John Calvin, commenting on Exodus 21:22-25:

The fetus, though enclosed in the womb of its mother, is already a human being (homo), and it is almost a monstrous crime to rob it of life which it has not yet begun to enjoy. If it seems horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man’s house is his place of most secure refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy a fetus in the womb before it has come to light.

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7 thoughts on “More Atrocious than Being Killed at Home”

  1. Bob Smith says:

    This is a great quote! Can I have the source citation? As one that has to answer, “Did Luther say…” questions, I’m always curious as to where to find quotes. ;-)

  2. Wesley says:

    Strange and ironic to see this very current truth articulated so well from the 16 century. Continue to thank God for this man [Calvin] in numerous and sundry ways. Thanks for this KD.

  3. Keith says:

    It’s from Calvin’s “Harmony of the Law”, volume 3, you can find it on-line.

    Here’s the complete quote:

    22. If men strive, and hurt a woman. This passage at first sight is ambiguous, for if the word death only applies to the pregnant woman, it would not have been a capital crime to put an end to the foetus, which would be a great absurdity; for the foetus, though enclosed in the womb of its mother, is already a human being, (homo,) and it is almost a monstrous crime to rob it of the life which it has not yet begun to enjoy. If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man’s house is his place of most secure refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy a foetus in the womb before it has come to light. On these grounds I am led to conclude, without hesitation, that the words, “if death should follow,” must be applied to the foetus as well as to the mother. Besides, it would be by no means reasonable that a father should sell for a set sum the life of his son or daughter. Wherefore this, in my opinion, is the meaning of the law, that it would be a crime punishable with death, not only when the mother died from the effects of the abortion, but also if the infant should be killed; whether it should die from the wound abortively, or soon after its birth.

    As Calvin makes clear, it’s his interpretation the law applies to the harming of the fetus, scripture is ambiguous.

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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