This is a big one, folks: the gloves are coming off and we’re going to dismantle the Jehovah’s Witness blood doctrine, hold it up to the light, and bury it once and for all. When we are done, there will be no excuse left for a Witness to claim that they are following God’s law by allowing their children (or themselves) to die for want of a transfusion.
So, settle in and get comfy; there’s a lot to go over. We’re going to peel this onion, and hopefully not make you cry too much. We’re going to start with the basic broad assumptions, and work our way down to the nitty-gritty. In order to remain a believer in the Watchtower’s claim that blood transfusions are sinful you will need to accept all of the assumptions we examine in each and every step along the way. This is an important point; you may indeed accept some of the assumptions in one or more steps — but that’s not good enough; you have to accept them all, or else you’ll need to toss the Watchtower doctrine out the window and head off to your nearest Red Cross and donate some blood.
But first, a little history from the Watchtower’s Point of View
The life-saving medical procedure of transfusing blood has been in use for centuries, but was perfected around the turn of the last century. Yet, it was not until 1945 that Jehovah saw fit to enlighten the world (through his “prophet” the Watchtower) that this procedure was against his law, and not until 1961 that he made it known that it was serious enough to be a disfellowshipping offense.
Later on, though, Jehovah said that blood could be accepted if it was taken in its constituent parts rather than as whole blood — except for some parts such as platelets, red blood cells, white blood cells, and plasma (though fractionated parts of these were acceptable.) He also told them that fractionated cows’ blood (marketed as Hemopure) was acceptable.
Although Jehovah first told the Watchtower that a blood transfusion was the same as eating blood, he later corrected himself and said that a blood transfusion was a transplant. Finally, Jehovah helped the Watchtower writers to see that blood-transfusion is not a life-saving procedure at all, but rather endangers the recipient’s physical life as well as their spiritual one!
Confused? You’re not alone. Even attempting to state the Watchtower’s official view of things (as we have above) leaves me saying: “That makes no sense.”
The First Three Layers of Assumptions
The first layer of assumptions, of course, is that gods exist, and that this particular god called Jehovah exists.
The second layer of assumptions is that Jehovah objects to blood transfusions to such an extent that he will extinguish a person’s hope of eternal life should they ever accept a transfusion. This assumption rests entirely on the third assumption: that the Bible is Jehovah’s word: accurately reflecting his expectations of us.
These are huge assumptions in themselves, and we have devoted a lot of words to them elsewhere, so we won’t go into them here. Suffice it to say that belief in the god of the Bible and the Bible’s accuracy are highly dubious assumptions, and unless you have complete faith in these first layers you should have no reason to believe that there is anything sinful regarding blood transfusions.
The Critical Fourth Layer that makes Witnesses Unique
A lot of people besides the Witnesses accept the above assumptions, yet they do not accept the next critical assumption: that the Watchtower’s interpretation of the Bible in regards to blood transfusion is correct.
We’re going to examine why that is in a moment. But first, it’s time to introduce the Watchtower’s argument that blood transfusions are sinful. We are going to strive to do it full justice, so don’t get mad at us if we state it as persuasively as we can:
The Reason that the Watchtower Gives for Banning Blood Transfusions
After Jehovah killed off all of his “good” creation except for Noah’s family and their menagerie, he decided to change the dietary rules. You see, up until then everyone (including non-human animals) actually ate their vegetables!
But now (that is, immediately after the flood), with only two to seven individuals remaining of each species, Jehovah said: “Oh, go ahead and eat each other!” And he changed lots of animals into carnivores so that they could no longer survive on a plant-based diet; they had to eat “meat” (i.e. each other.)
So, the lions and tigers, et al., began snacking on the other animals, but evidently picking off only the male of the species (and then only after making sure the female of the species was pregnant — and patiently waiting to devour her only after she had given birth.)
But — and here’s the all-important point — along with this new fleshly diet, Jehovah said not to eat the blood of the animals.
Well, the lions, tigers, et al., evidently weren’t listening. But Noah was listening (at least according to one of the anonymous writers of Genesis who wrote Noah’s story centuries later.)
