Firmly Resolved About Life And Blood
1, 2. Questions about blood occasionally come to the fore in what way?
‘JUDGE Authorizes Transfusions of Blood,’ declared a recent newspaper headline in Virginia, U.S.A. The article began:
“A federal judge Thursday morning authorized the Portsmouth Naval Hospital to administer blood transfusions to a critically ill woman who had refused them for four days, allegedly at the risk of her life, . . .”
2 Reports of this sort occasionally appear and focus much attention on the value of both life and blood. Before we find out what resulted in the above case, we might think about some fundamental questions: What profound beliefs lead persons such as this one to refuse blood transfusions? Does God’s Word really require this of all Christians? If so, how firm would our religious convictions be if a doctor said that we needed a transfusion? Also, might there be aspects aside from medical use of blood in which our view of life and blood is important and could even affect our future?
LIFE FROM BLOOD
3. Based on Revelation 7:14, what reason do we have to regard blood highly?
3 The book of Revelation illustrates an appreciation for blood that is held today by hundreds of thousands of persons. After seeing in vision the 144,000 prospective heirs of the Messianic kingdom, the apostle John saw “a great crowd, . . . out of all nations,” who have the prospect of living forever on a restored earthly paradise. But how can humans live forever, and that free of sin and imperfection? Appreciatively the “great crowd” cry: “Salvation we owe to our God, . . . and to the Lamb,” Jesus Christ. They recognize that this salvation is possible only because they “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,” Jesus.—Rev. 7:9, 10, 14.
4, 5. (a) Why does the proper attitude about life and blood involve more than belief? (b) How does the Bible bear this out?
4 As noted in the previous article, from the very first book in the Bible, God pointed toward the sacrificial shedding of Jesus’ blood so humans could gain everlasting life. (Gen. 3:15; 22:2-10; Isa. 53:10-12) While that sacrifice was yet in the future, Jehovah made it clear that his worshipers should consider life and blood to be sacred. But he also required that their actions harmonize with that divine view. Was not conduct implied in what God told Noah and his family when first permitting them to eat animal flesh? God said: “Every moving animal that is alive may serve as food for you. As in the case of green vegetation, I do give it all to you. Only flesh with its soul—its blood—you must not eat.” (Gen. 9:3, 4) So, if they killed an animal for food, they would have to take deliberate steps to drain the blood from the animal so that blood would not be eaten.
5 This was not a mere dietary regulation nor a pointless religious ritual. Such conduct involved a highly important moral principle: Blood represented life that was from God. And it is noteworthy that he went on to say that, though an animal could be killed for food, man could not be. Hence, if animal blood representing life was to be viewed as sacred and not to be taken in to sustain life, obviously human life and blood were to be viewed and treated as even more sacred.—Compare Matthew 6:26.
6 Since Noah was the forefather of all humans, conduct consistent with the sanctity of life and blood was expected of all humans. Many Bible scholars have realized this connection. For example:
“Blood was recognized to be the seat of life, and therefore something sacred. . . . The prohibition of blood became one of the dietary laws of the Mosaic code, but because of its inclusion within the provisions of this covenant with Noah the later Jews considered it to be binding on all mankind.”—A New Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, p. 187.
7 As this commentary noted, when God later provided a law code for Israel, he also forbade them to consume blood. He commanded: “Simply be firmly resolved not to eat the blood, because the blood is the soul and you must not eat the soul with the flesh. . . . You should pour it out upon the ground.” (Deut. 12:23, 24; Lev. 17:10, 13) God did not then enforce on the rest of mankind his law against taking in blood any more than he did his law against idolatry. (Acts 17:30, 31; 14:16) So a Gentile might buy and choose to eat meat with blood in it. (Deut. 14:21) But a worshiper of the Creator could not do so. In fact, if an Israelite, evidently unaware at the time that the blood had not been drained, did eat flesh containing blood, he had to take steps to cleanse himself of his unintentional error.—Lev. 17:15, 16.
8. Is it animal blood that is prohibited, or is it human? (2 Sam. 23:14-17)
8 If animal blood, representing life, was not to be taken in for sustenance, that would be even more so of human blood. We can easily see this from what occurred when Jesus once spoke figuratively about eating his flesh and drinking his blood. Some Jewish disciples who did not discern that he was using only symbols were shocked and left him. (John 6:60-66) Yes, the thought of taking in blood, whether animal or human, was abhorrent to those concerned with God’s view.
A CHRISTIAN REQUIREMENT
9. How could it be shown that this applies to Christians also?
9 Perhaps, though, you have heard the claim that the Bible’s prohibition on blood does not apply to Christians. What are the facts? This matter was ruled on in 49 C.E., during a conference of the apostles and other Christian elders at Jerusalem. With the assured guidance of God’s holy spirit that council concluded that Christians did not have to keep the Mosaic law. But what of things that were shown to be wrong even before the Law code was given to Israel? The council wrote to the Christian congregations:
“The holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you, except these necessary things, to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled [so as to leave the blood in them] and from fornication.”—Acts 15:19, 20, 28, 29.
