Hebrews 7:9–10—Do these verses indicate that an embryo is merely a potential human being, not an actual human person?

Problem: The writer of Hebrews declares that Levi paid tithes to Melchizedek through Abraham. However, Levi was not even born until hundreds of years after this time. So Levi could not possibly have actually paid tithes to Melchizedek—he could only have done it potentially.

Solution: This text is not speaking of an embryo, to say nothing of calling it a potential human being. First, it does not say that Levi was potentially in Abraham. He was probably only there representatively or figuratively.

Second, even if Levi was potentially in Abraham, it certainly does not follow that he was an embryo in Abraham.

Third, if Levi, who was not even conceived when he was said to be “in Abraham,” was a potential human being, then we are potential humans before we are even conceived.

Fourth, if this is so, then even human sperm (before they fertilize an ovum) are potential human beings just like embryos. But this is genetically incorrect. Sperm have only 23 chromosomes while embryos have 46 (see comments on Ps. 139:13–16).

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.