Then, thousands of years after the writers of Genesis had spun their tale, one of Noah’s descendants, who became connected with the Watchtower organization, decided that this rule about pouring out an animal’s blood meant that blood transfusions were sinful.
Early in man’s history, our Creator ruled that humans should not eat blood. (Genesis 9:3, 4) He stated that blood represents life, which is a gift from him. Blood removed from a creature could be used only in sacrifice, such as on the altar. Otherwise, blood from a creature was to be poured on the ground, in a sense giving it back to God …It would be right, of course, to avoid products that listed things such as blood, blood plasma, plasma, globin (or globulin) protein, or hemoglobin (or globin) iron.”
— The Watchtower, 10/15/92 p. 30.
But, that’s not the end of the story. The Watchtower reminds us that the Mosaic Law also reiterated the prohibition against consuming an animal’s blood.
Finally, and most important of all: in the Bible book of Acts it is stated that Jesus’ apostles got together at some point after his death and decided that Christians should “abstain from blood.”
All that was left for the modern-day Witnesses to do was to show that blood transfusions were a violation of the Bible’s prohibition against blood. They put it succinctly: “Injecting blood into your veins is not abstaining from blood.”
Then, to justify this seeming death-sentence of a commandment from a supposedly loving and caring god, the Watchtower writers began to denigrate the medical procedure: claiming that it was not really beneficial, but caused all manner of disease (even leprosy!) With that, their case was complete. Once again they had shown the world how righteous they were in strictly carrying out God’s law as stated in the Bible as they watched their children bleed to death; and how hypocritical everyone else was who claimed to follow the Bible and yet accepted this life-saving medical procedure.
In the next article in this series we will see just how reliable the Watchtower has proven itself to be when it comes to not only interpreting “God’s law,” but also in understanding medical issues and issuing medical prohibitions.
This is part 2 of a multi-part article. If you haven’t done so yet, please read part 1 first.
In part 1 we began peeling the Watchtower’s onion: the many layers of assumptions that must be accepted in order to believe that blood transfusions are sinful. We saw that the first three layers were: (1) belief in Jehovah; (2) belief in the Bible; (3) belief in the Watchtower’s interpretation of the Bible.
A Question of Credibility
The next layer is: faith in the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses (for convenience we’ll refer to them by their publishing organization and chief publication: the Watchtower). This layer may seem optional; after all, we’ve written before about the fallacy of ad hominem attacks, and how even stupid people and liars can make valid points and tell the truth at times. So, if the Bible really does prohibit blood transfusions, it little matters how reliable the Watchtower is.
However, most Witnesses really haven’t used their own reason in deciding whether the Bible prohibits transfusions. Instead, they have simply adopted the thoughts of the Watchtower. This is quite obvious in how all Witnesses change their minds in unison as the Watchtower issues its “new understandings.” They remind one of a flock of birds following the leader and turning in sync.
When the Watchtower changed from banning blood entirely to banning non-fractionated blood, all of the Witnesses (though supposedly studying their Bibles daily) suddenly all at once understood the Bible to state that fractionated blood was acceptable (despite the fact that the Bible says nothing at all about fractionated blood.)
So, a word or two is in order regarding the Watchtower’s reliability when it comes to this issue. When a person’s life is at stake (or that of their child) I think it’s important that we know something about the record of an organization’s reliability. If you have an important medical question to decide, are you more likely to consult The Journal of the American Medical Association or The Weekly World News? Are you more likely to visit WebMD or JoesFaithHealingBeatsBastardDoctorsBlog.com?
What if you discovered that a particular publication that dispensed medical advice had made fatally flawed and grossly incorrect statements in the past? What if you knew that by following such advice people had died, and afterwards the publication admitted that their advice was incorrect (but took no responsibility and offered no apologies)? Would you be quick to entrust your life-and-death health decisions to the words in that publication? Sure you would; if you had the mental capacity of a speed bump.
It turns out that a look at the Watchtower’s history reveals exactly the pattern we’ve just described. Let’s look at the evidence in two instances:
In 1952, after loyal Witnesses had suffered persecution for refusal to be vaccinated, had endangered their own lives and health as well as that of their communities, and after an unknown number of deaths had been caused by the above ruling for over thirty years, the Watchtower simply changed its mind:
The matter of vaccination is one for the individual that has to face it to decide for himself… all objection to vaccination on scriptural grounds seems to be lacking.
