Questions From Readers

4103194684_79526af9e8_mWhat follows is an analysis of an article published by the Watchtower Society (WTS) in the April 15, 1983 “Questions From Readers” section. This article attempts to deal with the problem created by Leviticus 17:15 as it relates to the WTS policy on blood. The article is in blue and our comments are in black.

Might the Bible’s prohibition about blood apply only to blood from a victim killed by man, not to unbled meat of an animal that died of itself or blood from a live animal or human?

Our comment: This is clearly a question involving the proper understanding and application of Leviticus 17:15. You will note that the society never quotes the verse in question. Why? Here it is:

(Leviticus 17:15) As for any soul that eats a body [already] dead or something torn by a wild beast, whether a native or an alien resident, he must in that case wash his garments and bathe in water and be unclean until the evening; and he must be clean.


Some persons have reasoned that way, pointing to a few Bible verses for seeming support. They have thus held that it would not be wrong to accept a transfusion of blood from a living donor. Such reasoning might sound valid, but close examination of the verses used and of other relevant texts indicates that God expects his people to avoid taking in blood and sustaining their life with blood, whether from a living or a dead creature.


Our comment: The outcome of the scriptural investigation has been presupposed. Just bear in mind that no where in the Hebrew scriptures do we find a prohibition against sustaining life with blood, only against eating blood from a creature that man has killed.


The Israelites were told: You must not eat any body already dead. To the alien resident who is inside your gates you may give it, and he must eat it; or there may be a selling of it to a foreigner, because you are a holy people to Jehovah your God. (Deuteronomy 14:21) Though it was unbled, they could sell the carcass to an alien resident.


Our comment: Instead of dealing with the verse in question (Lev. 17:15) they immediately change the focus to a related but different subject – the selling of a dead animal. This surely muddies the water, and shows they have no real interest in the context, but let’s see where it leads. They seemed determined to link these verses together. Why? And won’t this end up backfiring because of their teaching on the Eternal covenant of Genesis 9? As you examine Deut. 14:21 note too that the reason they are not to eat a dead body is not because the meat is unbled, it is because they are a “holy people.” The issue is clearly ceremonial cleanness.


In seeming conflict, Leviticus 17:10 says: As for any man of the house of Israel or some alien resident who is residing as an alien in their midst who eats any sort of blood, I shall certainly set my face against the soul that is eating the blood, and I shall indeed cut him off from among his people. Why the difference between these verses?


Our comment: For anyone who actually studies theses passages, this is not a difficult question. The first account has to do with eating an animal that dies of its own accord, or is torn by a wild beast. A gentile who is not under any obligation to maintain ceremonial cleanliness can eat such an animal. Lev. 17:10 is talking about the slaughter of a domestic animal that is being used in a sacrifice, and God commanded that the blood be sprinkled on the alter. See Lev. 17:6. Let’s see what the WTS does with these verses.


In presenting their view, some have asserted that Deuteronomy 14:21 permitted the alien to eat unbled meat if it was from an animal that was not killed by man, for then man did not have to give its blood (representing life) back to God. Leviticus 17:15 might seem to support this view; it says that the native or alien who ate a body already dead or something torn by a wild beast was simply to wash . . . and be unclean until the evening. So it could appear that no substantial guilt came from eating blood if the victim was not killed by man. Thus some claim that it would not be wrong to take blood from a living creature, using it for food or for transfusions.

However, is the basic difference between Deuteronomy 14:21 and Leviticus 17:10, 15 a matter of how the animal died? The Scriptural answer must be, No.


Our comment: Now we see further linkage. Three verses are now tied together, and as we will see, an attempt will be made to show that any reasonable explanation that respects the scripture and the context will be discarded so the WTS doctrine appears substantiated.


The Israelites knew that they absolutely could not eat unbled meat from an animal that died of itself or was killed by a wild beast. While still at Mount Sinai they had been told to dispose of such carcasses. (Exodus 22:31)


Our comment: Here another verse in thrown into the mix. Note the WTS does not quote it. Why?

Let’s quote it for them:

(Exodus 22:31) “And YOU should prove yourselves holy men to me; and YOU must not eat flesh in the field that is something torn by a wild beast. YOU should throw it to the dogs.

