that life begins at the moment of conception as purely an opinion based on emotion.

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    May I suggest that you edit your question to leave out the personal details and just ask a very concise question about your text in Psalm 139 and the individual word you are focusing on. Otherwise your question may be down-voted/migrated for purely administrative reasons. – Nigel J Feb 8 '19 at 20:28
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The Genesis 2:7 passage is in reference to Adam who was made from lifeless matter. But every other human being including Eve who was separate from Adam’s side was made with living tissue.

So I’d suggest that Genesis 2:7 does not fit humans because they are born of preexisting living cells (gametes)

The more appropriate verse would be

“So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place.” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭2:21‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Eve’s body was made from living tissue.

Likewise until two living cells are united (gametes) that process of meiosis does not take place.

But the cells are living, not dead as was the lifeless form in Genesis 2:7

You might make a case that the life is in the blood and until the fetus has blood it doesn’t have life,

“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.'” ‭‭Leviticus‬ ‭17:11‬ ‭NASB

Blood is made in week 5 from conception.

Does the embryo need to breathe air to be considered alive? No because the contrast in Genesis 2:7 is between inanimate clay and a living being and not between living tissue and a breathing being.

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  • I'd say Eve's case isn't really parallel to every birth since, either. – Luke Sawczak Feb 9 '19 at 14:09
  • Except in the sense that she was made from preexisting living cells/tissue. Gametes are living cells. But I take your point as I’ve considered it myself. Psalm 139 doesn’t exactly point to an exact time except to use גּלם which is an embryo and so at the latest at the point of an embryo one came into existence therefore breathing air was not a prerequisite to be a soul/person as was indicated for Adam. It also therefore plays into how soul is defined. – Nihil Sine Deo Feb 9 '19 at 14:16
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At the outset, I should point out that the Bible is not a science book. Trying to draw parallelisms between the Bible and the state of affairs of science improperly degrades the former (and I characterize this as "improper" notwithstanding that I no longer consider myself a devote person).

Genesis 2:7 is inconclusive or inappropriate for pinpointing when human life starts. Notice the preposition li (לְ) in li-nefesh hayah (לְנֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה).

Among other uses, li may serve as indirect object (dative) marker. Thus, ha-adam li-nefesh hayah ( הָאָדָם לְנֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה) may denote the act of accomplishing that man be before --or in the presence of-- nefesh hayah. Equivalently, that man be at nefesh hayah's disposition or linked to nefesh hayah. This could also be phrased as "delivering man to nefesh hayah", although doing so might needlessly invite a controversy on the absence of particle et (אֶת) in that portion of Genesis 2:7.

Who is nefesh hayah? According to the Zohar, it means this earth, Shekhinah (the Divine presence), or even the righteous. See Haqdamat Sefer ha-Zohar 1:13a, and Bereshit 1:34b and 1:47a, respectively (in the Pritzker edition of The Zohar, these references are on pages 92, 213, and 252, respectively). The Zohar surely makes additional references elsewhere.

Thus, Genesis 2:7 is less anthropocentric than the interpretations thereof arising in abortion controversies. At least from a zoharic perspective, Genesis 2:7 describes a "transaction" involving God, Shekhinah, and ha-adam. It does not refer to immediate-postnatal physiology, and therefore it is not a sound defense of abortion.

(Personally, I join your opposition to abortion, since --like you-- I support the premise that a person's life begins at conception)

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