-–Watchtower, Dec. 15, 1952 p. 764
There can be little doubt that vaccinations appear to have caused a marked decrease in contagious diseases, including “smallpox” and “polio.”
-–Awake!, August 22, 1965, p. 20
…removing the organ and replacing it directly with an organ from another human… Those who submit to such operations are thus living off 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.
—Watchtower, 11/15/1967, p.702
For thirteen years Witnesses who needed organ transplants and who listened to the Watchtower died. Then the Watchtower simply changed its mind:
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. . . . Other sincere Christians today may feel that the Bible does not definitely rule out medical transplants of human organs. . . . It may be argued, too, that organ transplants are different from cannibalism since the “donor” is not killed to supply food.”
–Watchtower, March 15, 1980, p. 31
Let’s throw in a bonus third instance: Witnesses who listened to the Watchtower’s blanket ban on blood, but who could’ve survived on a blood fraction, also died prior to the time when the Watchtower changed its mind and began allowing blood fractions.
1. If someone is in need of a medical procedure which comes under a current Watchtower ban, should they go ahead and have the procedure, or should they die waiting for the Watchtower to change its mind?
2. If an organization has a record of making mistakes in defining what constitutes God’s law, would it be smart to consider them a reliable source of information regarding what constitutes God’s law?
Scoring: Submit your answers in the Comments section, and we’ll let you know how you did.
The bottom line is that history has proven that we can’t just take the Watchtower’s word for what is God’s law. They have a dismal record of always having been wrong in the past when it comes to medical issues. Yes, it was the same Watchtower organization that published all of the following ludicrous medical statements:
Thinking people would rather have smallpox than vaccination, because the latter sows the seed of syphilis, cancers, escema, erysipelas, scrofula, consumption, even leprosy and many other loathsome affections. Hence the practice of vaccination is a crime, an outrage and a delusion.
(The Golden Age, May 1, 1929, p. 502)
A lady had been cured of malignant cancer of the breast by living on grape juice and taking every day a high enema of plain warm water…
These cases offered such complete proof that cancer is curable, even in an advanced stage, that I supposed… that the attention of doctors everywhere would be called to these cures… But… I have never seen a hint regarding the grape juice or fruit juice cure.
—The Golden Age, April 2, 1930 p. 435
Sleep on the right side or flat on your back, with the head toward the north so as to get benefit of the earth’s magnetic currents. —The Golden Age 1929 Nov 12 p.107
The following table shows just how confident we all can be that the Watchtower’s pronouncements on blood policy issue from their “unchanging” god, Jehovah, and that they are ever discreet in making sure of themselves before opening their mouths on such life-and-death medical issues:
Blood transfusions are acceptable: “one of the attending physicians in the great emergency, gave a quart of his blood for transfusion, and today the woman lives and smile gaily over what happened to her” (Consolation 1940 Dec 25 p. 19)
So, instead of foolish blind trust in the organization’s vacillating and dubious interpretations regarding blood transfusions, we will have to examine their arguments strictly on their own merits — quickly, before they change their minds again! We will do that starting in part III.
When it comes to quoting the Bible (as is also the case with most other sources) the content is often misleading when we neglect to take into account the context. And when the Bible is quoted by the Watchtower — an organization notorious for twisting the words of others — context is not only important, but as we’ll see; context is king!
On its website, the Watchtower gives three Bible verses as the basis for its anti-blood stance (as well as an aside in which they cast doubt on the medical efficacy of blood transfusions):
The Bible commands that we not ingest blood. So we should not accept whole blood or its primary components in any form, whether offered as food or as a transfusion. Note the following scriptures:
Genesis 9:4. God allowed Noah and his family to add animal flesh to their diet after the Flood but commanded them not to eat the blood. God told Noah: “Only flesh with its soul—its blood—you must not eat.” This command applies to all mankind from that time on because all are descendants of Noah.
