Can Christians eat pork?
Many people ask. After 2000 years, there’s still some confusion.
Why do so many Christians eat pork when the Bible forbids the consumption of pork in the Old Testament?
Is it a sin to eat pork? Many people want to know.
The answer isn’t difficult to find. It just requires a thorough study of the scriptures.
So, just read on, and you will soon see that so you can be completely confident you’ve found the true answer.
So can Christians eat pork?
The short answer is “yes.”
While there are many solid New Testament references that make this very clear, the most astonishing, clear reference that Christians can eat pork is actually in the Old Testament.
It’s a clear, bold honest answer hidden in plain sight.
When you see it for yourself, you’ll ask yourself why you never saw it before.
The truth is that according to the Bible, not only are Christians allowed to eat pork, but Christians should eat pork [including tasty bacon!], shellfish and other foods that the Bible labels unclean.
So for the Christian, eating pork is not a sin.
People Also Ask-
Foods the Bible Says Not To Eat -the surprisingly short -and powerful- must-read list of foods forbidden in the Bible. You never expected a list this short.
Are you surprised?
The Bible clearly lays down the law in the Old Testament. It defines clean and unclean foods and gives instruction about which is clean and which is unclean in the book of Leviticus 11.
There’s no doubt which foods are clean and which are not.
It’s abundantly clear from the text.
Many people ask why it’s OK for Christians to eat unclean foods -including pork.
So did I.
It took a long time before I stumbled across the answer –an answer so complete –and so powerful- I couldn’t wait to write this and share it.
If you’ve got the same question, good for you!
I wondered the same thing.
Then I finally found out the fascinating facts from the Bible that answer this question more clearly than ever before!
And this is nothing new.
These facts have been hidden in God’s word for a long time.
Why do Christians eat pork when the Bible forbids it?
Have you heard the Bible forbids eating unclean foods in the whole chapter of Leviticus 11 in the Old Testament?
Well, it’s true.
But there’s more! There are even New Testament passages that aren’t very kind to the idea of eating unclean foods.
Check this out!
Jesus visited the Gadarenes (Matthew 8:28-34) and encountered two demon-possessed men.
He exorcised the demons and sent them into a herd of swine.
Next thing you know the swine all ran into the lake and the whole herd drowned.
This is taken by many –and rightly so- as a sign that Jesus was killing two birds with one stone: He (1) exorcised the demons from the two men and (2) he showed the Jewish Gadarenes (descendants of the Israelite tribe of Gad) that they shouldn’t be raising swine in contravention to Jewish law.
Shame on them for raising swine in Israel.
They knew Leviticus 11, didn’t they?
And this is the Law of Moses.
Jewish traditions ultimately point back to Leviticus 11. It’s the fundamental Biblical prohibition of unclean foods.
So why do so many Christians eat the stuff when the Bible clearly forbids it in Leviticus?
And could there be reasons eating swine in the New Testament is OK?
Here? Outside of Israel?
We’ll look into this very soon.
Can Christians Eat Shellfish?
The prohibition of Leviticus 11 extends beyond swine –to other animals from air and land -to even certain seafood –including shellfish and other animals regarded as unclean.
Here’s a partial list of unclean animals:
The camel, rock badger, rabbit, vultures, kites and buzzards, owls, hawks and cormorants, storks, herons and bats.
Also certain insects.
The Bible prohibits certain insects. That means it allows certain others.
I’ve never been too excited about eating insects.
And snakes. Snakes? SNAKES?
To be honest, I don’t find many of these animals very appealing for any of my eating plans. Do you?
None of These Diseases
The Bible has long been regarded by medical professionals as amazing because of its great wisdom about human health.
Through the centuries scientists and doctors discovered numerous benefits to the Jewish dietary laws.
For example, swine are known to carry a parasite.
If pork isn’t properly raised and thoroughly cooked, it could present a health hazard. (It’s not a big issue today. Not in commercial operations, anyway)
God was caring for his people. He was setting them apart as his chosen people:
He said, “If you will diligently obey the LORD your God, and do what is right in his sight, and pay attention to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, then all the diseases that I brought on the Egyptians I will not bring on you, for I, the LORD, am your healer.” (Ex. 15:26)
Today, it is well known that many people are allergic to shellfish.
And shellfish are bottom feeders.
