The view of the Bible regarding blood is clear: Blood represents the life or the soul, and it is holy because it is God’s property. When an animal was slaughtered, its blood was to be poured out on the ground, illustrating that the life of the animal goes back to God. The only scripturally sanctioned use of blood is as a sacrifice for sins on the altar. After Jesus offered his life, there has been no need for another offer. In most cases when blood is mentioned, the prohibition is against eating blood because this was the most used way to misuse blood during the time when the Bible was written. However, the words of Acts 15:28, 29 show that Christians must abstain from any use of blood, not only from eating or drinking blood.
On the background of what the Bible says about blood, I show that there have been two schools of thought among Jehovah’s Witnesses. One school held the view that what was prohibited was the use of blood as food, that is, as a nutrient to build up the body’s vital forces. The other school held that the prohibition was against any use of blood, including the use of blood as food. The following points are discussed:
Different viewpoints from the Watchtower literature are quoted.
Blood transfusion is the same as eating blood and is forbidden.
Blood can only be used as a sacrifice on the altar.
Transferring blood from one organism to another, as transfusion does, is wrong.
Any use of blood, such as its use in fertilizer, is wrong.
The words of Acts 15:29 is a prohibition against eating blood and using blood for any purpose.
The Hospital Liaison Committee is described and attempts to find the true meaning of Acts 15:29 are described. The answer from the Watchtower Society was that any use of blood is forbidden. However, for many years from the creation of the Governing Body in 1971, the view was that the prohibition only is against eating blood. The following situations illustrate this:
1972: One infusion of Factor VIII for hemophiliacs is viewed as medicine and is allowed. Two infusions are the same as eating Factor VIII and are forbidden.
1975: Any infusion of Factor VIII is allowed.
1995: Infusion of full blood, red blood cells, white blood cells, plasma, and platelets is the same as eating blood and is forbidden. Infusion of albumin, immunoglobulins, and clotting factors are the same as use of medicine and is allowed.
2017: Eating and drinking blood, as well as other uses, including storing one’s own blood for a future operation is forbidden.
I show that the law to abstain from blood only includes the red fluid in the veins of animals and humans. No blood component, such as red cells, white cells, plasma, and platelets are included in the prohibition. And storing one’s own blood is not prohibited.
A Witness who takes a blood transfusion or one of the blood components that the Governing Body has forbidden will be thrown out of the congregation on the pretext that he or she voluntarily has left Jehovah’s Witnesses. I show that “disassociation” is interconvertible with disfellowshipping.
As addendum transplantation of organs are discussed:
1967: Transplantation of organs is forbidden because it is the same as eating the flesh of another person, which is cannibalism.
1980: Whether to accept transplantation of an organ or not is a personal decision that each Witness must make.
Accepting blood without repentance is viewed by the Governing Body and the elders as proof that the Witness has disassociated himself from the congregation because he no longer wants to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
However, only when a Witness writes a letter where he states that he wants to withdraw from the congregation can it be said that the person by his own will has made that decision. However, after the letter is sent, the three elders in the committee will make a decision, and the Witness will be thrown out of the congregation; and he will be viewed and treated like a person who has been disfellowshipped. So, even in the case when a brother writes such a letter, there is a suppression of his free will. In connection with accepting blood, the free will of the Witness is even more suppressed. It is not the brother who has decided to leave the congregation, but rather a third party; the three elders of the congregation committee have decided that his action shows that he wants to leave the congregation. But in most cases, it is not true that the person wants to leave the congregation. The situation is that the brother disagrees with the elders, and they throw him out of the congregation under the pretext that he, of his own free will, has decided to disassociate himself.
In this study, I will show that the term “disassociate himself” is made up and invented by the Governing Body without any Bible basis and that “disassociation” is interconvertible with “disfellowshipping.”
HOW BLOOD IS VIEWED IN THE BIBLE
The basic principle of this study is as follows: I take the text of the Bible in a literal way if the context does not clearly show otherwise. And I will not accept any exception to a law of God when the context does not clearly show that there is such an exception. Neither will I accept an interpretation of a text in the Bible that is not directly rooted in this text.
An example of the three points above, particularly the third one, is 2 John 10. The Watchtower of July 15, 1985, page 30, admits that the persons a Christian should not receive into his home or say a greeting to, according to the context, are the antichrists who deny “Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh.” However, the same magazine says: “A person who had willfully and formally disassociated himself from the congregation would have matched that description [of an apostate or antichrist].” Therefore, a Christian must not receive one who has disassociated himself from the congregation into his home or say a greeting to him. This is a clear abuse of The Holy Scriptures because the words of John are applied to a group other than the group referred to in the context
The Bible shows that blood is holy, and that it should not be used for anything except as a sacrifice on the altar, as outlined in the law of Moses. But the Mosaic law, with its sacrificial offerings of animals, was terminated. And Jesus’ perfect offering of his flesh and blood, of which the Jewish sacrifices were a shadow, has been sacrificed once and for all. (Hebrews 7:27) So, there is no longer any scripturally sanctioned, legitimate use of blood.
Before the worldwide flood, humans were not allowed to eat animals. This changed after the flood, and Genesis 9:3–6 (NWT84) says:
3 Every moving animal that is alive may serve as food for YOU. As in the case of green vegetation, I do give it all to YOU. 4 Only flesh with its soul—its blood—YOU must not eat. 5 And, besides that, YOUR blood of YOUR souls, shall I ask back; from the hand of man, from the hand of each one who is his brother, shall I ask back the soul of man. 6 Anyone shedding man’s blood, by man will his own blood be shed, for in God’s image he made man.
From these words, we understand that 1) blood represents life (the soul) of living beings, 2) blood must not be eaten, and 3) blood must not be shed by taking the life of someone. The common thread running through all three points is that blood has a value, which value is asked back if blood is misused. God has created living creatures as well as their blood that represents their lives. With him is the source of life. (Psalm 36:9) Therefore, only he has the right to decide how life and blood can be used.
God’s law to Israel contained several commandments regarding blood. Leviticus 17:11, 13 (NWT84) says:
11 For the soul of the flesh is in the blood, and I myself have put it upon the altar for YOU to make atonement for YOUR souls, because it is the blood that makes atonement, by the soul [in it].
13 As for any man of the sons of Israel or some alien resident who is residing as an alien in YOUR midst who in hunting catches a wild beast or a fowl that may be eaten, he must in that case pour its blood out and cover it with dust.
The passages show that the only authorized use of blood is on the altar as a sacrifice. When an animal was slaughtered, it should be bled before eating its flesh. By pouring out the blood on the ground and covering it with dust, life symbolically goes back to God, who is its source. The word “holy” refers to something pure, which is set aside exclusively for one purpose. The passages above indicate that blood is holy.
The Christian congregation was instituted on the day of Pentecost in the year 33 CE. At that time, the law of Moses, including its commandments regarding blood, was no longer valid. In the year 49, the question arose as to whether people of the nations should be circumcised. This question was discussed at the meeting of the apostles and the elders in Jerusalem. And influenced by holy spirit, the following decision was made, according to Acts 15:28, 29 (NWT84):
28 For the holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to YOU, except these necessary things 29 to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication.
As stated, in most instances where blood is mentioned, there is a prohibition against eating blood. However, the quotation from Leviticus 17:11, 13 shows, the use of blood for any purpose was also forbidden. When an animal was slaughtered, the blood was to be poured on the ground and covered with dust. On this background, we need to ask the question: Are the words in verse 29 “to abstain from blood,” a prohibition only against the eating of blood, or do the words cover any use of blood?
I will start with the scope of the Greek word apekhō (“abstain from”). Is the word relative or absolute?
