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Prohibition in O.T. Several passages in the Old Testament strongly prohibit the "eating of blood and fat."

...you must not eat flesh with life, that is to say, blood in it. (Genesis 9:4-5)

This is a perpetual law for all your descendants wherever you may live: that you will not eat either fat or blood. (Leviticus 3:17)

You will not consume the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood, and anyone who consumes it will be cut off. (Leviticus 17:14) (See also Deuteronomy 12:16, 12:23-28)

Therefore say to them, "This is what the Sovereign LORD says, 'Since you eat meat with the blood still in it...should you then possess the land?' (Ezekiel 33:25)

It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the nations who are turning to God. Instead, we should write to them to abstain from food polluted by idols...from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. (Acts 15:19-20)

This prohibition against eating (or drinking) blood was a universal one, covering the whole Old Testament, and leaping over into the New Testament. Both Jews and the nations (Gentiles)were all admonished to abstain.

Early Church The Early Church sent a letter to the churches declaring this position...but the question begs to be asked...is this prohibition still in effect? Are Christians in the twenty-first century still to observe this restriction?

If so, where do menus with gravies, sausages, hamburgers, casseroles, stews, etc. stand? How is a modern Christian to interpret the Bible concerning this? The other restrictions against "food polluted by idols, sexual immorality, etc." are still observed by most local churches. So ought this one against blood also be observed?

Notice that one of the reasons God removed the Israelites from their Promised Land was because of their failure to observe this regulation!

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    The text is rather clear and unambiguous!
    – Dottard
    Commented Aug 29, 2023 at 22:18
  • "ought this one against blood also be observed?" From a hermeneutical point of view, makes you think it shouldn't? (The observation that many people don't observe it wouldn't be a hermeneutical response.) Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 1:05
  • Could this be aimed at stopping bloodletting from a live animal (as opposed to milking, which is allowed)? Same with the fat. This could be practical for the nomadic lifestyle but for some reason had to be forbidden.
    – grammaplow
    Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 1:10
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    Genesis 9:1-17 is God's covenant with Noah. Thus, all humanity would be under this covenant.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 11:53
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    Related hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/54450/…
    – Michael16
    Commented Sep 5, 2023 at 5:47

4 Answers 4

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Universal Prohibitions There were four prohibitions given to the new converts to Christianity by the Apostles. While the nations (Gentiles) were not to be required to follow the Mosaic covenant, with all its laws and regulations (or all the oral laws, too), nor even the Abrahamic covenant (circumcision), yet there were universal prohibitions that seemed right to the Apostles---and to the Holy Spirit---that should be enumerated in a plenary letter to the pioneer churches. ABSTAIN FROM:

  1. Immorality
  2. Pollution of idols
  3. Strangled meats
  4. Blood
  1. There is little disagreement that "immorality" has been forbidden from time immemorial. This has included sodomy, adultery, fornication, pornea, etc. This prohibition transcends eras, covenants, and national boundaries.

  2. From the "git go" idolatry, with any and all of its accouterments, has been considered most offensive to God and His worshippers. "I will not share my glory with any other!" is the definitive divine decree.

  3. Meat not prepared hygienically (strangled). For explanation see Question #26755, answer by deuce22oz, for physiological reasons re "petechiae", strangled meat, bruises, contusions, hemorrhages, etc, causing blood to spill into the tissue. {Having worked in a Packing plant (slaughterhouse), in this Christian-influenced nation, I observed government inspectors in the line every six feet keeping procedures unpolluted and uncontaminated (bloodless, if not Kosherish).}.
    . While not all nations universally follow such hygiene in their food preparations, it is universally (scientifically) recognized as beneficial.

  4. Abstaining from Blood is a prohibition that started from the very beginning of the post-flood history of mankind. (Genesis 9:4-5) Noah was allowed every animal, along with vegetation, for food, without the blood!.
    . So this prohibition is not limited to the Mosaic covenant, or any other biblical covenant. It is repeated, of course, in the Mosaic legal system several times for emphasis (Leviticus 17:10-14. Deuteronomy 12:23). So it was only normal that the Apostles would include this requirement in the letter to the nations (Gentiles).