Leviticus 17:14. “You must not eat the blood of any sort of flesh, because the soul of every sort of flesh is its blood. Anyone eating it will be cut off.” God viewed the soul, or life, as being in the blood and belonging to him. Although this law was given only to the nation of Israel, it shows how seriously God viewed the law against eating blood.
Acts 15:20. “Abstain . . . from blood.” God gave Christians the same command that he had given to Noah. History shows that early Christians refused to consume whole blood or even to use it for medical reasons.
Why does God command us to abstain from blood?
There are sound medical reasons to avoid blood transfusions. More important, though, God commands that we abstain from blood because what it represents is sacred to him.—Leviticus 17:11; Colossians 1:20.
We will consider the “medical reasons” in part 7 of this series. Right now, let’s look at these three Bible verses one at a time, in context.
Instead of isolating verse four of this chapter of Genesis, as the Watchtower does, let’s consider the first 16 verses of the chapter in context, from the Watchtower’s own New World Translation:
God went on to bless Noah and his sons and to say to them: “Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth.
“A fear of you and a terror of you will continue upon every living creature of the earth and upon every flying creature of the heavens, upon everything that moves on the ground and upon all the fish of the sea. They are now given into your hand. Every moving animal that is alive may serve as food for you. Just as I gave you the green vegetation, I give them all to you. Only flesh with its life—its blood—you must not eat.
“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. Anyone shedding man’s blood, by man will his own blood be shed, for in God’s image He made man.
“As for you, be fruitful and become many, and increase abundantly on the earth and multiply.”
Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I am now establishing my covenant with you and with your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the animals, and all the living creatures of the earth with you, all those that came out of the ark—every living creature of the earth. Yes, I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all flesh be destroyed by the waters of a flood, and never again will a flood bring the earth to ruin.”
And God added: “This is the sign of the covenant that I am making between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations. I put my rainbow in the cloud, and it will serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring a cloud over the earth, then the rainbow will certainly appear in the cloud. And I will certainly remember my covenant that I made between me and you and every living creature of every kind; and never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all flesh. And the rainbow will occur in the cloud, and I will certainly see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of every kind on the earth.”
The first thing to note is that the “everlasting covenant” has nothing to do with abstaining from blood, but is simply this god’s promise to all creatures of the earth to never destroy “all flesh” again by a flood, and to setup the rainbow as a sign of this promise.
The second thing to note is that there are more rules stated here than just the one that mentions blood. The full list is:
A fear of humankind will pervade all non-human animals.
Every moving animal that is alive may serve as food for humankind.
An accounting will be demanded from every living creature.
Only flesh with its life—its blood—you must not eat.
Anyone shedding man’s blood, by man will his own blood be shed.
Be fruitful and become many, and increase abundantly on the earth and multiply.
However, the Watchtower ignores all of these rules other than rule number four. So, though they insist that they are following the “universal law” given to Noah and his descendants, they really are not.
Since they are not following any of the other rules, there is no logical reason to single out rule number four and claim that it is binding on everyone today.
Let’s look in detail at these six rules, one by one.
1. A fear of humankind will pervade all non-human animals.
If the governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses really think this supposed “Noahide law” (or in Watchtower erroneous-speak: “everlasting covenant”) is binding to this day, then I’d like to see them make a “public demonstration of their faith” in this doctrine by fearlessly approaching a man-eating tiger, or swim in shark-infested waters.
2. Every moving animal that is alive may serve as food for humankind.
3. An accounting will be demanded from every living creature.
So, along with reporting the hours spent witnessing each week, do Jehovah’s Witnesses also turn in an account of the number of animals they have killed and/or eaten? If not, it would seem that “God’s organization” is failing in helping to organize this accounting.
4. Only flesh with its life—its blood—you must not eat.
Note that, despite what the Watchtower assumes, this is not a prohibition on eating blood. It is a prohibition on eating flesh that has blood in it. Jews understand this to mean that one is not to take a bite out of a living animal’s flesh and swallow it.
