In the excellent article written by Professors Flusser and Safrai and translated by Halvor Ronning entitled, “The Apostolic Decree and the Noahide Commandments,” the subject of the Apostolic Decree is discussed within the context of ancient Jewish traditions and writings. Flusser and Safrai conclude that the prohibition of blood is not a prohibition against consuming blood, but rather the rabbinic prohibition of murder. In their own words:
As we have attempted to demonstrate, it is precisely the ritual food laws of the secondary form of the Apostolic Decree that go back to two extra-canonical Jewish restrictions. The original form of the Apostolic Decree was purely ethical [text in bold is author’s emphasis throughout this article] and was identical with the three Mosaic obligations for non-Jews, i.e., with the original (three) Noahide commandments.
Flusser and Safrai’s premise is that “blood” in this passage does not refer to the consumption of blood but rather to murder. They conclude that the apostolic decision prohibiting eating meat sacrificed to idols, fornication, and blood is equal to the rabbinic decree that under penalty of death a Jew may violate any of the commandments of the Torah with the exception of idolatry, adultery and murder.
There is a strong similarity between the rabbinic decree and the apostolic decree, and in the historical context of the times these similarities cannot be ignored. However, there is an element to both of these decrees that I believe has been overlooked. The original rabbinic decree would have been given in the Semitic tongue of Hebrew (or possibly, Aramaic), and in its historical setting, most probably the Apostolic decree as well. Hebrew is a very inclusive language and often a word has a depth of meaning that cannot be easily expressed by a single word in another language. Therefore, a single word may express multiple meanings at one and the same time. It is in this light that I believe something significant has been overlooked.
-  David Flusser and Shmuel Safrai, “The Apostolic Decree and the Noahide Commandments” (April 20, 2012). ↩
-  Resch’s studies of the non-canonical form of the Apostolic Decree helped three Jewish researchers independently to get on the right track. All three noted the relationship between the western form of the Apostolic Decree and the decision of the rabbinic synod of Lydda. This synod met in the year 120 C.E. and handed down the following decision: “Of all the trespasses forbidden in the Torah it holds true that if you are told, ‘trespass or be killed,’ you may trespass them all, except for idolatry, fornication and bloodshed [murder].” ↩
-  As my friend and mentor, Dwight Pryor, taught me, you need two hands to think Hebraically: For on the one hand statement A is true, but on the other hand, statement B is also true. ↩