Deductions Since all four of these prohibitions were not linked by limitation to the Mosaic system, but were applicable to all humanity, it seems logical that they all are still in effect in this modern Christian Era, especially to Christian believers.

The issue of "not offending the Synagogue observers" is a secondary issue. Of course, since the Jews observed these, they would not be offended if the nations (Gentile believers) also observed these prohibitions. And Christians should always try to live without offense to the Jew, the Gentile, and the Church of God. (1 Corinthians 10:32)

Several modern nations, cultures, and societies today do not observe one or more of these prohibitions. But converts to Christianity ought to "fall in line" with the rest of the Church concerning these. Note that all new converts, Jew and Gentile, are expected to give up many secular customs, ungodly habits, and carnal desires when becoming Christians. Sacrifice, change in thinking (repentance), and conversion are normal parts of Christian discipleship.

Giving up a fornicating lifestyle, although popular in culture, is to be shunned. It is to be expected that all forms of service to idolatry be abandoned. And logically, the other two admonitions (prohibitions) seem to be required as well. Both are salubrious to the health of believers. These are not comprehensive diets requiring a dramatic change in tradition or change in food produce, just a tweaking back to what was revealed about blood to Noah, the progenitor of us all.

Not only in this Christian Era but in all eras of redemptive history, change and sacrifice have been required. And in the end, these revelations from God will all be for the greater Good and eternal Blessing. After all, these came from the Father who knows what is best, spiritually, socially, and physically for His creatures.

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First of all, the Christian Era started with Christ's ministry on Earth, and has continued without letup till this day, and will not end until he returns in glory. This is important to consider because we are not in a new, or a different Era, to that of our Christian brothers and sisters in the first century A.D. That is why "all scripture" is to be held as inspired of God, profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and for instruction in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16).

All the Hebrew scriptures about prohibitions relating to blood, and all the Christian Greek scriptures helping Gentile converts to Christ to meld into fellowship with Jewish believers regarding blood and circumcision are profitable for us to consider.

Way back, the Acts 15 mandate was formed to stop legalism strangling the new faith of Gentiles. They were being told by some Christians that they must be circumcised (and so oblige themselves to keep the whole law of Moses). The apostles countered this swiftly and decisively by showing how they had been set free and must not bind themselves into any form of servitude, for Christ had died to set them free from all that had previously bound God's people, the Jews. Therefore, they should not be circumcised. Also, they should be careful not to stumble Jews by being sexually immoral, or by being tainted with any whiff of idolatry, or of being blood-guilty (e.g. murder) or of eating food that had blood in it.

That surely is just as important today as way back then, with the whole world observing Christians, and liable to be stumbled if they see Christians doing things like that? Some may say that eating meat from animals that have not been bled first is of no concern today, but there are millions of Muslims who still hold that to be important!

However, the apostles also made clear that the Mosaic laws about particular foods had been removed (the vision of Peter in Acts 10:9-23), yet nowhere did they even suggest that they could include blood in their diet. Now, if some believers today think that they can, and enjoy black puddings and jugged hare, that is between their conscience and God. It is a matter of conscience as shown in Paul saying there was no need to make enquiry about where food had come from - really, to ask no questions, and to just accept the food prepared for them. But if someone's conscience was troubled, in case the food was tainted with blood, or idolatry, it would be wrong for them to eat it. This is dealt with here, excerpts extracted to show the pertinence of the entire chapter:

" As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing... for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither if we eat are we the better; neither if we eat not, are we the worse. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling-block to them that are weak... But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend." 1 Corinthians 9:4-13 A.V.

It may be worth mentioning that meat first offered to an idol before being sold in the market-place would likely not have been bled first, seeing as pagans would offer meat to idols, not Jews. So, such meat could be a source of potential offense on two fronts to those with sensitive consciences, blood, and idolatry.

