After having a discussion during a Bible study concerning ‘eating blood’, the discussion went on to speak about the eating of ‘steak cooked rare’ and ‘Black Pudding’, which for some became the subject of amusement and some thought it was hardly worth speaking about.
That attitude, I believe, was a big mistake, because in the Scriptures, where blood is mentioned over 300 times, it’s never treated lightly or frivolously, and I think this will become evident as we look at some of the passages of Scripture in which blood is mentioned.
Let’s first make clear what it is that we’re about to consider, because whilst most of us have heard about ‘Black Puddings’, very few of us will have given them a great deal of thought, and this, I suggest, it’s even true among the people who eat them!
Of course, the blood itself is something we all take very seriously, after all, it has been described as ‘The Red River of Life’, and this is certainly an apt description because we cannot live without it.
Our lungs supply oxygen to the blood, and our heart pumps the oxygenated blood throughout our body by means of the arteries, so that among its many functions, blood supplies vital oxygen and nutrients, it keeps us either hot or cool as may be necessary, it fights infections and it eliminates waste products.
Indeed, the importance of the role played by our blood may be judged by the number of times we are required by our doctors to undergo blood tests.
And the reason why blood is so important is revealed in Leviticus 17:14 ‘the life of every creature is its blood.’
No! We take ‘blood’ seriously. It’s the addition of the word, ‘pudding’ that changes our perception and introduces a note of levity into the discussion. One can scarcely say, ‘pudding’ without raising a smile, but in answering the question posed at the beginning of this study, I think that we shall find that this black object, created by some resourceful butcher as he sought to make use of every part of the carcase on which he had been working, and then presented as an article of food, should not be treated lightly.
Well, these days, in the different parts of our own country, and in other countries where it’s produced, the manufacturers change the constituents of the ‘pudding’, in order create their own special, or unique, recipe, but a Black Pudding originally and essentially consists of pig’s blood, which is heated and allowed to cool until it congeals, and then is stuffed into a piece of pig’s intestine.
Traditionally, it’s formed into fairly round balls, but these days, it’s also sold in slices, as the makers attempt to attract a modern clientele. As to its food value, think about these facts; 3½ ounces of Black Pudding contains about 90 calories and provides; 1 gram of carbohydrates, 1 gram of sugar, 15 grams of protein, 680 milligrams of salt, 6.4 milligrams of iron, and 35 grams of fat.
This means that 1lb. of Black Pudding contains about 220 grams of fat. This hardly qualifies to be labelled a healthy foodstuff! But, even if Black Pudding is a perfect food, providing everything that our body needs, the question would still remain, is it something that a Christian should eat?
There is no obvious mention of blood in the first three chapters of Genesis, although it’s apparent that, in providing a covering for Adam and Eve, the blood of animals was shed, and sacrificed! Genesis 3:21.
And it was God Himself who provided the sacrifice. There is no mention of animals being slaughtered for food because our first parents ate fruit and vegetables, Genesis 2:9 / Genesis 2:16. They were not meat-eaters until after the flood, as we shall see in our study.
The first use of the word, ’blood’, a word which occurs more than 300 times in the Bible, is found in Genesis 4:10, when God said to Cain, ‘The voice of your brother’s blood cries to me from the ground’.
God knew when blood had been shed and the consequence of that first murder was that the ground would, ‘it will no longer yield its crops for you’. Genesis 4:12
In other words, the earth would no longer be as productive or as fruitful as before. This is the first indication of the importance that God attached to blood.
It was after the flood had subsided and Noah and his family had emerged from the Ark that God spoke about the Covenant which was to be made, not merely with Noah but with ‘every living creature of all flesh’. Genesis 9:15
Notice the terms that God used in speaking about the covenant because they are both important and significant.
1. I establish My covenant with you and with your seed after you, Genesis 9:9.
2. My covenant, Genesis 9:11.
3. The covenant for all generations to come, Genesis 9:12.
4. A covenant between Me and the earth, Genesis 9:13.
5. I will remember My covenant, Genesis 9:15.
6. The everlasting covenant between God and every living creature, Genesis 9:16.
7. The covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is upon the earth, Genesis 9:17.
In the opening verses of this chapter, Genesis 9, we read that God blessed Noah and his sons and commissioned them to re-populate the earth, Genesis 9:1.
The Hebrew word used for fill is ‘male’, which means ‘to fill’ or ‘fill up’. He then bestowed on Noah supremacy over every living creature, Genesis 9:2, virtually restoring to him the authority that had originally been given to Adam. Genesis 1:28.
