Acts 15:28 and 29 tells us that basically all of the old law covenant is no longer to be observed except:

Acts 15:28 KJV For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;

Are we under obligation to avoid any or all of those 4 things today?

Acts 15:29 KJV 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.

Most religions are in agreement that sexual immorality (fornication)should be avoided.

Of particular interest is what it meant in ancient times to abstain from blood and what it means now in modern times to abstain from blood.

As far as I know only the Jehovahs Witnesses refuse blood transfusing for religious reasons.

I would like an overview of mainstream Christian groups' interpretation of this scripture, in light of the vastly different conditions we have now with most of us never being involved in the slaughter of the animals we consume, in addition to the many medical therapies that involve blood and fractions thereoff.

  • @curiousdannii I think your edits make this question better. I am curious why the answer from BYE was deleted though.
    – user 14
    Aug 4, 2017 at 13:45
  • None of the answers to this question provided an overview of positions, as requested, so they aren't actually answers. Aug 4, 2017 at 14:19
  • @Kris You did the substantial edit (#5), I just made it a little more prominent :)
    – curiousdannii
    Aug 4, 2017 at 14:51
  • Are you looking for a biblical answer to why Christians should not, for example, eat Rare Meat? I don't think you will find one because there really isn't one with a strictly Biblical interpretation. The responses will be different depending on the Christian denomination. The question focuses on the traditions of men, outside the Bible. I feel this question is too broad and should be narrowed to particular denominations highlighting eaches separate interpretation or traditions. Or at least narrow it to biblical interpretation/tradition.
    – Marc
    Sep 3, 2018 at 13:51
  • @Marc no that question was previously addressed christianity.stackexchange.com/q/46224/23657. As for this one being too broad look back through the edits to see that it has been closed and reopened after the overview was asked for. The question certainly dies not focus on traditions of men.
    – user 14
    Sep 3, 2018 at 14:48

2 Answers 2


TL;DR: Appearance of evil: Drinking blood was an element of Pagan sacrifice

Are we under obligation to avoid any or all of those 4 things [meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication] today?

Original context: Pagan sacrifices

These four items appear to be linked together because all of them were elements of pagan sacrifices. According to this essay,

Often, pagan worship included the sacrificing and eating of animals, sometimes with the drained blood being offered as a “course” in the meal. These festivities also generally included sexual participation by the guest in any number of immoral ways. Coffman* noted: “Idol feasts were shameful debaucheries, marked by the most vulgar and immoral behavior.... In fact, it is possible that all four of these restrictions relate to idol worship” (1977, p. 299)

*Coffman, James Burton (1977), Commentary on Acts (Abilene, TX: ACU Press)

Other discussions in the epistles of Paul

The apostle Paul made it abundantly clear that sexual immorality was unacceptable in the church.

  • 1Cor 6:18 Flee sexual immorality! “Every sin that a man does is outside the body,” but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. WEB

  • Gal 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious, which are: adultery, sexual immorality, uncleanness, lustfulness, WEB

  • Eph 5:3 But sexual immorality, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not even be mentioned among you, as becomes saints; WEB

Paul also specifically allows eating of meat which has been sacrificed, as long as it did not produce a bad witness. If a brother or sister in the Lord would be offended, or if someone specifically pointed out that "this meat was sacrificed" -- presumably to test what the believer would do -- then the meat offered should be avoided. It appears that eating the meat was not in conflict with the requirements of the Jerusalem conference if there was no offense. It is not clearly stated in scripture whether eating strangled animals or drinking blood was also ok if it gave no offense, but these seem to be closely related and are not otherwise forbidden to Christians.

Later church practice

Almost all Christian groups today reject sexual immorality as sinful, though there is some variation in what constitutes immorality (some groups even finding premarital relations to be acceptable). Pagan sacrifices seem to be rare enough in Europe and the Americas that little is written about it in most denominations. In practice, most Christians would avoid being seen as an active participant in any sacrifice they consider inappropriate. While most groups say nothing about blood or strangled animals, the Witnesses of Jehovah and the Eastern Orthodox churches do forbid them. Some Pentacostal groups interpret the conference requirements as commands still in effect, but spiritualize them, for example "strangled meat" is careless doctrinal statements.

