Meat in the English Bible usually signifies "food," and not merely "flesh," Ge 1:29-30; Mt 15:37. So in Lu 24:41; "Have ye here any meat?" literally, anything to eat? The "meat-offerings" of the Jews were made of flour and oil, etc., Le 2. See OFFERINGS and SACRIFICES. As to the animal food used by the Jews, see CLEAN, and FOOD.
It does not appear that the ancient Hebrews were very particular about the seasoning and dressing of their food. We find among them roast meat, boiled meat, and ragouts. Moses forbade them to seethe a kid in its mother's milk, Ex 23:19; 34:26 - a precept designed to inculcate principles of humanity, and perhaps to prevent them from adopting an idolatrous custom of their heathen neighbors. The Jews were also forbidden to kill a cow and its calf in the same day; or a sheep, or goat, and its young one, at the same time. They might not cut off a part of a living animal to eat it, either raw or dressed. If any lawful beast or bird should die of itself or be strangled, and the blood not drain away, they were no allowed to taste of it. They ate of nothing dressed by any other than a Jew, nor did thy ever dress their victuals with the kitchen implements of any but one of their own nation.
The prohibition of eating blood, or animals that are strangled, has been always rigidly observed by the Jews. In the Christian church, the custom of refraining from things strangled, and from blood, continued for a long time, being approved by the council held at Jerusalem, and recommended to the Gentile converts, Ac 15.
At the first settling of the church, there were many disputes 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 Savior, ate indifferently of whatever was served up to them, even among pagans, without inquiring whether the meats had been offered to idols. They took the same liberty in buying meat sold in the market, not regarding whether it were pure or impure according to the Jews; or whether it had been offered to idols or not. But other Christians, weaker, more scrupulous, or less instructed, were offended at this liberty, and thought the eating of meat which had been offered to idols was a kind of partaking in that wicked and sacrilegious offering. This diversity of opinion among the disciples called for the judgment of inspiration; and we find in several of Paul's epistles directions both for those who held such scruples, and for those who were free from them. The former, while in obedience to their own conscience they carefully abstained from the food in question, were charged to view with charity the conduct of those who did not share their scruples. The latter might freely but and eat without guilt, since meat is in no wise injured as an article of food by being offered to an idol; yet whenever others would be scandalized, pained, or led into sin by this course, even they were required by the laws of Christian charity and prudence to abstain, Ro 14:20-23; 1Co 8; 10:19-33; Tit 1:15. This principle is of general application in similar cases; and many in our own day might well adopt the generous determination of the self-denying apostle to partake of no questionable indulgence while the world stands, if it may be the occasion of sin to others.
MEATS. 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, 1Ki 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, Ro 14:20; Tit 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, 1Co 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, Ro 1:2. Yet it is certain, that generally Christians abstained from eating meat that had been offered to idols.