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Leviticus 11:

6 The rabbit, though it chews the cud, does not have a divided hoof; it is unclean for you.

Paul was present when they issued the order in Acts 15:

29 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.

After that, 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. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

Paul seemed to allow believers to eat rabbit meat so long as it wasn't strangled. Could the Colossian believers eat rabbit meat?

Related questions:

Did Paul allow believers to eat meat of strangled animals in Colossians 2:16? This question is more specifically about eating blood.

Did Jesus allow people to eat meat forbidden by Moses (Matthew 15)?

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The jerusalem council dealt with a specific set of believers, ones who at the time were "God-fearing" gentiles meeting in Jewish synagogues (since the early church always met in synagogues). In these synagogues, gentiles who were on the path to coversion could meet provided they met the Law of Noah, and so this council told them to (effectively) keep the law of Noah in order to not cause offense to the jews and be kicked out of the synagogue.

The Law of Noah did not prohibit the eating of unclean meat (and thus they could eat rabbit), but it did prohibit the drinking of blood (and by extension, eating strangled animals that were not drained of blood). The text itself explains the reason for requiring the gentiles to keep the law of Noah in Acts 15.21 in terms of not offending those in synagogues:

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

This same advice to not offend is given by Paul in 1 Cor 8.4-13:

Therefore, concerning the eating of food sacrificed to idols, we know that “an idol is nothing in the world” and that “there is no God except one.” For even if after all there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth, just as there are many gods and many lords, yet to us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we are for him, and there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we are through him. But this knowledge is not in everyone. But some, being accustomed until now to the idol, eat this food as food sacrificed to idols, and their conscience, because it is weak, is defiled. But food does not bring us close to God. For neither if we eat do we have more, nor if we do not eat do we lack. But watch out lest somehow this right of yours becomes a cause for stumbling to the weak. For if someone should see you who has knowledge reclining for a meal in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, because it is weak, be strengthened so that he eats the food sacrificed to idols? For the one who is weak—the brother for whom Christ died—is destroyed by your knowledge. Now if you sin in this way against the brothers and wound their conscience, which is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food causes my brother to sin, I will never eat meat forever, in order that I may not cause my brother to sin.. [LEB]

Thus the believers had knowledge that the jews who were not believers did not. They knew that things like meat sacrificed to idols or blood meant nothing, but to the jew without knowledge of Christ it would be a stumblingblock and offense, and so they were asked to not do those things which would cause offense, because it is more important to not create stumblingblocks for others than to exercise your own freedom.

1 Cor 9.19-22 [ESV]

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.

So that is why Paul is simultaneously telling the gentile believers that they are free from following the law because they are dead in Christ and thus also dead to the Law ..

2 Col 2.20-23 [ESV]

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

and again in Romans 7.4 [LEB]:

So then, my brothers, you also were brought to death with respect to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to the one who was raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.

...yet to those gentile believers who were meeting in Synagogues, the Jerusalem council tasked them with following the minimum set of rules necessary to not give offense to the jews.

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Just reading through the entire Jerusalem council decree on that occasion shows that the words 'rabbit' or 'pig' or, indeed, any kind of creature never consumed by the Jews for food (including many forbidden sea-creatures) never crop up anywhere. So, the simple answer to your question is that they did not allow believers to eat e.g. rabbit or pig meat.

They were dealing with whether to ensure Gentile converts to Christ should be circumcised. Why would anybody dealing with that matter then go on about eating certain kinds of animal flesh? That would be like you giving a talk to a mixed group of Christians about the meaning of spiritual circumcision (of the heart), then switching to ideas for their buffet supper.

The parameters of their decree were clearly stated, along with clear reasons for what they said should NOT be done. They did not give a list (not even a short one) on what these Gentile converts to Christ should do. They had to clear up what they should NOT do. Hence their summation:

Abstain from food polluted by idols (which could include non-meat foods);

Abstain from sexual immorality.

Abstain from the meat of animals strangled (which would have their blood still in them).

Abstain from blood (whether blood-guilt, e.g. murder, or drinking blood).

That was it. What NOT to do. And the reason?

"For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath" (Acts 15:20-21).

The decree was designed to pour oil on troubled waters where Jews and uncircumcised Gentile converts to Christ met. If a Jew saw any Christian eating the meat of a strangled animal, or of being blood-guilty, or of being sexually immoral, or of appearing to scoff food that had first been offered to idols, they would be revolted against Christianity. Jews who had become Christians would never do such things anyway, but Gentile converts well might. So they had to be told plainly, plus shown that that would suffice. Being circumcised was not necessary if they stuck to those regulations. Indeed, circumcision would oblige those Gentile converts to then start sticking rigidly to all the rules and regulations in the Mosaic law! And that would negate them having become Christians, who are liberated from legalism by the freedom that comes in Christ!

So, whenever you get anyone trying to form a list of what foods Christians may eat, you have found a person who still thinks legalistically, and who does not understand that the law was symbolically nailed to Christ's cross:

"When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to his cross" (Colossians 2:13-14).

