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I noticed on islam.SE, Ansari here refers to "Christian practices during the slaughter", which made me raise an eyebrow - as an ex-Christian, I can't remember anything of this form coming up (I was RC, if that skews things). After querying this, Ansari replied:

I believe some of the Eastern Christianity sects have some ritual requirements, in particular, the mention of God's name. For example, in the Syriac-language Nomocanon of Barhebraeus (d. 1286), a Christian butcher is instructed to recite the phrase ba-shma d'elaha haya, “In the name of the living God.” Gregorius Barhebraeus, Nomocanon, ed. Paul Bedjan (Paris: Harrassowitz, 1898); (citation taken from here)

When trying to look this up, I can only really find references to it on Islamic sites, and it doesn't sound like something with a Biblical basis (but please correct me if I am mistaken).

But I guess, both on the specific point above, and in the more general: are there any explicit Christian practices (generally, or in specific sections of Christianity) of slaughter / butchery / preparation that I am being ignorant of? (I'm not talking about "fish on Friday", here).

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Great question - am looking forward to reading the responses here. I'm very curious if there are New Testament ritual slaughtering requirements. Just to clarify though, my assertion that there exist "Christian practices" is following continuity from Jewish (halakhic) law which we believe Jesus (peace be upon him) upheld, not abrogated entirely. So that's one possible source of the difference in opinion. –  Ansari Jul 21 '12 at 22:29
    
@Ansari a very fair point. Indeed, the discussion on that continues today, i.e. how the "not one letter or one stroke of a letter will disappear from the Law" applies to the fact that most of the prior Jewish law is now ignored by Christians. That is a separate question, though. –  Marc Gravell Jul 21 '12 at 22:32
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Actually the phrase is pronounced "Baa Ram Ewe", and only applies to the slaughter of sheep. –  Jas 3.1 Jul 21 '12 at 22:34
    
@Jas3.1 yes, not sure that is overly helpful, thanks anyway ;p –  Marc Gravell Jul 21 '12 at 22:38
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@TRiG I had to bit.ly it! I blame the devs here... Oh, wait... –  Marc Gravell Jul 22 '12 at 7:07

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Not sure how definitive an answer I can provide to this question, but thought I'd contribute a few thoughts that came to mind.

  • The "law," or "law of Moses," was codified by the Rabbi's in ancient times into the mitzvot, a collection of 613 laws compiled from a close reading of the Pentateuch.

  • The mitzvot consists of "positive" (ie "do this") and "negative" ("do not do this") requirements, and is traditionally divided into three basic categories:

    • The "ceremonial law"
    • The "judicial law"
    • The "moral law"
  • Christians, believing that Christ is the "fulfillment of the law," believe that his atonement rendered the ceremonial and dietary laws void. Peter's vision in Acts 10:9-15 is sometimes offered as a proof that the Old Testament dietary law does not apply to Christians.

(Note that the requirements in the "moral law" category still apply, because, AFAIK, they are consistent with -- and, essentially, the basis for -- Christ's teachings about how to love others).

Edit: A link to the mitzvot follows -- however, please note that I am no scholar of Judaism, and I don't know if the site is credible or not. It's apparently a personal project maintained by a Tracey R. Rich, and is currently ranked fourth for a Google search of "mitzvot." "Judaism 101" link. Their list uses a different set of classifications, which the page says was created by the site's editor. Some examples of the Jewish dietary laws can be found in items 143-169.
< /edit >

1 Corinthians 10 is also germane to the question; see v. 14-31, esp. v. 25-30. In 1Cor 10, Paul emphasizes that what's important to God is Christians' love for one another, rather than their legalistic compliance with things like dietary requirements. See v. 28-30. This is consistent with the Christian concept of God's grace, and its priority over legalism. The section headings in the NIV translation are helpful in this chapter.

Also, in Acts 15, Luke quotes James as elaborating the requirements that would apply to Gentiles who wanted to join the church. In verse 20, he says that they are not to eat meat from animals that had been strangled, and they are not to drink blood. I think I recall hearing at some point that strangulation of animals was a common practice in pagan ceremonies of the time, and that the overwhelming majority of the meat that could be purchased in the market in cities like Corinth had been slaughtered in such ceremonies.

I wish I had some references to good commentaries to substantiate more of this response for you, but I'm a bit out of my depth here. And I'm not familiar with the teachings & traditions of the Eastern Orthodox church, so I can't address that element. FWIW, I hope this response provides something of a starting point for further inquiry. Cheers.

Edit: Also useful here is Paul's discussion of vegetarianism in Romans 14.

Edit: Here are a few related Christianity.SE questions:

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Bear in mind that the council in Acts 15 was specifically discussing what points of the Law of Moses, if any, should remain in force. So the dietary prohibition on eating blood, and on the meat of animals slaughtered through strangulation (ie. without draining the blood out) should be understood in that context: Christians have the same prohibition against eating blood as the ancient Israelites did in Old Testament times. Some Christians, notably the Jehovah's Witnesses, extend this to blood transfusions as well, which is controversial, but the basic commandment is quite plain. –  Mason Wheeler Jul 23 '12 at 17:41

For Catholics, the bread and wine offered at Mass must be bread and wine.

Meaning it must contain wheat and fermented grape juice.

The bread for celebrating the Eucharist must be made only from wheat, must be recently made, and, according to the ancient tradition of the Latin Church, must be unleavened.

The wine for the Eucharistic celebration must be from the fruit of the grapevine (cf. Lk 22:18), natural, and unadulterated, that is, without admixture of extraneous substances.

General Instruction of the Roman Missal 320,322

There's been some hoopla about gluten free hosts for celiac sufferers in recent years, but some diligent and enterprising sisters found a way around the gluten content although gluten-free is probably an impossibility since you can't produce wheat starch in a gluten free facility.

However, similar exclusions for people who cannot, should not, or better not consume alcohol can't be made. The solution is just to receive Jesus in one species instead of both. A tradition which, after some experimentation, some dioceses are going back to.


The other ritual concerning food and the laity is the Eucharistic fast by Latin Rite Catholics; it lasts one hour before receiving. Which, for some parishes where the homilies tend to go long, only amounts to "don't snack at Mass".

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Ansari referred me to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which provides an example of this:

The food taboos found in the Old Testament are observed by most people as the Ethiopian Orthodox Church prescribes them. The flesh of animals with uncloven hoofs and those that do not chew their cud are avoided as unclean. It is nearly impossible to get pork. Animals used for food must be slaughtered with the head turned toward the east while the throat is cut "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost" if the slaughterer is Christian or "In the name of Allah the Merciful" if the slaughterer is Muslim.

Source. This is not mainstream, but is very interesting.

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