Monday, August 31, 2009

Is the Eating or Drinking of Blood Fundamentally Different From Accepting a Blood Transfusion?

The methods of delivery may be different, but there is no basic difference when it comes to the principle of abstaining from blood. (Acts 15:29)

For instance, suppose you were told by your doctor that you must abstain from alcohol. Would you be obedient if you quit drinking alcohol but had it put directly into your veins?

Or suppose that you have dangerous allergic reactions to a medication, and were warned to abstain from that drug in the future. Would you then rationalize that you would avoid taking the medication orally but could safely inject it into your bloodstream? Of course not. The main point would not be the route of administration, but that you should abstain from that medication altogether.

The exact same principle applies with the decree for Christians to ‘abstain from blood’ whether through the mouth or directly into the bloodstream:

"Those who drag in the use of human blood for internal remedies of diseases appear to misuse it and to sin gravely. Cannibals are condemned. Why do we not abhor those who stain their gullet with human blood? Similar is the receiving of alien blood from a cut vein, either through the mouth or by instruments of transfusion. The authors of this operation are held in terror by the divine law, by which the eating of blood is prohibited."-Thomas Bartholin (1616-80), professor of anatomy at the University of Copenhagen

Could a Christian Have Any Grounds to Ignore The Prohibition on Blood?

"Nothing can be more express than the prohibition, Acts XV. 28, 29. Can those who plead their ‘Christian liberty’ in regard to this matter point us to any part of the Word of God in which this prohibition is subsequently annulled? If not, may we be allowed to ask, ‘By what authority, except his own, can any of the laws of God be repealed?’"—The History of the Christian Church, P. 106, clergyman William Jones (1762-1846)

God required for man to 'abstain from blood' since the days of Noah. The apostolic council (under the guidance of the holy spirit) affirmed this. (Genesis 9:3, 4; Acts 15:28, 29) The early Christians followed this divine and divinely inspired decree and continued to do so down through the centuries. The determination of true Christians today who abstain from blood is based on God’s Word the Bible and is supported by many precedents in the history of Christianity.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Was The Decree to "Abstain From Blood" Only a Temporary Requirement or Obligation to Christians?

The Book of Acts clearly shows that many years after the Jerusalem council issued that decree, Christians continued to comply with the "decision that they should keep themselves from what is sacrificed to idols as well as from blood and what is strangled and from fornication." (Acts 21:25) They demonstrated that the requirement to abstain from blood was not merely limited to one area or for just a brief period of time.

Historical evidence is clear and abundant concerning Christians abstaining from blood throughout the following centuries. Note what early Latin theologian Tertullian (c. 160-230 C.E.) stated:

"Let your unnatural ways blush before the Christians. We do not even have the blood of animals at our meals, for these consist of ordinary food. . . . At the trials of Christians you offer them sausages filled with blood. You are convinced, of course, that the very thing with which you try to make them deviate from the right way is unlawful for them. How is it that, when you are confident that they will shudder at the blood of an animal, you believe they will pant eagerly after human blood?" -Tertullian, Apologetical Works, and Minucius Felix, Octavius, translated by Rudolph Arbesmann (1950), p. 33.

And Minucius Felix, a Roman lawyer who lived until about 250 C.E. wrote:

"So much do we shrink from human blood, that we do not use the blood even of eatable animals in our food." - The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV, p. 192.

"The Primitive Christians scrupulously complied with the decree pronounced by the Apostles at Jerusalem, in abstaining from things strangled and from blood." -The Ecclesiastical History of the Second and Third Centuries (1845), by John Kaye, Bishop of Lincoln, p. 146

Does God's Moral Principle Concerning Blood Also Apply to Human Blood?

When God first allowed humans to consume flesh, God clarified that the same principle He decreed concerning blood would not just apply to animal blood, but to human blood as well...with even stronger force:

God said: "Besides that, your blood of your souls shall I ask back. . . . Anyone shedding man’s blood, by man will his own blood be shed, for in God’s image he made man." (Genesis 9:5, 6) If animal blood (representing animal life) was of sacred significance to God, obviously human blood had a sacred significance of even greater value.

