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If you read carefully...[edit]

The prohibitions and subsequent relaxation of the prohibitions do not change the theological fact that killing a human embyro is a sin. Why? Because it says that killing before the infusion of the spiritual soul was not a crime. Because if there is no soul, there is no human person. So if anything, the science was not yet up to the point, but the theology was. Now we have the means of seeing that at the instant of conception there is a radical change, in which the the individual cells of the parents stop being individual but rather something new, with its own dynamism. But this article really affirms things without some key citations.


This page needs to either

  • Make it clear that "ensoulment" is a Christian term
  • Provide some context that isn't all from the bible (why?) (What gives you the right to determine what the source is or isn't from?)

Separate articles?[edit]

As Choster says, "many religions believe in souls", but the terminology, concepts and beliefs are different. I think it would help to compare and contrast the religious beliefs if there was a separate article on Ensoulment (Christianity) (as there was in the past) which linked to the nearest equivalent in other religions.--Nathan Cole 12:39, 20 June 2006 (UTC)

Question objectiveness and sources[edit]

This article appears to represent only the Christian / Catholic point of view. All of the cited links are from the Bible, Biblical sites, or the Roman Catholic church.

The following article, which I have not validated, shows different ideas of the time of ensoulment among different religions: [1]. I will try to find evidence for my at this point completely unverified understanding that earlier in time, when child mortality was high, even the Catholic Church taught that ensoulment happened some days after birth.

In any case, the single-religion POV presented here makes me challenge the objectivity of this article.

Peter 14:50, 4 December 2006 (UTC)

Identical twins[edit]

Since identical twins form after conception, do they only have half a soul each? Atomic Wedgie 03:52, 21 October 2007 (UTC)

Souls are indivisible. Either there are two already there or the second one is infused after the separation. Remember that spirits are not restricted by space, but rather exist where they act. Thus that old question: How many angels can fit on the point of a needle? All of them.

-- (talk) 21:35, 4 February 2010 (UTC)

Article of Dogma???[edit]

Presently, the Wiki entry states, "the Church teaches that ensoulment is at conception. This is taught as an article of dogma which is required belief by all its members." There is no source for this, and from what I know, it is simply false!! The 2003 New Catholic Encyclopedia has an entry ("Soul, origin of") which says, regarding "Time of Infusion," that "Exactly when this happens is more controversial, and still an open question with scholastic philosophers of high standing on both sides" (p 356). The NCE entry continues by pointing out that the CDF's Donum Vitae [2] states, "The Magisterium has not expressly committed its authority to an affirmation of a philosophical nature" (I.1). The CDF would not withhold its affirmation on a matter which is, as the Wiki entry claims, "an article of dogma."

Furthermore, the Wiki entry states "The Roman Catholic Church has maintained as part of its dogma the writings of the early Church father, Tertullian (160–220 CE), who wrote..." This is nonsensical. "Tertullian" is "part of the [the Church's] dogma"?? A dogma is a solemnly defined and obligatory teaching, but as far as I know neither "Tertullian" (this is nonsensical), nor the entirety of his writings, are considered dogma. Sure, Tertullian's statement about ensoulment provides an early testimony to the predominant Catholic belief that this begins at conception, but to claim that this statement is somehow dogma? This whole part needs to be rewritten by someone who knows what "dogma" is.

According to the NCE, the present situation stands as follows: the CDF has put its weight on the position that ensoulment, and thus personhood, begin at conception, but it has not taught this. The majority view (which grew with the advent of the human genome) among Catholic theologians tends toward the moment of conception, but this is not a settled matter, and certainly not a dogma. Bpeters1 (talk) 19:44, 19 February 2009 (UTC)

I was the one who added that paragraph. It was my understanding of the matter at the time, but I think you're right, it is in error. Please go ahead and fix it, if you know how. MamaGeek (talk/contrib) 12:56, 20 February 2009 (UTC)

Dignitas Personae[edit]

There ought to be an article on the declaration Dignitas Personae in order to better explain how the Church views living embryos. ADM (talk) 05:21, 10 March 2009 (UTC)

The position taken in Dignitatis Personae[edit]

The philosophical position taken in Dignitatis Personae on the question of the value of a human being is found in ¶ 5:

Indeed, the reality of the human being for the entire span of life, both before and after birth, does not allow us to posit either a change in nature or a gradation in moral value, since it possesses full anthropological and ethical status. The human embryo has, therefore, from the very beginning, the dignity proper to a person.