So, my answer is that this is a matter of personal conscience, and each one must be resolved before God as to where they stand on those matters. The key point is that no Christian should get into a form of legalism. Just as legalism was the problem with the issue of whether Gentile Christians should be circumcised or not, so it is with eating food that might have blood in it, or be tainted in some way with idolatry. Here is the last word on the matter:

"Eat anything that is sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for 'The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it.' If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. But if anyone says to you, 'This has been offered in sacrifice," then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience' sake. - the other man's conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should my conscience be judged by another's conscience? If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for? So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks, or the church of God." 1 Corinthians 10:25-32 NIV [boldl emphasis mine]

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    Up-voted +1. A very balanced and knowledgeable treatment of the subject. Worth also noting that the prohibition regarding blood comes from Noah (not the Levitical law) and was a fundamental principle to all humanity (after the flood) with considerable significance in regard to the 'partaking of blood' being denied but 'flesh' being allowed, which is an indication of Christ's sacrificial offering of his flesh being for all humanity but the shedding of his blood being for a specific community.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 19:12
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    What’s your take on the command to Noah to not eat meat with blood in it, given before the law of Moses as part of God’s covenant with Noah?
    – bob
    Commented Oct 29, 2023 at 2:30
  • @bob The rainbow covenant was addressed to Noah and his family, but also to every generation from him thereafter. God said, "I now establish my covenant with you and your descendants after you." Gen. 9:8 His sons gave rise to every nationality thereafter, and the sign of the covenant - the rainbow - is still there, so it is still in force - for everybody, whether they realise it or not.
    – Anne
    Commented Oct 29, 2023 at 15:39
  • That’s how I read it too and why I lean toward the prohibition against blood is still in force.
    – bob
    Commented Oct 29, 2023 at 19:14
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    @bob - Yes. the eating or drinking of blood.
    – Anne
    Commented Oct 30, 2023 at 13:05
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The the policy of the early church regarding blood-eating (Acts 15:20) is not generally followed by Christians today. This is very different issue from that of eating food sacrificed to idols. Nor does the text indicate that the rule against consuming blood was promulgated to avoid causing weaker Christians to stumble, as Paul argued was the case with food offered to idols. The plain sense of the text is that it applies to all Christians, including Gentiles, not as a concession to Jews but as a clarification of what moral and dietary laws Gentile Christians must observe.

The OP asks if Christians today are still bound by this rule. The answer is obviously not, since very few Christians observe it. But we do have to face the fact that no NT text rescinds or contradicts it. It is not covered either by Paul's discourses on food sacrificed to idols or Peter's vision in which he is commanded to eat unclean foods.

Historically, what appears to have happened is that, as the Jerusalem Church ceased to be the center of Christian authority in the wake of the destruction of the Temple in 70 c.e., the Letter of James (Acts 15:20; 21:25) ceased to carry much authority. Soon, very few Christians were also Jews, and the command to refrain "from blood" was even misinterpreted to refer to something other than the kosher preparation of meat.

Ellicott says that the the rule does not refer meat with blood still in it, but that it

forbade the separate use of blood, as with flour and vegetables, or in the black-puddings of modern cookery, as an article of food. Dishes so prepared were common in the cuisine both of Greeks and Romans.

Barnes, on the other hand, says that he supposes

... this law is still obligatory. Perhaps, also, there is no food more unwholesome than blood; and it is a further circumstance of some moment that all people naturally revolt from it as an article of food.

What both opinions fail to recognize is that the Jewish understanding of the rule is that for Jews, it means the meat must not only be drained of blood before cooking, but that it must also be devoid of any hint of blood. Thus:

There are explicit directions regarding the elimination of blood from food, such as the soaking and salting of meat to be prepared for the table.

This rule, however, may have evolved sometime after the period covered in Acts.

Summary: letter of Acts 15 is no longer followed by Christians in its original meaning, namely that all blood must be removed from meat before it is cooked and consumed. It has simply grown obsolete with time, as it has for many Jews as well.

