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At the Jerusalem Council, James spoke in Acts 15:29 New International Version

You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.

On the other hand, Paul wrote in Colossians 2:16

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.

How to reconcile these verses? Did James judge the Gentile believers for eating blood?

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  • We need to assume all those instructions were in according with the law against blood drinking because it was very fundamental. He is only referring to the legal foods. Don't let anyone trouble you when you eat pigs and all; freedom from Mosaic dietary law. He cannot be ignorant about Acts 15. The blood is not in question.
    – Michael16
    Jul 28 at 12:29
  • The answer to this question is notorious for varying across denominational and confessional boundaries, even among historical, traditional, apostolic churches.
    – Lucian
    Jul 28 at 22:43
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The Col. 2:16 directive was an encouragement to Gentile Christians to stand boldly on their new-found faith in Christ. They had been liberated from legalism, so that they did not need to be circumcised and (consequently) keep all the Mosaic laws and customs. Paul was not stating a law. It was an exhortation. He was encouraging them to experience what it meant to be “alive in Christ” because the written code with its regulations had been nailed to Christ’s cross (vss. 13-15). They were under no obligation to keep religious festivals or a Sabbath day any more than were the Jewish Christians. But Paul did specifically mention food and drink consumed as not being a matter they should be judged about. So, how does that square with what the apostles announced as the Jerusalem decision on the problem of whether Gentiles be circumcised or not?

The decree in Acts 15 was formulated because of the big problem Christians in the first century encountered in trying to prevent Christian Jews from becoming offended and stumbled at the influx of Gentiles. Some Christian Jews thought if the new converts were circumcised, all would be well. But the apostles saw how that would destroy the good news of what Christ had achieved for them. After prayer and deliberation, the apostles spoke up saying the request for circumcision would put a yolk on the disciples that neither they nor their forefathers were capable of bearing. “On the contrary, we trust to get saved through the undeserved kindness of the Lord Jesus in the same way as those people also (vss. 10-11). Later, Paul wrote, “Christ by purchase released us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse instead of us” (Gal. 3:13).

This meant that dietary laws no longer applied to Christians. However, blood could never be drunk, or eaten in meat, as did the pagans. The covenant with Noah (which includes all of his descendants) forbade using blood as food or drink (though there was no death penalty attached to violators as in the Mosaic Law). That is why James explained that Gentile converts to Christ did need to abstain from things polluted by idols, fornication, from what is strangled and blood (Acts 15:14-21). Why? “For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”

By Gentile converts showing such respect for Jewish sensibilities, they would make the Christian gospel more appealing. Gentiles coming to faith were to understand that circumcision was not the important thing now. As Paul said in Romans 14:13-23, it was more important not to make your brother stumble:

“Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling-block or obstacle in your brother’s way. As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died.”

However, blood was never, ever, a food or a drink item on the menu! Christian Jews and Gentiles alike understood the need to keep clean from blood, whether by avoiding murder, or by never drinking it, or by eating meat from an animal that had not been bled. Christian Gentiles would not eat or drink blood as food any more than their Jewish counterparts. The Acts 15 decree had established that. What Paul was on about was meat offered ceremonially to idols before being sold, and meat from animals that had been strangled. He went on to say not to make undue enquiry, but to be sure your conscience was clear, and that your brother was not stumbled by your freedom of choice in such matters. But, let me repeat, no first century Christian (be they Jew or Gentile) would even consider knowingly eating meat from a strangled animal, or drinking blood, as did the pagans.

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Let us be quite clear that the eating of bloodless meat was not originally part of the Mosaic covenant but part of the Noahide Covenant as recorded in Gen 9:4 which was given to all mankind and animals (V9-12, 16, 17). However it was repeated in the Israelite Covenant in several places.

The bloodless meat requirement (from the Noahide Covenant) was repeated in Acts 15:29 as part of the final communique from the Jerusalem council.

