Levitical Laws and Science

Please expand on this topic.

Here is the section of Leviticus that talks about clean animals. They are able to find and digest grass due to their split hoofs and 4 compartment stomachs. Chewing the cud is part of the 4 compartment stomach digestion process. As a result they could be a continuous source of food without competing for resources as grass grew naturally. Here is the section of Leviticus.

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron,


"Say to the Israelites: `Of all the animals that live on land, these are the ones you may eat:


You may eat any animal that has a split hoof completely divided and that chews the cud.


"`There are some that only chew the cud or only have a split hoof, but you must not eat them. The camel, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof; it is ceremonially unclean for you.


The coney, [1] though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof; it is unclean for you.


The rabbit, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof; it is unclean for you.


And the pig, though it has a split hoof completely divided, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you.


You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you.

Whatever point could you possibly be trying to make here? That the bible is ignorant on biology? That it makes arbitrary and pointless rules? I see three sentences of explanatory gibberish that suggests you too have limited biological knowledge.

As a chef, I know it had more to do with food safety than anything else (most of the food laws and sacrifice laws did). Which is to @colewd’s point that the bible speaks to current science before its time. But I don’t think it was anything that would have led us to new scientific understanding, just that there was a higher chance of getting sick and dying from eating improperly cooked pork or rabbit, than from beef…we know that now through science…the bacteria in pork and rabbit requires higher temperature to kill, and the bacteria grows rapidly if not held at proper temperature…but it would have been impossible for an author in those days to explain that to his readers, easier just to say, “don’t eat it”. That said, I don’t think there is anything in the bible that will lead us to better scientific understanding, just that the bible protects the ignorant if they obey the commands.

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As an eater, I know that this is nonsense.

That too is nonsense, but there’s certainly a long tradition of finding modern science in the bible (in the Quran and the various Hindu scriptures too, which might give you pause).

What disease results from mixing wool with linen, one wonders?


Now you know I don’t take the bible literally…I was being diplomatic. I didn’t say all Levitical laws were geared toward preventing disease, but I do see some reasonable rules in regard to food. Like, for instance, cook it.

well, apparently the government just changed their mind…I was taught 185/165/145 chicken/pork/beef in culinary school in 1990…the reasoning then was different types of bacteria…maybe all just a hoax

I think the conditions today are very different than 3500 years ago goes without saying. The other consideration is that grass fed animals are accepted by some as being healthier.

What Does a Healthy Wagyu Cow Have to do with E. coli, Cancer, and Vitamins?


Pure grass- fed cows have a stronger stomach because their pH balance is a healthy pH 7. This means the animal can fight off offending microbes, such as E. coli. Additionally, when the cattle are raised entirely on pasture, they’re not exposed to the diseases and microbes that are found in feedlots.


Pasture-fed meats, such as those you can buy from Pasture Prime, have higher levels of beta carotene (vitamin A), CLA, and omega-3 fatty acids. Studies show that people who eat foods containing these essential vitamins and fats have a reduced risk of cancer, cholesterol, diabetes, and high-blood pressure.

Vitamins A and E

Grass-fed meat from cattle not finished on grain contains double the amount of vitamin A and three times the amount of vitamin E.

Omega- 3s and Omega-6s

An additional health benefit of grass- fed beef is the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids it contains, in comparison to grain-finished beef. Meat from grass-fed animals contains two to four times more omega-3s. Diets high in omega-3s have been shown to help lessen the risk of heart attacks, lower blood pressure, and help with vital brain functioning.

Grass Fed Cows Have the Same Amount of Fat as Skinless Chicken. And Grass-Fed Beef is Lower in Calories.

Worried about your LDL cholesterol levels? Eat grass fed meat! Meat from cows raised entirely on grass helps lower LDL cholesterol level with the added bonus of lower calories. In fact, a 6-ounce steak from a 100% grass- fed animal has approximately 100 fewer calories than a grain-finished animal.

But the Levitical kosher laws have nothing to do with health. Nothing in the text (or culture) suggests this for the clean/unclean distinction. Besides, if it was health, why would Jesus remove the prohibitions?

While it’s possible the distinction is arbitrary, other than the practical benefit of making table fellowship with outsiders difficult, there’s probably a theological rationale. The two most likely reasons are as follows: (1) the unclean animals are predators (i.e., they survive by taking life); and (2) the unclean animals act in a way that cuts against creation, such as moving in a chaotic manner, or not “staying in their lane” in terms of the three-tiered order of sea, land, or air.

Whatever the case may be, theology (creation, fall) and symbolism are behind it. With the new covenant and Christ, the distinctions are not relevant.


