Many people are often surprised to find scripture regarding what to eat in the bible. This has often caused much confusion and question among believers, as well as non-believers. Why did the bible discuss food? Why were there dietary laws?
The reasons are actually very simple. Most of the things discouraged in scripture are done so for valid reasons, as we will discuss on this blog. In scripture, maintaining a healthy diet is a way of caring for the body. The physical body is described as a holy place, a temple [1 Corinthians 6:19, John 2:21].
We must also consider how primitive food hygiene affected people. Eating the wrong meat, or just improperly prepared food, could have fatal consequences. Many pioneers as recent as the American frontier suffered terrible deaths due to dysentery, flux, or bloody flux, which are just terms for food poisoning.
The practice of cautious food consumption is actually found all over the world. Buddhists often have vegetarian or vegan diets. Taoist priests also use a form of “simplified eating” that is akin to vegetarianism. Vegetarianism is also an integral part of Hindu life.
The Change in Diet
Dietary requirements and restrictions underwent a great change in the New Testament. It is believed this change came about as humanity developed better methods of preparation and food storage. The main scripture regarding this can be found when Peter was in Joppa [Acts 10:9-15 English Standard Version]:
9. The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray.
10. And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance
11. and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth.
12. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air.
13. And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.”
14. But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.”
15. And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.”
What Does it Mean?
Many people today still follow dietary restrictions for their religious convictions. In truth, many are likely far healthier than those who have more mainstream eating habits. Your diet, however, does not have any spiritual significance beyond promoting good physical health.
This set of scripture details the Old Testament’s dietary laws.
3. You shall not eat any abomination.
4. These are the animals you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat,
5. the deer, the gazelle, the roebuck, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope, and the mountain sheep.
6. Every animal that parts the hoof and has the hoof cloven in two and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat.
7. Yet of those that chew the cud or have the hoof cloven you shall not eat these: the camel, the hare, and the rock badger, because they chew the cud but do not part the hoof, are unclean for you.
8. And the pig, because it parts the hoof but does not chew the cud, is unclean for you. Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch.
9. Of all that are in the waters you may eat these: whatever has fins and scales you may eat.
10. And whatever does not have fins and scales you shall not eat; it is unclean for you.
11. You may eat all clean birds.
12. But these are the ones that you shall not eat: the eagle, the bearded vulture, the black vulture,
13. the kite, the falcon of any kind;
14. every raven of any kind;
15. the ostrich, the nighthawk, the sea gull, the hawk of any kind;
16. the little owl and the short-eared owl, the barn owl
17. and the tawny owl, the carrion vulture and the cormorant,
18. the stork, the heron of any kind; the hoopoe and the bat.
19. And all winged insects are unclean for you; they shall not be eaten.
20. All clean winged things you may eat.
Deuteronomy 14:3-20 [English Standard Version]
Further Resources on Food