Church of God, New World Ministries

Is All Animal Flesh Good Food?

After thousands of years of human experience on earth, it seems there still is nothing people know less about than food.

Observe a little baby. It seems to think that anything and everything its little chubby hands can get into its mouth is good to eat – therefore, everything baby gets its hands on goes straight to its mouth! How often must young parents take things away, and try to teach the lovely little bundle of humanity that everything one’s hands can touch is not necessarily good for the digestion!

Well, one might wonder if any of us has grown up! Most of us adults still seem to think that anything we can stuff in our mouth is good for food. About the only difference between us and the baby is that baby puts into his mouth whatever looks good, while we employ the sense of taste in deciding what goes into our mouths.

Your stomach is your fuel tank. Your automobile’s tank is its stomach. You wouldn’t think of pouring just any old thing that into the “stomach” of your car. You know that your car was not made to consume and “digest” fuel oil, water, milk, or kerosene.

We are very careful what we “feed” our automobile – and totally careless and indifferent about what we feed ourselves and our children!

What happens to the food you eat? In the stomach the digestive process takes place. And, once digested – if you have eaten fit and digestive food – a portion of the essential minerals and vitamins – the life-giving properties in the food – filter through the intestinal lining into the bloodstream to replenish and build up decaying cells, to provide energy, body warmth, and good health.

Your body is wonderfully made! It is the most wonderful mechanism in the world. But, just as you must use the right kind of gasoline in the gas tank and the right kind of oils and greases in the other parts of your car, or impair its performances, so you must put the right kind of food into the most delicate mechanism of all, your body.

If you tried to oil a fine watch with axle grease you wouldn’t expect the watch to keep good time. And when you put into your stomach all kinds of foul things which the Great Architect who designed your human mechanism never intended, you foul up your body and bring on sickness, disease, aches, pains, a dulled and clogged-up mind, inefficiency and inability – and you commit suicide on the installment plan by actually shortening your life!

The God who designed, created, and made your body has revealed some essential basic knowledge about which meat will keep that body functioning in tip-top shape. Why does humanity refuse His instructions?

You don’t eat every plant that grows out of the ground. Some things that grow are poison, not food. But did you know there are many kinds of poisons? Potassium cyanide will kill you very quickly. Some poisons will result in death within a few hours or a few days. But very few seem to know there are other poisons people mistakenly eat as foods which result in premature death after continuous usage, for say, ten, or thirty, or fifty years.

The only difference between these poisons we falsely call foods and potassium cyanide is the relative number of minutes, hours, or years it takes to accomplish its mission.

Just as every plant that God caused to grow out of the ground was not designed for food, so it is with animal flesh. Some will say, “Well, if swine’s flesh isn’t supposed to be eaten as food, what did God create swine for?” You might as well ask, what did God create weeds and poison vines for? Everything may have been created for a purpose, but not everything for the purpose of eating.

Now some believe that in the original creation – in the Garden of Eden – God did not intend any animal flesh to be eaten. God’s revelation on that point is vague, and many have argued it both ways. However, God has clearly revealed that certain animal meats may be eaten as food now, in this age, and Jesus who came to set us an example did eat flesh as well as vegetables and fruits.

When the first written revelation of God came to man through Moses, God instructed man as to which kinds of animal flesh man ought or ought not to eat. You will find this list in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14.

This is a basic law – a revelation from God to man about which kinds of flesh will properly digest and assimilate in the human system, and which will not. It is not a part of God’s great spiritual law, summed up in the Ten Commandments. Neither is it part of the ceremonial, ritualistic, or sacrificial laws later abolished at the crucifixion of Christ.

It is necessary to recognize that God is the Author of all laws, and there are countless laws in motion. There are laws of physics and chemistry. You know of the law of gravity. There is the great immutable spiritual law to regulate man’s relationship to God and to fellowmen – the law of love – the Ten Commandments. God gave His nation Israel civil statues and judgments – national laws for the conduct of the national government. Israel was also His Church, under the Old Covenant. And for the dispensation then present God gave Israel rituals and ceremonial laws for the conduct of religious services. Laws relating to typical and temporary sacrifices, meat and drink offerings, - temporary substitutes for Christ and the Holy Spirit. Those laws, of course, ended when the Reality came.