Unfortunately, as a philosophical argument, this reasoning is circular. It is true that one cannot posit a change in value if the human being possesses full anthropological and ethical status from the moment of conception, but this if is the very conclusion desired, albeit expressed in different terms. It begs justification.

In any case, this paragraph makes no pretense to declaring a matter of settled dogma. The very reason the argument is couched in philosophical terms is because it is not a matter of settled dogma and the CDF recognizes the need to provide a justification for the main conclusion.

I make no suggestion here that there is no basis for a dogmatic declaration in favor of ensoulment at conception, nor do I believe there is no philosophical justification for this eminently desirable conclusion. On the contrary, I believe the scriptures cited are at least highly suggestive of the conclusion and I also believe that a legitimate philosophical argument, based in natural theology, is possible. [[[User:Lgearhart|Fr. Larry]] (talk) 19:26, 6 July 2009 (UTC)]

Essay not encyclopedic article[edit]

I believe this article violates Wikipedia's neutrality policy and is written in a way that is unsalvageable at this point. I recommend the placing a speedy deletion tag if this article falls under that policy.--Amadscientist (talk) 04:11, 20 July 2009 (UTC)

Bold copy edit[edit]

I am removing everything that makes an unsourced claim, all peacock terms and weasel words.--Amadscientist (talk) 04:15, 20 July 2009 (UTC)

Article is now a stub again[edit]

I editied out absolutely everything that did not have any relevence to the subject. After the OR, POV and unrelated Abortion information was removed....we are left with a simple stub. Let's keep this article encyclopedic please. Thanks--Amadscientist (talk) 05:03, 20 July 2009 (UTC)

I think you were a little aggressive. "When it happens" is a perfectly encyclopedic topic, and the statement was sourced.
It's also not a stub by Wikipedia's standards: it's at least Start-class and might meet C-class (since it has "structure" and eight references). WhatamIdoing (talk) 19:56, 20 July 2009 (UTC)
I admit to bold editing. I would say the only thing that could have stood from my original copy edits was what you placed back in with the exception of the last line about the church which is un referenced and completely original research without a third party citation. It is an "Extraodinary claim" and requires referencing to stand. It may be possible to do so. I will leave it for now.
Article size and rating can easily be changed if you feel strongly about it and I can live with what you decide, but there may be others who disagree.
I will look at what you put back in to see what prompted me to remove it before.--Amadscientist (talk) 19:39, 21 July 2009 (UTC)
OK, I trimmed off what I had originaly seen wrong. The first sentence from the removed section is "Different people believe that ensoulment during fetal development happens at different times." is a litle unecyclopedic in that it is a given. The article does not need to state the obviouse. The first sentence in the lead states this as does the following sentence in an encyclopedic tone.--Amadscientist (talk) 19:48, 21 July 2009 (UTC)
Actually, per WP:OBVIOUS, that's exactly the kind of statement we should be making, but I'm willing to agree that it's somewhat redundant.
I don't understand the 'extraordinary claim' issue: How can "Here's the name of the most recent official statement by this organization" an 'extraordinary' claim?
Do you think that this official document presents something that is somehow not the official view? Or that the most recent official pronouncement on the subject is somehow less likely to contain the modern views of said organization than statements made hundreds of years ago? WhatamIdoing (talk) 19:51, 21 July 2009 (UTC)

Your quick! I was explaining the last part and when I hit there was an edit conflict. So let me look where we are in the discussion and reply.--Amadscientist (talk) 19:54, 21 July 2009 (UTC)

WP:OBVIOUS says "State facts that may be obvious to you, but are not necessarily obvious to the reader." Like when refering to a make of a car be sure to point out that it is a car.

