Blood in the Bible: What does the Bible say about blood?
The Bible does reference blood many times in both the Old Testament and New Testament. So what does the Bible have to say about blood? Are Christians to abstain from blood?
What Does the Bible Say About Drinking or Handling Blood?
The Bible tells us to avoid eating blood, that the life of a creature is in the blood, that the blood of Jesus Christ atoned for our sins, and more. Here are a few verses about blood:
For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. Leviticus 17:11 (New International Version)
“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.” (Acts 15: 19-21)
When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! Hebrews 9:11-14 (New International Version)
This clearly shows us that eating or drinking of raw blood is against God’s command. God warns us to be very cautious in dealing with blood, and to be careful preparing meals to avoid consumption of blood. An interesting thing I would like to point out in the verse above (Acts) is that it says not to eat STRANGLED blood. The Israelites and Jews had a very particular way they prepared animals. They would often behead them or slit their throats when they killed them for food, and they would sometimes even hang them upside down. Why? To let as much blood drain from their bodies as possible so they minimized the amount of blood consumed when they ate the meat. By killing them this way, the heart would continue to pump the blood, and it would leak out of the wound until most of it was gone. They still sometimes do this today.
Obviously, raw blood can cause serious illnesses, as it is something all bacteria/viruses can be transmitted through. After all, some scientists have hypothesized that the HIV virus originated from people drinking monkey’s blood. By letting the majority of the blood drain (in the example above), they were avoiding eating it as much as possible as God commanded. Even in doing this, there are still microscopic traces of blood within the veins of meat. So it is impossible to not eat ANY blood whatsoever. But it is possible to avoid raw blood, and to minimize the amount of blood you eat (fully cooked, of course).
So when we eat a piece of chicken, steak, etc. today, there are very good chances that there is a very tiny amount of blood within the veins inside the middle of the meat. I see this sometimes when I cook. Again, this very small amount is unavoidable, and as long as it is cooked it should be fine. Even God says we can eat meat, and it is physically impossible to remove every small trace from every vein even if we prepare animals in the way the Jews did.
Why Does God Tell Us to Avoid Eating/Shedding Blood In the Bible?
We have to remember the context of these rules that God gave. Here are 3 possible reasons why God would not want us consuming blood:
1. Diseases-blood carries many diseases. God is trying to give dietary laws to protect His people.
As I mentioned in the example with the HIV virus, blood is known to transmit almost any major virus/bacteria in the world. My wife is a nurse, and she has to take special precautions and always wear gloves when dealing with patients for this exact reason. So God obviously wanted them to control diseases.
This is why I would not advise anyone to try to be “blood brothers” with their friends, share razors, or anything like that. People can catch diseases sharing razors and things.
2. False Idol worship- God didn’t want them consuming blood to worship a false idol like many did back then, and even still do today.
In the books of Moses, the Israelites were surrounded by nations who were less than “perfect.” These people did all sorts of barbaric things, such as killing their own babies to offer up a sacrifice to a false god named baal. Not only that, many would perform animal sacrifices and drink the raw blood. This sound gross to us today, but believe it or not, there are still cultures in Africa and other parts of the world that do this very thing.
My wife and I recently watched a documentary show on television, and it showed them drinking raw blood. They would take a spear, and poke it into the cows neck. They then got a jar and let the blood drip into it. They would then drink it in a celebration while they danced around a fire to worship their “gods.”
So when we see God giving all of these commands of eating/drinking blood, and we consider what times were like back then, it makes perfect sense. Even with Paul and the apostles’ writings, we see that this was still practiced in the New Testament by some pagan religions. Again, this isn’t too surprising considering that we are now in the 21st century and this is still happening!
3. Blood is considered our life source. Without blood, we can’t live. If we let out our blood, we may die (which is what happens today if we get injured badly).
If people cut themselves to self-mutilate, they risk dying because the blood pumping through their veins sustains their life. That is why we die so quickly during a heart attack. We cannot have fresh blood pumped to our organs, and the body dies very quickly. Or if people fight, they risk dying because they can bleed to death.
So there are lots of reasons why we should take precautions to keep our blood in our own bodies. Without blood, the human body cannot function–it dies fast!
With all of that being said, it is clear that blood is sacred in nature. It is also clear that we should not consume blood. However, there are some interesting issues that come up that weren’t an issue in biblical times. I will briefly try to discuss this.
What About Blood Transfusions? Does God Consider Blood Transfusions a Sin?
This is the biggest potential issue facing Christians today. Some Christians (or cults such as Jehovah Witnesses) are strongly against this, and some other denominations think it is fine. The Bible does not address this issue of transfusion specifically or explicitly, simply because at the time they did not have the technology to do this procedure. Although at the same time, it does talk about not being around blood. So let’s consider this issue:
Did People in This Time Touch Blood at All, and It Wasn’t a Sin to Do It?
Yes, it is obvious that they at least touched or shed blood, even in circumstances when there was not a sacrifice involved. Here are some examples:
- Simply killing an animal to eat (without sacrificing) meant they had to touch blood, and in this period of time they did not have latex gloves.
- Also, they would touch blood when they circumcised a child (it would have been impossible not to).
- When a husband had sex with his virgin wife, she could have bled onto his penis, which is very common when a virgin has sex. This would have mixed in with the man’s semen & bodily fluids.
- Thomas stuck his finger into Jesus’ pierced hands. It is possible that such a serious and deep wound could have still contained dried blood at this point.
- When a woman gave birth back then, it would be normal for the vagina to “rip” very slightly, which would have bled. The baby gets this blood on its body, and even potentially in its mouth/nose. Yet this is not a sin.
