Jehovah’s Witnesses: Bloodguilty?
The following is a question from one of my many readers regarding the blood issue:
Your commentary about the blood issue was very insightful. However, it tended to bash the WTBTS more than explain. I enjoyed reading it, but I am still unsure whether it is or is not ok to receive blood. I know we no longer live under the mosaic law, but paul mentions in Acts to still abstain from blood, along with still honoring the commandments. Can you explain why it does or doest not matter so that I can have better understanding?
What a great question!
We really need to understand the context in order to get a good feel for the “what” as well as the “why”.
Paul and the other leaders of the early Christians had to meet in Jerusalem specifically because there were lots of Gentiles coming into the fold. They were bringing with them a lot of customs that didn’t sit well with the predominantly Jewish element of the early Christian church.
To make matters worse, the Jewish Christians were trying to saddle these newly converted Gentiles with the beliefs and customs of their prior affiliations. For example, they were actively teaching that anyone converting to Christianity had to be circumcised and observe the law of Moses. (Acts 15:5)
James was actually the original person quoted in Acts 15 talking about what he thought would be a good idea. Note what was said in Acts 15:13-21:
When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. Simon has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles. The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:
“‘After this I will return
and rebuild David’s fallen tent.
Its ruins I will rebuild,
and I will restore it,
that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,
even all the Gentiles who bear my name,
says the Lord, who does these things,
things known from long ago.
“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”
This advice was of practical value at the time because eating blood was a standard practice of these Gentiles and it was extremely offensive to the Jews as well as the newly converted Jewish Christians. The council at Jerusalem was attempting to remove the “stumbling blocks” to both Jewish Christians as well as those Jews they looked to convert to Christianity. Hence the reference that James made to the fact that the Mosaic Law had been “preached in the city from the earliest times.”
I remember when going “door to door” in the deep South during the 70’s we were counseled not to go with “mixed” couples to the door. Why couldn’t an African American brother and a white sister go to the door together? Well it may be hard to understand for those of us brought up in other parts of the country but back in the 60’s and 70’s in the deep South doing so was the equivalent of inciting to riot.
Was this advice scriptural? No it wasn’t. Was it practical for the time and location? Did it save some pretty harsh retribution for the Jehovah’s Witnesses of that time and location?
These edicts by the Jerusalem council were practical matters of unification between the two groups.
As a result of James’ words the leaders sent out a letter to that effect (Acts 15:22-29):
Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers. With them they sent the following letter:
The apostles and elders, your brothers,
To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia:
We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.
Notice that the letter stated flatly that they were to abstain from things sacrificed to idols. By abstaining, understand they were not to EAT IT. This same abstinence was applied to blood and to things strangled.
Now let’s take a strong look at 1 Corinthians 8:
Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God.
So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
But not everyone knows this. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.
Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, won’t he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.
Paul plainly stated that eating food sacrificed to idols was perfectly fine, even going so far as eating inside the very temple where the idol was located, as long as it didn’t stumble a weak brother.
The reasons for this difference in opinion between Paul’s words here and the words in Acts regarding food sacrificed to idols are very clear when you read the entire chapter of Acts 15.
There was a major clash between the majority of Jews and the newly converted Gentiles in the Christian congregation. What the leadership wanted to do was to unify both sides by removing the major points of contention.
Paul obviously felt that eating food sacrificed to idols was perfectly fine unless it offended a fellow servant of Christ. This was the basis for the ruling from the council in Jerusalem. It is plain that the Jews were being stumbled by the Gentiles eating food sacrificed to idols, eating blood, etc. It is also plain that the Jews were retaliating by trying to require that the new converts keep the Jewish law and receive circumcision. You will recall that Paul circumcised Timothy so as to remove any objections during their ministry. This wasn’t because Paul wanted to keep the Law. It was a practical matter to remove any reason for them to be rejected because Timothy was uncircumcised!
This same idea is even found in the modern day Jehovah’s Witnesses. If you know a brother is an alcoholic, for example, you wouldn’t serve liquor at a party he attended because it could cause him problems. As a matter of fact, most JW functions don’t include liquor to rule out that potential issue. What is the old expression? “Discretion is the better part of valor.”
Just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD do it. That is the principle behind this entire conversation regarding the early congregation!
Is it wrong to drink liquor?
No. Christ Himself turned water into wine at a wedding party that He attended. Paul prescribed drinking a little wine to Timothy.
Is it wrong to eat meat sacrificed to idols?
According to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 8, absolutely positively not.
Is it wrong to eat blood?
Let’s see what Christ had to say about this.
The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)
So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”
He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’
You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”
And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”
Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”
After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)
He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”
Did you notice that? Jesus “declared ALL FOODS CLEAN”.
Now, with regard to the sexual immorality mentioned in Acts 15, would that also be a “conscience matter”? Of course not! Jesus condemned sexual immorality in the scripture shown above and in numerous other passages of scripture.
However forbidding the eating of blood or of things sacrificed to idols or things strangled was merely a concession to the Jewish Christians (which made up the majority of the Christian congregation at that time) so that they wouldn’t be stumbled.
Because of taking the same kind of dogmatic view as the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society has needlessly required the deaths (read murders) of thousands of sincere and faithful Jehovah’s Witnesses because they chose to enforce a rule that was specific to the Jews and Gentiles of the early congregation and NOT to modern day Christians.
We have clearly established the following:
- Paul disagreed with the ruling from Jerusalem in his letter to the Corinthians.
- Christ Himself declared ALL FOODS CLEAN. Yes even blood!
- The council in Jerusalem was using its power as peacemaker between two polar opposites forming inside the Christian congregation and trying to prevent the stumbling of the majority of Jewish Christians.
Why can’t the Watchtower see this? Make no mistake. They’ve seen it for quite a long time. If they could go back in time and reverse this travesty they would. However, to backtrack on this issue now, after so many thousands have died as a result would be a public relations nightmare.
They will stubbornly continue in their dogmatic interpretation of a single passage in Acts until God Himself comes down and condemns them. Why? To do otherwise would result in wrongful death lawsuits against the corporation until Christ returns. It would result in hundreds of thousands or even millions leaving the organization because they were and are bloodguilty.
The truly sad part?
All of the thousands of innocent infants and children who have died as a direct result of the willful enforcement of an antiquated (and fulfilled!) Mosaic Law in a supposedly Christian congregation.
The JW adults made their own decisions and chose to die. Their blood is on their own heads. Not so for the infants and children that were forced to die because of the willful pride, arrogance and legal department of a supposedly God inspired organization.
For enforcing this rule against infants and children, the leaders of the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society are truly bloodguilty.
I welcome your feedback regarding these serious allegations.
Yours in Christ,