The Matter of Blood Eating

(By Howard Justice)

     This past Sunday morning, as I sat in my wheelchair awaiting the passing of the "fruit of the vine," I was pondering why my Savior would have given His precious life-blood for my sins. Suddenly, I was taken back to a matter that I had referred to in some recent posts with my brethren (Howard is referring to some Internet discussion lists, dm). The thought came to me that Christians do not eat the blood of animals since God had ordained that the blood contained the life of any animal, including man. Is man an animal? Not in the spiritual sense but he certainly is from a biological or a zoological aspect. Just as any other fleshly animal, man depends upon blood to provide the nutrients, including oxygen and carbon dioxide, glucose, fats, vitamins, etc. necessary for maintaining life. Yet it was the very thing that gives life that God had required, in ages past, to be shed for the sins of man. With that thought in mind, let us answer a troublesome but doctrinal question regarding the consumption of blood by man today.

     In The Beginning. In Genesis 1:29-30, after God had created greenery and the animals and fowls if the air, we note what Moses has to say.

     "And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so."

     Contrary to what some might imply regarding the eating of flesh, God gave specific permission here for man to eat of the herbs (plant life) as well as the fowls of the air and the beasts of the field, even those things that creep (snakes).  (See my addendum, DM.)  The original statement of God, in Genesis 1:30, indicates that the life is in the blood. And from subsequent passages found in God's word, we take serious note that man was not allowed to eat of any flesh unless the blood (the life thereof) was drained from it.

     In 1 Timothy 4:3-4, Paul makes note that there would arise false teachers who would prohibit several things, including the eating of meat. But, notice that in verse 4, Paul makes it expressly clear that ALL animals were to be considered as food if they were received with thanksgiving. Thus, meat eating has always been permissible for man since creation.

     Because of specific reasons, God saw fit to restrict the Jews to eating certain types of animals and fishes. Why? We cannot say. All that we can ascertain is that God said so! Are those animals forbidden for man today? For the most part, no. Why? It is because the law of Christ has superseded the Law of Moses. Only those animals, such as those which eat carrion (decaying flesh), otherwise known here in south Alabama as "road-kill", are still considered unacceptable to man. Common sense and personal hygiene dictate that. But 1 Timothy 4:3-4 gives full permission for all men to eat the flesh of most animals today.

     The Patriarchal Period.   Even in the dawn of man's existence here on earth, blood played a significant part of God's prohibitions and His enforced rituals for His people. When Cain rose up out of jealousy and killed his brother, God told him that Abel's blood "cried out from the ground." It was Abel's blood that contained his life and it was that part of him that God recognized as carrying the life of Abel. Hence his blood made testimony that his body and his blood had been separated. See Genesis 4:3-15.

     Later, in Genesis 9:3-4, When the great flood had killed everyone except eight souls, God forbade Noah and his generations (all men) to eat of any flesh which retained the blood that could have been separated from it:

     "Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat." (KJV)

     So here we see the prohibition being amplified for the observance for ALL men, including Gentiles, not just God's favored peoples. As a result, we must then reason that this prohibition transcends all of God's systems of law.

     In Genesis 22:1-14, Moses records the events of Abraham being asked to sacrifice his son upon the altar he constructed at Mt. Moriah. After binding his son and raising his knife, the angel stayed his hand. His having raised his knife indicates that his intended method to kill his only son was the separation of his son's life from his flesh. Hence, Isaac's life was in his blood.

     The Jewish Age. After God had delivered the children of Israel under Moses' leadership, He gave them a series of restrictions to regulate their conduct. Among these are the restrictions of sacrifice where the animal's blood would be separated from the flesh and offered unto God. The priests were permitted to eat of the burnt flesh but the blood was allowed to run forth on the ground. Why? So that the life and flesh might be fully separated. (Leviticus !:5, 11, 12)

     It is also to be noted here that the Jews were forbidden to eat of flesh from which the blood had not been separated. In Leviticus 3:17, God forbade the Jews from ever eating fat or blood. In Lev. 7:26, 27, God again reminds His people that they could not eat blood lest they be separated from the house of Israel. In Lev 17:11, 14, God again speaks to the children of Israel and forbids them to eat of the blood of any animal and makes other restrictions regarding the eating of flesh that has been killed by another animal. It is expressly clear that God has always prohibited the eating of blood up to this time. Why? It is because the blood of man contains his life.

