The Blood Prohibition
THE WACHTOWER of July 1, 1951, p. 414, in an extended "Question from Readers" column, argued strongly that JWs must abstain from blood transfusions. In light of the obvious fear of legal responsibility, the remark preceding the section is interesting:
"A recent court case in Chicago involving Jehovah's witnesses and their stand concerning blood transfusions caused widespread comment in the public press and among the people generally. Many questions were raised. The following were most frequent, and came from various localities."
Note that this article was issued one and a half years before the article that retracted the ban on vaccinations. So the vaccination ban was still in effect. No wonder the arguments used are identical to those used to prohibit vaccinations.
"What are the Scriptural grounds for objecting to blood transfusions?
Jehovah made a covenant with Noah following the Flood, and included therein was this command: Flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat. (Gen. 9:4)"
However, while the "new light" of 1952 said that a vaccination was not a violation of God's covenant with Noah, blood transfusions were. Genesis 9:4 is still key to the argument used by Jehovahs Witnesses against medical use of blood.
Just as the Society used many "medical arguments" against vaccinations, negative propaganda about blood fills Watchtower literature today. The 1951 article said:
"And let the transfusion enthusiasts with a savior-complex ponder the fact that on many occasions transfusions do harm, spread disease, and frequently cause deaths, which, of course, are not publicized."
And finally, to protect themselves against the odd court-case:
"Each one decides for himself, and bears the responsibility for his course. Jehovah's witnesses consecrate their lives to God and feel bound by his Word, and with these things in view they individually decide their personal course and bear their personal responsibility therefor before God."
That the WTS itself did not change its opinion on vaccinations, but merely received "new light" to avoid being legally responsible for deaths, is evident in The Watchtower of Nov. 1, 1961, p. 670:
" Since the Bible forbids the eating of blood, how are Christians to view the use of serums and vaccines? Has the Society changed its viewpoint on this?-J. D., U.S.A.
The Bible is very clear that blood could properly be used only on the altar; otherwise it was to be poured out on the ground. (Lev. 17:11-13) The entire modern medical practice involving the use of blood is objectionable from the Christian standpoint. Therefore the taking of a blood transfusion, or, in lieu of that, the infusing of some blood fraction to sustain one's life is wrong.
As to the use of vaccines and other substances that may in some way involve the use of blood in their preparation, it should not be concluded that the Watch Tower Society endorses these and says that the practice is right and proper. However, vaccination is a virtually unavoidable practice in many segments of modern society, and the Christian may find some comfort under the circumstances in the fact that this use is not in actuality a feeding or nourishing process, which was specifically forbidden when God said that man was not to eat blood, but it is a contamination of the human system.
So, as was stated in TheWatchtower of September 15, 1958, page 575, "It would therefore be a matter of individual judgment whether one accepted such types of medication or not." That is still the Society's viewpoint on the matter. - Gal. 6:5.
However, the mature Christian is not going to try to find in this a justification for as many other medical uses of blood substances as possible. To the contrary, recognizing the objectionableness of the entire practice, he is going to stay as far away from it as he can, requesting other treatment where such is available."
As of 1961, vaccinations were still "wrong," but not enough for the Society to risk legal responsibility. Vaccinations were called "contamination," but were not and please take note of this point considered a nourishing process.
The fact that taking vaccinations and serums is not the same as eating blood is a "comfort" and leaves the matter in the hands of the individual or so the Watchtower Society says.
This is not the case, alas, with blood transfusions. To this day the blood prohibition is based on the Watchtower Society's claim that a blood transfusion is the same as eating blood:
"A patient in the hospital may be fed through the mouth, through the nose, or through the veins. When sugar solutions are given intravenously, it is called intravenous feeding. So the hospital's own terminology recognizes as feeding the process of putting nutrition into one's system via the veins. Hence the attendant administering the transfusion is feeding the patient blood through the veins, and the patient receiving it is eating it through his veins." (The Watchtower, July 1, 1951, p. 415)
Again we must keep in mind that the people making these claims are the same who years earlier had stated that "thinking people would rather have smallpox than vaccination," and argued that a tonsillectomy was worse than suicide with a case knife! Their medical expertise should be taken with a grain of salt, to put it mildly, and there is no evidence that their understanding of the Bible was any better. In one case The Golden Age discovered that the Hebrew expression for "one language" in Genesis 11:1 literally means "one lip", so, the magazine concluded: "Their lip must have been shaped in the same general manner..." (July 13, 1927, p. 663)
The blood prohibition gradually became a JW institution. A long series of rules and regulations concerning blood has been issued over the years, of which these are examples:
JWs are obliged to check with their butcher if there is any chance that the meat sold comes from animals not properly bled. Further, they will have to find out which words are used for blood products in their local area, and check with the manufacturer if in doubt. (The Watchtower, Nov. 1, 1961, p. 669)
The JW must ensure that fish is properly bled (ibid.)
JWs cannot feed their pets with food that contains blood, neither can a pet receive a blood transfusion (The Watchtower, Febr. 15, 1964, p. 127)
JWs cannot allow a leech to feed on their own blood (The Watchtower, June 15, 1982, p. 31)
JWs cannot use fertiliser containing blood (The Watchtower, Oct. 15, 1981 p. 31)
A JW owning a store is not allowed to sell blood products (The Watchtower, July 15, 1982, p. 26)
JWs can not store their own blood before an operation (The Watchtower, March 1, 1989, p. 31)
Add to this the fact that over the years a number of specialised rules have been issued specifying which blood components are illegal and which are a "matter of conscience," and which medical procedures involving blood are illegal and which are a "matter of conscience." You can see why this is a complicated field for a JW who wishes to remain loyal to the WTS.
And loyal they must be. If a JW decides to save his, his spouse's or his children's lives contrary to Watchtower rules, he would be disfellowshipped from the congregation, which would force his friends and family to shun him.
" 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." (The Watchtower, Jan. 15, 1961, p. 63)
In case someone might consider breaking this rule in secret, he can be sure God will not let him get away with it. The WTS intimated that God would punish parents for a blood transfusion by letting their child be stillborn! And if the child should live, they would all eventually die at Armageddon:
"Lifesaving efforts by unscriptural means can never produce results of lasting good. How foolish it is to think that one can save life by violating the laws of the Life-giver! While it may produce seemingly beneficial results at the moment, it may ultimately take its toll in disease and stillborn children as a direct result of such an ill-advised course. Even if no physical harm results to the patient or to ones offspring, violation of the law of God seriously jeopardizes one's opportunity to gain eternal life in God's new world." (The Watchtower, Sept. 15, 1961, p. 565)