Monday, January 2, 2017

Blood Transfusions, Russell, and the Bible

"But flesh with the life of it, the blood of it, you shall not eat." — Genesis 9:4
"Therefore I said to the children of Israel, No soul of you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger who sojourns among you eat blood." — Leviticus 17:12
"For as to the life of all flesh, the blood of it is [all one] with the life of it: therefore I said to the children of Israel, You shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh; for the life of all flesh is the blood of it: whoever eats it shall be cut off." — Leviticus 17:14
"Only be sure that you don't eat the blood: for the blood is the life; and you shall not eat the life with the flesh." — Deuteronomy 12:23.
"You shall not eat of anything that dies of itself: you may give it to the sojourner who is within your gates, that he may eat it; or you may sell it to a foreigner: for you are a holy people to Jehovah your God." — Deuteronomy 14:21
"Only you shall not eat the blood; you shall pour it out on the earth as water." — Deuteronomy 15:23
"But that we write to them that they abstain from the pollution of idols, from sexual immorality, from what is strangled, and from blood. " — Acts 15:20
"That you abstain from things sacrificed to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality, from which if you keep yourselves, it will be well with you." — Acts 15:29
According the our neighbors in the "Jehovah's Witnesses" organization, as well as a few other groups, the above scriptures forbid use of blood transfusions. Many of our neighbors in these groups have died, or have allowed their children to die, in obedience to their leaders who have interpreted the above scriptures in this manner. Many approach this matter along carnal lines, and feel indignant that such unnecessary deaths occur, but the Christian should approach the matter along the lines of the spirit, from God's standpoint. This we should do by carefully comparing spiritual revealing with spiritual revealing, that is, by comparing what God has revealed in the scriptures, comparing scripture with scripture. (1 Corinthians 2:20-13; Isaiah 8:20) Was it God's purpose to forbid blood transfusions in the above verses?

Of course, in reality blood transfusions are not mentioned in the Bible. Yet it is also true that just because the Bible does not mention a specific act as sin, this does not necessarily mean that it is not sin. Smoking, especially smoking around others, would fall into this category. We reason that smoking is a sin due to the fact that it is an unloving thing to our neighbor to smoke, which breaks the second greatest commandment as spoken of by Jesus.– Matthew 22:39.

Likewise with blood transfusions: we need to ascertain if the medical practice of blood transfusions do in fact violate the intent of the command that forbids eating blood. What was the intent of the command?

As the scriptures already quoted show, blood is used to represent the life -- the soul -- of the animals that were being slain for food, which life belongs to Jehovah. According to the Law Covenant, blood was to be poured out upon the earth – that is, that which represents the soul [nephesh] that has been killed was to be poured out in honor of the life which had been taken away, which life belongs to Jehovah. (Genesis 4:10; Leviticus 17:14,15; Deuteronomy 12:15,16; Psalm 36:9; Ezekiel 18:4) It is this law of God that the apostles and elders at Jerusalem referred to as recorded in Acts 15:20,29, when telling the Gentile Christians to abstain from strangled animals and blood.

Do these commands in any way transfer to the modern practice of blood transfusions? No; only if you are taking the blood to be transfused from the body of a dead person could we see any application, for normally the life of the donor of blood is not taken during the blood transfusion process. Since the life of the person giving blood usually is not demanded in blood transfusions, the application has no significance in this practice. Thus there is nothing in these scriptures that prohibit blood transfusion.

What Would Jesus Do?

The question has been presented concerning Jesus: Would Jesus have accepted a blood transfusion? As already shown, abstaining from eating blood of dead animals is not related to the modern practice of blood transfusions. All life belongs to Jehovah (Yahweh). To show respect for life, the blood, representing the life taken, was to be poured out to Jehovah. Usually no life is taken in blood transfusions, so the principle does not apply.

Would Jesus have accepted a blood transfusion? Quite a hypothetical question, since his life source was not tainted with the inherited fallen sinful nature of man. We don't know of any reason he would not have, except that it may have conflicted with the purpose of his coming to earth, to give his life for the world of mankind. His life and his body were not of this condemned world, but had come from God, just as the life of all the sons of God is NOT of this world. (John 17:4) God prepared the body of Jesus, his body (Hebrews 10:5 -- including its blood, representing the soul) was not tainted by the condemned bloodline of Adam.

Thus, our answer is hypothetical, since divine providence never permitted such a situation to arise. We can say, that any reason that Jesus would not have taken a blood transfusion would have to do with the fact that his blood was of God, and not of the tainted blood of Adam, rather than disobeying the law not to eat of blood. Assuming that he had been of the fallen nature, and had not been the promised Messiah, we are sure that he would have taken a blood transfusion if so needed without any disobedience to Jehovah connected with it.

