What does the Bible say
about donating blood?

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QUESTION: What does the Bible say about donating blood or having a transfusion? Are they a sin? I know of one large religious denomination who uses just one scripture to justify condemning them.

ANSWER: Let us take a look at the single verse you mention that is used to justify not donating blood and even not having a transfusion when needed. It is found in Acts 15, where the apostle James is addressing a large group of church brethren (known as the Jerusalem Conference) gathered to discuss and debate whether circumcision was necessary for salvation.

19. Therefore, my judgment is that we do not trouble those of the Gentiles who have turned to God; 20. But that we write to them to abstain from pollutions of idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled and from blood (Acts 15:19 - 20, HBFV throughout)

Basing church doctrine on a single scripture (a version of proof-texting) is not a wise thing to do, especially when the teaching can have a serious impact on the lives of those who follow it. Note that these verses are not discussing the donating of a bodily fluid or receiving it from another person. These verses are referring to a sometimes common practice among Gentiles (non-Jews) of EATING or DRINKING blood. It was a practice that God forbid the Israelites, who had just left pagan Egypt, from doing.

17. It shall be a statute forever for your generations throughout all your dwellings that you eat neither fat nor blood (Leviticus 3:17).

Notice that out of four items referenced in Acts 15:20 that three concern EATING - "pollutions of idols" (meats sacrificed to idols, see 1Corinthians 10:18 - 28), things "strangled" and "blood." God's word says to abstain from eating any of them. Even to this day some people and whole cultures injest various forms of the fluid, be it fried up, drunk, or left in the meat of an animal for "flavor." The judgment rendered in Jerusalem concerns what parts of ANIMALS humans should not eat and pass through the digestive system. It does not concern receiving blood from another human being through veins or arteries.

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Transfusion is a matter which the Bible does not specifically mention. In those days, the medical technology was not available to perform such procedures. This medical practice is not any more of a sin than having an operation, a root canal performed on one of your teeth, and so on. When they were first performed, directly from person to person, they saved many lives on the battlefield.

Donating blood is also a relatively new advance of medicine that was unknown to the ancients. Although God's word is silent on this exact topic, here is a principle to consider if your are thinking about giving a donation. Hearing that Jesus had refuted the arguments of the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together to have their try at tripping him up. One Pharisee, an expert in the law, tested him with a question regarding which is God's greatest commandment. Jesus responded by stating the greatest commandments were to love God with all your heart and soul (your very being) and to love others like you love yourself. These principles were the foundation on which all that was taught by the law and the prophets rested.

36. "Master, which commandment is the great commandment in the Law?" 37. And Jesus said to him, " 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38. This is the first and greatest commandment; 39. And the second one is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' 40. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets" (see Matthew 22:36 - 40, HBFV)

If your neighbor's life could be saved by a donation of your blood, or a transfusion of such fluid, does that not abide within what Jesus called the second greatest commandment? This certainly seems to be the case.

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