5. Anyone shedding man’s blood, by man will his own blood be shed.
Countless men have “shed man’s blood” throughout history. Not all of them have had their blood shed in turn. More importantly: not one of them has had their blood shed by “God’s organization on Earth.” So, once again, one of the rules is not only being broken, but has never even been considered as binding on Jehovah’s Witnesses this side of Armageddon.
6. Be fruitful and become many, and increase abundantly on the earth and multiply.
Far from following this rule, the Watchtower has actually encouraged Witnesses to forego having children!
Would it be Scripturally proper for them [the “great multitude” aka the “great crowd” of unanointed Jehovah’s Witnesses] to now marry and to begin to rear children? No, is the answer, which is supported by the Scripture. Face the Facts (WBTS, 1938) p.46
Thousands of young Christian men and women are willingly sacrificing marriage or are not having children—at least for now—in order to serve Jehovah to the full… Such wholehearted service brings deep joy to Jehovah, who will never forget their work and the love shown for him. Would it be possible for you to make additional sacrifices to serve Jehovah more fully?”
— Watchtower 2016 Apr Study ed. p.9
Since the Watchtower is inconsistent, and doesn’t appear to know what it’s talking about, please turn to Wikipedia to find out what is really meant by the Noahide Laws. Not surprisingly it has nothing to do with Gentiles abstaining from blood.
If the Noahide Law had meant that Gentiles were under order to abstain from eating blood, then we would not find this Mosaic Law which permitted Jews to sell unbled meat to them:
“You must not eat any animal that was found dead. You may give it to the foreign resident who is inside your cities, and he may eat it, or it may be sold to a foreigner.”
This verse is part of the “Mosaic Law” (the law given to Moses, aka the “Law covenant.”) As such, it is completely irrelevant to Christians today because, according to the Watchtower, Christians are not under the Mosaic Law:
The Watchtower excuses itself for even introducing the Leviticus verse into the argument because, according to them, “it shows how seriously God viewed the law against eating blood.” But, if that’s true of this Mosaic Law, then it must be equally true for the other 612 laws which make up the body of the Law. For instance, if Jehovah’s Witnesses are going to take this law seriously, then they better burn any polyblend clothing they may possess, stone their sassy children, and start sacrificing goats.
Although the Watchtower claims that this verse means that “God gave Christians the same command that he had given to Noah,” such is not the case.
When we read the context of this verse we see that this is not God issuing a commandment, but rather a decision reached by a person named James.
“Considering the context” means more than just reading a few verses surrounding it (or even the entire chapter.) There are questions we must ask, such as:
Who were his hearers?
Who was the decision meant for?
What was the culture at that time and place?
Under what circumstances was the decision arrived at?
How binding was it meant to be, and upon whom?
For how long did James mean for it to be in effect?
What was the reason for arriving at the decision?
Not to mention: Who wrote this account down, and what reason do we have for thinking he wrote it down accurately, or that it has lost nothing in the translation? And then: Why should we accept this person named James as an authority whom we must obey today?
It turns out that we can get some answers from the chapter in question. It begins by setting the stage, and tells us exactly what motivated James’ decision:
Now some men came down from Judea and began to teach the brothers: “Unless you get circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Acts 15:1
These men were known as “Judaizers”: men who taught that Christians needed to follow the Mosaic Law. In order to appease these men James decided to caution Gentile Christians against publicly violating the more publicly obvious of the Jewish customs such as engaging in lewd behavior and eating meat sacrificed to idols or meat that had not been properly bled.
After rendering his decision, James made clear that the above was indeed his motivation, by stating:
“For from ancient times Moses has had those who preach him in city after city, because he is read aloud in the synagogues on every sabbath.”
If we take in more context of the Bible we see that James was not laying down laws here to be binding on all Christians for all time. What authority would he have had to do so? None at all, if we take some other scriptures as true:
Do not owe anything to anyone except to love one another; for whoever loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law. 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.” Love does not work evil to one’s neighbor; therefore, love is the law’s fulfillment.
All things are lawful, but not all things are advantageous. All things are lawful, but not all things build up.
—1 Cor. 10:23
And one by “James,” of the same ilk:
If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.
