Book: What the Bible Teaches About "Clean" and "Unclean" Meats

At the completion of the first six days of the “creation week,” the Creator God reviewed all of His handiwork and proclaimed that everything He had made was “exceedingly good” (Gen. 1:31). Indeed, everything had its set place and purpose in God’s grand design. But what about certain animals classified as “unclean” in Scripture—how could they be “good” while being forbidden as food? (See Gen. 7:2, 8; 8:20; Lev. 11; Deut. 14.)

Admittedly, most people enjoy eating pork, catfish, oysters, shrimp, and other meats described in Scripture as “unclean.” And yet, for the most part, they seem to experience no immediate adverse effects when they do so. This becomes “proof-positive” that such foods are actually “safe” to eat. But what about long-term adverse effects? Are such people playing dangerous games with their health? Why is it that even some doctors will not eat pork, the “other white meat”? What do they know about such foods that most people don’t?

For many, modern cooking methods and refrigeration make the whole subject of “unclean foods” rather moot. They rationalize: “Medical science would warn us if pork was unsafe to eat!” But medical science has a vacillating record when it comes to educating the public on healthy dietary choices. Just look at our ongoing overuse of refined sugar and the growing epidemic of diabetes; medical science has utterly failed to make a significant difference. Can we really trust medical science to protect us from the dangers of “unclean meats”? Ultimately, we are responsible for making informed decisions about our diet.

Many Christians are confused on this subject. Why are some animals considered “unclean” in Scripture—forbidden for use as food? Is the prohibition only a matter of ceremonial importance, or is eating “unclean” meat actually harmful to one’s health? What does the Bible really teach about “clean and unclean” meats?

Most churchgoers believe the Old Testament laws of “clean and unclean” foods are no longer applicable. They are considered a relic of past ages—obsolete for today’s Christian. After all, didn’t the apostle Paul pronounce that every creature is good and “not to be refused”? In Mark 7:19, didn’t Jesus declare all meats to be “clean”? What is the correct understanding of these and similar New Testament passages? (As we will see later, the New International Version spuriously adds the phrase “Jesus declared all foods clean” to Mark’s account. Yet no such phrase exists in the original Greek text. This inserted phrase has been a massive stumbling block for mainstream Christians regarding this subject.)

As a loving Father, it is not God’s desire to deny mankind anything that is good, profitable, or that would bring godly joy and happiness. Indeed, it is God’s heartfelt desire for all to be in health and prosper (III John 2), and to live abundantly (John 10:10). Because of His tremendous love for us, God has forbidden that certain animal meats be consumed by His people—as they represent very significant health risks!