Are Christians Allowed to Eat Pigs and Other Animals Prohibited In the Old Testament Books?
The Old Testament makes reference to abominable animals the Jews or Israelite were forbidden by God. Now that we are living under the New Testament which was ushered by the coming of Jesus, are we still under the laws of the Old Testament?
One such animal that was prohibited in the Old Testament is pig. This article will look at whether it is alright for Christians to eat pork or it's a sin for a Christian to eat it. It will shed light as to whether Christians should eat animals that were forbidden by God as detailed in the first books of the Old Testament.
Nature and Characteristics of Pig
There are two major reasons why some Christian denominations don’t eat pork. The first reason has to do with the law the Israelite were handed down to by God through Moses on matters touching on food. The second reason is the preconceived idea people have about pigs. Many believe pigs are unclean because the animals prefer to be dirty than clean.
According to Ezine Articles this is not the case. In the article, ‘Pig Characteristics and Traits – Understanding Their Behavior Will Help You To Take Care of Pigs,’ it is noted by Sarah F. Brown, “One of the distinct pig characteristics is their cleanliness. Contrary to other people’s belief, pigs are generally clean animals. This is shown by their choice of toilet far away from their food and water troughs and their shelter. They will also not sleep or lay near the manure. They use mud to block their sensitive skin from the sun and insect bites.”
It will come as a shock to many that pigs are one of the top intelligent animals in the animal kingdom. In the same article, Sarah notes that pigs are smarter animals in that they can learn new behaviors and scientists believe they are smarter than primates and three-year old children. “The reason why pig farmers create strong pens and fences is that pigs can escape from even a relatively good fence. They are known to work in pairs and sometimes, smarter swine even open other pens to let other pigs escape.”
The Law in the Old Testament
Leviticus 11: 1-8
Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron,
“Tell the people of Israel that the animals which may be used for food include any animal with cloven hooves which chews its cud. 4-7 This means that the following may not be eaten: The camel (it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves); The coney, or rock badger (because although it chews the cud, it does not have cloven hooves); The hare (because although it chews the cud, it does not have cloven hooves); The swine (because although it has cloven hooves, it does not chew the cud).You may not eat their meat or even touch their dead bodies; they are forbidden foods for you."
It is clear from the above passage the Israelite were commanded not to eat pig’s meat.
Deuteronomy 14: 1-8
“Since you are the people of God, never cut yourselves as the heathen do when they worship their idols[a] nor shave the front halves of your heads for funerals. 2 You belong exclusively to the Lord your God, and he has chosen you to be his own possession, more so than any other nation on the face of the earth.
“You are not to eat any animal I have declared to be ceremonially defiled. These are the animals you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, the deer, the gazelle, the roebuck, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope, and the mountain sheep.
“Any animal that has cloven hooves and chews the cud may be eaten, but if the animal doesn’t have both, it may not be eaten. So you may not eat the camel, the hare, or the coney. They chew the cud but do not have cloven hooves. 8 Pigs may not be eaten because, although they have cloven hooves, they don’t chew the cud. You may not even touch the dead bodies of such animals."
In the above passage God had made it clear to the Israelite they should eat animals that have completely split hooves and chew the cud. However, if an animal doesn’t have both it should not be eaten, that is, if it has one but lacks the other. “And you may not eat the pig. It has split hooves but does not chew the cud, so it is ceremonially unclean
The Old and New Testament
We are living in the New Testament, no longer bound by the Old Testament. Jesus is the New Testament as he came to fulfill the Old Testament. We no longer need to sacrifice spotless lamb in order for our sins to be wiped out. Jesus is the permanent sacrifice, our High Priest. We no longer need a human high priest. Then, is the Old Testament useless?
Specifically, the laws were given to the Israelite. This was in order to show them how to live a holy life since God is holy and to show them by breaking the law they have in fact sinned. It is through the law we learn we are not perfect. It is through the law we learn we are sinful. As such we try to follow the laws so we don’t miss a step and find ourselves having sinned without our knowledge.
If you look closely at the laws the Israelite were given it is evident, especially The 10 Commandments, it is impossible to obey fully all the commandments without breaking one. We will break one or several of them since we are humans. But, why did God give the Israelite various laws including the 10 commandments? To show them they have always been breaking the law without their knowing. Once they were given they knew they had been breaking God’s laws unknowingly. Also, God wanted to separate them as a holy nation from others. This God did in order to pave way for the coming of Jesus. Lastly, to reveal Himself to the Israelite and through the Israelite the other nations would witness there is a Living and powerful God who exists; not gods.
