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Is the Scriptural prohibition regarding the eating of blood binding upon all believers today, or does Paul’s exhortation to the Colossians (2.16-17) give believers liberty to eat blood?

Whether it is right or wrong for a believer to eat blood has been discussed for centuries and different opinions have been held by good men both for and against. Some have classified it as an indifferent matter that a Christian may decide in his freedom to do or not to do, or, to use the language of Scripture, "Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind". In this view the question of eating blood is neither commanded nor forbidden.

The arguments of those who are against eating blood are at least threefold.

1. That the prohibition was given to Noah before Israel or the Law was in existence (see Lev 17.10 & 11).

2. It was given linked with the injunction in the same covenant not to take life (Gen 9.4 & 6).

3. It was confirmed in the council of Acts 15.19,20, 28, 29).

In the New Testament epistles it is plain that punishment for murder has never been abrogated (Rom 13.4; 1 Tim 1.9), but not eating blood, by contrast, is nowhere commanded of the believer in the epistles and therefore cannot apply to the believer today. It must also be born in mind that before the Noahic Covenant in Genesis 9 animals were used for sacrifice, but not for food. After Genesis 9 animals were used for sacrifice and food. Hence the blood was sacred because it had to be kept for sacrificial usage. In the present dispensation no animal sacrifices are presented to God, so that such an ordinance is no longer needful.

The four things mentioned in Acts 15 had a very close connection with idolatry in those days and the reason too why the injunction was given was because of the strong feelings of the Jewish believers who were opposed to these things and would consider it an hindrance to the spread of the gospel and to fellowship between Jewish and Gentile Christians. To a very large extent these circumstances do not prevail now. It was not meant to govern the actions of New Testament Christians for all time. This we see in the later Scriptures in 1 Corinthians 10.25, 1 Timothy 4.1-5, and the passage in Colossians cited in the question above.

John J Stubbs

Is a person permitted to marry his/her first cousin from either the brother’s or sister’s side of the parents?

God said to the "male and female" whom he had created, "Be fruitful and multiply" (Gen 1.27-28). It is quite evident that, in order for this process of multiplication to continue, at least one of Adam’s sons would have had to marry his own sister. Indeed, in that first generation, probably all marriages were brother-sister marriages. Albeit, we need to bear in mind that "the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters" (Gen 5.4); this would have given scope for marriage between generations. From a purely human standpoint, in those early days there were no mutant genes in the genetic systems of any of these children, so that no genetic harm could have resulted from close marriages.

Abraham married his half-sister, Sarah (as she became known); Abraham said to Abimelech, "And yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife" (Gen 20.12).

However, when the law was given, certain restrictions were placed upon close family marriages (Lev 18.6-18). The general principle became, "None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness: I am the Lord" (Lev 18.6); thus marriage of close relatives was henceforth forbidden. A man was not to "marry" his mother (v.7), stepmother (v.8), sister or half-sister (v.9), granddaughter (v.10), the daughter of a stepmother (v.11), or an aunt (vv.12-14). The prohibition extended to in-laws and also to other relatives by marriage (vv.15-18).

It would appear that the law given in v.10 was superseded by the direction given in Deuteronomy 25.5 whereby, if a man died without begetting children, his brother was obliged to marry his widow; this was known as levirate marriage (N.B. Levir is the Latin word meaning "husband’s brother").

There appears to be no prohibition regarding the marriage of first cousins, whether from the brother’s or sister’s side of the parents. There is no further direction given in the New Testament. Most modern societies prohibit consanguineous marriages because of the consequences of such unions. However, marriage of first cousins is perfectly legal in the United Kingdom; in fact, the present writer has a first cousin (male) who is married to his own first cousin on his mother’s side.

David E West


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