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—REVIEW—

One of the biblical criteria for disfellowshipping is that a person is wicked. First John 3:12 says that Cain was wicked when he killed his brother Abel. Thus, deliberate manslaughter, i.e., murder, is a disfellowshipping offense.

First section: Killing humans and unborn persons.

Because wicked personalities are disfellowshipped, i.e., persons who are permeated by wicked actions, only persons with murderous personalities that are permeated by killing should be disfellowshipped. This can be persons who for different reasons are engaged in a killing spree or a soldier in the army of a country.

Manslaughter can also occur in connection with those who are unborn. According to the view of Norwegian political parties, fetuses that are aborted before the 12th  week of pregnancy are not living persons, one party will extend this view to the 22nd week of the pregnancy.

The viewpoint of God is different. His view is that from the time of conception there is a living person. An analysis of Psalm 139:15 shows this. This means that persons who remove a fertilized egg, an embryo or a fetus are manslayers.

I have never heard of a sister who has had an abortion. But if that should happen in a moment of desperation or mental illness, she does not need the treatment of a judicial committee but rather the care and love of family, friends, and the elders.

Second section: There is no such thing asCommunity responsibility”.

The laws of Moses are used in arguments about bloodguilt. These laws are no longer valid. But the principles behind them are applied to spiritual Israel. In order to understand the relationship between the laws of Moses and the laws of spiritual Israel, the difference between a principle and a law is discussed.

Examples from the Hebrew Scriptures used to show “community responsibility” in Israel are discussed. Instead of receiving the so-called punishment of “community responsibility,” in most cases, persons who were killed happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Also, those who were killed went to sheol and, therefore, will have a resurrection on judgment day.

Examples from the Christian Greek Scriptures used to show “community responsibility” are discussed. The persons who died were, as was the case in the Hebrew Scriptures, in the wrong place at the wrong time. And so, these also will get a resurrection from the dead.

The excursus shows that when the members of the GB point out that we do not know whether God will use “community responsibility” in the great tribulation, they open for the possibility that some people will be annihilated forever because of the sins of others. This amounts to a rejection of the righteousness of God and that Jesus by his death bought all Adam’s descendants.

Third section: Disfellowshipping based on supposed bloodguilt. In contrast with “community responsibility,” which is fictional, persons can incur “bloodguilt,” which is real.

I discuss the meaning of “bloodguilt,” and show that “criminal negligence” — a failure to act in a way to protect humans from losing their lives — may incur bloodguilt. The Watchtower literature uses the example of the cities of refuge (Numbers 35:6-25) as a basis for investigating a Witness who has accidentally killed a man with his car. But such an investigation is not sanctioned by that biblical account, because this is to apply the law of Moses to spiritual Israel as if this law was binding for Christians.

Deciding that a Witness has bloodguilt because of “criminal negligence” from an accident is very difficult because of all the potential variables associated with the accident. If a judicial committee finds that a Witness has bloodguilt without repentance and they disfellowship him, they have taken unscriptural action against the Witness based on a human commandment invented and made up by the GB.

Fourth section: “Criminal negligence” on the part of the GB may lead to bloodguilt. The GB’s definition of “blood” as full blood, blood plasma, red cells, white cells, and platelets is the standard definition of blood, and I accept this definition. However, the GB uses this definition as a law and not as a guide, and if a Witness does not agree with the GB’s definition, he will be thrown out of the congregation. In keeping with this law of the GB—that the definition of “blood” can also refer exclusively to platelets—if a Witness dare not accept platelets when he needs them lest he is disfellowshipped, and he dies because of this, that may incur bloodguilt on the part of the members of the GB.

The law prohibiting storing one’s own blood before a major operation may lead to the death of a Witness, or more often, to the reduction of the lifespan of the Witness. This may incur bloodguilt on the part of the members of the GB.

The cruel and inhuman treatment of disfellowshipped persons represents “criminal negligence.” When this treatment leads to suicide, that may incur bloodguilt on the part of the members of the GB.

One of the 43 disfellowshipping actions that are listed in the book “Shepherd The flock Of God” is “Manslaughter,” Chapter 12, point 38 says:

Manslaughter: Aside from deliberate murder, bloodguilt may be incurred if a person causes loss of life through carelessness or because of violating a traffic law or other safety law of Caesar. The elders should investigate and if warranted appoint a judicial committee to hear the matter. The committee should base its decision on clearly established facts, not simply on a decision that may have been made by secular authorities.—Deut. 22:8: w06 9/15 p. 30.

Being a murderer is not listed among the wicked personalities mentioned in 1 Corinthians chapters 5 and 6 that are liable for disfellowshipping. But one of the disfellowshipping criteria in these chapters is that a person is “wicked.” First John 3:12 says that Cain’s murderous disposition that led to his killing his brother stemmed from his own wicked personality, and this shows that his action of manslaughter is a disfellowshipping offense.[1] In what follows I will discuss situations where manslaughter can occur as well as bloodguilt and the consequences of bloodguilt.

[1]. Criteria for which actions are disfellowshipping offenses are found in the article “Introduction to disfellowshipping offenses” in the category “Disfellowshipping.”

THE KILLING OF HUMANS AND UNBORN PERSONS

In this section, I will discuss two different situations where a Witness takes the life of another person, 1) killing a living human, and 2) killing an unborn person (abortion)

Killing a living person  on purpose

Because all Witnesses know that life is sacred, to take the life of another person is simply unthinkable. But in extreme situations, a Witness may be so filled with hate and rage that he kills someone. Is this person guilty of a disfellowshipping offense?

The disfellowshipping offenses mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians chapters 5 and 6 are expressed as substantives and not as verbs. Actions are expressed by verbs, but the mentioned substantives are what we call nomen agentis (“agent nouns”). This means that a disfellowshipping offense cannot be defined in terms of actions done one, two, or even five times. The agent nouns are not focusing on what a person does, but on what a person is—the wicked person he or she has become. This means, for example, that a thief is one who is permeated by thievery, an incorrigible stealer.[1]

[1]. See the article “Greed” in the Category “The eleven disfellowshipping offenses.”

In an article discussing alcohol problems, the author without saying so, accepts my point above that the substantives in 1 Corinthians chapters 5 and 6 describing persons who must be disfellowshipped are “agent nouns.” The article in The Watchtower of 1 May 1983 was entitled “Drinking problems — What can elders do?” I quote from pages 8-11 in this article:

First, it should be noted that there is a difference between being unwittingly overtaken by drinking too much on one occasion and being a drunkard—making it a practice to become intoxicated…

In particular, do Christian overseers have the responsibility to see to it that confirmed, unrepentant drunkards are not tolerated in the Christian congregation; they are to be disfellowshipped…

So an individual need not be disfellowshipped just because he is an alcoholic.

It is the same with every disfellowshipping offense, including the one we are discussing. A manslayer is not a person who has killed one man, but he is an incorrigible murderer. Does this mean that the killing of one man is not a disfellowshipping offense? To answer that question I will use the following example:

A young baptized brother has become a user of hard drugs, and his craving for more drugs is so strong that he is willing to do anything to get them. At some point, he enters a store and at gunpoint demands money from the manager of the store. But he refuses. The young man kills the manager, takes the money, and runs. The next day the young man is looking for another store to rob in order to get more money to buy drugs. This young man has killed one man, but his behavior indicates that he is an incorrigible manslayer. In view of this, his single act of killing would warrant disfellowshipping.

I will also use another example: A young baptized brother has been gambling, and the result is that he owes some people thousands of dollars. He cannot pay his debt, and in a moment of desperation, he enters a store and at gunpoint demands money from the manager of the store. He refuses and the young brother kills the manager. When this young man realizes what he has done, he breaks down emotionally and turns himself in to the police. And he promises himself that he will change his life completely.

To kill a man is a very serious matter, much more serious than to become drunk from alcohol on one occasion. And yet, from the point of view of disfellowshipping, the two actions apply similarly. A person will not be disfellowshipped for getting drunk one time. Only when he is permeated by overdrinking and habitual intoxication can he rightly be disfellowshipped. Likewise, despite the more serious nature of the sin, a person should not automatically be disfellowshipped for killing one man. Only when he displays a murderous disposition or is permeated by killing, as in the case with the drug addict who killed one person, can he rightly be disfellowshipped.

A typical example of a person who is permeated by killing, and thus, fulfilling the requirements of a disfellowshipping offense, is a soldier in combat. Usually, a soldier is not killing out of hatred, but out of a sense of duty as a soldier. Witnesses refuse to do military service. But if a Witness for some reason enrolls as a soldier and becomes embroiled in combat, he would also be guilty of manslaughter and liable for disfellowshipping.

Killing the unborn (abortion)

Forty-eight years ago, the Awake! magazine of 22 March 1972 had an article entitled “Millions now living will never be born.” This was a thought-provoking title, but many persons will question the title because they say that fetuses in the womb who are removed are not living persons.

According to Norwegian law, a woman can decide to abort a fetus until the 12th week of her pregnancy. In special cases, an abortion can be performed up to the 18th week if a committee of doctors agrees with the woman’s wish. At present, one political party has suggested that a woman should be allowed to decide to have an abortion until the 18th week without the consent of a committee of doctors. Another political party would extend this right until the 22nd week of the pregnancy.

