Religious restrictions on the consumption of pork

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Religious restrictions on the consumption of pork are a tradition in the Ancient Near East. Swine were prohibited in ancient Syria[1] and Phoenicia,[2] and the pig and its flesh represented a taboo observed, Strabo noted, at Comana in Pontus[3] A lost poem of Hermesianax, reported centuries later by the traveller Pausanias, reported an etiological myth of Attis destroyed by a supernatural boar to account for the fact that "in consequence of these events the Galatians who inhabit Pessinous do not touch pork.[4]

Such restrictions exist in Jewish dietary laws (Kashrut) and in Islamic dietary laws (Halal). Such restrictions originate from the laws of the Hebrew Bible, and from the laws of the Muslim Quran, respectively. Among Christians, Seventh-day Adventists consider pork taboo, along with other foods forbidden by Jewish law. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria discourage pork consumption.

Prohibitions in the Hebrew Bible[edit source | edit]

And the pig, because it has a cloven hoof that is completely split, but will not regurgitate its cud; it is unclean for you. You shall not eat of their flesh, and you shall not touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you.
And the pig, because it has a split hoof, but does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. You shall neither eat of their flesh nor touch their carcass.

Prohibition of pork consumption in Jewish law[edit source | edit]

According to Jewish law, pork is one of a number of foods forbidden from consumption by Jews. These foods are known as "non-kosher" foods. In order for a meat to be kosher, it must first come from a kosher animal. A kosher animal must be a ruminant and have split hooves; therefore, cows, sheep, goats and deer are all kosher, whereas camels and pigs (each having only one sign of kashrut) are not kosher.[5]

The pig is the only common livestock animal that has split hooves but which is not a ruminant: its external aspect makes it appear kosher, while it is not.[citation needed]

During the persecutions of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Greeks forced the Jews to slaughter pigs in the Temple in Jerusalem, which did not improve the image of pork. Moreover, the Roman legion X Fretensis that undertook the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 had a boar for an emblem, sealing its fate as a symbol of everything contrary to Judaism.[citation needed] There is, however, no aversion to the pig as an animal, that it is commonly cited as an example of what is not kosher is largely due to its prevalence.

Maimonides, the Jewish philosopher and legal codifier, who was also court physician to the Muslim sultan Saladin in the twelfth century, understands the dietary laws chiefly as a means of keeping the body healthy. He argued that the meat of the forbidden animals, birds, and fish is unwholesome and indigestible. According to Maimonides, at first glance, this does not apply to pork, which does not appear to be harmful. Yet, Maimonides observes, the pig is a filthy animal and if swine were used for food, marketplaces and even houses would be dirtier than latrines.[6]

The cultural materialistic anthropologist Marvin Harris thinks that the main reason for prohibiting consumption of pork was ecological-economical. Pigs require water and shady woods with seeds, but those conditions are scarce in Israel and the Middle East. Unlike many other forms of livestock, pigs are omnivorous scavengers, eating virtually anything they come across, including carrion and refuse. This was deemed unclean, hence a Middle Eastern society keeping large stocks of pigs would destroy their ecosystem. Harris points out how, while the Hebrews are also forbidden to eat camels and fish without scales, Arab nomads couldn't afford to starve in the desert whilst having camels around.[7] The taboo on eating pigs may also have been reinforced by similarities between pork and human flesh (which would have been evident in their shared physical nature and manner of decomposition, rather than requiring previous contact with cannibalism). Thus Juvenal finds the Jews reviling the eating of pig flesh as if it were cannibalism (Satire XIV) and in the book God Is Not Great, Christopher Hitchens hypothesizes that the pork taboo arose from the similarity of pig flesh to the results of human sacrifice[8] A link with cannibalism remains dubious, but human flesh has been notoriously described as 'long pig' by cannibals.[9]

Prohibition of pork consumption in Islamic law[edit source | edit]

One example of verses from the Quran on pig consumption:

He has made unlawful for you that which dies of itself and blood and the flesh of swine and that on which the name of any other than Allah has been invoked. But he who is driven by necessity, being neither disobedient nor exceeding the limit, then surely, Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful.

Islamic law is similar to Jewish law for the consumption of pork, that the land animal, to be Halal, it must have split hooves and chew its cud and it cannot have one and not the other, like the pig has split hooves but does not chew its cud.

Hinduism[edit source | edit]

Some Hindu castes hold vegetarianism as ideal and will not consume pork and also refrain from all other types of meat. This tenet comes from the concept of having respect for other types of life. While Hinduism does not strictly admonish eating meat and pork, it is seen as unclean meat by many due to local custom and association with unsanitary conditions.

Other religions and cultures[edit source | edit]

Seventh-day Adventists,[10] Rastafarians, and members of the Ethiopian Orthodox[11] church also do not eat pork. Scottish pork taboo was Donald Alexander Mackenzie's phrase for discussing an aversion to pork amongst Scots, particularly Highlanders, which he believed stemmed from an ancient taboo. Several writers who confirm that there was a prejudice against pork, or a superstitious attitude toward pigs, do not see it in terms of a taboo related to an ancient cult. Any prejudice is generally agreed to have disappeared by 1800.

Leviticus chapter 11 lists the dietary restrictions God gave to the nation of Israel. The dietary laws included prohibitions against eating pork, shrimp, shellfish and many types of seafood, most insects, scavenger birds, and various other animals. The dietary rules were never intended to apply to anyone other than the Israelites. The purpose of the food laws was to make the Israelites distinct from all other nations. After this purpose had ended, Jesus declared all foods clean (Mark 7:19). God gave the apostle Peter a vision in which He declared that formerly unclean animals could be eaten: “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean” (Acts 10:15). When Jesus died on the cross, He fulfilled the Old Testament law (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:24-26; Ephesians 2:15). This includes the laws regarding clean and unclean foods.

See also[edit source | edit]

References[edit source | edit]

  1. ^ Lucian of Samosata notes the prohibition of pork for followers of the Dea Syria (Atargatis, the 'Syrian goddess') in De dea Syria, noted in Jan N. Bremmer, "Attis: A Greek God in Anatolian Pessinous and Catullan Rome", Mnemosyne, Fourth Series, 57.5, (2004:534-573) p. 538.
  2. ^ As the pagan Porphyry of Tyre noted in De abstinentia ab esu animalium, late third century CE.
  3. ^ Strabo, xii.8.9.
  4. ^ Noted in Bremmer 2004:538 and notes. Bremmer notes that the taboo regarding pork for followers of Attis is reported in Julian, Orationes v.17.
  5. ^ "Soul Food The Jewish Dietary Laws". Kashrut.com. 1999-02-06. Retrieved 2012-09-14. 
  6. ^ Maimonides, A Guide for the Perplexed III:48
  7. ^ Harris, Marvin (1987). The Sacred Cow and the Abominable Pig: Riddles of Food and Culture. New York: Simon & Schuster. pp. 67–79. ISBN 0671633082. 
  8. ^ <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_Is_Not_Great#Chapter_Three:_A_Short_Digression_On_The_Pig.3B_or.2C_Why_Heaven_Hates_Ham.>
  9. ^ King, Alanna (1987). Robert Louis Stevenson in the South Seas. Luzac Paragon House. pp. 45–50. 
  10. ^ Selected Biblical References to Diet Seventh-day Adventist Dietetic Association
  11. ^ Charles Kong Soo Ethiopian Holy Week clashes with Christians' 21 April 2011 Trinidad and Tobago Guardian Retrieved 11 March 2012

External links[edit source | edit]