According to BAGD the Greek middle form of the verb apekhō with a genitive object has the meaning “keep away; abstain of.” Because the verb form is present middle infinitive, the NWT84 correctly gives the verb the imperfective rendering, “keep abstaining from.” In table 1.1, we see four examples of apekhō in the middle with the following object in the genitive. There can be no doubt that the meaning of all the examples is not to have anything to do with or keep completely away from the actions and states referred to by the objects. The same must be true with the use of the middle form of apekhō with genitive objects in Acts 15:29.
Table 1.1 Examples of the use of apekhō (“abstain from”) in NIV
|1 Thessalonians 4:3||It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid (apekhō) sexual immorality.|
|1 Thessalonians 5:22||Avoid (apekhō) every kind of evil.|
|1 Timothy 4:3||They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain (apekhō) from certain foods.|
|1 Peter 2:11||Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain (apekhō) from sinful desires.|
The table shows that the use of apekhō is absolute; Christians should have nothing to do with objects of the verb apekhō.
My next task must be to find the real meaning of “that which is offered to idols” and “blood. This is seen in the Excursus below.
|EXCURSUS ON “WHAT IS SACRIFICED TO IDOLS” AND “BLOOD”
I start with a discussion of eidōlothytōn (“that which is offered to idols”):
I refer to two Greek-English lexicons:
We note that the word does not refer to special kinds of sacrifices, and the rendering “what is sacrificed to idols” (NRSV) is a fine literal rendering. Both the quoted sources indicate that the word refers to “meat” that is sacrificed. And the reason for this is that the reference in 1 Corinthians, chapter 8, is to meat that has been offered.
However, as the three quotations below shows, food, and plants, and flowers were offered to idols, as well as libations, which are drink offerings.
Many Bible translations and commentaries on the Bible assume that the prohibition against eidōlolythōn is a prohibition against eating meat that is offered to idols. The meaning of the Greek word does not support this interpretation because the meaning is “that which is offered to an idol” and this does not only include meat. This shows that the prohibition includes everything that is offered to an idol, like plants, food, and drink offerings, as well as things that could not be eaten.
Moreover, I have shown above that the word apekhō (“abstain from”) means to “to have nothing to do with.” As the third quotation above shows, different rituals and rites were used in connection offerings to the gods in Rome and Greece. Therefore, “to have nothing to do with” “that which is offered to idols” would include not participating in these rituals and rites, even though one is not eating a part of something that has been sacrificed.
The stress of not eating sacrifices to idols in so many sources is wrong. If we follow the principle pf taking the text of the Bible in its literal sense, not accepting any exception when the contest does not clearly show there is an exception, the conclusion is that any contact or participation in an offering ceremony to an idol, is prohibited.
I continue with a discussion of haima (“blood”):
The stress of not eating blood is also found in many Bible commentaries. As I have shown above, in most cases where blood is mentioned, there is a prohibition against eating blood. But I have also shown that because blood is holy, any use of blood is prohibited. Because the apostles and the elders in Jerusalem were Jews, they knew the law of Moses. And the use of the Greek word apekhō (“to have nothing to do with blood”) would include “not eating” and “not using.”
But would there be other uses of blood than eating or drinking it in the ancient world that Christians must “have nothing to do with”? I present a few examples below.
A Babylonian cuneiform text describes the magic use of blood:
In ancient Egypt, blood was used in ointments and dressings:
In ancient Egypt, blood was also used as medicine:
There were also other medicines for eye problems. One text says:
In Rome, around 100 CE, blood was used as cosmetics.
Blood from humans and animals was also used in different kinds of magical spells in Egypt and Greece.
The conclusion regarding the discussion of blood is that blood was used in many different ways in the ancient world, in addition to the use of blood as food. If we again follow the principle of taking the text of the Bible in its literal sense, not accepting any exception when the contest does not clearly show there is an exception, the conclusion is that any use of blood in addition to its use as food is forbidden according to Acts 15:29.
If we make a synthesis of the information in the Excursus and the laws in the Hebrew Scriptures, we have a very good background for a correct understanding of Acts 15:28, 29.
The Hebrew Scriptures show that any use of blood except as a sacrifice on Jehovah’s altar is wrong. The Excursus shows that blood was used in many different ways in the ancient world. It was used as food, in sacrifices to idols, in connection with magic rituals, in ointments and dressings, and in medicines and in cosmetics. Most of these uses were not mentioned in the Bible. But because any use of blood is wrong, all these uses were wrong from God’s point of view. But how can the prohibitions of Acts 15:28, 29 be transferred to our days, when the situation is very different from the situation when the Bible was written?
We may use the prohibition against thievery (kleptō) as an example. An incorrigible thief would be disfellowshipped from the Christian congregation (1 Corinthians 6:10). What did thievery mean in the first century CE? To take a thing or an item from its owner. This is also the way thievery occurs in our day. But it may also include other things, such as stealing money from someone via the Internet or hacking an Internet account and stealing information. This last point uses methods and means unknown in the first century CE, but no one would deny that acquiring information in an unrighteous way is covered by the Greek word kleptō.
Because blood is God’s exclusive property, it is holy, and therefore, it must not be used for any purpose. Any use of blood in our time, including very small samples of blood, is a violation of God’s law. As in the case with thievery, “any use” also includes all the uses mentioned in the Excursus that are not mentioned in the Bible, and it includes uses that were unknown in the first century CE but are known today. It is important to stress that Acts 15:20, 29 is not a prohibition against eating blood, against using blood as nutrition. But it is a prohibition against any use of blood.
|Blood is holy, and any use of blood, not just eating blood, is a violation of God’s laws. This is the meaning of Acts 15:29 “to abstain from blood.”|
In the Watchtower literature, we find two different schools of thought. One school focuses on the prohibition against eating blood, and the other school focuses on the prohibition against any use of blood. It is important to understand clearly the conclusions in the above discussion as we now consider the two schools.
. For a detailed discussion of the issue, see the article “Resigning from Jehovah’s Witnesses leads to shunning,” pages 3, 4, in the Category “Disassociation not based on the Bible,” and “The members of the Governing Body are twisting God’s thoughts” in the category “The Governing Body,” on this website.
. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature. W.F. Arndt and E.W. Gingrich, 1957.
 J.P. Louw and E. Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains.
. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. C. Brown ed. 1971 III, 432.
. Church History, Eusebius Pamphilus. https://biblehub.com/library/pamphilius/church_history/chapter_iii_in_the_course.htm
. Jeremiah, George Adam Smith. https://biblehub.com/library/smith/jeremiah/4_and_after_xxx_xxxi.htm.
NOT “EATING BLOOD” OR NOT “USING BLOOD”?
Most members of the Christian denominations eat blood and use blood for medical purposes. But Jehovah’s Witnesses do not use blood, and in this section, I will discuss the reasons for that. As a matter of fact, among the Witnesses, there have been two schools of thought regarding this issue.
The development of the view of blood
In the 1920s, vaccines against diseases were invented. The magazine The Golden Age, which was published by The Watchtower and Bible and Tract Society, had many articles warning against vaccines because the vaccines contained blood. During World War II, blood transfusions were given to soldiers on a grand scale, and after the war, blood transfusions were given to people in general. Some critics of the Witnesses have argued that the unscientific warning against vaccines were transferred to blood transfusion and was the primordial reason blood transfusions were prohibited among the Witnesses.
This argument has no merit because, in addition to the fact that vaccines often did more harm than good, a basic reason for their rejection was that they contained blood. The refining techniques of separating the potent material from the blood were not yet discovered. So, the reason for the warning against vaccines by Jehovah’s Witnesses and the reason why blood transfusions could not be accepted was the same—the biblical view of the holiness of blood.
