It seems clear that the Scriptures not only permit God’s people to eat meat, but that God even calls such “good.”
- Genesis 9:1-4 => After the flood waters had subsided, God gave Noah and his family a new instruction regarding what was available for their diet. They could now eat meat, something that was not allowed before this (Gen. 1:29-30).
- Genesis 25 => We find that Jacob loved food prepared from Esau’s game.
- Exodus 12 => When God instituted the Passover, He instructed each family in Israel to each the flesh of the lamb slain.
- Leviticus 7:15 => God instructs the Israelites to eat the flesh of their sacrifice the same day it is offered.
- Leviticus 8:31 => God instructs that the priests are to eat the flesh of certain sacrificial offerings.
- Matthew 26:19ff (Mark 14:16ff; Luke 22:13ff; John 13) => Jesus ate the Passover meal with the disciples. This meal, by definition, would have included lamb.
- Acts 10:13 => God/Jesus instructs Peter to kill and eat meat, even from animals which Peter thought to be unclean. Vs. 15 => Peter is told to no longer call something unclean as God is declaring all to be clean.
What about blood? There is a particular instruction found in the Scriptures, which seems to create some confusion for folks.
Genesis 9:4 => But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.
Acts 15:20 => but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.
Leviticus 17:13-14 => 13 “Any one also of the people of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn among them, who takes in hunting any beast or bird that may be eaten shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth. 14 For the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life. Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off.
How can the Bible speak so frequently about eating meat and at the same time give a restriction on eating blood? Notice, this restriction isn’t limited to just one passage. It is significant that we find it in Genesis 9 (straight after the flood when there are only eight people on the planet), Leviticus 9 (part of the Mosaic Law), and Acts 15 (instructions to New Covenant, Gentile Christians).
So, what do we do with this?
- The restriction from eating blood cannot be a restriction from eating meat. In Genesis 9, we find the permission to eat meat and the restriction to abstain from blood in the same sentence, virtually. In other words, one must be able to eat meat and yet avoid eating blood in order for one to follow God’s instructions.
- It is impossible to drain all the blood from an animal. Therefore this restriction cannot be a requirement for God’s people to only eat meat when all blood has been drained from it.
- Whatever this restriction does mean, it seems to be binding on all God’s people as it is first stated in Genesis 9, restated in Leviticus, and repeated in Acts.
- One helpful source is to look at the ancient and modern practice of Shechitah (the Jewish practice of slaughtering a cow under the Kosher method). This is a practice which Jews have followed for centuries, developed partly, to adhere to this Old Testament law. (Links here & here.) You will see that in this process the blood of an animal is drained before it is butchered for consumption. Clearly not all of the blood, as this is not possible.
- In fact, it is well known that draining the blood from an animal once it has been killed is critical to ensure the meat does not spoil quickly and the best taste is maintained. See this basic article on field dressing a deer.
- Even in commercially slaughtered animals “bleeding” is an essential practice. See this section of a procedure manual.
- So, what does the restriction “to abstain from blood” mean?
- To abstain from the drinking of blood – a practice of pagan people from ancient times.
- To abstain from eating meat with large amounts of blood – blood that has not been drained properly (something that is generally common when an animal is strangled).
- What does this restriction not mean?
- This restriction says nothing regarding blood transfusions. (The teachings of Jehovah Witnesses from these same passages.)
- This is not a restriction from eating meat, red meat, rare steak, veal, etc. In fact, for an animal which has been properly bled (the generally accepted practice followed by commercial farmers, hunters, etc.) there is no restriction from eating such meat.
This article is also helpful: “Must Christians Today “Abstain from Blood?”