What are the 'things offered to idols' written about in Acts 15:29 and the 'things polluted by idols' of Acts 15:20?

How was this understood by the Apostles and their followers?

On what laws in the Old Testament is this 'rule' based?

Can Sunday be a religious day for Christians if it was already a religious day offered to the pagan sun god?

  • 3
    Asking about Sunday makes this question too broad. I suggest you cut it out.
    – curiousdannii
    Feb 8, 2015 at 6:46

4 Answers 4


What are the 'things' offered to idols? In days of old, the leaders of different communities would make for themselves statues of creatures, then to obtain obedience from the general population, they would threaten that the creature would kill them or devour them if they did not work as expected. To continue with the illusion, feasts were assembled and pagan priests would do what they could to make it appear that the statue was eating. Or sacrifices where made, to make the illusion appear that the statue killed someone.

Acts 15:29 NKJV

that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.

The main point is that by eating of the things offered to idols, you would stand as a affidavit witnessing that the events of the illusion where true. They obviously are not true. So standing in any form of position to help conclude this illusion was real was supporting a lie.

Acts 15:20 NKJV

but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood.

Now knowing above, If I where to abstain from eating the meat, but was part of the ceremony , and made some elaborate display for them like presenting the knife, or playing a trumpet. This still all would fall under helping to conclude this illusion was real and supporting a lie.

To understand How was this understood by the Apostles I assume it was given to them by God's Holy Spirit either supernaturally, or as a common truth.

Acts 15:23

They wrote this letter by them: The apostles, the elders, and the brethren, To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: Greetings.

To understand how their followers perceived it. I guess here, but I would assume that they have witnessed such gatherings and displays due to the location. I do not know at this moment about what idols where being sacrificed to in Antioch, Syria, or Cilicia. I feel it safe to say though that the command would have been elaborated on if not to be naturally understood by the audience of that time.

This 'rule' is based on the Second Commandment of the Ten Commandments the Old Testament law. According to the Hebrew OT: Westminster Leningrad Codex, Hebrew OT: WLC (Consonants Only), and also the Septuagint.

Exodus 20:4-6 NKJV

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

Can Sunday be a religious day for Christians if it was already a religious day offered to the pagan sun god? Yes. Not for the purpose of raising the pagan sun god to honor. Yet God explains through Paul.

In Hebrews 3:7-11 we are directed to understand Psalm 95:7–11.

Psalm 95:7–11 NKJV

For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture, And the sheep of His hand. Today, if you will hear His voice: 8 “Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, As in the day of trial in the wilderness, 9 When your fathers tested Me; They tried Me, though they saw My work. 10 For forty years I was grieved with that generation, And said, ‘It is a people who go astray in their hearts, And they do not know My ways.’ 11 So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’”

So in the fullness of Hebrews Chapter 3 he concludes that the rest was no longer available to them because of their unbelief.

Hebrews 3:19 NKJV

So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

Then in Hebrews Chapter 4 he points out that a new day has been created to enter into rest.

Hebrews 4:7 NKJV

again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.”

The need for this is pointed out

Hebrews 4:8 NKJV

For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day.

Going back to point out that the day was to continuously be today.

Hebrews 3:13 NKJV

but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

Therefore here is logic. If today you enter into his rest, and continually enter into his rest for every today. Then all the Sabbath days would then be covered, so the fulfillment of the duty to honor the seventh day would always be completed. Also since when today happens also to be a Sunday. That day is also considered a "Today". Therefore the festival may continue for any day that becomes today!

So then know in case this is your situation. If you do happen to know a Pagan Sun Worshiper I say be careful not to include yourself in any of the duties, or offer respect that supports any illusion. But instead love them and show them the perfect way. Amen.