I will now show how the Watchtower literature discussed different sides of the use of blood. The Awake! magazine of September 22, 1949, discussed the use of blood. The words in Acts 15:6-29, where abstaining from blood is mentioned, were discussed. The article refers to Acts 21:25, which indicates that the decision of the apostles and the elders in the year 49 CE were followed many years later. Then the article says:
Christians to this day are letting that decision influence them in their decisions respecting medical blood transfusions. They do not view such transfusions as acceptable sacrifices made supposedly for the lives of others.
The Awake! magazine of August 8, 1950, page 25, discussed blood transfusion and says:
In defense of the modern practice of blood transfusion some hold that receiving blood in that way [through the veins] is not the same as eating it because it does not enter the mouth etc. However, the fact that blood is used in another manner does not at all justify its use…Feeding the blood into the vein is every bit as much intravenous feeding as is the giving of water mixed with dextrose. The fact that it does not enter the digestive system is beside the point. It is basically the transfer of the lifestream from one to another that is banned by Jehovah in His word…
The only Scriptural use to which blood can be put is for a sacrifice of sins.
With reference to Acts chapter 15, the Awake! magazine of 1949 showed that blood transfusions were wrong without giving any details. The Awake! of 1950 introduced the view that blood transfusions are the same as eating blood, which would suggest that Acts 15:29 refers to drinking blood and eating blood (what is strangled). However, we also note a reference to the use of blood as being prohibited as well. And here we have the first hint of the two schools, the one stressing that eating blood is forbidden, and the other stressing that the use of blood is forbidden. However, we see that the article that puts the weight on eating also shows that the use of blood is wrong.
The Watchtower of February 1, 1950, page 79 says:
Whether by eating or drinking or transfusing blood, in all cases it is basically the transferring of blood from one organism human or animal to another organism, and this basic transfer of blood is what God’s Word condemns and forbids to his consecrated people. Just because a blood transfusion does not quench a person’s thirst or satisfy a person’s hunger is beside the point: the transfer of the blood remains an undeniable fact.
The focus in the quotation is neither the eating nor the use of blood, but the transferring of blood, or life, from one organism to another organism. The booklet Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Question of Blood (1977), page 18, says:
47 Note, for example, the command that Christians “keep abstaining . . . from blood.” (Acts 15:29) Nothing is there stated that would justify making a distinction between taking blood into the mouth and taking it into the blood vessels. And, really, is there in principle any basic difference?…
Similarly, the decree that Christians must ‘abstain from blood’ clearly covers the taking of blood into the body, whether through the mouth or directly into the bloodstream.
The view that blood transfusion is the same as eating blood is expressed in this quotation. But the focus is on the words “keep abstaining from.” Regardless of the way blood is taken into the body, a person is not “abstaining” from blood. The argument may imply that the words of Acts 15:29 do not only refer to drinking and eating blood, both being taken through the mouth.
One product in our modern world that may contain blood is fertilizer. Could Christians use this product when it contained blood? The discussion of this question shows the view that not only eating or drinking blood contradicts the Bible. But using the blood for any other purpose is wrong as well. The Watchtower of 1964, page 128, says:
But now, what about fertilizer that has blood in it? One who is going to show respect for God’s law on blood would not use it. True, according to the Mosaic law, blood when taken from a body was to be poured out upon the ground and covered over with dust. (Lev. 17:13, 14) The objective was, however, that the blood should serve no useful purpose when thus disposed of. It was not placed on the ground with the thought in mind that it would serve as fertilizer. Hence, no Christian farmer today could properly spread blood on his fields to fertilize the soil, nor would he use commercial fertilizer containing blood. Such blood use would be a commercializing on something that God has reserved for himself. It would be a violation of God’s Word.
The Watchtower of October 1981 15,, pages 30, 31, also discusses the use of fertilizer containing blood and says:
After the Law was set aside, He instructed Christians that they must “abstain . . . from blood.” Accordingly, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not eat blood or accept blood transfusions. Nor do they endorse various commercial uses of blood.—Acts 15:19, 20, 28, 29…
Consider, for instance, the use of blood as fertilizer. When an Israelite hunter poured an animal’s blood out on the ground it was not in order to fertilize the soil. He was pouring it on the earth out of respect for blood’s sacredness. So, would a Christian with a similar appreciation of the significance of blood deliberately collect it from slaughtered animals so that he could use it as fertilizer? Hardly, for such commercialization of blood would not be in accord with deep respect for the life-representing value of blood.
Both The Watchtower articles from 1964 and from 1981 show that blood should not be used for any purpose, but should be poured out on the ground when an animal is slaughtered. The article from 1981 also makes an interesting argument regarding Acts 15:29, namely that “abstaining from blood” both includes eating blood, taking blood into the veins, and using it for other purposes. The book How to Remain in God’s Love? (2017), page 91, says:
10 Jehovah’s Witnesses understand that “abstaining from . . . blood” involves more than not eating or drinking it. It means not accepting blood transfusions, not donating blood, and not storing our own blood for transfusion. It also means not accepting transfusions of any of the four main parts of blood—red cells, white cells, platelets, and plasma.
This quotation is particularly important because it comments on Acts 15:29 and shows that “abstaining from blood” both include not eating blood and not using blood for other purposes.
Table 1.1 Different arguments regarding blood
|1||Awake! 1950||Eating blood is forbidden; a blood transfusion is the same as eating blood.|
|2||Awake! 1950||Blood cannot be used for anything else than as a sacrifice on the altar.|
|3||The Watchtower1950||Transferring blood from one organism to another is wrong. Blood transfusion does this.|
|4||Jehovah’s Witnesses and the question of blood (1977)||Blood transfusion is wrong because it is the same as eating blood, and eating blood is forbidden.|
|5||The Watchtower(1964 and 1981)||Any use of blood, such as using it in fertilizer, is a violation of God’s law.|
|6||How to Remain in God’s love? (2017)||The words of Acts 15:29 “abstaining from blood” both include not eating blood and not using blood.|
. The Watchtower ONLINE LIBRARY with publications from 1945 to 1985 has the entry “viewed as feeding on blood” with 11 references under “Blood transfusions.” One of the references is the booklet Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Question of Blood from where this quotation is taken.
THE HOSPITAL LIAISON COMMITTEE AND THE TWO SCHOOLS
The largest and more specialized hospitals in Norway are located in Oslo, and patients with the most severe illnesses are sent to these hospitals. My wife and I settled in Oslo in 1975, and I became the presiding overseer in the Majorstua congregation in the center of Oslo. I had been district overseer for all Norway, and I had been the instructor for the two-week courses for all elders in Norway in 1974 and 1975. Because of this, elders and Witnesses from all Norway knew me, and when there was a difficult medical situation, I was often contacted and asked to help. Because of this, I had gathered a great number of medical articles dealing with bloodless treatment, and in several instances, I was able to help a sick Witness to find a surgeon in Oslo that was willing to operate without the use of blood.
In 1990, a new arrangement was introduced in Scandinavia, where I could be used in a more systematic and academic way. That was the Hospital Liaison Committee (HLC). Before I illuminate the issue of blood in connection with the HLC, I will say something about our work to help the brothers and sisters.
The hospital Liaison Committee
The work in the HLC was hard but very rewarding. During the first year, one brother and I cooperated closely. A pioneer preacher expends 70 hours or more a month in the preaching work, and we put in more time than a pioneer each month, helping sick brothers and sisters.
