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Doctrinal Matters: Difficult Passages

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Is It Wrong to Eat Pork?

by  Kyle Butt, M.A.

A myriad of different views have been adopted to ascertain the rightness or wrongness of specific actions. Some have adopted the philosophy that if something feels good to them, then that thing is right for them. Others suggest that if animals engage in a certain activity, then such must be right for humans as well. In truth, however, there is only one way to know if an action or idea is right or wrong, and that is to compare it to the ultimate standard. If it can be proven that the Bible is God’s Word (and it can, see Thompson, 2003), then the Bible reveals the perfect mind of God and is the sole source of authority on which assessments of right and wrong should be based.

What, then, does the Bible say about eating pork? Is it wrong? This question naturally arises from reading the Old Testament, because it was wrong for Jews under the Law of Moses to eat pork. In Leviticus 11, God gave the Israelites a list of animals that were permissible to eat, but the text specifically labels swine (pork) as unclean and forbidden (vs. 7). Throughout the Old Testament, the act of eating swine’s flesh was viewed as an abomination to the Israelites—wrong and sinful (see Isaiah 66:17). One primary reason for this prohibition in the Old Testament against eating the meat of unclean animals, including pork, was to protect the Israelites from diseases, infections, and bacteria that were more commonly carried in scavenger animals such as vultures, catfish, and pigs (see Thompson, pp. 52-53).

The question does arise, however, if it was wrong for those under the Old Law of Moses, is it still wrong for those who are following God under the New Law of Christ? The straightforward answer to this question is a simple, “no.” It is not wrong to eat pork.

When Jesus Christ died, He nailed the Old Law to the cross (Colossians 2:14). The book of Hebrews explains that Christ made the Law of Moses obsolete and replaced it with the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:13). Paul explained to Christians in Galatia that the Old Law was cast out and replaced by Christ’s New Law (Galatians 4:21-31). As a result, the regulations about clean and unclean foods were jettisoned, along with rules for animal sacrifice, ritual washings, annual feast days, Sabbath observance, and a host of other ceremonial trappings.

As evidence that the food regulations were abolished, the book of Acts includes an account in which the apostle Peter saw a heavenly vision of unclean animals being lowered from heaven. A voice from heaven said to Peter, “Rise, Peter, kill, and eat” (Acts 10:13). Peter responded that he did not eat unclean animals. The heavenly voice countered by saying, “What God has cleansed you must not call common” (10:15). In the immediate context, the vision was designed for Peter to understand that God was arranging for the Gospel to be preached to the Gentiles. But the interchange also manifests the fact that the regulations for clean and unclean animals had been altered so that animals that once were unclean to the Jew were now fit to eat.

In a passage that has a direct application to the eating of pork, Paul wrote to Timothy:

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer (1 Timothy 4:1-5, emp. added).

Under the New Law of Christ, it is no longer wrong to eat animals such as pigs or catfish, since such regulations have been removed. Those who want to be accepted by God no longer have to offer up physical animal sacrifices, since Christ offered Himself on the cross as the ultimate, permanent sacrifice for sins (Hebrews 9:28).

When Christ died on the cross, His New Law went into effect (Hebrews 9:16-22). While it is true that some of the things in the Old Law, such as the prohibition to murder or lie, are repeated in the New Law, many regulations were not carried over. The only way to know what God expects of individuals under the New Law is to study the 27 books in the New Testament that contain this law. Ultimately, all people who have lived after Christ’s death on the cross until His Second Coming will be judged by this New Law (see John 12:48).

REFERENCES

Thompson, Bert (2003), In Defense of the Bible’s Inspiration (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press), [On-line]: URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/pdfs/e-books_pdf/idobi.pdf.




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