  • This answer however does not completely define the fullness of Idolatry. It only defines how the Illusion of Idolatry is sin according to "things offered to idols" and to "to abstain from things polluted by idols". For Idolatry in general has been globally defined like this "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. " (1 John 2:15 NKJV)
    – Decrypted
    Apr 26, 2014 at 16:18
  • That and also the sign that Idolatry is occurring "Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry." (Colossians 3:5 NKJV)
    – Decrypted
    Apr 26, 2014 at 16:20
  • I think that your answer tries to make excuses for modern Christians so that they do not have to keep this commandment. The question this raises is, what is an idol? Are there idols in the modern world? In terms of your definition it would be a threat from an entity that will do them harm or cause harm other than God held over the heads of the population to make them do the will of the rulers. Here I can think of the devil, Islam, the Illuminati, global warming, dictators, communism, etc. I think you can come up with even more. Apr 27, 2014 at 8:08
  • At the time of the apostles there were many 'laws' to protect against the breaking of the rule that were well known to everyone. As a Christian would you be prepared to keep these 'laws' or are there going to be more excuses? For example; buying any product produced in China would be highly problematic as you do not know if the product was dedicated to the Revolution (an idol)? Are you prepared to suspend all trade with non-Christians in order to make sure that you do not break this law or is there going to be more denial? Apr 27, 2014 at 8:56
  • 1
    @gideon marx, shalom means peace not rest. The Hebrew word for rest is the word Sabbath itself. And obviously the Sabbath was not a day of worship in the OT but of REST. It follows then that you should rest on the Sabbath and worship on a different day, quite frankly. Doing a 3 hour Sabbath service like the Jews do in the Synagogues today is the opposite of rest, I'll tell you that. They make the Sabbath into a second job. Apr 27, 2014 at 19:46

What are the things offered to idols written about in Acts 15;29?

The things offered to idols are; meats, blood, things strangled, and fornication. Acts 15;20 adds; pollutions of idols. I Corinthians 8, clearly addresses this.

I Corinthians 8;10,11

For if any man see thee which have knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the concience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; 11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?

How was this ( idolatrous practices ) understood by the appostles and their followers?

Acts 11;17,18

Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? 18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.

The letters to the Gentiles were to apraise them of the rules, a matter of procedure.

On what laws in the Old Testament is this ( idolatrous practices) based?

Blood Leviticus 17;10

And whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that eateth any manner of blood; I will even set my face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people.

Strangled beast or fowl. Leviticus 17;13

And whatsoever man there be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, which hunteth and catcheth any beast or fowl that may be eaten; he shall even pour out the blood thereof, and cover it with dust.

Fornication Leviticus 18

6 None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, and uncover their nakedness: I am the Lord.

Idols Leviticus 18;21

And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the Lord.

Sabbaths Leviticus 19;30 23;3

19;30 Ye shall keep my sabbaths, aqnd reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord.

23;3 Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, and holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings.

Can Sunday be a religious day for Christians if it was already a religious day offered to the pagan sun god?

Yes. Sunday is a religious day for most of Christendom. It is not a holy day unto the Lord. Leviticus 23;3 designates the seventh day as the sabbath of the Lord. Exodus 20,8-11 and Deuteronomy 5;12-15 validate the sabbath day.

Isaiah 58;13-14

If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honor him, not doing their own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: 14 Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

  • I really appreciate your explanation of Sunday as a religious day and not a holy day. In the same way the churches built on ancient pagan sites are built on religious sites not holy sites. So symbols, clothing, length of hair etc. In your logic, adopting customs from the pagans (modern scientific atheists) is okay because it is religious not holy. It was part of the pagan religion, now it is part of the Christian religion. What you then have to ask yourself is, what is holy in Christianity? Apr 28, 2014 at 8:12
  • By saying that it was only meat offered at an idol's temple it is easy for the Christian to ignore this law but it was understood in a far wider sense by the Apostles. They were Jews and operated within the full strictness of Jewish laws. The rule was passed on in that sense and without all the compromises made by Judaism as it came about in modern Judaism. Only a study of ancient Judaism can reveal to you the law you have to follow. What you are doing now is making excuses so you do not have to follow uncomfortable laws. Easiest is to live as Jesus did. Follow his example. Apr 28, 2014 at 8:23
  • What in my answer, prompted the statement " What you are doing now is making excuses so you do not have to follow uncomfortable laws. " ?
    – V. Rollins
    Apr 28, 2014 at 12:58
  • The question was asked to find out the full extent of the rule. To say that it was only a prohibition against the eating of meat offered to idols is untrue. In the Roman empire it was almost impossible to eat any food or use any product that was not offered on harvesting or completion to one of their gods. They had gods for everything, and everything was offered to a god before it was sold. How were the Christians to avoid contact with these goods? If we know that, we as modern Christians can abide by the rule. If we do not, we are not by definition Christians in the sense of the Apostles. Apr 29, 2014 at 7:07
  • My answer was to the specific questions asked. As for the rules, the verses referenced in Leviticus and those contained in Exodus 20, provide ample guidance for Christians today. If one chooses not to accept these rules, I would agree their claim as a Christian would be suspect.
    – V. Rollins
    Apr 29, 2014 at 10:04

