The significance of table-fellowship in the east is well known. In Judaism particularly the religious significance of a shared meal was central. 'In Judaism', as Jeremias notes, "table-fellowship means fellowship before God, for the eating of a piece of broken bread by everyone who shares in the meal brings out the fact that they all have a share in the blessing which the master of the house has spoken over the unbroken bread" (J.Jeremias, New Testament Theology. Vol. I. "The Proclamation Of Jesus" (1971; ET London: SCM, 1971) 115. The added significance for the rabbis and their pupils is well characterized in a saying of R. Simeon (c. 100-160 or 170):
If three have eaten at one table and have not spoken over it words of the Law, it is as though they had eaten of the sacrifices of the dead (Ps. 106:28), for it is written, 'For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness without God' (Isa. 28:8 -'place' taken as a designation for God). But if three have eaten at one table and have spoken over it words of the Law, it is as if they had eaten from the table of God, for it is written, 'And he said unto me, This is the table that is before the Lord' (Ezek. 41:22). (m. Abot 3.3)
No devout Jew could engage in an act of such religious significance casually, and the question of who was and who was not an acceptable table companion must have greatly exercised the minds of such Jews during the period which concerns us, as the Antioch incident itself demonstrates (cf. Acts 11:2-3; 1 Cor: 8-10).
2 And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him,
3 Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.
To put it another way, part of the pressure on a devout Jew in the 40s and 50s of the first century AD would have been the compulsion to observe the limits of acceptable table-fellowship. These limits would be determined partly by two things:
Basically the issue we are facing is if under the teachings of Paul was the Antioch Church, containing both Jewish and non-Jewish believers, observing and keeping the respective Laws of their respective Covenants. You will come to see that both the Jew and the non-Jew were in violation of their respective Covenants and one must look to the teacher who failed to instruct properly; in this case we must confront Paul for what he was actually doing and teaching which was contrary to both the Jew's and non-Jew's respective Covenant stipulations. The New Testament, and especially epistles from Paul's perspective, give a certain "spin" to the story, but research in both Covenants and their respective requirements are very telling in the gathering of truth and exposing Pauls apostasy!
Some basic background information into the Laws of Noah concerning abstaining from eating the limb of a living animal will be very helpful at this point in our study. There is some discussion as to whether or not the prohibition of eating the limb of a living animal was originally given to Adam, the first man. One opinion states that it was included in the original commandment forbidding the eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 56 b). According to this opinion, Adam, who was clearly given vegetation for food, as it is written, "And God said, Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed which is upon the face of the whole earth, and every tree upon which there is fruit of a tree bearing seed, to you these shall be for food" (Gen. 1:29), was not forbidden to eat meat, but was merely forbidden to kill animals for food. If the animal had died of itself, it was permissible as food (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 56 b). What Noah was given, therefore, was permission to kill animals for food, but he was forbidden by God to eat the flesh of any animal while the animal was still alive (Gen. 9:4, Commentary on Rashi). According to the other opinion, Adam had received six of the Seven Universal Laws and had been forbidden to eat the flesh of an animal in any manner. Only after the Flood was the leniency of permitting animal flesh instituted (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings, chapter 9, law 1).
This commandment is explicit, as it is written, "Every moving thing that lives shall be for you for food; just as the green herbs, I have given you everything. But flesh with its living soul, its blood, you shall not eat" (Gen. 9:3-4). This means that an animal's soul is contained in its blood and it is this soul/blood that God was forbidding man to drink animal blood. The life is in the blood and it is this life that God has given as an atonement. One should realize that when "blood" is mentioned it is truly meaning something deeper; it means the soul atones. One's life, his soul, atones in his actions and repentance following his sin. There are studies on this on the net explaining how Christianity has misunderstood this concept and how the Jews have got it right all along! The vitalizing animal soul is contained within the blood, and this is what the commandment refers to, for when an animal dies, this vitalizing soul departs. So long as this vitalizing soul remains within the animal, its flesh is forbidden to man as food (Lev. 17:14 , commentary of Rashi; Gen. 9:4, commentary of S. R. Hirsh).
At first glance, this commandment seems peculiarly out of place as one of the Seven Universal Laws. How can eating the limb of an animal take its place side by side with such monumental principles of human morality as those prohibiting idolatry or murder? Besides a few scattered sociological perversions in Africa and China, one is hard put to imagine who would even consider eating an animal's meat while the animal lives.
And yet this is precisely why this commandment may well epitomize the spirit of the Seven Universal Laws. Although mankind is enjoined to obey the Seven Laws of Noah along with their specific commandments as they appear, nevertheless the letter of the law serves only as a minimum, a starting point, which guarantees God's favor and ensures human morality. But, if man wishes to realize his spiritual greatness, he must tap into the infinite potential of the Seven Laws, using them to refine and elevate himself. We see here that eating the limb of a living animal serves as a hint to the potential refinement that man can attain through his eating habits and by practicing kindness to God's creatures. For what man ingests as food is absorbed in his bloodstream and in every cell of his body and thereby becomes part of his essential being. The person who eats snakes and monkeys will surely be different from the one who eats nuts and berries.