The reason why the limit is set to the 22nd week is that doctors say that a fetus that is born from the 23rd week onward may be viable and has the capacity for a meaningful life outside the womb as a human being, albeit with artificial aid. But a fetus born before the 23rd week cannot survive long-term outside of the womb even with artificial support, and so is not considered a living being—a person. This is the way modern humans define life in connection with an unborn fetus.

However, the creator of life, Jehovah God, has a different view of life. The Awake! magazine of 18 March 1982, page 18, says:

Properly viewed, the fruitage of the womb is a blessing from Jehovah God. (Psalm 127:3) The Bible shows that the Creator himself is lovingly aware of the developing human embryo or fetus. (Psalm 139:13-16) And for the protection of both the mother and her unborn child, he stated in his law to ancient Israel: “In case men should struggle with each other and they really hurt a pregnant woman and her children do come out but no fatal accident occurs, he is to have damages imposed upon him without fail according to what the owner of the woman may lay upon him; and he must give it through the justices. But if a fatal accident should occur, then you must give soul for soul.”​—Exodus 21:22, 23.

Some Bible translations express the matter somewhat differently. But the original Hebrew text makes clear that in Israel a fine was to be imposed if a child was born prematurely due to injury done to the mother. And if the accident was fatal to either the mother or the child in her womb, then the penalty was “soul for soul.”

Psalm 139:16 shows that life starts at conception and not in the 23rd week of the pregnancy. A literal translation of the verse is:

Your eyes saw my unformed body (gōlæm), and in your book all of them were being written [in] the days when they were formed and not one among them [existed]

The verse is written as poetry, and this means that something is clearly expressed and something is implied. The verb gālam means to roll up clothing into a tight ball, and the corresponding substantive gōlæm refers to something that is rolled up, i.e., “an unformed body; an embryo.”[1] The substantive gōlæm is singular. But semantically speaking, the word is plural because it consists of many parts that are rolled up together. Therefore, the phrase “all of them” must refer to the different parts of gōlæm, the unformed body. All these parts were written down in “your book,” i.e., in the book of Jehovah.

The verbs rā’ā (“saw”), kātab (“were being written”), and yātsar (“were formed”) are all 3rd person plural, and therefore, they must refer to “all of them” where “them” refers to the different parts of gōlæm (“the unformed body”). Thus, all three verbs refer to the different parts of the unformed body.

According to Matthew 10:30, Jesus said: “But even the hairs on your head are all numbered.”  These words show the great knowledge of God and his interest in his human creatures. The setting of Psalm 139 also relates to God’s great knowledge and interest in humans.

Today we know that at the moment the sperm and the egg unite, the process of forming the parts of the embryo starts, and the essence of the person’s personality is already formed at conception. The verse indicates that at conception, before the parts of the embryo were formed, God already knew David. And when the parts of the embryo were formed, God saw the unformed body (the embryo) of David. And all the parts of the embryo were written down in God’s book while they were being formed, i.e., God could already see the person, David, from the genetic information contained in the embryo from the moment of conception.

From the point of view of our discussion of abortion, the verse shows that already from the time of conception, when the first parts of the embryo are formed, there is a living person. David uses the words “my gōlæm,” which means “me,” and these words show that David was a living person already from the time he was an unformed lump of material, i.e., from the time of his conception. So from God’s standpoint, life does not first occur from the 23rd week of the pregnancy. This means that persons who remove and kills a fertilized egg, an embryo, or a fetus at any time after conception are manslayers—murderers.

I have never heard of a sister who has become pregnant and has had an abortion. If this should ever happen, the background must be desperation or mental unbalance, or even mental illness. In such a situation, the sister should not be confronted by a judicial committee. But she needs all the help she can get from close family members, from friends, and from the elders. And this help should not be discontinued after a short time because the sister will carry a heavy burden for a long time.

[1].  J. R. Kohlenberger III and  W. Mounce. Concise Hebrew-Aramaic Dictionary.

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS “COMMUNITY RESPONSIBILITY”

The discussion above deals with situations involving the direct killing of someone. The discussion that follows deals with situations where someone is indirectly responsible for another person losing his life. Because the discussion of both the fictional expression “community responsibility” and the non-fictional expression “bloodguilt” is based on a comparison between the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Greek Scriptures, we need to understand the relationship between the laws of Moses, as it relates to ancient Israel and the laws of spiritual Israel. To understand this relationship, we need to understand the difference between a principle and a law.

The difference between a principle and a law

In connection with bloodguilt, several passages are taken from the laws of Moses, which are no longer valid. An important issue is how the laws of Moses can teach something to the Christian congregations. The key to this issue is the difference between principles and laws.

A principle is a broad fundamental truth that is eternal and never changes, such as “There is only one God; God is eternal; only God deserves to be worshipped; God is love; the blood represents life, and life is God’s property.” Laws, on the other hand, are commands or rules that are based on principles, but that are applied more narrowly to practical life. While principles are eternal and never change, laws that are based on principles do change. What is the reason for this? The reason is that the circumstances and environments where laws are made are different and change. Therefore, laws are situation-specific and tend to come and go. That is also the reason why the laws of Israel are different from the laws of spiritual Israel, even though they are based on the same eternal principles. I will now compare the laws of Moses with the laws of spiritual Israel—the Christian community.

Israel was a nation living in a country with borders, and so the laws of Moses should both regulate the religious and secular life of the inhabitants of Israel. When the laws of Moses were given, there was no universal ransom for sins. In contrast, the members of spiritual Israel do not live in a single country with borders, but they are spread throughout many countries. Therefore, their laws should only regulate their religious life and not their secular life. Additionally, when these laws were given, the ransom sacrifice of Jesus had become available for all who accepted that sacrifice.

We now have good background to understand the relationship between the laws of Moses and the laws of spiritual Israel. The same eternal principles are behind all these laws. But these principles apply differently based on the different circumstances in which it is applied. However, while there are clear contrasts between fleshly Israel and spiritual Israel, there are also some similarities. And where there are similarities, the principles are similarly applied to both fleshly Israel and spiritual Israel.

When considering whether one of the laws of Moses can be applied to spiritual Israel, the question is: Was this particular law made because of the special circumstances in the nation of Israel? In other words, was it made in order to regulate both the religious and secular life of the Jews before there was a universal sacrifice for sins? If the answers are Yes, this law cannot be applied within spiritual Israel. I give four examples below quoted from NWT13:

 

Exodus 23:17

17 Three times a year all your men are to appear before the true Lord, Jehovah.

Exodus 29:38, 39

38“This is what you will offer on the altar: two one-year-old rams each day, continually. 39 Offer the one young ram in the morning and the other ram at twilight.

Exodus 20:3

You must not have any other gods besides me.

Leviticus 20:18

18“‘If a man lies down with a menstruating woman and has sexual relations with her, both he and she have exposed her flow of blood. Both of them must be cut off from among their people.

The principles behind the first law are that “only God deserves to be worshipped” and “God is the creator and owner of all living creatures.” These principles were applied because of the special circumstances in the nation of Israel where God’s temple was located in Jerusalem. So the men should travel to Jerusalem to worship God three times every year. Today there is no temple of God in Jerusalem, and this law is not valid in spiritual Israel. But Christians worship God anywhere in spirit and truth. (John 4:23)

The principles behind the second law are that “all humans have inherited sin and are sinners” and “the pouring out of the blood of a living creature that represents its life can cause forgiveness of sins.” This was also a law that was predicated on the situation of fleshly Israel. The offerings could only give temporary forgiveness of sins, and therefore animals had to be offered continually.  By means of Jesus’ death, there is a perfect, perpetual sacrifice, and so all the laws in Israel about sacrifices are no longer valid.

The principles behind the third law are “there is only one God” and “only Jehovah deserves to be worshipped.” The application of these principles as a basis for the law in Exodus 20:3 was not contingent upon the situation in fleshly Israel, and therefore these principles apply in exactly the same way in spiritual Israel. Does this mean that the first of the ten commandments is valid as a law in spiritual Israel? The answer is No. None of the laws of Moses are legally binding for Christians today. So why must Christians follow this law when it is not legally valid? The answer to this question can be found in Romans 13:8-10 (NWT13):

8 Do not owe anything to anyone except to love one another; for whoever loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law. 9 For the law code, “You must not commit adultery, you must not murder, you must not steal, you must not covet,” and whatever other commandment there is, is summed up in this saying: “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does not work evil to one’s neighbor; therefore, love is the law’s fulfillment.

Paul quotes the 6th, 7th, 8th, and 10th of the ten commandments, and he shows that behind these commandments there are the principles “God is love,” “God loves his creation,” and “it is good to imitate God.” These principles were behind the mentioned four laws of Moses, which are no longer valid. However, the eternal principles on which these commandments were based are always in effect. And in spiritual Israel, these principles have coalesced into one single law: “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” And this one law covers all the areas of the four laws of Moses. Because of our love of neighbor, we do not do the acts prohibited by the four laws.

In order to drive home the point that the four laws and the rest of the ten commandments are not valid for Christians, but are based on the situation of fleshly Israel, let us consider the law “You must not commit adultery.” This law, as it was applied to fleshly Israel, implied that a man could have sexual relations with more than one woman provided that he was married to these women. In spiritual Israel, a man can only be married to one woman, and adultery means to have sexual relations with a person other than his spouse. Thus, this law of Moses is not valid in spiritual Israel. The law against adultery is also based on the principle “Life is God’s property, it is holy and can only be used as God wants. Adultery can produce children outside marriage, and therefore, this action violates the holiness of life.