The objection is raised that there is an ever increasing body of evidence that blood transfusion therapy is highly dangerous. That the benefits are often outweighed by these risks is something the public is often not informed of by those who claim blood transfusions should be avoided. There are risks, that is true, but many have highly exaggerated the risk factors. Nevertheless, there are risks of equal magnitude involved in many kinds of medicinal and surgical procedures. On this basis of argument it would appear that we should not utilize modern medicine at all, lest we risk our life in doing so. In truth, however, for most cases the need far outweighs any risks involved. Decisions along this line are medical, and, as with all else, prayer and reliance on God to do His will is the only advice we could give as to whether to accept or reject any medical procedure.

Charles Taze Russell and Blood

Some have claimed that Charles Taze Russell is the one who came up with the idea that the Bible prohibited blood transfusions as well as organ transplants. Some have even claimed that Russell forced this teaching on his followers.

This question is proposed on several sites: "Why won't Jehovah's Witnesses accept blood transfusions, even when their lives are in jeopardy?" The false answer provided is: "Mainly because their founder, Charles Taze Russell, scrambled to come up with a unique set of doctrines that would stand out from the pack. He didn't seem to care which biblical teachings he embraced and which he rejected, so long as the resulting doctrinal pastiche would be exotic." This appears to actually describe Joseph Rutherford, the real founder of the Jehovah's Witnesses, rather than Charles Taze Russell, who was never associated with the Jehovah's Witnesses' organization; Russell did not believe in, and preached against, sectarian authoritarian organizations such as the Jehovah's Witnesses. Russell was certainly not the founder of that in which he did not believe and which he preached against, nor he teach anything to the effect that a Christian should not have a blood transfusion. 

In the book, Modern American Communes: A Dictionary, by Robert P. Sutton, the claim is made that Russell "rejected the Trinity and the divinity of Christ and condemned military service and blood transfusion." (page 146) The only claim here that is at least partially true is that Russell did object to adding the Trinity dogma to the Bible. Russell did not reject the Biblical "divinity of Christ", nor did he condemn military service of itself, and he most definitely never rejected "blood transfusion." Russell did not assume authority over fellow Christian so as to tell them that he could not join the military, and he never mentioned anything at all against "blood transfusions."

Other sites, in the process of denouncing the "no blood transfusion" policy of the JWs, in other ways link that policy of the JWs to Russell indirectly simply associated Russell with the JWs, when, in fact, Russell was never a member of the JW organization.

To make this clear, Russell never prohibited blood transfusions nor organ transplants; nor do Bible Students today. Russell certainly never forced any such teaching on his followers, for he did not believe this teaching, nor would he have "forced" such a teaching on any alleged followers. Indeed, he did not force any teaching on his associates, his supposed followers, but constantly encouraged all to accept or reject based on the scriptures and their own development and understanding. The Watchtower leaders adopted the "no blood transfusion" doctrine long after Russell died.

