Does Acts 15:20 forbid eating blood?

Hello O,

Thank you for contacting BibleAsk.

“But that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood” (Acts 15:20).

Acts 15 forbids the eating of meat with blood. This prohibition against the use of blood as food was made as soon as animal food was permitted for humans (Genesis 9:4) and it was frequently restated in the Mosaic law. “This shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwellings: you shall eat neither fat nor blood” (Leviticus 3:17); “Moreover you shall not eat any blood in any of your dwellings, whether of bird or beast” (Leviticus 7:26). See also Leviticus 17:10; 19:26. The reason for this prohibition is that “the life of the flesh is in the blood” (Leviticus 17:11).

The people of Israel understood this prohibition and considered it a sin to eat blood. For example, on one of the battles that King Saul led out in, he prohibited his army from eating anything until the battle was over. By the time the battle was won, his army were so hungry that they started to eat meat before it had time to be drained of all the blood. “Then they told Saul, saying, “Look, the people are sinning against the Lord by eating with the blood!” So he said, “You have dealt treacherously; roll a large stone to me this day” (1 Samuel 14:33).

At the time of the early Christian church, the practice of eating blood was common among both Greeks and Romans. In addition, the heathen were accustomed to drinking blood mixed with wine at their religious festivals. The early church had to therefore reiterate God’s original instruction regarding eating blood to the Gentile converts. The Jews apparently still adhered to this principle as Josephus, speaking of the 1st century A.D., wrote that “blood of any description he [Moses] has forbidden to be used for food, regarding it as the soul and spirit” (Antiquities iii. 11. 2 [260]; Loeb ed., vol. 4, p. 443).

In His service,

The BibleAsk Team

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