We had many problems in the first years. The Justice Department had sent a letter to the hospitals saying that if a doctor promised JW surgery without using blood, he could be prosecuted. Because of this letter, the doctors at different hospitals refused to treat us without the use of blood, except for one very experienced surgeon at a hospital specializing in cancer treatment. After a few years, many doctors realized that the members of the HLC could be of help, and we had good cooperation with most of them.
Our work was proactive, and we contacted different wards at hospitals to give lectures on bloodless treatment. In the first years, different brothers gave these talks. But during the ten years until 2010, when I moved from Oslo, I gave almost all the lectures. We were three brothers who participated. The two went to the hospitals to speak with the right persons in order to book a meeting. We went to the meeting, where I gave the lecture, and all three answered questions from the doctors afterward.
In the early 1990s, we did not have cellphones. But I had a beeper in my pocket, and when it beeped, I stopped my work before it was finished and went home. My wife stood in the hall with new clothes and a sandwich in her hand. I changed my clothes, took the sandwich, and went to the hospital. Sometimes our phone rang in the middle of the night, and I had to rush to a hospital.
The work was very rewarding. In the first year, a young brother accidentally received high voltage power through his body. He became very sick, and we assisted the family and the doctors who treated him. The young brother died, but his father, who was not a Witness, was so impressed by the help he and his family got that he became a Witness the same year. The best reward we got from our hard work was when we came to the hospital and saw the grateful eyes of the family of the sick one, and anticipating what might be going through their minds at that moment: “Jehovah’s organization has sent brothers to help us!”
During my 27 years in the HLC, I am aware of only one Witness who accepted a blood transfusion. And I am aware of only two brothers whose life possibly could have been saved if they had received blood. However, in a difficult situation, we gave the doctors medical articles dealing with the particular sickness, and we could give them the names of doctors in other countries that had successfully treated the same situation. In many cases, the doctors called such a doctor for assistance.
As members of the HLC, we were happy to know that by our work, we assisted in saving the lives of our brothers and sisters.
The meaning of the words in Acts 15:29
In 1990, three brothers came from Brooklyn to Sweden to teach us the different aspects of our work in the HLC, and brothers from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland were present for the three day training. There was a session each day where we could ask questions, and some of the questions reflected the careful consideration the brothers had given to the different issues in connection with bloodless treatment.
I asked one question regarding the meaning of Acts 15:29. Was the meaning of the words “to abstain from blood” that we only should abstain from eating blood or that we should abstain from any use of blood? I did not get a clear answer, and the reason probably was that there were two schools of thought in the organization regarding this issue.
For me, this issue was very important. The view that often was presented at that time was that the prohibition from the meeting in Jerusalem in the year 49 CE was against eating blood. Blood transfusion was the same as eating blood, and therefore we could not accept a blood transfusion. If this were correct, we would risk our lives on the definition of the word “eating,” and for me that view was impossible. Privately, I asked one of the teachers, and he agreed with me that the view that Acts 15:29 only referred to eating blood clearly was wrong.
After the seminar, I wrote a letter to the Watchtower Society in Brooklyn and asked about the meaning of Acts 15:29. The answer I got was not clear, and I wrote another letter and pointed this out. I got an answer to this letter that was just as unclear as the first one. Then I wrote a letter to the Governing Body member Daniel Sydlik and said that I felt I was left in the lurch by the answers. The answer I now received was satisfactory. The letter pointed out that some brothers viewed the issue as one of not eating blood while others stressed that the issue was not using blood for any purpose. This was the view of the two different schools. And the letter gave a very good answer because it also said that any use of blood was a violation of God’s law.
I would never have accepted that we should not take a blood transfusion because this is supposedly the equivalent of eating blood! I have always been loyal to my fellow elders and to the Governing Body. But I am a Bible student and not a parrot. I am willing to risk my life for the laws of the Bible, but I am not willing to risk my life based on a dubious definition made by humans. And this was the case in connection with blood. I also noted that James 3:17 shows that what is pure has a higher priority than peace. And so, I would strongly have objected to the “eating” argument if that was the true basis against blood transfusions.
. Kingdom Ministry, November 1990, pages 3, 4.
THE APPLICATION OF THE VIEW THAT ANY USE OF BLOOD IS PROHIBITED
In Leviticus 13:10, we read that eating “any sort of blood” is prohibited. The Hebrew word is kol, and it refers to totality, to something that is universal, both regarding kind and quantity. This word includes any sort of blood and any quantity of blood, small or great.
Acts 15:29 shows that Christians must “abstain from blood.” If we do not accept any exception to a statement in the Bible, when the context does not say there is an exception, then the meaning of these two scriptures is clear: We must “abstain from blood” of “any sort” and in any form, including small samples and big samples.
In view of the information above, the important question to ask is: What is blood (Hebrew dam and Greek: haima)? The lexicon Aid To Bible Understanding (1969), page 243, published by the Watchtower Society, says:
“The fluid which circulates in the principal vascular system of animals, carrying nourishment and oxygen to all parts of the body, and bringing away waste products to be excreted.” (Webster’s New International Dictionary, 2d ed., Unabridged) Thus the blood both feeds and cleanses the body. The chemical makeup of blood is so exceedingly complex that there is a great deal that to scientists is still in the realm of the unknown.
This is a definition of the word “blood,” and no one can dispute that this definition is the correct one. This means that the prohibition in the Bible exclusively refers to the red fluid that circulates in the veins of humans and animals.
|The biblical prohibition against blood includes only the red fluid in the veins of humans and animals. It does not include any components or fractions that are made from blood.|
Since World War II, scientists have developed methods to extract fractions of blood, and the members of the Governing Body claim that some of these are included in the prohibition against blood. The basic viewpoint is that an infusion of some of these fractions means that blood is eaten, and that is prohibited.
The prohibition against the use of Factor VIII for hemophiliacs
Hemophilia is a condition when the blood of a person does not clot normally. External wounds usually are not serious, but internal bleeding in joints, tissues, and muscles may be serious, particularly bleeding in vital organs, such as the brain. Internal bleeding can be very painful, and it can also lead to death. Hemophiliacs especially lacks Factor VIII and sometimes Factor IX in the coagulations chain, and the treatment is particularly to give these persons infusions of Factors VIII or IX.
When I was district overseer between 1972 and 1974, between the rounds of assemblies that we participated in, my wife and I worked at the branch office for 1 1/2 months in the winter and 3 1/2 months in the summer. In 1972, I was asked to answer a letter from a brother who was a hemophiliac who asked about the use of Cryoprecipitate, which contains Factor VIII. I remember that I answered that accepting an inoculation of Cryoprecipitate would be a violation of the sanctity of blood. Cryoprecipitate or Factor VIII had not been discussed in the Watchtower literature, so my answer was based on information that the branch office had.
At that time, I was not aware of the real issue behind this prohibition, an issue that is completely nonsensical. The Governing Body was created in 1971, and the view of the members was that one infusion of Factor VIII could be viewed as the use of it as medicine. But two infusions would be the same as eating Factor VIII. And that was forbidden. This standpoint simply is absurd, both because Factor VIII is a clotting factor that has nothing to do with eating or the nourishment of the body, and because the differentiation between one and two inoculation has no logical basis.
In 1975, the members of the Governing Body changed their minds, and they decided that infusions of Factor VIII were no longer forbidden, but it was a matter of conscience. However, the Governing Body did not want to publish their decision so they should not be put in a bad light. First in 1978 was factor VIII indirectly mentioned in an article in The Watchtower, but the context was obscure, and it was difficult to know what the decision of the Governing Body really was.
