Thursday, March 27, 2008

Divine Dieting Regulations: Leviticus 11

This post is part of a revolutionary Bible commentary sponsored by the Church of the Orange Sky.

Seemingly for no particular reason, God decides now is the time to establish some laws regarding food for someone other than the priests. The list is pretty extensive: you can eat cattle but not camels, rabbits, hyrax, or pigs, because to be eligible to eat, an animal must both chew its cud and have a split hoof. God does not explain why both are necessary. A similar double-requirement is instituted for water animals - which must have both fins and scales. Rules for birds and insects seem much more arbitrary, and God even describes the bat as a bird species, something which must give the "creation science" literalists fits. Ultimately God justifies these measures on the grounds that "I am the Lord who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy."

At some point I'm going to have to discuss why modern-day conservatives feel justified in arguing that these cleanliness and purity regulations can be completely ignored even while they worry unceasingly about other prohibitions such as that against homosexuality. I don't think there's quite enough to go on yet and I have more relevant things to talk about with respect to the following chapter.

In the meantime, I think it's just worth noting some of the other things that God feels are "abominations," the word also used to condemn homosexuality later in this book (the NIV translates these as "detestable" rather than the more traditional and much cooler term). Here's the list of abominations so far: dolphins, whales, and all other sea life that lacks fins and scales; eagles, vultures, the "black vulture" (which the KJV translates as ospreys), kites, ravens, owls, gulls, hawks, cormorants, storks, herons, bats, four-legged insects (this is a ludicrous translation since insects by definition have six legs; shame on the NIV for its incompetence!), and every "creeping" or slithering creature.