What I meant was, that in articles about controversies, it is not necessary to state that "Some people believe one thing and others believe another", when that is a given by the nature of the prose. In other words, don't comment on the facts. It becomes a narrative which is essayish and unencyclopedic. I will comment about your other question below.--Amadscientist (talk) 20:03, 21 July 2009 (UTC)

First of all, let me thank you for such as civil discussion. I commend you for your ability to interact this way even though I am sure you do not fully agree with me.
The section I refer to about making an extraordinary claim is this one. "The official views of the modern Roman Catholic Church on the dignity and humanity of embryos are found in the 2008 declaration Dignities Personae, which gives a number of responses in moral theology and bioethics." This makes a claim "Extraordinary" by the fact that it is controversial and the way it states certain facts. Such as the "Official views", as well as the terms "dignity and humanity" which places the claim directly on to an organizations back with out a reference. Here is how this should be done. First, the section should explain how it is official with an in line citation and an actual Quote from the document used as an illustrative reference to just show that the document does state this. That way, if the terms Dignity and humanity are used in the document it is justifiable to use in the section. Or.....find a single third party reference that says all of this about the documentation and be sure the wording is supported correctly by the source and just add one reference.--Amadscientist (talk) 20:18, 21 July 2009 (UTC)
Did you read the linked Wikipedia article about the document in question?
I'm not really good with Latin, but the title alone seems to address the "dignity" and "humanity" aspects (it translates as something like "Human Dignity").
Are you familiar with the Roman Catholic Church's system for making pronouncements? I believe that instructions issued by the "Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith" are as official and binding as you can get. It's not like Buddhism, where you pick your own canon, or Islam, where only your personally preferred imam's pronouncements are relevant. (Of course, someone over at WP:CATHOLIC might know more about this than I do.)
That their view is True™ is indeed an extraordinary claim, but the mere fact that they have a view, and that this view was expressed in the named document, is a trivial claim. To say otherwise is like saying that the statement made by an official company spokesman during a formal press conference is not the offical view of the company. WhatamIdoing (talk) 02:46, 22 July 2009 (UTC)

Deleted content[edit]

This article used to have a lot more useful content in it. It looks like most of it was deleted by "Amadscientist", trying to bias the article. Please ban them from editing and restore the content. Quote from Augustine was removed, quotes from the Bible were removed, etc. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:54, 11 January 2010 (UTC)

Deleted content 2[edit]

I have removed a large chunk of text added twice by an anonymous editor. I believe the anonymous editor can probably contribute a lot to this article, but I want to encourage the editor to work within out guidelines, and attempt to write an encyclopedia article. A long list of what early Church Fathers had to say about abortion is not encyclopedic. That content can be condenses and summarized, and key quotes can be used, but this isn't WikiQuote, and such large blocks of quotes breaks up the flow of text and isn't within out style guidelines (in addition to having basic formatting errors and looking terrible on screen). Also, keep in mind that we generally cannot cite primary sources like ancient texts directly, but need to cite scholars discussing those sources. So instead of citing a Church Father directly and claiming that passage relates to ensoulment, we need to find scholars making those claims to avoid original interpretation of ancient texts and such. I really do believe anon can contribute, and I want to encourage them to keep working, but please consider Wikipedia's mission of being an encyclopedia, read up on our rules and style guide, and consider how you can contribute. I'd be glad to help where I can if you have questions. -Andrew c [talk] 15:21, 13 May 2010 (UTC)


Here's the content on Judaism that I removed from the article:

The Talmud, in chapter 11 of the tractate Sanhedrin, records a purported conversation in which the Stoic Marcus Aurelius convinced Judah the Prince that the soul comes into the body at conception.

