As most everyone here knows, when it comes to the propriety (or lack thereof) of blood in medicine, one of the most familiar and timeworn expressions in the JW vernacular is “Abstain from blood.” JW’s, both here (the most recent of which being Mavman/YoYo) and elsewhere routinely invoke this phrase as an independent construction apparently with little understanding of what they are doing wrong
“Abstain” and its synonyms (e.g. refrain, forebear) all negate action. The fundamental meaning is to “...keep or prevent oneself from saying or doing something.” They are acts in and of themselves only in the sense that they could be said to be acts of inaction.
Exactly what the inaction is can be conveyed to the audience in several ways. The most obvious, of course, would be the explicit stated thereof:
“Abstain from drinking alcoholic beverages.”
This is probably the most precise usage of this construction as it leaves little room for doubt as to what shouldn’t be done with the object in question
The negated action can also be implicit inasmuch as we automatically associate some acts with some objects:
“Abstain from liquor”
This is not quite as precise a phrase, but since all of us know what liquor is and what one normally does with it, the act of drinking, while not specifically stated, is still understood.
The negated action can also be supplied by the surrounding context:
“Her obstetrician said, “Pregnant women should abstain from alcohol.””
This usage is even less precise and consequently more dependent upon the knowledge and perceptions of the intended audience. Note for example, how the meaning of the phrase “abstain from alcohol” changes entirely with a different context:
“His dermatologist said, “Persons with sensitive skin should abstain from alcohol.””
Even though the phrase “abstain from alcohol” appears in both instances, it clearly does not negate the same action in both. While we would understand the former to be a reference to drinking beverages containing it, we would understand the latter to be a reference to the topical application of alcohol. In these two examples, the man’s abstinence is therefore completely unconnected with and to the woman’s.
The point to all of this is that without some means of defining the negated act or acts, an “abstain from…” construction is meaningless because, casual conversation not withstanding, technically we “abstain” from acts done in connection with objects, and not objects themselves. This may sound counterintuitive, but anyone who doubts this simple fact need only attempt to express the thought as a finite negative without inserting additional verbs or verb phrases.
For example, expressed as a “Do not”, what does it mean to “abstain from alcohol?”
Do not -----what?
As you can see, the thought cannot be finitely expressed without defining an action or range of action. In the absence of a prior context, the phrase “abstain from alcohol” could mean one thing to an obstetrician, another thing to a dermatologist and something else again to an aviation mechanic teaching an apprentice to flush a hydraulic system.
The situation is the same with JW’s and blood. Quoting the phrase “abstain from blood” as an independent construction conveys the idea of a simple and direct command, but only at the expense of requiring the reader to definitely tie the intransitive “abstain” to the object, blood. This is the sort of semantic legerdemain that WTB&TS/CCJW writers are so fond of.
Unlike JW's, the Bible writer does not invoke the phrase without first establishing a context. The context of the discussion was whether Gentile converts to Christianity should be circumcised and follow the Law. Therefore the eating of blood as forbidden in the Law is unquestionably the Biblical context of this reference.
Now if any JW here wants to demonstrate that the consumption of blood is in some way physically or morally equivalent to the transfusion of blood; ---Fine--- Let’s hear it.