Are Christians allowed blood transfusions?
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The prohibition on eating blood was given to Noah and his family when they came out of the ark and animals were made part of their diet.
Genesis 9:3,4 Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.
It was a statute incorporated in the Law of Moses.
Leviticus 3:17 It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations throughout all your dwellings, that ye eat neither fat nor blood.
Leviticus 7:26 Moreover ye shall eat no manner of blood, whether it be of fowl or of beast, in any of your dwellings.
Leviticus 17:10 -14 And whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that eateth any manner of blood; I will even set my face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. Therefore I said unto the children of Israel, No soul of you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger that sojourneth among you eat blood. And whatsoever man there be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, which hunteth and catcheth any beast or fowl that may be eaten; he shall even pour out the blood thereof, and cover it with dust. For it is the life of all flesh; the blood of it is for the life thereof: therefore I said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh: for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof: whosoever eateth it shall be cut off.
The same prohibition was enjoined upon Christians because there were many in the Jewish community who would have been offended and unable to listen to the Gospel if they ate meat contaminated with undrained blood. [see Acts 15:21]. At the time, the Jews who lived in Gentile lands were a good source of converts to Christianity. It was important, therefore to not unnecessarily offend them. Gentile Christians were being asked to voluntarily limit their freedom in Christ so as not to put an obstacle in the way of a potential Jewish convert.
Acts 15:20-29 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.
Is there something intrinsically wrong with eating blood or is the prohibition designed to teach a spiritual lesson?
John 6:53-56 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.
From this we might reasonably conclude that ‘eating the blood’ is meant to represent ‘living the life’.
Thus, the prohibition against eating the blood of animals teaches the lesson that we must not live according to the flesh.
Romans 8:13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
That lesson has been fully taught in the poured out blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are no longer under such restrictions. See 1 Corinthians 10:25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience.
The meat market in a Gentile city did not follow kosher practices. The meat would have been very bloody indeed.
See Colossians 2:20,21 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as thoughliving in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations––"Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,"
So, the figurative drinking the blood of Christ teaches the lesson of living after the spirit. Therefore we should drink the blood of Christ, symbolically in wine, in recognition of this principle; to remind us of the kind of life we should be living.
This is confirmed by Jesus.
John 4:32,34 But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of.... 34 Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.
It seems to me reasonable to suppose that eating animal blood was forbidden because the kind of life which it represents will end in death; and the symbolic drinking of the blood of Christ is commanded because the kind of life which it represents will give life. All such figurative prohibitions have been done away in Christ who has taught these lessons perfectly in his life, death, and in his resurrection to eternal life.
We are now faced with the question ‘is the receiving of a blood transfusion the same in God’s sight as the eating of blood under the Old Testament prohibition?
There is no scripture we can use for a direct answer so we need to consider the principle. For this we have to go to the long-running battle between Christ and the Jews over the Sabbath laws. Because work was forbidden on the Sabbath they had extrapolated the concept of work to the point of foolishness. The day which was meant to be a blessing for the welfare of all, both rich and poor, master and slave, had been turned into a nightmare of legalistic nonsense. Mark 2:27 And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: It was meant to enhance men’s lives not to destroy life.
Luke 6:9 Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it?
We might ask - is it ever right to use the Law in a way which is detrimental to a person’s wellbeing and may bring about their death?
Even in the Law of Moses, the alleviation of human suffering should have taken precedence. Luke 13:14 And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day. What a nonsense this is – you can’t see a doctor today because it’s the Sabbath – you’ll have to suffer on until tomorrow.
Luke 14:3 And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?
They allowed that the need of an animal to drink took precedence.Luke 13:15 The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering?
Or getting one out of a pit (hard work) took precedence.Luke 14:5 And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?
They were wrong to class the carrying of a bed home as work.
John 5:10 The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed.
Circumcision was a work that could not be neglected on the Sabbath if it was the child’s eighth day (Circumcision was symbolic of cutting off the old life and putting on the new). John 7:23 If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day?
The urgent need of David and his men for food took precedence over the law that the showbread was for the priests to eat.
Matthew 12:3 But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; 4 How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?
The priests themselves had to work on the Sabbath because the law of the evening and morning sacrifice (which required double the daily quantity) took precedence. 5 Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless?
The whole purpose of Christ was the saving of men’s lives.Luke 9:56 For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.
The extension of the prohibition on eating blood to include blood transfusions follows a similar flawed logic to the Jews in their misguided interpolation of the Sabbath laws. In principle, the laws of God are intended to prolong men’s lives not destroy them.
It cannot be proved that eating blood was ever intended to cover blood transfusions. Indeed, scientifically, a transfusion is not “eating” blood at all because it does not come into contact with the digestive process. If it did, the value of the transfusion would be negated. So, even if you believe that we ought not to eat blood, transfusions do not fall into this category at all.
Even if it could somehow be classified as “eating blood”, the saving of life, which is normally the purpose of a blood transfusion, would take precedence over the law which in itself is intended to teach how life can be saved. The saving of life by a blood transfusion speaks eloquently of the saving of life by living the newness of life in Jesus Christ.
There is no sense in equating the eating of blood with blood transfusions.
I hope you have found this helpful.
Mike and Glenn