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Unclean animal

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The pig is considered an unclean animal as food in Judaism and Islam.
The pig is considered an unclean animal as food in Judaism and Islam.

In some religions, an unclean animal is an animal whose consumption or handling is taboo. According to these religions, persons who handle such animals may need to ritually purify themselves to get rid of their uncleanliness.

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  • ✪ What does the Bible say about eating meat?
  • ✪ Which Animals are Clean and Unclean?
  • ✪ Touching Unclean Animals
  • ✪ Acts 10 Peters Vision. Did Peter Eat Unclean Animals?
  • ✪ ╫ Why Jesus Cast the Demons Into Pigs - Unclean Food


What does the Bible say about eating meat? What is the purpose of clean and unclean animals, and did the food laws change in the New Testament? It's time to UNLEARN the lies. UNLEARN Hey, welcome to UNLEARN. My name is Lex, and I'd like to invite you to join us each week as we UNLEARN the lies and dig deeper into the truth of God's Word. Now, let's get started. Many Christians believe that the food laws in the Bible have been abolished, and that we can now eat anything we want. They often say the laws concerning clean and unclean animals were only for the Jews and no longer apply to believers today. But, what does the Bible really say about this? First, I want to look at what the Bible says about clean and unclean animals, then we will examine what the New Testament says about the food laws. The food laws are broken up into four categories, land animals, sea creatures, birds, and creeping things. Each of these sections contain instructions about how to determine what is clean and unclean. Although some animals are listed specifically, the Bible does not provide us with a full list of clean and unclean animals, but it does give us instructions on how to determine which animals can be eaten. "Speak to the children of Israel, saying, 'These are the animals which you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth: Among the animals, whatever divides the hoof, having cloven hooves and chewing the cud--that you may eat. Nevertheless these you shall not eat among those that chew the cud or those that have cloven hooves: the camel, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you; the rock hyrax, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you; the hare, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you; and the swine, though it divides the hoof, having cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch. They are unclean to you." - Leviticus 11:2-8 The Bible specifically mentions “swine” as being unclean, but the prophet Isaiah also had this to say about eating swine. “I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, Who walk in a way that is not good, According to their own thoughts; A people who provoke Me to anger continually to My face; Who sacrifice in gardens, And burn incense on altars of brick; Who sit among the graves, And spend the night in the tombs; Who eat swine's flesh, And the broth of abominable things is in their vessels;” - Isaiah 65:2-4 God calls us rebellious for eating swine, and He says we are provoking Him to anger for doing so. Then, in chapter 66, He says that those who eat swine will be destroyed. “…Eating swine's flesh and the abomination and the mouse, Shall be consumed together," says the Lord.” - Isaiah 66:17 Did God change His mind about eating pig? Keep these verses in mind as we continue. Now, lets look at which sea creatures we are allowed to eat. "These you may eat of all that are in the water: whatever in the water has fins and scales, whether in the seas or in the rivers - that you may eat. But all in the seas or in the rivers that do not have fins and scales, all that move in the water or any living thing which is in the water, they are an abomination to you. They shall be an abomination to you; you shall not eat their flesh, but you shall regard their carcasses as an abomination. Whatever in the water does not have fins or scales - that shall be an abomination to you." -Leviticus 11:9-12 So, the only sea creatures we can eat are fish that have fins and scales. This means no crab, lobster, squid, shrimp, or catfish. I used to eat all of those things when I was in ignorance to God’s instructions, but once I understood that God forbids those things, I stopped eating them. Now, lets look at the birds God says are unclean for food. "And these you shall regard as an abomination among the birds; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, the vulture, the buzzard, the kite, and the falcon after its kind; every raven after its kind, the ostrich, the short-eared owl, the sea gull, and the hawk after its kind; the little owl, the fisher owl, and the screech owl; the white owl, the jackdaw, and the carrion vulture; the stork, the heron after its kind, the hoopoe, and the bat." - Leviticus 11:13-19 There are a large number of birds that we are allowed to eat, and we are only prohibited from eating these certain birds. Notice they are the