Blood Eating

By Glenn Hamilton

There are many arguments that have been advanced to oppose or promote or allow blood eating. I will not attempt to address every argument in this one short article. If a reader wishes to have other arguments discussed, simply write to me and explain the argument. I will then do my best to discuss those points in another article. 
This article will be limited to arguments based on Jewish law. The general argument is that since blood eating was not allowed under the Mosaic Law, but the food laws were lifted at Jesus'death, then all things are allowable now for food. The corollary to this argument is that if someone today tries to bind the food laws, then he must also bind the rest of the Mosaic law.

The Mosaic Law 

First let's examine what the Mosaic law says about food and what it says about eating blood. The general food laws are given in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. These chapters specify which foods will be clean for the Israelites and which will be unclean. The penalty for breaking these laws was a period of ceremonial uncleanness.

 Clean Foods 

"Any animal that has a split hoof completely divided and that chews the cud." (Lev. 11:3) 

Of water creatures, 'Any that have fins and scales.' (Lev. 11:9) 

Birds that do not eat meat. 

Flying insects that walk on all four legs and the legs are jointed for hopping (Lev. 11:21)

 Unclean Foods 

Any that does not have both a split hoof AND chews the cud.

Any water creature that does not have both fins and scales

Birds of prey and scavengers (Lev 11:13-19)

 All other winged insects.

Nowhere in either list is there a mention of blood. In fact, nowhere in the Old Testament is eating blood referred to as clean or unclean. It is simply called "eating blood'. So let's look at a couple of passages from the law of Moses about eating blood.

Lev. 7:27 "If anyone eats blood, that person must be cut off from his people." 

Lev 17:10 "Any Israelite or any alien living among them who eats any blood -- I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from his people."  

I picked these two passages because they make it clear that the penalty for eating blood was not ceremonial uncleanness. Instead they were to be cut off from the people. That was the same penalty God gave for incest, sacrificing children, and bestiality (Lev 18:1-30, esp. v 29). 

The Old Testament

So why doesn't God consider blood as an unclean food? Apparently because God never considered it food. That does not mean that it cannot be eaten as food with nutritional value, but that does not guarantee that blood is food in the sight of God. Even the fact that man has been eating something for many years cannot be an argument that something is food in God's sight. So does God ever tell man what he is to consider to be food? Certainly.

 Let's look at Genesis 1:26-31. Here God says what He had originally given to man (and animals) as food. He gave them plants, fruits, and nuts. That is all. Let the silence of God resound! When God is specific in His command, then all other options are excluded and, therefore, sinful. Yes, man may have eaten animals anyway in the days between Adam and Noah, but such practice was sin.

Now let's go to Genesis 9:1-7. In verse 3, God makes it clear that He is adding permission to His earlier command in Genesis 1. The new permission allows man to eat any of the creatures that move on earth, swim in water or fly in the air. All of those were now added to God's definition of food which He gave in Genesis 1:26-31. But God does not allow blood to be considered as part of that definition. It is specifically excluded in Genesis 9:4.1 Again man could not go against God's law. Since the time of Noah, it is not even an argument from silence. God specifically forbade man the right to eat blood.

Now we can put all of this Old Testament information together. Originally God defined food as only things from plants. After the flood, God adds land, sea and air creatures to His definition of food. We know that anyone who ate blood was committing sin. Later, for the Israelites in the Mosaic law, God divided the category of foods into clean and unclean. Israelites could only eat the clean foods. Blood was not placed into either category (clean or unclean foods), because God had never given blood to man as food.

The New Testament

 So what changes were made when Jesus died on the cross. Did He change God's definition of food? Or did He remove the distinction between clean and unclean foods?

Let's look at Mark 7:1-23. Although the Jews are asking about their tradition of clean and unclean hands, Jesus makes some statements that have application to our discussion. Verse 19, is probably the most appropriate verse to turn to. Mark (the author) comments that Jesus' statement made all foods clean. Notice that Jesus made food to be clean. That is, unclean food became clean. Jesus did not make all things food. Food has remained food not based on man's desire to eat it or ability to receive nourishment but based on God's definition.

 The point is repeated in Acts 10:9-16. In a vision God commands Peter to arise, kill and eat from a selection of animals and birds. Peter refuses because the choices were "unclean'. God responds that He had made them clean. What was made clean? Obviously foods that were unclean. But unclean foods do not include blood, because God never considered blood to be food.

 Paul makes the same point in Ephesians (and Colossians). Read Ephesians 2:11-22. 

By His death Jesus removed the law that had separated Jews from Gentiles. Which law separated Jews from Gentiles? Was it the definition of food in Genesis 9? No, of course not.2 It was the Mosaic law, which included the distinction between clean and unclean foods. Christ's death did not change God's definition of food in Genesis 9 anymore than it changed God's definition of marriage in Genesis 2:24.3  

The Jerusalem Council


Did anything said by the gathering of apostles in Jerusalem place blood in the definition of food? Read Acts 1 5. Some look to James' comment in verse 21 as a qualification on the four requirements he proposed in the preceding verses. But even if it was proposed as a qualification, notice that it does not appear in the letter sent to the Gentile churches. Gentile Christians were under the same obligation as any other Christian to avoid, idolatry, sexual immorality, blood and things strangled. Notice also that the official letter (in verses 23 - 29) does not contain a single reference to the law of Moses. There was no attempt there to change God's definition of food or to even talk about the law. The letter spoke of what was necessary for them to be Christians. (Of course, it does not mention everything necessary for salvation, but we all know that we look for the whole counsel of God)4.


 Why did God not want the Christians to eat blood? Because it was not food. Yes, man did break God's command by eating blood, but that is not a reason to eat. God has spoken about eating blood. He condemned it. Therefore, to eat blood is sin. 


 One final point is on how we should deal with other Christians who do not believe that blood eating is wrong. First, we must teach them (Ezk 33:1-20). That does not mean that blood eating must always be the topic when we are together, but it must be made clear that we can not scripturally agree