Jehovah`s Witness/Blood Transfusions....The Bible Is the Final Authority, Not Man
With all the discussion about Blood Transfusions, I decided to post an article that I wrote several years ago. After making a few updates and changes to the article, I am posting the JW position on this issue, and what I believe is a Scriptural response to it.
BLOOD TRANSFUSIONS: VIOLATION OF GOD'S LAW?
Perhaps the one doctrine that distinguishes Jehovah's Witnesses from any other religion on earth would be their belief concerning the issue of blood. This is a very sensitive issue for Jehovah's Witnesses. In fact, this is such an emotional issue for them, that many JWs have sacrificed the lives of loved ones, believing that this was what God required in order to gain everlasting life. The WT Society has published material defending their stand against taking blood transfusions, in an attempt to demonstrate that the Bible really does condemn this practice. Are their arguments valid? I believe a careful examination of the Scriptures, and a little common sense, will provide the answer to this important issue.
Watchtower Arguments Against the Use of Blood
Before we examine the Scriptures, we would do well to consider the WT's reasoning against blood transfusions.
1. The Scriptures strictly forbid the eating of blood in such Scriptures such as Gen. 9:4, Lev.3:16-17, Lev.7:22-27, Lev. 17:10-14, and Deut. 12:16.
2. The prohibition against the use of blood was repeated in the New Testament in Acts 15:19-20,28-29, showing that this law is binding on Christians today.
3. Blood transfusions carry the risk of AIDS, infection, and other serious health problems.
Jehovah's Witnesses maintain that it would be better to lose our life in this world in order to gain a resurrection to everlasting life, if need be. The obvious implication in that argument is that if one receives a blood transfusion, he/she has committed a sin so terrible that their chance of everlasting life is in jeopardy, or even forfeited. It is for this reason that countless thousands of Jehovah's Witnesses have chosen death for themselves, and even for their minor children, rather than allow a procedure that possibly could have saved them. "After all"
, JWs reason, "it is much better to die now and have a resurrection, than to prolong our life in this present world, only to be destroyed at Armageddon".
The number of JWs who have lost their lives needlessly is immense! If God's law actually did forbid the practice of blood transfusions, then certainly Jehovah's Witnesses should take the stand that they take. We should all be willing to sacrifice our lives in obedience to God's Word. The question now becomes: "Are blood transfusions really against God's law?"
The Bible promises a reward for those who give their lives in obedience to God, but it promises NO REWARD WHATSOEVER for those who sacrifice their lives for the doctrines and teachings of men. If the WT ban on blood transfusions has no basis in God's Word, then all of the deaths relating to it have been nothing but a needless tragedy.
Let us examine what the Bible says in Leviticus 7:23-27: "Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, Ye shall eat no manner of fat, of ox, or of sheep, or of goat. And the fat of the beast that dieth of itself...… may be used in any other use; but ye shall in no wise eat of it. For whosoever eateth the fat of the beast, of which men offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD, even the soul that eateth it shall be cut off from his people. Moreover ye shall eat no manner of blood....in any of your dwellings. Whatsoever soul it be that eateth any manner of blood, even that soul shall be cut off from his people."
Since this passage outlines the basic reasoning of the JW doctrine, I have not quoted the other Scriptures listed above, as they say basically the same thing as this passage. The reader is, however, encouraged to read these references for himself.
In the above quoted passage, we have a clear command that blood was not to be eaten. Very few Christians will argue that this passage prohibits the eating of blood. However, we must ask ourselves if blood transfusions are really the same as eating blood. Did Jehovah really have this medical practice in mind when He gave this command? The WT Society has clearly "gone beyond the things written" in their interpretation of this passage. Their reasoning is not only erroneous, but also very tragic. Please consider the following points:
1. The first thing that needs to be mentioned here is the reason why Jehovah God prohibited the eating of blood. Leviticus 17:11 tells us that the blood was to be used for the purpose of sacrifice. "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."