- Last but not least, Christ shed his blood on the cross for our sins. Even though it may be argued that this is a sacrifice, we too can sacrifice some of our blood to help save a life, just as our example (Christ) did for us.
So just in the examples I listed above, it is clear that there are some non-sinful instances where blood could have been transferred between two people. Especially the sex example, as even though God does command to not have sex during a woman’s menstrual cycle (due to obvious cleanliness issues), he does not declare it a sin to exchange fluids during a first time sexual experience, or to shed blood in circumcision, etc.
Given the fact that the Bible does say to avoid blood, and also at the same time lists some examples of coming into contact with it (and it NOT being a sin), we must be very careful with this issue.
Blood transfusions, although often safe, can indeed be contaminated. Many people have acquired a disease through a blood transfusion from a different person, so this is not an issue Christians should take lightly. They should very carefully and prayerfully consider the risks and benefits of such a procedure.
Thankfully, technology has made it safer to get blood transfusions. One method is to donate your own blood, and store it at a local blood bank in a hospital. This is often done if you know you will have surgery ahead of time. Another option is to receive blood from a spouse or close relative, that you know has a healthy lifestyle. More and more options like this will hopefully diminish the issues and risks of receiving a blood transfusion.
So Would Blood Transfusion Be a Sin or Not?
I think in this situation we would have to look at all of the angles and scripture together. Thus we can conclude the following:
1. God wanted us to avoid blood mainly because disease transmission, false idol worship, uncleanliness, and to keep us alive.
2. God does give some cases where we can come into contact with blood other than a sacrifice (and it possibly mixes with our own), and it is not a sin. I listed these examples above.
So in the act of blood transfusion, a person is usually on the verge of death unless they can receive more blood. In this very extreme situation, I cannot see it ever being a sin.
Here is why:
1. They test most blood donations for a list of diseases. Thus it prevents the spread of disease. This isn’t perfect and does have risks, but technology will hopefully improve this process.
2. The person would physically die anyway. We know from the Bible that it is okay to save a life with medicine. Jesus raised the dead (as did Elijah), and healed people with medical problems. So by preventing death it is not a sin, as Christ is our example we are to follow. He too was God’s word, as he taught what the Father wanted him to teach.
3. We do not harm the donor (as giving blood is relatively painless and safe). We do not harm the person who receives the blood, as the alternative in this example would be death. So no one loses.
4. It is God’s will to protect and preserve life. The Bible is obviously concerned with our well being. God wants us to preserve life, not take it. He wants us to stay safe, prevent disease, etc. Giving a blood transfusion would probably not be a sin due to that fact. If our intention was false idol worship, or to spread disease, it may be different. God looks at our hearts and motives.
To illustrate this fact, consider this: In the Old Testament, the Bible warns against working on the Sabbath. Yet when the Pharisees were picking on Jesus for healing on the Sabbath, this is how Jesus responded:
And He said to them, “What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the Sabbath days.
Even Jesus said that people will remove an animal that falls into a pit, even if it is on the Sabbath which was forbidden. In other words, there are some situations that may warrant us to do something out of the norm and it wouldn’t be a sin in that extreme context. Blood transfusions as the only method to help preserve or save a life that would otherwise perish must surely fall into the same category.
Some Potential Arguments That May Say It is Wrong to Do Blood Transfusion:
1. The blood is our life force and contains our soul:
It is true that the life force is in the blood, but our blood does not define us entirely. If we get cut, we lose blood. We do not lose our soul though do we? If we circumcise our child, they lose blood, but not their soul.
Or what about a person in the grave? Their blood is now dust. Does that mean they now have no soul? Of course not. God resurrects us from His memory, not our blood or body. Otherwise people who were blown up in bombs are in real trouble. Instead, it simply means our blood sustains our life. If we lose too much, we die.
So I don’t think this argument would be suffice to say it is a sin.
2. God strictly commands to avoid blood:
As I have pointed out above, there are also cases where coming into contact with blood is not a sin, and when we examine the context of God’s commands, it is clear to see why He gave the command. I think we should look at every possible argument and look at the context of the scriptures. In this case, I do not see how saving a life via blood transfusion could be a sin. God looks at our hearts and true intentions.
Plus, if we are going to consider that, the Bible also tells us that if we have a skin rash to go see a priest and to avoid others entirely. This is a direct command just like the blood one. Yet we do not practice that command anymore, we simply go to a doctor.
Conclusions on Biblical Blood Commands from God:
The Bible has much to say about blood, and the main points can be summarized as follows:
- God says to NOT eat/drink blood. We should take special care to never do this. There may be small traces inside of meat, but the meat should be cleaned as much as possible, and fully cooked.
- We should avoid blood as much as possible. This helps us to prevent diseases. God is serious about keeping diseases under control.
- We should not intentionally mutilate or cut ourselves just for the sake of seeing blood.
- We should not be “blood brothers” with people due to disease problems
- We should not share razors or things that can be cross contaminated with blood.
At the same time, we should consider this:
- Donating blood safely, or receiving a blood donation ONLY to save a life that would otherwise perish is not a sin. We are told to take care of life. Many prophets healed people. Jesus himself shed blood so that we may live in the sight of God Almighty and be cleansed of sin (sin=death).
- This should only be done in extreme circumstances where a person would otherwise die. Also, precautions should be taken to ensure the blood matches, contains no trace of disease, etc.
- There are alternatives to getting transfusions from others, such as donating your own blood. This is something some people may want to consider.
Have you accepted the atoning blood of Christ to save you from your sins? The Bible teaches that all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). If you’ve ever committed one sin, you risk being judged by Almighty God. You need a savior to save you from your sins. Jesus Christ died on a cross, and shed His blood so that you might have life. If you’ve never accepted Christ as your savior, please do so today.