Major Bible scholar writes article on JW blood/organ transplant doctrine

by Leolaia 10 Replies latest watchtower medical

  • Leolaia

    I was just browsing the Leiden University website which has a whole plethora of "open source" journal and monograph articles online written by biblical scholar H. J. de Jonge. Previously, I have read his work on the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, including his recent book on the Christian provenance of this pseudepigraphal work. He is quite a seasoned scholar in the study of early Christianity. But then I stumbled upon this article (published in 2002) in which he seems to have tackled the JW blood doctrine from a biblical point of view. The PDF is online here:

    The catch is that it is written in Dutch. I would really love it if our fellow Dutch/Netherlands residents (such as Abaddon, Vivimus, etc.) would take a look at the article, post a synopsis, or even a translation of the two pages of conclusions at the end of the article. I am sure he gives an informed and noteworthy discussion of the biblical texts that bear on the Society's blood teaching, which would be of obvious interest to those engaging with the subject (especially as de Jonge is a dispassionate "scholar").


    I will try to give a quick and short translation of the conclusion. Point 7 I don't really understand in dutch so I can't translate it yet.

    1) The apostle decree in Acts 15:28-29 has no historical foundation according to Galatians 2:6.

    2) The decission in Acts 15:28-29 was ment only for a small group of christians in Syrie en Cilicie

    3) According to Luke the decission on blood was only ment to solve the problem of integration between non-jews and jews in christian congregations. Where ever this problem doesn't exisist the decission is not applicapable.

    4) The text clearly speaks about eating blood and not about infusing blood.

    5) The text talks about using blood for consumption not for medical use.

    6) In Lev 17:11,14 blood is seen as the source/power of life. Today we know that not only blood but also other organs and there interactions are needed to stay alive.

    7) ? Christian ethics should not be based on scriptures. But as an analysis of the state of a christian as partaker in the comming century under Gods' rule. Only then we can prevent one sideness and randomness. ??

    8) The hope of a future resurrection is no argument against organ transplants. God can also recreate organs in the resurrection.

    9) The classical representation of the resurrection can be in the future and be a meeting between human and god. The resurrection body is not physical and so there is no problem with transplants.

    Ask if you need more details


    Some points from the article:

    Since 2000 you are no longer DF but DA if you take blood he understands that its basically the same. He thinks that the GB is preparing some bigger change and they don't want to admit that they where wrong.

    He describes the meeting in Jerusalem that the apostles had about what part of the mosaic law was still applicapable to the non jewish christians. According to Luke the conclusion of the meeting (abstain from blood) was to be told in a specific area and not to Rome or Korinthe etc.

    JWs take the bible as the inerrant word of God and because the account about blood is mentioned in the bible they think it's still applicapable to them.

    Paul has wrote about this meeting also in Galatians only 5 years after the meeting instead of 40 years as Luke did. He describes the same meeting in Gal. 2:1-10 His conclusion was that they should do nothing Gal 2:6. The non Jewish christians should only financialy support jerusalem.

    So the two stories contradict each other, most scholars take the word of Paul as true because he was a first hand witness and it's written only 5 years after the event. The story as Luke wrote it never happend. So there is no historical ground for the blood doctrine that JW have.

    Why did Luke then mention this. Luke was writing a history of the church and wanted to explain how certain rules came to exists. History shows us that some congregations did live by the result of the meeting as Luke described it. However Gal 2:6 proves that it was not the outcome of that meeting.

    JWs believe the bible contains no errors or contradictions so they don't see Gal 2:6 as prove that the convenant about blood is not historically correct. Such great trust in the bible deserves the name fundamentalist. They don't take into consideration the circumstance that Luke was in when he wrote it. He wanted to explain the history and had little information at his disposal. The most important steps in his story are taken by apostles which is understandable from his view.

    If Luke tells that the decree is only applicable to a small geographic area how can JWs apply it to America Europe Africa etc in the 21st century? It is not correct to apply this text to all time and all space as it contradicts what is said in Acts 15:23

    The whole idea of the decree was the integration between jewish christians and non jewish christians. This is not the case today anymore.

    The scripture talks about blood of animals not humans and about eating it not about infusing it. Blood was seen as the carrier of the power of life. The idea was that you should not take the lifepower of someone else by eating blood. Today we know that this is not the case.

    The meaning of the scripture was not to prevent blood as being used in life and death situations.

    I will continue in the next post.


    How did this doctrine develop?

    JWs where always very against everything, the society, politics, etc, and science. When sciense came with blood transfusions and organ transplants it was to be expected that JWs would be against it. They seek and found biblical support in Acts 15.

    Russell has wrote about Acts 15 and said that it was not applicable to us in this day.

    JWs where against vaccinations. Clayton J. Woodworth is editor of the Golden Age and said to be very against science.

    Christian ethics should not be based on scriptures alone. The bible is written from several viewpoints and contains several different ethics over the thousand of years it describes. Christians should take care for other people also in the case of transfusions.

