Questions From Readers
A recent court case in Chicago involving Jehovah’s witnesses and their stand concerning blood transfusions caused widespread comment in the public press and among the people generally. Many questions were raised. The following were most frequent, and came from various localities.
● What are the Scriptural grounds for objecting to blood transfusions?
Jehovah made a covenant with Noah following the Flood, and included therein was this command: “Flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.” (Gen. 9:4) The Law given through Moses contained these restrictions: “Eat neither fat nor blood.” “Eat no manner of blood.” “Whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that eateth any manner of blood; I will even set my face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. For it is the life of all flesh; the blood of it is for the life thereof: therefore I said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh.” (Lev. 3:17; 7:26; 17:10, 11, 14; 19:26) And in the Greek Scriptures the instruction to Christians is: “The holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you, except these necessary things, to keep yourselves free from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things killed without draining their blood and from fornication.”—Acts 15:19, 20, 28, 29; 21:25, NW.
● Do not these prohibitions about blood apply only to animal blood, and not to human blood?
Certainly Jehovah did not tell his people to drain human bodies of blood before eating them, since he was not authorizing cannibalism. Hence while animal blood was the primary consideration in the foregoing scriptures, do not overlook that the recorded prohibitions were against “any manner of blood”, that they were to eat “no manner of blood”, the “blood of no manner of flesh”. That embraces human flesh. The animal blood was for “an atonement for your souls”. Yet Paul showed that this blood of sacrificial animals made no real atonement, but only typified Jesus’ blood. If the typical animal blood was sacred, how much more so the antitypical human blood! To prove the prohibition included human blood, note what occurred when three men risked their lives to get water for the thirsty David: “But David would not drink of it, but poured it out to the LORD, and said, My God forbid it me, that I should do this thing: shall I drink the blood of these men that have put their lives in jeopardy? for with the jeopardy of their lives they brought it.” (1 Chron. 11:17-19) Because obtained at the risk of human life, David counted the water as human blood, and he applied to it the divine law regarding all blood, namely, pouring it out upon the ground. “Ye shall not eat the blood; ye shall pour it upon the earth as water.”—Deut. 12:16, 23, 24.
● Since the blood donor does not die and no life is lost, why do the Scriptural prohibitions apply to transfusions?
We refer you back to the answer to the preceding question, and ask you, Did the three men who got the water for David die? No. Then did David consider this an extenuating circumstance that allowed him to drink the water he viewed as human blood? No. The death of the creature supplying the blood is immaterial. The prohibition was about taking blood into the system, and this simple fact cannot be altered by ingenious reasonings and subtle worldly wisdom.
● Since Christians are not under the Law of Moses that emphasizes these restrictions on blood, why be bound by such ordinances?
The restrictions on blood existed before the Mosaic Law, being given centuries earlier, as recorded at Genesis 9:4. They were carried over for Christian observance, even after the Mosaic Law was ended by being nailed to Christ’s torture stake. The first answer in this group of questions and answers showed that this restriction on blood is basic for Christians, for when instructions on the bare minimum requirements were sent out this position on blood was included as one of “these necessary things”. So this principle regarding blood existed before and after the Mosaic Law, yet was so vital that it was also therein incorporated and emphasized.
● Leviticus 3:17 states: “Eat neither fat nor blood.” So why shun blood while eating fat?
The Mosaic Law required that the fat of sacrificial animals be burned on the altar, as shown by the verses Le 3:16 that precede the one quoted in the question. The fat was specially suitable for this, since it would burn readily. However, the point to be made here in answer to the question is that the prohibition regarding the fat is a feature of the Mosaic Law. Whereas blood is forbidden in places other than the Law covenant, fat is not; hence when the Law was abolished by its fulfillment the prohibition on fat ended, just as on eating pigs, rabbits, eels, etc.
● Why do not Jehovah’s witnesses refuse to eat meat, inasmuch as some blood remains therein even though the animal has been properly bled?
Some say that it is the intersticial fluids and not blood that runs out of meat. Any blood remaining in the body would congeal after a time and after exposure to air, and so would not be fluid after purchase from a butcher shop. However, a reputable book on physiology presents reasonable argument to the effect that some congealed blood is left behind even in well-drained carcasses. In an endeavor to remove all blood strict Jews go to great extremes. Code of Jewish Law, a compilation of Jewish laws and customs by a rabbi and published by a Hebrew publishing company in New York city, details the great pains to be taken with meat. The meat is submerged in water for half an hour, is then salted and put in position for draining for an hour as the salt draws out the blood, and is thereafter thoroughly washed three times. However, Jehovah’s witnesses do not pursue such extremes, which seem typical of the Pharisaical zeal that fussed over trivialities and “disregarded the weightier matters of the Law”. As Jesus said to them, “Blind guides, who strain out the gnat but gulp down the camel!” (Matt. 23:23, 24, NW) The point is this: Jehovah God gave the ordinance not to eat blood, when he said man could eat animal flesh. At that time he instructed that his requirement would be met by allowing the slaughtered animal’s carcass to bleed, to drain. It is his law we are seeking to comply with in this matter of blood, and after we have followed his requirement to bleed the animal, and thus met his demands, is that not sufficient? We need not become absurd and quibble like a Pharisee, piling on burdens beyond the requirements of divine law.—Matt. 23:4.
