Would you consider eating a dog? Probably not! Yet, one food manufacturer in China says that it is “fine, tasty and can warm the body.” In all likelihood, you would not even consider eating any number of things that might be acceptable to those in a foreign land, such as mice, admittedly poisonous fish and other so-called delicacies. You have personal standards that you simply will not violate when it comes to putting food in your mouth.
Yet most do violate the standards that God has set for their dietary needs!
Would it not be logical that a loving God, who created the human body and the animals that man consumes as food, would tell man what he can and cannot eat? What does the Bible say on the subject? Does it even matter?
Some say that eating swine, catfish and rabbit is really no big deal. Many professing Christians believe that God somehow cleansed these meats in New Testament times, as revealed to Peter in a vision described in Acts 10. Does this mean we can eat anything we want? Others claim that no meat products of any kind should be eaten. Let’s examine the plain biblical teaching about clean and unclean meats.
Fearfully and Wonderfully Made
Everything on Earth—in fact, everything in the universe—has a designer. Someone designed the pattern from which your clothing is made. A whole team of engineers designed your automobile. When your car breaks down, often you must go to an expert to have it repaired. The information that mechanic has will surely have come from the designers of the automobile. By looking at the design of your vehicle, he can determine the problem and find the best way to correct it.
Your body was “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) by the Master Designer, Almighty God Himself. He knows exactly how everything in the body should work. He also designed the fruits, vegetables and animals that you consume. Who could possibly be more qualified to tell you what can properly nourish and sustain you than your Creator? We should look to Him for dietary understanding, not to man’s inadequate, limited knowledge. If the Designer of your body says that you should not consume something, you can be certain He knows best!
Most determine what they eat by taste, not by laws of good health. In fact, some of the things that people commonly call “food” are nothing more than slow-acting poisons, however tasty they may be. When it comes to plants, man can tell which are poisonous and avoid eating them. However, man simply does not have the ability to tell which meats are healthy and which are not. Nor does he need to. After all, God has already revealed what man may eat, and what he may not!
For instance: “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat” (Genesis 1:29). We can see here that God has given us the fruits and vegetables for our health. He told us what to eat for nourishment. Similarly, He reveals which meats our bodies are able to properly digest. They are listed in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. In Leviticus 11:2, we read, “These are the beasts which ye shall eat among all the beasts that are on the earth.” Notice that there is a presumption here that we will eat animals. The question is not if we will eat animals, but which animals we may eat.
Our standards must come from God, not from our own reasoning. He wants you to have optimal health. The same people who will eat dog meat are horrified at some of the things Americans eat. Almost without exception, the things that you can’t believe others would eat (like dogs and mice) and the things foreigners can’t believe Americans would eat (such as oysters) have all been forbidden by God!
Every animal was created for a purpose, but that purpose is not necessarily for human consumption. Consider the following quote from Herbert W. Armstrong’s booklet Is All Animal Flesh Good for Food? : “Just as every plant that God caused to grow out of the ground was not designed for food, so it is with animal flesh. Some will say, ‘Well, if swine’s flesh isn’t supposed to be eaten as food, what did God create swine for?’ You might as well ask, what did God create weeds and poison vines for? Everything may have been created for a purpose, but not everything for the purpose of eating.
“Now some believe that in the original creation—in the garden of Eden—God did not intend any animal flesh to be eaten. God’s revelation on that point is vague, and many have argued it both ways. However, God has clearly revealed that certain animal meats are to be eaten as food now, in this age, and Jesus who came to set us an example did eat flesh as well as vegetables and fruits, and so do I. …
“The day will come when we will at last learn that eating greasy hog flesh and other unfit ‘foods’ has been a prime cause of cancer and other deadly diseases” (emphasis added).
Still Valid Today
Some say that these laws of God only applied to ancient Israel. Yet, the Bible reveals that certain animals were unclean before the Flood—long before the nation of Israel was born. God commanded Noah to perform special actions because of this fact.
Before the Flood, Noah took two of every unclean animal into the ark, and seven of every clean animal (Genesis 7:2). Why bring so many more clean animals? To eat!
Furthermore, there has been no structural change in the animals since that time. The animals that were fit for food when God instructed Noah, and when He handed down instructions to ancient Israel, were made so by God at creation. The unclean animals were not structurally changed or miraculously purified so that we could eat them at the death of Jesus Christ. They are as unclean today as they were in the time of ancient Israel.
Although these animals have always been unclean, it is true that these laws are not part of the Ten Commandments. These laws were given for your health, not for your spiritual well-being.
Mr. Armstrong explains: “I know of men who make a hobby of bitterly accusing others of sin for eating pork, oysters and clams.
“Let us get this straight and clear!
“We usually speak of sin in its spiritual aspect. That is the aspect in which it is usually considered in the New Testament. The Bible definition of it is this: ‘Sin is the transgression of the law’ (1 John 3:4).
“The penalty for violation of that spiritual law is death—not the first, or physical death, but the second, or spiritual and eternal death in the ‘lake of fire’ (Revelation 20:14).
“Now the eating of wrong food is not a transgression of this spiritual law, and is not a sin in this sense. To violate the physical laws of health brings the penalty of disease, disability, pain, sickness and sometimes the first death. It is not necessarily spiritual sin.
