Idol Meat? That is the question

by TheListener 19 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • TheListener

    Just to add to the conversation. And to help me (and possible others) understand what a dub might say regarding this discussion I post the following excerpts from the 2004 WTCDrom. It appears that the WTS differentiates what was stated in Acts 15 with the rest of Paul's work by saying that Acts 15 was only discussing actually partaking in a religious ceremony when the meat was consumed or viewing the meat as special because it was idol meat. Hmmm, I didn't actually see that in the Bible text myself.


    w78 10/15 pp. 30-31 Questions from Readers ***

    Hence, we have good reason to expect that any seeming conflict between the council’s decree and what Paul wrote can be resolved. And that certainly is so.

    What the decree in Acts 15:28, 29 forbade was a Christian’s being part of a formal, religious ceremony or his committing an act of idolatry. Those who sacrificed an animal to an idol got some of the meat to eat. Their doing so was clearly a religious act; it was considered sharing in a meal with the pagan god. (Ex. 34:15; Deut. 32:17; 1 Cor. 10:18-21) Christians absolutely could not do that. The decree of the Christian governing body had forbidden it, and Paul was in full agreement. He wrote: "Therefore, my beloved ones, flee from idolatry."—1 Cor. 10:14; 1 Thess. 1:9.

    So, in writing what he did in 1 Corinthians 8 and 10 and Romans 14, Paul was not granting permission to share in an idolatrous act or feast in honor of an idol, as the Israelites had done and incurred God’s wrath. (Num. 25:1-4; Rev. 2:14) Rather, he was dealing with simply eating, as a customary meal, meat from an idol temple that had been sold to the public in general. Such meat was not unclean or defiled simply because of its background.


    it-1 pp. 1172-1173 Idols, Meats Offered to ***



    In the pagan world of the first century C.E., it was a common practice to offer meats to idols ceremonially. On such occasions parts of the sacrificial animal victim were placed on the idol altar, a portion went to the priests, and a portion went to the worshipers, who would use it for a meal or feast, either in the temple or in a private house. However, some of the flesh that had been offered to the idols was often turned over to the ma´kel·lon, or meat market, to be sold.

    Many persons before becoming Christians had been accustomed to eating meats offered to idols with a feeling of reverence for the idol. (1Co 8:7) In so doing, these former pagans had been sharers with the demon god represented by the idol. (1Co 10:20) Quite fittingly, therefore, by formal letter from Jerusalem, the governing body of the early Christian congregation, under the guidance of the holy spirit, forbade such formal, religious eating of meats offered to idols, thus safeguarding Christians from idolatry in this regard.—Ac 15:19-23, 28, 29.

    Christians, like those living in pagan Corinth, were faced with a number of questions in this matter. Could they conscientiously go into an idol temple and eat meat if they did so with no thought of honoring the idol? And, would there be any objection to buying from the ma´kel·lon meats that had been ceremonially offered to idols? Finally, how should a Christian handle this matter when eating as a guest in someone else’s home?

    Under inspiration Paul provided the Corinthian Christians with timely information to aid them in making the correct decisions. Although "an idol is nothing," it would not be advisable for a Christian to go to an idol temple to eat meat (even though his eating was not part of a religious ceremony), because he could thereby be giving spiritually weak observers the wrong impression. Such observers might conclude that the Christian was worshiping the idol, and they could be stumbled by this. It could lead such weaker ones to the point of actually eating meats sacrificed to idols in religious ceremony, in direct violation of the decree of the governing body. There was also the danger that the Christian eater would violate his own conscience and yield to idol worship.—1Co 8:1-13.

    Since the ceremonial offering of meats to idols produced no change in the meat, the Christian could, however, with a good conscience buy meat from a market that received some of its meat from religious temples. This meat had lost its "sacred" significance. It was just as good as any other meat, and the Christian was therefore not under obligation to make inquiry respecting its origin.—1Co 10:25, 26.

