Was eating blood only wrong because it was associated with idolatry?
I have been here a week and a half in Chile but having a discussion already with people. What is your opinion of eating or drinking the blood of an animal? Here they have a thing where they kill a lamb and then cook its blood in some spices and eat it as jello, or well it looks like jello. The argument I have been hearing is that in the New Testament the blood is said to be sacrificed to idols so it has meaning behind it only with idols or that sort of thing. But if people are just having it like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in context then it's OK. I haven't read all the passages and I just got back to the house I am staying at. Both arguments are well based, especially the reasoning behind no blood. I was wondering your thoughts because a guy is probably going to smother me into the ground tomorrow with it. He thinks it's OK because the context is sacrificed to idols.
The forbidding of the ingesting blood pre-dates the Law of Moses. When God first allowed men to eat meat, He stated, "Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood" (Genesis 9:2-3). This covenant has not been rescinded. The rainbow in our skies is a witness to the fact that it remains, just as all other terms of the covenant God made with Noah that day remains.
Thus, when you get to the Law of Moses you find that the same prohibition is stated.
"And whatever man of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell among you, who eats any blood, I will set My face against that person who eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul. Therefore I said to the children of Israel, 'No one among you shall eat blood, nor shall any stranger who dwells among you eat blood.' Whatever man of the children of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell among you, who hunts and catches any animal or bird that may be eaten, he shall pour out its blood and cover it with dust; for it is the life of all flesh. Its blood sustains its life. Therefore I said to the children of Israel, 'You shall not eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off.'" (Leviticus 17:10-14).
Notice especially God's reasoning for this prohibition. Life is in the blood, so therefore men are not allowed to eat the blood of an animal. "Only be sure that you do not eat the blood, for the blood is the life; you may not eat the life with the meat. You shall not eat it; you shall pour it on the earth like water. You shall not eat it, that it may go well with you and your children after you, when you do what is right in the sight of the LORD" (Deuteronomy 12:23-25). The reason for the prohibition has not changed.
In the New Testament, we find that difficulties arose as Gentiles began to obey the Gospel. "And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved." Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question" (Acts 15:1-2). The reason the question was taken to Jerusalem was that the teachers who were stating that the Law of Moses had to be kept were coming from the area of Jerusalem. People wanted to know where this church stood.
After a long discussion there, the church concluded as a whole that Gentiles did not have to obey the law of Moses to be saved. So they wrote a letter to the Gentile churches to state that they did not support the teachings of these men. "Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath" (Acts 15:19-21). James stated that Christians from Jewish backgrounds and Christians from Gentile backgrounds could work and worship together. He recommended, though, that the Gentiles be taught that some of their former practices ought not to be brought into the church. They were:
- Involvement with idols,
- Eating meat with the blood still in the meat, and
- Eating blood directly.
If we used your friend's argument that eating blood was only wrong because it was associated with idols, then we must conclude that fornication is only wrong because it was associated with idolatry. If eating blood can be justified today because those doing it no longer associated with idolatry, then fornication would be justified so long as those doing it don't associate it with idolatry. Obviously, this is a falsehood. Fornication is wrong -- period. The implication is that eating blood is also wrong -- period. Just as idolatry is wrong -- period.
Read the passage again closely James is listing four things to avoid, not one thing with three sub-points.
"They wrote this letter by them: The apostles, the elders, and the brethren, To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: Greetings. Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, "You must be circumcised and keep the law" --to whom we gave no such commandment-- it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell" (Acts 15:23-29).
Notice in the letter that the things listed are not the opinions of men. The church in Jerusalem understood that these were requirements given by the Holy Spirit. Though the order of the four things is slightly different, the point remains the same. The fact that it was multiple points and not just one point is seen by the final line "if you keep yourselves from these" and not "if you keep yourselves from this." If the points were just illustrations of abstaining from things sacrificed to idols then there would really be only one point being given to the Christians and "this" would be the proper ending. However, there are multiple equal points and "these" is what was stated.
Years later, that same letter was mentioned again. "But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality" (Acts 21:25). The leaders in Jerusalem are stating that these rules are still being applied in their congregation. They don't make Gentiles become Jews before accepting them, but they do insist that they leave some of their Gentile practices, which were sinful, behind.
So no, men are not to eat blood. It has always been forbidden because life is in the blood.