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When does a life in the womb become a human being?

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Where does the Bible define the beginning of human life? A look at some of the passages on this issue offers clear evidence that God defines a person as “human” from the point of conception, not merely when a child draws its first breath.

A key example of this view is found in Psalm 139:13–16 where David writes, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

The psalmist uses poetic lyrics to note God creates life in the womb, meaning that we have life before birth.. God even has a specific plan for each person’s life from the point of conception, from “before one of them [days] came to be.”

On the negative side, every person is also sinful from the point of conception: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). This is the doctrine of original sin, the teaching that humans are born with a sin nature. What is often overlooked in this verse is the fact that each child is considered a person at conception.

Several other biblical passages refer to preborn children in the same manner as children outside of the womb. For example, John the Baptist is called a “baby,” using the same Greek word for a young infant, while still in the womb (Luke 1:41–44). Jesus is later described using the same Greek word after His birth (Luke 2:12, 16).

Another example is found in the birth announcement of Samson. The Angel of the Lord told Samson’s mother, “The boy will be a Nazirite of God from the womb until the day of his death” (Judges 13:7). Samson is referred to as a “boy” from the womb until death, indicating the time from prior to physical birth to beyond the womb.

Isaiah 49:1 adds, “Before I was born the LORD called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name.” This “servant of the Lord” was considered called by God as a child in the womb. God told the prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). God “knew” Jeremiah while he was in his mother’s womb, referring to Jeremiah as a living being prior to his birth.

Job poetically describes his life in the womb, saying, “Your hands shaped me and made me.
Will you now turn and destroy me?
Remember that you molded me like clay.
Will you now turn me to dust again?” (Job 10:8–9). God is clearly involved in the creation and development of a person from the earliest stages of formation in the womb. Human life or personhood is defined by Scripture from the point of conception.

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When does a life in the womb become a human being?
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This page last updated: August 5, 2022