birds of prey such as eagles, hawks, kites, falcons, and owls, as well as the scavengers such as vultures, buzzards, and ravens. It also forbids ostrich, stork, heron, and bat. I’ve never met anyone who wants to eat vulture or bat, so the list of unclean birds doesn’t really seem to be the main problem people have with the food laws in the Bible. The main issue seems to be with shellfish and pig. The Bible also gives us another list of unclean land animals, concerning the creeping and crawling things. "These also shall be unclean to you among the creeping things that creep on the earth: the mole, the mouse, and the large lizard after its kind; the gecko, the monitor lizard, the sand reptile, the sand lizard, and the chameleon." - Leviticus 11:29-30 I’ve heard people argue that the Old Testament laws have been abolished, or that they no longer apply to Christians. They conveniently say this about the commandments they don’t want to keep, however, there are a number of Old Testament laws that Christians do believe we should obey. For example, the laws concerning sexual immorality are typically enforced by most Christians, however, there is a growing number of Christians who now reject the laws concerning homosexuality. Homosexual proponents like to point out that Christians don’t obey the food laws, and indicate their hypocrisy for saying that homosexuality is an abomination, when they are eating unclean animals which the Bible also calls an abomination. This is a very good point to consider as we look at these things. Can we condone one abomination and forbid another? If the Bible calls eating shrimp an abomination, how can we approve of that behavior while condemning homosexuality? When the Bible says something is an abomination, it is saying that those things are going against the created purpose. Eating unclean things is an abomination because that is not what it was created for. Likewise, homosexuality is an abomination because that is not what humans were created for. Did Yeshua really come to abolish God’s commandments? Listen to what Yeshua said about thinking such things. "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to abolish but to make full. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is complete. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” - Matthew 5:17-19 Yeshua is giving us a very clear declaration that He did not come to abolish the law. He also tells us that if we want to be great in the kingdom that we must do and teach all of the commandments in the law. So, we can’t conclude that He abolished the food laws, when He clearly said that He didn’t. One of the most common verses people point to when claiming the food laws no longer apply is Mark chapter 7, so let’s examine those verses and see what Yeshua is saying. “Then the Pharisees and some of the scribes came together to Him, having come from Jerusalem. Now when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders.” - Mark 7:1-3 So, we see that the context of this passage is eating bread with unwashed hands. The Jews taught that ceremonial hand washing was required before eating anything. Traditionally, Jews wash their hands and say a blessing before eating any meal that includes bread. This tradition is unrelated to personal hygiene, and is required even if their hands are already clean. The Talmud indicates that failing to wash your hands before a meal is a significant transgression, and one rabbi even said that eating bread without washing is like having sex with a prostitute. This is the mindset that the Pharisees were approaching Yeshua’s disciples with, and this is why the Bible says they “found fault” with them for not washing their hands. This sets the context of what Yeshua says, so keep that in mind. “He answered and said to them, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: 'This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.' "For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men--the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do." He said to them, "All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.” - Mark 7:6-9 Notice that Yeshua is referring to this ritual washing as a tradition of men, and He said that they are placing their traditions above the commandments of God. Yeshua is not speaking against the commandments, He is speaking in favor of them. Again, we need to keep this in mind, because many people try to use this passage to say that Yeshua is doing away with the food laws. However, how can He be scolding the Pharisees for not obeying God’s commandments, then turn around and say we don’t have to obey God’s commandments? That’s absurd. Now, let’s look at the verse that people like to cite as evidence that we don’t need to obey the food laws anymore. “So He said to them, "Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?" - Mark 7:18-19 If you look at this verse in other translations you might see a translators note in parenthesis that says something about Jesus declaring all foods clean. For example, this is what the NIV says: “For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)” - Mark 7:19 (NIV) There are two things we must realize. Declaring all foods clean does not mean all animals are food. Yeshua is not redefining food here. The second thing we need to realize is that the words in parenthesis are not in the original text, those words are placed there by translators. The entire context of this section is about eating bread with unwashed hands. It has nothing to do with meat at all, so the context does not allow for us to interpret his words in such a way that we can conclude that eating unclean animals is now permitted. The next section of Scripture that we need to look at is Peter's vision. People often claim that Peter's vision was about making all animals clean for food, but is that what the Bible really says? "...Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. And a voice came to him, "Rise, Peter; kill and eat." But Peter said, "Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean." And a voice spoke to him again the second time, "What God has cleansed you must not call common." This was done three times. And the object was taken up to heaven again." - Acts 10:9-16 Notice that he argued with God saying, "Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean." Not only does this show us that Peter never ate anything unclean, but it also supports the fact that Mark 7 was not about making unclean animals clean. If Yeshua had already declared all animals are good for food, then why would Peter be having an argument with God about it? The idea that he would eat an unclean animal was unthinkable to him, and he wondered what the vision really meant. "Now while Peter wondered within himself what this vision which he had seen meant, behold, the men who had been sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon's house and stood before the gate. And they called and asked whether Simon, whose surname was Peter, was lodging there. While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Behold, three men are seeking you. Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them." Then Peter went down to the men who had been sent to him from Cornelius, and said, "Yes, I am he whom you seek. For what reason have you come?" And they said, "Cornelius the centurion, a just man, one who fears God and has a good reputation among all the nation of the Jews, was divinely instructed by a holy angel to summon you to his house, and to hear words from you." Then he invited them in and lodged them. On the next day Peter went away with them, and some brethren from Joppa accompanied him." - Acts 10:17-23 Peter wondered what the vision meant because he understood that it was not about food. While he was thinking about it, the men Cornelius sent showed up to call for him. It’s important to note that Cornelius was a Gentile. Now, listen to the conclusion that Peter made concerning his vision. "Then he said to them, "You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. I ask, then, for what reason have you sent for me?" - Acts 10:28-29 This was the first time Peter gave the interpretation of his vision, and he said, "God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean." But this was not the only time he explained his vision. When he returned to Jerusalem he was confronted by a group of Jews who were upset that he had eaten with Gentiles. "Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, saying, "You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!" - Acts 11:1-3 The Jews in that day had laws against eating with Gentiles, but those laws didn't come from the Bible. They came from the oral traditions of the elders, which were given by the Rabbis who claimed to have authority over the Scriptures. However, Peter's vision showed him the error in those man-made laws, and so he explained to them the vision and interpretation as well. "But Peter explained it to them in order from the beginning, saying: "I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object descending like a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came to me. When I observed it intently and considered, I saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. And I heard a voice saying to me, 'Rise, Peter; kill and eat.' But I said, 'Not so, Lord! For nothing common or unclean has at any time entered my mouth.' But the voice answered me again from heaven, 'What God has cleansed you must not call common.' Now this was done three times, and all were drawn up again into heaven. At that very moment, three men stood before the house where I was, having been sent to me from Caesarea. Then the Spirit told me to go with them, doubting nothing. Moreover, these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered the man's house. And he told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, 'Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.' And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, 'John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?" When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, "Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life." - Acts 11:4-18 Notice that after Peter explained the vision, everyone understood the interpretation to be