    The rest of the article is about organ transplants he doesn't mention JWs but talks about that some christians oppose to transplants because of the resurrection. It's not very interresting because JWs don't believe that.

    That was in short what he had to say in the article. I hope that you get the point. As you have probably seen my english is not very good ;)

  • Narkissos

    Thank you GBSJG and Leolaia

  • Sam Beli
    Sam Beli

    GBSJG, your English is 10,000% better than my Dutch!

    Thank you.

  • TD

    Kudos to both of you! Thanks

  • Leolaia

    GBSJG.....That really helps a lot! Thanks for giving us the gist of the article.

    The text in Galatians 2:6 discussed by de Jonge states: "These people who are acknowledged leaders, not that their importance matters to me since God does not judge by external appearance, laid down nothing more for me," and v. 10 adds: "The only thing they insisted on was that we should remember to help the poor, as indeed I was anxious to do". This was after Paul had demonstrated his version of the gospel to the leaders (v. 2), to see if they conclude that his missionary activity had been in "vain". Since this explicitly concerned "the freedom we have in Christ Jesus" (v. 4), it is noteworthy that Paul himself construed this freedom as making "food sacrificed to idols" permissible to eat (1 Corinthians 8:1-13, 10:23-30); his only concern was that a person who eats food sacrified to idols "does not make use of this freedom in a way that proves a pitfall for the weak" (v. 9). De Jonge does not seem to make reference to 1 Corinthians, but this really helps make his point because this epistle was written sometime around AD 57, i.e. after the Jerusalem visit in c. AD 49, and yet Paul does not seem to be aware of an apostolic decree against the eating of food sacrified to idols (cf. Acts 15:28-29). And even if we give benefit of the doubt to the account in Acts being historical, this would be equally devastating to the Watchtower view: it would mean that not even Paul took these recommendations as inviolable commandments, but which may be set aside depending on the circumstances. Notice that the eating of "food sacrified to idols" in 1 Corinthians is not even in a life-or-death emergency; it is simply the eating of food by choice (8:10).

    But as de Jonge points out, the account in Acts 15 is designed to explain why some other Christians do follow a blanket prohibition of food sacrified to idols, blood, meat from strangled animals, etc. Paul's position on the matter, which has nothing to do with maintaining an article of the Law but rather an ethical concern for Christians with weaker faith, contrasts with the attitude in Didache 6:2-3 which strictly forbids food sacrified to idols and which encourages Gentiles to further "bear the yoke" if they can (cf. Acts 15:10 which discourages "putting on the necks of the [Gentile] disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear"). Similarly, Revelation 2:14-15, 20 condemns as "adultery" the permissive attitude in Gentile churches of Asia Minor on the eating of food sacrified to idols. This variety of perspectives (not to mention the different lists of forbidden items between the Western Text and the Alexandrian Text of Acts 15) is what is expected if the decision reflected in Acts 15 was not a general command for all Christians (as v. 23 implies, that it was directed only to Gentiles in Antioch and Syro-Cilicia). De Jonge also mentions Justin Martyr, Dialogue 24.8, Tertullian, Apologeticus 9.13, Pseudo-Clementine Homilies, 7.4, which strictly follow the prohibition in contrast to Paul and the Asian Christians condemned in Revelation. See also the Didache, which explicitly singles out food sacraficed to idols for prohibition, but which neglects to mention blood and meat from strangled animals.

    It is also a very good point de Jonge makes about inferring ethical rules from isolated pieces of ancient writing deriving from very different circumstances. The Society, for instance, takes a prohibition on the consumption of animal blood that resulted from the accommodation of Gentiles into a largely Jewish church, turns it into a prohibition on the transfusion of human blood, generalizes it into a binding commandment that must be followed even to the point of death (whereas the situation discussed in Acts 15 nowhere has life-or-death emergencies in view), without taking into account other texts which indicate that even commandments of the Law can be relaxed if life is at stake (cf. Mark 2:23-28, 3:1-4; compare Leviticus 19:16-18).

  • aniron
    Paul has wrote about this meeting also in Galatians only 5 years after the meeting instead of 40 years as Luke did

    Wasn't Luke a travelling companion of Paul? And was in Rome with Paul around 61-63AD. Acts is believed to have been written by time of Pauls death in 64AD.

    If Luke wrote it "40 years" after the meeting. Then that means the meeting was in 24AD nearly 10 years before even Jesus started preaching and died!

  • Narkissos


    Don't forget that Luke is only a traditional guess for the anonymous author of the Third Gospel and Acts (in view of the close literary connection of those two works). From a modern scholar, it is little more than a conventional way of writing "the unknown author" -- whose biography is, well... unknown.

    (In case you bring up the we-passages in Acts they are a common literary device of travel stories; "Luke-Acts'" style is conspicuously conventional.)

    "40 years" is actually a pretty conservative assessment. Many today, taking into account the likely dependence of Luke-Acts on Josephus, would date the book to the early 2nd century.

Share this