The inclusion of only the extreme minority view (ie. that in Judaism, the soul enters at conception) raises WP:NPOV concerns. I suggest that users wishing to include information on Judaism draft, on the talkpage perhaps, a section that gives due weight to views as represented in reliable sources. –Roscelese (talkcontribs) 22:44, 1 December 2011 (UTC)

Would Roscelese please indicate what is the WP:NPOV issue she claims to find in the detailed work that she has now reverted (not the skeleton and inaccurate content that, the day before yesterday, she referred to above). What she has now reverted said that views on ensoulment within Judaism varied, that some said it happened at birth, others at formation of the embryo, others at conception, others even before conception; that they formulated no fully developed theory about when ensoulment occurred. What, the day before yesterday, she called "the extreme minority view" is only one of those mentioned. I doubt if she could cite even one reliable source that describes as an extreme minority view the view that she so strongly dislikes, and which is not the only view indicated in the work she has now deleted. There seems to be no justification for her deletion of sourced information about the different views held in Judaism. Esoglou (talk) 09:36, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
Two paragraphs on one individual's view that ensoulment occurred at conception, one paragraph (sourced to Christian student work, which in this context is unacceptable) on how it occurred before, and a throwaway mention in the last paragraph about how there wasn't actually any consensus and how rabbis didn't actually describe the embryo as having a soul? You don't see the problem with this? –Roscelese (talkcontribs) 17:45, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
Don't you know the importance that the Talmud holds in Judaism? Paragraphs 1 and 2 give the view recorded in the Talmud about ensoulment at conception. Paragraph 1 also gives the view that ensoulment occurs at formation of the embryo, also in the Talmud. Paragraph 2 also gives the view that ensoulment occurs at birth (which, you surely know, was also the view of the Stoics, a prominent proponent of which philosophy was Marcus Aurelius, wrongly given in the first deletion as the famous rabbi's interlocutor who argued for ensoulment at conception), a view also registered in the Talmud as a variant of the same story (elsewhere, I think, not as a variant of manuscripts of the same passage). That's already three Jewish views in the first two paragraphs. Paragraph 3 gives a fourth view (ensoulment even before conception) presented in a Jewish writing not as authoritative as the Talmud, but nonetheless a well-known Jewish document, which has merited an article about it in Wikipedia. That's four views in Judaism. The well-known document itself states this fourth view. The writer whom you call a "student" (are you sure that candidates for a Ph.D. are suitably referred to by that description, which I thought was appropriate only for candidates for lowlier degrees than that?) takes note of the view given in the well-known document, but you surely don't think that he adopts it as his own view. He merely reports it as given in the document, and only confirms what we ourselves can see by looking up the document. Paragraph 4 does not seem to give any new view. First it cites Schiff (surely a reliable source) who says that Jewish rabbinic lore (that of quite a lot of rabbis, not just one) builds on the at-conception view (the already mentioned view that for some undisclosed reason you call not just an extreme minority view, but even the extreme minority view!). Then it gives the Steinberg statement that the rabbis generally deny the description "nefesh" to the fetus still in the womb, like the already mentioned at-birth view. Then it quotes Schiff again, who explicitly says the rabbis formulated no fully developed theory on the matter, surely a pertinent authoritative remark. This is followed by a remark by another writer who says much the same thing as Schiff and whose statement, even if you could prove your claim of unreliability (which you can't), could be omitted without invalidating the whole section that you have nevertheless unjustifiably deleted. You can't possibly describe the remarks by Schiff and the other source as "throwaway mentions" or statements about rabbis not describing the embryo as having a soul. Were you referring to the statement by Steinberg? The statement was about the fetus before birth not being considered to be a "nefesh" (נפש) - not a question of having or not having a soul. No throwaway statement that. If you think Steinberg is not enough, I promise to cite for you others who say the same thing.
Would you now be so good as to reveal at last what you consider to be the majority view in Judaism on the moment of ensoulment, and that you say is obscured in the text that you have deleted? Is it a fifth view different from the four given in the text you deleted? And since you object to some "throwaway mention .. about how there wasn't actually any consensus", would you please indicate 1) what is the view in Judaism on ensoulment on which you claim there is consensus; and 2) what is the basis of your claim that there is consensus on that particular view? If you know (if you knew?) some view to be the consenssus view on the matter, it seems strange that you don't just put it in Wikipedia, instead of deleting the work of others. Esoglou (talk) 10:21, 4 December 2011 (UTC)
I hope I am not being too bold in interpreting silence as consent to restoring the deleted text. Esoglou (talk) 20:20, 5 December 2011 (UTC)
Yes, you are. Not everyone has time to spend their entire day on Wikipedia looking up sources and writing responses for users who have repeatedly demonstrated a lack of comprehension of Wikipedia policies, because some people have lives and jobs. I assure you, you will see my response, with sources, when it is finished. –Roscelese (talkcontribs) 20:40, 5 December 2011 (UTC)
I was mistaken, then, in thinking that you would indicate what you believe to be the majority view in Judaism on ensoulment and the reason you thought the view given most prominence in the Talmud was the minority view in Judaism. I am too tired after being out all day to make any comment other than that, so I just await the result of your work. Take your time. I am in no hurry. Esoglou (talk) 20:48, 5 December 2011 (UTC)