“That is what Jesus made plain, as recorded in Mark 7:14-23. Here Jesus was speaking of spiritual defilement, not physical health. Not that which enters into a man’s mouth, but the evil that comes out of his heart, defiles the man spiritually. What defiles the man—and he is speaking of defiling the man, not injuring the body—is transgression of the Ten Commandments—evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, blasphemy (verses 21-22). These things have nothing to do with the physical laws of health. He was making a point concerning spiritual defilements, not physical health.
“Specifically, on the physical level, He was referring to a possible particle of dirt which might get on the food from dirty and unwashed hands—He was not here speaking of clean or unclean meats at all.”
Thus, Mr. Armstrong coined the phrase “physical sin” to refer to those acts that violate physical laws. However, if you commit a physical sin knowing that God has forbidden it, you are also committing the spiritual sin of rebellion against Almighty God!
Certain Bible passages are commonly used to justify eating any kind of food. Read our article that dispels these false arguments: ”Does the Bible Condone Eating Any Kind of Meat?”
The Principle of the Law
The meat laws are actually quite simple to understand. Here are some guidelines that you can use to distinguish between clean and unclean animals. Mammals that have divided hooves and chew the cud are clean (Leviticus 11:3). Pigs have divided hooves, but do not chew the cud; therefore, they are unclean. Horses do not have divided hooves or chew the cud; therefore, they are also unclean. Cows are clean because they have both divided hooves and chew the cud.
Fish must have both fins and scales (verse 9). Trout has both and is therefore clean. Catfish, which many frequently eat, has neither fins nor scales and is unclean.
Mr. Armstrong based the following guidelines for birds on Leviticus 11:13-21: “By comparing the differences between these clean birds and those listed as unclean, we can arrive at the following six characteristics of clean birds: 1) they must not be birds of prey; 2) they catch food thrown to them in the air, but they bring it to the ground, where they divide it with their bills, if possible, before eating it; whereas unclean birds devour it in the air, or press it with one foot to the ground and tear it with their bills; 3) they must have an elongated middle front toe and a hind toe; 4) they must spread their toes so that three front toes are on one side of a perch and the hind toe on the other side; 5) they must have craws or crops; 6) they must have a gizzard with a double lining which can easily be separated. (Consult articles in Jewish Encyclopedia under ‘Poultry’ and ‘Clean and Unclean Animals.’)
“Clean birds have all these characteristics; unclean birds lack one or more of these characteristics. If a bird lacks any one of these characteristics, it is unclean.”
There are only two instances in which clean meats become polluted: when they have died of themselves, or when the blood has not been properly drained (Acts 15:20). In addition, God forbids the eating of animal fat and blood (Leviticus 3:17). Therefore, you should cut the fat off your meat. Mr. Armstrong also pointed out that one should never use lard—a byproduct of swine—and that cheaper hamburger (ground beef) should be avoided because there is normally a lot of fat mixed into it.
Be in Good Health
The Prophet Isaiah knew that people would eat unclean meats in the end time (Isaiah 66:17). In fact, those that consume swine and the mouse are among those that will be consumed in God’s wrath. Mr. Armstrong made the following point, and we would do well to heed it: “It may not be spiritual sin to eat biblically unclean foods. Yet, if one deliberately does it out of lust of appetite, that breaks the Tenth Commandment and becomes sin. But in all events wrong food injures the body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit. It defiles the body if not the man, and if we continue to defile our bodies God will destroy us (1 Corinthians 3:17).”
There is no question that God expects us to obey these laws. God would not leave us ignorant in such an important area—He wants you to prosper and be in good health (3 John 2). Consider how blessed we are to have this understanding from our Father in heaven, and greatly rejoice!
Biblically Clean Meats
“These are the beasts which ye shall eat among all the beasts that are on the earth. Whatsoever parteth the hoof, and is clovenfooted, and cheweth the cud, among the beasts, that shall ye eat” (Leviticus 11:2-3).
Biblically Unclean Meats
“But all other flying creeping things, which have four feet, shall be an abomination unto you. [E]very beast which divideth the hoof, and is not clovenfooted, nor cheweth the cud, are unclean unto you …. And whatsoever goeth upon his paws, among all manner of beasts that go on all four, those are unclean unto you. … And every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth shall be an abomination …. Whatsoever goeth upon the belly, and whatsoever goeth upon all four, or whatsoever has more feet among all creeping things that creep upon the earth, them ye shall not eat” (Leviticus 11:23, 26-27, 41-42).
Biblically Clean Fish
“These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat” (Leviticus 11:9).
- Bluebill sunfish
- Pilchards (sardines)
- Red snapper
- Sea bass
- Striped bass
- White fish
- Yellow perch
Biblically Unclean Fish
“And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you” (Leviticus 11:10).
Biblically Clean Fowl
“Yet these may ye eat of every flying creeping thing that goeth upon all four, which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth” (Leviticus 11:21).
- Guinea fowl
- All song birds
Biblically Unclean Fowl
“And these are they which ye shall have in abomination among the fowls; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination” (Leviticus 11:13).
- All others not specifically listed as clean
Recommended reading: Mystery of the Ages