Note how the law and circumcision are linked? But Christians have become symbolically circumcised and symbolically released from the condemnation of the law. Not to run amuck and become lawless, though! The Jerusalem council's decree made that plain! The decree was not about what they were allowed to eat, but of the various things they were NOT allowed to do, as Christians, in view of Jewish sensibilities.

I'd like to think you have asked this question (and similar ones) to get this point across - to distinguish between those who have not yet broken free from legalistic lists of what they can do (or eat) and those who know that their Spirit-led conscience must be exercised in all such matters, and that they will answer to God (not to any community) if they wilfully violate their God-cleansed conscience.

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  • +1 Could the Colossian believers eat rabbit meat according to Paul?
    – Tony Chan
    Sep 17 at 15:37
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    @Tony That's a different question to asking if the Jerusalem council would, because Paul was not involved in that council decree. But you surely know that nowhere in Paul's writings does he say that he "allows" believers to eat any particular kind of meat? If you are looking for any list of "allowable" meats for Christians in the N.T., you won't find one anywhere. Surely you already know that?
    – Anne
    Sep 17 at 15:52
  • Christians have become symbolically circumcised ? Do you mean by baptism ? Do you mean by being 'crucified with Christ ?
    – Nigel J
    Sep 17 at 19:41
  • @Nigel J The fact that both men and women receive this spiritual circumcision of the heart rules out anything physical, which means that water baptism cannot be that symbolic act. It is public testimony to what has already happened, spiritually and of a cleansed conscience. Being 'crucified with Christ' is what I refer to.
    – Anne
    Sep 18 at 7:50
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Did the Jerusalem council allow believers to eat e.g., rabbit meat?

In short, the Scriptures don't specifically say other than what is outlined in Acts 15:29.

What does the Biblical record show that would give Colossian believers a clean conscience about eating rabbit meat?

Let us look at the events in chronological order.

  1. Jeremiah prophesies about a new covenant that will be established in the future

    “Look! The days are coming,” declares Jehovah, “when I will make with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah a new covenant. (Jeremiah 31:31) [bold mine]

  2. Jesus establishes the new covenant

    Also, he did the same with the cup after they had the evening meal, saying: “This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood, which is to be poured out in your behalf. (Luke 22:20) [bold mine]

    Note: This does not take effect until after Jesus' death (also see Jesus' word's at Luke 22:20 "which is to be poured out")

    He entered into the holy place, not with the blood of goats and of young bulls, but with his own blood, once for all time, and obtained an everlasting deliverance for us. (Hebrews 9:12) [bold mine]

  3. At Pentecost, the Christian congregation is established and the New Covenant goes into effect

    and they all became filled with holy spirit and started to speak in different languages, just as the spirit enabled them to speak. (Acts 2:4)

    At this time, the Mosaic Law is replaced with the New Covenant

    In his saying “a new covenant,” he has made the former one obsolete. Now what is obsolete and growing old is near to vanishing away. (Hebrews 8:13)

As with all new things, it would take time for the Colossians to understand how things changed from being under the Mosaic Law to now being under the New Covenant or the Law of the Christ.

If the Colossians followed the council in Acts 15:29 and drain the blood of the animal, that which was "unclean" could now be eaten. Of course, those that were weak spiritually would have a sensitivity to this act. The Colossians would then need to look at their conscience and that of the other person (1 Corinthians 10:25-33)

[All scripture quotations from the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition)]

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This, and similar questions, are all related to a general misunderstanding of Paul's letters to Gentile communities, which are commonly misinterpreted as warnings to Jewish communities against reverting back to Jewish practices. In fact they are all instances of Gentiles reverting back to their previous pagan practices.

In the case of the Jerusalem Council, it was simply a matter of deciding a minimum set of requirements for new Gentile converts, while they were learning about Judaism and Christianity. They weren't required to convert to Judaism (e.g. circumcision) as a prerequisite to becoming Christians. But in order for these Gentiles to be accepted as good people by the Jewish community, so that they could have access to synagogues and Bible study, they had to at least follow the Noahide Laws.

In particular, sacrificing to idols, consuming blood, eating strangled meat, and sexual immorality are part of the Noahide Laws. These were requirements that required the Gentile converts to change their normal behaviour. Fully listing the Noahide Laws wasn't necessary though, as Gentile pagans generally already follow them (e.g. murder, theft, cursing God).

I've explained this in more detail in other answers:

And provided an exegesis for Colossians 2:16–17:

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The Jerusalem Council addressed only one specific ordinance: circumcision. It neither had authority, nor interest, in changing the dietary health laws.

And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. (Acts 15:1, KJV)

When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. (Acts 15:2, KJV)

Circumcision was supposed to be done on the eighth day after birth. While there are examples of full-grown men being circumcised, as also was Abraham, to whom the rite was first given, it is a very uncomfortable and disagreeable procedure at such a stage of one's life.

