Why do Christians eat pork?


Pot bellied pig at Lisbon Zoo

Image via Wikipedia

I received a question on Christianity, which is a welcome change from receiving all linguistic questions, from YouTube viewer JInks232, who writes:

I viewed your “Basket case” video and an old question came to mind. How is that Christians eat pork despite the injunction in the bible against its consumption?

We traditional eat a nice ham for Easter Sunday. I am just curious and you seem to be knowledgeable.

Many thanks for that compliment, friend.

The fact is not all Christians eat pork – Seventh Day Adventists do not, I believe most Messianic Jews do not and there may well be others who do not. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of Gentile Christians do not observe the shunning of pork, even though hopefully most of us are aware that Jesus Christ himself certainly must have refused to eat it, by way of His living out the whole Law.

The placing of pigs, and with them a whole series of other animals, on the list of unclean animals takes place in the context of Levitical law. This comes from when Israel was called aside as a nation after arriving in Israel and the priesthood of the Levites was instituted.

When Noah lands the Ark after the Flood, God gives an instruction in Genesis 9 v 3, that he can eat any of the animals, just as before he could have eaten any of the plants.

There is mention in Genesis 7, before Noah goes into the Ark, of taking seven pairs of clean animals, one pair of unclean, but this has nothing to do with not eating them, as mankind was not allowed to eat animals at all until Genesis 9, after the Flood. So it presumably refers to some animals being regarded as sacrificial animals even before people consumed the animals.

Nothing more is said about some animals not being eaten or being regarded as dirty until we get to Levitical law. Especially Leviticus chapter 11. In the meantime we have had Abraham, Isaac and Jacob needing to be circumcised in order to be in the covenant, but no word about them shunning pork.

Some people talk about pork being regarded as unclean because of tapeworms. In this case people simply would have not kept pigs at all, and yet we know that pigs were kept in the region because of the Gadarean swine and also the fact that the prodigal son in Jesus’ parable ends up in a pigsty.

So circumcision was earlier by some generations in the Old Testament than dietary laws. Anyway Jesus kept all of the Levitical laws perfectly.

The Levitical law was a law for a special holy nation to be set aside to see if they could follow a set of precepts reflecting the perfection of God, and was there as Paul says as a schoolmaster, to lead us to the doctrine of grace. If righteousness comes by the law, he wrote, then Christ is dead in vain. Only Christ, out of all the men who sought to keep the law, actually managed it in thought, word and deed, despite being subjected to all temptations that man is prone to. This level of holiness is inconceivable to anyone who was normally conceived. The heritage from Adam through the male line precludes any such righteousness by works as we have a flesh that is in bondage to sin. So the only claim to such a righteousness we can have is for that man Jesus to have died on our behalf and to have offered himself as propitiation on the basis of simple belief in Him, repentance and calling on Him for salvation.

The experiment that the human can achieve righteousness by the law was done by God with the Jews as the chosen nation. It failed. Christ was the answer.

The experiment that the human can achieve political fairness and equality by communism was done by men with the Soviet peoples and some others as the chosen ones for that, but it was something God had never asked them to do. Still Christ is the answer.

Jesus Christ sent his disciples to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and ministered to Israel almost exclsuively. He did however respond in kindness to those coming who recognised that they were outside and ready to pick up crumbs that fell from the masters’ table.

Even after His resurrection, when at the end of Matthew’s Gospel He finally instructs the disciples to go into the whole world, not just Israel, He himself still gives one more chance to Israel. Look how the Acts of Apostles is structured, It is very important, these first few chapters tell a lot of how Gentiles started to be included.

in Acts 2 we have Pentecost, and the tongues enabling the message to go out into the whole world.

In Acts 3, we still have Peter addressing the men of Israel, though, and in Acts 4, and Stephen in Acts 7 addresses also the Jews.

Stephen the Martyr sees Christ in His resurrected state above the Jews to whom he offers the Gospel, and when they stone him it s like the final rejection. The garments already go to Saul, shortly to become Paul and the one who will be the apostle to the gentiles. Peter receives his vision in Acts 10 vv 14-15 where God commands him to eat of the unclean beasts, he says he has never eaten anything unclean, and God says “what God hath cleansed, that call not thou common”. The chapter goes on to show how now God has opened the way for the gentiles to join the covenant of Christ, and Paul to be the Apostle to them.