—James 2:8 (NIV)
If “love is the law’s fulfillment,” then when you choose a loving action (such as donating blood or platelets to save someone’s life) you have fulfilled the law: you have “done right.” But if you do something unloving (such as refusing to help your child who is bleeding to death by denying him or her a blood transfusion) then you have violated the “royal” Christian law of love.
In James’ day it was a loving thing to avoid offending the Judaizers by refraining from certain foods. That’s why he recommended taking that course of action. But were we to understand this as a law binding on Christians in our day, prohibiting them from accepting life-saving medical procedures? Clearly not, as that would violate the law of love.
But we have additional context from the Bible that makes this point even clearer. In Paul’s writings he explicitly states that James’ recommendation about refraining from meat sacrificed to idols (given in the same breath as his decision to refrain from unbled meat) was not a law, and was something that he, as a Christian, could freely chose to ignore as long as it didn’t offend anyone:
Now concerning the eating of foods offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no God but one. Nevertheless, there is not this knowledge in all persons; but some, being accustomed until now to the idol, eat food as something sacrificed to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. But food will not commend us to God; if we do not eat, we do not fall short, and, if we eat, we have no credit to ourselves. But keep watching that this authority of YOURS does not somehow become a stumbling block to those who are weak. For if anyone should see you, the one having knowledge, reclining at a meal in an idol temple, will not the conscience of that one who is weak be built up to the point of eating foods offered to idols? Really, by your knowledge, the man that is weak is being ruined, [your] brother for whose sake Christ died. But when YOU people thus sin against YOUR brothers and wound their conscience that is weak, YOU are sinning against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat flesh at all, that I may not make my brother stumble.
—1 Corinthians 8:4-13
Everything that is sold in a meat market keep eating, making no inquiry on account of YOUR conscience; for “to Jehovah belong the earth and that which fills it.” If anyone of the unbelievers invites YOU and YOU wish to go, proceed to eat everything that is set before YOU, making no inquiry on account of YOUR conscience. But if anyone should say to YOU: “This is something offered in sacrifice,” do not eat on account of the one that disclosed it and on account of conscience. “Conscience,” I say, not your own, but that of the other person. For why should it be that my freedom is judged by another person’s conscience? If I am partaking with thanks, why am I to be spoken of abusively over that for which I give thanks? Therefore, whether YOU are eating or drinking or doing anything else, do all things for God’s glory. Keep from becoming causes for stumbling to Jews as well as Greeks and to the congregation of God, even as I am pleasing all people in all things, not seeking my own advantage but that of the many, in order that they might get saved.
—1 Corinthians 10:25-33
Oddly enough, ours is the same conclusion reached by Watchtower founder Charles Taze Russell:
the advice was that these be abstained from, because Jews certainly would consider the eating of such meats as participations in the heathen idolatry…
Nevertheless, it was advisable that the Gentile Christians abstain from the use of their liberty in this direction, out of deference to the weaker brethren, Jews and Gentiles, who could not so deeply philosophize and whose consciences might be injured.
A similar thought attaches to the prohibition of the use of blood. To the Jew it was forbidden, and under his covenant it was made a symbol of life–to partake of it would imply responsibility for the life taken… These prohibitions had never come to the Gentiles, because they had never been under the Law Covenant; but so deeply rooted were the Jewish ideas on this subject that it was necessary to the peace of the Church that the Gentiles should observe this matter also.
…If they did not wish to be contentious and cause divisions in the Church, the Gentile brethren would surely be willing to restrain or sacrifice their liberty respecting these matters. The Watch Tower 1909 April 15, p. 117
His successors have never given a convincing argument to the contrary.
Since there are no Jews today who would be “stumbled” by a Christian receiving a blood transfusion, there is no reason to “restrain or sacrifice our liberty respecting these matters.”
In short: there is no biblical law or principle, applicable to today’s Christians, against accepting whole blood or its constituent parts.
While continuing to forbid transfusions of whole blood, the Watchtower currently allows Jehovah’s Witnesses to transfuse into their veins what they call “blood fractions.” By this they mean blood “components” (red cells, white cells, platelets, and plasma) that have been “fractionated” into still smaller units.