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    @DanFefferman-...are Christians still bound by this rule? Obviously not, since very few Christians observe it.. Does the "response" to a Law ever determine whether it is valid or not? Are Laws' validity determined by "majority rule"? You are right: nothing rescinds or contradicts it in subsequent biblical passages. While "all meat" is allowed, commentators have seen a difference between meat and blood. One is food, and the other is that which gives life to meat (food). Thanks for your exposition! Peace.
    – ray grant
    Commented Aug 31, 2023 at 20:45
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Leviticus 17:11 states: For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.

A similar reference is at Deuteronomy 12:23: But be sure you do not eat the blood, because the blood is the life, and you must not eat the life with the meat.

Please note that although these verses indicate that “the blood is the life”, in both of these verses, it is the Hebrew word Nephesh, which is, in fact, translated “life”, instead of soul, as it’s translated in Genesis 2:7.
In Deuteronomy 12:23, God is telling Moses not to allow the people to eat the blood of animals, because the blood is the "life", or another words, “the blood is the soul, and you must not eat the soul with the meat”. (Note: The Douay–Rheims version [DRC1752] states “…the blood is for the soul. And therefore, thou must not eat the soul with the flesh…”).

Leviticus 17:11 declares that “the 'life' of the flesh is in the blood”, or another words, “the soul of the flesh is in the blood”.

While the Hebrew word Nephesh is translated “life” in both verses, this is not always the case. When the word “life” is used in the Bible, such as in “the breath of life”, it is usually translated from some form of the Hebrew word Chay, which means life. In some cases, the Hebrew Nephesh is translated “life”. In each of these verses, it is the Hebrew Nephesh, which more literally means soul rather than life.
I should also inform you of at least two Bible translations that more accurately translate the Hebrew Nephesh to soul, in Leviticus 17:11. Those Bibles are Darby Translation, and Jubilee Bible 2000.

I believe that the animals, which God chose to be used as sacrifices for sins, were qualified to be sacrifices because of their innocence, since they are ruled by instincts rather than morals. I believe this qualifies their blood to be acceptable by God to be a sacrifice as payment for a specific sin.

I also believe that Christ, being the express image of God was qualified to be our permanent sacrifice for all sins for all time because, living by His great faith, He had never sinned.

In the Old Testament God explained to Moses that they were not to eat the soul of the animal with its meat. I believe that our eternal souls can be viewed as our spiritual characters, which are formed when we are conceived as a reaction to our spirit coming in contact with our blood, just the same way that Adam's spirit (the breath of life from God's mouth -Gen. 2:7) going into Adam's body caused the creation of Adam's "living soul". I believe it's the same for all creatures with the breath of life. Our souls remain in our blood until we die and are at that time released to heaven.

As Christians, we can assume that once an animal is bled and cooked, its eternal soul has left its meat and cannot pollute our own souls when we eat it, even if the meat is somewhat rare. Therefore, the soul of the animal is certainly not in the steak you might want to enjoy.

According to Acts 21:25, blood is one of the things that Christians "must abstain from", but of course that verse doesn't refer to the blood that Jesus shed to pay the price for us to be saved and remade in His image. The blood of Christ also contained his soul. However, His blood is very necessary and beneficial to us, according to John 6:51-58, 63, to the extent of never needing another sacrifice! We require it to be remade in His image. We acknowledge this each time we partake in the Lord's supper.

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    Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 19:51
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    We are glad to have you join us. This answer is more theological, but doesn't look at specific texts. Read up on writing a good answer. Try to quote from the Bible and briefly explain the texts. Your word explanations can help, but those also need a quote with a source.
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    Commented Sep 3, 2023 at 22:40
  • If you want to make those edits, then after you do, just click Flag and ask a moderator to review the answer.
    – Jesse
    Commented Sep 22, 2023 at 15:44
  • Was just pointed to the question at hand here, it being in relevance to my last Q, and out of all the answers here, yours is the only one that concentrates on the importance of the "soul's" relation to the blood (as does my Q), for this reason it's, at least, an upvote from me. If you choose to continue on this site, you would be best served by breaking up your "wall" of words with the use of paragraphs and try highlighting (bolding) those bible verses. My answers being case in point. Commented Jan 13 at 12:03

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