Sanctity of blood or of life?


       1 The biblical command about blood, only regards the animals slaughtered by man, or includes those dead from natural causes? And, does it concern blood transfusions?

Since these questions are in relation to God's dealings with mankind, the correct answers should not come from our views or from the speculations of those whose «hands shed innocent blood», (Proverbs 6:16...17) because of their wrong scriptural interpretations. The answers can only be found in Scripture, by going back to the origin and reason for this mandate.


       2 Scripture says that towards the end of the sixth creation period, «God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the animals of all the earth, and over all the tiny creeping creatures of the ground”. And God created man in his image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them». (Genesis 1:2627) Then, the Creator told them what they were given as food, and said: «Behold, I have given you every plant that scatters its seed upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with fruit, which sows its seed», (Genesis 1:29) thus establishing a vegetarian diet for man. The animals could not be used for food, or for anything not established by God in the perfect order of his earthly garden, which eventually, men  should extend to the ends of the earth.


       3 However, the man and his woman, choose to rebel against God's authority, and what should have led them to enlightenment and independence, broke their intimate relationship with their Creator and Father, source of all life. Since then, the original balance became altered, and man, expelled from Eden, inhabited the uncultivated land from which he was taken. Still, his diet did not change.

Although Abel and Cain's descendant, Jabal, tended sheep, sheep can be bred for several reasons, as getting the wool, to producing milk and cheese, and also to treat and use their skin, for Scripture says that «Yahuh God provided for Adam and his wife robes of skin, and covered them». (Genesis 3:21) Yet, men did not eat meat before the flood, otherwise, God's declaration to Noah after it would have been meaningless, for He said: «The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, upon every bird of the air, upon everything that creeps on the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea, for they are delivered into your hand. From now on, all moving things alive, shall be food for you». (Genesis 9:23)


    4 The population of the earth increased, and we read that over time, «the earth had become corrupted before God, and was full of violence. God examined the earth and saw it was corrupt, because all mankind had degraded their way upon the earth. And God said to Noah, “the end of all flesh is before me; through them, the earth is full of violence. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth”». (Genesis 6:1113)

The waters of the universal flood and the phenomena that caused it, produced major changes on Earth's climate, and as the edible plants were scarce, God permitted mankind to eat animal flesh. He said to Noah: «As I gave you the green plants, I give you everything». So God allowed man to eat animals, but not their blood, since He added «Only, you shall not eat the flesh with its life, that is, its blood». (Genesis 9:34) In fact, before God, the blood of his creatures represents their life, and all life belongs to Him.

These words of God established the sanctity of life, not of blood, as some wrongly claim. Therefore, according to His instructions to Noah, the fact of eating the blood in a slaughtered animal, involves a violation of the sanctity of life.


    5 This decree is a universal law that concerns all Noah’s descendants, which according to Scripture, are all mankind. However, the fact of eating meat from an animal already dead from natural causes or killed by another animal, can perhaps be a violation of this law? The answer to the following questions reveals it: Is man responsible for the animal's death? And, can the blood of a dead animal represent its life?

If man is not responsible for the animal's death, eating its meat would surely be a health risk, but not a violation of God's decree, because the blood in a dead animal, no longer represent its life. The Law given to Moses, confirms it, for it says: «Any man of the sons of Israel, or of the sojourners that live among them, who in hunting, takes any beast or bird to be eaten, shall pour out its blood and cover it with dust. For the life of every creature is its blood. So I say to the sons of Israel: You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of all flesh is its blood, and whoever eats it shall be cut off. But, every soul that eats what is dead by itself or has been torn by beasts, whether native or sojourner, shall wash his clothes, and bathe in water, and will be contaminated until the evening; then he shall be clean». (Leviticus 17:13...15)


     6 October 15, 1983, the “Watchtower” magazine published by Jehovah's Witnesses, in its heading “Questions From Readers”, tried to give a response to an article entitled “Sanctity of Life”, published in the informative booklet La Vía, by alleging: «Might the Bible’s prohibition about blood apply only to blood from a victim killed by man, not to unbled meat of an animal that died of itself or blood from a live animal or human?

Some persons have reasoned that way, pointing to a few Bible verses for seeming support. They have thus held that it would not be wrong to accept a transfusion of blood from a living donor. Such reasoning might sound valid, but close examination of the verses used and of other relevant texts indicates that God expects his people to avoid taking in blood and sustaining their life with blood, whether from a living or a dead creature».

It is clear that some of these statements are in sharp contrast to Scripture. And, which are the verses that support their conclusions? They mentioned Deuteronomy 14:21, that reads: «You shall not eat anything that dies of itself; you may give it to the sojourner who is within your towns, that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner, because you are a people holy to Yahuh, your God».


     7 Actually, this verse does not contradict at all what Leviticus 17:15 says; Israel was a people consecrated to God, and therefore should remain pure. Avoiding contamination was very important for a people holy to God, and eating the meat of an animal found dead, contaminated the person, making him unclean as when he touched a corpse (Leviticus 11:24). These things were treated in the Law as unhygienic polluting behaviors, which God's people must avoid, but when not avoided, the contaminated person had to wash his clothes and bathe in water, remaining impure for some hours.

However, in seeming support to their wrong assertions: «Aid to Bible Understanding (page 51) points out that sometimes the term “alien resident” meant a person among the Israelites who was not a full proselyte. It appears that this sort of person is meant at Deuteronomy 14:21, a man who was not trying to keep all of God’s laws and who might have his own uses for a carcass considered unclean by Israelites and proselytes».

