The Jehovah’s Witnesses have a very faulty method of biblical interpretation. They twist and distort numerous passages to fit their own particular doctrinal posture. Additions to what the text of Scripture says is not uncommon among them. They can change and alter the meanings of words to fit their own purposes and have even developed a special translation of the Bible designed to support their erroneous doctrines. This is a very tragic and dangerous thing to do.
We hold the people in the Jehovah’s Witness organization in the highest esteem. We simply deplore their doctrinal defections and corruptions. With the Psalmist we can say, “Through your precepts I get understanding, therefore I hate every false way” (Psalm 119:104). As we examine their doctrines and practices, in this installment we will look at how they pervert Scripture relative to blood transfusions.
Traditionally the Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse to accept blood transfusions, even though it may mean the loss of life. They preach this with regularity. Quite often the news media picks up on some very tragic story of someone who refused to allow the transfusion of life sustaining blood to one who could have been saved but died. Young children are frequently the victims, which makes it even more tragic, for most of them had no say in the matter. Their parents decided death for them due to a misunderstanding of what the Bible teaches about blood. From an official Jehovah’s Witness organ, Awake!, I read their doctrine as they present it.
“So, whether one eats congealed blood in unbled meat, or drinks it at a slaughter-house, or takes it by intravenous feeding at a hospital, it is still a violation of divine restriction that forbids taking blood into the system. Jesus poured His (Blood) out as a ransom price, not as a transfusion.” (May 22, 1951, pages 4-6).
Their doctrinal view on blood transfusions evolved slowly after the death of one of their great leaders and founders, J.F. Rutherford. In the July 1945 issue of Watchtower, an official Jehovah’s Witness publication, an article on “Sanctity of Blood” was published. From a California newspaper item comes the following:
“Canoga Park, Calif. (AP) A judge ruled that doctors should be allowed to give a transfusion to a bleeding boy despite his parents’ religious objections. But the decision was overruled by death. … Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Hood insisted their 4-year old son, Brandon, should not have a blood transfusion because it is ’against the scriptures’.”
Officials attempted to overrule the parents by a hastily called meeting sought to make the boy a ward of the court. A judge raced 40 miles from his home to the hospital and there a hearing was held. At the hearing, Forrest B. Tanner, president and minister of the Jehovah’s Witness congregation in Canoga Park, California testified the following: “The scriptures make it clear that blood transfusions are a violation of God’s law. We love our children, but we must maintain our integrity in such a crisis as faces us today.” The young child bled for six hours and then died. How tragic. These people may be sincere, but they are no more right than Hindus who once tossed their infants to crocodiles as a human sacrifice. They are sincerely wrong.
What does the Bible teach on this? In the Bible one learns that human life is sacred. Because of the concern for life, the Bible frequently recommends treatment. Jesus said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but those who are sick” (Luke 5:31). Yet still, groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Dawn Bible Society refuse any medical treatment involving the intravenous transfer of blood from one person to another. Do they have good reason for such?
To justify their erroneous position on blood transfusions, they pervert Acts 15:20,29. The passage reads, “But that we write unto them (the Gentile churches), that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood … that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication …” The Jehovah’s Witnesses erroneously argue that this prohibits blood transfusions. One of their arguments goes like this:
“Examine the scriptures carefully and notice that they tell us to ’keep free from blood’ and to ’abstain from blood.’ (Acts 15:20,29). What does this mean? If a doctor were to tell you to abstain from alcohol, would that mean simply that you should not take it through your mouth but that you could transfuse it directly into your veins? Of course not! So, too, ’abstaining from blood’ means not taking it into our bodies at all.” The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, pages 162-168.
The argument is false. It is a perversion of the verses cited. The issue is whether or not “eating” or “keeping free from” and “abstaining” from blood equals taking blood into the body by transfusion. The argument is based on a bad analogy. They equate “abstaining from alcohol” with “do not have blood transfused into your veins.” The analogy fails. Intravenous injection of blood can save life; intravenous injection of alcohol is lethal! The only thing prohibited in Acts 15 is drinking or eating blood.
A transfusion of blood is not eating or drinking blood. Blood transfusions and intravenous feeding are not even the same. A blood transfusion replaces blood that was lost or provides some essential ingredient in a person’s circulatory system. Intravenous feeding is supplying food, not blood, to one who cannot eat normally. A transfusion of blood from one person to another is not providing nourishment in place of food. Intravenous feeding provides nourishment in place of food. The argument from analogy fails.
Jehovah’s Witnesses sometimes boast that they live and do very well without transfusions. They claim that one will be in better health since you do not run the risk of contracting the AIDS virus. Sometimes one hears a Jehovah’s Witness argue that “if you break God’s law, trying to save your life, you will be guilty of sin.” When the question of saving life is introduced, they add that there is a resurrection of the dead promised in I Thessalonians 4:13-14 and so by refusing transfusions, you may die, but you will not be guilty of breaking God’s commands. Some of them even resort to perverting Paul’s statement, “I am free from the blood of all men” (Acts 20:26,27). They want it to mean, “I have had no blood transfusions.” That passage has absolutely nothing to do with transfusions.
The entire issue of blood transfusions is based on a false assumption. Our friends in the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Dawn Bible Society falsely assume that Acts 15:20,29 forbids transfusing blood from one person to another. There are at least two plausible meanings that may be attached to the prohibition given in Acts 15. Regarding blood, the prohibition is against eating it. Genesis 9:4 states: “But the flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.” This was in force before the Mosaic law came into existence. The law of Moses reinforced this prohibition (Leviticus 3:17; 7:26; 17:10,14; 19:26). In the days of Saul eating blood was considered a sin before God (I Samuel 14:33). While things strangled are not specifically mentioned in the Mosaic Law, they could not be eaten without consuming blood. The thing strangled died of either a broken neck or suffocation. In such a case the blood would remain in the carcass. It is also possible that the prohibitions were directed against idolatrous practices.
A second possible explanation is that the prohibition is against extreme cruelty. Those who see it this way look at the context of Genesis 9:4. Shedding man’s blood is the main thought (verse 6). Acts 15 refers to “pollutions of idols.” Some feel that the prohibition is against idolatry, to bloodshed (often associated with idol worship) and torture or extreme violence (also associated with idolatry). Whatever view one takes there is no logical way on earth it can be taken as a prohibition of saving one’s life by accepting the life saving blood via intravenous transfusion.
It is always serious when anyone wrests the Scripture to uphold a false doctrine. There are few religions in the world that surpass the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Dawn Bible Society people when it comes to perversions of plain simple Bible teaching.