And then, we must realize, there are physical laws working in our bodies, regulating our health. This meat question has to do with these laws.

There are men who make a hobby of bitterly accusing others of sin for eating pork, oysters, and clams. Let us get this straight and clear.

We usually speak of sin in its spiritual aspect. That is the aspect in which it is considered in the New Testament. The Bible definition of it is this: “Sin is the transgression of the law” (I John 3:4). The penalty for violation of that spiritual law is death – not the first, or physical death, but the second, or spiritual and eternal death in the “lake of fire” (Rev. 20:14).

    Now the eating of wrong food is not a transgression of this spiritual law, and is not a sin. To violate the physical laws of health often brings the penalty of disease, disability, pain, sickness, and sometime the first death. It is not necessarily spiritual sin.

That is what Jesus made plain, as recorded in Mark 7:14-23. Here Jesus was speaking of spiritual defilement, not physical health. Not that which enters into a man’s mouth, but the evil that comes out of his heart, defiles the man spiritually. What defiles the man – and he is speaking of defiling the man, not injuring the body – is transgression of the Ten Commandments – evil thoughts, thefts, covetousness, blasphemy (vs. 21-22). These things have nothing to do with the physical laws of health. He was making a point concerning spiritual defilements, not physical health.

Specifically, on the physical level, He was referring to a possible particle of dirt which might get on the food from dirty and unwashed hands – He was not here speaking of clean or unclean meats at all.

The animals whose flesh properly digests and nourishes the human body were so made in the original creation. No change was ever made in the structure of men’s bodies at the time of the flood, or at the time of Jesus’ death, or any other time. Neither did God make some sudden change in the structure of animal flesh, so that what once was unfit for food will now digest properly and supply the body’s needs.

The unclean animals were unclean before the flood. Notice, before the flood, Noah took into the ark of the clean animals, to be eaten for food, by sevens; but of the unclean, of which he was not to eat during the flood, by two’s – only enough to preserve their lives. The inference is inescapable that the additional clean animals were taken aboard to be eaten for food while Noah and his family were in the ark.

Prior to the flood, clean animals were usually offered as sacrifices. Those who ate the sacrifices often partook of the animal flesh, but vegetables were the main constituent of diet. After the flood God gave Noah not merely the green herb –vegetables – as the major part of diet, but of every type of living creature – clean animals, clean fish, clean fowl (Gen. 9:2; Lev. 11).

Genesis 9:3 does not say that every living, breathing creature is clean and fit to eat, but that “as the green herb have I given you all things.” God did not give poisonous herbs as food. He gave man the healthful herbs. Man can determine which herbs are healthful, but man cannot by himself determine which flesh foods are harmful. That is why God had to determine for us in His Word which meats are clean. Since the flood every moving clean, healthful, nonpoisonous type of animal life is good for food – just as God gave us the healthful, nonpoisonous herbs. This does not give us permission to do as we please!

The instruction in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14, then, is not some ritualistic regulation for the Mosaic period only. Why do so many people have the idea that God is some great unfair monster who imposes foolish hardships on His people? Whatever God instructs us is for our good, not some nonsensical restriction for one period to be changed around some different way for other people of a different period

Now for some specific instruction concerning mammals: “These are the beasts which ye shall eat: the ox (beef), the sheep (lamb), and the goat, the hart, and the roebuck, and the fallow deer, and the wild goat, and the pygarg (antelope), and the wild ox, and the chamous (mountain sheep). And every beast that parts the hoof, and cleaveth the cleft into two claws, and chews the cud among the beasts, that ye shall eat. Nevertheless these ye shall not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the cloven hoof; as the camel, and the hare, and the coney; for they chew the cud, but divide not the hoof, therefore they are unclean unto you. And the swine (hogs), because it divideth the hoof, yet cheweth not the cud, it is unclean unto you: ye shall not eat of their flesh (Deut. 14:4-8).

