Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States
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My question is about the decree of the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15. Why were these four prohibitions specifically required to be fulfilled by the Gentiles:abstaining from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality? I read Leviticus 17 & 18, but didn't understand why this part of the law was set up as the minimum requirement. I also do not understand the phrase, "For the life of the flesh is in the blood..." (Leviticus 17:11); and "But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood" (Genesis 9:4).

These prohibitions were directed to the Gentiles since before entering in Christianity they viewed those things as natural and not sinful.
  • Abstenance from things offered to idols: They were not to eat anything that they knew had been offered in sacrifice to an idol, but look upon it as, though clean in itself, yet thereby not allowed for them. This prohibition was to protect Christianity against wrong assumptions; for by eating things offered to idols they ran the risk of giving the wrong impression to the weak Christian or the wicked heathen about Christianity.
  • They were not to eat nor drink blood, and avoid everything that looked cruel and barbarous in that ceremony. The aim behind this prohibition was to prevent those excesses of cannibal ferocity, in eating flesh of living animals, to which men in the earlier ages of the world were liable to practice, as well as in drinking blood, which was frequently done by the pagans.
  • Blood is the circulating principle of life, and therefore, being sacred to God who is the giver of life, must be carefully poured out of every animal used for human food. This is also the reason for prohibiting eating any thing that was strangled. The Mosaic Law forbade the eating of blood (Lev 3:17; 7:20; 19:25; Deut 12:16), and recommended the blood of the sacrifices to be sprinkled on the altar (Lev 17:11; Deut 12:23). Science has proved that blood is the circulating principle of life. This is what God intended it to be from the day of creation when He said "But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood" (Genesis 9:4).
  • It was quite common in pagan societies to commit sexual immoralities in the pagan temples as part of their worship. This is why the fourth prohibition is mentioned here.
The overall significance is that those were all new guidelines to the gentiles who  had had to change from their old ways of idol worship.
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