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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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The Hebrews had several kinds of animals which they refused to eat. Among domestic animals they only ate the cow, the sheep, and the goat; the hen and pigeon, among domestic birds; beside several kinds of wild animals. To eat the flesh with the blood was forbidden them, much more to eat the blood without the flesh. We may form a judgment of their taste by what the Scripture mentions of Solomon's table, 1 Kings 4:22-23 . Thirty measures of the finest wheat flour were provided for it every day, and twice as much of the ordinary sort; twenty stall-fed oxen, twenty pasture oxen, a hundred sheep, beside the venison of deer and roebucks, and wild fowls. It does not appear that the ancient Hebrews were very nice about the seasoning and dressing of their food. We find among them roast meat, boiled meat, and ragouts. They roasted the paschal lamb.

At the first settling of the Christian church, very great disputes arose concerning the use of meats offered to idols. Some newly converted Christians, convinced that an idol was nothing, and that the distinction of clean and unclean creatures was abolished by our Saviour, ate indifferently of whatever was served up to them, even among Pagans, without inquiring whether these meats had been first offered to idols. They took the same liberty in buying meat sold in the markets, not regarding whether it was pure or impure according to the Jews, or whether it was that which had been offered to idols. But other Christians, weaker or less instructed, were offended at this liberty; and thought to eat of meat that had been once offered to idols, was a kind of partaking of that wicked and sacrilegious offering. This diversity in opinion produced some scandal, to which St. Paul thought it behoved him to provide a suitable remedy, Romans 14:20; Titus 1:15 . He determined, therefore, that all things were clean to such as were clean, and that an idol was nothing at all; that a man might safely eat of whatever was sold in the shambles, and though it might be a part of what had been previously offered in the temple, and there exposed to sale, he need not scrupulously inquire whence it came; that if an unbeliever should invite a believer to eat with him, the believer might eat of whatever was set before him, &c, 1 Corinthians 10:25-27 . But at the same time he enjoins, that the law of charity and prudence should be observed; that men should be cautious of scandalizing or offending weak minds; that though all things may be lawful, yet all things are not always expedient; that no one ought to seek his own accommodation or satisfaction, but that of his neighbour; that if any one should say to us, "This has been offered to idols," we may not then eat of it, for the sake of him who gives the information; not so much for fear of wounding our own conscience, but his; in a word, that he who is weak, and thinks he may not indifferently use all sorts of food, should forbear, and eat herbs, rather than offend a brother, Romans 14:1-2 . Yet it is certain, that generally Christians abstained from eating meat that had been offered to idols.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Meats'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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