For the Gentiles, God had already shown by pouring out His spirit on them, that He accepted them while yet uncircumcised. The Jerusalem Council, therefore, concluded that this signal from God meant that the church no longer needed to enforce this ritual upon the Gentiles when they became Christians.

The Council itself maintained the dietary ordinances and other ordinances, appearing to make exception only on the question of circumcision.

For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; (Acts 15:28, KJV)

That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well. (Acts 15:29, KJV)

These rules were standard, and unchanged. Leviticus 3:17, for example, makes clear that blood should not be eaten--which is why a strangled animal was unfit for consumption, because the blood was not drained properly from it.

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

Blood was always unclean. Fat was always unclean. The Jerusalem Council did not change these things. They actually added to the restrictions in saying that people should not eat foods that had been offered to idols.

In fact, the Greek word εἰδωλόθυτος (eidolothytos) translated in the KJV as "meats offered unto idols," does not refer to "meat" (as in flesh food) at all. It just means anything that might have been offered to idols. The ESV has it as "what has been sacrificed to idols."

Clearly, the Jerusalem Council was not negating any of the Levitical laws, with one exception, this one:

And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. (Leviticus 12:3, KJV)

Circumcision a Sign of the Covenant

Unlike the health laws, such as those of clean and unclean meats, circumcision had but one purpose: it was a sign of entering into a covenant relationship with God.

This covenant is sometimes called the "Abrahamic covenant" because this symbol had first been given to Abraham.

This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. (Genesis 17:10-11, KJV)

Circumcision was only a "token." It was not the covenant itself. There was no special power in it, just as there is no special power in a wedding ring, which is also a token, to keep the marriage together.

God Suspended the Token during the 40 Years in the Wilderness

Because the Israelites had rebelled at Kadeshbarnea, listening to the evil report of the 10 spies, then, regretting their choice after God sentenced them to 40 years in the wilderness and choosing to go fight without God's permission, God had suspended the token of His covenant with them.

KJV Book of Joshua -- At the entrance to Canaan
5:2 At that time the LORD said unto Joshua, Make thee sharp knives, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time.
5:3 And Joshua made him sharp knives, and circumcised the children of Israel at the hill of the foreskins.
5:4 And this is the cause why Joshua did circumcise: All the people that came out of Egypt, that were males, even all the men of war, died in the wilderness by the way, after they came out of Egypt.
5:5 Now all the people that came out were circumcised: but all the people that were born in the wilderness by the way as they came forth out of Egypt, them they had not circumcised.
5:6 For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the people that were men of war, which came out of Egypt, were consumed, because they obeyed not the voice of the LORD: unto whom the LORD sware that he would not show them the land, which the LORD sware unto their fathers that he would give us, a land that floweth with milk and honey.
5:7 And their children, whom he raised up in their stead, them Joshua circumcised: for they were uncircumcised, because they had not circumcised them by the way.

Rebellious people could not honestly bear the token of God's covenant; and God suspended it. At the Jerusalem Council, then, as the apostles had witnessed that God's spirit had already given token of His acceptance of the Gentile believers, they realized that, once again, the physical token had been superseded and was no longer truly necessary.

Conclusion

No, the Jerusalem Council did not allow believers to eat rabbit meat, nor any other unclean meats. The Council addressed specifically the requirement of circumcision for the Gentile believers whom God had already shown His acceptance by pouring His spirit upon them, and, based on this evidence, abolished this requirement.

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    Very poorly argued IMO ;) You're denying the direct words of the Apostles: "no greater burden than these necessary things". And if circumcision is understood as meaning initiation into Judaism, then not requiring circumcision means the Gentiles do not become Jews, and so for what reason would the rest of the Jewish Law apply to them?
    – curiousdannii
    Sep 16 at 23:00
  • @poly Agreed, you are making assumptions not warranted by the text.
    – steveowen
    Sep 16 at 23:44
  • @curiousdannii Question for you: Why was the requirement for circumcision dropped during the years of the wandering in the wilderness and then restarted once the children of Israel reached Canaan? When you've answered that, then ask yourself if they dropped the dietary laws as well.
    – Polyhat
    Sep 17 at 0:03
  • @Polyhat I've never heard of the circumcision requirement being dropped while Israel wandered the wilderness. Is there a specific verse you think indicates it was dropped? Just because they didn't do it doesn't mean God gave the a concession not to.
    – curiousdannii
    Sep 17 at 2:33
  • @curiousdanii Joshua 5:2-8 tells the story and also why circumcision had not been permitted after their rebellion at Kadesh for the 40 years of their wanderings in the wilderness. Perhaps this might be a suitable addition to my answer above, for it clearly shows a distinction between God's not allowing circumcision on account of not accepting the rebellious people, versus accepting Gentile converts who were not even circumcised. God looks at the heart, and the foreskin is just a symbol of our covenant with Him.
    – Polyhat
    Sep 17 at 3:28

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