that, "God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life." No one concluded that Peter's vision was about food. They all recognized that it was about taking the Gospel to the Gentiles. Some people want argue that God gave them a new interpretation of that vision, and they say that Peter's vision gives us permission to eat unclean animals. However, listen to what Peter says about giving your own private interpretation apart from what the Scripture says. " prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation" - 2 Peter 1:20 This means you cannot give any other interpretation than what is given in the Bible. You can't make up your own private interpretation of certain Scriptures. We have to let the Bible interpret itself, and the Bible is very clear that Peter's vision was about taking the Gospel to the Gentiles and has absolutely nothing to do with food, and to say otherwise is a twisting of the Scriptures. Another verse that people like to cite as evidence that we no longer need to obey the food laws is in Romans 14:14, which says, “I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.” - Romans 14:14 They will quote this verse and claim this means there is no longer any unclean animals. This is a perfect example of taking a verse out of context and making up your own interpretation. We need to look at the context to see what Paul was talking about. Why don’t we start at the beginning of the chapter. “Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables.” - Romans 14:1-2 So, we see here that Paul is talking about eating meat vs eating only vegetables, and he says the person who is weak in their faith only eats vegetables. Notice he also indicates that he is talking about “doubtful things”, which means he is talking about things that are not clear in Scripture. We looked at the verses in Leviticus 11 that clearly tell us which animals are food and which ones are not, so we can’t conclude that eating unclean animals is a doubtful thing in the Scripture. Next, he says that we should not judge or despise someone for these things. “Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.” - Romans 14:3-4 I have seen vegetarians or vegans claim that eating meat is a sin, which leads them to make judgments about those of us who do eat meat. Paul is saying not to do that. If you choose to eat only vegetables, that’s fine, but don’t judge others if they choose to eat meat. However, nothing in this chapter has said anything about eating unclean animals. The only thing he addresses here is eating meat vs eating only vegetables. So, we must be careful not to draw our own conclusions about something the Bible has not said. My whole life I ate whatever I wanted without any concern for what God thought about my food. I would eat pork or shellfish, or various other things the Bible says are “unclean”, and I would pray – “God bless this food”, and I never realized that I was asking God to bless things He said not to eat. God has given us a variety of wonderful foods to eat – fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, poultry, bread, and various other things – and we should be grateful for His wonderful provision. God could have made us eat grass like cows, but instead, He gave us a variety of good and tasty things to eat. God is so good to us, yet we can be so ungrateful at times. When we chose to eat the things that God says not to eat, we are being ungrateful for the good foods He has given us. We are telling God the foods he gave us are not good enough and we want something else. This is the same thing we see in the garden of Eden when God told Adam and Eve they could eat from all of the trees in the garden except for one tree. They could have lived in the garden happily eating all sorts of fruits and vegetables, but instead they ate some of the forbidden fruit. They didn’t obey God’s simple rule about what they should not eat. Eating unclean animals is no different. Consider also that only clean animals were offered in the Temple, and your body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit. You don't want to defile your Temple with unclean things do you? I remember the first time I ordered pizza after I started eating Kosher. I was looking at the menu and I realized that I had a choice to eat what I want, or to eat the things God approves of. This is when I understood that eating is an act of worship, when we eat in obedience to God’s commandments. Think about it, every animal on your plate was killed to give you food. This is a type of sacrifice, and when we understand that our body is a Temple, then eating is a type of worship. So, are we bringing holy sacrifices into the Temple, or are we defiling it with unclean things? SHARE THE TRUTH UNLEARN THE LIES Thanks for watching. If you found this video helpful then share it with your friends and family so they can UNLEARN the lies with us. If you want to see more videos like this one, subscribe to my channel. I want to say a special thank you to those who support this ministry. We truly appreciate your prayers and generosity. Thank you so much. And remember, the truth will set you free. See you next time.



