0

If the laws about blood are no longer applied in the New Testament, why did James advised abstaining from blood in Acts 15:29?

You must 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.

I have copied and pasted a portion of Kadalikkat Joseph Sibichan's comment on Dan Fefferman's answer to his question what is the intent...." as requested by an individual who identifies as Anne on this site,

Here's a portion of Kadalikkat Joseph Sibichan's comment about Dan Fefferman's answer to his question "what is the intent...?Dan Fefferman, the law relating to impurity was definitely relevant during the period Israel stayed in tents, in close proximity to one another. That phase of history being over, the Jews should have redefined the law. Jesus advocated liberation from cumbersome law""

Here's the link that shows the comment.

What was the intent of Jesus' question : " Who touched me "?

The 9th comment shown under Dan Fefferman's answer shows Kadalikkat Joseph Sibichan's comment in full.

10
  • 6
    It would be helpful if you could first present a case for the assumption that "the laws about blood are no longer applied in the N.T." Who makes such an assumption, and why? After all, the verse in question seems to show the opposite! A vague opinion about laws on blood no longer applying in the N.T. will not do as a basis for a Q on biblical Hermeneutics.
    – Anne
    Feb 16 at 12:33
  • 1
    The parallel verse, in Acts 15:20, has: “abstain from things polluted by idols”. Food is not mentioned here. In todays world that could mean to not watch movies with explicitly sexual content. Feb 16 at 14:14
  • 1
    Similar Question For more insight and information see the B.H. Question # 86433, "How Are We to Interpret the Prohibition Against Eating Blood in Acts 15:20 as far as the Christian Era goes?"
    – ray grant
    Feb 17 at 1:39
  • 1
    @Constantthin ... I think sexual immorality was not James' main focus. It was important, of course, because even Paul would admit that some people misapplied his "gospel of freedom" to justify sexual license. The context shows that James was under pressure from Pharisees who had accepted Jesus (Acts 15:5). He and his colleagues decided that Gentile Christians needed to follow the Noahide laws. As my answer suggests, I think that Paul's policy went beyond this. Feb 17 at 17:17
  • 1
    @Dan Fefferman. Aaron’s bull worship may be the prototype of all idol worship. If so, it proves that all idol worship has a negative sexual effect. That all idol worship is anti-Christian. Christ worship is about the crucifixion of the flesh, every other worship isn’t. Jesus: "everybody who is not for me is against me". Feb 18 at 11:02

8 Answers 8

2

If the laws about blood are no longer applied in the New Testament, why did Peter advised abstaining from blood in Acts 15.29

Acts 15:28-29 Reads,

New American Standard Bible

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.

The laws of the blood is a perpetual law , it was first given to Noah and his sons ( Gen. 9:3-4) and applied to all humans , The laws of the blood have never been cancelled ,it was then given to the Israelites, and was made a lasting obligation on all humans, acting under the direction of the holy spirit the Apostles as the Governing Body exempted this law of abstaining from blood. Acts 15:28-29.

3
  • @ user 20789 - Thank you for your response to this question. But while what is answered is good, it is best to supply a few scholarly references from Commentaries, Anthropologies, and Medical books to back up your answers. Keep studying the Bible; it's great for the Soul!
    – ray grant
    Feb 17 at 1:29
  • Ray Grant, thanks, for your comments noted.
    – user20789
    Feb 17 at 11:32
  • I took the liberty of changing your formatting of the Bible quote that you included, to match the norm for this site. Also corrected a couple of typos. Feb 17 at 17:07
2

The policy of Acts 15:29 applied not directly to Peter (who was a Jew) but to the Gentile:

19 It is my (James') judgment, therefore, that we ought to stop troubling the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but tell them by letter to avoid meat offered to idols, unlawful marriage, the meat of strangled animals, and blood. 21 For Moses, for generations now, has had those who proclaim him in every town, as he has been read in the synagogues every sabbath.

To deal with the OP's question, therefore, it is necessary to unpack its original assumption: "If the laws about blood are no longer applied in the New Testament..." The answer lies in the fact that the Jerusalem church's policy about the Noahide commandments (see Perry Webb's answer) was more strict that Paul's policy, which became the norm. We see this exemplified in Paul's attitude toward food sacrificed to idols - also mentioned in James' letter above - which Paul said should be avoided only because certain Christians still believed that idols have power:

1 Cor. 6:7-8

There are some who have been so used to idolatry up until now that, when they eat meat sacrificed to idols, their conscience, which is weak, is defiled. Now food will not bring us closer to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, nor are we better off if we do.

