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Inspiration of the Bible: Scientific Foreknowledge

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Prohibitions on Pigs

by  Bert Thompson, Ph.D.

One of the most arresting evidences of the Bible’s inspiration is the unique scientific foreknowledge it contains. From anthropology to zoology, the Bible presents accurate scientific information, and provides rules and regulations based on that information. Examples abound, only one of which I would like to examine here.

While the Old Testament placed no restrictions on the eating of fruits and vegetables, severe limitations were given for the eating of certain meats. Among land animals, only those that had a split hoof and were cud chewers were approved as edible (Leviticus 11:3). Of those water-living animals, only those with fins and scales were acceptable (Leviticus 11:9; all poisonous fish have no scales). Birds of prey were prohibited, as were almost all insects. But perhaps the best known among all these prohibitions was the pig. To the Jew, pork meat was unclean.

There is good reason for such a prohibition. The pig is a scavenger, and as such will eat almost anything. In so doing, it often ingests a parasite, Trichinella spiralis, which is the cause of trichinosis in humans. Pigs also are known carriers (as intermediate hosts) of the tapeworm, Taenia solium, and of the parasite Echinococcus granulosis, which causes tumors in the liver, lungs, and other parts of the body. Raw or undercooked pork can be very dangerous if eaten by humans. Pigs can provide safe meat, if they are cleanly fed and if the muscle tissue is well cooked. But such conditions did not prevail in ancient times. [Even today, in some countries, raw pork is considered a delicacy.]

Were the Israelites “ahead of the times” in regard to their public health hygiene laws? Noted archaeologist W.F. Albright wrote: “We find no classification as logical as this in any of the cuneiform lists of fauna or ritual taboos.” He added that such laws “can scarcely have been drawn up on the basis of any knowledge of the underlying prohibition.”

None of the peoples around the Israelites possessed this kind of advanced public health knowledge. Yet the Jews possessed this, and much more. How so, apart from the special revelation from God for which they are so renowned?

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