    Furthermore, the Christian, upon being invited to a meal, did not have to make inquiry concerning the source of the meat but could eat it with a good conscience. If, however, an individual present at the meal were to remark that the meat had been "offered in sacrifice," then the Christian would refrain from eating it to avoid stumbling others.—1Co 10:27-29.

    The words of the glorified Jesus Christ to John respecting the Christian congregations at Pergamum and Thyatira indicate that certain ones had failed to heed the apostolic decree in not keeping themselves clean from things sacrificed to idols.—Re 2:12, 14, 18, 20.


    w92 10/15 p. 30 Questions From Readers ***

    In practical terms, though, how would those Christians act on their determination to ‘keep themselves from blood’? (Acts 21:25) Should they simply apply the apostle Paul’s words: "Everything that is sold in a meat market keep eating, making no inquiry on account of your conscience"?

    No. Those words at 1 Corinthians 10:25 refer to meat that might have been from an animal sacrificed at an idol temple. Back then, excess meat from temples was disposed of by being sold to merchants, who might include it among their supply of meat for sale in their stores. Paul’s point was that meat from a temple was not intrinsically bad or contaminated. Evidently it was customary to drain and use on the pagan altars the blood of animals sacrificed there. So if some of the excess meat was sold in a market, with no obvious link to a temple or the misconceptions of pagans, Christians could simply buy it as commercial meat that was clean and that had been suitably drained of blood.

    It would have to be different, however, if those Christians knew that meat from strangled animals (or blood sausage) was one of the choices at local shops. They would need to exercise care in choosing what meat to buy. They might be able to recognize the meat products that contained blood if such had a distinctive color (even as today blood sausage can usually be recognized in lands where it is common). Or Christians might inquire of a reputable butcher or meat merchant. If they had no reason to believe that certain meat contained blood, they could simply buy and eat.

  • greendawn

    James was a Christian Jew and Christian Jews believed that they were the same as all other Jews in everything except that they had accepted Jesus as the Messiah, and all they did extra was the wine and bread ritual. They had spent a lifetime observing the Mosaic law and they couldn't change.

    However Paul saw that Christ did away with that cumbersome system. After all not many gentiles would bother converting if they had to abide by it, it was too tedious. There was no longer any point in being enslaved to it.

    Having fully the Christian Spirit he was very flexible and saw the spirit rather than the letter and didn't mind eating idol meat because the idols were nothing. Surely something similar would have applied for the blood prohibition and blood transfusions.

  • AuldSoul

    Noteworthy post, greendawn. I have often wondered how much Josephus mention of the Christians refusing blood sausages had to do with the probability they were Christian Jews, and not Gentiles at all. It may be that Josephus, and outsider, reported in scant detail an observation he made that led to untrue conclusions, for Jews would also have refused the sausages.


  • TheListener

    From the 1992 WT, 10/15 page 30 (from my previous post):

    Evidently it was customary to drain and use on the pagan altars the blood of animals sacrificed there.

    I couldn't find anything on the net that specifically said that ancient pagan sacrifices were bled. Not just bled, but bled in the manner that would make it acceptable to a Jew of the first century. My guess is there are far too many cults and societies from then too really know that kind of detail. An easy thing for the WTS to say and not have to back up.

    Notice, too, that the WT quote says "evidently". They say that not based on some scholar's viewpoint but based on their own interpretation of the scriptures. In their opinion Paul wouldn't have stated that eating idol meat was ok if it hadn't been bled properly because christians must abstain from blood. Therefore, evidently, it was customary to drain and properly bleed pagan sacrificial animals. Baaaaah!

  • M.J.

    First thought on Listener's WTS quotes above:

    According to the WTS, eating idol meat is bad when it's performed as a RELIGIOUS ACT (part of the ritual sacrifice to false gods), but okay if eating it carries no religious connotation to you or to others around you who may be stumbled. So yes, context and conscience still define the issue.

    Same principle should apply to the use/misuse of blood.

