"abstain from blood"

by TD 6 Replies latest jw friends

  • TD

    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.

  • Outaservice

    Some good thoughts! Can you e-mail me TD.


  • Dutchie

    Thanks, TD. Definitely a logical line of reasoning concerning the blood issue. A lot to think about.

  • dungbeetle

    Not to mention which, here, from


    the word ~d (dawm) translated blood could also mean:

    blood 342
    bloody 15
    person + () 05315
    bloodguiltiness 1
    bloodthirsty + (0582) 1
    vr blood 1
    Total 361

    aima (of uncertain derivation)

    of man or animals
    refers to the seat of life

    2)of those things that resemble blood, grape juice
    blood shed, to be shed by violence, slay, murder

    so the words blood and bloodguilty are the same word in both languages; it is up to the context to determine what the writer meant.

    The sad fact is, if the proper context denotes 'bloodguilt' then, rather to REFUSE a blood transfusion, a Christian is honor-bound to GIVE blood or otherwise risk a state of bloodguilt. <sigh> Most of Christianity has figured this out...

  • Francois

    Very good TD. Many of the JWs more fanciful beliefs do not survive the type of deconstruction in which you've engaged here.

    As for God and blood, that's a very complex topic in itself. Here's just the surface being scratched:

    Jesus left only two laws. Neither one mentions blood.

    The book of Galatians warned of people who sought to reimpose any or all of the Mosiac law, of which reverence for blood was a part.

    The ancient concept of God, Jehovah, was a blood-thirsty god created in the image of the savages who adored him. Blood was a big deal for the savage mind.

    The Isrealites, like all their neighbors, undoubtedly engaged in human sacrifice.

    Moses substituted a complex ceremonial sacrifice of animals in place of human sacrifice. And to make it seem more "sacred," he made blood something sacred to Jehovah, and fat, too, if I remember correctly.

    Thus the entire blood issue is all wrapped up in the primitive, savage minds of the people in whose unsophisticated imagination the concept of Jehovah was incubated and introduced into the world.

    I frankly don't believe that the actual existential God, creator of the Universe of Universes, gives a fart in a hurricane about blood, and doesn't give an actual rat's ass if I drink a quart of it for lunch with my Rueben sandwich.



  • JT

    very nice --breakdown

    very nice


  • Sam Beli
    Sam Beli

    Well defined, Tom.


    Sam Beli

    I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind. What is crooked cannot be straightened and what is lacking cannot be counted. Solomon

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