The fourth law prohibiting sexual relations with a woman who had her menstrual period is what we can call “neutral” in relation to spiritual Israel. The principle behind the law is that “life represented by the blood is holy,” If a man had sexual relations with his wife during her menstruating period, he did not eat her blood, nor did he use her blood. So he was not breaking these laws about blood. But literally speaking, he had “uncovered her spring of blood,” as the text says. And for this, there was the death penalty.

The Watchtower of 15 September 1972, pages 575 and 576, answers the question of whether this law of Moses could be applied to Christians. The answer was No. But the readers were asked if the mentioned situation in Israel could help a Christian man to make a decision in such a case. This means that this law of Moses was neutral. It was given under the special circumstances of the nation Israel. But the principle behind it could not directly be applied to a similar situation in spiritual Israel. However, each Christian man should ask if he voluntarily could learn something from this law.

The so-called “community responsibility” in Israel 

The expression “community responsibility” has quotation marks to signal that it is a fictional concept that has wrongly been applied to events described in the Bible. The words “community responsibility” are not found in Merriam-Webster Dictionary, and neither are they found in the JW lexicons Aid to Bible Understanding or Insight on the Scriptures. The Watchtower of 15 May 1951, page 288 has a description of “community responsibility.”

 Some maintain that at Armageddon there will be three classes: sheep that survive, goats that are eternally destroyed, and uninformed or unresponsible ones who will die but will be resurrected, and that in this latter class will be young children. Is this correct?-L. P., Montana.

We know of no Scriptural backing for such a view. The parable of the sheep and goats shows the nations being separated into two classes, not three. The goats headed for everlasting cutting-off are not just those who persecuted Christ’s brothers. The parable upbraids the goats, not for what they did, but for what they failed to do, for their indifference toward and lack of interest in his brothers.—Matt. 25:45.

Many who never come in touch with the anointed remnant nevertheless subscribe to what others do in persecuting or fail to do in the way of giving help. The Bible shows a communal responsibility, where a community upholds rulers who persecute Jehovah’s people. Did not the Egyptians suffer the plagues because of Pharaoh’s hardheartedness? Did not the Amalekites suffer for generations afterward because of Amalek’s opposition to Israel in the wilderness? Were not the entire households, including little children, of Korah and Dathan and Abiram swallowed up in destruction because of the rebellion of the household heads? Did not Achan by his greed bring death not only to himself but to his sons and daughters as well? Even King David brought death upon his people by his own transgressions. (Ex. 5:1, 2; 9:13-16; 17:8, 14, 16;20:5, 6; Num. 16:23-33; Josh. 7:24, 25; 2 Sam. 24:10-17) Now, who will be rash and commit the folly of posing as more just than God by saying He was wrong in such procedures?Deut. 32:4.

In harmony with the parable of the sheep and goats, Ezekiel chapter 9 shows but two classes, those marked for preservation and the unmarked ones appointed to destruction. And in this latter class note that little children were included, to be slain without pity. This is a prophetic picture of the destruction at Armageddon. At a time of judgment Jesus said: “If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” That means not only clergy and laity but also parent and child. If a parent chooses to sin against the holy spirit despite the eternal interests of his offspring, that then becomes the responsibility of the parent. In that same time of judgment Paul and Barnabas said to the Jews: “It was necessary for the word of God to be spoken first to you. Since you are thrusting it away from you and do not judge yourselves worthy of everlasting life, look! we turn to the nations.” (Acts 13:46NW) Those Jews became responsible for the fate of their offspring, not Paul and Barnabas. (Italics mine)

There is particularly one important point to take note of in the quotation above. We see this clearly in Numbers 16:30-33, where we read that the families of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, including their small children, went down alive into sheol. This means that the judgment all of these persons received was temporary because all who are in sheol will get a resurrection on judgment day and be offered the benefits of the ransom sacrifice of Jesus.

Saying that there was “communal responsibility,” or the later expression “community responsibility” simply does not make sense. The families of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, and particularly the small children, could in no way be responsible for the actions of these men. Instead of viewing responsibility like a contagion that can be spread to family members and others by close proximity, and then coining the expression “community responsibility” to legitimize this made-up concept, we should, instead, say that the families were in the wrong place at the wrong time, or rather, they were members of the wrong families at the wrong time. In other words, because those who died were family members of the three men, they had to die along with them, and not because of any so-called “community responsibility.”

It was in a similar way with King David who brought death upon his people because of his own transgressions in connection with a registration that went against the divine will. Not a single person who died had anything whatsoever to do with that situation. Even David recognized that fact and said as much at 2 Samuel 24:17:

17 When David saw the angel who was striking the people down, he said to Jehovah: “I am the one who sinned, and I am the one who did wrong; but these sheep—what have they done? Let your hand, please, come against me and my father’s house.”

Indeed, David recognized that the full responsibility for his transgressions rested squarely on his shoulders. Interestingly, Jehovah did not contradict David’s assessment that the people were not to blame. Instead of sharing the accountability due to some theoretical “community responsibility” concept, the people just happen to live in the vicinity of the true culprit—David—and so were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that is why they died. But the important point is that the deaths of all of those mentioned in the Watchtower quotation above were temporary. They all went down to sheol, and so all of them will get a resurrection. For this reason alone, the accounts referenced in that article cannot, in fact, serve as the precedent now used by the GB to prove that people will be permanently destroyed at the great tribulation due to a supposed established principle of “community responsibility”.

The words in the quotation that a father who sins against the holy spirit will prevent his child from getting everlasting life are definitely wrong. As I show in the excursus below, this view is both a rejection of the righteousness of God and of the fact that Jesus by his ransom sacrifice bought all of Adam’s descendants. The view of Jehovah is expressed in Ezekiel 18:20:

20  The soul who sins is the one who will die. A son will bear no guilt because of the error of his father, and a father will bear no guilt because of the error of his son. The righteousness of the righteous one will be accounted to him alone, and the wickedness of the wicked one will be accounted to him alone.

Jehovah could not have stated his viewpoint any clearer than that. No human being will be everlastingly destroyed because of the sins of others!

The so-called “community responsibility” in spiritual Israel

I have already shown that the concept “community responsibility” is fictional and that the application of this concept to events in the Hebrew Scriptures is wrong. But what about the situation in spiritual Israel, the Christian congregations? I will now discuss claims of “community responsibility” in the Christian Greek Scriptures.

The Awake! magazine for 8 August 1993, page 11, says:

Community Responsibility

If this Jewish crowd was not the entire Jewish people, why did the apostle Peter, when speaking to a large crowd of Jews assembled some 50 days later in Jerusalem for the Festival of Weeks, say: “You fastened [Jesus] to a stake by the hand of lawless men”? (Acts 2:22, 23) Surely Peter knew that most of them had little to do with the events that led up to Jesus’ execution. So, what did Peter mean?

According to the Scriptures, an unatoned murder brought culpability not only on the murderer but also on the community that failed to bring him to justice. (Deuteronomy 21:1-9) For example, the entire tribe of Benjamin had once been judged as bloodguilty for failure to punish a group of murderers in their midst. Although the great majority of the tribe were not directly involved in the murder, by tolerating this crime, they were condoning it and thereby bore a measure of responsibility. (Judges 20:8-48) Indeed, it has been noted that “silence gives consent.”

In a similar way, the first-century Jewish nation acquiesced in the crime of their bloodguilty leaders. By tolerating the murderous actions of the chief priests and Pharisees, the entire nation shared responsibility. No doubt this was why Peter called upon his Jewish audience to show remorse.

What were the consequences of such a rejection of Jesus as the Messiah? Jesus said to the city of Jerusalem: “Your house [the temple] is abandoned to you.” (Matthew 23:37, 38) Yes, God withdrew his protection, and the Roman armies subsequently destroyed Jerusalem with its temple. Just as a man’s family would feel the consequences if he squandered all his possessions, the loss of divine protection was felt not only by those who cried out for Jesus’ death but by their families as well. In this sense Jesus’ blood did come upon them and their children.​—Matthew 27:25.

The arguments of the writer of the article regarding the biblical references are strange, to say the least. There was no “community responsibility” of the people in the city by which a murdered person was found. (Deuteronomy 21:1-9) But because a dead man was found in the neighborhood of a city, the actions of the elders in the city of bringing an offering showed that the people of the city had nothing to do with the murder and therefore had no bloodguilt.

Neither are there good reasons to see “community responsibility” of the whole nation of Israel in Acts 2:22-24. Peter speaks to “Men, Israelites,” and if there is some kind of group responsibility for the death of Jesus, this responsibility must, according to the context, refer to the males of “Israel” only. However, the males that were present represented the nation of Israel, and therefore Peter addressed them. Peter simply says, ‘Jesus was a Jew, and it was the Jews that caused the Romans to kill him’. There is not even a hint of some kind of responsibility for the death of Jesus on the part of the entire nation of Israel.

