reprinted from the book, Refuting Jehovah's Witnesses see catalog

Blood and the Law of God

Biblical Overview

In the Old Testament, the blood of man or beast is equated with its life, and the loss of blood is equated with death. According to Gen. 9:4 the soul (life; life force) of the flesh is in the blood (see also Lev. 17:11,14; Deut. 12:23). Blood was therefore considered sacred, and not to be used in a profane way. It was not to be eaten under pain of death (Lev. 3:17; 7:26; 17:10,14). This law was not just applied to Israelites but to foreigners in their midst as well (Lev. 17:8-15).

In the sacrificial system, the blood was given back to God by being poured out at the base of the altar (Ex. 29:16; Lev. 3:2). The power of the blood was in its atoning for the sins of the people; innocent blood being spilled to cover the sins of the guilty.

This principle reached its true fulfillment in the death of Christ and the shedding of his blood; an innocent man giving his life for a guilty world. The power of Christ's shed blood brings forgiveness and sanctification; it establishes peace with God and is the only foundation for man's restored fellowship with God (Heb. 10:18,19; 1 Cor. 10:16; Rev. 7:14). Christ's blood justifies all who come to him (Rom. 3:25,26). God clears us of all guilt when we confess our sins (1 John 1:7-10) and the power of his shed blood gives us a clear conscience before God (Heb. 9:14).

Using figurative speech, Jesus told his disciples that "unless they eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood," they have no life in themselves, and do not abide in him. Unless they live the life he lived and are willing to pour out their blood as he did, they would have no communion with him (John 6:53-57). This was demonstrated in the Lord's Supper, by partaking of the unleavened bread and the wine as symbols of his flesh and his blood (Luke 22:19,20). All who belong to Christ are to partake of this table. This symbolism was quite literally carried out in the first three centuries of the church, as many Christians shed their blood as martyrs for confessing Jesus as their Supreme Lord rather than Caesar.

THE EATING OF BLOOD

The first mention of a ban on eating blood is Gen. 9:4, where Noah was told that man could eat the flesh of any moving animal; but only the flesh with the blood still in it he could not eat. This is not a ban on eating blood per se, but unbled meat. What does this mean?

This was a ban on eating the flesh of an animal (alive or dead) that still had the blood in it. Keil & Delitzsch in their Commentary on the Old Testament (Vol. 1, p. 152) say this applies to,

. . . flesh in which there is still blood, because the soul of the animal is in the blood. The prohibition applies to the eating of flesh with blood in it, whether of living animals, as is the barbarous custom in Abyssinia, or of slaughtered animals from which the blood has not been properly drained at death. This prohibition presented, on the one hand, a safeguard against harshness and cruelty; and contained, on the other, "an undoubted reference to the sacrifice of animals, which was afterwards made the subject of command, and in which it was the blood especially that was offered, as the seat and soul of life; so that from this point of view sacrifice denotes the surrender of one's inmost life, of the very essence of life, to God" (Ziegler).

In other words, the symbolism of the blood and its relation to the flesh was the issue. Blood represented life; the life of the creature, and as such was to be treated with respect. Blood was to be poured out in respect for life before the flesh may be eaten.

The Mosaic Law brought further commands regarding the use of blood, especially in its use in the sacrificial system. Certain rituals for sprinkling the blood and pouring it out were stipulated. The foreigner residing in their midst, though he could not eat blood, could be sold meat that had not been properly bled or that had died and not been bled (Deut. 14:21). In this we see that the blood itself was not as much the issue as was the symbolism of it; this latter provision was not considered a flagrant act against God, but was on the practical side; not allowing good food to go to waste. It could be sold to the foreigner without offending God.

In the New Testament, the sacred meaning of blood was fulfilled in the shedding of Christ's blood, and animal sacrifices ceased to carry further significance to God's people. Yet, pagan nations still used blood in all manner of idolatrous ceremonies and rituals, and animals were perhaps strangled as part of certain rituals. It is known that in order to succeed in business, often a person in the Greek world had to enter a trade guild. Each guild had its patron god, and feasts were held periodically in honor of these gods, involving gross immorality and the profane use of blood. The Gentiles who were converted to Christianity, having been accustomed to this profane usage of blood, would certainly be repulsive to Jewish believers if they continued to drink blood or eat unbled meat.

