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“But we think it proper to hear from you what your thoughts are, for truly as regards this sect it is known to us that everywhere it is spoken against.”—Acts 28:22


Blood: Point/Counterpoint

The following is presented in a point/counterpoint fashion. The challenge will be the "point." The response to that will be the "counterpoint." (The first three also appear at the end of the section entitled "Pre-Law Society and the Apostolic Decree.") This will be expanded to address issues as they arise.

Table of Contents
  1. Point: Deuteronomy 14:21, God allowed Israelites to sell unbled animals found already dead.
  2. Point: Genesis 9:3, 4, God prohibited man from eating blood from animals he killed for food.
  3. Point: Conclusion on the Noachian Law.
  4. Point: Symbol of life more important than life?

At Deuteronomy 14:21, God allowed Israelites to sell unbled animals found already dead to be used as food by "alien residents" and "foreigners." The Noachian Law, but not the Mosaic Law, applied to these people since they were part of mankind as a whole but not of Israel. The distinction here is between animals that humans had killed for food, which were covered by the Noachian Law, and those which had been found already dead, which we will see were not covered by the Noachian Law. Had they been covered, using them for food would have been prohibited.

First of all, we must ask: Is the fact that God allowed Israelite men to divorce their wives on nearly any ground indicative that God does not care about the practice of divorce? Why did he allow it? Why did he specifically provide for something that he has stated elsewhere that he hates and that Jesus later clarified as not his intentions from the "beginning"? (Deuteronomy 24:1; Matthew 19:3-9; Mark 10:4-12) He obviously made a concession because of the hard-heartedness of the Israelite people, but one could never use the allowance of divorce in the Israelite setting as proof that God did not "hate" a divorcing. Likewise, with the statement that the non-proselyte foreigner in the land of Israel could purchase a carcass and eat it, that would not prove that God approved of such a practice.

God, at that point in history, was not forcing his laws and principles upon the pagan nations who were not involved in worship to Him, even those non-proselyte temporary residents within their boundaries. Because he would allow the eating of a carcass or otherwise unbled flesh to these pagan "peoples" outside of the realm of his worshippers in no way can stand as evidence that he allowed it to his worshippers in the pre-Law era. If He was willing to concede "divorce" that he "hated" even unto his own people, how can it be stated that God's allowing a pagan to do something stands as evidence his worshippers could do it? One would surely be employing the verse in a manner that it was not intended to be employed to force that meaning upon the text.

Also dictating against that interpretation of Deuteronomy 14:21 is the fact that God only permitted the use of animals "alive" (Genesis 9:3) for food and that the Apostolic Decree "abstain from things strangled" was Noachian Law and the "pniktos" (things strangled) was in regard to animals which died of themselves, were torn by beasts or were strangled through whatever means. This meaning of "pniktos" is unmistakably demonstrated by means of early church writings. Therefore, Noah would have had no permission to eat animals found dead or strangled, only animals that were "alive" as is clearly stated in Genesis 9:3.

As recorded at Genesis 9:3, 4, God prohibited man from eating blood from animals he killed for food. Because animals found dead had not been killed by man for food, the Noachian prohibition did not apply, even though such flesh contained its full measure of blood. That indicates that Genesis 9:1-17 was not a case of God instituting some special sacredness regarding blood, but rather God, by decree, was instilling His view of the sacredness of life. Life was the sacred issue addressed to Noah, not blood. Prohibitions regarding blood only served to instill high regard for life, even animal life. If life were not taken, no prohibition of the Noachian Law was applicable. Again, that conclusion is illustrated in God's provision found at Deuteronomy 14:21.