The argument in the Awake! quotation implying that “community responsibility” was reflected in the remorse of the crowd that heard Peter speak are strange as well. To whom is Peter speaking in 2:38, when he says that they should repent? Not to native Jews of the nation of Israel, but to Jewish proselytes from many nations who had come to Jerusalem to worship Jehovah. Not only were such proselytes not natural Jews, but clearly, they were nowhere in the vicinity of Israel when Jesus was executed, having come to Jerusalem “at that time,” particularly for the Festival of Pentecost (2:1, 5-11). So, these sincere worshippers could under no circumstances share any responsibility for the death of Jesus, and therefore there could be nothing in connection with Jesus’ death for them to repent over.

It is true that the mob who stood before Pilate said: “Let his blood come upon us and upon our children.” However, we must remember that the Jewish nation got a time of 70 weeks to return to God and repent. (Daniel 9:24) The nation did not do that, and this was the reason why God withdrew his protection and let Jerusalem be destroyed. The murder of Jesus was one of the last big sins showing that the nation had not repented.

When Jesus spoke to the scribes and Pharisees, he said according to Matthew 23:29-36:

29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you build the graves of the prophets and decorate the tombs of the righteous ones, 30 and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have shared with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’31 Therefore, you are testifying against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Well, then, fill up the measure of your forefathers.33 “Serpents, offspring of vipers, how will you flee from the judgment of Ge·henʹna? 34  For this reason, I am sending to you prophets and wise men and public instructors. Some of them you will kill and execute on stakes, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, 35 so that there may come upon you all the righteous blood spilled on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zech·a·riʹah son of Bar·a·chiʹah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

The Scribes and Pharisees had not killed Abel and most of the prophets and were not responsible for these actions. But Jesus pointed out that the scribes and Pharisees were murderers just as their forefathers were. They had bloodguilt, not because their forefathers killed the prophets, but because of their own murderous attitude. This was yet another aspect of the Jewish nation’s lack of repentance in the last part of the period of 70 weeks that God had given them to repent.

But what about all the Jews who died when Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 CE who were not murderers or enemies of God? Did they not die because of “community responsibility”? As I have thus far shown, “community responsibility” is a strange creature, an artificial construct without any meaning. When Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 CE, both wicked and righteous persons were killed. Were the righteous persons killed because they had some collective responsibility? There is nothing in the biblical text suggesting that. But the righteous persons were at the wrong place at the wrong time. And most important: All the persons who were killed when Jerusalem was destroyed, except the few who had sinned against the holy spirit, will have a resurrection on judgment day when they will get the chance to accept the ransom sacrifice of Jesus and have everlasting life.

The conclusion to this section is that “community responsibility” is a fictional idea that should be discarded.

EXCURSUS

SETTING ASIDE THE RANSOM SACRIFICE AND GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS

 

The Watchtower of 15 October 1995, page 27, says:

23 Many are exposed to our message as we preach from house to house or informally. Others may learn of Jehovah’s Witnesses and what we represent in ways unknown to us. When judgment time arrives, to what extent will Jesus consider community responsibility and family merit? We cannot say, and it is pointless to speculate. (Compare 1 Corinthians 7:14.) Many now turn a deaf ear, ridicule, or share in outright persecution of God’s people. Hence, this is a crucial time; such ones may be developing into those whom Jesus will judge as goats.​—Matthew 10:22; John 15:20; 16:2, 3; Romans 2:5, 6.

What is wrong with the text in the brown script? That the author claims that we cannot say whether God will use “community responsibility” in the great tribulation. This is wrong because we can, in fact, know the answer. Jehovah will not use “community responsibility” in the great tribulation because “community responsibility” does not exist! Why do we know that?

   1) The concept “community responsibility” means that a person will not be punished for his own sins but because he is a member of a certain group that is indirectly culpable for someone else’s sin, which is the same as collective punishment. Under special circumstances in ancient Israel, there was collective punishment. But we must remember that when this punishment led to death, the persons went down to sheol, which is a Scriptural signal that such ones will get a resurrection on judgment day. The same was even true of those who got capital punishment because of their own sins; they will also get a resurrection. Therefore, the examples of collective punishment mentioned in the Scriptures and that resulted in temporary death in sheol, cannot be used as a proof of concept for “community responsibility” leading to eternal judgment and permanent death at the great tribulation.

According to Matthew 25:46 (NWT13), the goats “will depart into everlasting cutting-off.” This means that if  Jehovah on the basis of what is called “community responsibility” punished a person with everlasting annihilation, he would be punished in finality for the sins of others and not for his own sins. But again I quote Ezekiel 18:20 in order to show that this is a false viewpoint:

20 The soul who sins is the one who will die. A son will bear no guilt because of the error of his father, and a father will bear no guilt because of the error of his son. The righteousness of the righteous one will be accounted to him alone, and the wickedness of the wicked one will be accounted to him alone.

We note that the words in the quotation are Jehovah’s words, and they reveal his viewpoint. The words show that there was no application of “community responsibility” in Israel. And so, in the final analysis, the wickedness or righteousness of a person was accounted to him and not the wickedness or righteousness of others.

I have shown above that there is not even a trace of a doctrine of “community responsibility” in the Christian Greek Scriptures, and if each one of the “goats” were eternally annihilated because of the sins of others, that would go against both the righteousness of God and the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ. I will now discuss the ransom sacrifice.

2) The ransom sacrifice will have a universal application. What does that mean? Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:5, 6 (NWT13):

For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, a man, Christ Jesus, who gave himself a corresponding ransom for all.

The Greek word pas (“all, every”) in the phrase “ransom for all” is used in this scripture and in Romans 8:32 and 2 Corinthians 5:15.  This word can refer to all within a limited group, or it can be used in a universal sense to include all persons or all things in the whole world. Romans 5:12-21 shows the contrast between Adam and Jesus, and this shows that the word pas is used in a universal sense to include all descendants of Adam, and is not restricted to just the anointed in the context of the new covenant. Therefore, all descendants of Adam have been bought by Jesus (1 Corinthians 6:20; 2 Peter 2:1).

On the basis of the broad scope of the ransom sacrifice—that all descendants of Adam are bought—we see a dilemma. John says: “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son so that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 NWT13). To exercise faith in Jesus Christ is a requirement for gaining everlasting life. But most of the descendants of Adam never got to hear about Jesus or had the opportunity to exercise faith in him. So how does God’s righteousness compensate for this deficit? Acts 24:15 gives the answer:

15  And I have hope toward God, which hope these men also look forward to, that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.

Everything God does has a purpose, and when unrighteous persons who did not know about Jesus get a resurrection, it is for the purpose of giving them the chance of knowing Jesus when they come back to life again on this earth. During a period of one thousand years, the resurrection will occur. (Revelation 20:11-14) Every descendant of Adam is bought by Jesus, and so every descendant must get a minimum chance to exercise faith in Jesus or reject him. This will happen during the thousand-year reign of Jesus.

3) The key to making accessible the righteousness of God and the ransom sacrifice of Jesus is the resurrection. The present members of the Governing Body do not believe in the full force of the ransom sacrifice and what the Bible says about the inclusivity of the resurrection—that everybody, except for the few who may have committed the unforgivable sin, are coming back in the resurrection. That evidently is the basic reason why the Watchtower article I am discussing introduces the possibility of the principle of “community responsibility” being used by God in the great tribulation, which allows for huge swaths of humanity to be excluded from the resurrection and the opportunity to gain everlasting life. I will elucidate this.

Matthew 11:21-24 says:

21  “Woe to you, Cho·ra’zin! Woe to you, Beth·sa’i·da! because if the powerful works that took place in you had taken place in Tyre and Si’don, they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes. 22  But I say to you, it will be more endurable for Tyre and Si’don on Judgment Day than for you.

23  And you, Ca·per’na·um,  will you perhaps be exalted to heaven? Down to the Grave you will come;  because if the powerful works that took place in you had taken place in Sod’om, it would have remained until this very day.24  But I say to you, it will be more endurable for the land of Sod’om on Judgment Day than for you.”

The Watchtower of 1 March 1965, page 139 says about the scripture quoted above:

As in the case of Tyre and Sidon, Jesus showed that Sodom, bad as it was, had not got to the state of being unable to repent. That is why Jesus said that, if his powerful works that had taken place in Capernaum had taken place in Sodom, “it would have remained” until Jesus’ day. And in that connection Jesus said that Capernaum, which had been exalted in a spiritual way to heaven, would be abased down to Ha’des, not to Gehenna. Heaven for height and Ha’des or Sheol for depth; and by using this contrast Jesus meant that Capernaum would undergo the deepest abasement. Though highly favored by Jesus, that city does not exist today any more than Sodom does. But if Sodom had had Capernaum’s opportunity Sodom would have had ten or more righteous persons in it and it would have continued over nineteen hundred years longer till Jesus’ day and then some. So the spiritual recovery of the dead people of Sodom is not hopeless. (Gen. 18:22-32Ezekiel 16:46-61 speaks hopefully of people compared to ancient Sodomites.[1]

In The Watchtower of 1 June 1988, page 30, the question was raised: “Will those whom Jehovah destroyed by fire in Sodom and Gomorrah be resurrected?” The article says:

A recent review of this suggests that these verses need not be taken as statements about the future for the people of Sodom/​Gomorrah…

A reexamination of Matthew 11:20-24, though, has brought into question whether Jesus was there discussing eternal judgment and resurrection. His point was how unresponsive the people in Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum were and how unlikely it was that they would reform even in the Judgment Day. Saying that it would be “more endurable” for Tyre/​Sidon and Sodom/​Gomorrah “on Judgment Day” was a form of hyperbole (exaggeration to emphasize a point) that Jesus need not have intended to be taken literally, any more than other graphic hyperboles that he used.

