„The conclusion of the Jehovah's Witnesses that the Apostle Council also forbids medical blood transfer, borders on the absurdity.“
To one who has not yet dealt with the question, it may seem almost ridiculous. But in Acts Chapter 15, 19-21 and 29, as well as in Chapter 21, 25 is written that the apostles, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, have imposed on the Christians who came from the Gentile nations to abstain from idols, from blood, from strangled animals and fornication. How is the decision of the Apostolic Council to understand?
The Orthodox churches of the East have adopted the text of most New Testament Greek manuscripts, to which later also Luther joined: "That you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication."
For the Church of the West until the Reformation and for the Roman Catholic Church until today, the Vulgata is the the binding text of the Bible, which was translated from Greek to Latin approx. 380 - 400 AD. by Hieronymus. He took the few Greek manuscripts as basis, which lack the "suffocated“ and therefore corresponding to that it is also lacking in the dogmatized Latin Vulgate.(Note: The Roman Catholic translation of the Bible into the respective local languages have to orient themselves at the Vulgata, although the Roman-Catholic so-called German ecomenical translation "Einheitsübersetzung" in Acts 15, 29 has also the "suffocated".)
The followers of the Greek minority texts and of the Vulgata argue that "suffocated" in the majority of Greek handwritings is only a later commenting and misleading addition.
Thus it is only necessary to clarify what is meant by "abstaining from blood". It was and is interpreted that it meant not to shed human blood. Others interpret that it means not to enter into a marriage with close blood relatives ("incest"), analogue to the Old Testament marriage prohibitions (Deuteronomy 18), to which is also referred to later by Paul (1 Cor. 5, 1-5). If appropriate, the exhortations to abstain from blood and fornication would be in the close mutual commentarial context.
If, however, one proceeds from the majority of the Greek manuscripts, which speak of the "containment of blood and suffocated," then those both are closely connected. Then the apostolic council presumably oriented itself to Leviticus 17:11-15. James expressly refers to Moses (Acts 15, 19-21). After that, it was not only forbidden to Israel to eat blood and meat of suffocated animals but also to the strangers who lived in the midst of the people of Israel.
According to the Old Testament, blood is the bearer of life, nay, life itself, and to dispose of it is the sole concern of God (Genesis 9: 4; Leviticus 17:11). And the Son of God does this when he gives us his blood to drink in the Lord's Supper. There he gives us his life and gifts us new eternal life (Jn 6, 53ff.).
If one thus proceeds from the basis of the text, "abstain from blood and suffocated food," this is to be understood as a prohibition to enjoy fresh blood and flesh with fresh blood in it. (Note: The use of fresh blood can lead to a "bloodlust", comparable to the intoxication of drugs.)
The term "suffocated food" refers to meat of animals which have not been slaughtered with the knife and have not been bled, but have perished otherwise with its blood in the body (Catch with the snare or carcase, cf Genesis 17, 3.17. In certain pagan religions the sacrificed animals were not slaughtered, but strangled.)
An animal slaughtered with the knife, whose meat naturally loses almost all blood, is thus not a "suffocated food"! Even with a stabbing of the heart or today's usual slaughter with a bolt shot device, the killed animal still exsanguinated.
The legal provision of the Jewish Talmud (written from the 2nd to the 8th century AD), according to which the prohibition of eating no suffocated food is only followed when the animal is "slaughtered properly kosher" (throat section and the still living animal bleeds to death), is a typical exaggeration of the Pharisaic-rabbinical theology, which had already begun in the time of Jesus (cf Mt 23:23).
However, in this view the processing of the blood discharged after the slaughter to sausage remains problematic. The old church and the Roman Catholic church have banned this until the 12th century, the Eastern Orthodox churches to this day.