     The Christian Age. Some have surmised that because the law of Christ replaced the past laws, especially the law of Moses, that the restrictions of God regarding the eating of blood specifically has been abolished. But that is not the case. In Acts 15:1, Luke records that some men came from Judea teaching the keeping of the Law of Moses, especially circumcision. In order to settle this question, several men, including Paul and Barnabas went back to Jerusalem to clarify the matter. They presented their case to Peter and the others, including the other apostles and the elders of the church. As a result of this meeting, Paul, Barnabas and the other men carried a directive (a letter from the Jerusalem church) back to Antioch telling them that there were only four things in common with the Law of Moses that they were to avoid as Christians. These were (1). Pollutions from idols, (2). Fornication, (3). things that had been strangled, and (4). the eating of blood (verse 20).

     One can rightly conclude that the reasons for these were that (1). God has always been a jealous God, that idolatry has always been a sin, (2). fornication has always been a sin before God, (3). that strangled animals still contain the blood and (4). that the life is in the blood. The blood is that part of any animal which gives life to the flesh. This has always been a fact of God since creation (Genesis 1:30). These prohibitions are not simply a part of the Law of Moses but have been God's law since creation. Like marriage, these are basic rules that have remained true since man's creation and are extra-dispensational in their application.

     Some have argued that these prohibitions in Acts 15 are local and temporary. My question to them is this: Is marriage a local or a temporary relationship? Certainly not! Just as the institution of marriage has always been with us since creation, in the same manner, the prohibition of blood eating has been a matter of fact since creation. It has always been a transgression for man to eat any flesh which has not been drained of its blood.

     Some state that this has only to do with the worship rituals of God's people, especially the Jews. My answer is that God has ALWAYS considered that blood contains the life of any animal, including man. Therefore, it is a sin to eat of any animal which has not been drained of its life-giving substance; namely the blood. Hence we see the importance of the life-giving blood, not only of the sacrifices of God's people in the past, but also of His only begotten Son who poured out His life-blood for our sins upon the cross. The only consumption of blood that is allowed under God is that metaphorical consumption that we observe on the first day of the week in the fruit of the vine which represents the blood of Jesus (Matt. 26:27-28; Mk 14:23-24).

     Conclusion:  The human consumption of the blood of any animal is a sin today, just as much as it was under the previous ages. And, the only exception is the observance of the Lord's Supper wherein we partake of the emblem which reflects His precious blood. I am aware that many societies have adopted the eating of sausages, puddings or other foods that have blood as the main ingredient. I am also aware that many native tribes do eat blood and think nothing of such. But the Lord's commandment to Christians is to "keep themselves from things sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what is strangled, and from fornication." (Acts 15:20)

     Our obligation is to preach and teach the whole counsel of God; not part of the counsel, but ALL of it. We should preach against any sinful practice whenever and wherever we may find it. If we don't then we are not true to our commitment to God. Why?  Because blood eating is a sin and will condemn a man to the judgment of God. Christ tells us, through His word, that we are to "preach the word, to be instant in season, out of season, to reprove , rebuke and to exhort, with all long-suffering and teaching."  (For a sermon outline that contains similar material, click on "The Matter of Blood Transfusions.")

     Addendum:  Many scholars believe that included though not specified in the written record was the matter of permission to eat flesh in Genesis 1: 29, 30.  There are a number of reasons for this conclusion and involved precipitating arguments.  However, we do know that in Genesis 9: 3 the written record contains expressed permission to eat flesh.  It appears that author Justice lumps together Genesis 1: 29, 30 and 9: 3, as do a number of critical scholars.  I am not, however, convinced that the verses should be so combined.  Don Martin.