The real problem with this situation was that for four years, hemophiliacs who trusted the Governing Body could not use Factor VIII. This resulted in extreme pain for some who was bleeding in their vital organs and possible bleeding to death for others. It would have been very important for faithful hemophiliacs to immediately be informed of the new view of the Governing Body, so they could use Factor VIII. But in order to save face the decision was first published in an covert way three years after the decision. During this time, hemophiliacs who did not know about the change of viewpoint could experience extreme pain or even bleed to death.
The artificial differentiation between “the bigger blood components” and “the small blood fractions”
As already mentioned, there was a seminar in Arboga in Sweden in 1990 where elders of the Hospital Liaison Committees were taught how they could help sick brothers and sisters. Five years later, there was a refresher course for the members of the HLC, and some of the arguments that were present at this course were just as ludicrous as the viewpoints regarding Factor VIII.
I quote from the section: “Reasoning on the basis of biblical principles and medical procedures,” points 1 and 2:
- 1. Principle: Blood represents the life of a creature. It is wrong to eat it and by this sustain your life by the blood of life of another person, either blood from humans or from animals. “You shall not eat the blood of any kind of flesh, because the soul [the life] in all kinds of flesh is its blood. Anyone who eats it, will be cut off.” (Leviticus 17.14)
- a) Application: It is wrong to accept a transfusion of full blood or one of the bigger blood components (like red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets or plasma). This is the same as eating blood. (w90 6.1, p. 30, 31; w89 3.1, p. 30, 31; w 78 11.1, s. 23; bq 17, 18)
- b) Application: Accepting immunoglobulins, coagulation factors, albumin, and other small blood fractions with the purpose of curing sickness and not with the purpose of nourishing the body is a matter of conscience (w94 10.1, s. 31; w90 6.1, s. 30, 31; w 78 11.1, s. 23; g 82 11.8, p. 23; g 82 11.8, p. 25)
- Principle: Blood that has been wasted must not again be returned to the body in order to nourish it. Wasted blood, as a symbol of life, must be “poured out.” It returns to the Lifgiver, Jehovah. (Leviticus 17:13; Deuteronomy 12:15, 16)
- a) Application: Pre-operative gathering of blood, storing the blood, and later infusion of the patient’s own blood cannot be accepted. (w89 3.1, p. 30, 31; w78 11.1, p. 22; g82 11.8, p. 25)
The first absurdity in the quotation above is the claim that it is not the use of blood that is wrong but it is the purpose of the use of blood that may be wrong. If blood is used as food, with the purpose of nourishing the body, this is forbidden. But if blood is used with the purpose of curing sickness, this is not forbidden.
The second absurdity is that the decision of a Witness as to which fractions of blood he or she can accept in a life-threatening situation is based on how the members of the Governing Body define the word “eating” So, the life of a Witness can be based on a human definition of a word, and not on the law of God!
The third absurdity is the idiosyncratic way the members of the Governing Body define “eating” and “nourishment.” The definition in the quotation is that the infusion of full blood, red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, or plasma is forbidden because this is the same as eating blood. But the infusion of immunoglobulins, coagulation factors, albumin, and other small blood fractions is not forbidden because this is not the same as eating blood.
Let us look at the mentioned blood components from the point of view of eating and nourishment. Platelets constitute about 1% of the blood volume. Their function is to bind to the site of a damaged blood vessel and stop the bleeding. These cells have nothing to do with the nourishment of the body. White blood cells constitute about 1% of the blood volume, and they are the cells of the immune system. Their function is to protect the body against infectious diseases and foreign invaders. These cells have nothing to do with the nourishment of the body. Albumin, on the other hand, are proteins that constitute about 2% of the blood volume. They bind to various molecules in the blood and carry these around. Their main function is to regulate the movement of materials across the capillary wall, and these proteins have a function in connection with the metabolism and nourishment of the body.
So, the absurdity of the whole quotation above is that an infusion of platelets and white blood cells is defined as eating, in spite of the fact that they have nothing to do with the nourishment of the body. But an infusion of albumin is not defined as eating, in spite of the fact that these proteins constitute about 2% of the blood volume and have a function in connection with the nourishment of the body. The words from the refresher course that are quoted above are so silly that some may question whether I have quoted them correctly. Then I will say that I have all the original documents from the refresher course in my library, and I guarantee that the quotation is correct.
The Kingdom Ministry for October 2006, page 6, has a table showing that some blood fractions are unacceptable for Christians and others are acceptable according to the decision of the members of the Governing Body.
Table 1.2 Blood fractions that are allowed and not allowed according to the Governing Body
|UNACCEPTABLE TO CHRISTIANS||YOUR PERSONAL DECISION|
|WHOLE BLOOD||FRACTIONS||Choices You Need to Make|
|PLASMA||ALBUMIN—UP TO 4% OF PLASMA
A protein extracted from plasma. Types of albumin are found also in plants, in foods such as milk and eggs, and in the milk of a nursing mother. Albumin from blood is sometimes used in volume expanders to treat shock and severe burns. These preparations may contain up to 25 percent albumin. Minute amounts are used in the formulation of many other medicines, including some formulations of erythropoietin (EPO).
|____ I accept albumin
____ I refuse albumin
|IMMUNOGLOBULINS—UP TO 3% OF PLASMA
Protein fractions that may be used in some medicines that fight viruses and diseases, such as diphtheria, tetanus, viral hepatitis, and rabies. They may also be used to guard against some medical conditions that threaten the life of a developing baby and to counteract the effects of snake or spider venom.
|____ I accept immunoglobulins
____ I refuse immunoglobulins
|CLOTTING FACTORS—LESS THAN 1% OF PLASMA
There are various proteins that help blood to clot in order to stop bleeding. Some are given to patients who tend to bleed easily. They are also used in medical glues to seal wounds and to stop bleeding after surgery. One combination of clotting factors is known as cryoprecipitate. Note: Some clotting factors are now made from nonblood sources.
|____ I accept blood-derived clotting factors
____ I refuse blood-derived clotting factors
|HEMOGLOBIN—33% OF RED CELLS
A protein that transports oxygen throughout the body and carbon dioxide to the lungs. Products being developed from human or animal hemoglobin could be used to treat patients with acute anemia or massive blood loss.
|____ I accept hemoglobin
____ I refuse hemoglobin
|HEMIN—LESS THAN 2% OF RED CELLS
An enzyme inhibitor derived from hemoglobin that is used to treat a group of rare genetic blood disorders (known as porphyria) that affect the digestive, nervous, and circulatory systems.
|____ I accept hemin
____ I refuse hemin
|WHITE CELLS||NTERFERONS—A TINY FRACTION OF WHITE CELLS
Proteins that fight certain viral infections and cancers. Most interferons are not derived from blood. Some are made from fractions of human white blood cells.
|____ I accept hemin
____ I refuse hemin
|PLATELETS||At present, no fractions from platelets are being isolated for direct use in medical treatment.|
Table 1.2 shows that according to the members of the Governing Body, it is a personal decision whether to take albumin, immunoglobulins, clotting factors, hemoglobin, hemin, and interferons into the body. But full blood, red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and plasma is unacceptable for Christians. The refresher course distinguished between “the bigger blood components” that were unacceptable for Christians and “the small blood fractions” that were acceptable. However, platelets and white blood cells, which are called “the bigger blood components” each constitutes only about 1% of blood volume, but albumin constitutes about 2% of blood volume and hemoglobin constitutes around 13% of blood volume, and both are called “small blood fractions.”
We may also question the logic by classifying plasma as something that is unacceptable for Christians. This amber-colored fluid constitutes about 55% of blood volume. It contains 92% water, up to 4% albumin, up to 3% immunoglobulins, and less than 1% clotting factors. It is true that plasma contributes to the metabolism or nourishment of the body. If we removed all its water, this water could be infused into the veins because there is no prohibition against the use of water. And further, each of the molecules that remained when the water was removed could be acceptable for Christians according to the members of the Governing Body. It does not make sense that each part of plasma separately could be used by Christians, but all the parts together would be unacceptable for Christians. So, regardless of from which angle we approach table 1.2 we find the setting up in tabular form to be stupid and unreasonable.