To eliminate any doubt, God’s law prohibited consuming "any sort of blood," "the blood of any sort of flesh." (Leviticus 17:10, 14)

Tertullian (c. 160-230 C.E.) wrote: "The interdict upon ‘blood’ we shall understand to be (an interdict) much more upon human blood."—The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV, p. 86.

Could God's Moral Principle on Blood be Set Aside in Times of Emergency?

Consider the example of what occurred with some soldiers of Israel in the days of King Saul:

"And on that day they kept striking down the Phi·lis´tines from Mich´mash to Ai´ja·lon, and the people got to be very tired. And the people began darting greedily at the spoil and taking sheep and cattle and calves and slaughtering them on the earth, and the people fell to eating along with the blood. So they told Saul, saying: "Look! The people are sinning against Jehovah by eating along with the blood." At this he said: "YOU have dealt treacherously. First of all, roll a great stone to me." After that Saul said: "Scatter among the people, and YOU must say to them, ‘Bring near to me, each one of YOU, his bull and, each one, his sheep, and YOU must do the slaughtering in this place and the eating, and YOU must not sin against Jehovah by eating along with the blood.’" - 1 Samuel 14:31-34

Some of the soldiers of Israel became extremely hungry after a long battle and slaughtered sheep and cattle and "fell to eating along with the blood." Their aim was not to deliberately eat blood, but they did end up hastily eating the meat from animals that were not bled properly. Did the fact that this seemed to be an "emergency" excuse their course? No. Their action was labeled as "sinning against Jehovah by eating along with the blood."

Why did the Israelites use blood in sacrifices?

The Israelites were allowed to use animal blood only in one way. That was in offering it up as a sacrifice to God, acknowledging him as the Life-Giver to whom they were indebted:

"The soul of the flesh is in the blood, and I myself have put it upon the altar for you to make atonement for your souls, because it is the blood that makes atonement by the soul [or life] in it."—Leviticus 17:11.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Should Christians Donate Blood?

According to the method of handling blood prescribed by the Bible, blood when taken from a body was to be poured out on the ground as water and covered over with dust. (Lev. 17:13, 14; Deut. 12:16, 23, 24; 15:23; 1 Chron. 11:18, 19) Because God Himself said that life is in the blood and such shed blood is held sacred before Him, we should recognize that all life comes from and belongs to God. By ‘pouring it out’ on the altar or on the ground, we, in effect, are returning the life to God.

So, according to the scriptural admonition above, the practice of voluntarily donating blood simply to be stored for some future use appears to conflict with the method of handling blood prescribed by the Bible.

Were the commands concerning blood only meant for the Mosaic law? Is it applicable to us today?

A conference occurred in 49 C.E., in which the apostles and older men of Jerusalem who served as a central body of elders for all Christians held a discussion. In this discussion, Jesus’ half brother James brought to the council’s attention certain essential things that he deemed important to include in their decisions, in particular, "to abstain from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood." (Acts 15:19-21) He referred back to the writings of Moses, which reveal that even before the Law was given, God had disapproved of immoral sex relations, idolatry and the eating of blood, which would include eating the flesh of strangled animals containing blood.—Genesis 9:3, 4; 19:1-25; 34:31; 35:2-4

The decision was made, and as they themselves stated, was made in accord with God’s holy spirit:

"The holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you, except these necessary things, to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication. If you carefully keep yourselves from these things, you will prosper."—Acts 15:28, 29.

