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.