Is Eating Pork Unclean?

By Bailey Cadman

Occasionally sincere Bible-believers will ask us whether the Bible does not say that pork is unclean, and therefore question whether Christians ought to eat it.  “Now that’s a good question,” as my brother-minister R.C. Sproul says.  So let’s go to the Bible and ask, “is eating pork unclean?”

One of the early names we considered for our ranch was “Thousand Hills Ranch.”  The idea is from Psalm 50:10—“For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills” (NKJ).  What a beautiful truth that is!  The cattle on a thousand hills belong to God, not anyone else.  He created them and they are His.  And not only the cattle on a thousand hills, but all the cattle on all the hills in all the world belong to the Lord God.  And not only all the cattle are His, but so are all the horses and chickens and sheep and goats… and all the pigs.  They are His, too!

And since all animals (as well as all plants, of course) belong to God, we human beings have the privilege to eat them only because God has given us that privilege.  And, as we look closely into the Bible, we see that God did indeed give mankind the privilege of eating food—which belongs to God.  And so, when God created  man, He said to him—“See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed:  to you it shall be for food” (Genesis 1:29).  But, you may ask, I see that God did not give mankind permission to eat meat only plants.  Maybe we’re supposed to be vegetarians!

But let’s not be too hasty.  It was only after Noah’s flood that God gave men the privilege of eating flesh.  To Noah and his descendants God said, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs” (Genesis 9:3).

And so, from Noah on, mankind, the godly as well as the ungodly, were given God’s permission to eat flesh, that is, meat and fish and so on.  And not just some kinds of flesh.  God said, “every moving thing that lives… all things,” no animals excluded.  And so Noah and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and the Twelve Patriarchs, along with all other people, enjoyed eating cattle and sheep and goats… and pork!  Imagine that!  Abraham eating pork!

It was only hundreds of years later, during the life of Moses, that God took back permission from the Jews to eat certain kinds of animals.  You can read about those Jewish ceremonial laws of clean and unclean foods especially in Deuteronomy 14 and Leviticus 11, along with many, many other ceremonial restrictions.  It is only in Leviticus 11:7 that eating pork is forbidden to God’s people for the very first time—“… and the swine, though it divides the hoof, having cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud, is unclean to you.”  This is where and when pork in all its forms (including ham, bacon, sausage, etc.) was declared unclean, as well as, for example, rabbit, along with all seafood which lacks fins or scales, like shrimp, lobster, crab, clams, etc.  Jews were to consider all these foods unclean and to totally abstain from them.

All of these ceremonial laws were given to govern the lives of all Jews.  For how long?  Until God would say otherwise.

God did indeed say otherwise.  When Jesus, the Son of God, walked this earth, He Himself declared that the clean/unclean food laws of the Old Testament were now abolished by God.  You can read about it, for example, in Mark 7:18-19, where Jesus tells His disciples, “Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him; because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thus He declared all foods clean.)” (NAS).

That “all foods” have been declared clean by Jesus’ saving ministry is made even clearer to the Apostle Peter in the Acts of the Apostles.  You may recall that puzzling event when Peter is on a housetop praying and falls into a trance and sees a vision of a great sheet filled with “all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things (!), and birds of the air” (Acts 10:12).  “All kinds” of animals were included—clean as well as unclean.  Then God startled Peter, who had always been scrupulously kosher.  God commanded Peter to “kill and eat” (Acts 10:13).  To use my own translation of Peter’s response, the sometimes rambunctious Apostle answers, “No way, Lord!  I’m kosher!”  (See verse 14).  Peter is reminding God that, since the time of Moses and the ceremonial laws given at Mt. Sinai, it has been a sin for Jews to eat anything which God had declared to be unclean.  As if God needed reminding.  So then God somewhat sharply puts Peter in his place—“What God has declared clean you must not call common” (Acts 10:15).

And so that is the answer to our original question—Is Eating Pork Unclean?  The answer is still the same as the one given to Peter so long ago.  What God has declared clean let no man call unclean. And so pork is clean.

It has occasionally been maintained that God sent this vision as a kind of symbolic representation of the fact that God was calling Gentiles as well as Jews to be Christians, cleansing them by the blood of Christ.  That is true, of course, but the reason that is so is because Gentile foods, including pork, have been declared clean by God Himself.  And, in addition, God DID say, “kill and eat.”  He was not talking directly about Gentile, but about pigs!

In Christ the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament have come to an end—no more sacrifices, no more Levitical priesthood, no more cleanliness laws.  Those “dividing walls” (see Ephesians 2:14-16), separating Jews and Gentiles, have been torn down in Christ and His once-for-all sacrifice.  As the writer of Hebrews points out over and over again, why would you keep the ceremonial shadows of Christ, when the Reality has come?

