Hi everyone, below is a copy of my letter to the Governing Body that I had published on the Internet in October 2004. I was threatened with disfellowshipping for that publication. You may read the full story on my previous thread: http://www.jehovahs-witness.com/7/115231/1.ashx
Open Letter on the Prohibition Against Blood
To the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses
25 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn NY 11201-2483, USA
October 26, 2004
I am one of Jehovah’s witnesses. In 2000, I started to suspect that our understanding of the prohibition against blood may not be correct. I had discussions with the elders Tony Maes, Bruno Degouis and David Vandendriessche here in Brussels, Belgium, but no conclusion could be reached. I then wrote to your offices in Brooklyn.
There followed an exchange of letters with the Writing Department at Patterson. I finally went there on November 19, 2002, to meet with Fred Rusk and Ray Richardson. Their view was that there is no difference between the blood of a living and of a killed creature. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that such view does not harmonize with the accurate biblical symbolism of blood.
I therefore went to your offices in Brooklyn to request that you personally hear the case, as the Bible provides for the Governing Body to hear “big” and “hard” cases. (Exodus 18:22,26) I was received by your helpers Robert Landis and David Iannelli, who told me that you do not hold hearings. I gave them a letter explaining the suggestion that you can read below. I later insisted in further letters, but the answer remained the same. Yet, I do believe that there is sound reason to persist in my request. I am making it public because of my conscience. Our brothers and sisters deserve to be informed of all elements pertaining to life, salvation and divine law.
You know what the Bible commands in Genesis 9:2-6:
“Every moving animal that is alive may serve as food for you... Only flesh with its life —its blood— you must not eat. And, besides that, your blood of your lives shall I ask back ... for in God’s image he made man.”
Our teaching on the prohibition can be summarized this way:
My suggestion is rather based on the fact that God keeps an account of killed lives, that are to be paid back ‘life for life’:
The passage above would have been God’s way to allow the slaughter of animals without giving life away: 'Just pour the blood of the animal on the ground, and I will not ask it back —but human blood will always be asked back’. The blood of a killed creature is a debt that must be shunned.
If that suggestion were correct, the “blood” that Christians should abstain from would be what that word most commonly designates in the Bible: blood shed in death, like in the biblical expressions “The avenger of blood” or “I am clean of the blood of all men.”
Below is a more detailed development of the two interpretations.
Argument in favor of our teaching:
It seems natural
Arguments against our teaching:
- The Bible does not mention the sacredness of life to forbid blood
- It is not as natural as it first seems. The Bible has two words for “life”:
|= The sacred life||= What the blood represents|
What is vital to humans is said to be their chayim. (Deuteronomy 32:47; Proverbs 4:30; etc.) If the emphasis were on the sacredness of life, we would naturally expect to read that “Blood is the chayim of the creature.” But the Bible does not say that. Instead, we read that “The nephesh is in the blood.”
Contrary to chayim, the nephesh can be counted. (Genesis 46:27, where “nephesh” may be translated “person”) It can be alive or dead. (Genesis 2:19; Leviticus 21:11) Actually, the symbolism of blood and nephesh is found hundreds of times in the Bible, and the represented nephesh is always a killed one, or one in danger to be killed. Please consider these comparisons between a few related verses:
|Psalm 72:14: “From oppression and from violence he will redeem their soul, and their blood will be precious in his eyes”||Psalm 116:15: “Precious in the eyes of Jehovah is the death of his loyal ones”|
|Romans 5:9: “we have been declared righteous now by his blood”||Romans 5:10a: “we became reconciled to God through the death of his Son”|
|Hebrews 9:18: “neither was the former [covenant] inaugurated without blood”||Hebrews 9:16: “For where there is a covenant, the death of the covenanter needs to be furnished”|
Tombs in Petra and Jerusalem. Each of the four pyramids on top of the Petra tomb is a “nephesh" -a fundamentally individual memorial monument to a deceased person. The so-called “Absalom's tomb" in the Kidron valley is also a typical “nephesh". Blood shed in death is the symbol of a killed nephesh. Hardly a symbol of chayim!
We cannot mix up the notions of chayim and nephesh.
All right, you may say, blood represents the nephesh, not the chayim. Since Jehovah says that all nepheshim belong to him, it should justify the prohibition against blood, should it not?
However, the nephesh belongs to God, not in the sense that we cannot eat blood, but in the sense that we cannot shed blood in death without God’s permission. (Exodus 20:13)
That does not tell us why we cannot eat blood.
Arguments in favor of my suggestion:
When a human nephesh, or “breather”, has been killed, God remembers it and demands an accounting. This principle is stated this way in Deuteronomy 19:21: Life (“Nephesh”) for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, etc. The same principle is expressed this way in Numbers 35:33:
|"For the land there may be no atonement respecting the blood that has been spilled upon it except by the blood of the one spilling it.”|
We clearly see that the equation ‘blood = nephesh’ places the ‘life for life’ accounting in the blood. This symbolism is found about four hundred times throughout the Bible, from Genesis 4:10 through Revelation 19:13. Blood shed in death is counted ‘blood for blood’ just the way the killed nephesh is counted ‘nephesh for nephesh’.
Take a life, and you are indebted with blood. Unless another life is offered in atoning sacrifice, you may have to pay with your own blood.