It was at this point that God made an addition to man’s diet, Genesis 9:3. Man became a ‘carnivore’, a meat-eater. But there then follows a condition, a prohibition.
It’s impossible not to see that this verse alone is sufficient to prohibit the eating of blood in any form whatsoever. From the earliest of times, the Bible reveals, God has emphasised the sacredness of blood, whether animal or human and has hedged it around with very strict prohibitions.
Notice, also, that embedded in this covenant is God’s law relating to wilful murder, Genesis 9:6.
The sacredness of blood was later revealed in the sacrificial system concerning which God gave instructions to Moses. I think that we who were never under the Mosaic Law and who, consequently, weren’t required to implement its commands relating to animal sacrifice, are inclined to treat what we read about it in a casual sort of way.
For example, this is how we often see it, a Hebrew, sins and brings an animal sacrifice as a sin offering, intended to appease an aggrieved God. Having offered his sacrifice everything is put right again! Or so we think! But it wasn’t so simple or straightforward!
The ritual of animal sacrifice was never just a convenient and simple ceremony, because, in the first place, the animal which the sinner brought for sacrifice must be an animal which he himself had nurtured and for which he had cared.
In order to comply with the Mosaic Law, he must present the animal at the temple, where the priest would examine it to ensure that there was no flaw or deformity in it since anything of that nature would render it unfit for sacrifice.
However, in later times it wasn’t uncommon for the priest to reject the animal on the pretext of having found some ‘imperfection’ in it, which meant that the unfortunate worshipper was compelled to buy an approved animal from the priest.
There was, of course, no provision made in the Mosaic Law for the purchase of animals for sacrifice. This form of ‘made easy and convenient’ was the invention of the priests, who, as we see when Jesus encountered them in the temple court, had created a profitable business out of the sale of animals for sacrifice, and, for their part, the people themselves had come to accept this convenient arrangement which said, in effect, ‘no need to take the trouble of bringing animals for sacrifice up to the temple. It can all be arranged at price!’
It is not surprising, therefore, that Jesus was made angry by this commercialisation of religion, and the blatant degrading of the God-given system of sacrifice.
Why do you think Jesus cleansed out the temple twice? John 2:13-17 / Matthew 21:12-17. Again, we often suppose that, on his arrival at the temple, the worshipper simply handed over his animal to the priest, who took it away, slaughtered it, and then applied the blood ‘according to the Law’.
But this also is a mistake, because, ‘according to the Law’ the guilty sinner must himself apply the knife to the throat of the sacrificial victim, his own lamb! which he had brought up! reared! And which the family may even have adored as pet! 2 Samuel 12:2-3.
In imposing these procedures, was God being severe? Hard? Insensitive? Perhaps this is how it appears to us today, but it was in this way that God compelled the sinner to recognise the grave and painful, cost of sin!
In modern times, Judaism continues to strictly observe God’s prohibition placed on the eating of any form of blood. Animals intended for food are slaughtered in a manner which allows the blood to drain away, as God commanded.
Originally, this ritual slaughter would have been supervised by the Priests, but, because the Jews have now no priesthood the function has been taken over by the Rabbi, who monitors the procedure to ensure that it is ‘kosher’, a word which means, ‘correct, genuine or legitimate’ and, therefore, producing flesh fit for food, because it has been prepared according to the laws found in Leviticus 11, the which identify the clean and the unclean animals, that is, those fit for food and those that are unfit.
Along with this chapter, we should read Leviticus 17, and Deuteronomy 12, also passages where God specifically prohibits the use of blood as food. Leviticus 17:10 states that God would ‘I will set my face against any Israelite or any foreigner residing among them who eats blood, and I will cut them off from the people.’
Leviticus 17:11 explains that ‘the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.’ See also Leviticus 17:12.
Leviticus 17:13 declares that ‘any Israelite or any foreigner residing among you who hunts any animal or bird that may be eaten must drain out the blood and cover it with earth.’
And Leviticus 17:14 reiterates what has already been stated, ‘the life of every creature is its blood. ‘You must not eat the blood of any creature, because the life of every creature is its blood; anyone who eats it must be cut off.’