In Romans 7:6 it states, “But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.” It is through the law we learn we are sinful by nature. Also, we learn due to our sinful nature as sin works through us we find it hard to follow or obey God’s laws to the letter. God knew it would be very hard for man to obey His laws without breaking one or several of them as long as he is alive. Reading the history of Israelite proves it is hard to follow God’s laws. Now, we no longer live under the law as we are led by the Spirit of God as a result of Jesus dying on the cross as a sign of sacrifice to reconcile us to God, and to make it possible to follow God. This is why Jesus said it will come a time when people will worship God in spirit and truth.
This is brought out clearly by Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) staff who state: “The dietary laws for Israel recorded in Leviticus, chapter 11, which include, for example, a prohibition against eating pork, were given for specific religious and, perhaps, health reasons.”
It is further stated in their article titled, ‘Does God Require Us to Follow The Old Testament Laws About Not Eating Pork and Other Kinds of Meat Today’ “The New Testament, however, makes it clear that observations of these Old Testament food laws for religious reasons is no longer required in the New Testament era. Jesus himself declared that all foods were “clean.” (Mark 7:17-23).”
In Colossians 3:9-11, Apostle Paul said, “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all."
If we have to follow every letter of the laws of the Old Testament, then we need not choose some over others. This includes circumcision. Paul said in Galatians 5:6 “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.” In the Kingdom of God it doesn’t matter whether you’re circumcised or not, a Jew or not. The most important thing is the condition of your heart. The laws were not created for us, the Gentiles, but for the Jews. Now, we are led by the Spirit of God not by laws.
It doesn’t mean the Old Testament is useless. There is a lot to learn from it. It is specifically on laws which were exclusively meant for Israelite. In effect it can be concluded, “For we are the true circumcision, who worship God in spirit, and glory in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh.” (Philippians 3:3)
Should We Then Eat Pork?
Are we allowed to eat pork as Christians? Yes and No. What do I mean? In Genesis 9 it says, “Then God blessed Noah and his sons and told them, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth. All the animals of the earth, all the birds of the sky, all the small animals that scurry along the ground, and all the fish in the sea will look on you with fear and terror. I have placed them in your power. I have given them to you for food, just as I had given you grain and vegetables. But you must never eat any meat that still has the lifeblood in it.”
Before the Israelite were given the laws found in Leviticus, any kind of meat was acceptable to be eaten. God as we have seen gave them the laws for specific reasons. Now, since we are not under the law, there is no obligation we shouldn’t eat this or that. There are only two instances eating of meat is a sin.
a) If you don’t feel good about eating a certain kind of meat and you go ahead and eat it, then you have sinned. If your conscience convicts you it is not right to eat a particular meat or meats in general, don’t eat that meat or meat. If you feel peace when it comes to eating a certain meat or meats in general, you haven’t sinned when you eat meat. If after eating meat you feel guilty then you have sinned.
“Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty of doing something they have decided is right. But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions if you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.”
b)Don’t be a stumbling block to your fellow believer. Don’t go ahead and eat pork in front of him because you will act as a stumbling block to him which may affect his salvation. If a person believes it is not good to eat meat he is justified. If you believe eating meat is not bad, also you’re justified. However, try your level best not to be a stumbling block to your fellow believer as indicted in the below verses:
“Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For instance, one person believes it’s alright to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them.”
“Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, all foods are acceptable, but it is wrong to eat something if it makes another person stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble.”
It is evident from the above scriptures and the verses that will follow afterwards it is not wrong to eat any kind of meat. It depends on how you feel on a particular kind of meat or meat in general. Everything that was created was created for our own good. We shouldn’t restrain ourselves or follow teachings that one should not eat this or that meat because it is dirty or an abomination to God. If your conscience convicts you it’s a sin to eat meats in general or a particular meat, don’t go ahead and it. You will not be condemned whether you eat meat or not. It depends on how you feel about eating a particular meat or meats in general.
