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 and Phoenicia, and the pig and its flesh represented a taboo observed, Strabo noted, at Comana in Pontus 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.
Such restrictions exist in Jewish dietary laws (Kashrut) and in Islamic dietary laws (Halal). They are mandated the Hebrew Bible, and the Muslim Quran/Koran, respectively. Among many Christian sects, the restrictions were interpreted to be lifted by Peter's vision of a sheet with animals. However, Seventh-day Adventists consider pork taboo, along with other foods forbidden by Jewish law. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church does not permit pork consumption, while the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria is divided on the subject.
Prohibitions in the Hebrew Bible
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
According to Jewish law, pork is one of a number of foods forbidden to 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 pigs (having only one sign of kashrut) are not kosher.
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. 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 12th 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.
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 while having camels around. 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). 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. (See God Is Not Great#Chapter Three: A Short Digression On The Pig; or, Why Heaven Hates Ham)
Prohibition of pork consumption in Islamic law
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.
Unlike Judaism, followers are only told they cannot consume the flesh of swine, contact with pigs and their skin is also not forbidden although it is considered correct that a Muslim should wash the part of their body that came into contact with it before they can resume religious duties.
Among many Christian sects, the restrictions were interpreted to be lifted by Peter's vision of a sheet with animals. However, Seventh-day Adventists, Radio Church of God [later known as Worldwide Church of God] the latter believe that Peter's vision was about prejudice against gentiles since Peter did not understand the vision until it was revealed to him, and members of the Ethiopian Orthodox church also do not eat pork. Pope Shenouda III of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria told his followers in 2007 not to eat pork, although this advice was based on his own opinions and not on Christian scripture. It was criticized by clergy of other Christian denominations in Egypt.
The Seventh-Day Adventist Church believes that the biblical principles established in the Book of Leviticus (See Chapter 11) are still wholly applicable today. The Church believes that the dietary and lifestyle guidelines in Leviticus were established for the betterment of mankind and of society. A detailed discussion of the content of Leviticus chapter 11 by Douglas S. Winnail can be found in the following reference:
Scottish pork taboo was Donald Alexander Mackenzie's phrase for discussing an aversion to pork among 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.
Rastafarians also do not eat pork.
- 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.
- As the pagan Porphyry of Tyre noted in De abstinentia ab esu animalium, late third century CE.
- Strabo, xii.8.9.
- 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.
- Charles Kong Soo Ethiopian Holy Week clashes with Christians' 21 April 2011 Trinidad and Tobago Guardian Retrieved 11 March 2012
- "Egypt Copts Divided Over Pork". OnIslam.net. 25 August 2007. Retrieved 8 March 2014.
- "Soul Food The Jewish Dietary Laws". Kashrut.com. 1999-02-06. Retrieved 2012-09-14.
- Maimonides, A Guide for the Perplexed III:48
- Harris, Marvin (1987). The Sacred Cow and the Abominable Pig: Riddles of Food and Culture. New York: Simon & Schuster. pp. 67–79. ISBN 0671633082.
- "Selected Biblical References to Diet". Seventh-day Adventist church. Archived from the original on 10 May 2013.
- Douglas S. Winnail. "Study Topic: Do you really want to eat that?". Living Church of God. Retrieved 19 November 2014.