A Torah scroll and silver pointer (yad) used in reading.
A Torah scroll and silver pointer (yad) used in reading.

In Judaism, the concept of "impure animals", plays a prominent role in the Kashrut, the part of Jewish law that specifies which foods are allowed (kosher) or forbidden to Jews. These laws are based upon the Books of Leviticus[1] and Deuteronomy[2] of the Torah and in the extensive body of rabbinical commentaries (the Talmud).[3][4][5] The concept of unclean animals is also mentioned in the Book of Genesis, when Noah is instructed to bring into the Ark all sorts "of pure beasts, and of beasts that are impure, and of fowls, and of every thing that creepeth upon the earth".[6]

In the Torah, some animals are explicitly named as pure or impure, while others are classified by anatomical characteristics or other criteria. In some cases, there is some doubt as to the precise meaning of the Biblical Hebrew animal name.

According to Jewish dietary laws, to be "pure" an animal must also be free from certain defects, and must be slaughtered and cleaned according to specific regulations (Shechita). Any product of an impure or improperly slaughtered animal is also non-kosher. Animal gelatin, for example, has been avoided, although recently kosher gelatin (from cows or from fish prepared according to kosher regulations) has become available.[7] (The status of shellac is controversial.) The prohibitions also extend to certain parts of pure animals, such as blood, certain fat tissues, and the sciatic nerves. Finally, it is forbidden to cook the meat of an animal in the milk or dairy product of that same animal, which has in turn led to the traditional practice of using separate complete sets of kitchen utensils for meat and dairy so as to totally ensure this rule is not broken.[8]

Classification of animals

The Torah does not classify animals under modern scientific categories of mammals, fish, reptiles and birds. Rather, the religious categories are land-dwelling animals (land mammals, flightless birds, and land reptiles, etc.), flying animals (birds, insects, flying mammals such as bats), and water-bound animals (fish, mammals such as whales, reptiles such as sea snakes, crustaceans, mollouscs, etc.).

Given that each of these religious categories of animals includes species of at least two or more of each scientific categories of animals, there is no general kashrut rules relating per se to mammals, birds, reptiles, or fish. However, rules for each of these class of animals can be extrapolated from the biblical requirements.



According to the Torah, land-dwelling animals that both chew the cud (ruminate) and have cloven hooves, are kosher.[9] By these requirements, any land-dwelling animal that is kosher can only possibly be a mammal, but even then, permitted are only those mammals that are placentals and strictly herbivorous (not omnivores nor carnivores) that both ruminate and also have cloven hooves, such as bovines (cattle/cows, bison, buffalos, yak, etc.), sheep, goats, deer, antelope, and technically, also giraffes.

Although the giraffe falls under the kosher category by its characteristics, it does not have a masorah (tradition) for its consumption by any Jewish community. Though it is commonly believed that it is not known where on a giraffes neck shechita (ritual slaughter) can be performed, this is incorrect as the shechita can be performed anywhere on the neck.

All other mammals, land-dwelling or otherwise, are forbidden by the Torah, including "crawling creatures" such as mammalian mice,[10] and flying mammals such as the various species of bats.[11] Water-bound mammals, such as whales, dolphins, dugongs, etc., are also not kosher as they do not have the characteristics required of kosher water-bound creatures which must have both fins and scales.

Those land-dwelling mammals that have only one of the two characteristics of kosher land-dwellers (only ruminant or only cloven hooved) are impure and cannot be consumed. By default, therefore, not only are most land-dwelling mammals not kosher, but all land-dwelling non-mammals are also not kosher, including reptiles, amphibians, molluscs (including snails), etc.

Among mammals that Leviticus cites explicitly as an example of unclean is the camel, because it ruminates but does not have a cloven hoof;[12] the hyrax and the hare are also explicitly given as an example of being excluded as kosher on the same grounds. Quintessentially, the Torah explicitly declares the pig unclean, because it has cloven hooves but does not ruminate.

It is of interest to note that Australia is the only continent that has no kosher native mammals, nor kosher native birds. Thus, prior to European settlement, there were no kosher land-dwelling or flying animals in Australia. Though the kangaroo chews its cud, for instance, it does not have hooves, and is therefore not kosher. No mammals that are marsupial or monotreme are kosher.


Blue crab for sale in Piraeus.
Blue crab for sale in Piraeus.

According to Leviticus 11:9–10, anything that comes from the water ("in the seas, and in the rivers") that has both fins and scales may be eaten. By those requirements, kosher water creatures can only possibly be fish, but even then, permitted are only those fish that have both fins and scales.

All other non-fish water creatures are, by default, also not kosher, including crustaceans, molluscs, water-bound mammals, water-bound reptiles, etc.

While there is nothing specifically mentioned in Jewish halakha requiring kosher fish having an endoskeleton ("inner skeleton") and gills (as opposed to lungs), every true fish that has both scales and fins by default also possesses an endoskeleton and gills. Any sea creature that lacks gills and can only breathe oxygen from air through lungs, or has an exoskeleton instead of and endoskeleton,[13]:343 is by default not kosher.

The definition of scales does not include the shells of prawns and shrimp, which are in fact the exoskeleton ("outer skeleton") of these animals, in the same manner as the shells of lobsters or crabs. Even if these shells were to be misidentified as scales, these creatures would still not be kosher as they lack fins.