The most important thing to remember is to give thanks before you eat and to ask God to bless it. When you give thanks to God for the meal and pray to God to bless it then the meal is sanctified. Go ahead and eat it. “Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it but receive it with thanks. For we know it is made acceptable by the Word of God and prayer.” Even if the meat you want to cook and eat was offered to an idol, once you thank God for the meat and ask Him to purify the meat, then it is sanctified. It will not have any bad effect on you. If your conscience convicts you it is a sin to eat meat offered to idols, then don’t eat it.
Remember: “It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you, you’re defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.”
For, after all, the important thing for us as Christians is not what we eat or drink but stirring up goodness and peace and joy from the Holy Spirit. (Romans 4:17)
Because of his kindness, you have been saved through trusting Christ. And even trusting is not of yourselves;it too is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good we have done, so none of us can take any credit for it. It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ages ago he planned that we should spend these lives in helping others. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
Give a warm welcome to any brother who wants to join you, even though his faith is weak. Don’t criticize him for having different ideas from yours about what is right and wrong.[a]2 For instance, don’t argue with him about whether or not to eat meat that has been offered to idols. You may believe there is no harm in this, but the faith of others is weaker; they think it is wrong and will go without any meat at all and eat vegetables rather than eat that kind of meat. 3 Those who think it is all right to eat such meat must not look down on those who won’t. And if you are one of those who won’t, don’t find fault with those who do. For God has accepted them to be his children.
You have no right to criticize your brother or look down on him. Remember, each of us will stand personally before the Judgment Seat of God. 11 For it is written, “As I live,” says the Lord, “every knee shall bow to me and every tongue confess to God.”
As for myself, I am perfectly sure on the authority of the Lord Jesus that there is nothing really wrong with eating meat that has been offered to idols. But if someone believes it is wrong, then he shouldn’t do it because for him it is wrong. 15 And if your brother is bothered by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you go ahead and eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. 16 Don’t do anything that will cause criticism against yourself even though you know that what you do is right.
17 For, after all, the important thing for us as Christians is not what we eat or drink but stirring up goodness and peace and joy from the Holy Spirit.
And if your brother is bothered by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you go ahead and eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. 16 Don’t do anything that will cause criticism against yourself even though you know that what you do is right.
17 For, after all, the important thing for us as Christians is not what we eat or drink but stirring up goodness and peace and joy from the Holy Spirit. 18 If you let Christ be Lord in these affairs, God will be glad; and so will others. 19 In this way aim for harmony in the church, and try to build each other up.
20 Don’t undo the work of God for a chunk of meat. Remember, there is nothing wrong with the meat, but it is wrong to eat it if it makes another stumble. 21 The right thing to do is to quit eating meat or drinking wine or doing anything else that offends your brother or makes him sin. 22 You may know that there is nothing wrong with what you do, even from God’s point of view, but keep it to yourself; don’t flaunt your faith in front of others who might be hurt by it. In this situation, happy is the man who does not sin by doing what he knows is right. 23 But anyone who believes that something he wants to do is wrong shouldn’t do it. He sins if he does, for he thinks it is wrong, and so for him it is wrong. Anything that is done apart from what he feels is right is sin.
1 Corinthians 8:13
So if eating meat offered to idols is going to make my brother sin, I’ll not eat any of it as long as I live because I don’t want to do this to him.
1 Timothy 4:1-4
But the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some in the church will turn away from Christ and become eager followers of teachers with devil-inspired ideas. 2 These teachers will tell lies with straight faces and do it so often that their consciences won’t even bother them.
3 They will say it is wrong to be married and wrong to eat meat, even though God gave these things to well-taught Christians to enjoy and be thankful for. 4 For everything God made is good, and we may eat it gladly if we are thankful for it...
So don’t let anyone criticize you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating Jewish holidays and feasts or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. 17 For these were only temporary rules that ended when Christ came. They were only shadows of the real thing—of Christ himself. 18 Don’t let anyone declare you lost when you refuse to worship angels, as they say you must. They have seen a vision, they say, and know you should. These proud men (though they claim to be so humble) have a very clever imagination.
20 Since you died, as it were, with Christ and this has set you free from following the world’s ideas of how to be saved—by doing good and obeying various rules[a]—why do you keep right on following them anyway, still bound by such rules as 21 not eating, tasting, or even touching certain foods? 22 Such rules are mere human teachings, for food was made to be eaten and used up. 23 These rules may seem good, for rules of this kind require strong devotion and are humiliating and hard on the body, but they have no effect when it comes to conquering a person’s evil thoughts and desires. They only make him proud.