Question 68:

Why did God forbid the Jews to eat pork? Only because of the trichinosis, or also for other reasons? Why does Jesus allow the eating of pork – does it mean that hygiene was better at the times of Jesus, of could it be said that eating pork was never bad and that the Jews only thought this up, for example for reasons of demarcation? Was it dangerous to eat pork at the times of Mohammad, because he lived in a desert and it was not so easy to test for trichinosis? Some people believe that pork is not so valuable – is that true or is it nonsense? What is the scientific thinking here?


Answer: Leviticus 11:7 ff. and Deuteronomy 14:8 declare that pork is unclean and forbid that pork be eaten or a dead pig be touched. The Old Testament gives no reason for this prohibition, and it is therefore possible to discuss various motivations: religious (pigs as cult animals for heathens), moral (the unclean ways of pigs), culture dependent anthropology (taxonomic anomaly, i.e. the difficulty to determine the zoological category to which pigs belong), medical (e.g. protection from trichinosis), and ecological (mans competitor for food). The Jews understand the prohibition to be a mark of identity (see Maccabees 6:18-31 et al) and non-Jews interpret it as a mark of difference. The Quran, too, prohibits the eating of pork (sura 2:173 et al). The New Testament still shares the Jewish disgust of pigs, but in the Apostles creed in Acts (15:23-29) the prohibition is already ignored, in the Epistle of Barnabas it is allegorized, and in the early Church it is finally abandoned. The gospel pericopes, in which Jesus discusses the question of purity and impurity of food (Mark 7:14-23 and Matthew 15:10-20), are likely to have played a major part in this.

He summoned the crowd and said to them, “Hear and understand. It is not what enters ones mouth that defiles that person; but what comes out of the mouth that defiles one. Then his disciples approached and said to him, Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said? He said on reply, Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides [of the blind]. If a blind person leads a blind person, both will fall into a pit. Then Peter said to him in reply, Explain [this] parable to us. He said to them, Are even you still without understanding? Do you not realize that everything that enters the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled into the latrine? But the things that come out of the mouth are from the heart, and they defile. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, unchaste, theft, false witness, blasphemy. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile” (Matthew 15:10-20).

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