Who wants to eat blood anyways?

Gen 9:4 from bricktestament.com

OHS JJS’ most recent post touches on something I’ve been wondering about for quite a while:

why are the Gentiles prohibited from ingesting blood?

JJS is referring to Acts 15:29, but I’ve always been curious about Genesis 9:4. I mean, we 2K’ers are so fond of pointing to Gen 9 as a extra-Mosaic (Natural Law) justification for how we know murder is wrong, and the death penalty is proper. But in the immediately preceding verse, we find

 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.

So on the same grounds, why aren’t 2K’ers out there advocating against eating blood? Sure, it’s gross, but does Gen 9 declare eating blood to be (self-evidently) immoral?

See also Lev 17:

If any one of the house of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn among them eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life. Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, No person among you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger who sojourns among you eat blood. 

Any one also of the people of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn among them, who takes in hunting any beast or bird that may be eaten shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth. For the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life. Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off. And every person who eats what dies of itself or what is torn by beasts, whether he is a native or a sojourner, shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening; then he shall be clean. But if he does not wash them or bathe his flesh, he shall bear his iniquity.

Does this passage from Mosaic law help to explain the universal command in Gen 9:4, or is it N/A because it’s Mosaic? Is it ceremonial (“I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls”) or natural (just like Gen 9:4, “For the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life.”)? If it’s ceremonial, what does this do to the universality of our cherished Gen 9? If it’s natural, why don’t we promote it? (And what does “its blood is its life” have to do with anything? Doesn’t the fact that we’re allowed to eat the animal mean we don’t have to be concerned with its life?)

Finally, in searching for a suitable image, I discovered bricktestament.com: the Bible in Legos!  In the picture above, from the illustration of the Noah’s Ark story, that’s Ham spitting out blood in response to the new commandment. Most of what I’ve peeked at seems pretty well done (i.e. faithful to the text), but  don’t turn your kids loose on the website just because it’s got Legos and Bible. I suspect that the maker is not actually a Christian. He seems to have an agenda of showing how the Bible is full of violence and sex.

[Update] So maybe this will help make it real. My friend David Okken is an OPC missionary who ministers in the Karamajong region of Uganda. The diet of the Karamajong includes drinking a mixture of milk and blood (expertly and frequently drawn from live cows, as can be seen in the picture, and you can read more in the accompanying article).

 So Dave has spoken at our church about how after Karamajong accept the gospel, it is difficult for him to convince Karamajong Christians to not take additional wives (he doesn’t teach them to cast off additional wives if they are already polygamous when they come to Christ), and to work for a living rather than just raiding neighboring villages for cattle, etc. Should he also be teaching them about how Nature tells us, and the Bible confirms, that eating blood is immoral and sinful?

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12 Responses to Who wants to eat blood anyways?

  1. Rob H says:

    Should be included in any parental offense against the zombie and vampire fads of the day. Sheesh.

  2. RubeRad says:

    Hmm, I kinda like zombie movies (the “good” ones anyways: 28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead, TV series’ Walking Dead, Dead Set), but I am soooo tired of vampires.

  3. RubeRad says:

    Post updated with photo of Karamajong (Ugandan) children collecting cow-blood for their culture’s traditional diet. Is that immoral according to natural law, Gen 9, and Acts 15? Or was it just ceremonially unclean according to Lev 17?

  4. Chris Sherman says:

    Do you suppose the Jerusalem Council meant that as a temporary injunction?

    Blood pudding and sausage is popular in Europe, maybe that’s why the church is floundering there.

  5. RubeRad says:

    I suppose “temporary injunction” is on the table, but then what about the fact that it also comes from right next to (or even part of) the Noahic special revelation reinforcement of the validity of the natural law principle of life for life? I mean, isn’t the post-flood covenant, with the rainbow and the reiteration of fill the earth, etc. all about universality, as opposed to so many other covenants which were particular to God’s people?

    And yes, I lived in England for two years, I saw blood pudding around, but never tried it. Not out of morality, but rather just out of squeamishness. (I have had haggis in Edinburgh though)

  6. Chris Sherman says:

    Haggis, ooooh you are a brave soul. I Would rather have blood pudding, which I never tried either when I was over there.

    Got to be more than a temporary injunction- – grouped together with sexual immorality and eating food sacrifices to idols…

    What’s your thoughts?

  7. Chris Sherman says:

    or should that be “What are your thoughts?”

  8. RubeRad says:

    My thoughts be “I can’t see why the bible isn’t saying blood-eating is immoral”

  9. Chris Sherman says:

    Arrrgh ya scallywag jack, avast from yer bucket o blood else ya be tipped the black spot an’ be dancing the hempen jig.

    There was some reason for the injunction against blood consumption. I don’t think it was a question of it being immoral. From what I have read, blood drinking/libation was commonly used in pagan rituals. The Jews being forbidden to partake of blood could be cause for gentile believers to abstain from any appearance of their former ways so as not to cause the Jewish believers to stumble.

    Still, I think there is more to it than that, something tied to Christ’s blood being spilled on our account.

    What say ye?

  10. RubeRad says:

    (Ye should know that International Talk-Like-A-Pirate Day is not until Sep 19)

    That’s the line I’ve heard about Acts 15 wrt food sacrificed to idols (with a fuller exposition in 1 Cor), but I’ve never heard anybody explicitly address the eating blood part, or include Gen 9 in their accounting. In Gen 9, when there was only Noah+7 on the earth (and no other pagans, thus no pagan rituals), was God simply laying groundwork for future instructions to Israel?

    And recall, even though Noah and Leviticus are widely separated in time, this was all written by one man, Moses; was that special instruction for Israel tacked on to Gen 9 in support of Lev 17?

    (And if so, what happens to the Gen 2:3 creation mandate of the Sabbath?)

  11. Chris Sherman says:

    Do you suppose that Gen 9 and Leviticus 17 is/was looking forward to Christ as the only blood that we are to partake of? (John 6) Given our proclivity towards idolatry, the injunction towards actual blood consumption was continued in the NT?

    Perhaps the same with Sabbath? Our rest being in Christ of course. (Hebrews 4)

    I’ll refrain from piratese until Sept 19th. (But it were ye who saith, “My thoughts be…”)

  12. RubeRad says:

    I kinda like that — it’s hard to go wrong with a Christocentric answer. So the answer then would imply, eating any blood but Christ’s is indeed sinful, not just gross within my cultural assumptions. I need to let my missionary friend know…

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