● Many say receiving a transfusion is not like eating blood. Is this view sound?
A patient in the hospital may be fed through the mouth, through the nose, or through the veins. When sugar solutions are given intravenously, it is called intravenous feeding. So the hospital’s own terminology recognizes as feeding the process of putting nutrition into one’s system via the veins. Hence the attendant administering the transfusion is feeding the patient blood through the veins, and the patient receiving it is eating it through his veins. After all the artful contrivings and reasonings and quibblings are over, the bald fact remains that a goodly quantity of one creature’s blood has been deliberately taken into the system of another. That is what is forbidden by God, regardless of method.
● If the transfusion does good, perhaps even saves a life, is it not a Christlike service rendered? Did not Jesus say, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”?
Jesus said that, as recorded at John 15:13. He also added: “You are my friends if you do what I am commanding you.” (John 15:14, NW) He shed his blood for those who obey him, not shedding it transfusion-style, but on the torture stake in sacrificial death, thereby presenting its life value on Jehovah’s antitypical altar for the redemption of obedient mankind, as typified by the animal sacrifices under the Mosaic Law. Blood transfusion is not Christlike. His blood was of a certain type, and for transfusion purposes would benefit only certain individuals with compatible blood, and would be death-dealing for many others. Did not Christ die for all kinds of men, for any who proved their friendship for him by obeying his commands? Also, only Christ Jesus’ blood has ransoming and sin-atoning merit, so imperfect humans need not try to put themselves into his exclusive place by arguing that they lay down their life for their friends, as Christ did for his. Moreover, the life opportunities opened by his shed blood are for eternal life in a new world, not for a short extension of the present temporary existence. Any saving of life accomplished by transfusions is short-lived.
And doing it in disobedience of God’s commands could cost one eternal life. No temporary good done could justify this permanent great loss. The water brought to David when he was suffering physically from thirst would have done good to his body and would have brought welcome relief; but such good he considered no justification for violating the principle of Jehovah’s law regarding blood. (1 Chron. 11:17-19) Similarly, on one occasion the Israelites were at the point of physical exhaustion and were famished, in sore need of food. They slaughtered animals and in their haste to meet their dire physical needs ate the flesh without taking time to let the blood drain out. The physical good this wrought for their systems did not justify their violation of God’s law on blood, nor prevent their being rebuked as transgressors.—1 Sam. 14:31-34.
And let the transfusion enthusiasts with a savior-complex ponder the fact that on many occasions transfusions do harm, spread disease, and frequently cause deaths, which, of course, are not publicized. Now, are you as willing to take responsibility for bad results as you are to take credit for supposed good results? There is a possibility that your blood may cause a man to die. Remember, God’s law permitted even the accidental slayer of a man to be executed by the victim’s avenger, unless the slayer fled to and remained in specially provided cities of refuge. (Num. 35:9-34) Christians are taught to be even more careful of human life than the natural Jews were. Again we say, no good comes of violating God’s law, regardless of the array of worldly wisdom brought forward to justify it before men.—Luke 16:15; 1 Cor. 3:19.
● Then are we to conclude that Jehovah’s witnesses oppose the people’s use of transfusions?
That would be a wrong conclusion. Jehovah’s witnesses do not oppose the people’s use of transfusions, but allow each one the right to decide for himself what he can conscientiously do. The Israelites felt bound to abide by God’s law forbidding the eating of meat with the blood congealed in it, but still they had no objection whatever to those outside God’s organization doing it, and even supplied unbled carcasses to outsiders who regularly ate such things anyway. (Deut. 14:21) Each one decides for himself, and bears the responsibility for his course. Jehovah’s witnesses consecrate their lives to God and feel bound by his Word, and with these things in view they individually decide their personal course and bear their personal responsibility therefor before God. So, as Joshua once said to the Israelites, “If it seem evil unto you to serve Jehovah, choose you this day whom ye will serve; . . . as for me and my house, we will serve Jehovah.”—Josh. 24:15, AS.