It is clear that none of the components or fractions referred to in the table is blood, and contrary to the decision of the Governing Body, all of them are acceptable for Christians. There is no prohibition against plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in the Bible, and therefore, there is no biblical reason why Christians should not accept an infusion of any of these if the need would arise. However, there may be a medical reason against the infusion of any blood component or fraction. This reason is that any blood component can transfer diseases from one person to another person. And even if a blood component does not transfer any disease, it can cause the immune system of the person who gets the component to be harmed.
|The Bible’s prohibition against “blood” only refers to the red fluid in the veins of animals and humans. There is no prohibition against any component or fraction of blood|
Storing our own blood in order to get it infused later
Both the refresher course for the members of the Hospital Liaison Committees and the book How to Remain in God’s Love? states that storing one’s own blood for later infusion is prohibited. The issue was discussed in The Watchtower of October 15, 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.
Other procedures or tests involving an individual’s own blood are not so clearly in conflict with God’s stated principles. For instance, many Christians have allowed some of their blood to be withdrawn for testing or analysis, after which the sample is discarded. Other more complex procedures involving one’s blood may also be recommended.
For example, during certain surgical procedures, some blood may be diverted from the body in a process called hemodilution. The blood remaining in the patient is diluted. Later, his blood in the external circuit is directed back into him, thus bringing his blood count closer to normal. Similarly, blood that flows into a wound may be captured and filtered so that the red cells can be returned to the patient; this is called cell salvage. In a different process, blood may be directed to a machine that temporarily carries on a function normally handled by body organs (for example, the heart, lungs, or kidneys). The blood from the machine is then returned to the patient. In other procedures, blood is diverted to a separator (centrifuge) so that damaging or defective portions of it can be eliminated. Or the goal may be to isolate some of a blood component and apply that elsewhere on the body. There are also tests in which a quantity of blood is withdrawn in order to tag it or to mix it with medicine, whereupon it is put back into the patient.
The details may vary, and new procedures, treatments, and tests will certainly be developed. It is not our place to analyze each variation and render a decision. A Christian must decide for himself how his own blood will be handled in the course of a surgical procedure, medical test, or current therapy. Ahead of time, he should obtain from the doctor or technician the facts about what might be done with his blood during the procedure. Then he must decide according to what his conscience permits. (italics of the author)
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF
If some of my blood will be diverted outside my body and the flow might even be interrupted for a time, will my conscience allow me to view this blood as still part of me, thus not requiring that it be ‘poured out on the ground’?
Would my Bible-trained conscience be troubled if during a diagnostic or therapeutic procedure some of my own blood was withdrawn, modified, and directed back into (or onto) my body?
We should note that the reason given for not storing one’s own blood is different from the reason given for not taking full blood, red cells, white cells, platelets and plasma into the body. The mentioned blood components are prohibited because taking them into the body is the same as eating them, which is forbidden, is the argument. But the prohibition against storing one’s blood is based on the commandment that blood must be poured out on the ground, that is, blood of a dead creature must not be used for any purpose.
However, the blood was poured out on the ground when a creature was dead. This was a token indicating respect for the life-giver. When the blood was poured out, the life of the creature was symbolically returned to God. But when a person stores his own blood with an operation in view, the person is not dead, and his life should not be returned to God. Also, the blood that is transfused into the veins of the person is not the blood of another human being, but it is his own blood.
An article in The Watchtower of March 15, 1980, page 31, discussing transplantation and whether taking a transplant is the same as eating another person’s flesh, thus being a cannibal, says:
It may be argued, too, that organ transplants are different from cannibalism since the “donor” is not killed to supply food.
In a similar way, it is the blood of a dead creature and not a living one that should not be stored. Because the person who is storing his blood is not dead, the prohibition against storing the blood of a dead creature cannot be used to show that storing a living creature’s blood is wrong. There is no law in the Bible showing that the storing of one’s own blood is against God’s law.
We must therefore conclude that the decision—or rather the order—of the Governing Body that one’s own blood must not be stored has no biblical basis. So, whether to store one’s blood or not is a matter of conscience; each one has the right to decide.
|Blood from dead creatures must not be stored but must be poured out on the ground. The commandment for doing this cannot be used as a prohibition against storing one’s own blood for a future operation because the commandment only relates to the blood of dead creatures. And it was a part of the law to Moses that no longer is valid.|
In order to drive home the points above, I will compare the situation of blood storage with other procedures mentioned in the Question from readers. Please consider the following examples:
- When a quantity of blood is withdrawn in order to tag it or mix it with medicine, it can be stored for several minutes before it is returned to the patient.
- When blood flows into a wound, and it is captured, filtered, and the red cells are returned to the patient, the red cells can be stored in the process for half an hour or more.
- When blood is withdrawn for testing and analysis, the blood can be stored for several days if it is sent to a laboratory specializing in particular tests. After that, it will be discarded.
- When blood is withdrawn from the patient with the purpose of returning it to the patient during an operation, the blood can be stored for one or two, or for several weeks.
In all these cases, it is the blood of the patient that is withdrawn from him and later returned to him or discarded. The basic difference between the four examples is the time, i.e., how long the blood is stored. It does not make sense to claim that a person’s blood that is withdrawn and stored for three days before it is processed at a laboratory is a matter of conscience, but a person’s blood that is withdrawn and stored for seven days or two weeks before it is returned to him during an operation is forbidden.
The conscience of individual Witness is overruled by the consciences of the members of the Governing Body
The decision of the Governing Body that storing one’s own blood before an operation is wrong is a typical example of how the members of the Governing Body put their own conscience above the conscience of individual Witnesses. In issues connected with the use of blood, there are several similar examples.
The job of a nurse who is a Witness is to care for the patients and give them the medicines that are prescribed by the doctors. In some situations, the doctors may prescribe a blood transfusion, and the nurse is asked to administer this transfusion. To do that or not will be based on the conscience of the nurse. To administer a blood transfusion is a small part of the job of the nurse, and therefore, her conscience may allow her to do what the doctor has asked her to do. The letter of June 15, 2018 from the Governing Body to the Hospital Liaison Committees changed this situation:
We would like to inform you of an updated policy with regard to whether a Christian may administer a blood transfusion if he is directed to do so by a superior. The previous policy was that it would be a matter for a personal, conscientious decision whether to obey such an order. However, after carefully reviewing the matter, the Governing Body has determined that administering such a transfusion is so closely linked with an unscriptural practice that one unquestionably becomes an accomplice in a wrong practice. Therefore, it would not be appropriate for a Christian to administer a blood transfusion under any circumstance.—Gen. 9:4; Acts 15:28, 29.
This letter shows that the members of the Governing Body believe that they have the right to dictate to Witnesses when they find it convenient and even overrule the consciences of individual Witnesses. But this is an attack on the Christian freedom that Paul mentioned in Galatians 5.1. No elder has such a right.
Medical Science is continually developing new methods and new procedures for the treatment of sick persons. And some of these methods include bone marrow where blood is produced, different organs, and also blood itself. Over the years, many letters discussing new methods and new procedures have been sent to the Hospital Liaison Committees from the Governing Body, saying that this method and procedure can be used by Christians if the conscience of the individual allows it. And other letters have stated that this method or procedure cannot be used by Christians. During a period of five years, I assess that more than 20 such letters have been sent and received.
