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Pope John Paul II - Psalm 139:16

Francis Etheredge

"Your eyes beheld my unformed substance" (Ps 139:16): the unspeakable crime of abortion1.

This verse may disclose a scriptural argument for a singular beginning of the human person.  For nothing less than the complex idea of ' my unformed substance ' would express the God given reality which was the terminus of his thought2.

This is a brief commentary on the verse which Pope John Paul II has chosen to head the section of Evangelium Vitae between articles 58 - 63.  A principal feature of this section of Evangelium Vitae is that it demonstrates the rational and religious reasons for the prohibition against procured abortion: 'This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the Church's Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium'3.

The following discussion is more narrowly defined than that of a full exposition of this psalm; it is to obtain some understanding of the psalm in so far as it is the proximate context of the phrase: 'my unformed substance'.  I hope this may disclose a scriptural argument for a singular beginning of the human person.  This article is in three main parts: particular comments on verse 16; the verse in the context of this psalm; and the perspective of God the Creator.




References
1 Evangelium Vitae art 58.    Back
2 Cf. John Paul II, Crossing The Threshold Of Hope, page 38: 'it is not thought which determines existence, but existence, "esse", which determines thought!'    Back
3 Evangelium Vitae art 62.    Back

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