Lie — Jews are forbidden to eat pork

The Story

Jews are forbidden to eat pork (and other unkosher food). Their religion forbids this.


It's true that observing Jews don't eat pork, but that doesn't mean that it is because they aren't allowed to.


Consider the following three situations in which chicken is offered to you as food:

  • I offer you some chicken and tell you that it is incredibly delicious because it is produced by having the chickens continuously force-fed by slave children somewhere in South-East Asia. You might refuse to eat it because your sense of morality tells you that it is produced by an unethical process and you don't want to support it much less enjoy it.
  • We are in a supermarket and I pass you a package of chicken cold-cuts and tell you to eat some of it, quickly before anyone notices. You might refuse to eat it because you know that theft is illegal.
  • We see a road-kill chicken and I pick it up, shake off the maggots, and tell you that half of it wasn't squashed so I'm going to take it home and cook it for lunch. You might decline any offer to partake because you find the thought alone to be disgusting.


Now consider three people being offered pork chops:

  • The first person is a Vegetarian. The thought of eating an animal that was killed for his eating pleasure is unacceptable. He refuses the meat because of his personal ethics.
  • The second person is a Muslim. He has no objection to eating animals, and the pork chop may very well be delicious, but eating pork is forbidden. He refuses the meat because of the law he follows.
  • The third person is a Jew. He too has no objection to eating animals, but pork is an unclean meat, unappetizing and disgusting. He refuses the meat because the meat itself is inedible.

Notice the parallels between these two sets of circumstances. The first person refused because of his own internal ethics, the second because of the externally imposed laws that he submits to, and the third because of the intrinsic properties of the meat itself.

The Bible

The Bible uses two Hebrew words to classify animals, tame' (טָמֵא) and tahowr (טָהוֹר), which are usually translated into English as clean and unclean. Today, the Yiddish word Kosher (כָּשֵׁר) is more commonly used, and it means fit, as in fit to eat. This property is intrinsic to the animal itself.

Meat that comes from kosher animals may also become common, as did the aforementioned road-kill chicken. In Acts 10, Peter reports that he has never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. Food that is certified as kosher has been carefully tracked to ensure that it was properly killed and processed, and therefore still fit to eat. Knowing that one's food didn't die of disease or as a result of being attacked by a rabid wolf is reassuring.

Muslims on the other hand believe in submission to God's laws as recorded by the Prophet. The Arabic words corresponding to clean and unclean are halal (حلال) and haram (حَرَام), but their meaning is allowed and forbidden.

This is a significant difference in the way of looking at the situation: Muslims follow an external law that forbids pork, while Jews consider the pork itself to be inedible.


Did God forbid the Jews to eat pork, or did God inform the Jews (actually all of Israel, Judah was only one of twelve tribes) that pork itself is unfit to eat?

When pork-eating Christians and others consider their relationship with their food, they are much more comfortable thinking that the only reason Jews don't eat it is because God told them not to. That the meat itself might not be fit to eat by any human, regardless of their religion, is not something they want to consider.