Does Acts 15:29 refer to unclean food?
Thank you for your good question. I like to look at the whole context first. We need to ask ourselves: why were these recommendations given? The answer is found in Acts 15:1
Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: "Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved."
There seems to have been some friction between Jews and gentiles who had accepted Jesus as their master and Lord. A decision had to be made, before the church would split. It was brought up to the council of Jerusalem
What were the recommendations? They are found in:
Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.
You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.
In this context we see that the decisions of the council of Jerusalem was in order to ease the tension between Jewish and non-Jewish Christians.
Should they be circumcised, and officially adopt the nationality of a Jew?
Four recommendations were made. The last two are very similar and will be put together. If you notice, they all have to do with pagan idol worship.
1. Abstain from food sacrificed to idols
2. Abstain from sexual immorality. Often idolatry and fornication were related to pagan cults. It is a characteristic of Greco-Roman life. As with the harlot-priestesses of Aphrodite at Corinth and Paphos, prostitution was often a part of idolatry. The man who indulged himself in the temple thereby expressed his supposed faith in the goddess thus worshipped.
3. Abstain from strangled animals (as all their blood is still in them) and from blood. The heathen were accustomed, at their sacrifices, to drink blood mingled with wine. Bon appétit!
As you can see, all recommendations have a connection with pagan idol worship.
Are the unclean food done away with? That would pose a problem. If we would say that the council told the Gentile Christians to only observe those 3 or 4 recommendations, half of them are recommendations based on the 10 commandments. Point 1 is based on the first and second commandments:
2"I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
3"You shall have no other gods before me.
4"You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6but showing love to a thousand [ generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Point 2 is based on the 7th commandment:
"You shall not commit adultery.
Are all other 7 commandments put away with? Could gentile Christians kill, steal and bear false witnesses?
Why are the other 7 commandments not mentioned or even the unclean food not mentioned?
Simply, this was not an issue between Jews and gentile Christians. All recommendations were based on common practices among the gentiles. You have to remember that we are dealing here with recently converted gentiles. There were probably some problems with their former practices. Couldn't they just eat the food and drinks of close friends and relatives? Couldn't they continue with certain practices they were accustomed to do with their friends? Similar problems existed when the Israelites were freed from the bondage of Egypt (idol worship).
They did not have to become circumcised to prove that they were Christians, but they had to avoid continuing certain practices. In other words, gentile Christians should not have to become officially like their Jewish brethren through circumcision, but they should avoid identifying with their pagan practices, as they were redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.
I would say that yes, the food would be unclean-referred to in Acts 15:29.
Acts 15:29-AV That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.
From my point of view; No! In this passage Paul was giving instructions to Gentile converts of the minimal requirements expected of them. Here are a few other references relevant to the passage.
Acts 15:20-AV But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and [from] fornication, and [from] things strangled, and [from] blood.
Acts 21:25-AV As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written [and] concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from [things] offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.
Leviticus 17:14-AV For [it is] the life of all flesh; the blood of it [is] for the life thereof: therefore I said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh: for the life of all flesh [is] the blood thereof: whosoever eateth it shall be cut off.
That covers the eating of blood and of things strangled which would still have the blood in them.
Romans 14:14-AV I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that [there is] nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him [it is] unclean.
Romans 14:15-AV But if thy brother be grieved with [thy] meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.
Romans 14:20-AV For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed [are] pure; but [it is] evil for that man who eateth with offence.
Romans 14:21-AV [It is] good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor [any thing] whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.
1Corinthians 10:18-AV Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?
1Corinthians 10:19-AV What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing?
1Corinthians 10:20-AV But I [say], that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.
Revelation 2:14-AV But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
Revelation 2:20-AV Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.
All that is fairly self explanatory. But because the asker of the question seems to be concerned about clean and unclean food, I have attached below the contents of a recent submission relevant to the subject. This submission was in answer to a question of whether in Mark 7:14-23, Jesus was calling all foods clean.
The first reference to 'clean' animals is found in Genesis when Noah was told to take 7 of each of the clean animals on board. Since animals are only known as 'clean' or 'unclean' in the context of whether or not they are good to eat, this suggests to me that meat was on the diet in pre flood times, despite what some 'health message' proponents may claim.
Genesis 7:2-AV Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that [are] not clean by two, the male and his female.
There is another important aspect to this verse in that this was still quite a long time before there was ever a Jew. Those who say the food laws apply only to the Jews should note that animals were regarded as 'clean' and 'unclean', by God, before the flood.
Now, after the flood Noah was told that all animals were to be 'meat' for him.
Genesis 9:3-AV Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.
Consider carefully this verse. We know from the above that Noah knew full well what was 'clean' or not. We also know that God does not change. So this is not a reference to God changing what was 'clean'. By this time the only food not destroyed would have been what Noah brought with him on the Ark, and possibly, fish. I believe that this is God telling Noah that he could decide himself what to eat, probably to avoid waste as much as anything else. I would expect that Noah and his family would have eaten 'clean' food whenever possible.
Then we come to the food laws. A careful examination of these laws will reveal that they were given more in the interests of good health than anything else. It is evident too that these health laws also included instructions for personal hygiene and methods of dealing with boils, leprosy and other maladies. Following these laws did also set the Jews apart from those around them.