This means they are exposed to the heavy elements and other unhealthful things that collect at the bottom of the sea.
So even if people are not allergic, it’s not a good idea to eat too much shellfish.
Health authorities recommend people observe limits on their consumption of shellfish.
Today, we take for-granted the great advances of medical science.
Many of these scientific advances are based on Bible knowledge!
Yet we are mostly unaware of many of the backward medical practices man inflicted on man throughout the centuries.
It’s surprising to note the contrast between the unhealthy practices of most of mankind and the amazingly healthy practices of those who followed the Biblical dietary and medical practices from the books of Moses.
So the law expressed in Leviticus 11 is a very good law.
How did Moses Know about Pork and Shellfish?
Moses grew up in the house of Pharaoh and was raised as a prince of Pharaoh.
He was well-schooled in the ways of the Egyptians and raised as an heir to the Egyptian throne.
Their (ancient Egyptian) medical practices included treating an open wound from a splinter by mixing worm blood with donkey dung and applying it to the affected area. (source: Ebers Papyrus- quoted in None of These Diseases -The Bible’s Health Secrets for the 21st Century by S.I. McMillen, MD and David E. Stern, MD, that famously shows the wisdom of God’s law in keeping the Jewish people the healthiest people on earth through the ages)
Knowing modern medical knowledge today, how do you think that preparation worked out for the ancient Egyptians?
How then did Moses know to institute washing with water –then a radical idea- unless he learned it from- shall we say- a higher source?
Moses’ methods are consistent with modern medical technology –in fact his practices were nearly 4000 years ahead of their time.
Modern man didn’t even understand the benefits of these laws until at least the late 19th and 20th centuries.
How many people suffered through the last 4000 years without knowing that help was so near?
So near as the pages of the Bible?
Why- if Moses had all this Egyptian “knowledge”- did he not include it in the Bible Law –also known as the Mosaic Law?
Instead, he displayed knowledge of diet and health -4000 years ahead of man’s technology.
The book None of These Diseases (see above) chronicles these differences.
It shows how the Jewish people –who followed these Biblical dietary laws from the time of Moses, lived longer, healthier and happier lives- in many different locales- than people from the same areas who did not observe the same practices.
The “Law of Moses” did a lot to show the world how the God of the Bible cares for his special chosen people Israel.
What Did Jesus Say About Christians Eating Pork?
In Acts 10:9-16 Peter –a Jewish disciple of Christ- received a vision from God that he was no longer supposed to reject certain animals for food on a religious basis:
9 About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds.13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”
14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”
16 This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.
I knew that when Jesus came and died and rose again, he paid the price for all of our sins and that we were no longer under the law.
This meant our salvation was not by the works of the law;
“for by grace you are saved through faith –and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast”- (Eph 2:8-10).
These are more good New Testament verses that support the idea that the Christian is free of the Old Testament Laws:
All Food is Clean in the New Testament
Here are some Bible verses about eating pork and other foods in the New Testament:
Mark 7:17-23 Jesus declares all foods clean
17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18 “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them?
19 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.)
20 He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder,
22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”
1 Timothy 4:4 “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving”
Romans 14:17 “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,”
So we can now see there are no forbidden foods in the New Testament.
While these verses definitely support the idea that Christians can eat unclean foods, I always wondered:
Why do Christians Keep Certain Old Testament Laws and Set Others Aside?
What’s the difference between the laws Christians keep and the laws Christians set aside?
Remember, Jesus said “I have not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it.”
The difference is between the moral laws and the ceremonial laws.
The moral laws are for all of mankind.
Ceremonial laws are only for God’s chosen people.
Ceremonial laws revolved around temple worship, which included sacrifice.
But the sacrifice pointed to the ultimate sacrifice Jesus would make at the cross.
Once Jesus offered himself up as the sacrifice at the cross, there was no longer any need for temple sacrifice and all the ceremonies associated with it.
Next, let’s look at this:
Clean and Unclean Food in the Bible: Peter’s Objection
Earlier I mentioned Peter’s vision during a dream.
I wanted to dig deeper, because while the answers I saw were good, I was never completely satisfied until I heard a really in-depth analysis by a gifted Bible teacher.
Key Bible Verse Straight Ahead
This was when I discovered that special Bible verse that totally unlocked the door to understanding this point.
Let’s go back to Peter’s objection from Acts 10:9-16.
