On January 2, a front-page article in the New York Times asked what it called an “eternal question”—when does life start? The caption below the main photo stated, “For generations, the mystery of human life has been wrestled by philosophers and scientists, felt by mothers and midwives.” The article went on to describe the complexities that theologians, philosophers, scientists, politicians, doctors, and others have debated for centuries.
As with every fundamental question, God’s word provides the answer—because wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and truth come from His word (Proverbs 2:6; John 17:17). The Bible makes it clear that human life begins at conception, or when a woman becomes pregnant by conceiving “seed” (Hebrews 11:11). The Bible illustrates this principle in several accounts where God was involved regarding matters of conception and childbearing.
Right at the beginning of the Bible, the book of Genesis explains how the inability to conceive children was a common challenge for God’s servants, as the wives of Abraham (Sarah), Isaac (Rebekah), and Jacob (Rachel) struggled to conceive (Genesis 11:30; 25:20–21; 29:31). This problem was a major aspect of these biblical accounts, and in all three cases, God directly intervened to allow the wife to conceive when the time was right, according to His plan. Notice these scriptures:
And the Lord visited Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as He had spoken. For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him (Genesis 21:1–2).
Now Isaac pleaded with the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived (Genesis 25:21).
Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb. And she conceived and bore a son, and said, “God has taken away my reproach” (Genesis 30:22–23).
Another famous biblical account involving God’s direct blessing regarding the conception of a child is the story of Hannah, who was unable to conceive for years because God, even though He loved Hannah, “closed her womb” (1 Samuel 1:5–6). Hannah cried out to God in sincerity because of the pain of being unable to have children. God responded to her heartfelt prayer: “And Elkanah [her husband] knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, ‘Because I have asked for him from the Lord’” (1 Samuel 1:19–20).
In all these examples of God’s promising a child, the life of that child began at conception and continued until the complete fulfillment of the promise at birth.
That these God-given lives begin inside the womb, not outside, is made plain in the books of Moses by the penalty laid on any man who, through careless violence, causes a woman to go into early labor. In such a case, if the child dies, the individual is punished with the loss of his own life, according to the principle of “life for life” (Exodus 21:22–25).
Perhaps the most famous conception ever is, of course, that of Jesus of Nazareth. About 700 years before Jesus was born, the prophet Isaiah was inspired to write one of the most famous and miraculous prophecies in the Bible: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
Centuries later, we read about the miraculous conception and birth of Jesus by his mother, Mary:
But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us” (Matthew 1:20–23).
The presence of true, God-given life within the womb is indicated by the joyful reaction of Jesus’ cousin John while still in his mother’s womb. We are told by his mother that “the babe leaped in my womb for joy” the moment she heard the voice of Mary, who was pregnant with Jesus (Luke 1:39–45).
All life comes from Him, as many Scriptures explain—such as Acts 17:25, which says that God “gives to all life, breath, and all things.” He’s also the only one with the authority to take human life (1 Samuel 2:6).
The highly educated of this world debate endlessly over abortion and when they think life begins, but the question really is a simple one that the Bible answers well enough for a child to understand. The debate is a great example of how mankind’s wisdom and intelligence does not compare to God’s (1 Corinthians 1:20, 25). In reality, there is no debate; the Bible has contained the answer for millennia.
The Bible clearly shows that God is the glorious Creator of human life.
If you would like to see more of our material on this topic, please read the cover article for the October–November 2022 issue of Tomorrow’s World magazine, entitled “What Is the Value of Human Life?”