While not every fish that has fins will have scales, every true fish that has true fish scales by default also has fins.[14]


The Torah names only a few birds that may not be eaten; those not in the list are presumed to be kosher. However, the precise identity of the unclean birds is a matter of contention in traditional Jewish texts. It is therefore common to eat only birds with a clear masorah (tradition) of being kosher in at least one Jewish community, such as domestic fowl.

Leviticus 11 lists, among other things, the specifically unkosher birds.[15] The Hebrew names listed have been translated[by whom?] as follows:

  • Eagle
  • Vulture and Black Vulture
  • Red and Black Kite
  • Raven
  • Owl (Horned, Screech, Little, Great, White, and Desert)
  • Gull
  • Hawk
  • Cormorant
  • Osprey
  • Stork
  • Heron
  • Hoopoe

Bats are also mentioned (though biologically, these are mammals rather than birds).


Desert locust
Desert locust

The Torah allows eating certain kinds of "winged swarming things" (i.e. insects) while prohibiting others.[16] However, due to uncertainty about the Hebrew insect names, rabbis today recommend that all insects be considered unclean.[17] An exception is made for certain locusts (Schistocerca gregaria), which are traditionally considered kosher by some Yemenite Jewish communities. Leviticus 11:20–23 details which insects are not to be eaten, and due to the wording all insects are considered impure to avoid mistaken consumption.

Bees' honey is considered kosher[18][19] because the honey is not a product made of bees.

Explicit list

The following animals are considered to be impure according to Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14, based on Rashi's identification:

A portrait of a camel with a visibly thick mane


Some scholars have conjectured that the Jewish concept of "unclean animals" arose out of public health concerns by community leaders, since, in the conditions of the times, some of those animals are indeed more likely to cause food poisoning or transmit diseases to people who consume them.[21][citation needed]

British anthropologist Mary Douglas proposed that the "unclean" label had philosophical grounds, namely it was cast on foods that did not seem to fall neatly into any symbolic category. The pig, for example, was seen as an "ambiguous" creature, because it had cloven hoof like cattle, but did not chew cud.[22]


In the very early days of Christianity it was debated if converts ought to follow Jewish customs (including circumcision and dietary laws) or not. According to the account of the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15, a compromise was reached between those who wanted full compliance and those who favored a more liberal view. It was agreed that the converted Gentiles would have to bear "no greater burden than these necessary things: that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication".[23]

Jesus is quoted in Mark 7:14–23 as saying "There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him ... whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly"; and in Matthew 15:10–11. "Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man." These statements are often cited for support of the view that practicing Christianity does not include dietary restrictions.

Peter's vision of a sheet with animals. Illustration from Treasures of the Bible, 1894.
Peter's vision of a sheet with animals. Illustration from Treasures of the Bible, 1894.

Supporters of the liberal view also point to Peter's vision reported in Acts 10:10-16 and Acts 11:5-10 in which God invited him to "kill and eat" from the animals in the "great sheet" containing "all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air". They also draw support from the writings of apostles Timothy (1 Timothy 4:3–5, "For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer") and Paul (Colossians 2:8–16, "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days").

While the majority of Christians agree that the dietary restrictions of the Old Testament were lifted with Christ's New Covenant, a view known as Supersessionism, there are Torah-submissive Christians[24] who believe that they should still be observed. Supporters of this view may argue, for example, that in the Old Testament, Daniel spoke of unclean food and drink as "defiling one's body" Daniel 1:8, and that in the New Testament one's body is said to be the "temple of God", and "If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him".[25] Some read Jesus's reply to questioning by the Pharisees in Matthew 15:1-2 and Matthew 15:19-20 as implying that his statements about "which goeth into the mouth" (Mark 7:14–23 and Matthew 15:10–11) referred to the question of hand washing, rather than clean and unclean foods.[26]

Others also argue that the dietary restrictions predate Leviticus, and that Paul in Colossians 2 was referring to the ceremonial feast days such as the Feast of Unleavened Bread and not clean and unclean foods.[27] Others argue that the liberal view would imply the acceptance even of alcohol, tobacco, rats and roaches as "clean food";[28] and that God never declares something an abomination and then changes His mind.[29]

Supporters of the stricter view have also disputed the interpretation of Peter's vision Acts 10:5-10, claiming that God was merely instructing him not to refer to gentiles as "unclean" since salvation had been extended to them.[30] This is expressly stated by Peter later in the chapter at Acts 10:28 ("but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.") In Acts 10:14 Peter makes a distinction between "common" (Greek κοινόν) and "unclean" (Greek ακάθαρτον) to which God replies in the next verse "What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common [κοίνου]".