The Hebrews generally obeyed these laws, and exceptions were rare. The prime example of a case of disobedience is found in 1 Samuel 14, where, having defeated the Philistines in battle, King Saul’s soldiers killed the animals they had captured from the enemy and, after slaughtering them, ate the flesh without allowing the blood to drain from the carcase. When Saul heard this, he told his men, ‘Look, the men are sinning against the LORD by eating meat that has blood in it’. 1 Samuel 14:33
After the first Gentiles obeyed the Gospel and had been admitted to the fellowship of the church, an important meeting was held in Jerusalem, when the apostles and elders met together to discuss the extent to which the Gentiles might be required to comply with the Mosaic Law.
The issue was raised by Jewish Christians who, still ‘zealous’ for the law, mistakenly believed that Gentile must first submit to the Law of Moses before they could become Christians, and the rite of circumcision was expressly mentioned.
The conclusion reached by this meeting was that the Gentiles should not be troubled by such pressure, but, out of regard for the sensitivities of their Jewish brethren, they should be advised to, ‘abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from BLOOD.’ Acts 15:20
And this was the instruction which went out to all the congregations where non-Jews had fellowship, Galatians 4:4-5. Until ‘the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, to redeem’, redemption, the forgiveness of sins, wasn’t possible.
The Hebrew writer tells us this when he wrote, ‘It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.’ Hebrews 10:4
In the Old Testament the Hebrew word for Atonement is ‘kippurim’ simply means ‘a covering up’. In other words, sins weren’t blotted out, cancelled, or washed away, because the blood of an animal couldn’t suffice to deal with the sins of a man. The lesser couldn’t die in the place of the greater.
Even that solemn ceremony on the Day of Atonement, the most solemn and important day in their year, didn’t offer the Jews forgiveness. God accepted the sacrifice as a confession or acknowledgement of the nation’s sins, and ‘covered them’ for another year, always looking forward to the time when the sacrifice would be made which would effectively atone for sin.
This is why the Scriptures tell us that ‘those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins.’ Hebrews 10:4.
The burden of the nation’s guilt was rolled forward, carried over for another year, but think of the ‘rivers of blood’, which flowed during Old Testament times! Sacrifices were offered every day in the temple, morning and evening.
Personal sacrifices, national sacrifices, sin offerings, thank offerings. Yet none of these provided the assurance of forgiveness. They all pointed forward to the time when God Himself would provide the sacrifice that saves us from sin.
Only in the New Testament do we read of redemption, remission, and forgiveness, because the shedding of the blood of Christ did something that animal sacrifices could never do.
We must recognise that some of God’s Laws were dispensational, and therefore temporary in their application. There were ceremonial laws, related to worship at specific periods in Old Testament history.
The particular sacrifices about which we have spoken are examples of a ritual which belonged to the Old Mosaic Law, which Paul says, ‘Jesus took out of the way, nailing it to His cross’. Colossians 2:14
That is, He treated it in the manner in which a cancelled debt was treated in ancient times. The cancelled bill was nailed to a place where all could see that the debt had been paid.
Others were moral laws, which are permanent and which, never change, but remain valid for all ages. Murder, for instance, has always been condemned by God. From the beginning, God decreed ‘that a man should leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife’. Genesis 2:24 / Matthew 19:5.
Jesus tells us, that His law relating to the sanctity of all kinds of blood belongs to this category of law.
1. It’s important to recognise that the law prohibiting the use of blood for food doesn’t come from the Mosaic Law. It preceded the law and existed in the Patriarchal Age, as Genesis 9 clearly proves.
2. This law wasn’t given to Hebrews, Israelites, or Jews alone, because the passage makes clear that the Covenant that God made, was made with the all mankind, as a ‘generation to generation covenant’ the sign of which remains with us even today, the rainbow!
3. All that we read in the Scriptures relating to blood must be considered in relation to God’s plan for the redemption of mankind by means of the shedding of the blood of His own Lamb.
For this reason, God declared, ‘ALL blood to be sacred’!
This includes the blood of the animal which oozes out of those steaks cooked rare, this includes the blood in which Black Pudding is produced and eaten. Even animal blood mustn’t be shed wantonly, and the wanton shedding of human blood should be dealt with severely, even animal, human or divine.
We describe the blood of Christ as ‘divine’ because Paul urged the elders of the Ephesian church to, ‘Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.’ Acts 20:28
The abstaining from blood wasn’t a part of the Mosaic Law, it was a part of the covenant made with Noah and the whole earth and applies to everyone of every generation, this law wasn’t nailed to the cross.
Based on the above texts, the answer is surely obvious!