Paul was not contradicting the Noahide Covenant - in Col 2 Paul is discussing all the ceremonial requirement of the Mosaic covenant which were no long relevant under the Christian Covenant such as circumcision, feast days, new moons, ritual hand washing, the whole priesthood (contrast 1 peter 2:9 and Heb 4:14-16), prayer times (contrast 1 Thess 5:17), certain food required at some feasts such as unleavened bread, etc, etc, All this was fulfilled in the reality of Christ as Col 2:17 explicitly says.

It is not possible that Paul would suggest that God';s Covenant with Noah and all human-kind (Gen 8:20 - 9:17) was now obsolete because that covenant is still very much alive because:

  • The rainbow is still observed
  • It was made will all humans and animals
  • God promises never to destroy the whole earth by flood again
  • murder is forbidden (who would want that rescinded?)
  • the covenant with Noah was an everlasting covenant (Gen 9:16)

Thus, the council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) reconfirmed some of the requirements of the Noahide Covenant as still binding.

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  • The idea that the Law of Moses does not apply to jewish Christians but the law of Noah applies to gentile Christians is truly a bizarre work of legalism. We are not under any law because we are dead and our life is Christ, who fulfilled all laws. The only law we have now is to reckon ourselves crucified with him.
    – Robert
    Jul 28 at 18:12
  • @Robert - really? Are we then free to blaspheme, steal, murder and covet?
    – Dottard
    Jul 28 at 21:36
  • if you do that while being crucified with Christ, then go for it. This is not a rhetorical response -- Moses murdered and then fled the law searching him but this was characterized as an act of Faith in Heb 11.
    – Robert
    Jul 28 at 21:40
  • @Robert - OK - interesting - so that the injunctions repeating the 10 commandments in the NT have no meaning?
    – Dottard
    Jul 28 at 21:42
  • this should be moved to an actual question with a specific "injunction" you think is being made.
    – Robert
    Jul 28 at 21:44
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Paul seemed to agree with the Jerusalem Council decision.

 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: 29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”

30 So when they were sent off, they went down to Antioch, and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. 31 And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. 32 And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words. 33 And after they had spent some time, they were sent off in peace by the brothers to those who had sent them. 35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also. (Acts 15:28–35ESV)

Strangled animals kept the blood in the meat. This was a requirement in the covenant with Noah everyone was under.

Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. (Gen. 9:3–4, ESV)

However, while Paul probably saw it as a moral issue, he did not see it as a requirement for salvation. He may have viewed it as don't ask like meat offered to idols.

Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” 27 If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— 29 I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?

31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 (1 Cor. 10:25–32, ESV)

Paul didn't discuss eating meat from strangled animals or meat with the the blood in it in his letters.

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Did Paul allow believers to eat meat of strangled animals in Colossians 2:16?

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration, or a Sabbath day.

Colossians 2:16

Under the Mosaic Law, the Israelites were required to commemorate these special occasions, such as "Festival of Booths" "New moon", "Pentecost", Sabbath "e.t.c. Some Jews were claiming that all Christians must continue to observe these occasions, but Paul urged them to disregard such claims. They were not to allow anyone to judge them based on whether they observed festivals commanded by the Mosaic Law, which by then was obsolete.

Paul’s reasoning was, Why follow only a shadow of truth? The real truth is in Christ. Therefore, to cling to a prophetic shadow is to obscure the spiritual reality to which those things pointed. Why? Because, as Paul said, “the reality belongs to Christ.” Thus, such religious observances today are no part of true Christian worship.

Colossians 2:17 NET

17 these are only the shadow of the things to come, but the reality is Christ.

Acts 15:29

The first-century governing body (Made by the Apostles, James and older men )under the direction of the holy spirit sent an important letter to the congregations. The letter listed things that Christians must avoid, the letter concluded:

Acts 15:28-29 NASB

28 For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: 29 that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from acts of sexual immorality; [a]if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell.”

