Take the 2-minute tour ×
Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professors, theologians, and those interested in exegetical analysis of biblical texts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

The book of Leviticus1 contains a prohibition against the consumption of pork. What is the reason for this prohibition?

“And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be cloven footed, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you”. “Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcass shall ye not touch, they are unclean to you.” [Leviticus 11:7-8]


1 Pork is also prohibited in Deuteronomy and Isaiah

share|improve this question
1  
I would suggest rewording the question to say "Why did the Mosaic Law prohibit the ancient Israelites from eating pork?" The way it is currently worded it makes it sound like the conclusion from reading the Bible in its entirety is that it teaches that eating pork is forbidden. –  Jas 3.1 Aug 15 at 14:41
    
I think it doesn't prohibit only in Mosaic Law, but it's in multiple places as mentioned. It's prohibited entirely, if not, where the Bible allows to eat pork? –  kenorb Aug 15 at 14:55
2  
I think Jas point may be that Mosaic Law is different than the New Covenant in which we no longer adhere to these directives. –  James Shewey Aug 15 at 16:06
5  
@kenorb See Acts 15 for a Biblical basis for (Gentile) Christians no longer following the Law. Also Acts 10, where Peter is instructed to go to a Gentile's house and dine with him, which was not permitted in the Law (Acts 10:28). –  Tim S. Aug 15 at 17:44
    
A related question on Mi Yodeya. –  Susan Aug 18 at 0:52

6 Answers 6

up vote 9 down vote accepted

In the Hebrew Scriptures, death was "dirty." For example, contact with anything dead (whether animal or man) made the Israelite unclean in the ritual sense. Thus any scavenger was not appropriate for human consumption, since such animals consumed the refuse and/or carcasses of other animals. Only animals who chewed the cud (and split the hoof) were consumed for food, since they were vegetarians that consumed living grasses and plants (which included certain fowl and insects as well). Likewise, fish with scales and fins were consumed, because their principal diet consisted of consuming what was alive.

What cleaned away death in the ritual sense was water, which was not contaminated by things dead. For example -

Leviticus 11:35-37 (NASB)
35 Everything, moreover, on which part of their carcass may fall becomes unclean; an oven or a stove shall be smashed; they are unclean and shall continue as unclean to you. 36 Nevertheless a spring or a cistern collecting water shall be clean, though the one who touches their carcass shall be unclean. 37 If a part of their carcass falls on any seed for sowing which is to be sown, it is clean.

The running water of the spring, or cistern collecting water, is unending and continuing and therefore cannot become "dirty." (The water is eternal, because it is unending and continuing.) In the Hebrew Bible it was such water that was filtered through the ashes of the red heifer that was used to "wash away" the dirtiness of those who were ritually contaminated by things dead (Numbers 19:1-22).

In the Christian New Testament these guidelines of ritual impurity do not apply, since cleanliness with eternal life occurs from within. (External ritual impurity from without therefore is moot.) That is, the Christian receives eternal life, and this water (unending, and continuing eternal life) cleans away spiritual death, which was what was "dirty." Like the unending water of the spring or cistern (eternal source), anything dead on the outside becomes moot. Thus the Christian may enjoy all foods with an open and clean conscience before God, although such liberty may cause Jewish Christians to stumble, and therefore should be avoided (Acts 21:25-26).

This imagery of death-impurity cleansed by continuous-water transitions from the Hebrew Bible into the Christian New Testament as "living water" or eternal life that takes away spiritual death, which is what makes the man "dirty" (what is on the inside versus what is on the outside).

share|improve this answer
1  
YHWH gave these instructions to Israel; "it is unclean to you." It is remarkable that right with this He says also the following about not eating things that die: "Deut 14:21 You shall not eat anything that dies [of itself]; you may give it to the alien who [is] within your gates, that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner; for you are a holy people to the LORD your God." They could give it to a foreigner, but they could not eat it themselves for they are holy people to YHWH their God. –  Sarah Aug 16 at 2:24
    