The purpose of these letters is that the members of the Committes can give advice to sick Witnesses whether a method or procedure is acceptable or is a violation of Bible principles. It is, of course, an advantage that the department Hospital Information Services exists at headquarters in the USA, and that knowledgeable brothers and sisters do research and assist the Committee members in different situations. It is also fine that a description of new methods and procedures are given.
However, what is not acceptable is that the Governing Body, through the Hospital Information Services, make decisions over the heads of the Witnesses. I have already mentioned two examples of this; that blood cannot be stored and that nurses cannot administer a blood transfusion. But there are also a number of other situations where the consciences of individual Witnesses are overruled and nullified.
. For a detailed discussion of the issue of hemophiliacs and Factor VIII, see the article “Manslaughter” in the category “The eleven disfellowshipping offenses,” under the heading “The ‘criminal negligence’ of the GB may lead to bloodguilt.” Also, see the article “The implementation of the elder arrangement was a blessing — the creation of the Governing Body has been a disaster” in the category “The Governing Body.”
. The letter “w” refers to the Norwegian edition of The Watchtower, and “g” refers to the Norwegian Awake!. The letters “bq” refers to the booklet Jehovah’s Witnesses and the question of blood.
. Several nurses have told me that they have no problems with administering a blood transfusion, because it is a part of their job, and the transfusion is not prescribed by them. But Witness doctors or Witness nurses will not prescribe a blood transfusion. Moreover, the Jews could not eat the meat of an animal that was not bled, but they could sell this meat to a non-Jew.
. This new policy was also communicated to the congregation members.
BLOOD TRANSFUSION LEADING TO DISFELLOWSHIPPING OR DISASSOCIATION
After World War II, blood transfusions have occurred on a grand scale. But I have already mentioned that Witnesses have almost never accepted a blood transfusion. But if a Witness did accept blood, what would the congregation do?
Accepting blood leads to disfellowshipping
In the 15 years up to 1961, no judicial committee would be formed if someone accepted blood. But then there was a change. The book Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, page 183, says:
Consistent with that understanding of matters, beginning in 1961 any who ignored the divine requirement, accepted blood transfusions, and manifested an unrepentant attitude were disfellowshipped from the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The reasons for the disfellowshipping are found in The Watchtower of January 15, 1961, page 63:
In view of the seriousness of taking blood into the human system by a transfusion, would violation of the Holy Scriptures in this regard subject the dedicated, baptized receiver of blood transfusion to being disfellowshiped from the Christian congregation?
The inspired Holy Scriptures answer yes…
(Acts 15:23-29) Thus for all Christian believers the apostolic decree under the guidance of God’s holy spirit declared that among the things necessary for them was the keeping of themselves free from blood and from things killed without draining their blood…
Under God’s law as mediated by the prophet Moses toward the nation of Israel those Jews or circumcised proselytes who violated God’s prohibition against eating or drinking animal blood were to be cut off from his chosen people. According to the apostolic decree as handed down by that conference in Jerusalem, the Christian congregation was under obligation to do a similar thing toward those who ate or drank animal blood.
There is no reference to a scripture saying that accepting blood is a disfellowshipping offense. Two arguments are used: The words in Acts 15:28, 29 are referred to, and the words things necessary are stressed. And an analogous reference to Israel is used. Persons in Israel who ate blood were cut off from God’s people by being killed, and in a similar way, persons who misuse blood should be cut off from God’s people by being disfellowshipped. If this analogy had any merit, every sin that required a death penalty in Israel should lead to disfellowshipping. But that is, of course, not the view of the Governing Body. And regarding the first argument, the use of the words necessary things cannot justify disfellowshipping.
Accepting blood leads to disassociation
Disfellowshipping Witnesses who accepted blood continued for more than 20 years. The book for elders “Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock” (1991) included “Failure to abstain from blood” as a disfellowshipping offense, and an undated list of disfellowshipping offenses from the branch office, probably from the last part of the 1990s also listed misuse of blood as a disfellowshipping offense. However, a similar list from May 2005 listed “Failure to abstain from blood” as evidence for disassociation. The book “Shepherd The Flock Of God” (2019) 18.3 (3) says:
Willingly and Unrepentantly Accepting Blood: If someone willingly accepts a blood transfusion, perhaps because of being under extreme pressure, a committee (not judicial) should obtain the facts and determine the individual’s attitude. If he is repentant, the committee would provide spiritual assistance in the spirit of Galatians 6:1 and Jude 22, 23. Since he is spiritually weak, he would not qualify for special privileges for a period of time. In some cases, it may also be necessary to remove other privileges, such as commenting at congregation meetings and presenting student assignments at the midweek meeting. Depending on the circumstances, the committee may also need to arrange for an announcement to the congregation at a midweek meeting: “The elders have handled a matter having to do with [name of person]. You will be glad to know that spiritual shepherds are endeavoring to render assistance.” On the other hand, if the elders on the committee determine that he is unrepentant, they should announce his disassociation.
Point 18:1 says:
Disassociation is an action taken by a baptized member of the congregation who no longer desires to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The first and last part of the first quotation are particularly interesting because they flatly contradict the words of the last quotation. It is not the person himself who decides to disassociate himself from the congregation because he “no longer desires to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” But the elders are the ones who determine that he is unrepentant, and because of this, they throw him out of the congregation under the pretext that he, of his own free will, has disassociated himself.
I will illustrate the situation in the following way. A sister is taken to the hospital to give birth to a child. The child is born, but she also has severe bleeding. The doctors are unable to stop the bleeding, and her husband is asked to allow a blood transfusion. But he refuses. This happens several times. Then the doctor takes the husband into the room where his wife is. She is unconscious and very pale. The doctor shows the husband all the towels that are soaked with blood, and he says: If your wife does not get a blood transfusion in a short time, she will bleed out and die. In this situation, the husband gives his permission, and the wife gets several bags of blood.
After this traumatic experience, the husband is summoned before a committee of three elders. Their goal is to find out the brother’s attitude, and they ask him whether he repents his action. The brother answers: “I realize that I have violated one of Jehovah’s laws by giving permission to give my wife blood transfusions. But it is impossible for me to regret my action and be repentant. My wrong act saved the life of my wife, and saying that I am repentant, is tantamount to saying that I regret that I saved the life of my wife. Honestly speaking, if I could go back and do it all over again, I would do the same thing to save my wife. Brothers, I know I shouldn’t feel this way, but I would be lying if I said otherwise. I still want to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I hope that Jehovah will understand why I violated his law.”
What would now happen? At the first midweek meeting, the congregation would be informed that the brother no longer is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This situation illustrates the contradictory nature of the words about disassociation. To say that the brother has disassociated himself from the congregation because he no longer wants to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses is simply a lie. By using this euphemistic formulation, the elders need not admit that they have thrown the brother out of the congregation because he broke God’s law in order to save the life of his wife.
I will drive home the point that the elders throw a brother out of the congregation by using another example: A brother says to the elders: “I agree that we must abstain from blood, that is, the red fluid that is in the veins of men and animals. I agree that whether to accept small fractions of blood or not is a matter of conscience. However, which fractions this relates to is not mentioned in the Bible. Only small amounts of platelets and white blood cells are found in the bloodstream in our veins, so I believe that accepting these factors is a matter of conscience as well. I was hospitalized last week, and with a good conscience, I accepted infusions of platelets that I needed to save my life.”
What will now happen? The Bible does not forbid the use platelets or any other blood fraction. But the members of the Governing Body have forbidden the use of blood plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. The brother has accepted platelets, and he is clearly not repentant. Therefore, he will be thrown out of the congregation under the false claim that “he no longer desires to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
The change from “disfellowshipping” to “disassociation”
In the 20th century, persons who accepted blood and were not repentant were disfellowshipped. But in the 21st century, such persons are viewed as having disassociated themselves from the congregation by their own choice. What is the reason for this change? Evidently, to “save face.”