One modern example of a Torah-submissive group is the Seventh-day Adventist Church whose co-founder Ellen G. White was a proponent of vegetarianism. Many Seventh-day Adventists avoid meat for health reasons, though vegetarianism is not a requirement. Members of the United Church of God as well as other Sabbath-keeping Christian Churches also believe in abstaining from unclean meats.[31]

Roman Catholic traditions

In the Roman Catholic Church, it was forbidden to eat meat (defined as the flesh of any warm-blooded animal) on Friday, but as a penance to commemorate Christ's death rather than for meats being regarded as "unclean". In the 1983 Code of Canon Law, the current code of canon law for the Roman Catholic Church, the Friday abstinence from meat is prescribed for "those who have completed their fourteenth year of age". Once a person has begun his or her sixtieth year, the abstinence is no longer obligatory. Canon 1253 allows each particular conference of bishops to "determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence as well as substitute other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety, in whole or in part, for abstinence and fast".[32] The current disciplinary norms from a document produced by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, titled "Pastoral Statement On Penance And Abstinence", remove the penalty of sin for Roman Catholics in the United States who choose not to abstain from meat, while the document "give[s] first place to abstinence from flesh meat". Roman Catholics in the United States are, therefore, free to substitute some form of penance on Fridays of the whole year, while the Lenten abstinence remain obligatory.[33]

Seventh-day Adventist

Adventists are known for presenting a "health message" that advocates vegetarianism and expects adherence to the kosher laws,[34] particularly the consumption of kosher foods described in Leviticus 11, meaning abstinence from pork, shellfish, and other animals proscribed as "unclean".


In Islam several animals are considered unclean and their consumption is sinful (harām), except in case of necessity; while others are permitted (halāl), as long as they are slaughtered in the proper manner and with blessings given to God.

The Qur'an expressly forbids consumption of "the flesh of swine"[35] There are no other "impure animals" explicitly named in the Qur'an. If someone converts to Islam, Allah "allows them as lawful what is good and prohibits them from what is bad; he releases them from their heavy burdens and from the yokes that were upon them".[36]

For other animals, great importance is given to the manner of its death: forbidden are blood and carrion ("dead meat"), and any animal that has been "killed by strangling, or by a violent blow, or by a headlong fall, or by being gored to death".[35] Also forbidden is any animal that has been eaten by a wild animal, unless the person is able to slaughter it before it dies.[35]

Finally, the Qur'an forbids food which has been invoked by a name other than Allah, which has been sacrificed on stone altars, or has been subjected to the pagan practice of raffling with arrows.[35] Food slaughtered by an idolater is forbidden, but food that is acceptable to Jews and Christians is allowed to Muslims as well.[37]


Saluki dog
Saluki dog

According to the majority of Sunni scholars, dogs can be owned by farmers, hunters, and shepherds for the purpose of hunting and guarding and the Qur'an states that it is permissible to eat what trained dogs catch.[37] Among the Bedouin, the saluki dogs are cherished as companions and allowed in the tents.