The source and basis of this statement is unidentified, however, the worst is that according to them, the sojourner and the foreign resident were not obliged to observe the Law given to Moses for all the people. This is really grasping at straws, since in Numbers 15:15 we read: «There shall be one only statute for all the community, for you and for the foreigner who sojourns among you. It will be a perpetual statute throughout your generations. In front of Yahúh, the sojourner will be as you are».

Moreover, in the Hebrew text of Leviticus 17:15, shown here:

וְכָל־נֶפֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר תֹּאכַל נְבֵלָה וּטְרֵפָה בָּאֶזְרָח וּבַגֵּר וְכִבֶּס בְּגָדָיו וְרָחַץ בַּמַּיִם

the Hebrew term GER גָּר”, translated as alien resident in Deuteronomy 14:21 and in Numbers 15:15, should be translated “proselyte” or “converted”, according to The Global Yeshiva's Communities, and it is so translated in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, that seventy-two experts conducted in antiquity, and which renders more than seventy times the term GER גָּר” as προσηλύτοις proselyte. Therefore Leviticus 17:15, reads: «Καὶ πᾶσα ψυχή, ἥτις φάγεται θνησιµαῖον θηριάλωτον ἐν τοῖς αὐτόχθοσιν ἐν τοῖς προσηλύτοις, πλυνεῖ τὰ µάτια αὐτοῦ καὶ λούσεται ὕδατι καὶ ἀκάθαρτος ἔσται ἕως ἑσπέρας ».


       8 Another important thing that Jehovah's Witnesses should remember, is that God himself says: «I, Yahuh, do not change», (Malachi 3:6) and mandate given to Noah and all his descendants, which are all mankind, could not be abrogated 850 years later by the Law given to Moses. Paul says about a similar case: «…a testament previously established by God, cannot be declared invalid by a law which came four hundred and thirty years later...». (Galatians 3:17) For this reason, by declaring that to eat meat from an animal naturally dead or killed by another animal, was a violation of the Law, Jehovah’s Witnesses are also asserting that the Law given to Moses by God, encouraged the people of Israel to violate the universal law He gave to Noah and all his descendants, when in Deuteronomy 14:21, it suggests to give the dead animal «to the sojourner who is within your towns, that he eats it, or… to sell it to a foreigner». Because the sojourner and the foreigner, are not perhaps descendants of Noah?

Besides, Leviticus 17:14 says of who violates God’s mandate about blood: «whoever eats it shall be cut off», but about who eats meat from an animal dead by natural causes or another animal, the Law says that he must wash himself and his clothes, and that he will be unclean «until the evening; then he shall be clean», not cut off from the people. All these things set the true sense and meaning of God’s Law about the Sanctity of life.


      9 Paul writes: «God has given you life together with him (Jesus. ndr), forgiving us all our trespasses and canceling the written decree which stood against us, by nailing it to the cross». (Colossians 2: 1314) After the sacrifice of Jesus, the Law given to Moses lost force, but the universal law regarding the sanctity of life, which was established by God's command to Noah and all his descendants, is still in effect.

In the book of Acts, Luke says that the apostles and elders of the Christian congregation, gathered in Jerusalem to take decisions regarding the validity of circumcision and other provisions of the Law, and reached the conclusion declared by Jacob (James), and often translated like this: «My decision is not to trouble those from the nations who turn to God, but write to them to abstain from the contamination of the idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood». (Acts15:19...20)

The Greek text of this verse, literally says:  «διὸ ἐγὼ κρίνω µὴ παρενοχλεῖν τοῖς ἀπὸ τῶν ἐθνῶν ἐπιστρέφουσιν ἐπὶ τὸν θεόν, ἀλλὰ ἐπιστεῖλαι αὐτοῖς τοῦ ἀπέχεσθαι τῶν ἀλισγηµάτων τῶν εἰδώλων καὶ τῆς πορνείας καὶ τοῦ πνικτοῦ καὶ τοῦ αἵµατος·». We point out that when the Greek preposition kai, is repeated two or more times in the same sentence, the first kai” should be translated as “i.e.” or “that is”,  not “and”. Therefore, the correct translation of the verse should be: «Therefore, my decision is not to trouble (with the precepts of the Law, ndr) the people of the nations who turn to God, but write to them to abstain from the contamination of the idols, that is: from fornication and from the suffocated animals, and from blood».

In fact, the people from the nations were familiar with traditions and practices socially well considered, but totally unfit for Christ's disciples as the sacred prostitution aimed at enriching the priesthood and their temples, or the celebrating with their family and friends, feasts and banquets in the temple, where they ate the meat of unbled animals, offered in sacrifice to the gods. So these words of Jacob (James) for the Gentiles who converted to Christ, pointed out the need of giving up any social complicity with idolatry and its practices. Moreover, Jacob’s statement confirms the universality of the covenant of Noah, even after the conclusion of the Law of Moses.


    10 How do all these apply today? Perhaps someone could wonder whether the use of blood components in pharmaceutical preparations, might involve a violation of God's law regarding the sanctity of life. And, what about blood transfusions?

In light of what we have considered, we can answer with a question: does the blood used in these things represent a loss of life of the donor? Because if the donor does not die, the blood he donates does not represent the loss of his life.

People wishing to respect the universal law given to Noah, must not eat the meat of unbled animals, a hygienic measure considered today essential, and avoid foods containing the blood of slaughtered animals. Because despite of the selfish and interested refusals of accepting the truth that Scriptures make evident, taking medicines that may contain blood components, and receiving blood transfusions, do not violate God's commandment concerning blood, unless these things require the donor's death, something highly unlikely. To donate or accept blood is therefore a legitimate personal choice, which may represent some risk of infection, but otherwise, there is no reason on Scripture, Hebrew or Christian, for these things to become a religious problem.


ndr = Network Data Representation