Meat with Blood – Greeks and Romans
The ancient Romans and the Greeks prepared their meat with blood. For example, Homer wrote: “Here at the fire are goats’ paunches lying, which we set there for supper, when we had filled them with fat and blood. Now whichever of the two wins and proves himself the better man, let him rise and choose for himself which one of these he will”. Odyssey xvii. 44–49; Loeb ed., vol. 2, pp. 199, 201. The pagans even used to drink blood mingled with wine when they offered their sacrifices.
The Old Testament clearly states that God prohibited people from eating meat with blood. The flesh of slaughtered animals was left to drain out of blood before eating it. The animals that were strangled would not usually be bled, and so their meat would not be bled, and thus it would not be right to be used as food (Leviticus 17:13, 14).
God gave the prohibition against eating blood as soon as animal flesh was permitted for humans (Genesis 9:4). And He restated this prohibition in the Mosaic law (Leviticus 3:17; 7:26; 17:10; 19:26). And later on, the Lord still considered that the eating of animal blood as a sin (1 Samuel 14:33).
The Lord taught that this prohibition was not only for the Jews but also for the gentile converts. For the Jerusalem Council, formed by the apostles under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, decreed that gentiles should “abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality” (Acts 15:29).
Josephus, speaking as a Jew of the 1st century A.D., recorded 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 ; Loeb ed., vol. 4, p. 443).
And thus, for numerous centuries, the Christian church observed this rule as seen in Irenaeus’ (c. A.D. 185) quote: “‘That it be enjoined them, that they do abstain from the vanities of idols, and from fornication, and from blood; and whatsoever they wish not to be done to themselves, let them not do to others’” (Against Heresies iii. 12. 14; ANF, vol. 1, pp. 435, 436).
And later on, the early church taught this prohibition as told by Tertullian (died c. A.D. 230), who, writing to pagans, said: “Blush for your vile ways before the Christians, who have not even the blood of animals at their animals at their meals of simple and natural food; who abstain from things strangled and that die a natural death, for no other reason than that they may not contract pollution, so much as from blood secreted in the viscera” (Apology 9; ANF, vol. 3, p. 25).
In following the Bible instruction, meat with blood was also prohibited by the Eastern Christian Church: “If any bishop, or presbyter, or deacon, or indeed any one of the sacerdotal catalogue, eats flesh with the blood of its life, or that which is torn by beast, or which died of itself, let him be deprived; for this the law has forbidden. But if he be one of the laity, let him be suspended” (Apostolic Canon 63; ANF, vol. 7, p. 504).
In His service,