The Noahide may eat the flesh of an animal that dies by itself (Encyclopedia Talmudica, vol 3, chp. 21), but there is an opinion stating that only the flesh of an animal killed through slaughtering is permissible" (Asarah Ma'amarot, Chekur Din, sec. 3, chp. 21).
For the Noahide animals, birds, and fish may be killed for food in any way that man deems to be efficient and it should be done as humanely as possible. For the Noahide, the non-Jewish believer, slaughtering of animals or birds does not have to be in a ritual manner as with Jews. But this was a Commandment which had to be enforced and taken up by the non-Jews voluntarily if the Jew was to partake of the food at any table fellowship with non-Jews. Again this was voluntary and is a perfect example of choosing those things that please God as instructed of non-Jews in Isaiah 56. The non-Jews might not have been given such a commandment but if they were to share table fellowship with Jews then it was up to them to voluntarily take upon themselves those commandments requiring ritual slaughter if fellowship with their Jewish brethren was to ensure. Let us again be reminded that such table fellowship is the example and rehearsal of the Marriage Supper where both peoples of God; both Jew and non-Jew share in the supper of God!
Notice again that the issue of "circumcision" had been dealt with for the most part after Paul's 14 year absence and subsequent trip to Jerusalem, but not all Jews had yet "agreed" to this mandate by James. Yet circumcision remained a problem for many Jews, especially the non-Messianics. In Antioch "tensions" surfaced where the non-Jews were expected to respond in obedience to other commands if they were to maintain fellowship with their Jewish brethren. Notice these "other commands" were not required of these non-Jewish believers, but they "had to" keep them if they were intent on solidifying their fellowship with their Jewish brethren.
This is where we begin to encounter problems in the Antioch incident and why the men from James began to rebuke Paul for the manner of table fellowship which was being practiced in his congregation. The Jews had no options: either be excluded or compromise their Covenant and Commandments and sin! The men from James discerned that the table fare, which had come from the Gentile market-place had not been prepared, ritually slaughtered, drained of all blood, and most likely not tithed of, which was required by the Covenant and Laws of Moses. Even Peter and Barnabas and other Jews in the congregation had been misled by such practices as condoned under the auspices of being "in Christ" and "becoming all things to all men that they might win some". There were certain procedures involved in the killing of the animal which was commanded to be done in as merciful a manner as possible before the animal was considered "kosher" for consumption by the Jew. The practice of such relaxation of such commandments was not acceptable to the men from Jerusalem and nor it should be.
The men from James had not forgotten that one guilty of transgressing this commandment in the Laws of Noah or Laws of Moses, in any of its manifestations, is subject to punishment by the courts whether he eats the limb of a living animal or merely the flesh of a living animal or any internal organ, even the smallest amount, or even eating the smallest amount of an animal that has not been killed by Biblically sanctioned ritual slaughter. A Jew was subject to punishment by the courts for eating the limb or the flesh of either a living domestic or wild animal which had not been ritually slaughtered according to the Torah.
The Antioch congregation under the authority of Paul had somehow not bothered themselves with this commandment since "being in Christ" for them meant they were no longer under the Law according to Paul. But the men from James and the Jerusalem Church had something to say about that. The uproar would be heard all the way back in Jerusalem and the Acts 15 Council would be called and these principals reiterated to Paul and included in letters to all the churches of Asia Minor.
Answer for yourself: What does this have to say about such practices in Gentile Churches today?
Animals, together with their lives, were given into the hands of mankind. The higher spiritual rank of man dictates that he not eat the limb of a living animal. Even though human flesh and animal flesh are related, the one may be incorporated within the other through eating. But the soul of an animal may never be incorporated within the soul of man. The soul (in the blood) of an animal must first be separated from its physical being before the animal body may be absorbed within and become part of the human body (Gen. 9:4, commentary of S. R. Hirsch). This means that certain procedures are necessary to drain the blood, which contains the life and soul of the animal, from the animal before the flesh is fit for consumption. This is applicable to both Jew and non-Jew. Such procedures as commanded in the Laws of Noah and the Jewish Laws were not practiced in pagan markets of that day and time and such meat at table fellowship had no guarantee that such safeguards had been taken to ensure the blood was completely drained from the animal. Besides methods of slaughter as addressed above, now we have the problem of draining the blood completely before consumption. These violations would be grouped under the admonition of James in Acts 15 as refraining from pollution of idols and blood! Remember this "seemed good to the Holy Spirit":
Acts 15:28-29 28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; 29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well. (KJV)
Obedience to the law on unclean foods had been one of the make or break issues in the Maccabean rebellion. "Many in Israel stood firm and were resolved in their hearts not to eat unclean food. They chose to die rather than to be defiled by food or to profane the holy covenant; and they did die" (1 Macc. 1.62-3). No one who cherished the memory of the Maccabees would even dream of eating unclean food. The typical Jewish attitude at the time with which we are concerned is probably well caught by Luke's account of Peter's reaction to the vision given him in Joppa: "I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean" (Acts 10.14). This belief was later compromised in Peter and other Jew's lives because of Paul's teaching in Rom 10:4 that "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth" we may not possibly ever know. What we can be sure of is that we have a rather perplexing problem in the testimony of the New Testament concerning the "attitudes of Yeshua and of Paul as to the law.