You will note that this verse clearly has to do with ceremonial cleanness. There is no penalty attached to eating “something torn by a beast.” It is simply good advice, and a requirement for maintaining ceremonial cleanliness. You will also note that the eating of an animal that has died of itself is not forbidden unless it has been torn by an animal. What if a domestic animal simply died of old age, and an Israelite found it dead the next morning in its pen.

Is there anything in this verse that would forbid his consuming it, or selling it to a foreigner? The answer is no, and this would, of course, be unbled meat which contained all of the animals blood.


Deuteronomy 14:21 is in harmony, directing Israelites in the Promised Land to get rid of such unbled carcasses but allowing them to sell such to aliens.


Comment: While it is true that such a carcass is unbled, Deut. 14:21 makes no mention to this aspect of it as being objectionable. Additionally, if the WTS view that the prohibition against eating blood that was given to Noah is eternal and binding upon all mankind, they have a serious problem. How could the law give permission to a foreigner to violate God’s eternal covenant with all of mankind? It could not; obviously their entire doctrine is falling hopelessly apart at this point. So much for the eternal covenant, this verse at the very least shows that it does not apply to foreigners which is just the opposite of the WTS position that it is binding on all mankind.


Now let us carefully examine Leviticus 17:10. It says that no man of the house of Israel or some alien resident should eat blood. Was that because the animal had been killed by a human and so the blood had to be returned to God? To claim such is to read into the verse more than it says.


Our comment: Perhaps. But the simple truth is that the only time in the scriptures we find these commands regarding the pouring out of blood is when a human has taken a life.


Further, if guilt resulted only if blood was from a creature killed by man, then Deuteronomy 14:21 and Exodus 22:31 would not have forbidden Israelites to eat unbled flesh from animals that were not killed by men. Yet the Israelites clearly knew they could not eat such meat. Ezekiel stated: My soul is not a defiled one; neither a body already dead nor a torn animal have I eaten from my youth up. Ezekiel 4:14; compare 44:31.


Comment: These scriptures forbid the eating of dead animals because to do so would cause ceremonial uncleanness. Blood was not the issue as any simple examination of the scripture in context reveals. By the way, Ezekiel was a priest. Should we really be surprised that he could make such a comment. And since we’re asked to compare these verses, take a look at what Ezekiel 44:31 says:

(Ezekiel 44:31) No body [already] dead and no creature torn to pieces of the flying creatures or of the beasts should the priests eat.’

That the priests conformed to a higher standard is reasonable. Because most of them received an ample supply of meat from the communion sacrifices which were made at the temple, surely such a comment is not extraordinary. Who would opt for a wild animal that died of itself when there is a steady stream of good meat from healthy domestic animals.


Why, then, does Deuteronomy 14:21 say that the alien resident could be sold unbled meat, but Leviticus 17:10 forbids the alien resident to eat blood? Both God’s people and Bible commentators have recognized that the distinction must have been the religious standing of the alien involved. Aid to Bible Understanding (page 51) points out that sometimes the term alien resident meant a person among the Israelites who was not a full proselyte. It appears that this sort of person is meant at Deuteronomy 14:21, a man who was not trying to keep all of God’s laws and who might have his own uses for a carcass considered unclean by Israelites and proselytes. Jewish scholars, too, have offered this explanation.


Our comment: We disagree. The more logical answer is that an alien resident did not need to maintain ceremonial cleanness, and the Jews understood that the requirement about pouring out blood related to the intentional taking of a life.


So, no worshiper of God could eat blood, whether from (or in the flesh of) an animal that had died of itself or from one that was killed by man. (Comment: Note how the explanation comes before the question?) Then why does Leviticus 17:15 say that eating unbled flesh from such an animal that died of itself or was killed by a beast merely produced uncleanness?


Our comment: While this statement is essentially true, again we must emphasize that such an explanation fails to take into account the WTS interpretation of Genesis nine, and is thus exposed as inconsistent with the doctrine of the eternal covenant which the WTS has explained applies not only to worshipers of Jehovah, but all of mankind. The explanation also ignores Leviticus 17:15, which by the way the WTS still hasn’t even quoted for its readers to look at.


