Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Religious Dietary Restrictions and Modern Science
Let me begin by saying, “There are those things which we could put into our mouths that would be an abomination to the Lord.” This is a line taken from the Torah but to many a Christian they would consider such an absurd statement as having come from me and it would inspire both ridicule and contempt. After all, why would God really care about what we eat? And they will quickly point out that Jesus said, “It is not that which goes in to the mouth that defiles man but what comes out of it,” from Matthew 15:11. But Yeshua was only half right. Some of the things that spew forth out past people’s lips are an abomination of that there’s no argument; Hurtful, spiteful, vicious words that maim and harm as surely as if they had a knife and twisted it into one’s back. But in regards to the other half, he was most definitely wrong for it is clearly stated in Deuteronomy 14:3, “Thou shall not eat any abomination,” and God’s instructions cannot be overridden. Rather than try to negate God’s ordinances Christians would have been better off to try and understand why the Lord would have demanded such a thing as kosher (kashruth) and to follow them. There is nothing in the Torah that does not have purpose or justification so why should it be assumed that the restrictions regarding food were just random statements made by God that could be dismissed and ignored so cavalierly? This discourse will be quite lengthy. It's not an easy topic to tackle especially since most people like to eat and denying them that pleasure might become confrontational. Part 9 of this series will examine the laws as they were dictated and the responses in the Hazuk Emunah but Part 10 is where I will use a modern age religion to support the ancient laws; a thing called science!
What is the Real Question?
A fair amount of the discourse in the Hazuk Emunah is dedicated to the dietary laws. Isaac ben Abraham of Troki wrote on this topic but alas his perspective was still that of only a sixteenth century mind and that had its limitations. Over the past four hundred years there have been major advances and far more understanding that supports the dietary restrictions of the Torah. Since then there has been an entirely new perspective that sprouted which we call science. But science is only a tool and should not be considered the new religion. Those that have read Dan Brown’s latest book ‘The Lost Symbol’ will have already heard his frequent proclamation that the Bible was actually concealing scientific facts. Unfortunately, Dan Brown became a bit too carried away thinking that every statement made in the text was a scientific code that required deciphering. He began looking for hidden meanings where they did not exist but he was right in one respect, there is an element of medical science incorporated into the Torah that should not have been common knowledge at that time and that is the real mystery. Whether it was the result of rudimentary clinical observations and thereby assumptions regarding the etiology of disease or simply the direct intervention of an all-knowing God that couldn’t possibly explain the concept of organisms causing disease to a people with absolutely no understanding of such concepts, it resulted in God commanding the Israelites to simply do as He said for their own benefit. And for numerous centuries they would ask ‘why’ but that was not the correct question they should have been asking. The question we now should ask is ‘How’. How was it possible that these scientific and medical issues were known at a time when mankind was still trying to perfect the wheel? There are many theorists that have written their speculations on the matter but let us not seriously look at these theories involving space aliens, time travelers, or inter-dimensional communications through the Ark as some have proposed. Let’s simply attribute it to God and accept that He would know of such things and that only recently we have gained the knowledge to confirm them.
The Hazuk Emunah
Troki’s argument was as follows; there are certain creatures which are unclean and Israel was intended to be a holy nation. To remain holy, it could not ingest that which was considered unclean because if it did, it would be considered contaminated. But the converse is true because if Christians willingly partake of food that was clearly identified as being unclean then they must consider themselves to be unholy based on this simple logic. Otherwise how could they ignore what is written in Leviticus 11:18, 11:43 and 11:44. “Ye shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creepeth, neither shall you make yourselves unclean with them that you should be defiled thereby. For I am the Lord your God, ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves and ye shall be holy, for I am holy.” The use of the word abominable is severe. It is neither wishy-washy nor challengeable. If it creeps or crawls then you are forbidden to eat it. Similarly in Leviticus 20:25-6 God says, “Ye shall therefore put difference between clean beasts and unclean, and between unclean fowl and clean, and ye shall not make your souls abominable by beast or fowl or by any manner of living thing that creepeth on the ground which I have separated from you as unclean. And ye shall be holy unto me for I the Lord am holy and have severed you from other people that you should be mine.” The repetition of the banning of anything that creepeth is quite interesting as it obviously was a grave concern of the Lord’s and not to be challenged or ignored. After all, Adam just ate a single apple that was forbidden and look at the consequences. If we were to examine Leviticus chapter 11 with clear understanding we would appreciate that God did not dedicate an entire chapter of the Torah so that it would be ignored. Only that which is cloven hooved and cheweth the cud is permitted to be eaten. But this required both characteristics and that meant the camel, swine, rabbit and rock badger were excluded. But more importantly, there is a strict prohibition of touching their carcasses as well indicating that contact with these animals after death also presented a danger. In 11:9-12 God prohibits anything in the waters that has neither fins or scales. Everything else is labeled detestable. In 11:13-19 those birds which are forbidden to be eaten are listed including the bat. And of winged swarming things, only those that have jointed legs to jump upon the ground are permitted which meant that crickets, grasshoppers and locusts could all be eaten but no other insects. In 11:29-30 the eating of lizards is prohibited and I should mention that just prior to this God purposely instructs us not to eat the weasel. I raise this point as its essential to my subsequent discussion. A few sentences later a considerable amount of time is spent on explaining if these prohibited animals come in contact with water and in turn this water comes in contact with our eating utensils or food, etc., then all that will be rendered unclean. And let us not forget the singular most misinterpreted command from Exodus 23:13, the prohibition of boiling a kid in its mother’s milk. The Rabbanites have built an entire industry around the separation of dairy and meat products, totally unnecessary since all God was demanding was that next time you eat goat’s meat you were not to boil it in its mother’s milk. If He wanted more He would have stated do not eat anything that is from milk along with meat at the same time. God was quite direct; his commandments not intended to be cryptic. So rather than countermand God’s commands it should be more important that we try to understand them now that we have the advantage of 21st century knowledge. In part 10 I'll examine the scientific discoveries which suggest that there never should have been any doubt that God was the ultimate scientist.