Friday, October 23, 2009

Clean, Unclean, and Dirty Lies

Just prior to this study, the Israelite priests were ordained. The priests then performed the atonement sacrifice for all of the Israelites, and there was much rejoicing. Two priests, sons of Aaron, worshiped God the wrong way, and God promptly burned them to death with His fire.

Roasting the two priests seems to have jogged God's memory that the Israelites needed some rules regarding what was acceptable to eat, as we will see below.

Clean, Unclean, and Dirty Lies
For those unfamiliar with the Old Testament, the kosher diets of orthodox and conservative Jews may seem like some sort of foreign religious relic of unknown origin. Despite being a source of some contention to the Apostles in the New Testament, most Christians know little about the particulars of these dietary laws beyond avoidance of pork products. In this study we will learn a little more about them, and unearth a dirty little secret too.

Leviticus 11 defines which animals are clean (and therefore permitted to be food) and which ones are unclean. Leviticus 11:2-8 reveals that land animals which have both split hooves and chew cud are clean. Leviticus 11:9-12 dictates that scaly, finned fish are the only clean aquatic or amphibious animals. Leviticus 11:13-19 lists specific birds which are detestable, including bats. Leviticus 11:20-23 prohibits eating flying insects which “walk on all fours” except for some hopping insects like locusts.

Quickly, I'll point out the standard glitches from these passages which many other skeptics highlight. Rabbits do not chew cud. Bats are not birds. Insects have more than four feet. These issues seem valid, but they may also be explained in the sense that the Hebrew language of that time lacked the appropriate technical terminology for accurate descriptions. (Given that God gave the Israelites their language, that issue would seem to be God's fault, or God's design, depending on your perspective.)

Leviticus 11:27 labels animals with paws as unclean too. Sorry cat and dog lovers.

Of ground dwelling animals, Leviticus 11:29-31 makes weasels, rats and some lizards unclean. Then Leviticus 11:41-42 states that all ground dwelling animals are detestable. Maybe this is another language limitation issue, or maybe the author had second thoughts and decided to expand the scope.

These laws seem arbitrary. While some argue that the prohibitions may have been set for health reasons, such as avoiding trichinosis from undercooked pork or avoiding the toxins collected in shellfish during red tides, other potentially deadly foods are not labeled unclean within the dietary laws.

Perhaps the random nature of these laws is some evidence of divine inspiration. Who else but God would make weird laws like that? However, they may also represent the bias of the author; excluding foods which were not eaten in his family, city, or culture. For example, in the United States, most people shun eating insects of any type, yet there are still several cultures in the world today which consume insects as part of their regular diet.

As the title of this study infers, there appear to be some lies associated with these kosher animals, but we must take a step back in Biblical time to examine them.

Back in the days of Cain and Abel, all men and creatures were on a strictly vegetarian diet (Genesis 1:29-30), which made Abel's animal sacrifice stand out like a sore thumb. After The Flood, God tells Noah and his sons that they are now omnivores, with the only restriction being that they could not eat meat with the blood still in it (Genesis 9:2-5). Keep in mind that The Flood was God's reset button, and He had hoped to set the world on the right path by starting with His righteous servant Noah.

Here is the snag: Before The Flood had started (but after God had told Noah to gather two of every animal in Genesis 6:19-20) God directs Noah to gather seven of every “clean” animal and seven of every kind of bird in Genesis 7:2-3. Yet no explanation is given of what a clean animal is until here in Leviticus.

Did Noah, who lived in a world where he was vegetarian and all of the other people in existence were reportedly wicked, have knowledge of clean animals? That sounds rather improbable. Even if that was the case, why would God go on to tell Noah that he could eat any animal as opposed to restricting him to the clean ones? It would make no sense given that God was trying to set the world right, and, clearly from Leviticus 11, God found some animals detestable for food.

Just like Abel's animal sacrifice, the clean animal request for Noah speaks of an author so familiar with these classifications and customs that including them anachronistically in Noah's story did not register as being detrimental to its accuracy. It is akin to writing that Einstein utilized the internet while researching his Theory of Relativity. These glitches in time reveal the stories for what they are: fiction.

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