Later Paul deals with the issues of Jewish Christians trying to impose circumcision (as I already said above, a more core aspect of OT righteousness even than the dietary laws) on Christians and the Letter to Galatians is mainly all about that, and Christian liberty from Levitical laws. If a person sees righteousness as needing to involve one part of the law, such as circumcision, and not all by grace alone through faith, then they are a debtor to do the whole law.

So the New testament gives us every reason to understand that as we are gentiles and brought in to the grace of Christ, we are nevertheless not expected to behave like Jews. We should honour Jews and not do what the Church did to the Jews through so much of history, but we are not expected to be Jews. We are not converting to Judaism, we are experiencing an extension to pagans of the grace that at first belonged to the Jews. We are cleansed, our food is cleansed, and God is not calling is unclean. He washed us.

If we deny that washing by trying to obey works righteousness then we are outside the covenant of grace and back under the necessity to obey the whole law, because the Levitical law was not a loose leaf law, you didn’t pick or choose the things you liked. If you wanted access to the Holiest of Holies under the Levitical system, that’s how you did it. And the nation was a Theocracy, it wasn’t a secular state like today’s Israel.

We don’t have to become Jewish to by loved and included in a Saviour who was Jewish. We should certainly not be Anti-Semitic or offend Jews. I am not going to sit around without a yarmulka on if I go to a synagogue, nor am I going to sit around eating tasty food if someone in my team is eating only matzos at Passover. But that is by way of acknowledging the specialness of God’s special people, and not by way of saying that my salvation is incomplete if I don’t do these things. If I am working on a project even with Muslims then I will do them the courtesy of ensuring the pizza ordered for lunch has no pork, so how much more am I willing to accommodate the people of the Abrahamic Covenant.

Salvation is by grace, through faith, not of works, lest any man should boast. And even Abraham believed God, and it was that believing, not his act of circumcision, that was accounted to him as righteousness.

If a Christian doesn’t want to eat pork, he can shun pork. But if he thinks that he has earned any of his salvation by doing so, it would be better for him to wallow in a pigsty for a thousand years than get that wrong idea about what the following of Levitical law can do for him.

About David J. James

48 year old accountant who loves languages, literature, history, religion, politics, internet, vlogging and blogging and lively written discussion. Conservative Christian, married to an angel, we have three kiddiwinkies, and live in Warsaw, Poland. I also work in Prague, Czech Republic and Bratislava, Slovakia.

Posted on April 25, 2011, in Answers to your questions, Birds and Mammals, Religion and Philosophy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Clean and unclean animals are one issue, but what about eating food containing blood? It seems that everywhere I look, I only find the Watchtower’s opinions on it. Should Christians abstain from eating food with blood in it?

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    • You’ll see that parts of the New Testament church did indeed refrain from blood. This was always a bit of a discussion point even in apostolic times as, on the one hand, we are not made righteous by obeying Judaic ritual and keeping kosher, and therefore it can be dangerous to a person’s salvation by grace through faith theology to get legalistic about the blood issue. On the other hand the abstaining from blood takes us back to pre-Judaic law anyway – this was law given to Noah and his family when they left the ark, whose descendents we all are. Out of respect for that maybe Christians can decide to abstain from bloodied meats. But it is a question of personal conscience in all probability. I don’t think that Bible reading, faithful praying and serving Christians who eat let’s say a soup or a sausage from pig’s blood will be condemned for it. On the other hand I do believe that God’s covenant people were taught to find these things disgusting and among other things it’s not much of a witness to them if Christians use their liberty uncaringly.

      Personally simply by deciding to abstain from the flesh of animals I automatically don’t need to worry about whether blood is in their or not. Certainly I don’t go a bundle or the kosher/halal way of killing animals. I think it seems to involve unnecessary suffering and if I were worried about the blood issue per se, I would sooner simply avoid the flesh altogether, and then whatever happens I am compliant to that recommendation of even the apostles and the early church in the NT, as well as giving a better witness to Islamic people and Jews as automatically I am not eating anything which would be seen as unclean there, as I also dont eat shellfish or eel and catfish which are also not kosher.