Meaning of the apostolic council for the first greek gentile christian communities namely for that of Antioch
After this inventory, the question of what the decision of the apostolic council at that time meant for the first gentile-christian communities, namely that of Antioch, is to be asked. The apostolic council did not follow the temptation of Judaist circles that the Gentile Christians must submit themselves entirely to the Jewish law, to be circumcised, and to comply with Jewish purity and dietary laws. With Christ this is all fulfilled and has an end (Rom 10: 4, Galatians 5, 1).
The Jewish Christians, however, had probably still aquired the behaviour to feel revulsion, repugnance, and disgust at eating of blood. Presumably, they did not wan to touch the disposal of God over any blood as the bearer of life.
Therefore the Gentile Christians will in regard and love (to the Jewish), to give no cause for an offence of conscience and annoyance, and for the sake of fellowship, forgo drinking and eating blood and bloody flesh. There should be a full, undisturbed table-fellowship between Jewish and Gentile Christians. Not the food, but reprehensible behaviors lead to the failure of the table-fellowship (1 Cor. 5, 11).
The Apostle Paul goes one step further personally and writes: "But make sure that this liberty of yours in no way becomes a stumbling block to the weak.g Therefore, if food causes my brother to sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I may not cause my brother to sin."(1 Cor. 8: 9.13 NABRE). (http://www.usccb.org/bible/1cor/8:1 The NABRE has a good comment for this passage.)
The decision of the apostolic council was, therefore, an outflow of consideration and the law of love. It was also properly understood. It is said, when the church of Antioch received the letter with the decision of the Apostles, they were glad about the encouragement (Acts 15, 30.31). (Emphasis mine)
The behavioral directives may therefore not have been regarded as a burden, especially with regard to the demands of the Judaists that the Gentile Christians should submit themselves to the whole Jewish law with circumcision, and to all provisions of food and purity.
Only a small renunciation was required by the Gentile Christians, while the Jewish Christians had to overcome a far higher hurdle with the tolerance of meat-eating of unclean animals, for example, of pork (compare Acts 10, 10 ff.) Emphasis mine)
As mentioned the demand was to forgo the eating of blood and of suffocated meat of animals, an outlet of the love-offer for the sake of fellowship, and not an old or a renewed dietary law. Jesus clearly said that what does defile man is not what comes in the mouth, but what comes out (Matthew 15:11). And the Apostle Paul constantly struggled for liberty in Christ and against all Judaistic-legal demands, especially with the letters to the Romans and the Galatians.
On the subject, he writes, (Col. 2:16)- " Let no one, then, pass judgment on you in matters of food and drink" (1 Cor. 8: 8). "Now food will not bring us closer to God.“
It also speaks for itself that the prohibition to eat blood and bloody flesh is mentioned in the whole New Testament only once. One of the first catechism-like ordinances, the Diadache, written in the middle to the end of the first century, mentions the prohibition of idolatry, but no longer addresses the question of the consumption of blood and suffocated. The directive of the apostolic council was due to the unique historical situation.
This raises the question whether the directive of the Apostolic Council is still binding for us today. We are no longer in the situation of the tensions and emotions between newly-converted Gentile Christians and newly-converted Jewish Christians, just as the question of the idolatry does not concern us directly.
The conception that the prohibition of the consumption of blood and suffocated animals was valid only in terms of time and situation, are shared by the various confessional churches (the Eastern Orthodox Churches, limited). The conclusion of the Jehovah's Witnesses that the Apostle Council also forbids medical blood transfer, borders on the absurd.
The Confessions of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in the Augsburg Confession (CA) and their Apology address very much to the question of biblical and new Roman-church-lawful ceremonial and dietary laws. In Art. 28 CA is stated that (straightened): "The apostles have commanded that one should abstain from the blood and from the suffocated meat. But who's holding it now? But still they who do not keep it do not sin; For the apostles did not want to complain the consciences with such servitude, but have forbidden it for a time for the sake of annoyance. It is necessary to exercise caution with regard to this statute, and to observe the principal part of the Christian doctrine, which is not abolished by this apostolic decree. "
See also the subject: Has God forbidden certain foods?