Unclean animals

by jws 6 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • jws

    After having pork last night, I started wondering about the whole clean/unclean animal thing. Pigs, in particular.

    When I was a JW, I remember being told that pigs contain some sort of bacteria or germ that didn't get killed unless they were cooked properly. I also remember hearing that that showed God's wisdom. He knew that ancient people didn't know about germs, so he made pigs unclean to protect them. He could have given them proper cooking techniques like "cook it longer", but no. They were off-limits. I'm not sure if that thought came from 'official' doctrine like a Watchtower or if it was just some zealous JW speculating.

    But, seems like there's a few flaws here. First of all, weren't Adam and Eve given ALL the creatures of the earth as food? I don't recall any clean/unclean standards. Surely if this dangerous bacteria existed in pigs, it existed back then - or at least after Adam and Eve got kicked out of paradise. Why wasn't it until centuries later that God told them it wasn't good for them?

    Furthermore, what changed when Jesus ended the law? People still didn't know enough about germs then. They might have known safer cooking techniques by then.

    Was the whole thing about germs being the reason an official JW doctrine? God arbitrarily saying "pigs are unclean because I say so" seems like a much more cohesive explaination that doesn't interfere with what he told Adam and Eve.

  • Narkissos

    According to the priestly (P) narrative in Genesis man is only allowed to eat meat after the Flood (9:1ff), with no distinction between clean and unclean animals (only blood is forbidden, as we know too well). But in other traditions, especially those usually attributed to the Yahwist (J) narrative, it obviously comes earlier: Abel is a shepherd in chapter 4, and there is a distinction between clean and unclean animals in chapter 7.

    Reading germs or whatever modern hygenical explanation into the Bible is a common apologetic (and clearly anachronistic) device, which can be found in many fundamentalistic or concordist works outside JW literature.

  • RunningMan

    Another interesting tidbit is that Noah was instructed to take 7 (or seven pairs) of the clean animals into the ark and 2 of the rest. Unfortunately, the distinction between clean and unclean animals was not made for many centuries - another indication that the Noah myth was written much later.

  • Carmel

    JWS, you're refering to the trichina worm, which if injested in any life form by humans encysts and develops into trichinosis, which if untreated, leads to a very painful death. Cooking pork, bear and other carriers thoroughly will kill the worm or the cysts.

    Regarding your biblical comments, I believe there are two ranks of laws given by the prophets. First and most important are the "spiritual" laws or teachings and these are re-stated with each prophet. All the beatitudes that Jesus spoke of and the two main commandments were of a code of conduct type and relate to relationships between us and between us and God. These seem to be perennial and are common in all the religions of the world, stated differently but pretty constant. The second level of laws or commandments have to do with social and health types of things. Marriage laws, funeral requirements, dietary constraints, political structures etc. These seem to change with the advancement of human civilization and require modernization. Hence you will see a progression from Abrahamic law, Mosaic law, Christain law, Muslim law, Baha'i law, etc. We have little records in the west as to the evolution of these kinds of things in Buddhist and Hindu societies. Just too old and inadequate record of the changes.


  • Carmel

    BTW, enjoy your pork! 99.99% of pork sold in the US is free of tricodina!


  • Narkissos

    The so-called "J" narrative reads as follows (7:1ff):

    Then Yhwh said to Noah, "Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you alone are righteous before me in this generation. Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and its mate; and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and its mate; and seven pairs of the birds of the air also, male and female, to keep their kind alive on the face of all the earth. For in seven days I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights; and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground." And Noah did all that the LORD had commanded him.

    But then comes (v. 8f) a redactional note which combines the clean / unclean distinction with the P version "just one pair of each":

    Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah.

  • A Paduan
    A Paduan

    Though they divide the hoof (walking in two places), they don't chew long on the food, forget once fed and then cry for more. You are what you eat so don't have the spirit of a swine. As for literally not eating pork, why not cut your hand off when it causes you to sin.

    However, as noted, pork did carry a disease very harmful to humans - like Paul said "doesn't nature teach you?"

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