What Does The Bible Say About Cannibalism


Cannibalism has been a controversial subject for several centuries. According to scholars, it has been practiced throughout history in many cultures and religions, as well as in recent times. The term is derived from the Spanish phrase “cannibalism,” which translates to “eater of human flesh”. While the practice of cannibalism has been seen as immoral and repulsive, it has also been seen as a form of desperation by some groups who resort to it in extreme conditions such as famine. The Bible speaks of it as an abomination and firmly condemns it, as discussed further in this article.

Bible Verses Explicitly Condemning Cannibalism

The Bible explicitly condemns cannibalism. Leviticus 26:29 states: “You shall not eat any flesh that is torn by beasts in the field; you shall throw it to the dogs”. This suggests that it was a well-known practice, since it specifically mentions it as something unacceptable. According to Leviticus 20:2-5, anyone “who eats a human being”, is to be “executed”. This further illustrates that the Bible takes a strong stance against cannibalism.
Moreover, 1 Corinthians 3:16 mentions cannibalism as a sin, saying, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’”. This suggests that it was a practice accepted in some cultures, which could lead people to believe it was acceptable. The Bible, in turn, cautions against it as something that can lead to immoral behavior.

Biblical Verses Prohibiting Human Sacrifice

In addition to explicitly condemning cannibalism, the Bible also prohibits human sacrifice. For example, in Deuteronomy 12:31, it states: “You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way”. This suggests that, in certain cultures and religions, human sacrifice or offerings were acceptable, which the Bible utterly rejects and prohibits.
Furthermore, in Jeremiah 19:4-5, it is stated that “they have even filled this place with the blood of innocents, and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal”. This illustrates that, in some cultures and religions, human sacrifice and offerings were acceptable, which the Bible condemns and prohibits.

The Historical Context of Cannibalism

Cannibalism has been practiced throughout history by a range of different cultures and institutions, including Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, and the Aztecs. In Ancient Greece, according to some sources, it was seen as a way to honor the gods, while in other cases, it was seen as a way to avenge oneself against enemies. Ancient Rome and the Aztecs are also known to have practiced cannibalism in some cases, usually as a form of punishment or as part of religious ceremonies.
In recent times, it has been documented in some isolated cases. In some cases, it has been a result of extreme conditions, such as wartime or famine. In other cases, it has been a part of certain rituals and beliefs, such as the Donner Party tragedy in the 19th century.

Religious Views on Cannibalism

In addition to the biblical stance on cannibalism, it is important to consider other religious views on the practice. Generally speaking, most religions condemn or prohibit it, as it is an act that goes against the sanctity of life.
For instance, some Eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism have a strongly negative view of the practice and consider it a violation of one’s spiritual integrity. Similarly, the Islamic faith insists that all forms of cannibalism are strictly prohibited, as animals are to be respected and not treated cruelly.

Cultural Perspectives on Cannibalism

Culturally, cannibalism has been viewed as abhorrent in most societies and is almost universally seen as a repulsive and immoral act. Although the practice is often associated with savagery and barbarism, some societies have been known to practice cannibalism as part of certain traditions or rituals.
In certain cases, cannibalism has been seen as a desperate measure in times of need. For instance, the Donner Party tragedy in the 19th century is an example of this. In this case, the settlers resorted to eating the flesh of their dead companions in order to survive in their dire predicament.

The Ethical Debate on Cannibalism

From a philosophical standpoint, the ethical debate on cannibalism is complex and has been ongoing for centuries. While some scholars argue that the practice is not inherently immoral, others contest that all forms of cannibalism must be viewed as a moral abomination that should be universally condemned.
Moreover, there are those who suggest that cannibalism can only be seen as acceptable in extreme conditions where it is the only way to save one’s life. In this case, some scholars argue that it is ethically permissible as one is not actively choosing to take life, but rather simply trying to preserve their own.

Established Laws Against Cannibalism

In most parts of the world, cannibalism is taboo and there are laws in place to prevent it. In fact, in some countries, such as Canada and the United States, cannibalism is punishable by law.
For instance, in Canada, Section 183 of the Criminal Code states that it is an offence to “committing or being a party to acts of cannibalism”. Similarly, in the United States, the landmark case of Powell v State (1977) saw the Supreme Court upholding a law prohibiting the practice of cannibalism.

Public Perception of Cannibalism

Cannibalism has been met with widespread disgust and revulsion. As a result, public perception of the practice has been overwhelmingly negative and there has been a general consensus that it is an abominable and immoral act.
Moreover, it has been widely portrayed in popular culture as something to be feared, such as in horror films and sensationalized news stories. This reinforces the public’s negative view of the practice as something to be repelled and condemned.

Modern Day Cannibalism

Modern-day cannibalism is relatively rare, though it does still occur in some isolated cases. For instance, in 2012, a German man was arrested for murdering and eating an unwitting victim. Similarly, in 2014, a group of five men in Russia were arrested for resorting to cannibalism in order to survive in a remote cabin.
Additionally, it has been reported that in some remote parts of the world, such as Papua New Guinea, cannibalism is not uncommon. In these places, it is not seen as immoral, but as a form of respect, where consuming a person’s flesh is seen as a way to honor them in death.

Cannibalism and Mental Illness

In recent years, researchers have pointed to a possible link between cannibalism and mental illness. While the majority of cases of cannibalism are not necessarily linked with mental illness, some suggest that certain disorders, such as schizophrenia and antisocial personality disorder, can be a factor.
In these cases, it is suggested that mental illness can be a contributing factor in an individual’s decision to practice cannibalism. However, it is important to note that this is not the case for all instances of cannibalism.


Whatever one’s views on cannibalism, it is apparent that the Bible takes a strong stance against it. Through its explicit condemnations, it firmly asserts that the practice is to be avoided. In addition to this, it also prohibits practices such as human sacrifice, which could lead to cannibalism.
From an ethical standpoint, the debate on cannibalism is complex and has been ongoing for centuries. Additionally, there are laws in place in most countries to prevent the practice. Finally, public perception of cannibalism is largely negative, though in some remote parts of the world, it is still seen as a form of respect and is not necessarily seen as immoral.

Marcos Reyna is a Christian author and speaker. He is dedicated to helping create disciples of Christ through spreading the power of the gospel to others. He has written several books and articles on a variety of theological topics, including matters of faith, worship, biblical studies, practical ethics, and social justice. A trained theologian and devotee of spiritual writing, Marcos has a mission to spread Christian love everywhere. He lives with his family in Nashville, TN where he spends his days encouraging others to seek Christ's grace in all things.

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