Horsemeat is not fit for humans because horses not only do not have divided hoofs, but they also do not chew the cud.

Similarly, swine flesh, pork, ham, bacon, sausage, rabbit meat, etc. – is simply not fit for human consumption. The same is true with oysters, lobsters, clams, crabs, shrimp, crawfish, dogs, snakes, rats, and skunks.

The only seafood fit for food is fish having both fins and scales. Halibut has both and is clean. Catfish is a skin fish - unclean.

It’s all a matter of what we have become accustomed to doing. It seems strange and horrifying to hear that some Orientals eat mice as a delicacy. But many Orientals are horrified to hear that we eat nasty slimy, filthy oysters! But some human grown-ups, like little babies, will eat anything they can get their hands on and stuff into their mouths.

At so-called “quality” grocery stores in large towns and cities, specializing in rare delicacies, you can purchase “delicious canned rattlesnake – if you care for it.

So far as we are concerned, you may have our portion if you wish to try it. We do not care to eat it for the same reason we do not eat slugs, skunks, cats, or eels – for the same reason we do not eat poison ivy or weeds. Yes, and for the same reason we do into put fuel oil mixed with sand in the gas tank of our cars.

The day will come when we will at last learn that eating greasy hog flesh and other unfit “foods” has been a prime cause of cancer and other deadly disease.

 But what about the sheet containing unclean animals which was shown to the Apostle Peter in a vision (Acts 10)? Did this vision change the entire composition of all unclean animals, or of the human apparatus, so that these unfit things suddenly became nourishing food? Not at all!

The purpose of this vision was not to change God’s food and health laws which have been inexorably in motion from the beginning, but to show Peter “that I should not call any man common or unclean” (Acts 10:28). Why? Because the Jewish people had been taught to regard Gentiles like unclean animals – to have nothing to do with them.

It is time you fully understood this vision. It may well affect your health, happiness and eternal life. Open you Bible to the 10th chapter of Acts.

Notice that Cornelius was an Italian soldier – an uncircumcised Italian – a Gentile by race. To the strict Jews, he was to be regarded as an unclean man. But God looks on the heart. Cornelius gave “much alms” to the Jewish people (v. 2).God remembered his alms and revealed in a vision that he should send some of his servants to Joppa to contact Peter.

    In verse 9, we find Peter was a man of prayer. While praying on a housetop, Peter became very hungry. Just before noon Peter fell into a trance. In vision he saw heaven opened and a sheet was let down to the earth. This sheet contained “all manner of four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air” (v. 12).

Notice this carefully, this sheet contained every type of animal imaginable, including wild animals, lions, tigers, hyenas, monkeys, and skunks. And creeping things – snakes and lizards, vermin and spiders. And fowl like vultures and crows and eagles!

Peter was shocked by the sight of all these creatures. Then, of all things, God commanded Peter to kill and eat of these creatures! What did Peter say?

“Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean” (Acts 10:14).

Peter had lived day and night with Jesus for over three years. He certainly understood from Jesus’ teaching that there were some creatures which are simply not fit for human food. That is why when this vision came ten years after the rituals and ceremonies were abolished at the cross (stake), Peter refused to eat. He knew that God’s law of clean and unclean meats was still in full force and effect!

Notice what the voice from heaven told Peter when he refused to eat: “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common” (v. 15). It does not say that what God cleaned were these revolting unclean reptiles, fowl and wild animals. It does say that what  God cleansed is not to be called common! But what did God cleanse?

In this vision which Peter saw, the voice from heaven spoke three times, then the sheet was received up into heaven again. And what did Peter do? “Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean” (v. 17). He did not immediately assume like so many people that God suddenly changed His laws ten years after the death of Christ,

Now notice what happened! “While Peter thought on the vison, the Spirit said unto him, ‘behold, three men seek thee. Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing, for I have sent them’” (vs. 19-20).

