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Abortion: the Early Church’s View

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Abortion is a “hot” topic in our society. Despite the fact that the Church’s witness against the evil of abortion has been constant through the centuries, it is often presented in the media as a NEW teaching. Some have made claims that the fathers of the early church (and Scripture) were silent on the subject. Nothing could be further from the truth. The teachings of the early Church is unequivocal in its condemnation of abortion! Here’s the proof:

The DIDACHE (first century)
“You shall not slay the child by abortions.”
(Didache 2:2)

BARNABAS (early second century)
“Never do away with an unborn child, or destroy it after its birth.”
(Epistle of Barnabas, chap. 19)

HIPPOLYTUS OF ROME (170-236 AD)
“Women who were reputed to be believers began to take drugs … to expel what was conceived, since they did not want to have a child. See then what great impiety that lawless one [Emperor Callistus] has fallen to, by teaching both adultery and murder at the same time.”

ATHENAGORAS OF ATHENS (ca. 177 AD)
“What reason would we have to commit murder when we even say that women who induce abortions are murderers, and will have to give account of it to God? For the same person would not regard the fetus in the womb as a living thing and therefore an object of God’s care, and at the same time slay it, once it had come to life.” (A Plea Regarding Christians, chapter 35)

TERTULLIAN (ca. 223 AD)
“We acknowledge, therefore, that life begins with conception, because we contend that the soul begins at conception. Life begins when the soul begins.”

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA (223 AD)
“Those who use abortifacients commit homicide.”

JOHN CHRYSOSTOM (345-407 AD)
“Where there is murder before birth, you do not even let a harlot remain only a harlot, but you make of her a murderess as well.”

AUGUSTINE of HIPPO (354-430 AD)
“Sometimes their sadistic licentiousness goes so far… they find one means or another to destroy the unborn and flush it from the mother’s womb.” (The City of God, Book One, Chapter 16)

BASIL THE GREAT (379 AD)
“The woman who purposely destroys her unborn child is guilty of murder. The hair-splitting difference between formed and unformed makes no difference to us.”

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