The first quotation above shows that the members of the GB in 1965 took the words of Jesus at face value and believed that the inhabitants of Chorazin, Capernaum, Bethsaida, and Sodom will get a resurrection. The article also shows that because Jesus bought all of Adam’s descendants, most of those who have lived on the earth will get a resurrection.

The article from 1988 is, in reality, a denial of the full inspiration of the Bible. Without any support from the context, the author says that the words of Jesus represent an exaggeration, and their meaning is the opposite of what they say. The inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah will not get a resurrection. Moreover, the article is also a denial of the broad inclusive scope of the ransom sacrifice, that Jesus bought all the descendants of Adam, and therefore each one must personally  get a minimum chance to exercise faith in Jesus.

4) This new view of the ransom sacrifice and the resurrection evidently is the reason why the members of the GB open for the possibility that Jehovah will annihilate humans forever in the great tribulation because of “community responsibility.” They do not understand that the ransom sacrifice of Jesus requires that all the eight+ billion who are alive when the great tribulation begins must, to a person, have had a minimum chance to choose if they will believe in Jesus or not. The belief that they may be annihilated because of the sins of others, of the group to which they belong, is a denial of both the ransom sacrifice and God’s righteousness.

The article “Deliberately spreading teachings contrary to Bible Truth” in the category “Apostasy” discusses the resurrection in detail. The article “Participation in interfaith activities” in the category “Apostasy” discusses the ransom sacrifice of Jesus, and it shows that more persons than the members of the GB believe will survive the great tribulation.

[1]. Five articles dealing with the resurrection appeared in The Watchtower of 1965: “Death and Hades to Give Up the Dead”; “The Dead Who Are in Line for Resurrection”; “For Whom There Are Resurrection Hopes”; “Who Will be Resurrected from the Dead?”; “Who Will be Resurrected—Why?” in The Watchtower of 15 January, 1 February, 15 February, 1 March, and 15 March 1965. These articles contain deep analytical Bible study at its very best.

DISFELLOWSHIPPING BASED ON SUPPOSED BLOODGUILT

We have seen that the concept of “community responsibility” is pure fiction and does not exist in Scripture. However, the Watchtower literature in some contexts uses “community responsibility” synonymously with the concept of “bloodguilt,” and that confuses the issue. In what follows I will discuss bloodguilt, which is a biblical idea,  in contrast with “community responsibility” which is not a biblical idea, and I will show that the accidental killing of a person is wrongly used as a disfellowshipping offense.

The origin and meaning of “bloodguilt”

There is no Hebrew word for “bloodguilt,” and the English word “bloodguilt” is based on the plural form of the Hebrew word dam (“blood”). Blood is a liquid and when it is plural, the reference is not to liquid blood but to the drops of blood. When a person is killed, drops of blood are splattered on the garment of the killer. These drops of blood are the evidence for the killer’s guilt —his bloodguilt. One example where bloodguilt is mentioned is 2 Samuel 3:28:

28 When David heard about it later, he said: “I and my kingdom are forever innocent (nāqĪ) before Jehovah of the bloodguilt (dām, plural) for Ab’ner, the son of Ner.

The Hebrew word nāqĪ means “innocent,” and when David says that he is innocent of the blood of Abner, this implies that others are guilty, i.e., guilty of another person’s blood.

Leviticus 17:4 (NWT13) uses a Hebrew word in connection with “blood” that is close to the word “guilty.” We read:

 instead of bringing it to the entrance of the tent of meeting to present it as an offering to Jehovah before the tabernacle of Jehovah, bloodguilt will be counted (dām hāshab) to that man. He has shed blood, and that man must be cut off from among his people.

The phrase “bloodguilt will be counted” is translated from dām (“blood”) in the singular and the verb hāshab in the passive stem Niphal. The verb hāshab has the meaning “to think, account,” and in the Niphal stem it has the meaning “be counted, thought, esteemed, be computed, reckoned.”[1] The idea is that blood is computed to the man, and this is close to saying that he is guilty of the blood, he has bloodguilt.

When there is no contrast with the word “innocent” or the passive verb “computed,” bloodguilt is implied by the plural form of dām (“blood”) as we see in Exodus 22:2, NWT13 (above) and Deuteronomy 22:8, NWT13 (below)

2 (“If a thief is found in the act of breaking in and he gets struck and dies, there is no bloodguilt for him. 3 But if it happens after sunrise, there is bloodguilt (dām plural) for him.)

8 “If you build a new house, you must also make a parapet for your roof, so that you may not bring bloodguilt (dām plural) on your house because of someone falling from it.

When we now have seen the linguistic basis for the idea of “bloodguilt,” we need to find out the meaning of this word. I have not found any direct definition of “bloodguilt” in the Watchtower literature. However, Insight on the Scriptures I, page 344, gives some clues:

Because of God’s view of the value of life, the blood of a murdered person is said to defile the earth, and such defilement can be cleansed only by shedding the blood of the murderer. On this basis the Bible authorizes capital punishment for murder, through duly constituted authority. (Nu 35:33; Ge 9:5, 6) In ancient Israel no ransom could be taken to deliver the deliberate murderer from the death penalty.​—Nu 35:19-21, 31

The reference to Genesis 9:5, 6 (NWT13) is important:

5 Besides that, I will demand an accounting for your lifeblood. I will demand an accounting from every living creature; and from each man I will demand an accounting for the life of his brother. 6 Anyone shedding man’s blood, by man will his own blood be shed, for in God’s image He made man.

The word “lifeblood” is literally “the blood of your souls” God will demand an accounting when someone kills another human, and this means that the blood of the killer must be shed. Simply speaking, we can say that “bloodguilt” means that the person is guilty to die.

Bloodguilt on the basis of “criminal negligence”

I start with some comments from the Watchtower literature, and I present two different quotations that discuss the same subject. The Awake! magazine of 22 October 1970, page 27 says:

Then again, the Mosaic law held that death resulting from criminal negligence incurred bloodguilt, and logically so. For example, if a bull gored a man to death the bull was killed. But if its owner knew that his bull was a gorer and he failed to keep it under restraint, both the bull and its owner paid with their lives. Likewise the law required that when a man built a house he build a low wall around the sides of its flat roof. If he failed to do this and a person walking on the roof fell off and was killed, the owner was charged with bloodguilt.​—Ex. 21:28, 29; Deut. 22:8.

The principle involved here has a very direct bearing on the use of automobiles today. If a driver kills a man with his auto because of driving too fast, or carelessly or recklessly, or because of having been under the influence of narcotics or alcohol, then in the eyes of God he would incur bloodguilt.

Another way in which a person can unwittingly become bloodguilty is by reason of the principle of community responsibility. If one belongs to a religious organization that has shed blood in times past, or that may bless those who do shed innocent blood, then by reason of association he would share in its bloodguilt. Thus the Bible shows that the entire tribe of Benjamin was held responsible for the death of a certain woman because they refused to surrender her murderers for punishment.​—Judg. 20:8-48.

The Watchtower of 15 September 2006, page 30, says:

Questions From Readers

What is the congregation’s responsibility if a Christian driving an automobile has an accident that results in the death of others?

The possibility of bloodguilt deserves consideration because the congregation needs to avoid community responsibility for bloodguiltiness. (Deuteronomy 21:1-9; 22:8) A driver who is responsible for a fatal accident may incur bloodguilt if he was careless or deliberately violated one of Caesar’s safety or traffic laws. (Mark 12:14) But there are other factors to consider.

A manslayer who fled to one of Israel’s cities of refuge had to stand trial. If the slaying was found to be unintentional, he would be allowed to remain in the city, safe from the avenger of blood. (Numbers 35:6-25) So if a Christian is responsible for someone’s death in an accident, the elders should investigate matters to determine if there is a measure of bloodguilt. The government’s view or a court’s decision does not altogether determine what action the congregation will take.

For instance, a court may declare the person guilty of some technical violation of the law, but the investigating elders may determine that no bloodguilt exists because the driver had little or no control over the circumstances resulting in the fatality. Conversely, if the court dismisses the case, the elders may conclude that he actually is bloodguilty.

The decision of the elders investigating the case should be based on the Scriptures and the clearly established facts​—an admission by the driver and/​or the testimony of two or three reliable eyewitnesses. (Deuteronomy 17:6; Matthew 18:15, 16) If bloodguilt is established, a judicial committee should be formed. If the committee determines that the bloodguilty person is repentant, he will receive appropriate reproof from the Scriptures and will be restricted as regards privileges in the congregation. He would no longer serve as an elder or a ministerial servant. Other restrictions would also be imposed. And he is accountable to God for his carelessness, neglect, or lack of caution that resulted in the accident and fatality.​—Galatians 6:5, 7.

To illustrate: If weather conditions were bad at the time of the accident, the driver should have exercised greater care. If he was drowsy, he should have stopped and rested until he was no longer sleepy, or he should have had someone else drive.