Just think of the brother in the first example who broke the law of God but saved the life of his wife. If he was disfellowshipped for his action, this would amount to his being thrown out of the congregation for saving his wife’s life. And if this information were to become public knowledge, it would put Jehovah’s Witnesses in a very bad light. But if the Witnesses can say that the brother voluntarily left the congregation after he saved his wife’s life, any potential public backlash is averted.
However, in order to “save face” and not be put in a bad light, the Governing Body uses self-contradictory language. In most cases, where a brother accepts blood or blood components, he has no desire to leave the congregation. And as the quotation from the Shepherd book shows, it is the elders who determine or decide that the brother has disassociated himself. This undeniably means that disassociation is not the brother’s decision, and when the Shepherd book says that “disassociation” means that the brother “no longer desires to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses,” this simply is not true. The truth is that the brother has been thrown out of the congregation against his will. And so here is the oxymoronic contradiction:
Voluntarily <—> to be kicked out of the congregation.
The conclusion regarding the change from “disfellowshipping” to “disassociation” is that these two terms for all intents and purposes are interconvertible. This is also confirmed in the book for elders Pay Attention to Yourselves and to All the Flock (1991), page 102, where we read “Those who disassociate themselves should be viewed and treated in the same way as disfellowshipped persons.”
. More evidence indicating that disassociation is the same as disfellowshipping is found in the article “Introduction to the articles on disassociation” in the Category “Disassociation not based on the Bible”.
Blood is God’s special property. It is holy, and the only legal use of it is as a sacrifice on the altar. To use blood for any purpose, including eating it, are prohibited both in the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Greek Scriptures.
Not all Jehovah’s Witnesses have held this view. There have been two schools of thought in the organization, one school stressing that only the eating of blood is prohibited, and the other stressing that any use of blood for any purpose is prohibited. The school stressing eating has dominated the Watchtower literature.
This study has shown that any use of blood, a small sample or a bigger one, is prohibited by God’s word. But the prohibition only includes the red fluid in the veins of animals and humans. And it does not include the bigger blood components or the smaller ones.
Until 1961, the congregation would not take any action against a brother or sister who accepted blood. From 1961 and for the most part of the 20th century, a congregation member who accepted blood without regretting it would be disfellowshipped. In the 21st century, the view has been introduced that a person who accepts blood without regretting it, has disassociated himself from the congregation because he does no longer want to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
This is just a cosmetic change because the reality is that a person who accepts blood without regretting it is thrown out of the congregation under the pretext that he voluntarily left the congregation. Disassociation is a concept that is made up and invented by the Governing Body, and it has no biblical basis. It has been shown that disassociation is exactly the same as disfellowshipping; the only difference is their designations.
ADDENDUM — TRANSPLANTATION OF ORGANS
One of the headings in this study is “The conscience of individual Witness is overruled by the consciences of the members of the Governing Body.” The issues that are discussed relate to blood. But there is one issue that indirectly relates to blood, which also shows how the consciences of individual Witnesses are overruled by the decisions of the Governing Body. That is the question about the transplantation of organs.
The “Question from readers” in The Watchtower of November 15, 1967, page 702, discusses transplantations, and we read:
Is there any Scriptural objection to donating one’s body for use in medical research or to accepting organs for transplant from such a source?—W. L., U.S.A…
Humans were allowed by God to eat animal flesh and to sustain their human lives by taking the lives of animals, though they were not permitted to eat blood. Did this include eating human flesh, sustaining one’s life by means of the body or part of the body of another human, alive or dead? No! That would be cannibalism, a practice abhorrent to all civilized people…
When there is a diseased or defective organ, the usual way health is restored is by taking in nutrients. The body uses the food eaten to repair or heal the organ, gradually replacing the cells. When men of science conclude that this normal process will no longer work and they suggest removing the organ and replacing it directly with an organ from another human, this is simply a shortcut. Those who submit to such operations are thus living of the flesh of another human. That is cannibalistic. However, in allowing man to eat animal flesh Jehovah God did not grant permission for humans to try to perpetuate their lives by cannibalistically taking into their bodies human flesh, whether chewed or in the form of whole organs or body parts taken from others.
The basic problem with the quotation above is that The Watchtower makes a decision that is not based on a solid biblical foundation. One or more members of the school of thought whose view was that the Bible only prohibited the eating of blood must have been behind the parallel line of reasoning this decision was based on. This is so because accepting an organ transplantation is said to be the same as eating human flesh, thus turning the recipient into a cannibal.
The prohibition against organ transplants continued to stand for 13 years. Questions from readers in The Watchtower of 15 March 1980, page 31, put the issue in a new perspective.
Should congregation action be taken if a baptized Christian accepts a human organ transplant, such as of a cornea or a kidney?
Regarding the transplantation of human tissue or bone from one human to another, this is a matter for conscientious decision by each one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Some Christians might feel that taking into their bodies any tissue or body part from another human is cannibalistic. They might hold that the transplanted human material is intended to become part of the recipient’s body to keep him alive and functioning. They might not see it as fundamentally different from consuming flesh through the mouth. Such feelings may arise from considering that God did not make specific provision for man to eat the flesh of his fellowman when he made provision for humans to eat the flesh of animals that had been drained of their life-sustaining blood. They may give consideration also to the way people in Bible times viewed sustaining themselves by taking in human flesh…
Other sincere Christians today may feel that the Bible does not definitely rule out medical transplants of human organs. They may reason that in some cases the human material is not expected to become a permanent part of the recipient’s body. Body cells are said to be replaced about every seven years, and this would be true of any human body parts that would be transplanted. It may be argued, too, that organ transplants are different from cannibalism since the “donor” is not killed to supply food.
While the decision in The Watchtower of 1967 overruled the consciences of individual Witnesses, the comments in The Watchtower of 1980 showed that each Witness had to decide based on his conscience whether to accept an organ transplant or not. Thus, the conscience of individual Witnesses was no longer overruled.
However, bringing in the issue of cannibalism was strange and unnecessary. I am quite certain that almost no Witness would have connected transplantation with cannibalism if The Watchtower of 1967 had not used this as a basis for the prohibition against organ transplants. The issue of cannibalism is completely irrelevant and should never have been brought up in the first place.
The Awake! magazine of June 22, 1982, page 26, sees the issue of transplantation in the right perspective:
The Witnesses do not feel that the Bible comments directly on organ transplants; hence, decisions regarding cornea, kidney, or other issue transplants must be made by the individual Witness.
This is a very fine comment because it shows that the Bible does not say anything about transplantation and because it puts the responsibility where it belongs: Each Witness must make a personal decision regarding organ transplants without being influenced or pressured by the elders or by the Governing Body. This should have been the guidance from the leaders of the Jehovah’s Witnesses from the very beginning.
The real problem with the prohibition against transplantation of 1967 is how it affected the health of individual Witnesses. There is no doubt that a transplant, such as of the heart or kidney, could have saved or prolonged the lives of some of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Faithful Witnesses were deprived of this possibility for 13 years because of an idiosyncratic interpretation of the words “eating” and “cannibalistic.”
But the present Governing Body evidently has not learned anything from the flawed and misguided decision of 1967. The Governing Body’s current prohibitions against storing one’s own blood and several other medical methods and procedures are likewise flawed and misguided. And this is also the case with scores upon scores of human commandments made by the Governing Body that have ruined and will continue to ruin the lives of tens of thousands of Witnesses.