Some have pointed to an article that appeared in the Watch Tower in 1909, and made the claim that Russell there stated that the prohibitin against eating blood was not considered law for Christins. Here is what the 1909 Watch Tower said, which does not specifically state that the prohibition against eating blood was not considered law for Christians:
A similar thought attaches to the prohibition of the use of blood. To the Jew it was forbidden, and under his covenant it was made a symbol of life–to partake of it would imply responsibility for the life taken. Moreover, in the typical ceremonies of the Law the prohibited blood was used as a symbol representing the sin-offering; for by the blood atonement for sins was effected. To emphasize these typical lessons the Jew had been forbidden to use blood. And there may be other, sanitary, reasons connected with the matter, which are not yet known to us. These prohibitions had never come to the Gentiles, because they had never been under the Law Covenant; but so deeply rooted were the Jewish ideas on this subject that it was necessary to the peace of the Church that the Gentiles should observe this matter also. The things strangled meant animals taken in traps, whose blood was not shed or drained out by bleeding to death, as the Jewish Law required of all meats that should be eaten. This restriction was necessary to the harmony between the two branches of spiritual Israel – that which came from Judaism and that which came from the Gentiles.If they did not wish to be contentious and cause divisions in the Church, the Gentile brethren would surely be willing to restrain or sacrifice their liberty respecting these matters. The fourth restriction specified was "fornication," the Greek signifying "harlotry." It is difficult to understand why one moral precept should be thus separated from others and placed on the list with ceremonial requirements. We incline rather to ask, Why not have included profanity, drunkenness, idolatry, adultery, false witness, murder, etc.? Are we to understand that the Gentiles are free to commit all the crimes in the calendar not stipulated by this Conference, and merely counseled respecting meats offered to idols, or that have died by strangulation — and the use of blood and fornication? Surely not. Rather all the requirements of the Law are included in the one law of the New Creation – Thou shalt love the Lord and thy neighbor.Love would cover idolatry, profanity, murder, theft, false witness, adultery, but the law of Love would not so thoroughly cover the items enumerated by the counsel. These were necessary, proper, and we are to recognize the authority of the Apostles to "bind things on earth," and that they were so guided in their public utterances that they bound nothing unnecessarily, nothing contrary to the Divine will. It is our opinion, therefore, that these items thus superadded to the Law of Love should be observed by all spiritual Israelites as representing the Divine will. As a matter of fact nearly all the butchering for our markets is in harmony with the Jewish regulations, although many Jews decline to recognize this and eat only such meats as have been inspected and approved by their rabbis.
Below is what Mr. Russell said in the June 1, 1902, Watch Tower:
RECOMMENDATION RESPECTING OUTWARD CONDUCTGod's dealings and instructions commended themselves both to their hearts and to their reasons, and covered four points.(1) Abstaining from meats offered to idols, which might appear to be giving sanction to idol worship.(2) Abstaining from the eating of the blood of animals. (3) Abstaining from eating things that had been strangled, in which the blood would remain, which would imply the eating of blood.(4) The avoidance of fornication. In considering these rules we are to keep in memory the circumstances and conditions of the times, and the objects sought to be attained.(1) The idol worship which prevailed at that time had connected with it a great deal of sensuality, which would be contrary to the spirit of Christ in every sense of the word.(2) The object was to permit a ground of fellowship and brotherhood between those whose previous experiences and instructions had been lax, and those whose previous instructions had been rigid. And the things here required of the Gentiles were not merely features of the Mosaic Law, for the forbidding of the use of blood, and the explanation that it represented the life, was given long previous to Moses' day — to Noah after the flood, when he and his posterity were granted the privilege of eating meat, because of the changed conditions and the impoverishment of the race, and the need of more stimulating food. The use of blood was still more common then than now, being used not only in blood puddings, but also as a drink mixed with wine, as some today use beef extract blended with wine.

Of course, blood transfusions were not in general practice in Russell's day, but in reading what he wrote on the subject of blood, we don't think he would have objected to blood transfusions. The prohibition of eating blood was because the blood represented the life of the animal, which life belongs to God. To show respect to Jehovah for life that was taken away, one was not to eat the blood of animals slain for food, but rather to drain the blood. Nevertheless, usually in blood transfusions no life is taken away, so the principle does not apply.

However, we do not totally agree with Brother Russell's conclusions regarding the eating of blood or things sacrificed to idols. We believe that this prohibition regarding blood is necessary for the Christian, out of love and respect for our Creator. Thus, in accordance with the scriptures, we believe that the Christian should show respect for a life taken by not eating the blood representing the life taken, thus blood should be drained before eating meats. This, however, has nothing to do with blood transfusions since life is not taken away during a blood transfusion.

The claim has been presented that the commands not to eat of blood were part of the Jewish dietary laws that are not applicable to the Christian. The command given to not eat blood was before the Jewish dietary laws were given. (Genesis 9:4) It was repeated in the Christian scriptures. (Acts 15:20,22) Acts 15:29 clearly refers to the earlier commands not to eat blood (Genesis 9:4, Leviticus 3:17, Deuteronomy 12:16) We should still have respect for Jehovah concerning any life that is taken by not eating the blood by making sure that our meats have been properly drained of blood, symbolically pouring it out to Jehovah, that is, to give respect to Jehovah for that life to Jehovah to whom that life belonged.

Nevertheless, under the law, the prohibition to eat blood was obligatory only upon the Israelites and any traveler who visited the land of Israel. Deuteronomy 14:21 shows that God did not expect the Gentiles to observe this law. This indicates a further symbolism of the peculiar holiness expected of God's people. The children of Israel only were given the Law through Moses; it was not obligatory upon the Gentiles. It was not yet due time to expect the heathen in general to repent, nor was it the due time for them to receive the things pertaining to the blessing of all the families of the earth. Likewise, we as Christians should stand out as a peculiar people, holy to God; we should not expect the groaning creation still in bondage to sin at the present time to recognize or adhere to the same peculiarity as God's people are expected to adhere to.

One has made some claims concerning Russell regarding blood transfusions in the comments at: Jehovah's Witness girl saved by court.