It hasn’t always been so. The Watchtower’s original blood-ban forbade any such “fractions”:
“Is it wrong to sustain life by administering a transfusion of blood or plasma or red cells or others of the component parts of the blood? Yes!…The prohibition includes “any blood at all.” (Leviticus 3:17)
– Blood, Medicine and the Law of God, 1961, pp. 13, 14
Jehovah evidently changed his mind regarding his “everlasting covenant” in the year 2000. Or, at least, he waited until that year to inform his “organization on earth” of how he really felt about the matter (callously disregarding the lives of his “name people” prior to that time whose lives could’ve been saved by blood fractions.)
Questions From Readers
Do Jehovah’s Witnesses accept any minor fractions of blood?
The following answer is reprinted from the issue of June 15, 2000.
As transfusions of whole blood became common after World War II, Jehovah’s Witnesses saw that this was contrary to God’s law—and we still believe that. Yet, medicine has changed over time. Today, most transfusions are not of whole blood but of one of its primary components: (1) red cells; (2) white cells; (3) platelets; (4) plasma (serum), the fluid part. Depending on the condition of the patient, physicians might prescribe red cells, white cells, platelets, or plasma. Transfusing these major components allows a single unit of blood to be divided among more patients. Jehovah’s Witnesses hold that accepting whole blood or any of those four primary components violates God’s law.
However, since blood can be processed beyond those primary components, questions arise about fractions derived from the primary blood components. How are such fractions used, and what should a Christian consider when deciding on them? Should Christians accept these fractions in medical treatment? We cannot say. The Bible does not give details, so a Christian must make his own conscientious decision before God.
The above material shows that Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse transfusions of both whole blood and its primary blood components. The Bible directs Christians to ‘abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from fornication.’ (Acts 15:29) Beyond that, when it comes to fractions of any of the primary components, each Christian, after careful and prayerful meditation, must conscientiously decide for himself.
So Witnesses are now faced with an odd situation where whole blood and its “major components” are strictly prohibited by the Watchtower, but at the same time the Watchtower permits them to transfuse every component of blood so long as it is first fractionated! Huh?
Smoking cigarettes is another activity that the Watchtower forbids its members. But, given the logic they use when it comes to blood, I guess it must be alright to smoke fractionated cigarettes.
To help make it clear to Witnesses exactly what the Watchtower prohibits and allows, please see the following chart (based on Keep Yourselves in God’s Love (WBTS, 2008) p.216):
Let’s see if we can apply this same logic to something else and see if it makes sense.
I’m a vegan. This means that I don’t eat animals or animal byproducts such as milk or eggs. When presented with a cheese pizza I politely decline. I will explain the reasoning behind this in a moment, but first let’s apply Watchtower logic and see how it looks.
Following the logic of this chart (i.e. the Watchtower’s blood logic), I would refuse to eat not only the pizza itself, but pizza dough, pizza sauce, cheese, and the spices. However, I could eat everything that made up the dough, the sauce, the cheese, and the spices!
In reality I would readily eat the dough, the sauce, and the spice, while declining to eat not only the cheese but also its “fractions”: the milk, culture, and rennet. Why? Because my refusal to eat the cheese pizza is based on the cheese ingredient (which, naturally includes everything that makes up cheese.)
My refusal to eat cheese isn’t because I’m worried that it will defile me in some way, or because I have some sort of religious scruple. No; eating cheese is actually inconsequential to me. My issue is with the ethics involved in producing cheese. My concern is for the suffering it causes the animals. It has nothing to do with me. I just don’t want anyone making a cheese pizza for me due to the chain of events that can be traced back to animal suffering. Once such a pizza has been made it little matters whether I eat it or not.
And here’s the point.
The Bible’s admonition to pour the blood of an animal onto the ground was not to keep us from defiling ourselves. It had nothing to do with us; it was all about the animal. It was a symbol used to show that the animal’s life did not belong to us. That is, in fact, exactly how the Bible explains the ritual.
The Watchtower’s Pharisaical hair-splitting over what size of a blood component is acceptable misses the point entirely. The point was to show respect for the animal’s life.
A Biblical Example
In case you couldn’t relate to my cheese pizza example, the Watchtower itself has provided us with an example from the Bible, which inadvertently demonstrates just how ridiculous their “fractionation” rule is.