The tension between Paul's policy and the Jerusalem church's is also seen in the issue of table fellowship, when the "men from James" followed the tradition that Jews should not eat with Gentiles. (Gal. 2)

Conclusion: In the earliest church, especially among those who followed the rules established in James' letter of Acts 15, some of the "blood laws" were still observed. In the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem in in 70 c.e., Pauline Christianity come to the fore and Jewish customs regarding meat-eating were downplayed. Acts 15's instructions are still followed strictly in some Christian traditions, but most believe that they are superseded by the saying of Jesus:

Matthew 15:11

It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a man but what comes out of it.

2
  • 1
    Matt 15:11 is not applied to blood or animals sacrificed to idols. That is all about eating with unwashed hands. The latter being Jewish added law which was not disobedience to Torah, the 2 former are Torah and requirements for YHWH’s people to obey. Disobedience to Torah commandments of YHWH does defile men. The Messiah made that clear, “If you love me keep my commandments”. Therefore obviously not keeping the commandments does “defile” you.
    – JLB
    Feb 29 at 12:21
  • 1
    Matt 5- “I have not come to abolish the law …” “ For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Is ALL accomplished? Absolutely not!
    – JLB
    Feb 29 at 12:21
2

The verse is not ambiguous. It clearly states that Gentile Christian have Holy Spirit instruction that it is necessary for them to abstain from food that has been offered to idols, to be clear of blood[-guilt], and from strangled meat [which would have blood in it], and from fornication.

So, why is there even a question on "the laws about blood are no longer applied in the New Testament", hence why does Acts 15:29 say to abstain from blood?

That question introduces an ambiguity that is not there in the text. It effectively puts blinkers on by claiming OT laws about blood no longer apply in the NT. Well, consider - Do OT laws about not committing adultery no longer apply in the NT? Do OT laws about not shedding man's blood no longer apply in the NT? Do OT laws about avoiding idolatry (as with going along with the practice of offering food to idols) no long apply in the NT? Of course they still apply! Therefore, why isolate the other prohibition in Acts 15:29 about not eating meat of strangled animals?

Blood consistently gets flagged up in both the OT and the NT as a sacred symbol representing God-given life. Hence, do not shed another person's blood in murder. That would make you blood-guilty. Hence do not drink blood as you would drink milk or water. Blood has to be poured out on to the ground when animal life has been taken, then a person can eat that meat without showing disrespect for the God-given life of that creature. Hence the sprinkling of the blood of the slaughtered Passover lamb on the lintels of those whose first-born children and animals would avoid being killed by the Angel of Death. The principles apply to this day, even though Christians know that a legalistic adherence to the Mosaic law has been replaced with "the law of the spirit of life in Jesus Christ [which] has freed me from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:2)

It is first in the time of Noah that God commands him and all his descendants (everyone) as an everlasting covenant, not to eat flesh with blood in it; not to murder etc. See Genesis 9:1-16. There is no ambiguity there. It explains clearly why Gentile Christians were told not to eat flesh that had blood in it, and not to become blood-guilty. Just put those two texts together, and the question asked disappears into the mist.

Blood is denied to humanity, ever since Noah and the animals came out of the Ark. The progeny of Adam (Noah and all his descendants) are not to taste of blood. Not to partake of it, or shed it wantonly. Then, when the one Mediator between God and men shed his blood as a sacrifice for sin, only those who are 'covered' by that due to re-birth into a new humanity, under the new headship of Christ, come under his Priestly services. Yet that does not mean they can then commit adultery, or murder people, or engage in idolatry, does it? So why try to isolate the command not to eat blood, as if that no longer applies? The Apostles, under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, put all of those serious matters together in Acts chapter 15. Who would dare try to chop off one requirement? They all stand together. We cannot pick and choose what suits us! It is the everlasting covenant given to Noah and all his descendants that applies here. These necessary things are not 'implied'. They are clearly commanded.

1

Acts 15:28-29 indicated that Gentiles were to keep God's covenant with Noah, but were not to he burdened with keeping the Law of Moses.

This condition goes beyond the requirements for individual salvation set forth in the Tanakh, in Judaism or by the emissaries. The Tanakh says, and Kefa quotes it at 2:21, “Everyone who calls on the name of Adonai will be saved.” Judaism teaches that to be saved Gentiles need only obey the seven Noachide laws (see v.20). The New Testament books of Romans, Galatians and Ephesians have as a central issue the equality of Jews and Gentiles before God, insofar as salvation is concerned; they make it clear that observance of the Torah, as it applies to Jews, is not a condition for the salvation of a Gentile. -- Stern, D. H. (1996). Jewish New Testament Commentary : a companion volume to the Jewish New Testament (electronic ed., Ac 15:1). Jewish New Testament Publications.

From God's Covenant with Noah

3 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. 5 And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. (Genesis 9:3–5, ESV)

1

This was James (the brother of Jesus) speaking, but Peter was there. These (4) items mentioned are all in relation to idol worship.

  • Fornication
  • Meat sacrificed to idols
  • Things strangled
  • Blood

The basic idea being that God will not be worshiped in a similar manner to the way these former idol worshipers in the gentile churches had worshiped the idols that they had turned away from.

The overview of the chapter is whether or not Gentiles have to follow Mosaic law in addition to accepting Jesus as savior. Simeon points out that Abraham was considered righteous by faith, and that he predates Mosaic law by +/-700 years, and he was a gentile. Therefore if the argument being made of faith + Law is valid, they are effectively condemning Abraham to Hell. So the answer is “No, but…”

This shows what Acts 15:29 implies regarding abstaining from blood. Gentiles were never under the law. Christ fulfilled the law before the gospel of grace was opened fully to the gentiles. Jews are no longer under the law either, but that wasn’t the topic of their discussion.

3
  • How does this answer the question?
    – Dottard
    Feb 16 at 10:48
  • 1
    By providing context. Say you have a verse saying “drive on the left side of the highway” and a seemingly opposing verse that says “drive on the right side of the highway“ and you never acknowledge that one congregation is in Europe and the other is in the US, you will always be confused or will be led to some belief that doesn't hold water. In Acts 15, these are Jews discussing gentiles (who were never under the law). Christ fulfilled the law before the gospel of grace was opened fully to the gentiles. Jews are no longer under the law either, but that wasn’t the topic of their discussion.
    – Kenny
    Feb 17 at 15:09
  • I have taken the liberty of adding into your post the last part of your comment (which answers the query put to you, "How does this answer the question?"). As comments do not form posted answers (and may be removed), this ensures a brief part of your explanation as to how you have answered the question. You may prefer to copy in your entire comment to Dottard, or, completely roll-back my edit.
    – Anne
    Feb 18 at 14:37
1

“Moses has his teachers in every city” (Acts 15:21).

It is difficult to think that only the eating of blood based food, such as black-pudding and blood-sausage, and not the eating of unclean animals or fat, annoyed the teachers of Moses' law. We therefore need to "look outside the box" for an explanation of what God could have implicated through his prophet, James, in Acts 15:29.

”What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth; murder, adultery, sexual immorality, etc. is what defiles them.” (Mat 15:11,19)

Murder is a more serious sin than adultery. People knew this and did not just walk around murdering each other. Although murder was a more significant sin, it was not the biggest contemporary problem in the first Christian era. And neither was, as explained above, the eating of blood based food. Adultery however was.

Jesus: “This is an adulterous generation” (Mat 16:4).

A great, if not the greatest, error when interpreting Moses' teaching, according to Jesus, was to think that it was ok to for any reason divorce one's wife (Mat 19:7-9). Deuteronomy seems to say that a man could simply write a letter of divorce if his wife didn't behave the way he wanted (Deu 24:1). Jesus, however, stated in Matthew that divorce was only ok if the wife had committed adultery. It was obviously a very important point since it was repeated twice, both in Mat 5:32 and in Mat 19:9.

"those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (Gal 5:24)

The main problem behind corrupt relationships was the emphasis on the flesh over the spirit. Paul taught in Gal 5:16 that if we walk in the spirit we will not do what the flesh craves. This big remedy, which Paul also testified of in Gal 5:14, was spelled out with big metaphorical letters in Jesus' sacrifice on the cross at Golgotha: “CRUCIFY THE FLESH”

In Acts 15:29 James’ words seems be moving from the specific to the general. And the underlying premise in his four points mini discourse appears to be about how to keep oneself sexually pure.

  1. Don’t partake of things polluted by idols.
  2. Avoid strangled flesh.
  3. Don’t come near blood.
  4. Abstain from sexual immorality.

Consequently, the answer to the question: “What does Acts 15:29 imply” seems to be: “How to avoid sexual immorality by staying spiritually clean”. Because, James’ words here is apparently an elaboration on Paul's words in 1 Thess 4:4,5:

"Each of you should know how to keep their body (some translations has the word “wife” here) in a holy and honorable way, not with a lustful desire, like the heathen who do not know God".

2
  • 1 Cor 10:11 may be a principle that can be applied across the board? Feb 29 at 23:02
  • If we don't partake in things polluted by idols, we won't get strangled flesh. If we don't get strangled flesh, we won't defile ourselves with blood. Thus, if we don't watch movies, read books, etc. that are polluted by sexual content we wont get an accumulation of blood at embarrassing places, which in turn ultimately will lead to untimely sexual encounters. This is the explanation of the step by step development of sexual immorality. Mar 1 at 13:44
1

To understand the implication of Acts 15:29, the verse must be examined in the context of the entire chapter and not as a stand-alone mandate.

Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. (Acts 15:1-2 NIV)

"Certain people" are likely to be the new Christian believers who were previously Pharisees about to be discussed in verse 5. They are Jewish Christians, not Gentiles. They have a belief that the Gentiles must first be converted to the laws of Judaism and only then will they be eligible to become Christians that are saved by faith. It is incredibly disturbing to former Jews that Gentiles are now next to them and worshiping along with them. Repeatedly through the Old Testament, mandates are given to set Jews apart from others. Now let us look at what they are telling the new Gentile Christians.

Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.” (Acts 15:5 NIV)

In the Old Testament, the Jewish people comprehend that they must follow all the laws of Moses because they are the chosen people and special to God. It is a requirement that sets them apart. In their hearts and minds, they feel that the Gentiles are unclean. Because we are talking about people from Judea, it must be understood that the majority of new Christians in this area were previously Jewish. Gentiles could not marry Jewish people without converting to Judaism first and meeting all the strict requirements which that conversion entailed. So to suddenly accept these Gentile Christians without any requirements first would have felt very wrong to Jewish Christians. Peter admonishes them that the requirements they are demanding of the Gentiles are testing God.

Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” (Acts 15:10-12 NIV)

By yolk, Peter is referring to the law. He is declaring to the Jewish Christians that they are not saved by the law nor are the Gentile Christians. If you read the verses that follow Peter's declaration, the assembly becomes quiet and they are listening. However one can sense in these verses that the Jewish Christians are still disturbed by what they are being told. I reiterate that they had always held themselves separate from other people and one can certainly speculate based on several Gospel stories that former Pharisees still clung to the belief that they were “better” because they adhered to the law.

Then James steps in and he speaks to the assembly. His words are to assure the Jewish Christians that salvation is indeed to include the Gentiles and that they should accept Gentile Christians as brothers. He then tells the assembly:

“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 the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.” (Acts 15:19-21 NIV)

So James is making it clear to the assembly that the church is not going to insist that Gentiles must become circumcised. James says they should instead write a letter that itemizes a list of things the Gentiles should abstain from. These items are in keeping with what is being taught in the synagogues on Sabbath and every Jew knows them. James is specifically itemizing points that are all connected to pagan worship. In a way, these Jewish Christians can be accused of stereotyping all Gentiles as pagan worshipers who had not truly come to Christianity through the Holy Spirit. One could also conclude that a Gentile Christian touched by the Holy Spirit would not associate any of these things as part of worship anyway because now they were worshiping Christ. These “requirements” should be easy. However, putting it in a letter directed at the Gentiles makes the Jewish Christians more accepting of the Gentile Christians in their midst. It is also the purpose of the letter to reassure the Gentile Christians, who are upset about wrongly being told that circumcision was required for salvation.

We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. (Acts 15:24 NIV )

And finally, the letter goes on to say:

It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 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. (Acts 15:28 NIV)

Everything in that list is about pagan worship and the final sentence is “You will do well to avoid these things.” Honestly, that statement is rather soft if you intend to tell people that these are requirements to be followed or you will not be granted salvation. Rather, these are requirements that are necessary to state because the Jewish Christians whom you worship among need these requirements so that their faith will not be shaken and potentially lost.

It should also be noted that Paul had Timothy circumcised. This is a similar situation where it is not a requirement of salvation, but rather a requirement for the Jewish people in order for them not to be offended. The intent is to keep a requirement even though you are not actually under the law because it allows you to share the gospel with those who would otherwise reject you.

To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. 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. (1Cor 9:20 NIV)

A reoccurring debate regarding Acts 15:29 is the issue of blood and blood within food. The question is raised that if adultery is not okay, why then is blood in food like blood sausage okay? Again, if you take this verse in context, sexual immorality is on this list specifically due to its association with pagan worship. There were things commonly practiced in biblical times that we would consider immoral and adulterous today. To say it is okay to have blood sausage is not saying you can freely commit adultery. Adultery is not okay, but the instruction to abstain from sexual immorality in this list is clearly understood by the Jewish Christians to be a specific reference to sex committed as worship practice in pagan rituals.

Finally, I would like to bring up a quote from Romans.

I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. (Romans 14:14-15 NIV)

Paul has a clear message that we are saved by faith alone. We have been made clean and pure by the Lord Jesus Christ. However, once more there is the instruction that you should not shake someone else's faith by your actions. Therefore going back to the question of “What does Acts 15:29 imply?” I must conclude that the intent is to instruct the Gentile Christians not to destroy the faith of the Jewish Christians who had a clear need for certain “requirements” in order not to be offended by the perceived uncleanliness of not having any restrictions set.

7
  • A good answer, but you say, "the instruction to abstain from sexual immorality in this list is clearly understood by the Jewish Christians to be a specific reference to sex committed as worship practice in pagan rituals." What are you saying? That adultery IS okay as long as it's not done as part of pagan worship?
    – Anne
    Mar 1 at 9:59
  • 1
    @Anne I absolutely am NOT saying adultery is okay as long as it's not part of pagan worship. I'm saying that in the context of the letter which was for the Gentiles, the Jews were focusing on what would have been particularly worrisome to Jewish Christians - the notion that Gentiles would fall back on pagan practices. Otherwise, why did they not include so many other items which we acknowledge as sin? The desire was not to burden Gentiles with a long list of laws but the desire was also to make it more acceptable to the Jews for Gentiles to be worshiping beside them. Mar 1 at 10:23
  • 1
    To refrain from eating blood as a requirement shows up in the NT only in this one verse where Jewish Christians clearly wanted many more restrictions. I don't see this verse declaring sausages as a sin, but I also quote Paul regarding individual POV. Gentile Christians in Judea were given a clear shortlist. This list was not presented to the Jewish Christians or the other churches of primarily Gentile converts. The underlying unspoken query of some seems to be if we're free from the law, can we freely commit sin? That's a different question. If you feel it's a sin to eat sausage, don't eat it. Mar 1 at 11:41
  • 1
    The requirement is repeated in Acts 21:25. I do agree with much of what you say. To put my point another way, shedding human blood in pagan practices happened, but that was not what the text alluded to. It was murder, full stop. It was adultery, full stop. When king David committed adultery (followed by ensuring the woman's husband got killed) there was no pagan context. Likewise, it was eating food with blood in it, full stop. Lots of gentiles back then did that without such eating having anything to do with paganism. That's my personal view, not inflicted on others. Most disagree with it.
    – Anne
    Mar 1 at 13:15
  • Acts 21:25 should also be taken in context. Paul has just arrived in Jerusalem. A concern is expressed in v21 that it has been heard by the Jews that Paul instructs Jewish believers not to see the law as their salvation. In Jerusalem, this would certainly be an outrageous concept they are not ready for. Even though not required, Paul places himself under Jewish law (my answer references 1Cor 9:20) and the leaders inform Paul in v25 of what they have instructed the Gentile believers. There are not two standards for salvation depending on if you are a Jew or Gentile. Mar 1 at 15:44
0

To answer this question it helps to understand that this quote is first of all from James not Peter. These decrees were all according to James judgment.

Here are the last words that Peter spoke in the book of Acts.

"Why then, are you now trying God, by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers, nor we have the strength to bear? But through the grace of the Lord Jesus, we are believing, to be saved in a matter, even as they." Acts 15:10-11

Evidently it was not understood or heeded. Somehow, James, the brother of our Lord, seems to have the most influence in Jerusalem with the Judaisers.

"Peter who should have had the leadership, was afraid of him. If his wise and weighty words have been heeded all would have been well. But the legalist were too strong and listened to James, their leader, the brother of the Lord, according to the flesh, rather than to one who was not only one of His brothers in spirit, but had been trained and commissioned to lead His people. Peter's decision was in accord with the spirit and should have been obeyed. James' compromise was a concession to the flesh. Later, when the full truth, for the present was revealed, these decrees were abolished. (Eph. 2:15) Concordant commentary

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.