Answer for yourself: Is Yeshua the Yeshua of Mark 7, who denies that anything outside a man is able to defile him and who thus defines all foods as clean (Mark 7:15, 18-19) or is Yeshua the Yeshua of Matt. 5, who declares the inviolability of jots and titles and the importance of even the least commandments (Matt. 5:18-19; 23:23)? All we can say is that the Pauline corpus of writings existed prior to the writing of the Gospels and to think that the Gospels and their writers were not influenced by Pauline theology would be rather naive.
Jewish devotion on this point was particularly expressed in their abhorrence of pigs and of pork. The height of Antiochus Epiphanes' abomination had been his sacrifice of swine on the altar(s) of the temple (Josephus, Antiquities 13.8.2 §§ 243). Continuing Jewish antipathy to the pig is illustrated by the Mishna's refusal to allow Jews to rear swine anywhere (in Israel) (m. Baba Qamma 7.7). And Jewish rejection of pork was well known and often commented on in Greek and Roman society. For example, Philo reports Caligula as interrupting his hearing of the Alexandrian delegations with the abrupt question, "Why do you refuse to eat pork?" (Embassy to Gaius 361), and Plutarch devotes one of his Quaestiones Convivales to discussion of why Jews abstain from pork (4.5). Clearly abstention from pork was thoroughly characteristic, we may even say universally characteristic, of Jewish conduct both in Palestine and in the Diaspora.
But notice if you will Paul's comment in Gal 2:4:
4 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:
The Greek word for "spy" is Strong's Number #2684 (kataskopeo) which means to inspect, to view closely, in order to spy out and plot against. Understand that when they observed table fellowship something was "visible" that first grabbed their attention as to irregularities. The only thing "visible" was the type of food on the table to begin with and most likely this points to the fact that the diet of that day contained "unclean" and unkosher food". This only led to other deeper problems such as the lack of tithing, the lack of ritual slaughter, etc.
Equally abhorrent to the devout Jew was food tainted by the abomination of idolatry, although the extra-biblical documentation is thinner in this case. In addition to 1 Corinthians 8-10 and Acts 15.20, 29, we may mention Josephus' report of how in 64 C.E. he sought to aid certain priests of his acquaintance who had been taken prisoner in Rome and who "even in affliction had not forgotten the pious practices of religion, and supported themselves on figs and nuts" (Life 3 §§13-14), presumably in part at least to avoid meat left over from pagan sacrifices (4 Macc. 5.2). This will be dealt with in more detail in other articles.
Likewise with meat (of clean animals) from which the blood had not been drained, in accordance with the clear and repeated commandments of Moses (Lev: 3.17; 7:26-7; 17:10-14; Deut: 12.16, 23-4; 15.23; Acts 15:20, 29). What constituted a proper slaughtering of a clean animal for food is well defined in rabbinic Judaism by the time of the Mishna (tractate Hullin; also Keritot 5.1), but we can gain some idea of how far the halakoth had developed by the middle of the first century from Hullin 1.2, which reports the debate between the school of Shammai and the school of Hillel on what precisely was allowed by the (presumably) earlier ruling that slaughter with a handsickle was valid. If you recall the Noahide, let alone the Jew, was commanded not to eat any animal in which the "life/soul" remained in the animal. The higher spiritual rank of man dictates that he not eat the limb of a living animal. Even though human flesh and animal flesh are related, the one may be incorporated within the other through eating. But the soul of an animal may never be incorporated within the soul of man. The soul (in the blood) of an animal must first be separated from its physical being before the animal body may be absorbed within and become part of the human body (v. 27:30-32).
Equally abhorrent to the devout Jew was food that was consumed from which a "tithe" had not been given. To consume food without first tithing from it was considered robbery from God. A tenth part of agricultural produce or livestock which was "holy to the Lord". Animals, together with their lives, were given into the hands of mankind. The Bible specifies various percentages of the crop that the farmer must allocate in accordance with given criteria as a religious offering to particular individuals. The custom of tithing is of ancient origin, as Abraham gave a voluntary tithe to Melchizedek (Gen. 14:18-20; cf.28:22). As part of the commandments "dependent on the Land [of Israel]," these tithing regulations are only applicable to produce grown there (Kid. 1.9). Such laws applied to the first six years of the seven-year cycle during which crops were grown; no tithes were given in the seventh Sabbatical year (shemittah) during which the fields had to remain fallow.
