Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Why the Biblical Food Laws?

I'm reading Holiness in Israel by John G. Gammie and came across this which I find interesting:

Perhaps the earliest extrabiblical defense of the Hebraic food laws is found in the Letter of Aristeas (c. 150 B.C.E.). The letter, or apology, puts forward a stunningly appealing reason for the biblical food laws: (1) that edible creatures must have cloven hooves teaches that humans must be discriminating, that is, they should exercise reason and sound judgment; (2) chewing the cud is a symbol of memory and the importance of recollection; and (3) that predatory animals are prohibited teaches clearly how violence is to be eschewed and nonviolence embraced. (Letter of Aristeas, par. 136-69) - John Gammie, Holiness in Israel, p. 11


Bryan Owen said...

Interesting, indeed. I've never thought about the reasons for the food laws in this way.

Matt Gunter said...

I like the particular explanation Aristeas gives for the various food laws. But, this also makes me miss the formational character of Jewish halakhah ("the path one walks" that governs and informs daily life for Jews)

I wonder if it would be good for Christians to develop and peculiarly Christian halakhah especially as we live in an increasingly post-Christian context. And what might it look like? What quotidian behaviors and practices - rules even - might mark and form Christians as holy?

Bryan Owen said...

Good questions, Matt. It strikes me that you could offer some helpful and constructive thoughts about such practices here on your blog. I'd love to read what you have to say about it.

Sabah Shams said...

It is interesting how the three, the body, mind and soul, are intertwined with each other. Only God can truly know how it all works together but He has given us guidance on the maintenance of all of them. They exist in a system of absolute justice and the slightest change in one affects the other two. For example, when you get an injury or illness, the injury to your body causes you pain and suffering which affect your mind and soul. When it all is in balance, everything is good. The same applies to what you put into you. Eat the right foods that God has prescribed. Maybe we may not fully understand, but we know that He only wants good for us.

Matt Gunter said...


Thanks. I might just get around to it sometime. I have to give it more thought.

Matt Gunter said...


Yes, I think that is part of the point. We are holistic creature who cannot be discretely divided into body, mind and spirit. Maybe that is why I find the halakhah appealing. The daily concrete, physical activity of choosing to eat some things rather than others forms the mind and spirit as well and directs the whole person. At least that seems to be what is going on with Aristeas.