A Catholic viewpoint:

Notice, neither the letter nor the restrictions were meant for the Church as a whole, but only to the Gentile converts in a certain section of the world. Nor was it making any "dogmatic" statement, but only a practical one. Thus most do not interpret this passage as being meant for all generations of Christians. It was meant to keep peace between the Jewish and Gentile converts in a specific community at a specific time. In addition, it, like the rest of scripture, was prohibiting the consumption of blood 1, not its use in medical operations 3

The Orthodox churches apparently consider all four prohibitions to still be in effect today. Here is a statement from an Orthodox apologetics site:

Actually – and this is not well-known – the Orthodox position is that the Apostolic Council is still binding, and this includes the prohibition on eating blood (including blood sausage, etc and strangled meats. This prohibition on eating blood has however never been understood as a strict prohibition on the use of blood transfusions in case of medical emergency.

  • This is poorly referenced for an overview of modern practice, but better than nothing and I hope to improve it.
    – Bit Chaser
    Sep 2, 2018 at 21:55
  • I’m impressed so far. I know overview questions are laborious. I guess that’s why it has gone unanswered for 2.5 years. I appreciate the efforts.
    – user 14
    Sep 2, 2018 at 23:09
  • @Kris One reason why it's difficult to get official denominational statements on this is that most Christian groups stick to matters determining salvation in their creeds and do not pontificate on lesser issues. Acts 15 was addressing Gentiles who already were Christians; this was counsel to avoid them offending Jews, which would put Jews off listening to the gospel. To "abstain from blood" means blood-guilt, like murder or manslaughter, plus not drinking blood or eating meat not bled kosher-style.
    – Anne
    Sep 20, 2018 at 14:44
  • @Anne can you cite a denomination with references that says abstain from blood means blood guilt? Would it have been necessary to tell gentile Christians that murder and man slaughter were to be avoided? If you have a sourced denominational viewpoint to that effect perhaps ask disciple if you can edit that into his overview answer.
    – user 14
    Sep 20, 2018 at 18:01
  • 1
    The O.T. speaks time and again of people being blood-guilty due to murder and manslaughter. From "the ground crying out" to God for the blood of Abel spilled by Cain to 6 cities of refuge for unintentional killers of another person (Numbers ch. 35), God holds guilty those who spill blood. But the new Gentile Christians in Acts were never brought up on the OT. All this would be new to them even though murder is known to be wrong in every society. The biblical details about blood-guilt go far deeper and that is why they needed such instruction in Acts 15. Disciple's answer is good & sufficient.
    – Anne
    Sep 22, 2018 at 6:37

Of particular interest is what it ... means now in modern times ...

In school (Roman-Catholic religious education) we were told that the reason for this instruction is that Christians being Jews would have refused to live together (e.g. visit, pray together) with Christians eating such kind of food (here: meat containing blood).

Sooner or later, the very early Church would have broken into two parts: Non-Jewish Christians who are eating such kind of food and Jewish Christians refusing to have contact to people doing this.

The goal of the instruction is to ensure that there is no group of Christians refusing to have contact to another other group of Christians.

Because this is told in the official Roman-Catholic Religious education classes, I assume that this is the interpretation of this verse(s) of the Catholic Church today.


Interesting but my question is what does it mean to abstain from blood today?

Our religious education teacher made one more statement; according to that statement (if I understood it correctly), the two verses are interpreted in the following way:

(Interpretation of) 5:28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than this necessary thing: 5:29 That you do not do anything which is seen as indecent by other Christians. Fare ye well.

As you can see, according to this interpretation the verse does not mandate a specific behavior (e.g. abstaining from blood) but it mandates more generally to behave in a way that other members of the parish do not feel disgusted.

For this reason the Catholic Church seems not to derive any specific commandments from this verse.

Surely, the Catholic Church has very strict ideas about sexual morality and there are also commandments about food; however, these commandments are not derived from Acts 5:29.

  • Interesting but my question is what does it mean to abstain from blood today?
    – user 14
    Oct 4, 2020 at 13:32
  • @Kris I edited my answer to make my point a bit clearer. Oct 4, 2020 at 16:30

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