The eating of blood, therefore, might stumble a Jewish brother.1 In Acts chapter 15, the Jerusalem council admonished the church to keep certain "necessary things": abstaining from fornication, the eating of blood and strangled meat, and eating meat offered to idols. Was this a law for Christians, as if another form of law code was being set up? No, it cannot be; for Paul later allows for the eating of meat that had been offered to idols, on grounds that an idol is really nothing in the world. Apparently the injunction at Acts was to prevent culture shock in the early church, since later at least one of the "banned" practices was considered "clean to a clean person" (1 Cor. 8:7-9). Fornication, of course, was always wrong under any circumstance (Eph. 5:5).

What about the eating of blood? Peter learned that all sorts of things once considered unclean were now clean, signifying a true enlightening regarding the actions of the flesh as opposed to what is in the heart. A voice came from heaven saying, "What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy." (Acts 10:15) Earlier, Jesus had declared all foods clean, making the point that it is what comes out of a man that makes him unclean, not what he eats (Mark 7:18-23). Paul mentions that all foods are clean (Rom. 14:20). The real point in eating is not WHAT we eat, but how our conscience and that of others is affected by what we eat (1 Cor. 8:7-13). While the eating of blood would not be wrong in and of itself anymore, it would not be likely that a Christian back then would have a good reason to do so, as it would offend others.

History shows that the early Christians refused to drink blood, at least through the second century (Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV, p. 192). Pagan offenses utilizing blood were still prominent, including the gladiator's drinking of his victim's blood. Such a climate would prevent Christians from allowing themselves the liberty to eat blood; for they did not desire to be classed with pagans.

Refuting Jehovah's Witnesses

The WT objects to the eating and even the transfusing of blood for the following four basic reasons:

[1] They say the ban against eating blood applied to all mankind, according to Gen. 9:4, even before the Mosaic Law was given. So even though the Law was done away with by Christ, this particular law is still in force today.

[2] The Mosaic Law shows the sacredness of blood and how it had to be poured out onto the ground. Those who ate blood were given the same penalty as adulterers. Though the Law is no longer in effect, the same principles are.

[3] The "Governing Body" of the early Christian church banned the eating of blood for Christians. Additionally, transfusions are a form of "eating" blood, and are therefore banned as well.

[4] Medical reasons alone are sufficient to avoid blood transfusions, since so many have contacted diseases by blood transfusions.

The WT position on blood transfusions can be refuted by using an outlined, logical approach. Using their four major objections, one can establish the following points in response to the above:

RESPONSE TO REASON #1: The key here is to show the inconsistency of the WT's position on laws pertaining to the believer and nonbeliever.

The book Aid to Bible Understanding states on page 244, in reference to the admonition of Acts 15:20:

The holy spirit here acted in harmony with what had been stated by Almighty God centuries before the Law covenant came into existence, namely, the law to Noah (Gen. 9:4), which is universal, applying to mankind at all times and places since it was given. The Mosaic law was canceled (Col. 2:14), but that did not cancel the law that preceded it, for the Mosaic law had merely incorporated and outlined in detail the universal law that came centuries beforehand.

The "law" that preceded the Mosaic Law they are referring to is Gen. 9:4. They are saying this is still a universal law for ALL men. Yet, at the same time, the JWS allow their members to sell blood as food or transfuse it into the veins of others on the grounds that the Israelites could sell the carcass of a strangled or unbled animal to the alien residents residing among the Israelites (Deut. 14:21). The Nov. 15, 1964 WT on page 682, 683 says,

Some doctors who are Jehovah's Witnesses have administered blood transfusions to persons of the world upon request. However, they do not do so in the case of one of Jehovah's dedicated witnesses. In harmony with Deuteronomy 14:21, the administering of blood upon request to worldly persons is left to the Christian doctor's own conscience. This is similar to the situation facing a Christian butcher or grocer who must decide whether he can conscientiously sell blood sausage to a worldly person.

On the one hand, the WT argues that Gen. 9:4 applies to all, as it is not exclusive to the Mosaic Law; and yet in practice they imply that Gen. 9:4 is not obligatory to non-Christians, and according to Deut. 14:21 it is acceptable in God's eyes to administer blood to others. This reveals their inconsistency, as well as a failure to understand why God made such a concession in Deut. 14:21.

Is Genesis 9:4 still a law that applies to Christians today? Some feel that since there is no official revocation of this ban, it is still in effect. Yet, a superior argument can be drawn from the NT position on what can be eaten and what cannot. The Jews were familiar with many dietary laws regarding clean and unclean animals; some could be eaten and some could not. Yet when some in the church began insisting on going back to certain laws involving diet, circumcision, etc., the apostles objected on the grounds that it would destroy the work of God's grace to reestablish a form of law code (Gal. 2:4,16,18-21).

