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Different eras of Christianity have always placed their focus on different portions of the Bible, and interpreted it differently. That's not to say that any of them are wrong, necessarily, but we can't sweep these differences under the rug and pretend they haven't happened.

The Christian understanding of the nature of God, the Trinity, salvation, the afterlife... all have changed and mutated rather profoundly over the past two millenia. One tidbit that's stuck with me from my History of Christianity class was the medieval insistence that God didn't feel sorrow over the plight of the damned, and that Jesus felt no pain on the cross.

The logic went as follows - God is omnipotent, which means that no one can force Him to do something He doesn't want to do. Anyone, subjected to pain, will inevitably break (with torture being a commonplace tool of the clergy, this was common knowledge). Therefore, God cannot feel pain, nor any unpleasant sensation whatsoever, or else He could be compelled to do something He didn't want to do.

Walk into any church today, and try preaching to the congregation that Jesus felt no pain on the cross, and that God feels no sorrow for the various misfortunes of His creations. I predict your attempted revival of this particular traditional bit of orthodoxy would not be well-received.

The current religio-political focus on the personhood of the unborn, in particular, is relatively quite new, and, depending on who you ask, doesn't have much actual Biblical justification. Y'see, most pro-lifers only ever point to the one verse - Psalm 139:13 "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my motherís womb." (NIV). Of course, in context, this verse really isn't about the personhood of zygotes so much as it is about how the Almighty has X-ray vision.

No, if you want a simple, declarative statement on the unborn, you gotta hit up Exodus. You see, the Torah makes it clear - the punishment for killing a person is death. However, Exodus 21:22 states quite clearly that if someone causes a woman to miscarry, then the punishment is that they have to pay a fine. Ergo, fetus isn't a person. Simple enough.

Now, those of you who flipped to your copy of the NIV to follow along are snorting angrily and preparing to write me angry emails, because your Bible doesn't say "miscarriage", it says "give birth prematurely". Do me a favour - head on over to biblegateway.com and check out the same passage in a few different translations (particularly the Douay-Rheims and Wycliffe versions).

Back? Okay, so you may have noticed that some translations interpret the Hebrew as "give birth prematurely", and some interpret it as some synonym of "miscarry". In particular, you may have noticed that "give birth prematurely" tends to be in the newer translations.

I'm not saying one translation is better than another, mind you. I don't speak Hebrew myself, I'm certainly no expert. I'm just saying, termination of a fetus is not a new medical procedure, and modern Christianity's insistence that Life begins at Conception is a relatively new doctrine.

Of course, if one uses this bit of Exodus to determine who, exactly, God thinks is a person... well then slaves aren't people either.

Like I said, changes in interpretation aren't necessarily wrong. Sometimes they're very right.

0228-------------------------------------

(Wednesday, INT: EB and JH's apartment)

JH: Seriously, there's a lot in here that people just choose to ignore. Don't swear oaths, don't pray in public, divorce is adultery...
EB: The Catholics still follow that last one.
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JH: And give away all your money. All of it! Not the price of a cup of coffee a day, not ten percent - give away all of your money and, apparently, become a religious hobo.
EB: Makes you wonder how he accumulated any followers at all.
JH: Well, there are all the miracles. I expect they helped.
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EB: Anything yet on abortions or gay people?
JH: Not a damn word and you know it.
EB: Funny, that.
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JH: Makes you wonder how far Christianity is going to mutate in the next two thousand years.
EB: What, you seriously expect it'll survive the next hundred?