Council of Jerusalem


Why does the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) retain the prohibitions on eating blood, meat containing blood, and meat of animals not properly slain? These are parts of the ceremonial law, if I am not mistaken. Why would the Church leaders make Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians follow even a part of the mosaic ceremonial law? When was this command abrogated? Is there a place in the bible where it is abrogated?


The verses…Acts 15:28-29
28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: 29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.

I do not know the answer to all of your questions but I would suggest that the dietary prohibitions here are largely to prevent scandal.
My understanding (and it might be wrong) is that the marketplace is where Christians, Jews, and various pagans would interact - just as Jews would keep “kosher” - others, pagans might sell only meat “offered to the gods” so to speak. Buying such meats could be seen by fellow Christians and this cause problems within the community.

Paul addresses this a bit in 1 Cor 8…also 1 Cor 10:23-29.

I’m sure others will give much better answers…



Discussed here:

It was formally abrogated at the Council of Florence, if not sooner.

“It also declares that the apostolic prohibition, to abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled, was suited to that time when a single church was rising from Jews and gentiles, who previously lived with different ceremonies and customs. This was so that the gentiles should have some observances in common with Jews, and occasion would be offered of coming together in one worship and faith of God and a cause of dissension might be removed, since by ancient custom blood and strangled things seemed abominable to Jews, and gentiles could be thought to be returning to idolatry if they ate sacrificial food. In places, however, where the Christian religion has been promulgated to such an extent that no Jew is to be met with and all have joined the church, uniformly practising the same rites and ceremonies of the gospel and believing that to the clean all things are clean, since the cause of that apostolic prohibition has ceased, so its effect has ceased. It condemns, then, no kind of food that human society accepts and nobody at all neither man nor woman, should make a distinction between animals, no matter how they died; although for the health of the body, for the practice of virtue or for the sake of regular and ecclesiastical discipline many things that are not proscribed can and should be omitted, as the apostle says all things are lawful, but not all are helpful.” Session 11


Bp. Challoner’s note in Haydock:

Ver. 29.* From blood, and from things strangled*. The use of these things, though of their own nature indifferent, were here prohibited,** to bring the Jews more easily to admit of the society of the Gentiles; and to exercise the latter in obedience**. But this prohibition was but temporary, and has long since ceased to oblige; more especially in the western churches.


From the Navarre Bible Commentary:

15:13-21. James the Less, to whose authority the Judaizers had appealed follows what Peter says. He refers to the Apostle by his Semitic
name–Symeon–and accepts that he has given a correct interpretation of what God announced though the prophets. In saying that God had “visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name” he seems to be giving up the Jewish practice of using “people” to refer to the Israelites (Exodus 19:9; Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:2) as distinct from the Gentiles–again the central message of Paul, that baptized pagans also belong to the people of the promise: “You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19).

James’ concurrence with what Peter says and the fact that both are in agreement with the basic principles of Paul’s preaching indicate that the Holy Spirit is at work, giving light to all to understand the true meaning of the promises contained in Scripture. “As I see it, the richness of these great events cannot be explained unless it be with help from the same Holy Spirit who was their author” (Origen, “In Ex Hom.”, IV, 5).

James immediately goes on to propose that the meeting issue a solemn, formal statement which proclaims the secondary character of the Law and at the same time makes allowance for the religious sensitivity of Jewish Christians by prohibiting four things–1) the eating of meat from animals used in sacrifice to idols; 2) avoidance of fornication, which goes against the natural moral order; 3) eating meat which has blood in it; and 4) eating food made with the blood of animals.

These prohibitions are laid down in Leviticus and to be understood properly they must be read in the light of Leviticus. The Jews
considered that if they ate meat offered to idols this implied in some way taking part in sacrilegious worship (Leviticus 17:7-9). Although St. Paul makes it clear that Christians were free to act as they pleased in this regard (cf. 1 Corinthians 8-10), he will also ask them not to scandalize “the weak”.

Irregular unions and transgressions in the area of sexual morality are mentioned in Leviticus 18:6ff; some of the impediments will later be included in Church law on marriage.

Abstention from blood and from the meat of strangled animals (cf. Leviticus 17:10ff) was based on the idea that blood was the container of life and as such belonged to God alone. A Jew would find it almost impossible to overcome his religious and cultural repugnance at the consumption of blood…The text contains two parts–one dogmatic and moral (verse 28) and the other disciplinary (verse 29). The dogmatic part speaks of imposing no burden other than what is essential and therefore declares that pagan converts are free from the obligation of circumcision and of the Mosaic Law but are subject to the Gospel’s perennial moral teaching on matters to do with chastity. This part is permanent: because it has to do with a necessary part of God’s salvific will it cannot change.

