Does “subdue it” in Genesis refer to birth control?

Question:

Those against family planning never tire to quote that passage in Genesis about increasing and multiplying and filling the earth. However, the quote does not end there but continues with “to subdue it.” The definition of “subdue” is to control or overcome.

There is nothing in the Bible that condemns the prevention of conception; that is, the mingling of sperm and egg that produces life. The couples themselves are to decide what method to use, how large a family they can raise with dignity, as responsible citizens and true followers of Christ.

As a matter of fact, the so-called natural birth control is against Nature because it prevents the couple from enjoying each other precisely at the time when they most want to have sexual relations. That is precisely why they get married; the couple’s natural inclination to have sex when this is most desired should not be curtailed by such an unnatural method. Besides, the rhythm method is not only unreliable, it also causes psychological problems that affect not only the couple but the entire family. St. Paul’s letters to the Corinthians and Thessalonians where the early Christians were warned that such an unnatural practice makes the couple vulnerable to the temptations of Satan.

There’s a strong connection between size of population and socio-economic resources. Most significantly, it shows a deep understanding of human nature.

Response:

Submitted on 2012/12/14 at 11:40 pm | In reply to Noel.

Noel,

That is an interesting interpretation that you give. Below is the actual quote in Genesis:

“God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.* Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth.” (Gen 1:28)

The “it” in “subdue it” does not refer to “be fertile and multiply” that you use to justify contraception or birth control. Rather, standard grammar rules say that the pronoun “it” refers to the closest noun mentioned (called the antecedent), which is the “earth”. See? “Fill the earth and subdue it.”

It is time to brush up on our Grammar. Here is from Grammar Girl:

What Is an Antecedent?

Whatever kind of pronoun you have, the pronoun takes the place of a specific noun you’ve already mentioned. The noun that a pronoun refers to is called an antecedent.

That’s spelled with an “a-n-t-e,” not an “a-n-t-i.” “Anti-” is a prefix meaning “against,” as in “antisocial.” “Ante” is a prefix for things that go before other things; “ante mortem” means “before death,” for example.

In the sentence “The driver totaled his car,” the word “his” refers back to “driver,” so “driver” is the antecedent of the pronoun “his.” It would sound silly to repeat the noun: “The driver totaled the driver’s car.” So, in simple sentences like this, readers are clear on what pronoun is replacing what noun.

About Quirino M. Sugon Jr
Theoretical Physicist in Manila Observatory

One Response to Does “subdue it” in Genesis refer to birth control?

  1. Rogie says:

    I agree, Doc.

    And also, by a simple “diagramming” of the sentence, one that I learned in 2nd year highschool english, the subject of the “subdue” word there does not refer to the “filling” part but it’s the “earth”. Any honest english teacher who knows their lessons well would tell them that for sure.

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