Have Ye Not Read?

By Hoyt H. Houchen

Question: God did not allow the Israelites to eat blood. Is it scriptural for us to eat blood today? Please explain Acts 5:20, 29.

Reply: The question about circumcision had been raised at Antioch in Syria. Concerning this controversy, Luke wrote: “And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, saying, Except ye be circumcised after the custom of Moses, ye cannot be saved. And when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and questioning with them, the brethren appointed that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question” (Acts 15:1,2). It was the decision of the brethren at Jerusalem, confirming what the Holy Spirit had already revealed, that the Gentiles abstain from four things: things sacrificed to idols, blood, things strangled, and fornication (v. 251).

There has been some discussion as to what is meant by abstaining from blood. Some think that it means to abstain from murder. Others believe that it means to abstain from eating of blood as forbidden by the law of Moses. “The blood” here seems clearly to be the blood of animals which should not be eaten (Lev. 17:10-15). It was a heathen practice to catch the blood from an animal in a container and drink it. The Israelites were not allowed to do this, because God plainly said that “the life of all flesh is the blood” (see Lev. 17:13, 14; Deut. 12:23). God’s people were instructed to pour out the blood of the animal that had been killed (Lev. 17:13). God had already forbidden Noah and his descendants to eat blood (Gen. 9:4), so the prohibition was not confined to the law of Moses.

We must not presuppose that eating blood is permitted today. Some have thought that the decision at the Jerusalem conference was made as an expediency – that it was applied to the Gentiles, because if they failed to observe it, the Jews who had always refrained from the practice, would be offended. This, however, is an assumption without proof. Already we have shown that God had prohibited the act of eating blood even in the time of Noah, long before the law of Moses was given. The eating of blood is forbidden throughout the Scriptures. The same reason for not eating blood before and during the law of Moses prevails today. We cannot assume that the same reason that existed then does not exist today. In fact, there is no evidence that it ever was revoked. “The life of the flesh is in the blood.” This is the reason that God gives for not eating it, thus it remains true.

The blood of Christ atones for the sins of the world (Rom. 5:8-11). The death penalty was ordained by God and was imposed upon anyone who “sheddeth man’s blood” (Gen. 9:6). This should be reason enough that God has always forbidden the eating of blood.

Guardian of Truth XXX: 5, p. 133
March 6, 1986