So the divine prohibition against blood applies to Christians today. Throughout human history, God consistently made it clear for humans to abstain from blood. God began with commanding Noah and his family to abstain from blood. (Gen. 9:4) He repeated this through the Mosaic law (Le 7:26,27; 17:10, 11, 13, 14) and He continued to remind us through the pages of the New Testament. (Acts 15:28, 29; Acts 15:19, 20)

"This law [of abstaining from blood] was ancienter than the days of Moses, being given to Noah and his sons, long before the days of Abraham: and therefore when the Apostles and Elders in the Council at Jerusalem declared that the Gentiles were not obliged to be circumcised and keep the law of Moses, they excepted this law of abstaining from blood, and things strangled, as being an earlier law of God, imposed not on the sons of Abraham only, but on all nations, while they lived together in Shinar under the dominion of Noah: and of the same kind is the law of abstaining from meats offered to Idols or false Gods, and from fornication." (Italics his) -The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended, by Sir Isaac Newton (Dublin, 1728, p. 184)

"It ought to be observed, that this prohibition of eating blood, given to Noah and all his posterity, and repeated to the Israelites, in a most solemn manner, under the Mosaic dispensation, has never been revoked, but, on the contrary, has been confirmed under the New Testament, Acts xv.; and thereby made of perpetual obligation."—Joseph Benson; Benson’s Notes, 1839, Vol. I, p. 43.

Should Christians eat red meat since it may contain a trace of blood?

God stated that the soul (life) of the fleshly creature is in the blood. (Le 17:11-14) Originally, vegetation and fruit, and not flesh, was provided to humans as their diet. But after the Flood, God Himself told us that we could eat meat from "every animal".

"Every moving animal that is alive may serve as food for YOU." (Gen. 9:3)

However, God specifically pointed out that the "flesh with its soul—its blood—you must not eat." (Gen. 9:4)

God commanded that, before eating the flesh of an animal, His people were to pour out its blood on the ground and cover it with dust, being careful not to eat the blood, on pain of death. (De 12:23-25; Le 7:27) The forbidding of the eating of animals strangled or not drained of blood was repeated by the governing body of the early Christian congregation.

So when someone carefully takes the strict precautions that God outlined by making sure that an animal is properly bled before consumption, they would not be breaking God's command of eating blood. Since God Himself has issued these directions, obviously, if properly done, God does not have a problem with eating the meat from "every animal".

However, if someone else had a problem with eating meat, the apostle Paul pointed out that flesh is not absolutely essential to man as food and he said that if his eating of meat was a source of stumbling to other Christians, he would "never again eat flesh at all." -Rom. 14:21; 1Co 8:13

How important is it for Christians to "abstain from blood"?

"God and men view things in very different lights. What appears important in our eye is very often of no account in the estimation of infinite wisdom; and what appears trifling to us is often of very great importance with God. It was so from the beginning."—An Enquiry Into the Lawfulness of Eating Blood, Alexander Pirie, 1787.


The above quote can be well illustrated by the opinions of millions of churchgoers. They would probably agree that Christian ethics involves not venerating idols and not sharing in gross immorality. Yet, the apostles put avoiding blood on the same high moral level as avoiding those wrongs.

Also, a closer examination of the wording used at Acts 15:28, 29 shows how important it is for Christians to "abstain from blood":

"For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials ['these necessary things' - RSV]: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell." [emphasis added] -Acts 15:28, 29 (NASB)

The wording of the scriptures here does not indicate that this is a relatively unimportant commandment. It says it is "essential".

Many view the use of blood essentially as a matter of medical judgment, and there is an increasing number who are concluding that there is much less risk to their health by accepting bloodless medicine and surgery. Yet the stand taken by Christians who are true followers of God is above all a religious one; it is a position based on what the Bible says..."abstain from...blood." (Acts 15:28, 29)

People who recognize their dependence on the Creator and Life-Giver should be determined to obey His commands:

"O man, who, then, really are you to be answering back to God? Shall the thing molded say to him that molded it, "Why did you make me this way?" What? Does not the potter have authority over the clay?" -Rom. 9:20, 21

Christians who are true followers of God are fully convinced that it is right to comply with God’s law commanding abstention from blood even when tested to the limit. They want to live, but they will not try to save their life by breaking God’s laws:

"For whoever wants to save his soul will lose it; but whoever loses his soul for my sake will find it." -Matthew 16:25.

Jesus said: "I am the resurrection and the life. He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life." -John 11:25

"The judicial decisions of Jehovah are true; they have proved altogether righteous. . . . In the keeping of them there is a large reward."—Psalm 19:9, 11.