RESPONSE TO REASON #2: It is still true that blood is sacred; Jesus died to save us from our sins, and his blood is spoken of throughout the NT as vital and sacred. The REAL question is, is the eating of blood still to be equated with profaning life? Not in most modern cases of incidental consumption of blood. Furthermore, does the usage of blood as a vehicle of saving lives (as in blood transfusions) at the same time constitute a profanation of life, or a respect for life? The answer should be obvious.

RESPONSE TO REASON #3: As discussed earlier, the Jerusalem council was not concerned with the issue of blood as food per se, but rather with maintaining harmony and unity and clean consciences within the mixed church of both Gentiles and Jewish Christians.

It also must be clarified that transfusing blood is not the same as eating blood. The WT confuses the issue by pointing out that blood acts as a kind of "food" in transfusions (see Blood, Medicine and the Law of God, pages 17,18), whereas the REAL issue they should be concerned with is whether or not the use of blood to save a life is profaning it. Such is certainly not the case when a person is dying, and a blood transfusion may save their life.

It is important to note that orthodox Jews today, while STILL OBEYING the OT laws against the eating of blood, believe there is nothing wrong with taking a blood transfusion. Even the legalistic Jewish mind does not make such a connection, yet the Governing Body of the WT forces this interpretation on their people.

RESPONSE TO REASON #4: Medical reasons are in a totally different category than Biblical reasons. It might be feasible to accept a blood transfusion from a scriptural standpoint, but to refuse one on medical grounds. But just how dangerous are blood transfusions? The WT goes to great pains in an effort to show all of the complications that have resulted from blood transfusions, but will not discuss how many lives they have saved. They like to quote medical authorities who warn of the use of blood and of the possibility of getting AIDS or hepatitis, etc., yet do not honestly ask why doctors still use blood! The reason is because the advantages and positive aspects of blood outweigh the negative significantly; and if a person is ready to die due to loss of blood, doctors will usually risk the odds. No mention is made by the WT of how many JWs have died on the operating table because of refusal to administer a blood transfusion. Yet, many lives have been saved by a court order for a transfusion, especially in the case of infants, but with no credit to their JW parents.

THE REAL TRUTH - JWS DO ALLOW BLOOD!

The Watchtower of Feb. 15, 1963 (p. 124) told JWs that they could not receive anything derived from blood in medical treatment:

It is not just blood, but anything that is derived from blood and used to sustain life or strengthen one that comes under this principle.

Yet, six years earlier they had made exceptions in the case where blood serums might be injected in the form of inoculation. The Watchtower of 1958, page 575 said,

The injection of antibodies into the blood in a vehicle of blood serum or the use of blood fractions to create such antibodies is not the same as taking blood, either by mouth or by transfusion, as a nutrient to build up the body's vital forces. While God did not intend for any man to contaminate his blood stream by vaccines, serums or blood fractions, doing so does not seem to be included in God's express will forbidding blood as food. It would therefore be a matter of individual judgment whether one accepted such types of medication or not.

Several inconsistencies must be pointed out in this statement. First of all, their later statement of 1963 contradicts it, yet both positions are still considered as valid at present. Secondly, they argue that the Bible always connects the prohibition on blood with its use as a FOOD, and since vaccinations are not a food, it really doesn't apply the same way. Now they are making BLOOD AS A NUTRIENT the issue, rather than BLOOD AS SACRED. If they really believe that blood is still to be considered the same way as in Gen. 9:4 and Deut. 12:23,24, they would not use blood for anything, but would always pour it out on the ground. In fact, they actually use this very principle in arguing against autotransfusions! The Watchtower of 1959 stated,

According to the method of handling blood prescribed by the Bible, blood when taken from a body was to be poured out on the ground as water and covered over with dust. (Lev. 17:13,14; Deut. 12:16,23,24; 15:23; 1 Chron. 11:18,19) This is because life is in the blood and such shed blood is held sacred before Jehovah God. The covenant regarding the sanctity of blood stated after the Flood is still binding today, and it covers both animal and human blood, whether one's own or anothers'. Consequently, the removal of one's blood, storing it and later putting it back into the same person would be a violation of the Scriptural principles that govern the handling of blood.Gen. 9:46. (p. 640)

So in one case, they say you can use parts of blood as long as it's not used for "food," yet elsewhere they say autotransfusions are wrong because blood should always be poured out on the ground!