Suppose the driver was speeding. If any Christian exceeds the speed limit, this is a failure to render “Caesar’s things to Caesar.” It also betrays a disregard for the sacredness of life, for there is the possibility of fatal consequences. (Matthew 22:21) In this regard, consider something further. What kind of example would an elder be setting for the flock if he was careless about Caesar’s traffic regulations or deliberately failed to obey them?​—1 Peter 5:3.

The principles behind the laws about the goring ox and the low walls around the sides of a flat roof is that “the blood represents the life and is God’s special property,” and “the welfare of our neighbors is important.” The mentioned laws were given because of the special circumstances in Israel, and similar laws cannot be given in spiritual Israel. However, the Christian law, “You must love your neighbor as yourself,” (Romans 13:9) is based on the same two principles as the mentioned laws. Because of love for our neighbor, we will do what we can to protect him or her from dying from an accident.

The application of the situation with the cities of refuge (Numbers 35:6-25) to a situation where a Witness today accidentally kills someone clearly is wrong. The cities of refuge were located inside Israel, and the laws about them were based on the special situation that existed in Israel. All the procedures in connection with the cities of refuge evidently represented prophetic types pointing forward to the application of the ransom sacrifice of Jesus.

Taking one part of the law about the cities of refuge and applying it literally to the Christian congregations is clearly wrong. In other words: Because the elders in the refuge cities had to investigate whether a person who had killed someone was guilty of murder, the elders in a Christian congregation cannot use this as a pattern to investigate a congregation member who accidentally has killed a man. If this situation is to be taken as a true pattern for emulation, the only thing the elders could investigate was whether the killing was a result of hatred or malicious intent (35:22).

Christians can study the laws of Moses and see if one or more of the laws can help them understand the thoughts of Jehovah better, such as the law mentioned above about sexual relations during the wife’s menstruating period. But to apply one law of Moses literally to the Christian congregations is the same as claiming that the law of Moses still is binding for Christians. And this is what the last quotation above really does.

Disfellowshipping based on the subjective assessment of bloodguilt

In this section, I will discuss several errors related to disfellowshipping for bloodguilt.

1) There is a personal responsibility for “criminal negligence.”  The Awake! magazine of 22 October 1970, page 27 says:

The Mosaic law held that death resulting from criminal negligence incurred bloodguilt, and logically so.

As mentioned, the principle behind the laws dealing with goring oxen and of building a low wall around the sides of a flat roof is that “the blood represents the life and is God’s special property,” Therefore, life must only be taken in situations that are prescribed by God. There are few flat roofs where people walk and even fewer oxen among Christians today, and so the laws of Moses dealing with these cannot apply to Christians.

But how can the mentioned principle be applied in the Christian community? We have already seen that it can be applied to murder and to the use of blood. But can it be applied to life that is taken because of “criminal negligence,” which is the phrase used by the Awake! magazine? I agree with the points of the magazine that if a Christian drives a car and kills a man, and it is proven without a doubt that this happened because the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, he may have bloodguilt. The same is true with other acts of “criminal negligence” when driving a car. But I do not agree with the consequence of this, as it is stated by the GB, as seen in point 2.

2) There is no community responsibility for “criminal negligence.” I refer to The Watchtower of 15 September 2006, page 30, again:

The possibility of bloodguilt deserves consideration because the congregation needs to avoid community responsibility for bloodguiltiness.

So if a Christian is responsible for someone’s death in an accident, the elders should investigate matters to determine if there is a measure of bloodguilt…

If bloodguilt is established, a judicial committee should be formed. If the committee determines that the bloodguilty person is repentant, he will receive appropriate reproof from the Scriptures and will be restricted as regards privileges in the congregation.

The argument is that the congregation must investigate the situation in order to avoid “community responsibility for bloodguiltiness.” This argument does not make sense at all because 1) “community responsibility” is a fictional concept that does not exist, and 2) the congregation will under no circumstances have bloodguiltiness even if a member kills a man because of “criminal negligence.” This claim is based on a false projection of the law of Moses onto the Christian congregations.

My challenge to those who will defend the view that the congregation could share “community responsibility for bloodguiltiness” is to analyze one or more scriptures in the Bible where it is clearly stated that this is a possibility. I will add to this challenge my question about where in the Bible do we find any basis for the rule that the congregation must investigate a situation where a member of the congregation accidentally has killed a man? It is not found in the Christian Greek Scriptures, and the background for this procedure is again the law of Moses. But the law of Moses is no longer valid.

3) The expression “a measure of bloodguilt” is nonsensical. A person who has bloodguilt is guilty to die. And it has no meaning to say that a person “has a measure of being guilty to die.” Either a person has bloodguilt or he does not. Again, one cannot have “a measure of being guilty to die,” i.e., a person cannot be ‘partially liable for death’.

4) The investigation, itself, by the elders of whether a person has a measure of bloodguilt is not sanctioned by the Scriptures.  In several articles, I have shown that if a Witness asks for spiritual help from the elders, that will be given. (James 5:14-16) But no scripture in the Christian Greek Scriptures gives the elders the right to investigate the personal lives of the members of the congregation.

The role of the GB and the elders is to teach the Witnesses the truth of the Bible and admonishing them to lead Christian lives, not to judge them. In extreme situations, the elders must “reprove someone with severity,” as we read in Titus 1:12, 13:

12 A certain one of them, their own prophet, said: “Cre’tans are always liars, injurious wild beasts, idle gluttons.”13 This witness is true. For this very reason, keep on reproving them with severity so that they may be healthy in the faith,

But such extreme situations occur rarely. However, in many congregations, such as the one I belonged to for the last ten years, investigations of congregation members occur with great frequency throughout the year. But this is to trample on the Christian freedom of these congregation members.

5) The formation of a judicial committee is based on human commandments. I will now analyze the last part of the quotation from The Watchtower of 15 September 2006:

If bloodguilt is established, a judicial committee should be formed. If the committee determines that the bloodguilty person is repentant, he will receive appropriate reproof from the Scriptures and will be restricted as regards privileges in the congregation.

How is bloodguilt “established”? That is the duty of two elders, and the question is whether there is “criminal negligence” on the part of the person who caused the accident. But that is very difficult to determine. If a person is killed in a car accident, there are a number of factors that may have played a role, such as negligence on the part of the driver, an untoward occurrence of which the driver could not have foreseen, mechanical failures of the car that the driver did not know about, and several other factors. The two elders who are not trained as detectives can hardly make a forensic assessment of the ultimate cause of an accident that has a sound foundation. So a person who is innocent may be judged as guilty because of the subjective viewpoints of the two elders.

The formation of a judicial committee is also based on the wrong foundation. Such a committee is formed in order to consider whether the brother or sister should be disfellowshipped or not. The Shepherd book does not directly say that a person who is supposed to have bloodguilt must be disfellowshipped. But the words that the person will get reproof if he is repentant, shows that a person who is not repentant will be disfellowshipped. In any case, in the final analysis, “criminal negligence” is not a disfellowshipping offense.

According to the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians chapters 5 and 6, only persons who are permeated by particular wicked actions must be disfellowshipped. This means that even a wicked action that is done one time with purpose is not a disfellowshipping offense. And in the situation that we are discussing, killing someone in a car accident is by definition not done with purpose but is accidental. So it is very far from what the Christian Greek Scriptures say about disfellowshipping offenses.

We should also keep in mind that the three members of the judicial committee will not be in a better position to determine “criminal negligence” as the cause of the accident than were the initial two elders whose subjective opinions are responsible for the formation of the judicial committee in the first place. This judicial committee’s findings will be as elusive and nebulous as the two elders who initiated the investigation. Therefore, if a brother or sister is disfellowshipped because of bloodguiltiness, this is based on a disfellowshipping offense without any basis in the Bible, and it may be based on a subjective assessment made without real evidence. Lastly, the situation collides head on with the biblical requirement of two or three eyewitnesses to establish a case.

According to the Shepherd book, “criminal negligence” causing the death of a man can be a disfellowshipping offense. This law was made up and invented by the GB and has no biblical basis. Moreover, “criminal negligence” can be very difficult to establish, and therefore Witnesses can be disfellowshipped because of the subjective assessment of three elders without any real evidence.

[1]. Brown-Driver-Briggs, Hebrew-English Lexicon.

THE “CRIMINAL NEGLIGENCE” OF THE GOVERNING BODY MAY LEAD TO BLOODGUILT

Galatians 6:7 says, “For whatever a person is sowing, this he will also reap.” These words show that while there is no “community responsibility,” there is certainly a “personal responsibility.” And because of this, the members of the Governing Body may have blood on their hands, they may have bloodguilt in the following ways:

The use of dictatorial powers in connection with blood may incur bloodguilt for the members of the GB

I will discuss one situation where the members of the GB may incur bloodguilt, and that is in connection with their stance regarding the use of blood. Both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Greek Scriptures show that blood represents the life of a creature, it is God’s special property, and it can only be used as a sacrifice on the altar. Because of the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ, there is no longer any need to use blood as a sacrifice on the altar, as the Jews in ancient Israel did. Therefore, blood cannot rightly be used for any purpose today.

