Christian Dietary Laws
In mainstream Nicene Christianity, there is no restriction on kinds of animals that can be eaten. This practice stems from Peter’s vision of a sheet with animals, described in the Book of Acts, Chapter 10, in which Saint Peter “sees a sheet containing animals of every description lowered from the sky.” Nonetheless, the New Testament does give a few guidelines about the consumption of meat, practiced by the Christian Church today; one of these is not consuming food knowingly offered to pagan idols, a conviction that the early Church Fathers, such as Clement of Alexandria and Origen preached. In addition, Christians traditionally bless any food before eating it with a mealtime prayer (grace), as a sign of thanking God for the meal they have.
Slaughtering animals for food is often done without the trinitarian formula, although the Armenian Apostolic Church, among other Orthodox Christians, have rituals that “display obvious links with shechitah, Jewish kosher slaughter.” The Bible, states Norman Geisler, stipulates one to “abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meat of strangled animals”.
In the New Testament, Paul of Tarsus notes that some devout Christians may wish to abstain from consuming meat if it causes “my brother to stumble” in his faith with God (cf. 1 Corinthians 8:13). As such, some Christian monks, such as the Trappists, have adopted a policy of Christian vegetarianism. In addition, Christians of the Seventh-day Adventisttradition generally “avoid eating meat and highly spiced food”. Christians in the Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, and Orthodox denominations traditionally observe a meat-free day, especially during the liturgical season of Lent.
Method of slaughter
With reference to medieval times, Jillian Williams states that “unlike the Jewish and Muslims methods of animal slaughter, which requires the draining of the animal’s blood, Christian slaughter practices did not usually specify the method of slaughter”. In actual practice, states Williams, European Christians have flexibly practiced both the method of draining the blood, and wringing the animal’s neck to retain its blood as valuable food. According to Basheer Ahmad Masri, the “Jewish and the Christian methods of slaughter fulfill the Islamic condition of bleeding the animal”. In contrast, David Grumett and Rachel Muers state that the Orthodox Christian Shechitah and Jewish Kosher methods of slaughter differ from the Muslim Halal (Dabh) method in that they require the cut to “sever trachea, oesophagus and the jugular veins” as this method is believed to produce meat with minimal suffering to the animal.
Most Christian denominations condone moderate drinking of alcohol, including the Anglicans, Catholics, Lutherans, and the Orthodox. However, smaller denominations such as the Seventh-day Adventists, Baptists, Methodists, and Pentecostals either abstain from or prohibit the consumption of alcohol (abstentionism and prohibitionism). However, all Christian Churches, in view of the Biblical position on the issue, universally condemn drunkenness as sinful.
- Wright, Professor Robin M; Vilaça, Aparecida (28 May 2013). Native Christians: Modes and Effects of Christianity among Indigenous Peoples of the Americas. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 171. ISBN978-1-4094-7813-3.
Before Christianity, they could not eat certain things from certain animals (uumajuit), but after eating they can now do anything they want to.
- Geisler, Norman L. (1 September 1989). Christian Ethics: Contemporary Issues and Options. Baker Books. p. 334. ISBN978-1-58558-053-8.
- Ehrman, Bart D. (1 May 2006). Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend. Oxford University Press. p. 60. ISBN978-0-19-974113-7. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
In the meantime, Peter in Joppa has a midday vision in which he sees a sheet containing animals of every description lowered from the sky. He hears a voice from heaven telling him to “kill and eat.” Peter is naturally taken aback, because eating some of these animals would mean breaking the Jewish rules about kosher foods. But then he hears a voice that tells him, “What God has cleansed, you must not call common [unclean]” (that is, you do not need to refrain from eating nonkosher foods; 10: 15). The same sequence of events happens three times.
- “The Weaker Brother”. Third Way Magazine. 25 (10): 25. December 2002.
Christ came for the Gentiles as well as the Jews (the real meaning of that vision in Acts 10:9;16) but he also calls us to look out for each other and not do things that will cause our brothers and sisters to stumble. In Corinthians Paul urges the believers to consider not eating meat when with people who assume that meat must be offered to idols before consumption: ‘Food will not bring us close to God,’ he writes. ‘We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block for the weak.’ (1 Corinthians 8:8-9)
- Binder, Stephanie E. (2012-11-14). Tertullian, On Idolatry and Mishnah Avodah Zarah. Brill Academic Publishers. p. 87. ISBN978-90-04-23478-9.
Clement of Alexandria and Origen also forbid eating meat dedicated to idolatry and partaking in meals with demons, which, by association, are the meals of fornicators and idolatrous adulterers. Marcianus Aristides merely testifies that Christians do not eat what has been sacrificed to idols; and Hippolytus only notes the interdiction against eating such food.