The voice from heaven in the vison spoke unto Peter three times because three Gentile men – two servants and a soldier (v. 7)-- were at that moment on their way to see him. Peter went with them to see Cornelius. This is when Peter understood the vison! He confessed in verse 28, “God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.”

“What God cleansed” were not those unclean animals, but those Gentile men, formerly regarded as unclean by the Jewish people.

Those unclean animals in Peter’s vision were used to symbolize the Gentile races of men. The Jewish people had been forbidden to associate with them because of their abominable practices. But now this wall of spiritual separation had been broken down and salvation was extended to the Gentles. Peter finally realized that this was the meaning of the vison and said, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that fears him, and works righteousness, is accepted with him” (vs. 34-35).

Yes, to be accepted with God, we must fear Him and work righteousness (keeping His Ten Commandments). What is righteousness? “All thy commandments are righteousness” (Ps. 119:172. And among those commandments are the laws which tell us which kinds of flesh are clean and which are unclean.

But suppose God had been trying to tell Peter – and us – that we should eat all the things contained in the sheet that was let down in vision? Would you eat those “creeping things” – lizards, snakes, spiders? Would you eat skunks and hyenas?

Of course you wouldn’t! Why? Because you have your own law of what you think is clean and unclean!

Common sense tells us that God did not intend for us to eat every creature. But we just aren’t willing to let our Creator tell us which meats will give us lasting health and strength, and which ones are injurious to our bodies, and will eventually bring on more sickness and disease. It is time we let God tell us what is clean and what is unclean instead of using our faulty human reason!

     Some people, however, still want to argue with God. One text they will bring up is found in I Timothy 4:1-5. Read it carefully.

 Notice that these “doctrines of devils” include “commanding to abstain from meats which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving.” By whom? “Of them which believe and know the truth.”  What is truth? Christ said, “Thy Word is truth” (John 17:17). Then the Bible itself reveals the truth concerning which meats are good for food. We should not refuse to eat any food which, according to truth, God created to be eaten with thanksgiving. But this does not mean that all meats are healthful and fit for the human body.

Notice that the false doctrine is commanding to abstain from meats which are thankfully received by those who believe and know the truth – who know God’s Word. But God’s Word – the Holy Bible – tells us that there are some meats which are “unclean,” and are not to be received with thanksgiving!

Now consider what verses 4-5 tell us. “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.” What does it mean to be sanctified by the Word of God and prayer?

“Sanctify” is a word meaning to make holy, or set apart for a right use or purpose – to set apart as fit for human food.

Now which meats has God sanctified for human food? The only passages in all the Bible showing which meats God sanctified are found in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. Here you find it is the “clean” – healthful – meats which are good for food. These are the only meats that can be received with thanksgiving and prayer! They have been sanctified by God for this purpose.

There is not a single scripture showing that God ever set apart as fit for food any unclean creatures – snails, oysters, clams, snakes, octopuses, eels horses, rabbits, or swine! Yet people eat these creatures without realizing the harm they are doing to their bodies.

Paul’s letter to the saints at Rome is often quoted as supposed proof that any kind of flesh food is good to eat. But is this what Paul really taught?

Turn to the beginning of the 14th chapter of Romans. Notice what the apostle is writing: “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye” – don’t dispute with him and sit in judgment of him because of his weak understanding of the faith, Paul continues. “For one believes that he may eat all things, another who is weak, eats herbs (vegetables only)” (Rom. 14:1-3)!

Of whom is Paul writing? Of those who were vegetarians, as well as those who believed in eating both flesh foods and vegetables.

Paul was confronted with the same problem that we encounter today in carrying the Gospel to the world. You would be surprised at the number of people who do not eat meat or even any animal products – milk, butter, cheese, eggs. Some have meatless days or days on which they will eat fish only. These are all people who, because they are weak in the faith, abstain from those clean meats which God originally sanctified or set apart in His Word for man’s physical nourishment.

The question confronting Paul was not that Christians at Rome contended that all unclean animals had now been cleansed by God – the common false assumption of today – but the real issue, according to verse two, was over the vegetarian belief held by some that no meats whatsoever should be eaten.