One thing one learns when exploring the Bible - God is very practical. There are some quite good medical reasons for following the food health laws. Here are some of them.
All 'clean' animals are ruminants. That is they have four stomachs. This ensures a much more thorough processing of food than is possible with one stomach, and less pollutants are stored in the flesh. It has also been discovered that ruminants are not subject to flesh worms.
These can be acquired from eating the flesh of almost every other animal. The pig which got special mention as 'unclean' stores poisons in its body fat. A snake cannot kill a pig. The poison is just stored in the fat under the skin and is ingested by anything that subsequently eats that pig. Many outback Australian properties keep pet pigs around the home buildings to deal with snakes which come in plague proportions when the cracks in the ground, where they live, are closed by the swelling of the earth after rainfall. Pigs love snakes - they suck them up like spaghetti. My wife grew up with pet pigs that were kept for this purpose.
Concerning the flesh of the pig. With today's hygienic methods of raising these animals it is unlikely they would carry the same risk as one raised in the wild, but consider this: the meat takes 4 days to digest in the bowel instead of 2 for 'clean' meats. Bowel cancer has been linked to excessive meat consumption and if the length of time spent in the bowel has anything to do with it then pork is twice as bad as beef.
Likewise the birds that are clean have an organ called a 'gizzard' which again permits the bird to process it's food more thoroughly. Most of what we call 'sea food', prawns, crabs, shell fish etc. are filter feeders. What they do is clean up the pollution in the oceans and store it in their bodies. Oysters for instance thrive best downstream from sewerage outlets. When one eats these creatures the pollutions become more concentrated in our own bodies. Calcium kidney stones for instance are often the result of over indulgence in these foods. Fish without scales, like sharks and catfish, are scavengers and are at the top of food chains (as is the pig). Their bodies will contain a much higher level of pollutants than creatures further down the chain. Even among the 'clean' fish there are some that you can't eat. The 'Chinaman', a beautiful big red reef fish looks great but contains poison.
One creature we do not seem to eat much unless we live in Afghanistan, is the grasshopper or locust. Its clean. Get stuck in. I'm told that when cooked they taste somewhat like sausages and contain more protein than beef. I must admit the only time I have eaten one was when riding a motorbike and for some reason opened my mouth at the wrong moment.
Leviticus 11:22-AV [Even] these of them ye may eat; the locust after his kind, and the bald locust after his kind, and the beetle after his kind, and the grasshopper after his kind.
In Mark 7 Jesus is talking about spiritual defilement. He made no reference to 'clean' or 'unclean' foods except to say that the man is not defiled by what goes into his mouth, but what comes out of it. The whole argument started with an objection to some of His disciples eating bread without washing their hands. If you take this passage to mean that it is all right to eat unclean foods, you have missed the point.
Jesus is virtually saying that whatever a man decides to eat, it will not defile him spiritually. This is totally consistent with the earlier reference to Noah being allowed to eat all things. It is also consistent with the food laws being guidelines for good health rather than hard and fast laws in the same sense as murder and stealing etc.
Paul also had something to say on the topic. Consider this passage. 1Corinthians 10:23-AV All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.
1Corinthians 10:24-AV Let no man seek his own, but every man another's [wealth].
1Corinthians 10:25-AV Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, [that] eat, asking no question for conscience sake:
1Corinthians 10:26-AV For the earth [is] the Lord's, and the fullness thereof.
1Corinthians 10:27-AV If any of them that believe not bid you [to a feast], and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake.
1Corinthians 10:28-AV But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth [is] the Lord's, and the fullness thereof:
Paul is consistent here with the trend that has been emerging. All things are lawful to him but he would not give offence to another by eating something the other thought unclean, in the other's presence. He would consider the other's feelings above his own. If invited out to a meal, he would show good manners by asking a blessing and cheerfully eating what was put in front of him rather than offend the host by rejecting what would probably be a carefully and lovingly prepared meal. This is the code I was taught as a child. Meat sacrificed to idols is not a problem in western cultures but may be in some pagan cultures.
Romans 14:1-AV Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, [but] not to doubtful disputations.
Romans 14:2-AV For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.
Romans 14:3-AV Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
Romans 14:4-AV Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
In this passage Paul again supports the concept that eating is a personal choice and that we should not despise another on account of what is eaten, but support and encourage each other. (I like that bit about 'One that is weak eateth herbs' - Paul apparently was not a vegetarian) Just on that - It would probably not be nice to refer to vegetarians as 'weak' - some of them are actually pretty tough. The spirit of this message is to give support and tolerance to others and not bother about what they choose to eat.
One more relevant point we should consider.
1Corinthians 6:19-AV What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
1Corinthians 6:20-AV For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.
1Corinthians 10:31-AV Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
From these verses it would seem prudent to take good care of our bodies and this would mean avoiding foods that may not be good for us. We should eat, drink and live our lives to the glory of God, not for our own pleasure.
To sum this up, it is my belief, supported by the quotations above that eating is a personal choice, and that the food or health laws should be taken as good advice. The God who told us what was 'clean' and 'unclean' is the same God who made these creatures. He should know.
Jesus did not nullify the guidelines (health laws) given in the OT. Nor did he say not to wash your hands before you eat. We have brains and intelligence to work things out and do what is best for our own bodies, always considering the needs and feelings of others.
May God bless our understanding.
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