What the Bible says about human life in the womb

December 2, 2021

The eyes of the nation are turned toward the Supreme Court this week as the Justices heard the oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. This is a pivotal moment regarding abortion rights in America. Never before has the Court seemed more likely to overturn Roe v. Wade than it does at this moment, and it could be decades before another chance like this arrives. Many articles will be able to better explain the legalities of this case. While it is important to consider what the Constitution says about abortion, it is even more important to consider what God says. Below is a brief overview of the Bible’s teaching on early human life.

What the Bible says about life

John and Jesus

The Bible is clear that all human beings are made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26), that the wanton shedding human blood is deeply sinful (Gen. 9:6), and that life even at the earliest stages is precious (Ps. 139:13-16).  In the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke, we read of Mary, the mother of Jesus, going to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Luke tell us, 

In those days Mary set out and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judah where she entered Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped inside her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she exclaimed with a loud cry: “Blessed are you among women, and your child will be blessed! How could this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For you see, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped for joy inside me” (Luke 1:39-44). 

This text tells us a few things. First, Elizabeth speaks of her child in terms indicating he is at that moment, in her womb, alive and worthy of being spoken of as a baby, not simply a potential life. He was a prophet from the womb as he was declaring that this was the Christ. Gabriel even tells Zechariah, John’s father, earlier in the chapter that he would be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15). 

The Greek word for “baby” in 1:41, 44 is brefoß (brephos). Luke (who, if you will recall, is a doctor) uses the same word to describe the infant, Jesus, in the next chapter during the narrative about the shepherds. He writes, “This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby (brefoß) wrapped tightly in cloth and lying in a manger” (2:12). It is also the same word Luke uses in 18:15 to describe the infants (brefoß) that the people tried to bring to Jesus when the disciples sought to prevent them, and Jesus rebuked them.

Aside from what this text tells us about John, it says a great deal about the Lord as well. Both John and Elizabeth recognize that Jesus is, at this specific point in time, the Messiah. Luke 1:26 says Elizabeth conceived six months before Mary. Even if Elizabeth were nine months pregnant when this meeting took place, the furthest along that Mary could have been is around 12 weeks. This is well before the US Supreme Court’s litmus test of viability. When Roe v. Wade was handed down, this was believed to be around 28 weeks.

Job and David 

In Job 3, after seven days of sitting quietly on the ground in mourning with his friends, Job speaks and curses the day he was born because of the unthinkable suffering he had endured. He says, “May the day I was born perish, and the night that said, “A boy is conceived” (3:3). Job does not view the beginning of his existence from viability or from the moment he passed through the birth canal. He views the beginning of his life from the moment he was conceived, which has direct bearing on the abortion debate today. 

David says something similar in Psalm 51 when speaking to the depth of his sinfulness. He said, “Indeed, I was guilty when I was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me” (51:5). David and Job did not see their own lives as coming after that which was conceived in the wombs of their mothers. Rather, they identify their beginning from the moment of their conception. 

Furthermore, David speaks of God’s work in fashioning him in his mother’s womb in Psalm 139. He says, 

For it was you who created my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise you because I have been remarkably and wondrously made. Your works are wondrous, and I know this very well. My bones were not hidden from you when I was made in secret, when I was formed in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in your book and planned before a single one of them began (139:13-16).

David is not speaking of his potential self in these verses. Clearly, he believes that what was in his mother’s womb was not merely a “product of conception” but rather himself as a formless, immature baby. He also indicates in 139:16 that while his days began at birth (that would be the counting of them as one would count a birthday) that his life and existence had already begun. 


Ultimately, human life is valuable because man is made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26). Man does not derive his own worth from inside himself but from his Creator. Abortion is such an egregious evil because the destruction of life made in his image is a destruction of the image of the holy, almighty, infinitely glorious, and eternally valuable God.

Abortion has caused the destruction of countless lives — inside and outside of the womb. Women who have had an abortion should not suffer alone. These women or those who believe that their only hope is to have an abortion should find safety, not ridicule, from those in the pro-life movement. Loving both mother and baby is the only acceptable option. Stopping the death of unborn babies is but one part of a holistic worldview that churches who promote life must have. This issue is one piece of a larger framework for creating healthy marriages and families and enabling the society around us to flourish.

Believers everywhere should pray for this week’s events at the Supreme Court. Pray that God will have mercy on our nation. Pray that the scourge of abortion will end. Pray that the sun will finally set on the great human rights crisis of our time. Pray that those made in God’s image will no longer have to be subject to instruments in the hands of abortion doctors. Pray that moms would be encouraged to embrace the unborn life inside of them. And pray that the right to life will prevail. 

Jeremy Lloyd

Jeremy Lloyd is a Ph.D. student in ethics at Midwestern Seminary in Kansas City. He and his wife, Erica, live in St. Louis with their five children. Read More