We can find a clue at Leviticus 5:2, which says: When a soul touches some unclean thing, whether the dead body of an unclean wild beast . . ., although it has been hidden from him, still he is unclean and has become guilty. Yes, God acknowledged that an Israelite might err inadvertently. Hence, Leviticus 17:15 can be understood as providing for such an error. For example, if an Israelite ate meat served him and then learned that it was unbled, he was guilty of sin. But because it was inadvertent he could take steps to become clean. This, however, is noteworthy: If he would not take those steps, he must then answer for his error. Leviticus 17:16.


Our comment: While it is true that Leviticus chapter five deals with ways in which a person might unknowingly become clean, we must seriously ask who is it that is attempting to “read into the verse more than it says?” That Leviticus 17:15 can be understood as the society suggests is requires tortured logic, and there is a better explanation that does not require taking the verse out of context, and using multiple passages from the Bible to support.

Remember, the WTS writers still havn’t even quoted this verse that they apparently don’t want Jehovah’s Witnesses to see and think about. Look at it again:

(Leviticus 17:15) As for any soul that eats a body [already] dead or something torn by a wild beast, whether a native or an alien resident, he must in that case wash his garments and bathe in water and be unclean until the evening; and he must be clean.

Now reasonably speaking, is it logical to think someone would unknowingly eat meat that was from a dead animal, only later to find out this information? Further, consider Paul’s comment to the Corinthians:

Everything that is sold in a meat market keep eating, making no inquiry on account of YOUR conscience; 26 for to Jehovah belong the earth and that which fills it. 27 If anyone of the unbelievers invites YOU and YOU wish to go, proceed to eat everything that is set before YOU, making no inquiry on account of YOUR conscience.” (1 Corinthians 10:25-27)

What is the likelihood that non-Christian Gentiles living in Corinth would carefully follow Jewish customs regarding the proper bleeding of meat? Would unbled meat find its way into the market? The answer seems pretty obvious.

Also, the context argues against the WTS explanation. If you examine Lev. 17:13,14 you will note that hunting was being discussed. It is only reasonable that the following verse is in some way related. An Israelite hunter would logically come across a dead body while hunting from time to time, and this verse provided some guidance as to what could be done. Also, a lost or stranded Israelite might locate such a carcass and choose to eat it because he was hungry. These explanations are logical and do not require tortuous reasoning.


Thus eating unbled flesh was not a trivial matter; it could even result in death. No true worshiper (Israelite or full proselyte alien) could voluntarily eat unbled flesh, no matter if it was from an animal that died of itself, was killed by another animal or was killed by a human. (Numbers 15:30)


Our comment: This is pure speculation. If we add up all of the people executed in the Bible because they failed to bathe and wash their clothes over this issue we have a grand total of zero. And yes, Lev. 17:15 makes it perfectly clear that a native or a stranger could eat unbled meat. He would become ceremonially unclean, and have to observe a very simple ritual – bathing and washing his clothes.

The rest of this article has nothing to do with Lev. 17:15, and is simply the WTS attempt to ignore a verse in the Bible that does not support their blood doctrine by diverting attention to other verses. The conclusion seems to be that the WTS has known for many decades they have a problem with the Biblical footing for their policy. Furthermore, the fact that they covered this in a Questions From Readers article also suggests that individual Jehovah’s Witnesses have struggled to accept the policy because of this scripture and enough have inquired that they wanted to give congregation elders published material that could be used locally to squash these inquiries so they would not have to be bothered with replying directly.


Comments

Questions From Readers — 2 Comments

  1. Lev. 7:26 says: “You must not eat any blood in any places where you dwell.” It would be highly unlikely that an Israelite would have unbled meat ‘in his dwelling’. If he was in his dwelling there should be plenty of food incl. bled meat available to eat. As noted Lev. 17:13 discusses the situation where someone is hunting, perhaps days away from his home. If he has been unsuccessful in killing an animal he might be in danger of starvation. In that case if he came across an animal already dead he was allowed to eat it. Jehovah did not require an Israelite to starve to death just because he was unsuccessful as a hunter.

  2. The Law always speaks of dead animals. In transfusion no life is spent or has to return to Jehovah, the donor remains alive with his own blood. Does this not put transfusion outside the mosaic law automatically as the Law only applies to the pouring of dead animal blood?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *