Is it wrong for Christians to eat blood? Should we follow Acts 15:28-29 literally? If so, can you please explain why? Thanks a lot for your clarification.


I am surprised that when I checked I found out that I have never answered this question at the web site.  I have gotten it a number of times in live presentations.   I believe we should start to answer this question by looking at Mark 7:19.  Here, Jesus clearly declared, for the Christian, that all foods are “clean.”  This means that one cannot be made ceremonially unclean by eating food–no matter what kind of food.  It is therefore, in principle, not a sin to eat any food, which would include the eating of the blood of animals.


This brings up the question of how to apply Acts 15:28-29.   The key is to look at the context of the passage.  In what is known as the Council of Jerusalem, the question of what to do about the conflict of practice between almost purely Gentile churches such as those begun by Paul and the almost purely Jewish churches in Palestine.   The Christians in Jerusalem and probably in other churches in Palestine had been observing most of the regulations of the Mosaic Law up to the time recorded in Acts 15.  They observed the Sabbath and most or all of the other Jewish holy days.  They also continued a kosher or nearly kosher food practice.  They were still circumcising their male children.   Paul did not impose these practices on the Gentile Christians simply because they are NOT required by Christianity.  We are not commanded to circumcise our children, to observe Jewish festivals or to eat kosher anywhere in the New Testament.   In fact, Paul speaks very strongly against commanding such things in the books of Colossians and Galatians.    However, when the church leaders met together in Jerusalem, they wanted to find some sort of middle ground which would satisfy Paul’s insistence that we Christians are not bound by Jewish laws but which was sensitive to Jewish practices.  It seems that they decided to ask the Gentile Christians to avoid certain practices which were particularly offensive to the Jews.  This must be seen as a compromise for the sake of love and unity.   We can assume that the eating of blood was particularly offensive to the Jews.  Paul conceded, out of humility and a desire to be sensitive, to ask the Gentile Christians to forego the eating of blood so as to make it easier for the Jewish Christians to accept them in full fellowship.


If you look at Acts 15 and think of the decision of the council as a temporary expedient in order to maintain unity within the church, then it all makes sense.   We have a few admonitions in scripture to avoid certain practices which would offend others, even if they are not inherently wrong.  Romans 14 is a discussion from Paul which suggests that the strong (in the context, those who are more mature and understand that a particular practice is not wrong per se) should be willing to forego certain freedoms for the sake of the weak (those with a more tender conscience).  I believe that Paul applied this to his relationships with the Jewish Christians.


Here is the bottom line.  If a Christian lives in a country or culture where the eating of blood is extremely offensive, then that disciple ought to refrain from the eating of blood, not because it is sinful, but because it would be sinful to be a stumbling block to those who believe it is wrong.   It is NOT sinful for a Christian to eat blood, but it might be advisable in certain circumstances to refrain.


John Oakes

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