This topic is introduced due to the Jehovah's Witness belief that blood transfusions are unbiblical. Current Jehovah's Witness doctrine allows individuals to accept "blood fragments" (clotting factors, hemoglobin, etc.), but not to accept whole blood elements (whole blood, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets). Members of this denomination who knowingly and willingly accept a blood transfusion face "disassociation", which is complete shunning from the other members (including family members) on the grounds that the member has renounced his or her membership by accepting the transfusion. Because this teaching offers dire consequences whether a person accepts or rejects a blood transfusion, we have been led to present exactly what the Scriptures say regarding the use, and misuse, of blood. Because this doctrine is unique to Jehovah's Witnesses we have opted to use their denominational Bible version, The New World Translation, for all Bible references in this essay. You can read this Bible version online at:
BASIC ISRAELITE RULES
Jehovah God forbade the eating of blood (Leviticus 7:26-27, Leviticus 17:10, 12-14, Acts 15:29) because of the life/soul contained within blood (Genesis 9:4, Leviticus 17:11). Note that Scripture states that Jehovah owns all life/souls (Psalms 24:1, Psalms 115:1, Ezekiel 18:4, 1 Corinthians 10:26). Although we are not to eat blood, Jehovah still allows us to eat meat (Genesis 9:3-4). However, we are to take as much blood as possible out of the meat (Leviticus 17:13). Many non-Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the Bible gives a provision of allowing the eating of meat that isn't bled because of the Scripture at Leviticus 17:15, which reads:
Such ones do not take note that this Scripture does not say that the meat was eaten un-bled. Realize that immediately before this verse it states that anyone eating blood would be cut off from God's people. Therefore the people would know to bleed the meat first, thus it wasn't necessary to repeat that rule so quickly. The idea of being unclean until evening isn't referring to the eating of meat that isn't bled, it is referring to the touching and handling of a dead body according to the law that was given earlier at Leviticus 11:39-40.
BASIC CHRISTIAN RULES
Centuries later, when the Christian congregation was being formed, the Scriptures continue to tell us to abstain from things strangled and from blood (Acts 15:20, 29, Acts 21:25). It is worth remembering that blood poured out from a slaughtered animal was to flow into the soil (Deuteronomy 12:16), therefore, an animal slaughtered by strangulation would not have been drained according to God's command. Since the blood contains the life that belongs to Him, we would have no right to eat it. It's very simple, really.
The Watchtower Society teaches Jehovah's Witnesses to consider this command against blood to be more than simply a dietary restriction. They interpret the passages at Acts 15:22-29 and Acts 21:25 to include abstaining from blood transfusions as well. Is this interpretation correct?
We do not believe so, and this is why:
The only instruction the Bible gives concerning blood is that it must be poured out onto earth, and is only in reference towards killed or dead creatures. The implication is that we should not be using the blood/life from a dead creature. This is because when a creature is finished "using" its life, its life is to be returned to God (Ecclesiastes 12:7), for it belongs to God who is the giver of life (Psalms 24:1, Isaiah 42:5, 1 Corinthians 10:26). This is why mankind was instructed to pour the blood into the soil.
Parallel with this is the fact that Jehovah God demands that we deeply respect life, and that we do nothing to cause a person's death if we can avoid it (Exodus 20:13, Matthew 5:21). This is supported throughout Scripture, as shown in that He commanded the Israelites to install safety devices when erecting buildings (Deuteronomy 22:8) and that those who deliberately caused the death of another person were to pay for that death by losing their own lives (Genesis 9:6, Numbers 35:30-32, 2 Samuel 4:11).
The matter all boils down to bloodguilt: Are we bloodguilty before Jehovah if we donate blood or accept a transfusion, or are we bloodguilty if we refuse to save a life through donation/transfusion? What does the Bible state regarding bloodguilt? Here are some Scriptures:
These are just a few of many. The common thread amongst all the Scriptures is this: Bloodguilt always has to do with causing a death, it never has to do with prolonging a life. Since abstaining from blood donations/transfusions would mean deliberately contributing to another's death, this would be in direct opposition to Jehovah's view on the sanctity of life. Jesus Christ himself tells us that Jehovah isn't looking for sacrifice; He's looking for mercy (Matthew 9:13). In fact, Jesus even rebuked the Pharisees for putting strict interpretation of law ahead of mercy! (Matthew 23:23).
LIFE vs. DEATH
To interpret Acts 15:22-29 and 21:25 as commands against lifesaving treatment flies in in the face of all the other Scriptures which command us to avoid causing death (Exodus 20:13, 21:12, 23, 28-29, Numbers 35:31, Leviticus 20:2, Deuteronomy 19:21, Mark 3:4, ). It also flies in the face of Scriptures commanding us to be merciful (Matthew 5:7, Luke 6:36, 14:5).
Doctrine that is against blood transfusions paints Jehovah as contradictory and confusing, as such teaching states He would demand life-saving conduct while at the same time demanding that we refrain from giving a lifesaving medical treatment. Since Jehovah is not a God of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33), we need to abide by His laws governing mercy and the sanctity of life, not the erroneous legalism of men (Mark 7:9, 13, Acts 5:29, Colossians 2:8).
Therefore, we do not agree with the doctrine forbidding the use of blood transfusions. We believe it is a mistaken interpretation of Scripture that needs to be discarded in favor of Jehovah's merciful and loving law. May we all continue to pray for the Jehovah's Witnesses, that they see the true light of the Scriptures in the matter, and perhaps save lives in the process.
For a more in-depth discussion regarding this particular teaching, please click here.