10-12. What evidence shows that Acts 15:28, 29 was not just for temporary observance?
10 In “Origin and Beginnings of Christianity,”* Professor Eduard Meyer commented that the meaning of “blood” in Acts 15:29 was “the partaking of blood that was forbidden through the law (Gen. 9:4) imposed on Noah and so also on mankind as a whole.” And, even though many clergymen say that the requirement in Acts 15:28, 29 was just a temporary step to avoid offending Jews, Professor Meyer reports that more than a century and a quarter later the ‘prohibition on partaking of blood was being observed generally’ by Christians. As a proof he cites what happened in 177 C.E., when religious enemies accused Christians in Europe of eating infants. One young woman responded: “How can we eat infants—we, to whom it is not lawful to eat the blood of beasts?”
11 Numerous writings from the second and third centuries prove that Christians in that period realized that the prohibition was not a thing of the past; it applied to them. In fact, The Works of the Rev. Joseph Bingham makes this point:
“It was the custom of the Catholic Church, almost till the time of St. Au[gustine], to abstain from eating of blood, in compliance with the rule given by the Apostles to the Gentile converts: therefore by the most ancient laws of the Church all clergymen were obliged to abstain from it under pain of degradation [removal from office].”
Why, then, are not Christendom’s churches today holding to this “rule”? Comments by Martin Luther point to the answer. Though personally inclined to reject all councils, Luther said about Acts 15:
“Now if we want to have a church that conforms to this council (as is right, since it is the first and foremost council, and was held by the apostles themselves), we must teach and insist that henceforth no prince, lord, burgher, or peasant eat geese, doe, stag, or pork cooked in blood, . . . [and] must abstain especially from red sausage and blood sausage, . . . Well, then, begin, anyone who wants to or can, to bring Christendom into conformity with this council; I shall then be glad to follow.”
He felt that, because obeying the decision in Acts 15:28, 29 was difficult and ignoring it was so common, it would be impossible to require all churchgoers to follow it. So he himself would not either.
12 Martin Luther and many in his day may have been unwilling to obey God’s law, and most people in Christendom today may be unwilling to do so. But not Jehovah’s Christian witnesses!
BLOOD IN THE MEDICAL FIELD
13, 14. (a) How could you help someone to see that the Bible’s prohibition covers human blood transfusions? (b) Why would rejecting a transfusion be in harmony with examples recorded in the Bible?
13 As we saw at the outset, the field of medicine is one area in which obedience to God’s law on blood sometimes becomes an issue. The millions of blood transfusions given annually are considered by many to be a necessary and lifesaving part of modern medicine. However, rather than guiding their thinking and conduct by the recently prevailing view of men in medicine, true Christians need to keep first in mind what God commands: ‘Abstain from blood.’
14 True, when the Bible was written, blood was not being transfused. However, what God’s Word says certainly covers the practice of transfusing blood. A doctor who forbids a certain antibiotic to a patient allergic to it would thus not only rule out his taking it orally but also forbid his taking it by injection. Similarly, God’s command to ‘abstain from blood’ rules out ingesting it by the mouth as well as through injections into the veins. Furthermore, the Bible makes it clear that the divine law was not to be ignored even during an emergency that could threaten life. (1 Sam. 14:31-35) Many of God’s approved servants have been willing to face dangers and even death rather than violate Scriptural principles and their integrity to Jehovah. (Dan. 3:8-18; Heb. 11:35-38) They have had full confidence in God’s power to restore life, and believe the words of Jesus Christ: “I am the resurrection and the life. He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life.”—John 11:25; 5:28, 29.
15. Why is one’s declining transfusions not medically unreasonable?
15 It might surprise many persons to learn that refusing blood and requesting alternative therapies may have medical advantages. This is so because there is increasing evidence of many and varied risks associated with transfusions.* Note, for example, a doctor’s reply to a letter from a woman who, after open-heart surgery, developed hepatitis, a disease from which thousands die annually. Dr. Robert Mendelsohn, a newspaper medical columnist, said that he was not surprised, and added:
“In some major medical centers, [a] rather significant number of open-heart operations using blood substitutes have been performed with good results on Jehovah’s Witness patients who reject human blood transfusions. . . . Perhaps all of us who need surgery that appears to require blood transfusions should ask our surgeons if they are familiar with these scientific reports. Perhaps this can give all of us the same lower incidence of post-transfusion hepatitis and other advantages now enjoyed exclusively by the Witnesses.”—The Idaho Statesman, Feb. 15, 1978, p. 8C.