Things offered to idols are the sacrifices made in pagan religions, much as sacrifices were offered to God before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.

The only apostle from whom we have a first-hand discussion of these things is the apostle Paul. In 1 Corinthians 10:25-32, he says that Christians may eat meat sacrificed to idols, but preferably only if they are not actually told that it has been sacrificed. In any case, he says, avoid giving offence:

Eat anything sold in the market, without raising questions on grounds of conscience, for "the earth and its fullness are the Lord's." If an unbeliever invites you and you want to go, eat whatever is placed before you, without raising questions on grounds of conscience. But if someone says to you, "This was offered in sacrifice," do not eat it on account of the one who called attention to it and on account of conscience; I mean not your own conscience, but the other's. For why should my freedom be determined by someone else's conscience? If I partake thankfully, why am I reviled for that over which I give thanks? So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Avoid giving offence, whether to Jews or Greeks or the church of God ..."

What Paul means in verse 28 by advising against eating the meat in this circumstance (in bold) is that if another Christian objects to eating the meat, telling you to your face that it has been sacrificed to idols, you should not eat it because you can see this would offend his conscience. He explains in 1 Corinthians chapter 8, where he is answering a question from the Corinthians:

8:4,7,10-11 So about the eating of meat sacrificed to idols: we know that "there is no idol in the world," and that "there is no God but one" ... But not all have this knowledge. There are some who have been so used to idolatry up until now that, when they eat meat sacrificed to idols, their conscience, which is weak, is defiled ... If someone sees you, with your knowledge, reclining at table in the temple of an idol, may not his conscience too, weak as it is, be "built up" to eat the meat sacrificed to idols? Thus through your knowledge, the weak person is brought to destruction, the brother for whom Christ died.

Paul says that some people are weak and, if they eat meat that has been sacrificed to idols, may forget that they worship only one God.

Jesus did not give a ruling on whether it was permissible to eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols. There is no Old Testament law that specifically bans this, but Daniel, Job and Tobit are described as refusing to do so.


What are the 'things offered to idols' written about in Acts 15:29

In context we need to consider that what was happening was that gentiles were entering into fellowship in the Jewish Christian community.

The question arose as to how these gentile Christians should be dealt with. Some wanted them to go through circumcision (in effect become Jews).

Jesus had given the disciples the power to "bind" and "loose"

Matthew 16:19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

The King James version does not get the grammar completely accurate here. What is said is that whatever is "bound" shall have already been "bound" in heaven. This was not a new "power" that the disciples have been given, but a responsibility not to exceed that which has already been established.

In Acts 15 we see James exercising this authority in regard to gentiles by placing on them not a requirement to become Jews, but to observe the restrictions specified in Leviticus for gentile "sojourners" in the land.

The Levitical restrictions were to stop gentiles from following practices of idolatry that might contaminate the nation. Idolatry was still practiced extensively at the time of Jesus. One feature of this practice was the sacrifice of animals. Without refrigeration, this practice started a "clock" running.

It was common for the gentile priest to keep the choice cuts of meat for his family and friends. However, most of the meat was given back to the person offering the sacrifice. This person could sell the meat to someone in the market who would them offer it for sale to the public, or he could keep it and give a feast for his friends. This would entail a fair bit of accounting to make sure that you invited all the people who had invited you previously.

One reason for kosher meat was to insure that meat from idols was avoided. One reason for the prohibition of pork was that the sacrificial animal of choice in the ancient world was the pig.

The prohibition of "things" sacrificed to idols may have included artifacts, but given the volume of activity, probably was focused in on meat.

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