Response and summary of sources[edit]

Firstly, I can't decide whether to be annoyed or amused at the remark that I'm unfamiliar with the Talmud. Only someone to whom Jewish tradition is completely alien could suggest that the Talmud is a unified document representing a monolithic Jewish view. Secondly, sources (note that there are some pages I can't view online, so I hope that if you can see them, you'll tell me in the unlikely case that they say something radically different):

  • Schiff:
    • 6: nefesh is the linchpin of the whole debate
    • 9-11: fetus not a nefesh per Exodus
    • 15: in Septuagint, "formation" is important
    • 17: ditto Philo
    • 23: both Palestinian and Alexandrian schools recognize formation
    • subsequent pages reiterate repeatedly that the fetus is not a nefesh
    • 42-43: rabbis "gave credence" to ensoulment at conception, but issues were largely "speculative pursuit"; part about Antoninus and Rabbi (Schiff notes, however, that because the pair also concluded that the evil inclination is given at birth, it is unlikely that they meant the same by "soul" as we think when referring to conception)
    • 43: some discussions (mostly in midrash and Mishnah, but also in Talmud) seem to suggest (this is Schiff's interpretation) pre-birth ensoulment, but no theory of ensoulment ever developed
    • 43: Abulafia interprets Rabbi's position as ensoulment at conception, but also says the fetus is not a nefesh until birth
    • 59: Rashi says the fetus is not a nefesh
    • 88: Moses Schorr, not a nefesh
    • 105: Shneur Zalman Fradkin, still not a nefesh
  • Lin is unacceptable. We have piles of actual scholarship on this subject; we do not use evangelical student work simply because it supports our views.
  • Falk is also not a scholarly work and is unacceptable.

There's more of Schiff, and there are plenty of other sources that I found when I did my own search, but it really isn't worth going on because this more than demonstrates that what you wrote was completely undue. See how different everything is when you don't cherrypick pages and sources to suit your own personal opinions? –Roscelese (talkcontribs) 01:16, 6 December 2011 (UTC)