To expound, this seems connected with YHWH's intent to make them a kingdom of priests. We think of "holy" as "not immoral" (ie. what would be wrong for any human to do). However, the Scriptural concept of "holy" is "set apart" for God. Vessels used in the temple were not to be used for secular purposes. It would have been sinful to use the consecrated vessel for common purposes; but, there was nothing sinful about people using common vessels for common purposes--eating daily food, etc. Thus, it seems it is connected with the purpose of Israel as a nation holy (set apart unto God). –  Sarah Aug 31 at 12:18

very nice human rationalizations, but none of these reasons is given in the Hebrew bible, because the simple reason is that this is a commandment from God. If a reason were given, then a person might come along some time later and give his own take on why that reasoning no longer applies as we see above. The same reasoning can be applied to all commandments until nothing is valid and people can do whatever they please and rationalize it with their own intellect.

share|improve this answer
    
Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange! Be sure to take our site tour to learn more about us. If you are here to convince someone of your point of view, you are probably in the wrong place. –  Paul Vargas Aug 15 at 20:53
2  
technically Brucey's Answer is right, though you should add a little more. And hes not trying to convert. The Jews were given their law's so that they would be different then other people in the world. Some laws had underlying reasons that may have contained health or good practices, but in the End the Jews were supposed to be "Gods Chosen people" and to be counter culture. you see throughout the old testament the Jews try to be more like everyone else, and that gets them in trouble with God. It was a commandment plain and simple. Follow it or else. –  Himarm Aug 15 at 21:42
    
There is also the recurring theme of uncleanness and the necessity of external cleansing for purification, a theme that was realized in the cleansing blood of Jesus. It wasn't just ritual; like many of these laws, it's a type or shadow. –  Kenogu Labz Aug 15 at 22:45

Pork is/was prohibited because swine can't sweat and any poisonous substance it may have eaten will be stored in the fat of the animal:

Another issue with the pig is that it doesn’t have any sweat glands. Sweat glands are a tool the body uses to be rid of toxins. This leaves more toxins in the pig’s body.

share|improve this answer

Pork or rare meat was forbidden in the Bible, because for a simple hygienic reasons from long ago times when especially in the South, in hot countries and the desert you had no cooling or a veterinarian who told you the pork was healthy and free of any parasites.

But some religions have made an iron law out of it. E.g. in Jewish and Islamic law pork is one of a number of foods which are forbidden for consumption (See: Religious restrictions on the consumption of pork).

The conditions changed since then. Today we have cold stores, refrigerators and meat inspectors. There is no reason anymore for this order.

But still we should look if the animal has lived energetically positive and wasn’t suffering when killed or under stress.

share|improve this answer
    
It might be helpful to summarize some of the content you have linked to and show how it supports your reasoning? –  Jack Douglas Aug 15 at 16:40
1  
Can you include some biblical or historical evidence that this is the reason for this law, and not just (possibly) a benefit? The Wikipedia page doesn't say anything about this. –  Brendan Long Aug 15 at 19:04

According Rav Moshe Shapiro in his book Ma'amakim, Torah forbids consumption of all non-domestic animals, because their nature is so absorbed in them, that when it's eaten, it's transformed to the person's body and he became more animalistic.

share|improve this answer
    
It'd be helpful to have links for further reading about Rav Moshe Shapiro and his work - and even better if you could include an actual quote in your answer. –  Jack Douglas Aug 18 at 7:00
    
I would like to, but I dont have access to it, and its also pretty recent so it can be found on hebrewbooks.org. I know it`s quite unprofessional to say something without referencies. :( –  havarka Aug 18 at 10:55

According to "Blood on the Streets," by Lord Rees Moggs and James D. Davidson, the prohibition did not pertain to the Bible per se, but was given solely by God to the Israelis (and through Mohammed, to the Muslims). The commonality between the two groups (and other Semites) was that they were living in the hot, dry Middle East. That is to say that the prohibition need not apply to say, Jews living in Europe or America.

The reason was that pigs sweat heavily, and use up a lot of water, relative to other animals of similar weight. Maintaining pigs and eating pork would therefore severely curtail the supply of water available to humans, in places like Egypt or Canaan.

share|improve this answer
1  
Google says pigs do not sweat heavily - quite the opposite, they sweat very little. –  Jack Douglas Aug 16 at 16:32

protected by Caleb Aug 16 at 8:43

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.