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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Abstinence is a refraining from the use of certain articles of food usually eaten; or from all food during a certain time for some particular object. It is distinguished from Temperance, which is moderation in ordinary food; and from Fasting, which is abstinence from a religious motive. The first example of abstinence which occurs in Scripture is that in which the use of blood is forbidden to Noah (Genesis 9:4) [BLOOD]. The next is that mentioned in Genesis 32:32 : 'The children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day, because he (the angel) touched the hollow of Jacob's thigh in the sinew that shrank.' By the law, abstinence from blood was confirmed, and the use of the flesh of even lawful animals was forbidden, if the manner of their death rendered it impossible that they should be, or uncertain that they were, duly exsanguinated ] (Exodus 22:31; Deuteronomy 14:21). A broad rule was also laid down by the law, defining whole classes of animals that might not be eaten (Leviticus 11) [FOOD]. Certain parts of lawful animals, as being sacred to the altar, were also interdicted. These were the large lobe of the liver, the kidneys and the fat upon them, as well as the tail of the 'fat-tailed' sheep (Leviticus 3:9-11). Everything consecrated to idols was also forbidden (Exodus 34:15). Instances of abstinence from allowed food are not frequent, except in commemorative or afflictive fasts. The forty days' abstinence of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus are peculiar cases requiring to be separately considered [FASTS]. The priests were commanded to abstain from wine previous to their actual ministrations (Leviticus 10:9), and the same abstinence was enjoined to the Nazarites during the whole period of their separation (Numbers 6:3). A constant abstinence of this kind was, at a later period, voluntarily undertaken by the Rechabites (Jeremiah 35:14-18). Among the early Christian converts there were some who deemed themselves bound to adhere to the Mosaic limitations regarding food, and they accordingly abstained from flesh sacrificed to idols, as well as from animals which the law accounted unclean; while others contemned this as a weakness, and exulted in the liberty wherewith Christ had made his followers free (Romans 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 8). Mention is made by the apostle Paul of certain sectaries who should arise, forbidding marriage and enjoining abstinence from meats which God had created to be received with thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4:3-4). The council of the apostles at Jerusalem decided that no other abstinence regarding food should be imposed upon the converts than 'from meats offered to idols, from blood, and from things strangled' (Acts 15:29).





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Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Abstinence'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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