16. What does experience show as to the performing of surgery without using blood?
16 Open-heart surgery is just one of many operations that courageous doctors have found to be possible without blood. For example, recall the case brought up at the outset, the 52-year-old Witness needing abdominal surgery because of a bleeding ulcer. When her blood count fell to the critical low of 4, a federal judge authorized a transfusion. But her husband transferred her to another hospital whose policy was to respect the patient’s wishes. What was the outcome? Newspaper headlines later announced: “Faith Triumphs for Couple Who Rejected Blood Transfusion.” She recovered!
17. What moral aspects of blood transfusions should be considered?
17 Many thoughtful doctors are also coming to appreciate the moral aspects of the matter, concluding that patients have the right to decide whether to accept a certain treatment. Dr. D. Goldstein wrote: “No matter how certain he is that the therapy he recommends is the only one that will preserve life, no physician has the moral right to over-ride a patient’s religious scruple.” Some doctors who had treated Witness children having cancer explained:
“Our decision to abide by their requests to limit our therapy by withholding the use of transfusions was based on two factors. First, each of these children had a potentially fatal disease, and we could not predict a successful outcome without significant doubt. Second, we acknowledged that at the time of life-threatening illness, the parents’ need for an unshaken faith is magnified.”—Pediatrics, Dec. 1977, p. 919.
18. How does faith come into the picture in connection with transfusions?
18 The faith that true Christians have, and in harmony with which they are firmly resolved to live, involves faith in the saving power of Christ’s blood. (Rom. 3:25; Heb. 13:12; 1 John 5:5, 6) No other blood will ever be available from which they can gain everlasting life. (Heb. 10:29-31) So their everlasting destiny is tied up in their faithfulness to Jehovah. This includes their being obedient to what he says about blood.
STRIVE TO BE FREE OF BLOODGUILT
19 It is altogether right for Christians to strive earnestly to avoid any overstepping of God’s law on blood, whether medically or otherwise. Violation of that law would make one guilty before God. King David manifested the attitude that we need to cherish. He prayed: “Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God the God of my salvation.”—Ps. 51:14.
20. What are some ways in which bloodguilt could be incurred?
20 Many persons think of bloodguilt solely in terms of deliberate murder. God certainly is on record as hating such bloodshed. (Ps. 5:6; Prov. 6:16, 17) But the Scriptures show that because life is sacred a measure of bloodguilt could result even from causing someone’s death unintentionally. (Deut. 22:8; Num. 35:15-33; Ex. 21:29) Do we personally evidence high regard for life and blood in our daily affairs? Such regard should, for example, move us to be moderate and careful when driving vehicles, to obey safety regulations and to keep our vehicle in a safe driving condition. Similarly, reasonable care ought to be exercised to eliminate hazards in the home or in one’s business so as to minimize the likelihood of a fatal accident occurring either to oneself or to others. Is that your view?
21. How might one today indirectly become bloodguilty, this calling for what self-examination?
21 Another feature of avoiding bloodguilt relates to organizations or institutions that are bloodguilty in God’s eyes. For instance, God specifically charges Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, with guilt for shedding the blood of true worshipers. (Rev. 17:6; 18:24; 19:2) She has also endorsed political and military institutions that have shed seas of blood over the centuries. A sincere desire to be free of bloodguilt requires our separating ourselves from and our being careful not to support present-day organizations that God thus judges adversely. Do we reflect this in all aspects of our life?
22, 23. (a) What other aspect of bloodguilt should we be concerned about? (Acts 18:6) (b) What, then, should our resolve be regarding life and blood?
22 We can likewise display our determination to be free of bloodguilt by actively, enthusiastically preaching the Kingdom message. (Mark 13:10) Consider in this connection God’s counsel to the prophet Ezekiel before Jerusalem’s fall in 607 B.C.E. Ezekiel was told by God that if he, as a watchman, failed to sound the warning message, he would be held accountable for the blood of the Israelites who perished. (Ezek. 3:17-21; 33:2-16) Yet, what satisfaction we can find in discharging our Christian responsibility to spread the truth about the coming end of this wicked system and about the paradise to follow! Doing that allows one to feel as did the apostle Paul, who told Christian elders: “I am clean from the blood of all men, for I have not held back from telling you all the counsel of God.” (Acts 20:26, 27) What a privilege! While personally avoiding bloodguilt, we can aid others to gain life everlasting by their exercising faith in Christ’s blood.
23 Hence, though most persons may be unaware of what God says and may look on blood as just something to sustain human life temporarily, not so with true Christians. Based on God’s Word we appreciate Jehovah’s view on life and blood. Let us be resolved to uphold that view and to live in accord with it.
Ursprung und Anfänge des Christentums (1962), pp. 186, 187.
For details, see Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Question of Blood (1977), pp. 41-49.
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Avoid Bloodguilt from (1) eating blood, (2) sharing in bloodguilty organizations, or (3) failing to warn people of the day of judgment