Our comment was:
C. T. Russell himself never spoke a word against taking blood transfusions. If one is claiming to be a "follower" of C. T. Russell, that one is in self-contradiction, since Russell taught that one should only follow Christ. If however, by "C. T. Russell's followers", the Bible Students are meant, Bible Students do not assert that it is against God's commandments to take blood transfusions. If by "C. T. Russell's followers", the Jehovah's Witnesses are meant, Russell was never the member of such a authoritarian organization, and the JWs have rejected the core teachings of Russell on the atonement.
Comments for the article have been closed so we cannot respond to the claims presented as related to our comments on that site, so we present them here.
The claim was made:
C.T. Russell, himself, taught that sin (or the urge to sin, heard it both ways) is in the blood,

The one making the claim needs to provide the exact quote from Russell in which this idea is alleged to be presented by Russell, and explain in what way Russell’s words would have anything to do with forbidding blood transfusions. Russell did believe the scriptures that tell us that all of Adam’s offspring are condemned in the one man, Adam. Nevertheless, whatever statements Russell made concerning sin and blood certainly has nothing at all to do with, nor could be used as a basis for the claim, that Russell would have in any way sought to usurp authority so as to forbid anyone to take blood transfusions.

To the above was added:
hence why they don't allow blood transfusions now.
“They” certainly cannot refer to the Bible Students, since the Bible Students still do not forbid anyone from taking blood transfusions.

Additionally, there is certainly nothing in Russell’s writings that would give anyone any reason at all to set themselves up as a “governing body”, or proclaim themselves to be a “central authority”, and then forbid blood transfusions. See the quotes from Russell given at:

The claim was made:
They also didn't have transfusions until right before CTR died, and it was experimental tech, not standard medical practice, that is why he probably didn't speak of it.
And yet, the quotes we have provided above of what Russell did say about eating blood shows that he would not have ever thought that taking blood transfusions would be wrong for a Christian.

The claim was made:
The entire Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (i.e. FALSE Bible Student movement) was started by Russell himself, and it's many branches continue to use and spread Russell's false teachings and false prophecies.
1) The WTS, as Russell had created it, actually no longer exists. It was virtually destroyed shortly after his death when Rutherford, by means of deceit, gained control of the legal entity and began to change it from a legal service instrument to an authoritarian religious instrument.. 

2) Russell was a not a prophet, nor did he give any prophecies. The only prophecies he believed in are the prophecies of the Bible. His study of those prophecies, and his conclusions from the same, are not prophecies, but simply his conclusions, which he deemed that anyone could agree with or disagree with. He did never proclaimed anyone to be a not a Christian for disagreeing with him. Indeed, his view of a Christian is that one could be a Christian whether he be Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Presbyterian, etc. 

3) By 1928, the vast majority of the Bible Students movement had rejected Rutherford’s new “Jehovah’s visible organization” dogma. They did not become members of Rutherford’s organization. See: Bible Students Did Not Become Jehovah’s Witnesses

The claim was made:
Anything born of his teachings is false and those that spread his message of damnation are making those whom they tell "twice as fit for hell as they are themselves."
Russell did not spread a "message of damnation." His central message was in harmony with the good news of great joy that will be for all the people -- that Adam and absolutely every descendant of Adam would be saved from the condemnation in Adam. Rutherford rejected that message and replaced it with a message that is actually bad tidings of great woe that will be for most of the people that they will be eternally destroyed if they do not join the organization that Rutherford created.

1) Those who love the truth in Christ should be eternally thankful that God used Russell to bring forth from the Bible itself the truths regarding what is actually in the scriptures and that he distinguished those truths from what man’s traditional dogma claims that the scriptures state.

2) Matthew 23:15 WEB
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel around by sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much of a son of Gehenna as yourselves.

I am very thankful to my heavenly Father that Brother Russell scripturally pointed out what Gehenna is. 

The claim was made:
Russell didn't need to spell out (falsely) the atonement of Christ, the New Testament does that (truthfully) for you already, and anyone that can read, can read that for themselves and don't need a false teacher holding their hand along the way as the almighty CTR commanded.
And yet, most people read the Bible through the tint of human dogma which replaces the atonement as presented in the Bible, thus their eyes are blinded by Satan’s delusions. Russell presented the atonement while distinguishing between what the Bible says from what man claims that it says. Again, we will be eternally thankful that the Heavenly Father used Brother Russell to set forth the truth concerning the atonement from the Bible itself, and distinguished the difference between what the Bible says and the doctrines of men that have been added to, and read into the Bible.

For further reading:

The Biblical Prohibition from Eating Blood by Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher (pdf) — This is not directly about blood transfusions, but the information is good.

Links for Jehovah's Witnesses on Blood Transfusions

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