This is only the tip of the iceberg of inconsistency. As late as 1975, JWs who were hemophiliacs were not allowed to use blood particles in therapy, including blood plasma and derivatives containing blood factors (Awake!, 2/22/75, p.30). Not long thereafter, they changed their mind, but failed to put it into print for another three years, when the June 15, 1978 WT (p. 30) revoked its earlier ban, allowing certain blood particles to be used. Only those hemophiliacs who telephoned WT headquarters between 1975 and 1978 found out they had changed their stand on this issue; others who failed to "phone home" were left to follow the old mandate until 1978.

ORGAN TRANSPLANTS

In the Nov. 15 WT of 1967 organ transplants were banned for JWs, whereas they had previously allowed such as late as 1961. They used this in reinforcing their stand on blood, saying that blood is also an organ transplant (see quote below for 1977). Then in 1980 they changed their stance, allowing organ transplants as a matter of individual conscience! Strangely, no mention was made of blood no longer being an organ, so one must assume they are contradicting themselves on this point, as they still refuse blood transfusions. In 1984, they allow for a bone-marrow transplant - the very source of blood! Still, taking a blood transfusion would merit disfellowshipping from the organization.

Below are listed some of the "milestones" in the WT's official statements regarding blood and organ transplants:

1909 Acts 15:1-35 (including prohibition on blood) not considered as law for Christians. WT REPRINTS 1909, p. 4374.

1945 Denunciation of blood transfusions as pagan and God-dishonoring. WT, July 1, 1945, p. 198-201.

1961 Taking a blood transfusion is grounds for disfellowshipping. WT, 1961, p. 63, 64.

Donating organs (eyes) for transplant up to your conscience. WT, 1961, p. 480.

1963 Any fraction of blood considered as a nutrient not to be used in medical treatment. WT, Feb. 15, 1963, p. 124. (See also Awake! of Feb. 22, 1975, p. 30.

Ask your bakers and candymakers if blood is used to make the lecithin used in their products. WT, p. 123

1964 Cosmetics in which cows blood is used are condemned, as well as fertilizers which contained blood. Pet owners told it is wrong to allow transfusions to be given to sick animals. Food with blood in it not to be given to pets. Awake!, May 8, p. 30; WT p. 127, 128.

1967 Organ transplants are a form of cannibalism and to be shunned. WT, Nov. 15, 1967, p. 702-704. (compare 1961)

1977 Blood transfusions are organ transplants: " . . . many a person might decline blood simply because it is essentially an organ transplant that at best is only partially compatible with his own blood." Jehovah's Witnesses and the Question of Blood, 1977, p. 41. (compare 1961)

1978 Ban on certain blood fractions lifted for hemophiliacs. WT, June 15, 1978, p. 30. (compare 1963)

1980 Organ transplants are a matter of conscience, decided by the individual. WT, March 15, 1980, p. 31. (compare 1967, 1977)

1984 Accepting a bone-marrow transplant is up to your conscience. WT May 15, 1984, p. 31.

There has been much speculation as to what the next position taken by the WT will be on the blood issue. It is likely that they will allow for more loopholes in their interpretation of what is "lawful" and what is not. Since 1978 there have been loopholes provided for hemophiliacs and for the possibility of organ transplants.

One thing is for certain, though. For the WT to admit that they were wrong would cause too great of a stir in their ranks, so any changes must be presented as "new light" in order to make it appear that "Jehovah" is making the changes, rather than a few men on the Governing Body.

1 Similarly, the habit of the Greek-speaking women in speech and conduct was offensive to the Jews, and Paul doesn't allow women to speak at all in church (1 Cor. 14:34), lest the Jews be divided from the Gentiles out of culture shock. In the Jewish system, women sat separately from men and kept quiet except in private. Several times in the writings of Paul he advocates the Gentiles making concessions to the Jews for the sake of harmony. (1 Tim. 2:11,12; Titus 2:5; 1 Cor. 11:5-11; 1 Tim. 2:9) Yet if Christians accepted such counsel of Paul as law today, women could not wear expensive jewelry, could not work a secular job, must wear head coverings in church, and must not say a word while in Christian assembly. Indeed, some denominations believe these ARE laws for the church today.


RELATED ARTICLES:

Is Blood FORBIDDEN Among Jehovah's Witnesses?
Revisions on the Blood Issue
Blood and the Law of God
Critique of Transfusion-Free Medicine
Jehovah's Witnesses and the Rh Factor
Shunning:”A Part of the Faith of Jehovah’s Witnesses”
Just Up the Hill A Ways by Gary Busselman

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