Deconstructing the Bible: Jewish Dietary Laws

The dietary laws in the Old Testament are often said to have been God sharing important knowledge with mankind, and that science has proven these laws to be useful and healthy.  I contend that anyone who says this does not actually know what the dietary laws are.  I will not outline each and every law, but I want to touch on the ones that don't seem to make sense.

Deuteronomy 14

14:6 "You may eat any animal that has a divided hoof and that chews the cud."
  • Except camels, rabbits, or 'hyrax', or pigs (14:7-8)
14:9-10 "Of all the creatures living in the water, you may eat any that has fins and scales. 10 But anything that does not have fins and scales you may not eat; for you it is unclean."

14:11-18 "You may eat any clean bird. 12 But these you may not eat: the eagle, the vulture, the black vulture, 13 the red kite, the black kite, any kind of falcon, 14 any kind of raven, 15 the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk, 16 the little owl, the great owl, the white owl, 17 the desert owl, the osprey, the cormorant, 18 the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe and the bat."

  • Aside from the fact that they probably don't taste very good, there is little to no reason for this entire section to account for these particular restrictions.

14:19-20 "All flying insects are unclean to you; do not eat them. 20 But any winged creature that is clean you may eat."

  • Considering the fact that there are cultures which eat insects on a regular basis (and have survived to tell the tale) and we can even determine the nutritional value of many insects (check this out), this law seems entirely baseless.
14:21 "Do not eat anything you find already dead. You may give it to the foreigner residing in any of your towns, and they may eat it, or you may sell it to any other foreigner. But you are a people holy to the LORD your God.

  • Nice, it's unclean for you but it will be just fine for foreigners.  Interesting situation, because this makes perfect sense if the dietary laws are simply in place for the act of obedience; but if the laws are supposed to reflect actual health/hygiene issues, then God obviously does not love 'foreigners' as much as the Israelites, thus negating the idea of an all-loving God (and stacking up further evidence that 'God is a dick')

   Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk."

  • I have not been able to find any reason for the prohibition against 'Lamb and Milk stew'.
  • The Jewish faith took this commandment and expanded it to eventually become "You shall not cook meat with milk".  Again, even with this interpretation, there is no rationality for the law.

Leviticus 11

Lots of repetition from Deuteronomy, but a few new ideas introduced.

11:24-25 "‘You will make yourselves unclean by these; whoever touches their carcasses will be unclean till evening. 25 Whoever picks up one of their carcasses must wash their clothes, and they will be unclean till evening."

  • If this is supposed to reflect the same things that science has taught us, what part of science tells us that any negative consequence of touching a dead carcass is only dangerous for a few hours, or that washing your clothes makes it all right?

11:31-32 "Of all those that move along the ground, these are unclean for you. Whoever touches them when they are dead will be unclean till evening. 32 When one of them dies and falls on something, that article, whatever its use, will be unclean, whether it is made of wood, cloth, hide or sackcloth. Put it in water; it will be unclean till evening, and then it will be clean."

  • If we are to believe that 'unclean' things have actual health risks or dangers, we must also accept that no matter what that risk is (anthrax, polio, salmonella, bubonic plague) we just need to submerge it in water for a little while to make it 'clean'.

Examples of stuff you aren't allowed to eat:  Bear, Catfish, Eel, Lobster, Prawns, Scallops, Shark, Squid, Squirrel, Snake, Rabbit, Snail, Pork.  Science tells us that these foods are not inherently harmful (In fact I happen like several of these) - pork was once considered 'less healthy', mainly due to the fact that they were often fed garbage instead of nutritional sustenance; and even then we just had to make sure that we cooked it enough.  Surely an all-knowing God could simply explain "Don't feed crap to your pigs and go ahead and cook the heck out of it, and it'll be just fine".  I mean, *I* just did it and I'm nowhere near all-knowing...


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