Jehovah's Witnesses are taught that they must abstain from blood transfusions for any and all reasons. Therefore many Witnesses carry cards directing doctors not to administer blood in order to sustain their lives should an emergency arise.1. This position is erroneously based upon the prohibition in the Old Testament. and issued to several churches, on the behalf of the Jewish believers in the New.2. The Watchtower tells Witnesses that it would be better to die than to consent to a transfusion. They are told that a transfusion 'may result in the immediate and very temporary prolongation of life. but at the cost of eternal life for a dedicated Christian.3.
In view of the number of people with medical needs who through accident, disease, or surgery. require blood transfusions, the potential for turning casualty into fatality is frightening. But the teaching becomes even more horrifying when the doctrine touches upon the children of Watchtower adherents. The Society reminds parents that they know that if they violate God's law on blood and the child dies in the process, they have endangered that child's opportunity for everlasting life in God's new world.4
While the hope of eternal life can rest upon one's receiving a transfusion in the Watchtower such an idea has no basis in the Bible. In the Bible salvation is by grace, through faith, apart from works. (Eph. 2:8-9) Secondly, it is a mistake to think that eating blood is synonymous with receiving a transfusion. Even the most orthodox Jew, today, does not refuse blood transfusions on the basis of the Old Testament prohibitions.5.
In the book of Acts the decree is sent out to the Gentile churches and the decision is to facilitate social intercourse between Jewish and Gentile Christians."6. Here one finds compromise in the gospel as Peter says in Acts 15:9 'He made no distinction between us [Jews] and them [Gentiles], cleansing their hearts by faith.' The decree is a concession judged to be good by this Jerusalem council. In view of the background of the "weaker brethren.' In 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 the 'stronger brother' is asked to restrict himself on the behalf of the 'weaker brother. In 1 Corinthians the weaker brother has a past wherein certain acts which now have little consequence for the stronger brother. may stumble the weaker brother. Similarly in Acts 15, the Gentile believer is to restrict himself in respect for his Jewish brother's scruples regarding food laws. The respect for scruples is born out of the past. not of the Gentile now, but here, out of the past of the Jew, the weaker brother.7. This principle regarding food laws is again repeated in Romans 14:11., where the apostle says, 'Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions."
Furthermore. when one turns to the Levitical Law, the context is not blood. The context is sacrifice. The priority of the law is the sanctity of life. David was permitted to eat the shewbread, belonging only to the priest, in his time of need. (1 Sam. 21:6) If the prohibition did apply to transfusions, so much more would the law be loosed to save a life.8
Again Jesus demonstrates the function of the law in Matt. 21:1-15. here the disciples are hungry and they pick grain and eat. The Pharisees cry, 'Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath. Jesus reminds them of David who ate the shewbread, and quotes the Scripture to them. 'I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice' and tells them If they had known what this meant. you would not have condemned the innocent.
1. See MEDICAL ALERT and NO BLOOD TRANSFUSIONS ! cards carried by Witnesses, reproduced on page 371.
2. Leviticus 17:14; Acts 15:20 p 23.
3. BLOOD, MEDICINE AND THE LAW OF GOD, 1961,, p. 55.
4. Ibid. p. 54.
5. See Havor Montague JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES AND BLOOD TRANSFUSIONS (CARIS, Santa Ana, 1979), p. 4ff. The authors heartily recommend this work.
6. F.F. Bruce PAUL: APOSTLE OF THE HEART SET FREE (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1977), p. 185ff.
7. F.F. Bruce. THE BOOK OF ACTS 'New International Commentary on the New Testament' (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids. 1979); p.311ff. Also see 1 Samuel 14:31-35, the soldiers in hunger eat without complying to the ritual. The punishment is not loss of everlasting life, but compliance to the law.
Published by Witness Inc.
Dialogue with Jehovah Witnesses by Duane Magnani & Arthur Barrett