God shares with us in the Commandments of the Tithe that if we fail to set apart a "tithe" for the "poor", the remainder we keep for ourselves is considered by God as if it is "stolen". If we fail to remember the poor then God considers that all we have which we consider as "ours" since we worked for it as if it were"stolen" and it is not released for our use. Thus, we rob God in a big way. The real problem is if the church where we attend is teaching the tithe correctly; don't bet on it until you have studied it out! You will be shocked if you do!
During two years of every seven year cycle (the third and the sixth years), a person was obligated to "set apart" from the fruit of his soil a tithe for the poor, the stranger, the orphan, and the widow; in addition to the Terumah (the heave offering) and Masser (first fruit offering) which he "set apart" for the Kohen (priest) and the Levite respectively. If one failed to formally "set apart" the tithe for the poor the entire basket was prohibited for use by the giver even if the Terumah and the Maaser Rishon (the first tithe which went to the Levite) had already been "set apart". The men from James ascertained that since the table fare had come from the market place in Antioch that the "dinner" had not been tithed of according to Scripture and that in reality those at table were robbing God. Thus again the rebuke of Paul, Peter, Barnabas, and the whole church.
Answer for yourself: Does you church give, as commanded in the Jewish Scriptures of Moses, to give all of the tithe every 3 years to the poor (equivalent to 1/3 of the church's budget every year)? Hardly! Hast God said?
"For the poor will never cease from the midst of the land." "Take care" the Torah (the first 5 books of the Old Testament) therefore said to the Jew, "lest you forget the stranger, the orphan, the widow or the poor. When one eats of the bread of the land, he is to know that the land and its fullness belongs to the Lord alone. The food which He prepared for His creatures, He prepared for them all". If food for a poor person was not available in his home, it was considered to be available through "your" home. The food he needs, is his, not yours! And when you give the poor his Masser (heave offering), it is not charity which you give him. Rather are you returning what belongs to him. When you made the return, you did so graciously, as one does who returned an object temporarily entrusted to him for safekeeping.
The Kohen (priest) acquired his portion first. After him came the Levite. The poor, the stranger, the orphan and the widow came next. And you guessed it-the people of the land came last! What those at Antioch were not observing is this practice of tithing first before they consumed their food. If you have already "set apart" the required Terumah and Maaser offerings, you too may eat your "bread" in joy, for God has graciously acknowledged your deeds. Even if you have not yet actually given the offerings already "set apart," to their respective recipients, the remainder of your produce is already permitted to you by God. When you "set apart" your Terumah and Maaser offerings you thereby receive the right to enjoy the remnant of your product. In the act of "setting apart" you acknowledge God's ownership of the land, His being the source of your bounty, and the consequent claim of others to their rightful portion of your bounty. God then grants to you your portion and he says; "What remains...is for you. Let it be yours!" Whoever keep the portion of the poor in his possession, and fails to give it to them, is not withholding charity, but is rather in possession of stolen property (Mal. 3:8). And the people of God are not given to such malicious wrongdoing.
Obedience to these commands so clearly set out in the Torah was obviously fundamental to devout Jews in our period; it belonged to the distinctiveness of their race and religion and marked them out as Yahweh's chosen people. Such fundamental laws were a limiting factor of considerable consequence for the devout Jew's practice of table-fellowship. These Laws and Commandments are not negotiable for the Jew. They did not, we should note, inhibit his own entertainment of others, where he was responsible for what was served up and for the manner of its preparation. But these Laws and Commandments would largely prevent him from accepting with an easy conscience invitations from others (Gentiles) who might ignore them in whole or in part, hence it is the case of an invitation to someone else's house which Paul discusses in 1 Corinthians 10.27-9.
But whereas Paul was addressing non-Jews who were called to table fellowship with other non-Jews in I Cor. 10:27-29, the Jew is held to a higher standard. The Jew were called to a higher level of holiness than non-Jews and unlike the non-Jews who need not ask about where the "dinner" came from, the Jew has to know. When Paul would go on to say in I Cor. 10:38 "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" we would be wrong to conclude that "everything" was fair game and was able to be consumed in any manner whatsoever because stipulations in preexisting Covenants state otherwise!
It was these laws which were being overlooked at table fellowship in Antioch. The men from James when they arrived "spied" out Paul's liberty as he stated, and found several things wrong. They called for immediate repentance and Peter and Barnabas and the rest of the Jewish part of the congregation removed themselves.
The rest is up to you..shalom.