We can clearly see from this passage that the blood was to be used as a sacrificial offering for the Israelite's atonement. This clearly foreshadowed the shed blood of Jesus Christ, which would be the ultimate atonement for our sins. Since the death of Christ, it is no longer necessary to offer animal sacrifices. 1 Timothy 4:1-4 clearly tells us that the dietary restrictions of the Old Testament have been lifted, and are not binding on a Christian. Also, in 1 Corinthians 8:1-13, the apostle Paul tells us that there is nothing at all wrong with eating meat offered to idols, as long as we don't use our Christian liberty to cause a weaker brother to stumble. Considering the fact that Paul would have purchased this meat in the temple of a pagan idol, one must ask himself the question: "Did the pagans make sure the meat that they offered to their false gods was propely bled?"
Since they had no religious convictions about the eating of blood, why would they? Yet Paul said it was permissible to eat of this meat.
2. Another point to consider is the example of Jesus when it came to keeping the law, when a human life was at stake. In Luke 14:5 Jesus asks this question: "Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?"
Was Jesus implying that it was o.k. to ignore the laws of God? Of course not. But He WAS saying that the law should never override our compassion for life. In the case of a person or animal falling into a pit on the Sabbath, God would want us to do the necessary work to preserve the life, even if it did appear to break the law. David Reed, in his book "Jehovah's Witnesses Answered Subject by Subject"
rightly points out that Jesus also performed a work of healing on the Sabbath day. The Pharisees used this as a reason to accuse Him. He had, in effect, given medical treatment that the Pharisees viewed as "against God's law". Jesus asked this piercing question in response to their accusations: "Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? TO SAVE LIFE, OR TO KILL?"
Perhaps the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses would do well to consider that same question when it comes to the issue of life-saving blood transfusions, lest they be like the Pharisees of Jesus' day.
3. In 1 Samuel 14:31-35, we find the Israelites breaking the command not to eat blood. Verse 32 says: "And the people flew upon the spoil, and took sheep, and oxen, and calves, and slew them on the ground: and the people did eat eat them with the blood".
What was Jehovah's penalty for breaking this command? Was it disfellowshipping? Were they no longer considered as God's people? Verse 34 tells us the penalty was simply that they stop eating the blood, and comply with God's law.
4. Another point that shows the Watchtower's gross inconsistency in applying the prohibitions found in Leviticus is that they completely IGNORE the rest of the command, namely that FAT was not to be eaten, either.
Leviticus 3:16-17 says: "...all the fat is the LORD's. It shall be a PERPETUAL STATUTE for your generations throughout all your dwellings, that ye eat NEITHER FAT NOR BLOOD."
Notice the words "perpetual statute"
in verse 17. This means that the ban on eating fat was to be just as permanent and binding as the prohibition against eating blood. Why, then, does the Watchtower Society not prohibit the eating of fat? The prohibition handed down by the Society regarding blood transfusions is merely another in a long list of peculiar stances involving medical treatment. Unfortunately, the Society's unusual medical teachings have proven to be quite costly for their members. This point will be discussed in a moment.
5. Another point that JWs fail to consider in regards to their conclusion that eating blood and transfusing blood are the same thing, is the point that the passages in Leviticus ONLY refer to the blood of animals. This is a very important point. NONE of these passages refer to human blood! In the case of the animal blood in Leviticus, the animal was killed. In the case of blood transfusions, the human donor is not killed in order to give his blood to the recipient. He is not sacrificing his/her life, but merely transferring his life force (his blood) to the one in need.
What does that mean? It means that there is NO POSSIBLE WAY that Jehovah God was even remotely speaking against the practice of transfusing the blood of a living human, because the passages are only referring to the eating of the blood of a dead animal! Where do JWs derive the authority to interpret Scripture in this manner, especially when the lives of human beings are at stake?