Paul was straightening out the brethren on this matter, telling them that none of those clean meats which had been created by God to be received with thanksgiving should be refused. He pointed out to them, however, that it would be wrong for the vegetarians to eat meat if they had doubts about it, thereby defiling their weak consciences. For he wrote, “Happy is he that condemns not himself in that thing which he allows. And he that doubts is damned if he eat, because he eats not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Rom. 14:22-23).

We must follow what God has revealed to us to be right according to the Word of God. This does not mean that our conscience always tell us what is right – not at all. We have to continually study to learn what is right and wrong. But God thinks more highly of a vegetarian who might sincerely and conscientiously deny himself the clean meats, because he does not know the full truth, than he does a person who would do the right thing according to the letter, but who really believes in his heart that he is doing wrong.

So “to him” – the vegetarian – “that esteems anything to be common, to him” – the vegetarian – “it is common.” That is, it seems so to him. But it is not common in fact, not to us, for we know that all clean meats are good for food. That is why Paul wrote: “I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing common of itself” (Rom. 14:14).

Notice that in this verse Paul used, according to the margin of the King James Version, the Greek word for “common,” not the Greek word for “unclean.” Why?

Many have carelessly assumed that Paul is writing about unclean meats in this 14th chapter of Romans. He is not! He is writing about the difference between vegetarians who regard that clean meats are common, and those who know that clean meats are of themselves not common.

    In the Greek there two different words used which are often carelessly translated “unclean” or “common.” Notice that in Acts 10:14 both of these words are used. The Bible does not repeat itself foolishly. Therefore these two words mean entirely different things.

The Greek word for “unclean” is akathartos. It means “unclean and impure by nature.” The Greek word for “common” is koinos, which means “polluted through external misuse” (See any of the Lexicons.)

Paul used the Greek word for “common” throughout Romans 14:14.He did not use the Greek word for “unclean.” In other words, Paul knew that no clean foods which God has sanctified are by nature polluted, but vegetarians who were weak in the faith – weak in understanding God’s Word – thought meats should not be eaten. To such a vegetarian – “to him,” not to others – that meat seemed to be polluted. His conscience defiled the meat for him; he would become upset if he were to eat meat. But that does not make the meat polluted in fact for anybody else.

Notice Paul’s conclusion: “For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure” – that is, all things that God sanctified and gave us to eat are clean – “but it is evil for that man who eats with offense. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbles” (vs. 20-21).

Paul is not recommending eating unclean meats! Quite the opposite. He is recommending not eating any meat at all in the presence of a vegetarian brother if he is offended!

The only circumstance in which clean meats are ever common or polluted is when the clean animals have died of themselves or when the blood has not been properly drained. That is why the apostles and elders who gathered at Jerusalem forbade the use of meat from strangled animals and meat with the blood in it (Acts 15:20). This is New Testament teaching for today!

Such animal flesh was called “common” because it could be given to strangers if those people wanted to eat it. They were the common and polluted people – the Gentiles, not the chosen and clean people, Israel (Deut. 14:21).

In New Testament times, clean meat offered to idols was prohibited if it had been polluted by strangulation or if the blood were remaining in it. Otherwise the meat was permitted to be eaten if it did not offend anyone.

Paul devoted the entire 8th and 10th chapters of I Corinthians to instructions on not raising the question of meats offered to idols. “But if any man say unto you. This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake” (I Cor. 10:28). In other words, if clean meats offered to idols were not polluted, you could eat of them unless it offended someone. Under those circumstances the meat became common, not to you, but to the other person who raised the question about idols. Notice:

“Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other” (v. 29). That is why Paul said in Romans, “But to him that esteems any thing to be common (margin), to him it is common” (Rom. 14:14).

What does the Bible say the people would be doing today? Notice: “They that eat “swine flesh” – that is what most people are doing today – “and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together” – in the wrath of God – “saith the Lord” (Isa. 66:17).

This is the fate of those who lust after the foods which God forbids us to eat because those meats will harm us. This is the fate of those “whose God is their belly” (Phil. 3:19).