The disciplinary part of the decree lays down rules of prudence which can change, which are temporary. It asks Christians of Gentile background to abstain–out of charity towards Jewish Christians—from what has been sacrificed to idols, from blood and from meat of animals killed by strangulation.

The effect of the decree means that the disciplinary rules contained in it, although they derive from the Mosaic Law, no longer oblige by virtue of that Law but rather by virtue of the authority of the Church, which has decided to apply them for the time being. What matters is not what Moses says but what Christ says through the Church. The Council “seems to maintain the Law in force,” writes St. John Chrysostom, “because it selects various prescriptions from it, but in fact suppresses it, because it does not accept ALL its prescriptions. It had often spoken about these points, it sought to respect the Law and yet establish these regulations as coming not from Moses but from the Apostles” (“Hom. on Acts,” 33).


In relation to this, the command to refrain from “porneia” (immorality) may be in the same vein as the other commands, ie, related to Jewish Law.

From a paperback i have, “Catholics and Orthodox, can they unite?”, wriitten by Clement C Englert, C.SS.R., copyright 1961, the author makes a good case that “porneia” is the greek translation of the Hebrew word describing a marriage invalid by Jewish Laws.

Clement Englert uses as his reference the scholarly work by Father J. Bonsirven, S.J., “Le Divorce dans le Nouveau Testament” (Paris 1948) where Father Bonsirven clearly shows that porneia means “concubinage”. The main arguments follow.

(I am going to paraphrase and shorten some of the arguments the author presents.)

One place to see this is in 1 Cor 5:1 where a man is “reprobated” for marrying his stepmother. Paul uses “porneia” there.

Further, examining the results of the Jerusalem council, we see that one of the things that gentiles were to refrain from was “porneia”. Why would they be required not to be immoral in any case? Wouldn’t that be a given for all races? How would that be infringing on the consciences of Jews, as strangled animals and blood would be?

Lastly, in the epistle to the Hebrews 12:16, Esau was called immoral (pornos) although we find no mention of his sexual sins… However we do know that he married a Hittite woman.

Finally, this use of the word by Jesus in his admonition against divorce except in cases of “porneia”, seems to mean in cases where the couple were never married validly by Jewish Law…



Here is the answer…

Antioch had become a major center of Christianity. Both Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians lived there. Jewish Christians went from Jerusalem to Antioch (and to Syria and Sylicia) while Paul and Barnabas were there (Acts 14:25) and began telling the Gentile Christians that they had to be circumcised or they would not be saved. Paul and Barnabas argued with them and they all decided to go to Jerusalem to speak to the leaders of the Church about the issue.

The issue is circumcision and this is the entire letter which the Council sent:

The brethren, both the apostles and the elders, to the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cili’cia, greeting. Since we have heard that some persons from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell." " (Acts 15:28-29)

First, note that the letter is addressed to the Gentile Christians only, not to Jewish Christians. Also note that it is addressed only to the Churches in Antioch, Syria and Cicilia. It is not addressed to the entire Church but only to these specific locations. Whatever the letter says, it is for Gentile Christians in these locations only.

The letter says that Gentile Christians had to obey four very specific rules. The rules were, 1) abstain from blood, 2) avoid strangled meat, 3) avoid sexual immorality and, 4) avoid meat sacrificed to idols. These are the exact four rules which Moses had laid out in Leviticus 17 and 18 for Gentiles who had “Turned to God” and wished to live among the Jews in ancient Israel. Obeying these four rules was the minimum requirement for a Gentile “God fearer” to be acceptable to the Jews at the time of Moses. This delighted both the Jewish Christians who understood that the Gentiles would be acceptable as well as the Gentile Christians who understood that they did not have to be circumcised in order to be saved.

The doctrinal statement is that Circumcision is not needed for salvation. The four rules however are disciplines - the letter does not say that Gentile Christians will not be saved if they do not obey these specific rules but only that they will be doing well.

Obviously idol worship and sexual immorality are not acceptable but they really didn’t need to be told that. But there is no prohibition against drinking blood today. Go ahead and eat black pudding or blood sausage. In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul says that it is OK to eat meat sacrificed to idols as long as nobody complains.

The doctrine was circumcision and salvation. The four rules were discipline to foster peace between two specific groups in these very specific locations. The Jews were delighted because it made the Gentiles acceptable to live among them and the Gentiles were delighted because they didn’t have to be circumcised.

And when they read it, they rejoiced at the exhortation. (Acts 15:31)

Everyone was happy, both Jews and Gentiles, and there was peace.



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