In the September 15, 1961 Watchtower (photocopy shown near the top of this page) you can read where the article went on to describe an incident where King David refused to drink water that his soldiers had obtained at risk of their very lives, stating: “It is unthinkable on my part, O Jehovah, that I should do this! Should I drink the blood of the men going at the risk of their lives?” (2Sam 23:17) The article erroneously concludes from this:
“Not only did he abstain from animal blood; he avoided the far more gross wrong of consuming human blood.”
Funny how the Bible doesn’t say anything about consuming human blood, much less that it’s a “far more gross wrong.” And it’s also funny that the incident referred to had nothing to do with David avoiding consuming literal human blood.
David refused the water not because drinking it would defile him somehow, but in recognition of the risk that the men had run for him. In effect he was showing his soldiers that he did not expect them to risk their lives just to save his, and that he was refusing this and all such future recklessness on the part of his men. David poured the water out on the ground, using the same ritual as was used with animal blood, to show that he did not own the sacrificed (or potentially sacrificed) lives of his men. In both cases, the fluid poured out onto the ground — whether water or blood — symbolized life. This is why the Bible states that:
In other words, an animal’s life is symbolized by its blood. Just as in David’s case water symbolized the lives that were risked. In neither case is the consuming of these fluids harmful or sinful. Refusing to drink them is just a sign of respect for their source.
But, if we were to accept the Watchtower’s interpretation, then David wouldn’t have cared about how the water was obtained, but rather about how he could sinlessly consume the water a drop at a time (after cutting each drop in half in order to “fractionate” it, of course)!
Jesus clinches the matter with the following quote:
Nothing from outside a man that enters into him can defile him; but the things that come out of a man are the things that defile him.
— Mark 7:15 (NWT)
“Nothing” is all-encompassing, and includes blood.
If you believe that cutting up something that is prohibited renders it acceptable, then you believe that its source is irrelevant (since cutting it up doesn’t affect its source.) It follows that the prohibition is based on the defiling property of the thing itself — in direct contradiction to Jesus’ words above. So, the Watchtower’s delving into fractions serves to reveal in still another way that their blood prohibition is anti-biblical.
As promised in our title, here’s where the cows come meandering in.
In addition to allowing the transfusion of fractionated human blood, the Watchtower also now allows the transfusion of fractionated cow’s blood!
There is a product on the market known as HEMOPURE®, which consists of fractionated cow’s blood. In at least one instance that we know of, a Watchtower “Hospital Liaison Committee” approved its transfusion into the veins of a Jehovah’s Witness.
This completely contradicts what Jehovah told the Governing Body to publish in the Watchtower as recently as 1992:
Early in man’s history, our Creator ruled that humans should not eat blood. (Genesis 9:3, 4) He stated that blood represents life, which is a gift from him. Blood removed from a creature could be used only in sacrifice, such as on the altar. Otherwise, blood from a creature was to be poured on the ground, in a sense giving it back to God. His people were to avoid sustaining life by taking in blood… It would be right, of course, to avoid products that listed things such as blood, blood plasma, plasma, globin (or globulin) protein, or hemoglobin (or globin) iron.”
— The Watchtower, 10/15/92 p. 30
It’s also interesting to note that the former ban on vaccinations may have been largely due to the Watchtower’s erroneous belief that the vaccination serum was made from cow’s blood. Yet now they are transfusing cow’s blood directly into their veins!
And what about the cow’s blood that regularly appears on the dining plates at Bethel and in the homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses all around the world? Meat always contains some amount of blood.
The Watchtower has never advocated vegetarianism or even limiting consumption of meat to kosher products which are bled prior to slaughter and then are soaked and salted to further draw out as much blood as possible prior to eating.
Since Witnesses are not instructed to take any such precautions with regard to their meat consumption, it has rightly been said that, like the Pharisees of old whom Jesus accused of “straining the gnat and swallowing the camel,” they have strained the fraction and swallowed the steak.
I guess going vegetarian doesn’t garner the free publicity of such headlines as: “Parents Watch Child Die for Want of Transfusion.”