The erroneous position on Deuteronomy 14:21 is which all other arguments are based upon as can be seen from the above "point." As demonstrated, Genesis 9:3 only allowed the eating of animals that were "alive." "Abstaining from things strangled" as a reflection of a Noachian law and how it was understood to include animals that died naturally or unnaturally without having the blood drained dictates directly against their main premise found in Deuteronomy 14:21. The fact that God did not allow the eating of animals found dead dictates directly against the argument that, to quote the above "point":

"As recorded at Genesis 9:3, 4 God prohibited man from eating blood from animals he killed for food. Because animals found dead had not been killed by man for food, the Noachian prohibition did not apply, even though such flesh contained its full measure of blood. That indicates that Genesis 9:1-17 was not a case of God instituting some special sacredness regarding blood, but rather God, by decree, was instilling His view of the sacredness of life. Life was the sacred issue addressed to Noah, not blood."

What they use as criteria to prove that God did not place sacredness upon blood is negated by the fact that Noah was NOT permitted to eat animals found dead. An honest and direct reading of Genesis 9:3 definitively establishes that. To entertain any other view is to truly place the burden of proof upon the one promoting it. Also, there can be no mistake that God placed a representative equality upon blood to life. In the confines of Genesis 9:4 it cannot be denied that blood was put on a par with the soul as demonstrated above. God viewed Abel's "blood" as that which cried out (Gen. 4:10), therefore the blood clearly represented Abel's soul. To shed "blood" means to take "life," another indicator that God views blood as representatively equal to the life.

For instance, let us take the flag that represents the United States. It is merely cloth but it is held in high esteem by those who are loyal to the United States. If one is seen to deliberately disrespect the flag, to burn, or trash it, it is regarded as an affront against the United States, because the flag possesses a type of representative equality to the United States.

Think of one's wedding ring and what it represents. If your mate were to lose your wedding ring by accident not much would be thought of it, but what if they were to purposely disregard it. Perhaps throw it away or pulverize it with a hammer. It would viewed as a direct affront against your marriage and its value in the eyes of the mate who destroyed or purposely discarded it in some way.

Likewise, with blood. "Life" is indeed sacred, I don't think that anyone would argue against that axiom. God views blood as representatively equal to life. Life belongs to God and so does blood. Disregard for blood would be viewed as disregard for life just like purposeful disregard for ones wedding ring would be regarded as purposeful disregard for the marriage it represents. Life is "sacred." Therefore blood as that which God views as representatively equal to "life/soul" carries a certain sacredness to it which must be respected, and according to the Apostolic Decree that respect amounts to "abstaining from blood." We cannot use blood in a fashion that has not been allowed by God either through his word or what we might observe in a divinely constituted arena. To take upon ourselves a use of blood not precedented by those two factors is to disregard God's ownership of that sacred fluid.

The conclusion is that the Noachian Law, which was the basis for the Apostolic Decree, applies only to blood obtained by a person's killing a creature. While the Mosaic Law might provide grounds for prohibiting blood transfusions, the Noachian Law does not provide any grounds for coming to that conclusion, because donated blood is not obtained by killing humans or animals.

Consider the ramifications of the above. If all that the Noachian Law covered was the "blood" of animals killed for food, what would prevent the pre-Law worshipper from simply going out and draining off a quart of blood from one of his "living" livestock and drinking it because he liked the taste of it? The animal would not have been killed for food and it would not involve eating the "flesh" with the "soul." Therefore, the pre-Law individual would have every right to use the blood of a living animal in any fashion that he would want to use it. He could drink it, use it for paint, use it for lubricant, for dye, for blood pudding or any other number of uses. Is that really what these promoters of this interpretation would want to say? Would God allow such cruelty upon the living animal? Why do we not see God speak of this provision anywhere in the scriptures prior to the Law Covenant? Surely, since God told Noah that he could not eat the "blood" equated with the "soul," Noah would not have had an ordinary use for "donor" (unknowingly donated by the animal) blood as if it was a common, ordinary fluid. He "knew" it represented "life" to God and it would have a certain sacredness attached to it because of that, just as there is certain "sacredness" attached to the wedding ring in the mind of the mate, that ring representing the sacredness of marriage.