  • TD

    You're absolutely right about the inconsistency, M.J. I've noticed that JW literature often paraphrases the abstention from "things sacrificed to idols" as "Abstain from idolatry."

    *** w04 6/15 p. 29 Questions From Readers ***

    Later, at a meeting in Jerusalem, the apostles and older men decreed that we must ‘abstain from blood.’ Doing so is as vital as abstaining from sexual immorality and idolatry.—Acts 15:28, 29.

    *** w02 4/15 p. 22 Guide Your Steps by Godly Principles ***

    For example, Christians are to avoid idolatry, sexual immorality, and the misuse of blood. (Acts 15:28, 29)

    *** w00 6/15 p. 29 Questions From Readers ***

    Later, at a meeting in Jerusalem, the apostles and older men decreed that we must ‘abstain from blood.’ Doing so is as vital as abstaining from sexual immorality and idolatry.—Acts 15:28, 29.

    No draconian restriction here, because 'action' and 'matter' are distinguishable. Whether "Taking in" the idol sacrifice was wrong or not depended entirely upon the context in which it was done.

    Therefore Abstaining from "things sacrificed to idols" = abstaining from the specific act of idolatry.

    But let the subject of blood come up, and the entire paradigm is turned wrong-side-out and the emphasis juxtaposed. Suddenly, it is blood as a substance that is important and the associated 'action' and context is competely irrelavant.

    *** w82 7/15 p. 31 Questions From Readers ***

    Saving life with blood was not to be by taking it into the body in any way.

    *** w69 6/1 p. 327 Godly Respect for Life and Blood ***

    So, too, abstaining from blood means not taking it into our bodies at all.

    *** pe chap. 25 p. 216 For Satan’s World, or God’s New System? ***

    So, too, ‘abstaining from blood’ means not taking it into your body at all.

    This difference in how they treat two identical phrases in the same sentence shows beyond all doubt that the manipulation employed with the phrase, "Abstain from blood" is deliberate and intentional

  • TheListener

    Imho this is rather a strong argument against the Society's stand on holidays and blood transfusions.

    I agree with TD. They add to the scripture to cover any potential discrepancy between Acts 15 and Paul's letters; yet do not extend the same understanding to the blood portion of the very same text.

    For some dubs this will mean little or nothing, but for others this may be a key to unlock their mind.

  • greendawn

    Auld Soul, I think you misread my post because I didn't expand properly and fully on my idea. I didn't mean to say that Gentile Christians would eat blood containing food, any more than the Jewish Christians would.

    What I was trying to say was that in the framework of the flexible spirit manifested by Paul about idol meat, we can say that blood transfusions can not be wrong because they save lives without destroying lives, without causing problems to anyone.

    In other words the JWs are too obsessed with the letter of the law and ignore its spirit in a typically pharisaic manner when they interpret the Bible - "if your cow fell into a well on a Saturday wouldn't you bring it out?"

  • M.J.

    Good point about the WTS differentiating between an "act of idolatry" and an object (or practice) associated with idolatry. Bottom line, worshipping idols is what's condemned, not any particular associated object (or practice) in itself.

    I'm reminded of an exchange I had here with CYP a while back. I'm jazzing it up a bit, but it was something these lines: when your child is young, you tell him not to cross the street. Now it's not that crossing the street in itself is a bad thing, you just don't want him to get hit by a car. When he's older, he doesn't really need that rule anymore, since he fully understands the premise, and has learned how to look both ways. BUT, you might tell him to keep following the rule 'cause his little brother is watching him...and crossing the street could still be dangerous for his little brother, who often likes to do whatever big brother is doing.

    Likewise, the eating of meat sacrificed to idols in itself isn't a bad thing, it's just that God doesn't want us to worship idols. But as Paul elaborated, if you do decide to eat it, just watch out for your little brother.

  • TheListener

    I wanted to bring this back up to the top for all the newbies.

    This thread started out discussing Idol Meat and turned into a deep discussion on the WTS blood doctrine and a logical way to refute it.

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