6. A very sad teaching of the Jehovah's Witnesses regarding blood transfusions is the idea that Jehovah would deny innocent children the prospect of eternal life, if that child were allowed to have blood. JWs are quick to criticize the doctrine of a literal hell, by saying that the doctrine is an insult to a loving God. Yet, they will teach that Jehovah God holds small children accountable for the actions of their parents, which is COMPLETELY in opposition to Ezekiel 18:1-4.
Even if blood transfusions were a violation of God's law (and they aren't), a loving God would never hold a child responsible for a choice that it had no power to make. Tragically, many JWs have allowed their children to die, because the Society told them that their child's chances of everlasting life would be seriously threatened if that child received a blood transfusion. This has led to JWs kidnapping their children from hospitals in violation of a court order, just to keep that child from receiving blood. May God have mercy on the men responsible for this doctrine!
7. Interestingly, Jehovah's Witnesses are practically alone in interpreting the Scriptural ban on eating blood to include blood transfusions. Even Orthodox Jews, who strictly believe that it is wrong to eat blood, will receive blood transfusions. Do JWs have some kind of special insight into matters of medicine that no one else has? An examination of their history will answer that question.
Actually, the history of the WT Society regarding medical issues is quite disturbing. There are many other things that could be listed, but for the sake of space, I will discuss what are probably the 2 most serious errors (other than the ban on blood transfusions) that the Society has taught concerning medical treatment in the past. These wrong teachings deal with the subjects of vaccinations and organ transplants.
Many JWs may not be aware that for approximately 20 years, the WT Society taught that vaccinations were against "God's law". The WT publication The Golden Age
(May 1, 1929, p.502) had this to say concerning vaccinations: "...the practice of vaccination is a crime, an outrage and a delusion."
Considering how many people have avoided contagious diseases through being vaccinated, it would seem that the Society itself was under a delusion, and their teaching an outrage. The ban on vaccinations remained "God's law" until 1952, when the Society reversed its teaching on this subject. "After consideration of the matter, it does not appear to us to be in violation of the everlasting covenant made with Noah, as set down in Genesis 9:4, nor contrary to God's related commandment at Leviticus 17:10-14.....Hence all objection to vaccination on Scriptural grounds seems to be lacking" (Watchtower, Dec. 15, 1952, p. 764).
One must wonder exactly how many people, especially children, needlessly suffered, or even died, while waiting for the Society to receive "new light" on vaccinations. There were even instances where children bore permanent scars from acid burns, which were done to make it appear that the child had been vaccinated, in order to gain entrance into school. Yet, the Society wants us to believe they are authorities on issues of medical treatment.
Another teaching with probably even more tragic results was the 13-year ban on organ transplants. This teaching was in effect from 1967-1980.
(Nov. 15, 1967, p. 702-704) had this to say about organ transplants: "Those who submit to such operations are thus living off the flesh of another human. That is cannibalistic....Jehovah God did not grant permission for humans to try to perpetuate their lives by cannibalistically taking into their bodies human flesh, whether chewed or in the form of whole organs or body parts taken from others."
The June 8, 1968 AWAKE!
once again echoed this sentiment: "consider all transplants between humans as cannibalism"
(pg. 21). Then, without warning, "Jehovah's law" changed again in 1980. Organ transplants were now a
"matter for personal decision"
(Watchtower, March 15, 1980, pg. 31).
During this 13 year period that the ban was in effect, countless numbers of people went blind, rather than receiving a cornea transplant that would have preserved their sight. Many died because of their refusal to receive a kidney or liver transplant, believing that by "maintaining integrity" to Jehovah, they would receive everlasting life in the resurrection. And their deaths were all for nothing! It wasn't Jehovah's law at all, or it would never have changed 13 years later.
David Reed asks a very powerful question for JWs to consider in his book "Jehovah's Witnesses Answered Subject By Subject" (pg. 174): "How wise is it to entrust one's spiritual well-being to an organization that has misrepresented God's law in such life-and-death matters?"
I would also like to ask: Is it wise to trust your PHYSICAL well-being to them either? Would it really be wise to allow you or your child to die at the advice of the Society?