Because scientists have learned how to fractionate blood, and different components of blood are used at hospitals, the question has arisen: ‘Of all the components that can be fractionated from blood, which of these is actually “blood” in the biblical sense of the word?’ The GB has decided that full blood, blood plasma, red cells, white cells, and platelets, must be defined as blood, and must be included in the prohibition against the use of “blood.” Whether different fractions, such as albumin, immunoglobulins, and coagulation factors are included in the prohibition is a matter of the conscience of each Witness, according to the GB.[1]

I find that the GB’s definition of what is included in the word “blood” is logical. However, because the Bible does not say which components of blood are “blood,” the definition of the GB should not be set forth as a law but as a guide for each one to consider in making his or her own decision. But unfortunately, The GB uses its definition as a law, and those who do not follow this “law” will be thrown out of the congregation. As a smoke screen for throwing such a person out of the congregation, the elders say that he or she has disassociated himself or herself from the congregation, i.e., voluntarily left the congregation. But this is a lie because what actually happened, was that the Witness was thrown out!

I agree with the GB that whether the small fractions of blood must be defined as “blood” or not is an open question. In medical textbooks and lexicons, “blood” is defined in the same way as the GB does, as red cells, plasma, white cells, and platelets.[2] These are the main parts of the blood because each of these parts has a particular and important function.

However, if we consider platelets and white cells from the point of view of volume, we find that each of them is filling less than 1% of the volume of the blood. In contrast with this, albumin, whose use is a matter of conscience according to the GB, is filling about 2 % of the blood volume. The function of albumin is also very important because a human will die from the lack of it.

Suppose now that a Witness reasons in the following way: “Because the volume of platelets and white cells in the blood is so small, I do not view these factors as “blood” in the biblical sense of the word. So my conscience allows me to accept either white cells or platelets. Last month I had an operation, and because the doctor said I could lose my life if I did not get platelets, I accepted an infusion of platelets. I have no regrets over this.”

No one can say that this reasoning is wrong, because the Bible does not say so. Nevertheless, because this Witness did not have any remorse over his decision, he would be thrown out of the congregation. I will not criticize the members of the GB for their definition of blood, which is, as I have shown, the standard medical definition. But I do criticize them for making their definition into a law, even a disassociation offense, which, in reality, is a euphemism for a disfellowshipping offense.

A person who has a different definition of “blood” from that of the GB should be respected, and he or she should not be thrown out of the congregation. However, that he will be disfellowshipped because of his alternative definition shows the dictatorial power that the GB is using. I have already mentioned that it almost never happens that a surgical patient dies because of lack of blood. That the members of the GB strongly stress that blood is holy and must not be used for any purpose, cannot legitimately be used against them. Abstaining from blood is a law based on the Christian Greek Scriptures. (Acts 15:28, 29)

However, the dictatorial application of their own definition of blood can rightly be used against the members of the GB. If a person, for example, has about the same view of platelets as the Witness in the illustration above, and he needs platelets, but he dare not accept platelets lest he be thrown out of the congregation; and if he dies because of a lack of platelets, the members of the GB may have bloodguilt.

The law against storing one’s own blood may incur bloodguilt for the members of the GB

If a man shows “criminal negligence” when he is driving a car, and he hits someone with his car and this person dies immediately, the man may have bloodguilt. But even if the person who is hit does not die immediately, but continues to live for a week or a month and then dies, the man who hit him may still have bloodguilt. I will apply this illustration to the law against storing one’s own blood before an operation.

The Watchtower of 1 March 1989, page 30, says:

How was blood to be dealt with under the Law if it was not used in sacrifice? We read that when a hunter killed an animal for food, “he must in that case pour its blood out and cover it with dust.” (Leviticus 17:13, 14; Deuteronomy 12:22-24) So the blood was not to be used for nutrition or otherwise. If taken from a creature and not used in sacrifice, it was to be disposed of on the earth, God’s footstool.​—Isaiah 66:1; compare Ezekiel 24:7, 8.

This clearly rules out one common use of autologous blood​—preoperative collection, storage, and later infusion of a patient’s own blood. In such a procedure, this is what is done: Prior to elective surgery, some units of a person’s whole blood are banked or the red cells are separated, frozen, and stored. Then if it seems that the patient needs blood during or following surgery, his own stored blood can be returned to him. Current anxieties about blood-borne diseases have made this use of autologous blood popular. Jehovah’s Witnesses, though, DO NOT accept this procedure. We have long appreciated that such stored blood certainly is no longer part of the person. It has been completely removed from him, so it should be disposed of in line with God’s Law: “You should pour it out upon the ground as water.”​—Deuteronomy 12:24.

The Watchtower of 15 October 2000, page 31:

Occasionally, a doctor will urge a patient to deposit his own blood weeks before surgery (preoperative autologous blood donation, or PAD) so that if the need arises, he could transfuse the patient with his own stored blood. However, such collecting, storing, and transfusing of blood directly contradicts what is said in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Blood is not to be stored; it is to be poured out​—returned to God, as it were. Granted, the Mosaic Law is not in force now. Nevertheless, Jehovah’s Witnesses respect the principles God included in it, and they are determined to ‘abstain from blood.’ Hence, we do not donate blood, nor do we store for transfusion our blood that should be ‘poured out.’ That practice conflicts with God’s law.[3]

The issue of storing one’s own blood and other issues regarding blood is discussed in the web article, “Willingly and unrepentantly accepting blood” in the category “Disassociation.”

Both quotations above refer to the law of Moses, which no longer is valid. The principle behind the law is that blood represents life and is God’s property. Any use of it must be sanctioned by God. This principle can be applied to the Christian community, and it shows that blood of humans or animals cannot be used for anything, as Acts 15:28, 29 indicate.

However, we note that the difference between the procedure of pouring out the blood in Israel and storing one’s own blood is that the blood was poured out when a creature had died. But a Christian who is storing his own blood for an operation is still living. And the person is not using the blood of other humans or animals. Thus, the law against a living person storing his or her own blood is made up and invented by the GB, and it has no basis in the Bible.

The important point is that this human commandment can incur bloodguilt. How so? It happens only rarely that a patient dies because he lacks blood or blood components that he or she refuses to accept. However, it is in connection with a major operation that a Witness is asked to store some of his own blood that can be used during the operation. This is one of the few operations where heavy bleeding can occur and a patient can die. In such a case, the members of the GB can be accused of “criminal negligence”, because they, without any biblical basis, have made a law that prevented the Witness from preparing for a possible life-threatening situation. Therefore, they may have bloodguilt.

But there is one situation in connection with the GB’s law against storing one’s own blood where the life of a person may be shortened, and that occurs often. Doctors usually respect patients that refuse blood, and they want to give them the best treatment. At the same time, a doctor must live up to his promise to save lives and to treat patients according to accepted scientific methods.

A Witness may have a large cancer tumor with many outgrowths, and a surgeon realizes that the loss of blood will be so great if he removes all the outgrowths that he will be able to remove all of them if he cannot give the patient blood. Because of this, the surgeon asks the patient who refuses to accept blood from others to store some of his own blood prior to the surgery. But the Witness refuses. During the operation, the surgeon removes the large cancerous tumor, but several outgrowths could not be removed because it was too dangerous to leave the patient under the knife without the needed additional blood. After the operation, these outgrowths start to grow, and they spread. And in time, the Witness has developed terminal cancer, and after a short time, he dies.

My experience during my almost 30 years as a member of the Hospital Liaison Committee in Oslo is that the situation that I have described is rather common. When the tumors that have to be removed are big, a person who refuses blood may get an inferior treatment compared with one who accepts blood. If the human commandment against storing one’s own blood before an operation reduces the length of the lives of a patient, the members of the GB could be accused of “criminal negligence” and they may have bloodguilt.

Shunning of disfellowshipped persons may lead to suicide that may incur bloodguilt on the members of the GB.

The book for elders lists 43 disfellowshipping offenses, and of these, 32 are made up and invented by the GB without any biblical basis. Most of the 43 disfellowshipping offenses are discussed in detail on my website, and those that are not yet discussed will be so in the near future.

I will not deal with these disfellowshipping offenses in this context. But I will discuss how disfellowshipped persons are treated, and how the reaction of some of those who have been disfellowshipped can lead to bloodguilt on the part of the members of the GB.

Shunning has no biblical basis. The GB’s treatment of disfellowshipped persons consists of shunning. What is the basis for this treatment? The first detailed article on disfellowshipping occurs in The Watchtower of 1 March 1952, and this article introduced the idea that Christians must shun persons who are disfellowshipped. There are no biblical references in the article supporting the new view of shunning. And the Watchtower literature has never — and I repeat “never” — analyzed the words of a scripture in order to show that shunning disfellowshipped persons has a biblical basis.

The only passage that occasionally is referred to is 2 John 7-11. I quote verse 10 NWT13:

10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him.

When we look at the context, we see that those who should not be received into the homes or be greeted were the antichrists who denied that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh and who were active propagandists. This is also understood by Watchtower writers. This is shown in The Watchtower of 1 August 1974, page 465:

Note that in 2 John verse 7, the apostle John says that “many deceivers have gone forth into the world, persons not confessing Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.” Then John gives the warning to be on guard and not to receive such ones into one’s home, for these are active propagandists of false teachings, deceitful advocates of wrong conduct. They should be given no foothold from which to make further infiltration. One should not even greet them, so as to avoid being a sharer in their wicked works

But when The Watchtower admits that John does not discuss disfellowshipping in his second or first letter, how can verses 7-10 in 2 John be used as evidence that disfellowshipping persons must be shunned? This is done in a rather tricky way, as we can see on the same page as the quotation above:

Do the apostle’s words here necessarily apply to all persons who are put out of the congregation for wrongdoing?…Are, then, all who have been disfellowshipped like the persons described in John’s second letter? At the time that they had to be disfellowshiped they were apparently following a course like such ones or at least manifesting a similar sentiment.