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      • I’ve asked several other people this question, and as I thought, your answer is the best one. I’ve never thought much about the fact that some dishes are made with blood in them until a friend of mine asked about Acts 15:28-29. If blood is mentioned in the same list as fornication, it must be pretty serious, and it’s indeed called “necessary”. What do you think of this list in Acts?

        I already try to avoid blood, not out of legalism, but because I think it’s kind of disgusting. The arse soup in one of your videos takes the cake!

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        • I think that since that list is there it does need to be taken seriously. Very few Christians these days are worried about avoiding blood in meat and of course the only way of not eating blood is not to eat meat at all.

          Jesus Christ doesn’t call the eating of flesh sinful. In one parable he talks about how a certain family killed the fatted calf for a returning prodigal son. But even this shows what a rarity it was for a family to eat an animal in those days.

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          • Yes – the only places I can remember off the top of my head that the Bible talks directly about eating meat is when there’s a special occasion, like a feast (notably Passover) or important guests. The exception is hunting, which there is some mention of. I assume they ate the meat of the prey, unless they returned empty-handed, like Esau did.

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            • Another aspect about Biblical agriculture is that a lot of the terrain was quite mountainous and they did not have machines for levelling it and so a lot of the terrain wouldn’t have been ideal for traditional sorts of cereal farming. You can see how with what they had available using hunted meat occasionally was a way of getting more nourishment from the space available. They also preferred and still do prefer in Bible regions sheep and goats which can graze over regions which are rough terrain, with hills and mountains involved.

              Now cut to the twenty first century, where parts of Amazonia are being logged not even for our need for timber, which we can manage from northern forests sustainably, but for our need for cows’ meat. The cattle to make mainly North American beef-based food are taking over the unique and vital region in which hundreds of never-to-be-discovered species existed. Mankind today hasn’t achieved even the first task that God gave to Adam in the garden, namely to give taxonomies to all the living things in the garden. And we never will – thanks to the appetite for meat humans are destroying species before they can even discover them. The cures for various diseases may be hidden in the animals and plants we are blithely clearing out of the way for more of the same that we now have going on in half the world, just enabling the richer people in the world to eat meat.

              I stopped eating meat the same week the population on earth was generally measured to have exceeded 7 billion. People that week – in particular Nazi eugenecists – were using it as a reason to cry out again to reduce the population, saying that we cannot feed that number of people. In fact we could feed many more people, if it comes to food being the issue, cows eat and weigh more than three times what people do and there are 1.3 billion of them in the world. So adopting a Vegan lifestyle would enable at least another 3-4 billion people. That’s before we even get onto pigs and chickens. These are more of the souls who could be here living human lives and coming within the sound of the gospel, instead of being aborted or left unconceived because we think we haven’t got space for more so that those who are here can eat meat every day. Is it a Christian attitude to support the status quo when we know now that one of the greatest pressures on population control and the biggest arguments in favour of the abortionist genocidalists disappears if we stop feasting every day?

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  2. Through the death of Jesus Christ everything is made clean. We are talking about unclean here isn’t it? Therefore, there is nothing to argue. If we believe Jesus Christ then we must follow what He says. God the Father sent His Only Son Jesus For all of us. to save us, because no one is righteous enough to follow the law. We are SAVED by GRACE. Now. If Any body don’t believe in Him. I understand you are not Christian, I respect you are in Judaism group.

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  3. i do love the way you have framed this specific situation.

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  4. I believe Christians should not eat pork. God told me that directly.

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  5. I believe God – or his “angels” in the clouds beaming messages into the heads of prophets – judged pigs to be rather sentient. He wanted them spared from slaughter out of compassion.

    Of course humans would never go for this (or there wasn’t enough time to explain it properly), so He/they told us that pigs are filthy and shouldn’t be eaten. A few people fell for it, I guess…

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  1. Pingback: How do the food laws apply to me? « Anchor for the Soul

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