There has been much speculation as to whether or not the WT Society will ever reverse the ban on blood transfusions. It is possible, and I pray they do. However, I feel it is very unlikely. There have been many more tragic deaths occur because of the blood issue, than any other, and it is difficult to imagine the Society taking the risk of reversing the ban after all these years. Sadly, many more will continue to pay a tragic price for obedience to the "commandments of men" as though they were "doctrines of God" (Matthew 15:9; Mark 7:7).
8. Another problem with the Watchtower's teaching concerning blood is that it is extremely inconsistent. JWs, while forbidden to receive blood transfusions, may receive certain fractions of blood. They can receive hemophiliac preparations (Factor VIII and Factor IX), immune globulin, and albumin. They must refuse, however, white blood cells, red blood cells, plasma, and platelets. JWs are allowed to receive whole blood which has circulated outside their body in a machine, but may not receive it into their bodies again if the circulation is interrupted (just pray the electricity doesn't go off during the procedure!). They cannot store their own blood in advance of an operation.
Where are these arbitrary rulings to be found in Scripture? NOWHERE! They are simply decisions arrived at by the Governing Body, and enforceable upon every JW on earth.
9. JWs have widely publicized the so-called "blood substitutes", claiming these work much better than actual blood. They even quote "doctors" who back this up. Interestingly, I have asked a number of doctors about these "substitutes", and NOT ONE OF THEM will bear out the Society's claims. I encourage each reader to ask his/her physician about this, also. While there are substitutes that can be used, most do not work nearly as well. Others, though effective, often require a period of weeks to be fully effective. Unfortunately, many accident victims who have experienced significant blood loss, usually don't have that much time to wait. It also seems incredible that JWs can believe that blood substitutes are superior to blood transfusions. If that were the case, why didn't Jehovah God simply create us with these "superior" liquids in our body, rather than using blood in the first place? How ridiculous to imply that man has somehow "improved" upon our all-wise Creator's design!
Now, I’m all for medical advances, and if there have been or ever are, some “substitute” that works well, then fine. I’m happy about it. But that in no way, determines the MORALITY of the debate, nor does it prove the rightness or wrongness of receiving a blood transfusion.
There have been instances where a person who has lost nearly ALL their blood, needed that blood replaced, and fast! And “substitutes” would not have worked for them. Consider the story of a young boy who was attached by a shark, and lost nearly every ounce of his blood, and only replacing the blood quickly, saved him….
10. What about the Scriptures in Acts 15, which show the ban on blood to extend to New Testament Christians?
"But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, AND FROM BLOOD"
(v. 20). Verse 29 repeats the admonition: "That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, AND FROM BLOOD, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well".
Exactly who is the "them" and "they" that these Scriptures are referring to? In context, we see that it is the Gentile believers who have accepted Christ as their Savior. These admonitions were given them in order to help them have fellowship with the Jewish believers. The Jews had come from a very strict background of keeping the law, and even after conversion, still had some hang-ups. For instance, some Jews felt that Gentile believers should be circumcised. Others, as here in Acts 15, felt that the Gentile believers should follow the dietary restrictions of the law. These Gentile believers are told, in order to keep from offending their Jewish brothers and sisters, they should abstain from blood. This was NOT done as a means of salvation, but rather, a means of fellowship with the Jewish believers.
Interestingly, the WT Society's founder, Charles T. Russell acknowledged this also (Zion's Watch Tower, Nov. 15, 1892). This, of course, was before the Society had banned blood transfusions, which leads into another point that should cause every JW to question this teaching of his religion.
11. One very troubling aspect of this teaching is the fact that Jehovah waited so long to reveal that blood transfusions are against His law. The procedure had been common practice for nearly 50 YEARS before the Society decided that it was wrong. Up until that time, JWs themselves freely received blood transfusions. I realize that the Society will claim that "the light gets brighter", and Jehovah revealed this in His own due time. That, however, does not take into account the seriousness which the Society now places on the issue of blood transfusions.
