Can Christians eat pork?
Judaism forbids its followers from eating pork. Islam does too. And so do Hinduism and Buddhism. People who notice this sometimes wonder if Christians are meant to avoid pork as well. They would probably like a clear answer to the question and some explanation for it.
Here it is.
Christians are allowed to eat pork. The religion is somewhat unique in this regard. Jesus permitted his followers to eat pork in Matthew 15:11. Here he states, “Not that which goes into the mouth defiles a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”
So, that’s the short answer. Christians are allowed to eat pork because Jesus said the things which one eats do not defile them. It is far more important to instead watch what you say.
Doesn’t the Old Testament Forbid Pork Consumption?
Yes. The Old Testament forbids eating pork in Deuteronomy 14:8.
“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.“
But that doesn’t matter for Christians. The New Testament supercedes the Old. That’s why the Old Testament is the Old Testament. If the New Testament goes against it, then the New Testament wins.
Where Does the New Testament Permit Pork Consumption?
In the following verses: Mark 7:18-23, Acts 10:12-26, and 1 Timothy 4:1-5.
In the first of these three sets of verses, Jesus chastizes those around him for paying too much attention to what they ate and too little to what they said or did.
“He said to them, “Are you so without understanding also? Do you not know that anything from the outside that enters a man cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart, but into his stomach, and goes out into the sewer, thus purifying all foods?”
And He said, “What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adultery, fornication, murder, theft, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride and foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.””
In the second set, Jesus commands Peter to eat some things which had been forbidden by Jewish dietary laws. Although pork is not listed among them.
“In the sheet were all sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds. Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.” “No, Lord,” Peter declared. “I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure and unclean.”
But the voice spoke again: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” The same vision was repeated three times. Then the sheet was suddenly pulled up to heaven.”
The Importance of Gratitude
In the third set, Timothy asserts that a thing is good to eat if it is accepted with gratitude for God’s providence.
“Now the Spirit clearly says that in the last times some will depart from the faith and pay attention to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils … commanding to abstain from foods, which God has created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.
For everything created by God is good, and not to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.”
So the New Testament affirms the acceptability of eating pork in multiple works form multiple authors. Therefore, pork consumption is permitted.
Why Did the Rule Change?
God had forbidden his people to eat pork in the Old Testament because he was angry for their deviations. It was meant as a punishment for them.
In the New Testament, Christ permits his followers to eat pork. This is because God had forgiven their prior transgressions. The forgiveness is given because they recgonize Christ’s sacrifice on their behalf.
But What About Other Religions?
What about them?
Several other religions forbid eating pork.
That doesn’t matter. Those other religions are wrong.
If Jesus is the Son of God, then it doesn’t matter what other religions teach. What matters is what Christ teaches. Christians acknowledge the primacy of Christian teachings over those of other religions. That’s what makes them Christian.
Cannibalism and Atheists
You will never find a Christian who believes that cannibalism is good.
You will never find an Orthodox Patriarch who thinks that cannibalism is good.
Nor will you ever find the testimony of a pope who said that cannibalism is good.
Christianity does not encourage cannibalism. However…
You might encounter an atheist who has decided to pretend that Christianity is pro-cannibalism. He will be doing this so that he can tell himself he is morally superior to Christians.
When he pretends, he will cherry-pick some verses out of the Bible and pretend that their vagueness means that cannibalism is okay in Christianity.
These verses are liable to be the same ones which permit pork consumption.
When he does, tell him that theft is a sin in Christianity. It breaks one of the Ten Commandments. Cannibalism is a type of theft. Therefore, cannibalism is a sin in Christianity.
But it is not a sin in atheism.
What About Fasts?
Fasting is a part of Christianity, Jesus himself fasted, and he often speaks as though he assumes his followers will fast too.
The Catholic and Orthodox churches maintain fasting traditions, and both forbid pork consumption on their fasting days. This prohibition does not arise because of any specific attitude toward pork. Instead, it exists in order to maintain the integrity of the fast.
“I heard that some Christians won’t eat pork. What’s up with that?”
Two groups are known for their abstinence form pork: the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Seventh-day Adventists.
The Coptic Orthodox reject pork consumption. This is because of the influence of Ethiopia on the religion. Ethiopia was supposedly ruled by the descendants of King Solomon, a history recorded in the Ethiopian national epic, Kebra Nagast, and this claim allowed for Judaic culture to exert a strong influence over the region. This influence included a prohibition on pork consumption.
Later, Christian missionaries came to Ethiopia and told its rulers that the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament had come. The Ethiopian king, Ezana, believed them, and he converted the country to Christianity.
So a heavily Judaized people converted to Christianity. The mixture of the religion with the prior culture resulted in a form of Christianity which forbids pork consumption.
The Seventh-Day Adventists forbid pork consumption because of their attempts to combine Judaism with Christianity.
“Why do so many other religions forbid pork consumption?”
Probably because of pork worms.
For most of history, meat supplies were often unclean. Pigs, cows, and other meat-animals were infested with worms. Most of these worms were not a problem because they could not survive inside of humans.
But pork worms could.
Pigs like to root around in filthy areas and eat the eggs of a worm called Trichinella spiralis. These eggs sit inside of the pig, people butcher it, they eat the meat, and then the eggs hatch.
So many people who ate infested pork ended up getting worm infestations because the pig was unclean. The worms would drive them mad, and they would slowly die from the infestation. Religious dietary restrictions prevented this from happening. Primitive peoples were saved from deadly worm infestations because of prohibitions on pork.
In the modern era, meat suplies are clean and heavily regulated, so we don’t need to worry about worm infestations.
Yet many of the old religions are still required to keep their dietary restrictions. To reject their dietary laws is to renounce important religious traditions. So Muslims, Jews, and other religious groups are bound by old dietary laws. Meanwhile, Christians are not.