Nevertheless, many Islamic teachers state dogs should be considered unclean and that Muslims licked by them must perform ritual purification. According to a Sunni Islam Hadith, a plate that a dog has used for feeding must be washed seven times, including once with clean sand mixed with the water, before a person may eat from it.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ Leviticus 11
  2. ^ Deuteronomy 14
  3. ^ Karo, Yosef. Shulchan Aruch: Yoreh Deah 79 – via Wikisource.
  4. ^ Glover, Alfred Kingsley (1900). Jewish Laws and Customs: Some of the Laws and Usages of the Children of the Ghetto. W.A. Hammond. p. 157.
  5. ^ Eisenberg, Ronald L. (2005). The 613 Mitzvot: A Contemporary Guide to the Commandments of Judaism. Schreiber. p. 251. ISBN 0-88400-303-5.
  6. ^ Genesis 7:8
  7. ^ "Dry Bones and Jell-O". Ask the Rabbi. Ohr Somayach International. Retrieved 31 October 2005.
  8. ^ Eisenberg, Daniel. "Medications on Passover".
  9. ^ "Deuteronomy 14:1-8".
  10. ^ Leviticus 11:29
  11. ^ Leviticus 11:19
  12. ^ Leviticus 11:3–8
  13. ^ Margolese, Faranak (2005). Off the Derech: Why Observant Jews Leave Judaism : How to Respond to the Challenge. Createspace.
  14. ^ ([ Source])
  15. ^ Leviticus 11:13-19
  16. ^ Leviticus 11:20–23
  17. ^ Rich, Tracey R. "Kashrut: Jewish Dietary Laws". Judaism 101. Retrieved 25 October 2005.
  18. ^ "Why is honey Kosher?". Ask the Rabbi. Ohr Somayach International.
  19. ^ Becher, Moredechai (22 October 2005). "Soul Food". Ohr Somayach International.
  20. ^ a b c d Souvay, C. (1907). "Animals in the Bible". In Knight, Kevin (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved 21 October 2005.
  21. ^ Nanji AA, French SW (March 1985). "Relationship between pork consumption and cirrhosis". Lancet. 1 (8430): 681–3. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(85)91338-8. PMID 2858627.
  22. ^ Douglas, Mary (2002) [1966]. Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. London: Routledge. ISBN 9780415289955.[page needed]
  23. ^ Matthew 15:29
  24. ^ Kaiser, Menachem (February 4, 2014). "FOR SOME BELIEVERS TRYING TO CONNECT WITH JESUS, THE ANSWER IS TO LIVE LIKE A JEW". Tablet. Retrieved 29 May 2017.
  25. ^ 1 Corinthians 3:16–17
  26. ^ "God's Free Health Plan". Amazing Facts. Archived from the original on 17 April 2008.
  27. ^ Crews, Joe (2003). "Feast Days and Sabbaths". Amazing Facts. Archived from the original on 19 December 2008.
  28. ^ Crews, Joe (2003). "Death In The Kitchen". Amazing Facts. Archived from the original on 19 December 2008.
  29. ^ Shea, William (December 1988). "Clean and Unclean Meats". Biblical Research Institute. Biblical Research Institute General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Archived from the original on 25 July 2011.
  30. ^ "Was the law about clean and unclean meat ended with the Old Covenant?". Amazing Facts. Archived from the original on 14 February 2009.
  31. ^ "What Does the Bible Teach About Clean and Unclean Meats?". United Church of God.
  32. ^ "Code of Canon Law". Vatican. 1983. Retrieved 2017-01-16.
  33. ^ "PASTORAL STATEMENT ON PENANCE AND ABSTINENCE". United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. 1983. Retrieved 2017-01-16. See especially sections entitled "Lent" and "Christ Died for Our Salvation on Friday".
  34. ^ Shurtleff, W.; Aoyagi, A. (2014). History of Seventh-day Adventist Work with Soyfoods, Vegetarianism, Meat Alternatives, Wheat Gluten, Dietary Fiber and Peanut Butter (1863-2013): Extensively Annotated Bibliography and Sourcebook. Soyinfo Center. p. 1081. ISBN 978-1-928914-64-8. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
  35. ^ a b c d Quran 5:3
  36. ^ Quran 7:157
  37. ^ a b Quran 5:4

Further reading

  • Yisrael Meir Levinger. Mazon Kasher Min Hachai. pp. 19, 22. cited in "Swan Vs. Giraffe". Ask the Rabbi. Ohr Somayach International. 24 October 1998. Retrieved 21 October 2005.

External links

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