God told o ancestor Noah that blood must be treated as something special. (Genesis 9:3, 4) Later, God’s laws to Israel reflected the sacredness of blood:

Leviticus 17:10 NASB

10 ‘And anyone from the house of Israel, or from the strangers who reside among them, who eats any blood, I will set My face against that person who eats the blood and will cut him off from among his people.

Later, at a meeting in Jerusalem, the apostles and older men decreed that we must ‘abstain from blood.’ Doing so is as vital as abstaining from sexual immorality and idolatry.​ Acts 15:28, 29.

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  • I like your answer but you really didn't address Acts 15.
    – alb
    Jul 27 at 15:46
  • alb; I did not think that it was necessary because the verse is addressed to Christians Jul 27 at 15:49
  • You did not even answer the Q, which is referring to the blood drinking or meat wjth blood. It has nothing to do with other things you mentioned.
    – Michael16
    Jul 28 at 12:23
  • alb,Michael: I have added comments on Acts 15:29 Jul 29 at 8:29
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As usual, my answer will be totally different from everyone else's.

I've previously explained in detail in Keeping the Sabbath and Colossians 2:16 and elsewhere that Colossians is totally misinterpreted by most people.

The Colossians were generally a non-Jewish non-Christian community, mostly practicing asceticism, vegetarianism, and other pagan religions and philosophies that believe in perfect immortal souls living in imperfect physical bodies. Their duty was to improve and free their souls by means of suffering and rejection of physical pleasures.

The small Christian community had the exact opposite view: life is something to be enjoyed and celebrated.

The Colossian Christians were celebrating God's holy days, eating meat, and not depriving themselves of the joy of life. Their families, friends, colleagues, etc. were criticising them for what they considered to be terrible behaviour.

Some recent converts were losing the Christian faith because they didn't like being criticised and looked down on by pagans that seemed to be speaking from a morally superior position.

Almost all of Paul's letter was written to encourage these people to continue in the Christian faith.

When he says "do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day", Paul isn't telling them that it is okay to eat unclean meat or that they should not be celebrating God's festivals. Quite the contrary.

He is telling them that they should eat kosher meat, and that they should celebrate God's festivals.

He is telling them to ignore the criticism of pagans.

Any other interpretation doesn't make sense. The Colossian Christians never were Jewish. There could be no reason that Paul would think they might revert back to Old Covenant laws and practices, because, before they converted to Christianity, they had been gentile pagans, not Jews.

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The reason why the council gave the instructions to follow the Laws of Noah was because the gentiles were meeting in synagogues, and the condition for gentiles to be allowed to enter the Synagogue was to be "god-fearing", e.g. follow the commandments given to Noah.

In Acts this was explicitly stated as the justification - v21:

For Moses has those who proclaim him in every city from ancient generations, because he is read aloud in the synagogues on every Sabbath.

However previous to the decision to require only what was necessary to allow the gentiles to continue to meet with and have fellowship with believing jews, Paul clearly argued that only faith was needed:

Acts 15.9-10 (LEB)

And he made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. So now why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus in ⌊the same⌋ way those also are.

That is, the jewish believers were no longer under the law of Moses, so why should the gentile believers be under the law of Noah? If the jews could not keep the law of Moses, how could the gentiles keep the law of Noah? Why have legalism for gentiles and grace for jews?

Thus the only reason why the gentiles were instructed to follow the Noahic covenant was to gain entrance to the synagogues where the believing jews met - to not offend the jews in those communities who expected gentiles to follow the Noahic laws. Note that for the same reason, Paul had Timothy circumcised, not because he believed in circumcision, but because he did not want to offed the jews in his evangelistic mission:

"To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law." 1 Cor 9.20b.

Obviously these rules would not apply to congregations of gentiles which did not meet in synagogues or have regular fellowship with jews, as was likely the case with Colossians which by tradition was a primarily gentilic church (e.g. Col 1.21) and thus would not need to present themselves as "God-fearers" to Synagogue gatekeepers.

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