A close-up shot of a Bible, open to a page containing verses about love, compassion, and healing, emphasizing the ethical dilemma of blood transfusions.

What Does The Bible Say About Blood Transfusions?

Blood transfusions can be a life-saving medical procedure. But you may have heard that some religions prohibit their members from receiving transfusions. So what does the Bible say about blood transfusions?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The Bible does not directly prohibit blood transfusions. Most Christian denominations allow their members to accept transfusions. However, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe receiving blood products violates Biblical commands to abstain from blood.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll examine relevant Bible passages, look at the history of blood transfusions, and review the positions of different Christian faiths on this medical procedure.

Bible Verses Related to Blood

Genesis 9:4 – God allows Noah to eat meat but prohibits consuming animal blood

After the Flood, God permitted Noah and his family to eat meat for the first time, but with an important restriction. God commanded, “But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it.” (Genesis 9:4) This verse establishes God’s view that blood represents life and so it should be treated with great respect.

Leviticus 17:10-14 – God prohibits eating blood under the Mosaic Law

Under the Mosaic Law, given to Israel through Moses, God again prohibited the eating of blood. In Leviticus 17:10-14, God said multiple times that no one should eat blood, whether Israelite or foreigner living among them. God would cut off anyone disobeying this command from the community.

The reason given was, “Because the life of every creature is its blood.” (Leviticus 17:14)

Acts 15:19-21 – The apostles tell Gentile believers to abstain from blood

In the early church, the apostles and elders wrote a letter to Gentile believers telling them to abstain from blood, among other things, as a concession allowing table fellowship between Jewish and Gentile believers.

The apostles said, “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” (Acts 15:19) While not requiring circumcision and the full Law, they asked Gentiles to voluntarily abstain from things like blood in order to promote peace and unity.

The apostles said this was the minimum requirement while Gentiles learned more by regularly hearing the Scriptures read aloud.

History of Blood Transfusions

Early experiments with animal blood transfusions

The history of blood transfusions dates back to the 17th century when researchers first began experimenting with transfusing animal blood into humans. In 1665, Richard Lower, an English physician, was the first to successfully keep dogs alive by transfusing blood from other dogs.

However, early attempts at human-to-human blood transfusions in the 1660s were unsuccessful. When animal blood was transfused into humans, it caused life-threatening immune reactions.

First successful human blood transfusion in 1818

It was not until 1818 that the first successful human-to-human blood transfusion occurred. In that year, British obstetrician Dr. James Blundell performed the first successful transfusion of human blood to treat a patient with postpartum hemorrhage.

This paved the way for the modern practice of blood transfusions. However, the practice did not become widespread until the early 20th century when researchers discovered blood types and their compatibility.

Modern blood banking and safety improvements in the 20th century

In the early 20th century, Austrian physician Karl Landsteiner discovered the major human blood groups which made blood transfusions much safer by allowing doctors to match blood types between donor and patient.

Blood banking systems were later pioneered allowing for storage and widespread distribution of blood and blood products. As of 2017, 117.4 million blood donations are collected globally per year, allowing modern medicine to safely utilize blood transfusions to save millions of lives.

Meanwhile, continuous improvements in donor screening and blood testing have dramatically reduced the risks from transfused blood over the past 50 years.

Christian Positions on Blood Transfusions

Roman Catholicism – permits blood transfusions as an act of charity

The Roman Catholic Church views blood transfusions as morally acceptable and even encourages them as an act of charity if there is a serious threat to the patient’s life. This position was solidified in 1957 when Pope Pius XII gave a speech to hematologists and stated that transfusions are allowed for patients in danger of death due to loss of blood.

He reasoned that such transfusions are not strictly required treatments but can be considered an act of charity toward the patient. The Catholic Church does not prohibit transfusions of whole blood or any of its primary components (red cells, white cells, plasma).

Eastern Orthodoxy – allows blood transfusions to preserve life

The Eastern Orthodox Church, like the Roman Catholic Church, generally allows blood transfusions as a means of preserving human life. Most Orthodox theologians argue that blood transfusions do not violate fundamental church teachings and can be administered without detriment to a person’s spiritual state.

However, some Orthodox Christians associate blood with the soul and believe it must not be shared. But the mainstream view accepts blood transfusions, and most Orthodox churches around the world leave the decision up to each patient’s doctor and spiritual advisor.

Protestantism – most denominations allow blood transfusions

Most Protestant Christian denominations have no doctrinal objection to blood transfusions and leave the decision up to individual members and their doctors. This includes Lutherans, Anglicans, Baptists, Methodists, and most Reformed churches.

These groups generally believe that the Bible does not directly address blood transfusions, so there is no scriptural basis to prohibit them outright. Some conservative Protestant groups like Seventh-day Adventists may discourage transfusions except in life-threatening situations.

Jehovah’s Witnesses – prohibit blood transfusions based on scriptural interpretation

Jehovah’s Witnesses prohibit blood transfusions for members based on their particular interpretation of biblical passages like Acts 15:28-29, which says to “abstain from blood.” Witnesses view transfusions of whole blood or primary blood components (red cells, white cells, platelets, plasma) as wrongfully ingesting blood into the body.

They do allow some fractions derived from blood like albumin and hemophiliac preparations. For Witnesses, taking blood into the body violates God’s laws, so they avoid transfusions even in life-threatening situations. Some acceptable alternatives include cell salvage and volume expanders.


While the Bible speaks out against consuming blood, most Christian faiths do not believe this applies to life-saving medical procedures like blood transfusions. However, groups like Jehovah’s Witnesses forbid blood transfusions based on their particular interpretation of Scripture.

Ultimately, whether to accept a transfusion is a personal decision between an individual, their doctor, and their faith. This article reviewed relevant Bible passages and perspectives from different denominations to help inform that choice.

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