According to the WT Society, abstinence from blood transfusions is vital for everlasting life! To receive blood into your body is to forfeit your eternal future. To allow your child to undergo a blood transfusion is to endanger its chances of life in God's Kingdom. It is very difficult to imagine Jehovah God, in His holiness, and in His desire to have people receive everlasting life, neglecting such an important issue for so long! "New light" is hardly an adequate answer. If the taking of blood transfusions were such a grave matter in Jehovah's sight, He certainly would have revealed this fact to "His organization" immediately, lest some well-intentioned JW accidentally receive a transfusion, and sin against God.
Even more saddening is the idea that Jehovah God holds children accountable for the sins of their parents. Certainly there can be physical consequences that a child may bear because of the sins of their parents. For example, many children are born with defects because of a mother's addiction to drugs. But this is FAR DIFFERENT than the child being spiritually accountable before Jehovah God. Not only is this notion unbiblical, it is an insult to a just and righteous God! No, far from being "new light", this (and many other) doctrines are simply the opinion of the men who happen to hold power at any given time. That is the REAL reason for the constant change of the WT Society's viewpoints on medical matters.
12. Finally, what about the WT argument that receiving blood through transfusions is the same as eating blood? They reason: "To receive blood into the veins is the same as eating blood, just as intravenous feeding is done for someone who cannot take in food through his mouth."
That this is a ridiculous argument is easily shown by one simple fact: Blood received through the veins is NOT USED AS FOOD! Blood that is eaten through the mouth is digested and destroyed. Blood that is transfused is not digested or destroyed. Blood that is eaten involves the digestive system, while blood that is transfused involves the circulatory system.
Actually, blood is considered an organ. This would, in effect, make blood transfusions the same as an organ transplant. Since organ transplants are now acceptable to the WT Society, why the continued ban on blood transfusions?
JWs often raise the issue of health risks associated with blood transfusions. Don't allow the Witness to "cloud the issue" with this argument. This argument has NOTHING to do with the Biblical teaching on blood. There are also health risks associated with many medicines. Does that make medicine against Jehovah's law? With surgeries, there is a risk of life-threatening infections. Does this make surgery against God's law?
Yes, some blood has been contaminated with hepatitis and AIDS, thought this is not nearly as widespread as it once was, or as the WT would like us to believe. Does the fact of contaminated water mean that drinking pure water is against God's law? Does the fact that some hamburger meats have become contaminated with the E-coli virus mean that eating hamburgers are now against God's law? I think it is obvious the serious weakness of this argument.
In closing, I want to admonish all Jehovah's Witnesses to study what God's Word says for themselves. Too many people have sacrificed their lives for false religious teachings. The number of deaths that have resulted from your religion's ban on blood transfusions has far exceeded the number of people who perished at Jonestown or Waco. The only difference is, the fatalities in your religion have taken place gradually, and over long periods of time. They are still real, nonetheless. I urge you to not sacrifice your life, or the life of someone you love, in obedience to an organization that has been wrong on medical issues so many times before. They are wrong on this one, also.
When the WT Society reversed the ban on vaccinations, JWs immediately changed their minds about them. Likewise, when the Society decided that organ transplants were no longer "cannibalistic", JWs no longer had any conscientious problems in receiving them. If the Society were to reverse its ban on blood transfusions tomorrow (which is unlikely), then JWs would receive blood transfusions without the slightest hesitation. But if this is true, it raises a serious question. Who is really dictating their conscience to them, Jehovah God, or man? Does the Bible even hint that we are to turn our conscience over to the dictates of man? No, God is our final judge.
The only really important thing is that our actions are pleasing to Him. In regards to blood transfusions, there is NO Scriptural basis whatsoever for saying that blood transfusions (a practice completely unknown in Biblical days) are prohibited in the Word of God. We should not, therefore, allow the leaders of any religion to put a yoke of bondage upon us. May God help every Jehovah's Witness to see this.