I'm glad that you seem to agree that it is the general view in Judaism that the not yet born fetus is not a nefesh. You remember that I promised, if you disagreed with that statement, to cite for you others than Steinberg who say the same thing.
Earlier, I thought you objected to the idea that some rabbis held that a fetus did not have a soul ("a throwaway mention in the last paragraph about ... how rabbis didn't actually describe the embryo as having a soul"). Am I right in thinking that now, on the contrary, you think that the rabbis who said the fetus was not a nefesh were saying that the fetus does not have a soul? I leave aside the question whether that interpretation would be classified as a wiki-excluded synthesis. I just wonder if it means that you accept that one opinion in Judaism on ensoulment is that it occurs at birth, one of the opinions mentioned in the text that you deleted. In that case, we have another point on which we agree.
Since you too deny that "the Talmud is a unified document representing a monolithic Jewish view", perhaps we agree also that the Talmud can be cited for more than one Judaic view on ensoulment. Do we agree therefore that there is more than one Jewish view on ensoulment?
Can we agree that the Talmud is a reliable source for what it gives as a Jewish view on ensoulment? If we disagree, I suppose we shall have to put that question on the Reliable Sources Noticeboard.
Is your mysterious "majority view" the at-birth view of ensoulment? Is this the view on which you say there is (the equally mysterious) "consensus"? Or is your "majority view" the at-formation view of ensoulment, for which you cite the (Greek) Septuagint and (Greek-speaking) Philo? You admit also that rabbis gave credence to the at-conception view of ensoulment, a credence that was of course speculative, since they were not drawing any practical conclusions from it. So why not restore these three views to the article, while we await the revealing of the "majority view" and the "consensus" on it? If we agree that these view are found in Judaism, editors can at leisure add better sources than those already cited.
Is it possible that your difficulty is that you, unlike the rabbis, are drawing practical conclusions from the various views that the rabbis held? From views of ensoulment, are you, unlike them, drawing conclusions about whether aborting a fetus is licit or not, and is that why you seem reluctant to accept the evidence that Judaism knows more than one view on ensoulment? Esoglou (talk) 08:25, 6 December 2011 (UTC)
Your section was written to promote the view that Judaism places ensoulment at conception, which reflects in no way the history or the balance of Jewish views. Nefesh as soul is in Schiff, it's not my own translation. No, the Talmud is a primary source, we have to use secondary sources. "Majority view" and "consensus" are your words, not mine; there doesn't have to be a majority in favor of a different view for the conception view to nonetheless be an extreme minority, as demonstrated without even going through all of one book. –Roscelese (talkcontribs) 10:18, 7 December 2011 (UTC)
You leave me no choice but to contradict you flatly. I did not write the section "to promote the view that Judaism places ensoulment at conception". I presented no less than four different Judaic views on the question. And you deleted them. Nefesh as "soul" was given in what I wrote: "Most of [the rabbis] did not apply the word nefesh, 'meaning soul or person', to a fetus still in the womb" (bolding added). And you deleted it. As Fifelfoo said, something like the Talmud can be quoted if accompanied by a commentary, which can easily be supplied from sources like Schiff. And you deleted it. The distinction between some unspecified majority view and what you call "the extreme minority view" is yours not mine. The claim that my text denied the existence of a "consensus" is yours also. Esoglou (talk) 10:43, 7 December 2011 (UTC)
I'm trying again, adding a few sources that quote the Talmud (and so prove that it says what it says) and a reliable source that mentions yet another Jewish view: that ensoulment occurs when the child first responds "Amen". Esoglou (talk) 21:37, 12 December 2011 (UTC)
Ack, I thought I'd responded to your earlier comment! Sorry. Anyway, the new section is an improvement on the other one, but that's not saying much; it still gives way more weight to the conception view than the scholarly literature does, and still cites the unreliable sources, so it will have to be edited to give the various views weight according to their prevalence in the literature. I'll try to get to that some time or another. –Roscelese (talkcontribs) 21:47, 12 December 2011 (UTC)
Thank you. I'm quite happy with that plan of yours. Esoglou (talk) 21:55, 12 December 2011 (UTC)

Variety of views among Jews even today[edit]

I will for now refrain from making further edits to this article. I will only leave an indication of my disagreement with the systematic removal of sourced information about the Jewish view that wasting seed is considered in the Talmud to be equivalent to murder, and about the explanation that the Talmud's judgement on it as punishable by death "was not out of a radical puritanism in the Jewish religion. The punishment was simply a particular response to the universal problem, as inevitable as it is insoluble, of establishing the precise moment when life begins. If we can turn abortion into murder by declaring that an embryo is alive, and then if we push that originating instant back a few hours and declare that the sperm is alive, any waste of sperm becomes homicide." Esoglou (talk) 19:21, 17 January 2012 (UTC)

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