The important word in the quotation is “like.” The author does not say that John 9-11 refers to disfellowshipping, which it clearly does not. But the author asks if all disfellowshipped persons are like those who are mentioned in verses 7-11? His answer is that at the time they were disfellowshipped, they were, indeed, like the deceivers and antichrists. But at some later time, the situation may have changed, and the disfellowshipped persons were no longer like the antichrists.

Do we understand just how deceptive this argument really is? The Watchtower of 1974, page 472, includes the following maxim:

Holding to the Scriptures, neither minimizing what they say nor reading into them something they do not say, will enable us to keep a balanced view toward disfellowshipped ones.

When The Watchtower literature refers to 2 John 7-11 as evidence of shunning disfellowshipping persons, the readers see the words “do not receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him” and they conclude that shunning disfellowshipped persons is a biblical commandment. But they are deceived because the members of the GB have violated the maxim above. They have read into the text something that it does not say. These words do not refer to disfellowshipped persons, as The Watchtower of 1974, page 465 admits. But they exclusively refer to the antichrists.

The conclusion to the issue of shunning is that it was invented by the author of an article in The Watchtower of 1952, and it has absolutely no basis in the Bible.

Shunning may have an extremely adverse effect on disfellowshipped persons. We can illustrate a small part of what a disfellowshipped person experiences with the lockdowns in connection with the Corona pandemic. The lockdown in Norway has not been so strict as the ones in Italy, France, Germany, and Great Britain. In some instances, students in primary schools, high schools, and universities have been taught at home by electronic means. Restaurants, libraries  and different cultural buildings have for short periods been closed.

Several studies have been performed to find out how these lockdowns have influenced the mental health of children, youths, and adults. And the unanimous conclusions have been that the mental health of a great number of persons in all ages has been negatively influenced. In several cases, persons have been severely affected and have needed the help of psychologists to be able to recover.

And what different situations have had a detrimental effect on the mental health of different persons? The negative effect on pupils and students has been because they could not physically meet together with their fellow pupils, students, and friends. And for adults the negative effects have been due to the strong restrictions on their activities during their leisure time and because they could not meet with their friends and family.

A man cannot fully understand how it is to be a woman, and a woman cannot fully understand how it is to be a man. And a person that has not had a particular severe medical condition can fully understand how it is for a person who has this medical condition. In a similar way, we cannot fully understand the experiences of a person who has been disfellowshipped. But will we try to get “a hazy outline by means of a metal mirror” (1 Corinthians 13:12 NWT13) of the situation of a disfellowshipped person?

Just think of this: One day a young person has a large network of good friends, and during the week he meets up with them in different situations. He also has a large family with whom he regularly socializes. The next day, this whole network of family, friends, and support has been destroyed. If he meets someone on the street, he or she will look the other way and will not even say a greeting to him. In other situations, family members and old friends turn their back to him if he tries to approach them, and they treat him as if he does not exist.

Can we imagine how this situation can have a detrimental effect on the mental health of the disfellowshipped person? Many persons became depressed during the corona lockdown because they could not have physical contact with friends and family. But they could have contact with them by telephone or by the Internet. But even this possibility is not open for disfellowshipped persons. The way Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught to treat disfellowshipped persons is cruel and inhuman. And I am not aware of members of any other organization that treat former members in the same way JW do. And most important. The whole procedure of shunning is made up and invented by the leaders of JW, and it has no basis in the Bible.

Six years ago I made a study of the mental health of 15,676 Jehovah’s Witnesses in 15 different countries. I found that the rate of psychosis and bipolar disorder among the Witnesses was about 40% of the rate in the normal population, and severe depression was about 20% of the rate in the normal population. The rate of suicides in Norway during the last 20 years was 36.5% of the rate in the normal population.[4]

I do not have any statistics regarding mental illness, severe depression, and suicides among disfellowshipped Witnesses. But I know that a great number of those who have been disfellowshipped have suffered from lighter or severe depression. I also know that a number of disfellowshipped persons have committed suicide. The mind of some people simply cannot bear the situation of being cut off from everything they cherish and love.

The Shepherd book indirectly implies that disfellowshipping can be detrimental to one’s mental health. Chapter 15, point 17 says:

In judicial cases in which the accused threatens suicide, it may be best for the committee to suspend the hearing to focus on helping him regain his balance. (See 12.81) They should assure him of the committee’s desire to help him and then should broach the subject of depression and suicide, using Scriptures and Bible-based publications, (Prov. 3:11, 12; 4:13; Heb. 12:5, 6, 11-13) Depending upon his emotional state, it may be best to do this a day or two later. The elders can prepare by reviewing articles that will help them deal sensitively with the depressed individual. (g 4/14 pp. 6-9). The judicial committee should avoid unnecessarily prolonging the case, as this can cause undue stress for the accused. They should take notes for the confidential file, outlining the dates of their conversations and the scriptures and articles that were considered. These notes should be signed and included in the file for the case. (See 22:21-27) The judicial committee should communicate with the Service Department if there are questions about a certain case.

Chapter 12, point 81 says[5]:

A suicide attempt may be the result of deep despair or major depression. Elders should deal carefully and compassionately with such a person. In most cases, a judicial hearing is not required. —Ps. 88:3, 17, 18; Prov. 15:13; Eccl. 7.7; g 4/14 pp.6-9.

The correlation between a judicial case and an accused Witness who attempts suicide in most cases is the way the members of the judicial committee have treated him or her. So, the words of the Shepherd book shifting the blame, for the suicidal tendencies of the accused, to inherent depression and a focus on helping him or her to regain his balance may not be the right remedy. The problem is rather the merciless way the committee has treated him, along with his anxiety and expectation of being shunned. But the fact that the threat of committing suicide is mentioned in the book for elders, indicates that this is a common situation rather than a rare one.

As I have shown above, 75% of the disfellowshipping offenses are made up and invented by the GB, and the Watchtower literature has indirectly admitted that the procedure of shunning is also invented by the leaders of JW; and that it has no basis in the Bible. Because of this, the members of the GB have shown “criminal negligence” in connection with how disfellowshipping is administered and the cruel, inhumane, and unscriptural add-on practice of shunning. This means that when a disfellowshipped person commits suicide, the members of the GB must bear some responsibility; they may have blood on their hands—they may have bloodguilt.

THE MEMBERS OF THE GOVERNING BODY MAY ACQUIRE BLOODGUILT IN THE FOLLOWING WAYS:

1)    Witnesses who have a different definition of blood from that of the GB and who use a forbidden part will be disfellowshipped. The threat of disfellowshipping may prevent a Witness from accepting a particular treatment, for example, the infusion of platelets that he accepts, and that refusal may kill him or greatly reduce the length of his life.

2)    The prohibition against storing one’s own blood for a major operation may cause the surgeon to give the patient an inferior treatment compared with those who accept blood. He may not be able to remove all the sick tissue, and these tissue remnants can start to grow and may shorten the life of the Witness.

3)    About seventy percent of the disfellowshipping offenses are made up and invented by the members of the GB without any basis in the Bible. The procedure of shunning disfellowshipped persons is also invented by the leaders of JW. This means that in connection with disfellowshipping the members of the GB may be guilty of “criminal negligence,” and when a disfellowshipped person commits suicide, the members of the GB may have blood on their hands; they may have bloodguilt.

[1]. See How to Remain in God’s Love, pages 246-249.

[2]. https://www.oneblood.org/about-donating/blood-donor-basics/what-is-blood/.

[3]. “Willingly and unrepentantly accepting Blood” in the category “Disassociation”

[4]. R.J. Furuli. “The mental health of Jehovah’s Witnesses,” Acta Comparanda Subsidia III, pages 47-73. Wilrijk-Antwerpen, Belgium, 2016.

[5]. Chapter 22, points 21-27 tells how notes dealing with a judicial case shall be put in the confidential file of the congregation.

CONCLUSION

Taking the life of a human being or removing a fertilized egg, an embryo, or a fetus is manslaughter. This is a wicked act that displeases God. However, as in all cases of disfellowshipping, a person must be permeated by the wicked act in order to be liable for disfellowshipping from the Christian congregation.

Most of this study discusses bloodguilt, which is a complicated subject. However, contrary to sayings in the Watchtower literature, bloodguilt is not a disfellowshipping offense according to the Scriptures. The study shows that the expression “community responsibility” is a manmade construct, and thus, pure fiction. Because of the righteousness of Jehovah and the ransom sacrifice of Jesus, no human being will be everlastingly annihilated because of the sins of others, which is the meaning of “community responsibility.”

“Criminal negligence” can lead to bloodguilt but not to disfellowshipping. The members of the GB may have shown “criminal negligence” in three areas, 1) by excluding any other definition of what may constitute blood but their own, 2) by making a law against storing one’s own blood, and 3) by the cruel and inhuman treatment of disfellowshipped persons that in some cases has led to suicide.

Rolf Furuli

Author Rolf Furuli

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