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Abortion and the Early Church: Christian, Jewish and Pagan Attitudes in the Greco-Roman World [Paperback]

By Michael J. Gorman (Author)
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Item description for Abortion and the Early Church: Christian, Jewish and Pagan Attitudes in the Greco-Roman World by Michael J. Gorman...

Abortion and the Early Church: Christian, Jewish and Pagan Attitudes in the Greco-Roman World by Michael J. Gorman

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Wipf & Stock Publishers
Pages   120
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.41" Width: 5.8" Height: 0.29"
Weight:   0.39 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Oct 11, 1998
Publisher   Wipf & Stock Publishers
ISBN  1579101828  
ISBN13  9781579101824  

Availability  0 units.

More About Michael J. Gorman

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Michael J. Gorman (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary) is Raymond E. Brown Professor of Biblical Studies and Theology at St. Mary's Seminary and University in Baltimore. He formerly served as dean of the Ecumenical Institute of Theology at St. Mary's.

Michael J. Gorman was born in 1955.

Michael J. Gorman has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Gospel and Our Culture Series (Gocs)

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History > General

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Reviews - What do customers think about Abortion and the Early Church: Christian, Jewish and Pagan Attitudes in the Greco-Roman World?

Excellent resource except for the last chapter  Feb 3, 2008
This is a short book, but it is long enough to cover all the known sources. Abortion was common in the Roman empire. The methods ran the gamut from various poisons to stabbing and cutting up the fetus while still in the womb.

The plain fact is this: the early Christians were firmly against abortion, and their reason was their concern with the humanity of the child. In the Didache and Barnabas "the significance of these two writings lies both in their firm position on abortion as murder and in their development of an ethical context within which abortion should be viewed" (p 50).

Anyone interested in this topic would benefit by the book "When Children Became People", an outstanding study of how differently Christians viewed children and family, as compared to the ancient Greeks and Romans.
An Excellent Resource, but Loses it in the Final Chapter  Sep 25, 2004
Though weighing in at a mere 101 pages of text, Abortion & the Early Church is an excellent overview on early Christianity's attitudes on that subject. Gorman examines the Pagan, Jewish, and Christian attitudes on abortion, spending more chapters breaking down Christian attitudes into the first three centuries and the fourth and fifth centuries. He then wraps up with two final paragraphs. One that rounds off the discussion of where Christian attitudes about abortion came from. Gorman concludes that Christian attitudes were heavily influenced by its Jewish history, but given Jesus' teachings on love and peace turned out to be more adamantly anti-abortion than the Jews. I suspect there is merit to this argument, but also think that much of Christianity's strong anti-abortion stance was due to its direct encounter with the pagan world. Even Jews in the diaspora tended to have their own communities and live amongst themselves. But many Christians were not only converted pagans, they were intent on spreading their own religion even deeper into Roman society. Such clashes tend to sharpen differences.

Up until this point, I benefitted from every part of the book -- even if I was not convinced on every point. Gorman does a good job of providing primary sources about pagan, Christian, and Jewish attitudes on abortion. He also does a good job of explaining those sources and spends much good analysis not only on what the attitudes on abortion were, but what the core of the issue really was. For example, was abortion criticized because it was an impediment to procreation, a means of covering up sexual immorality, a threat to the woman's life as well, or as the killing of a human life? (for Christians it seems all of these were mentioned, but the driving concern was the humanity of the fetus). Nevertheless, Gorman lost a star because his final chapter swerves into very 80s territory as he launches an assault on those pro-life Christians who are pro-strong national defense, pro-capital punishment, and not strong enough on the issue of gun control. Up to this point, his discussion was unemotional, logical, even systematic. Not so here. He comes across as a man struggling to reconcile his personal liberal political beliefs with his strong pro-life beliefs. His solution it to blast both sides. Beyond its obvious tangential nature, this diabtribe is out of place because it -- unlike his excellent discussion of early Christian views on abortion -- is built not on Christian history but on his own emotional biases.

Nevertheless, on the issue of abortion, this is one of the best values out there for understanding what the Church has believed on this subject -- it was immoral. And perhaps more importantly, why it believed what it did -- it was the taking of an innocent human life.
Amazing/Relevant Parallels with Current Debate  Jul 14, 2004
This is well-researched and written examination of the early Christian church's position on abortion, contraception and taking of life.

His looking into this reveals that they were passionately against abortion and even had pagan and Jewish voices joining with them in this.

Citing early fathers the likes of Augustine, Ambrose, Jerome, Chrysostom, Hippolytus and others who wrote and spoke articulately against abortion on grounds of the murder of innocent life, the sanctity of the marriage bed and the immorality and sin of this spreading taking of life.

I was frustrated with only one small part of this otherwise well done work, his final linking of abortion with nuclear arms and capital punishment. His writing as though the early church fathers were of this same mind is a matter that I honestly am not knowledgeable on, but will investigate. Suggest other readers understand a common theological problem with quoting the early church fathers, that of they wrote so much that most all sides of an issue find support in them. It is confusing.

Excellent gem of work that shows abortion is not a modern problem nor is the church's countercultural witness against it either. Valuable resource to the church.

Illumining Picture of Historic Christian Position  Nov 21, 2000
Dr. Michael Gorman handles the question of the historic positions on abortion of major Greek philosophers (including Plato and Aristotle), Roman, Jewish, and early Christians in a very well documented text. The early Christian position stands in contrast to the others in it's overwhelming support of life at all stages. Toward the end of the book the author addresses the issue of a consistent ethic of life which elicits support for life in the context of human conflict, as well as for the unborn. Overall the book supports it's goal of presenting the issue of abortion in relation to the early church, providing many references, and a challenge for the future in addressing the issue of being pro-life in a consistent and comprehensive manner.

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