The above question has been defended by some in this doctrinal camp as stating that the pre-Law individual would not be allowed to drink the blood of the living animal because Genesis 9:4 states the animal must not have the soul in the flesh to be eaten, but this does not answer the question asked. The question does not deal with the eating of the "flesh" with the "soul/blood" in it, it deals with just the drinking of "donor" blood from a living animal, not the eating of the flesh. They must admit that their view of the Noachian Decree would clearly allow the tapping and drinking of a living animal's blood without consequence. And, if they find exception with that, how then can the transfusion of living "donor" blood be held in a different light in view of the Apostolic Decree which more than just "don't eat" blood but further, "Abstain from blood"?

It is admitted by these ones that the Mosaic Law would provide grounds for the prohibition of blood transfusions because of the fact that God attaches sacredness to it. This sacredness actually parallels the very same language that God used to Noah. God stated the grounds for the sacredness of blood by saying in the Law: "For the soul of the flesh is in the blood." How is this any different then the equation that God makes with the "blood" and "soul" in Genesis 9:4? There is no difference at all!

In regard to all that has been said, it has been amply demonstrated that to teach Noah could eat animals found dead and therefore blood has no special sacredness to it does not conform to what the scriptures indicate about the situation. Will this convince that doctrinal camp of their error? I think I can guarantee that it will not convince them as we know how doctrinal differences generally go. What has been demonstrated however, is that the doctrinal understanding concerning the sacredness of blood, as held by Jehovah's Witnesses and some others, is solidly founded and that to teach otherwise leaves that teacher with the burden of proof, and a large burden at that.

Is the symbol of life more important than life? If blood is sacred because it is the symbol of life, life itself should be more important than the symbol. For instance, the showbread was a symbol for something greater, yet Jesus said it was acceptable for David to eat to sustain his life.—Matthew 12:3-7; Luke 6:1-4.

The real question is: Were there any provisions to violate the sacredness of blood if it meant you could die if you did not? No, and the case involving Saul's men is a perfect example: since Saul pronounced a curse upon anyone partaking of food before vengeance was executed on the enemy (1 Samuel 14:24), the Israelites became famished and did not take time to drain the blood from animals they butchered afterwards. (1 Samuel 14:32-34) Verse 33 states: "Look! The people are sinning against Jehovah by eating along with the blood." They still sinned even though they were famished, close to collapsing, and therefore vulnerable to a potential counterattack. (1 Samuel 14:28) Did that mean that God regarded the symbol greater than the reality? Yes, so should we not follow suit?

Blood was either to be poured out or to be used as a part of a sacrifice to God, not used by man for any personal gain. (Leviticus 17:11-14) To use it for another purpose than as God directs, degrades its value and worth. To use it for another person actually raises them to the level of God, as the blood belongs to Him.

Since the sacredness of blood is actually what establishes our means of redemption from sin and "temporary" life, it could be argued that the sacredness of blood is worth far more than the temporary life that any of us now enjoy.

Consider also the account of Uzzah, who was struck down by God for presumptuously seizing the Ark of the Covenant, a symbol of His presence. (2 Samuel 6:6-7) Jehovah's remaining jealous for the symbol of His presence (the Ark of the Covenant) was more important to Him than His sparing Uzzah's life for his rash presumption against the Ark's sanctity.

Thus, it simply needs to be asked, "Is obedience to Jehovah more important than life?" This question helps to draw out the person's true motivations in this matter, as in trying to find a loophole to get around Jehovah's law without abandoning it. One could use the same bad reasoning to say that if the government ever threatens you with execution if you don't renounce your faith, you should renounce it temporarily so that you can live longer in Jehovah's service. Such compromises do not vindicate Jehovah's sovereignty. Jesus also said to his disciples: "If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake and continually follow me. For whoever wants to save his soul will lose it; but whoever loses his soul for my sake will find it."—Matthew 16:24, 25.

This will be expanded to address issues as they arise.

Next article: Abstaining from Blood by Al Kidd

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