And so, Peter and all Christians, have, in Christ, received freedom from the ceremonial laws imposed on the Jews until Messiah should come.  And in Christ, the same freedom to eat of “every moving thing” (Genesis 9:3), given to Noah and Abraham and all God’s people before the Law of Sinai, has been restored to God’s people once again.  Christians may eat pork because God has declared it once more to be clean.

“What God has declared clean you must not call common” (Acts 10:15).

Pork is one of those “foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth” (1Timothy 4:3).

When we Christians finally sit down at table with Abraham, pork may well be on the menu!

13 Responses to Is Eating Pork Unclean?

  1. fabricio says:

    The problem is if reads Isaiah 66 you will see that God say that at end he will destroy those who eats pork flash. How you Explain that?

    • jericacadman says:

      I appreciate your comment, and your question is the reason we posted this article. While in Isaiah, God was referring to those who were unclean (whether Jew or Gentile it seems–see the beginning of the passage for discussion on those who offered sacrifices with hypocritical hearts), Jesus came to fulfill the law. The New Testament clearly teaches that those who are in Christ are no longer bound to the ceremonial law of Moses. A clear example is in Acts 15 in which the *believing* Pharisees said, “It is necessary to circumcise them [new believers who were Gentiles] and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.” To this, Luke records that the apostles replied: “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: 29 that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; [p]if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell.” Pork is not listed. As recorded in Acts 10-11, Peter is even confronted by God and told to kill and eat things that Peter considered unclean, but that God said He had cleansed. The ceremonial law, while a beautiful and meaningful shadow of things to come, is over. We are clean because of Christ, not because of what we eat or do not eat.
      Thanks for your feedback! Hope to see you at the farm some time!

  2. Michael says:

    But why did God declare pork unclean in Deuteronomy and Leviticus? I’m trying to understand the spiritual reason behind it.

    • Diane says:

      The spiritual reason behind it?
      Well, if you go back to Exodus 34, ALL of God’s laws given to the Israelites were part of his covenant with them. He would “do marvels before them” and drive out the inhabitants of their promised land so that they could claim it. And the Israelites were to keep the laws as God gave them to Moses the second time on Mt. Sinai. They were to be His people, and His alone. They were not to make a covenant with the inhabitants of that land or worship their gods. The laws were there to separate them from all other peoples and show that they were God’s chosen people.
      I don’t think there is a spiritual reason that Jews are forbidden to eat pork specifically. It is just one of the many laws that God gave them to keep as part of His covenant with them.

      • Ralph Kapteyn says:

        The spiritual reason behind it was that it was an abomination. These meats were described as being “unclean.” Please read Leviticus 11, you will begin to understand that fact. God uses the word abomination some eleven times. And it was not just for Jews at all, contrary to what some might like you to believe.

        Genesis 7:2 “You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two each of animals that [are] unclean, a male and his female;

        Genesis 7:8 Of clean animals, of animals that [are] unclean, of birds, and of everything that creeps on the earth,

        God’s warning
        Leviticus 20:25, “Ye shall therefore put difference between clean beasts and unclean, and between unclean fowls and clean: and ye shall not make your souls abominable by beast, or by fowl, or by any manner of living thing that creepeth on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean.”

  3. Diane says:

    Good article! Another verse that I’ve always liked that applies here: Colossians 2:13-16.

  4. Ralph Kapteyn says:

    Royal Raymond Rife created a microscope (The Universal Microscope) in the 1920s which was more powerful than ANY microscope available today. You can read about it in many places including the annals of The Smithsonian Institution (“The New Microscopes” 1944/1945).

    Extensive research by Rife with his microscope led to development of a cure for cancer that was PROVEN to be 100% effective in 1930s trials overseen by the AMA, The University of Southern California, and Dr. Milbanks Johnson, M.D. (President, Los Angeles County Medical Society at the time) at what would later come to be known as the renowned Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, CA.

    Part of his research with the microscope revealed to him a specific state that the blood MUST be in for cancer to develop. In his notes he made notation of a curiosity to him. He had discovered that pork caused the specific state for cancer to develop and grow very rapidly. Whenever a test subject consumed pork, their blood entered into that specific state of the blood that he had discovered was necessary for cancer to develop. The blood would maintain this state for up to nine hours after ingestion of pork.

    Rife was not a religious man. He had no saving faith. He didn’t understand that pork was unclean and not to be consumed according to the commandment of Scripture. He did learn from his own studies NOT to consume pork due to scientific reasons!

  5. Jerica says:

    Another researcher in the 20’s, Dr. Weston A. Price, traveled the globe in search of healthy people groups who did not have incidence of cancer, disease, and tooth decay. Many of healthiest groups ate pork, but they did not eat confinement-raised pork or canned foods or sugary foods, etc. The animals they consumed were always outdoors in a natural environment, not eating industry leftovers or junk grains. I would like to know how the pork in the study you mention was raised, and also if control studies were done with other meat types and other foods. Has the research been duplicated, i.e. is it reproducible? This is the only way to test a scientific theory. I would hypothesize that any factory-farmed animal fed toxic grains and kept in a stressful environment would not transfer good health to its eater.