Is it any wonder today, that with all our scientific knowledge, we have more doctor bills, more sickness than ever before in the history of the world! It is time we returned to God and began to obey His laws. He knows what our bodies were made to utilize as good, healthful foods. He set the laws in motion regulating clean and unclean meats. It is time we began to obey them as Jesus and the apostles did!

God forbids also the eating of animal fat, or blood (Lev. 3:17; 7:23-27). Butter, olive oil, and some vegetable oils and shortenings are acceptable but animal fat should be cut off before eating meat. Cheaper hamburger is not good because it is mixed with much fat. Lard should never be used. These things will wreck any stomach in time.

The Bible itself defines which sea life is good food: “Whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat” (Lev. 11:9). In verse 10 it is further clarified: “and all that have not fins and scales in the seas they shall be an abomination unto you.”

“But which fish have both fins and scales.” First, let us name the commonly known unclean fish – these are scaleless fish – which are not fit for food: catfish, eels, paddlefish, sculpins, sticklebacks, sturgeons and swordfish. These fish do not have true scales. Together with these creatures are other forms of sea life unfit for human consumption: abalone, clams, crabs, lobsters, oysters, scallops, shrimp, and whale.

The most important clean fish – having both scales and fins are: albacore, anchovy, barracuda, bass, blackfish, bowfin, buffalo, carp, characin, cod, croaker, darter, flounder, gaby, grayling, haddock, halibut, herring, jack, mackerel, minnow, mooneye, mullet, needlefish, perch, pike, salmon, sardine, shad, silverside, smelt, snapper, sole, sucker, sunfish, surf fish, tarpon, trout, tuna, weakfish, whitefish.

Some people, who are not competent to judge fish, have thought certain of these clean fish were without scales, but this is not true. One point to remember is that many fish have very small or minute scales near the head and the tail fin. In either case, such fish are clean and fit for food.

The second part of the question concerns fowl. Which birds are fit for human consumption? The answer is found in Lev. 11:13-19 and Deut. 14:11-20.

Each of these sections lists specific varieties of birds unfit for human consumption. No clean birds are listed. Only about two dozen unclean birds are listed out of thousands found the world over. These unclean birds illustrate the characteristic of all unclean birds.  They fall into types each of which is unclean “after its kind.” The question is, how do these unclean birds differ from those known to be clean or fit for human consumption? The characteristics of clean fowl are, of course, determined by the dove and the pigeon (Luke 2:24 and Lev. 1:14-17) which were anciently used for sacrifice.

By comparing the differences between these clean birds and those listed as unclean, we can arrive at the following six characteristic of clean birds: 1) they must not be birds of prey; 2) they catch food thrown to them in the air, but they bring it to the ground, where they divide it with their bills, if possible before eating it; whereas unclean birds devour it in the air, or press it with one foot to the ground and tear it with their bills; 3) they must have an elongated middle front toe and a hind toe; 4) they must spread their toes so that three front toes are on one side of a perch and the hind toe on the other side; 5) they must have craws or crops; 6) the must have a gizzard with a double lining which can easily be separated. (Consult articles in Jewish Encyclopedia under “Poultry,” and “Clean and Unclean Animals.”)

Clean birds have all these characteristics; unclean birds lack one or more of the characteristics. If a bird lacks any one of these characteristics, it is unclean.

Besides the pigeon and dove, the following birds are clean: chicken, pheasant, quail, partridge, grouse, turkey, all song birds, ducks and geese.

Unclean birds, not listed specifically in the Bible are roadrunners, woodpeckers and the parrot family (which divide their toes so that two are on either side of a perch), aquatic and wading birds and gulls which have no crops or craws, no double lining of gizzards, and often no hind toe or no elongated middle front toe.

It may not be spiritual sin to eat biblically unclean foods. Yet, if one deliberately does it out of lust of appetite, that breaks the 10th commandment and becomes sin. But in all events wrong food injures the body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit. It defies the body if not the man, and if we continue to defile out bodies God will destroy us (I Cor. 3:17).

 
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