This topic of “Levitical Laws and Science” brings to mind a must-have book for every Bible Belt fundamentalist of the 1960’s—I remember hearing multiple sermons based on it—and which remains somewhat popular even in its 21st century updated edition:

For those unfamiliar with the phrase “none of these diseases”, it comes from Exodus 15:26 (KJV):

And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee.

If this book were written today, the subtitle might be "Making Leviticus Great Again!"

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No idea, God knows…I guess I view the pentateuch as written to very primitive people. People that would not yet be wise enough to know not to kill each other would also not be wise enough to stay away from raw rancid meat…By the time Jesus came along 1500 years later, the Pharisees were so caught up in the laws that they took forever just to wash their hands before a meal. So, my answer would be that man had figured out how to maintain adequate food safety standards (looking at it from a food history perspective and not necessarily a spiritual perspective). Many of our favorite foods were originally developed for preservation rather than for culinary appeal…cheese, bacon, raisins, jerky (cheetohs if you call that food)…but I don’t really get the kosher thing, I’m not Jewish.

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Just a quick one on this.

The clean animals (including birds and fish) are ‘first order consumers’: they eat plants.

The unclean animals are second or higher order consumers: they eat other animals.

Issues such as biomagnification (things like heavy metals that accumulate up the food chain) can mean it’s healthier to eat first order consumers.

Similarly, the possibility of pathogens and parasites being transmitted can mean it’s healthier to eat first order consumers.

I mean, it’s healthier still to eat a vegetarian diet, and some would argue that that was the Edenic prescription and flesh was added after the Fall…

There are also energy arguments for (a) vegetarianism or (b) eating first order consumers, in that each trophic level increases the total water and energy required to make each kilogram of food.

Diet is always arguable, and despite being raised Seventh-day Adventist I am neither vegetarian nor keep kosher…

But I think the premise that there is some non-arbitrary basis for the clean/unclean distinction is interesting… although, as has been noted elsewhere in the thread, the grounds given were ceremonial purity, not either health or environmental.

Not true. Many of the unclean animals are strict herbivores. Some are facultative omnivores that nevertheless eat almost exclusively plant material.

Not sure about camels, but from memory rabbits and coneys eat more insects than we often assume. Rabbits also eat their own faeces as part of their digestive process.

I have no strong dog in this fight: my only point is that the distinction is not purely arbitrary.

I mean, I live in Australia. Kangaroos should be clean, and it’s an awesome healthy lean meat, and they’re much, much better for the Australian ecosystem than cattle. These are clearly rules given in a specific time and places, not everywhere and for always.

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I’m dubious about the rabbits. By “coneys” do you mean hyraxes? I don’t know about them. But camels? Herbivores.

Sure, but in the same way that cows eat their own vomit.

Sure, at least taxonomically. Clean mammals are limited to ruminants, but there’s no particular rationale for that.

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Fair. Fact checked myself on bunnies and I was wrong. And I don’t have an explanation for the discrimination against camels. Especially when they were a mainstream of Jesus’ comedy stylings (straining at gnats and swallowing camels, camels through the eye of a needle).

Don’t have split hoofs.


I like what John Walton says on this. Basically he notes that Torah provides instructions for living an orderly life. to not have such restrictions would have signalled to the world around the Israelites that the Israelite God was one not intererested in order in the world. A couple of semi-interesting (to me) quotes

“The Torah is precisely about establishing order in accordance with ancient ways of thinking, within the covenant relationship, for a people living in proximity to the manifest presence of Yahweh. Whatever its relevance for today (and it is relevant as revelation), that relevance must be derived in careful recognition of its situatedness”

Walton, J. H., & Walton, J. H. (2019). The Lost World of the Torah: Law as Covenant and Wisdom in Ancient Context (pp. 117–118). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press.

Just as some narratives are opaque about the motives and behavior of the characters (and thus resist extrapolation of ethical principles), many of the legal sayings in the Torah fail to provide clear understanding of the underlying reason for the stipulation. Consequently, we cannot apply the derived-principles approach consistently. For example, we might think we can infer reasons that a donkey and ox should not be yoked together (Deut 22:10), but even if we can, extrapolations of those principles remain controversial. That is, the text does not settle the issues for which we seek guidance (e.g., marriage of couples who are different in one way or another). Similarly, we may think that we can unravel the reasoning behind the prohibition of wearing clothing that mixes wool and linen, but we are only guessing. It would be no surprise if there were more to it than we recognize. The degree of opacity is far higher in, for example, the prohibition about cooking a kid in its mother’s milk. The unsettling fact is that many of the legal sayings in the Torah are based on ways of thinking in the ancient world that are foreign to us as they transcend modern reasoning and intuition. This fact argues against the idea that their scriptural authority is to be realized by deriving principles from them "(pages 176-177)

Of course they do, so that’s another problem.