The debt is
(Le 17:11; Eph 1:7)
The Bible presents another fact: The accounting for a killed life is upon the drinker of its blood:
|The Biblical symbolism of blood drinkingThe best way to understand why something is forbidden is to consider what that thing accomplishes when done. An intentional drinking or use of blood means: |
If drinking shed blood means indebtedness with a life, Genesis 9:2-6 would naturally mean:
‘You may kill animals for food —only, do not eat the blood, and I will not ask it back from you. But human blood will always be asked back, for man is made in my image.’
In the context of that passage, Noah and his sons are authorized to kill animals for food. But they know the account about Abel’s blood shed by Cain, and how God kept an account of it. (Genesis 4:10; Luke 11:51) Will not the blood of a slaughtered animal be counted likewise? Noah and his sons could think so, for they offer animal sacrifices in atonement for their own lives.
The law on blood would be God's way to allow the slaughter without giving life away: Those men will not be asked back the blood that they leave on the ground. On the other hand, a human life is of higher value because of being made in God's image. This blood will always be asked back.
Of course, there can be no debt for a life when no life is taken, as in the case of a transfusion. Otherwise, we would have to believe that a transfusion of Jesus’ blood could have made atonement!
The arguments in favor of this interpretation are:
- It is in harmony with the Biblical symbolism of life and blood
- It is simple and makes sense. God authorized us to kill animals provided that we are not bloodthirsty -We cannot kill for fun or just sports (Compare with Genesis 10:9)
- It harmonizes with Leviticus 17:10-14. Under the Mosaic law, animal blood could atone for a human life. That passage had therefore to warn that any blood, even animal, could also justify the cutting off of a man (See verses 3-4)
- It plainly explains why we are ordered to drink Christ’s blood, for we are to accept the true price of our redemption. (The explanation that this drinking is OK because of being figurative does not harmonize with 1Ch 11:18 or Re 17:6) This we do when we dedicate our lives to the provider of that price
Just as Canaan, for example, would have been charged with the debt of a blood that he would have drunk but not personally shed, so are Christians credited with the redeeming value of a sacrifice that they did not personally provide. The law on Blood would be the answer to N. H. Barbour’s objection to the ransom.
Arguments against my suggestion:When I unsuccessfully went to Brooklyn to request a hearing, I gave your helper Robert Landis a letter explaining my suggestion. I later received the following reply:
November 25, 2002Dear Brother Andre: Thank you for the letter that you delivered personally to
Brooklyn Bethel. We have read it over along with the accompany-
ing information. Be assured that the points you bring up have
been discussed many times. However, the "faithful and discreet
slave" feels that it would be gross disrespect for Jehovah's
command to "abstain from blood" if a Christian abstained from
the blood of dead animals or humans while partaking of the
blood of living things.-Acts 15:20, 28, 29. While many of the points that you present are correct, it
is good to remember that our reasoning can be dangerous if it
leads us to disagree with a simply stated divine command. It is
true that in the first century it might not have been the custom
to partake of the blood of living things. Still, the wording of
the decree circulated by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem
was not restricted. If we 'abstain from blood,' we do not par-
take of blood whether the donor is living or dead. We appreciate your concern to understand these matters but
we can only repeat the advice of the brothers you have already
spoken to. Our advice is to let the matter now rest. Stay busy
talking to people about things you are convinced of-Jehovah's
Kingdom, the new world, the coming abyssing of Satan, and so
forth. Perhaps Jehovah will eventually give you a different
perspective on this question. We send you our warm love and Christian greetings. (Signed) Watchtower B.& T. Society
As there had been no hearing, I could not draw your attention to the fact that the apostles had not our physiology manuals, where we see blood circulating from heart to lungs to kidneys. To those first-century men, “blood” was the mark of a slaughter. (Acts 20:26; Hebrews 12:4; etc.) Throughout the Bible, when some “blood” represents a life, that word always designates blood shed in death (possibly in anticipation). If in Acts 15:29 the word “blood” had to be read according to the modern definition, that would be quite an exception. How would the apostles relay the Genesis prohibition against shed blood (blood pudding for example) and the unbled flesh of an animal strangled in a trap? They would say: “abstain from blood and things strangled” -precisely what we read. In the context of their decree no more precision was needed. Maybe we should not try to make the apostles answer a question they were not asked.
The problem may be that we have blood transfusions in mind when we read Acts 15:29. That was not yet the case when the Watchtower of 4/15/1909, page 117, wrote that “To the Jew [blood] was forbidden, and under his covenant 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.” That was exactly what I am suggesting here.
Besides, should not understanding come before reading? Please remember how Judaic leaders erred when they relied on the wording of the prohibition against “any work” on the Sabbath.
My request for a hearing before you was based on scriptures like Ex 18:22,26; Nu 27&36; De 17:8-9; 1Sa 7:16; 2Sa 8:15; 15:2; 1Ki 3:16-28 and Ac 15:1-31. I have no doubt that the conditions set in Ex 18:22,26 and De 17:8-9 are met. Please understand that I am making my request public, not in defiance of your authority, but because of my conscience. I do appreciate your oversight of the congregation, and wish to thank you for it.
I attach a list of all Bible verses containing the word “blood” [anyone interested in that list, or in copies of letters exchanged with the Society, please PM me]