The Lord tells him to “kill and eat.” Peter objects, saying he has never eaten unclean animals.
Peter was an observant Jew who knew the Old Testament law very well, but I think he also didn’t know this special verse that’s coming right up.
You can’t just pick and choose Bible verses
Let’s hit the “pause” button for just a sec.
When I mention this special verse, please don’t get the wrong impression!
You can’t just go somewhere in the Bible and find a verse that agrees with a position you want to take with the idea that you will be correct.
You must first place it in context with other chapters, verses and general Biblical principles.
In other words, context is very, very important!
When we interpret Bible passages, we must consider the context.
Let’s go back to Peter’s objection in Acts 10:9-16 now
Peter objects to the scene in his vision where the Lord is telling him these unclean animals are now OK to eat.
It’s in Acts 10:9-16.
Acts Chapter 10 opens up with gentile Cornelius seeing a vision of an angel telling him to look for Simon Peter, who has a message for him.
For Jews in those days, it was against the Jewish law to associate with gentiles!
It was quite a big change for Peter –a lifelong observant Jew- to suddenly learn that two major prohibitions had been redeemed by the Living Savior –1) the dietary laws from Leviticus 11 and 2) the law that Jews should not associate with Gentiles.
Did Peter know the verse you are about to see?
At this point, Peter is still a young man, and a fisherman by trade.
He’s bright and capable –and diligent.
But Peter is still learning, and there are things he doesn’t know yet.
Apparently -at this stage of his young life- he doesn’t know the verse you will soon see.
Jesus in Matthew 22:23-33
Here’s one thing we learn from the questioning of Jesus by the Pharisees and Sadducees;
his knowledge and understanding of God’s word -and heaven- were clearly superior to that of the highest-ranked scholars of the day.
When the Sadducees asked him a difficult question, Jesus replied;
Jesus knew very nuanced details of the scriptures and understood them uniquely in context.
When he answered his questioners, he did it with such wisdom that they could not reply.
And he could dramatically turn the tables on the most sophisticated questioners so that they dared not ask him again. (Luke 20:40, Matt 22:46)
This is the same nuanced way we need to consider this special verse:
What Does the Bible Say About Eating Pork?
Hidden in plain sight.
The verse that brings it all together.
Let’s go back to Leviticus 11 and look for the verse you’ve been waiting for –the verse that solves the whole mystery.
Lev 11:1-2, The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them. Tell the Israelites: “This is the kind of creature you may eat from among all the animals that are on the land.”
Do you see it yet?
The Levitical Law
Let’s look closer.
What was the purpose of the Levitical law?
You see, the law of Leviticus was only delivered to the Israelites.
It was only for them in the first place.
When God gave them the law, it was to choose them, and to set them apart as his special people.
The law showed that no man could follow it completely.
It revealed that we all fell short of the glory of God.
It showed that we needed a Savior. This savior came to save us.
When the Savior –Jesus Christ- came, he offered his life in place of ours and he fulfilled the law.
He said “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish these things but to fulfill them.” Matt: 5:17
Back to Leviticus 11:2
Who is The Lord speaking to? Yes, he’s speaking to Moses and Aaron.
As a refresher, we’re looking at Leviticus 11:2, NET.
Who is he telling them to deliver this news to? The Israelites.
Do you see the key words?
Who was he speaking to? The Israelites.
Who was the law given to? The Israelites.
Who are God’s special people? The people he set aside as his chosen people? Israel.
The dietary law was just meant for Israel.
Could it be any clearer than this?
The Law of Moses is God’s law.
It is a wonderful, beautiful, law where the eternal living, loving God displayed how he is great, merciful, holy, just and righteous.
The dietary law proved its worth to Israel over many generations and spared them from great harm through the centuries.
This wonderful law was given to Israel.
Does the Bible Really Endorse the Consumption of Unclean Foods by Christians?
Here are some New Testament scripture references to contemplate as we finish the discussion:
“Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.” (Colossians 2:16, NIV)
“the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17, NIV).
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
We cannot save ourselves.
Salvation is found in no other name but the name of Jesus. It’s not in our works, but in his work that was completed on the cross.
Salvation is found in Jesus Christ -not in the dietary laws- as pure -and as wonderful as they were- of the Old Testament.
The path to eternal life and God’s favor lies in receiving the free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.