    As far as the spiritual reason for us not to eat pork, the Bible is not a book on nutrition. Much of it is history, and it is certainly all true, but it was not given to us as a nutrition guide. As a Christian and a believer in the New Testament (as well as the Old), it is not my place to make assumptions about why God did this or did that, especially when He has explicitly commanded me not to call unclean what He has now declared as clean. So whatever reason He had for commanding the Jews not to eat pork and not to do the other things given in the Levitical law, I can trust that He has lifted that command safely for me. There are only a few criteria in the New Testament (no strangled animals, no blood, etc) for foods we are allowed to eat, all other foods being now clean. It is not my place to super-spiritualize food and make rules for myself that go against the ones God has given in his new covenant. We don’t have to eat pork (or crawfish or catfish or shrimp), but we can choose to do so in freedom. In the same way, we can visit mothers after having their babies without having to wait several weeks for her to offer a sacrifice in order to be “clean” again. This is clearly a ceremonial and symbolic cleanliness that sets God’s people apart for himself and was a foreshadowing of our relationship with the coming Messiah. So if your conscience is clear and allows you to eat pork, praise God. If it is not, eat what your conscience allows you to, and praise God!

    • Ralph Kapteyn says:

      Hello Jerica

      Job 14:4 Who can bring a clean [thing] out of an unclean? No one!

      It is your place to know the truth and preach it. God says we can know the truth.
      John 8:32 “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

      We are to “rightfully” divide the truth.
      2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

      God did no such thing as to “lift” rules. He changes not, and an abomination to God one time does not become a holy thing after. Unclean meat is an abomination to God.

      Raymond Rife was born and lived his life for the most part during a time when we were still feeding our animals in balance with Godly practices. It does not matter what type of Pork is being served, if you do a search yourself on the subject, a multitude of studies and information are available to us on the toxicity of Pork.

      QUOTE: especially when He has explicitly commanded me not to call unclean what He has now declared as clean.

      What did God declare as clean, that was unclean, in Acts 10, where I think you are referencing to?

      • Jerica says:

        Well, I think it’s rather pointless to continue debating this question–it is against your conscience to eat pork, and it is against mine not to. But I will point out a couple final things. Levitical law wasn’t given until Israel had left Egypt. Before then (see above article when God gives Noah instructions on food), no meat was restricted at all.

        Also, it seems to me that industrialized food has been around since the early 1900’s, and was available even in the 1800’s. This is evidenced by the fact that pasteurization was widely implemented (albeit voluntary) by the mid 20’s, having been practiced for at least 2 decades before in England and the US in attempt to combat the health problems associated with consumption of confinement-raised dairy. City growth without refrigeration demands confinement-raised animals. The US’s involvement with grain and commodity production began in the 20’s, which led to an eventual saturation of farm production with cheap grain, and it didn’t take long for farmers to begin raising animals in confinement.

        So no, I don’t think that godly practices were being universally adhered to as late as the 30’s. Rife didn’t do his main work until then, and I am sure there were quite a few confinement operations for animals of all kinds by that time. In short, western nations were well on their way to a processed, long-distance, factory-waste-fed food system by the 1930’s, and healthy pastured pork may have been fairly difficult to procure. Who knows what the implications of eating confinement-raised pork are in terms of cancer, but I suppose those implications would be similar to eating confinement-raised lamb or beef or goat or cheese or eggs or chicken, or even artificially fertilized vegetables. You only get out what you put in.

        Thanks for the lively discussion!

  6. james67 says:

    Well its clear in the new testament that foods were talked about..even their role in Christianity.. we read were not to eat anything sacrificed to idols (devils) and that with prayer of thanks and sanctification.
    NO command was given to Christians to abstain from unclean foods, rather the bible say there is nothing unclean but to him which thinks it is unclean, to him it is unclean then.
    The unclean foods represent the gentile world spiritually, where they were without hope and foreign to Gods promises.. then; but NOW we know that’s changed..the gentiles are accounted with the Jews unto salvation and promises of GOD.
    SO the question is were those changes reflected through out the foods too and i believe the bible says yes God unlocks that bar fording clean and unclean foods.. and then leaves it up to the person them self weather they will or wont its ot a sin or problem to GOD.

  7. Amoz says:

    Why do you read from the NKJ version?

  8. Juan says:

    Thank you for this wonderful article . . . something to keep in mind is that we are living under a new and better covenant . . . Adam could not eat pork not even lamb, Noah could eat pork, with Moses things changed and with the Messiah things changed . . . the Law of God was different for each case: Adam, Noah, Moses, Paul . . . now the Law of God applicable is Torat Mashiach (the Law of Messiah) . . .

    1Co 8:8 But food will not commend us to God: neither, if we eat not, are we the worse; nor, if we eat, are we the better.

    Rom 14:17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

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