- Salamon, Hagar (7 November 1999). Ethiopian Jews in Christian Ethiopia. University of California Press. p. 101. ISBN978-0-520-92301-0.
The Christians do “Basema ab wawald wamanfas qeeus ahadu amlak” [in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit one God] and then slaughter. The Jews say “Baruch yitharek amlak yisrael” [Blessed is the King (God) of Israel].
- Efron, John M. (1 October 2008). Medicine and the German Jews: A History. Yale University Press. p. 206. ISBN978-0-300-13359-2.
By contrast, the most common mode of slaughtering four-legged animals among Christians in the nineteenth century was through the deliverance of a stunning blow to the head, usually with a mallet or poleax.
- Grumett, David; Muers, Rachel (26 February 2010). Theology on the Menu: Asceticism, Meat and Christian Diet. Routledge. p. 121. ISBN978-1-135-18832-0.
The Armenian and other Orthodox rituals of slaughter display obvious links with shechitah, Jewish kosher slaughter.
- Norman L. Geisler (1989). Christian Ethics. Baker Book. p. 206. ISBN978-0-8010-3832-7.
- Phelps, Norm (2002). The Dominion of Love: Animal Rights According to the Bible. Lantern Books. p. 171. ISBN978-1-59056-009-9.
Nevertheless, toward the end of the chapter, Paul suggests that even Christians with strong faith may want to abstain from eating meat offered to pagan deities if any chance that their example will tempt fellow Christians of weaker faith into inadvertent idolatry. He concludes by saying, “Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.” (1 Corinthians 8:13)
- Walters, Peter; Byl, John (2013). Christian Paths to Health and Wellness. Human Kinetics. p. 184. ISBN978-1-4504-2454-7.
Traditional Hindus and Trappist monks adopt vegetarian diets as a practice of their faith.
- Daugherty, Helen Ginn (1995). An Introduction to Population. Guilford Press. p. 150. ISBN978-0-89862-616-2.
Seventh-Day Adventists are also urged, but not required, to avoid eating meat and highly spiced food (Snowdon, 1988).
- “What does The United Methodist Church say about fasting?”. The United Methodist Church. Retrieved 2 May 2014.[permanent dead link]
- Barrows, Susanna; Room, Robin (1991). Drinking: Behavior and Belief in Modern History. University of California Press. p. 340. ISBN978-0-520-07085-1. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
The main legally enforced prohibition in both Catholic and Anglican countries was that against meat. During Lent, the most prominent annual season of fasting in Catholic and Anglican churches, authorities enjoined abstinence from meat and sometimes “white meats” (cheese, milk, and eggs); in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England butchers and victuallers were bound by heavy recognizances not to slaughter or sell meat on the weekly “fish days,” Friday and Saturday.
- Lund, Eric (January 2002). Documents from the History of Lutheranism, 1517-1750. Fortress Press. p. 166. ISBN978-1-4514-0774-7.
Of the Eating of Meat: One should abstain from the eating of meat on Fridays and Saturdays, also in fasts, and this should be observed as an external ordinance at the command of his Imperial Majesty.
- Vitz, Evelyn Birge (1991). A Continual Feast. Ignatius Press. p. 80. ISBN978-0-89870-384-9. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
In the Orthodox groups, on ordinary Wednesdays and Fridays no meat, olive oil, wine, or fish can be consumed.
- Jillian Williams (2017). Food and Religious Identities in Spain. Taylor & Francis. p. 62. ISBN978-1-351-81704-2.
- Masri, Basheer Ahmad (1989). Animals in Islam. Athene Trust. ISBN978-1-870603-01-0.
Both the Jewish and the Christian methods of slaughter fulfill the Islamic condition of bleeding the animal.
- Scratchley, David (1996). Alcoholism and Other Drug Problems. Simon and Schuster. p. 298. ISBN978-0-684-82314-0.
Although the Jewish, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Episcopal, and Lutheran traditions generally allow moderate drinking for those who can do so, it is simply incorrect to accuse them of condoning drunkenness.
- Conlin, Joseph (11 January 2008). The American Past: A Survey of American History, Enhanced Edition. Cengage Learning. p. 748. ISBN978-0-495-56609-0.
Protestants who called themselves “fundamentalists” (they believed in the literal truth of the Bible–Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals) were dry.
- Domenico, Roy P.; Hanley, Mark Y. (1 January 2006). Encyclopedia of Modern Christian Politics. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 18. ISBN978-0-313-32362-1.
Drunkenness was biblically condemned, and all denominations disciplined drunken members.
- Cobb, John B. (2003). Progressive Christians Speak: A Different Voice on Faith and Politics. Westminster John Knox Press. p. 136. ISBN978-0-664-22589-6.
For most of Christian history, as in the Bible, moderate drinking of alcohol was taken for granted while drunkenness was condemned.
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