Ancient Blood Transplantation, and Noah
As underpinning for its blood doctrine, in 1950 the Watchtower organization asserted the following:
“If transfusion of human blood in the modern way was not practiced back there in Noah’s day or in Moses’ day, there was no need for God to expressly state a law against it; just the same as he included no law against smoking tobacco in his commandments to his typical people.”
With those words Watchtower suggests a reason why God did not express a prohibition to Noah against medicinal transplantation of blood. But it turns out the reason given is fatally flawed.
Watchtower admits ancient humans used animal substances for medical purposes by pointing to extracts and germicidal agents produced by animal organs.[2, 3] Watchtower teaches that using animals was ordained by God, including killing them to use their body parts for personal practical needs. This is consistent with secular historical record. Historically animal substances presented a resource for healing, which in many cases has led to contemporary medicines.
Frequently Watchtower has pointed to secular historical records of humans eating blood as a supposed medicinal cure.  But Watchtower has only rarely pointed to secular historical records of humans using blood as a topical remedy, and these instances are usually connected with grossly immoral acts such as murder. Aside from eating blood or murdering to get blood, Watchtower fails to give any serious attention to the extensive use of blood as a medicinal agent by ancient peoples.
Ancient healers frequently applied blood topically as a cure or to relieve suffering. Wounds, shingles, blisters, ulcerated flesh, dog bites, snake bites, gout, sunburn and many other conditions were all treated by topical applications of blood. Though ancient peoples frequently incorporated medicinal use of blood into religious ritual, many of these medicinal uses had a legitimate value to relieve pain or facilitate healing, which is why the uses were widespread and not peculiar to specific religious faiths or geography. Though medicinal application of blood was sometimes rendered with religious ceremony, this was not always the case. Medicinal uses of blood served a practical value, and as such ancient biblical characters such as Noah would have used blood for this purpose so long as it did not violate the mandate to abstain from eating blood [of slaughtered animals].
Watchtower has many medical doctors working as volunteers at its world headquarters. Trained medical doctors are well aware that allogeneic blood applied topically to an open wound or sore introduces that blood to the patient’s own tissues and circulatory system. This is tissue transplantation. The extent of transplantation depends on the extent of tissue exposure. Watchtower’s internal medical staff is well aware that ancient healers transplanted blood as a medicinal remedy, and that some of these remedies had a legitimate and practical therapeutic effect.
Because medicinal uses of blood were widespread and, in ancient terms, efficacious then had God expected Noah to abstain from such use of blood there was a present need for Him to express this. But the biblical record contains no such instruction to Noah to abstain from then known uses of blood as a medicine, with the sole exception of eating blood [of slaughtered animals].
Watchtower’s assertion is false. Noah was taught by God that using animals to service practical human needs was entirely appropriate. Topical application of blood in ways that amounted to what, in contemporary terms, we know as tissue transplantation was a practical and prevalent use of blood by ancient peoples, including Noah. Just like everyone else of his period and after, Noah had medicinal needs and he would have met those needs with means and methods available to him that did not conflict with God’s instruction that he abstain from eating blood [of slaughtered animals].
1. The Watchtower, May 15, 1950 p. 158-9
2. Awake, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, June 22, 1976, p. 14
3. Awake, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, December 22, 1970, p. 24
4. Awake, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, July 8, 1972, pp. 7-8
5. MacKinney, Animal Substances in Materia Medica, Journal of the History of Medicine & Allied Sciences: January 1946, pp. 149-170
6. The Watchtower, April 15, 1985, p. 12
7. How Can Blood Save Your Life, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1990, pp. 6-7
8. Natural History, Books XXVIII-XXX, Remedies derived from living creatures, Pliny, Translated by Bostock and Riley, London, 1856, p. 275-470
9. “And Jehovah God proceeded to make long garments of skin for Adam and for his wife and to clothe them.”—Genesis 3:21 NWT