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An answer to this question references Acts 15:20, which says --

(19) Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, (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. (21) For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”

James, in the presence of "[t]he apostles and the elders," (verse six) is talking about what he believes should be required of Gentiles that wanted to join the disciplines.

In Christianity, are there any formal, historical doctrinal statements -- creeds, canons, catechisms, confessions, etc. -- that specifically address dietary regulations such as those found in Acts 15:20?

My current understanding is informed by passages like Acts 10:9-16, 1Cor 10:23-33, and the manifold passages that tell us that Christians are not under the law.


Note the distinction between this question, which asks about regulations for consumption, and the referenced question, which asks about regulations for slaughter. I'll leave it to the moderators to determine whether the two are similar enough to close the present question.

  • +1 This should be interesting. There are conflicting passages in the Bible on this. In contrast to Acts15:20, Peter's vision of snake and Matthew 15:11 seem to suggest that no food is unclean. – Monika Michael Jul 25 '12 at 4:11
  • Only a comment as I don't have an answer for your bolded question, but I've always interpreted that passage to be setting out the only rules (besides the 10 Commandments) that Christians have to follow. Pollution by idols gets its own treatment, sexual immorality defiles the Temple of the body, strangling is cruel, and drinking blood essentially means drinking the life of another animal/human. – El'endia Starman Jul 25 '12 at 5:07
  • @El'endiaStarman All good points except that last one. Eating flesh would also mean eating the life of the animal. IDK why eating blood is forbidden. OTTOMH Maybe for health reasons as most of the diseases are transmitted through blood and unlike flesh blood isn't properly cooked. – Monika Michael Jul 25 '12 at 5:21
  • @MonikaMichael: Actually, it's drinking blood that's forbidden, not eating it. Eating blood is pretty much unavoidable if you're eating meat. (Health probably played/plays a part too.) – El'endia Starman Jul 25 '12 at 5:44
  • Glad to see people are interested. Here's another new question. – Philip Schaff Jul 25 '12 at 5:53
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There never were any dietary Laws enforced in the New Testament aside from polite rules derived from brotherly love and the desire for peace during the time of transition between the shadows of the Old Testament and the realities found in Christ.

Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” (NIV Matthew 15:10-11)

I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. (NIV Romans 14:14-15)

The rule established in Acts 15:20 for new converts does not contradict the truth that no food is unclean in itself, even blood! as established by Acts 10:15, Romans 14:14, 1 Corinthians 8, etc. In Acts we simply find instructions being given to Gentiles to bring a noble death to specific matters that would enflame, outrage, shock their prejudices and cause discord among Jewish converts. In a sense many Jews would need to have been treated as 'weaker brothers' in the matter of blood and certain meats sacrificed to idols, etc. because after having learning to associate God's ceremonial displeasure with these activities, though not sinful in themselves, for so long, it would have been difficult for them to unravel these symbolic things from their consciences. This natural revulsion on things morally neutral would be hard to unlearn especially when they had learned to hate them so much and to distinguish themselves from Gentile sinners partly by these differences. This created a situation where new converts should 'become a Jew unto a Jew' on harmless abstinence, for any behavior otherwise would be inflammatory actions ruining the love of Christian fellowship. It would give occasion for scandal and all over nothing.

Paul adopts the same 'love principle' in advising believers to abstain from eating meats sacrificed to idols, if in so doing it harms a brother's faith. There is really nothing special here in Acts that contradicts Paul. What might make this decision in Acts appear strange is that real sins are joined up with neutral matters. The similarity is not in that they are all sins but that they all especially would bring discord, inflammatory reaction, provocation to anger and general destruction to the gospel taking shape within synagogues around the region.  In addition, in all these things the Romans and Greeks had no moral objection to and all had some role within their idolatries, especially those that had temple prostitutes. This rule maintained a peaceful atmosphere for the true liberty of the gospel to grow and allowed a natural and noble death of some of the harmless shadows and ceremonial symbols of the Old Testament in brotherly love.

Lastly, there is some Jewish history that proves this temporary kindness to weaker brothers was related to the Jewish expectations on Gentile converts before Christ based on the covenant God made with Noah.  

Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. “But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. (NIV Genesis 9:3-4)

As this covenant with Noah is considered to have been made with all mankind, Jew and Gentile, the Jews called 'the seven Noachic commandments', which, according to them, were binding upon all Gentile proselytes. These were a prohibition  

(1)  of idolatry,  (2)  of blasphemy,  (3)  of murder,  (4)  of incest,  (5)  of robbery and theft,  (6)  of eating blood and strangled animals, and  (7)  an injunction of obedience to magistrates. (Alfred Edersheim, Bible History Old Testament - Vol 1)

This further explains the theological footprint or Biblical context at this critical time of history.  All the more reason for Gentiles to gain respect of outsiders and Jewish brethren at a time of incomprehensible changes and upheaval of religion and not force a shock on the community unnecessarily.

Given the situation then, looking for creeds or canons about an old shadow of the realities found in Christ is not to be expected and if one turned up most Christians would simply reject it as being opposed to the arguments in the scriptures. 

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