The Torah

Whatsoever the Soul Lusts After

The strangest defence I have met from a Christian is reference to the source of the prohibition itself as foreshadowing the lifting of that prohibition even in the time of Moses and the Torah. The implication made is that Deuteronomy 12 and 15 serve as a relaxation of the Laws detailed in Leviticus 11, and Deuteronomy 14, respectively, which were in force while the Tribes were wandering in the wilderness until they went over into the Promised Land. When they finally went over into the Promised Land was when they could eat whatsoever their souls lusted after, and that happened after the death of Moses. Also suggested is that the food that is sacrificed to the Lord is the forbidden food to eat, but that all other food became okay.

The claim seems a little strange to me, but it can never the less be effectively addressed from the very texts that are used to try and prove the thesis. The first lacuna in their theory is that the events of Deuteronomy 12 occurred well before the Israelites entered the Promised Land. Rather, they had camped beyond the River Jordan, well before they crossed it. They were still travelling, which is a possible reason for any relaxation to have taken place. Yet I will argue there was no relaxation, even so. Moreover, once they were settled, just two chapters later, in Deuteronomy 14, the rules laid out in Leviticus are imposed in full force upon the people of Moses.

Deuteronomy 14 reproduces almost exactly, bar things strangled and the details about insects, what is said in Leviticus. So it is Deuteronomy 12 that is abrogated, if any abrogation takes place, not Leviticus 11. Furthermore, Leviticus does not deal with the wandering of the Israelites in the wilderness, but are the commandments laid upon them whilst they were settled around Mount Sinai during the two years they sojourned there in the land they had come into after the crossing of the Red Sea.

Let us begin by making a list of what Leviticus 11 forbade the Jews. It was permitted to eat any cloven footed animals that chew the cud.  However, if an animal possessed one of the characteristics, but not the other, it was forbidden as food.  The following are listed as forbidden.

1. a) The camel, the rabbit, the hare,

1.  b) The swine are all forbidden.

The Torah specifies that the former type are forbidden because, though they chew the cud, they are not cloven footed, while the latter type are classed as unsuitable because, despite being cloven footed, they do not chew the cud.

2.  Any animal without cloven feet and which does not chew the cud is forbidden.

3. Anything that swims, lives or moves in the sea or rivers is forbidden, except animals with scales and fins.

Fowls (birds) are not forbidden except:

4.  a) those that ‘creep’, and

4. b) flesh eating birds.

Leviticus lists as forbidden: the eagle, the ossifrage, the osprey, the vulture, the kite, the raven, the owl, the night hawk, the great owl, the swan, the pelican, the geyer eagle, the stork, the heron, the lapwing and the bat (and their kind).

5. Animals that have paws and claws are forbidden as food (carnivores).

6.  Creeping and flying insects are forbidden except those insects (with long back legs) that leap:

Locusts, grasshoppers, and beetles are all permitted, but no other.

7. a) Many of the creeping things, are designated as unclean.

The following (and their kind) are listed in Leviticus: The weasel, the mouse, the tortoise, the ferret, the chameleon, the lizard, the snail, and the mole.

7. b) Anything multi-footed or that creeps upon its belly is forbidden.

8. Finally mentioned is any animal that dies of itself (i.e. carrion).

We will be looking at this list in more detail later, when we discuss the Islamic dietary rules.

If we ask whether Jesus ate pork, nearly all Christians will say that, while he was alive, he was under the Old Testament Law, because the prophecies concerning his death and its function (to remit believers of their sins) had not yet been fulfilled. Only with his death were the prophecies of the promised one fulfilled, thereby not changing the laws, but, rather, opening another door to go in and live by. So, through his death, people can ignore the rules forbidding certain types of food. To support this statement, some use this passage:

Now the Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God has created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. [1 Timothy 4:1-3]

I think The emphasis laid on “latter times”  by proponents of this theory of abrogation appears to want to infer that  it refers to people from after Jesus including misled Christians, die-hard Jews and, particularly Muslims.  The implication preferred is that the ‘hypocrites’ herein mentioned are those who had chosen Islam as their religion. If that is the case, little do they know Islam; far from forbidding the pious to marry, Muslims are encouraged to celebrate marriage and produce Muslim offspring in great numbers. Rather, it is various Christian sects, including the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, which encourage men and women to live cloistered lives, celibate and single in their devotion to the Christ.

As for abstaining from permitted food, it is the Catholic Church, among others, that insist that followers abstain from all meat on certain days of the week (such as Fridays) – substituting it with fish, or just vegetables and grains. They especially abstain whilst in a period of fasting, even during the hours they are allowed to eat a meal. So on both counts, if such an intention exists, the actuality is reflected on Christian, rather than Muslim, practicants.

The passage continues:

For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:  For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. [1 Timothy 4:4-5]

The words highlighted above are the crux of the arguments used, combined with several verses in Deuteronomy 12 and 15, to prove that any creature can be eaten. The two chapters in the Torah are supposed to prove that freedom from restriction is the Law handed down, and therefore that is what has not changed and what Jesus confirmed. Before going on to those arguments, however, I would like to examine more closely these two passages from 1 Timothy.

Some of the words highlighted are in the phrase “commanding  to abstain from meats.” This translation is supposed to remind us of animals, but other translations render the word “meats’  as ‘foods,’  and the word “commanding,”  which is not in the original Greek, as ‘recommending’. That is, commanding or recommending people to fast from foods that are defined, by a relative clause. The definition is “foods that God created for partaking of with thanksgiving by the believers and those knowing the truth.”  As for the elided word in the Greek sentence, the English translators insert “commanding,” as the carried verb from the previous sentence which says “forbidden to marry”.

In other words, if no word is inserted, the translation would read “forbidding to marry and to abstain from meats.”  Does not that literally have the meaning of stopping people from fasting?  Among the three religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, only one commands everyone to truly fast for more than one day in the year – actually a full month – and that is Islam.

What are the meats that God created for Christians and Jews to eat of which the hypocrites of the passage will either forbid or command to fast from? The Torah  tells us that God said,

These are the animals which you shall eat: the ox, the flocked sheep, and the flocked goat, the hart and gazelle, and roebuck, and wild goat, and antelope, and oryx, and mouflon. And you may eat every animal that divides the hoof, and divides two hoofs wholly, and chews the cud among the animals.

These you shall eat of all in the waters: you shall eat all that have fins and scales.

You shall eat of all clean birds. [ Deuteronomy 14:4-6, 9 & 11]

Other words highlighted are in the phrases ‘every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused if it be received with thanksgiving. Also the word sanctified, in the next sentence, choosing not to say what it is that is sanctified. The inference we are asked to make by the proponents of historical abrogation is that all creatures of God are good to eat, and clean. But we know that not to be true from Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. So what does he mean?

Well, every creature has his place and function, including permitted animals (to eat). God says:

They ask you what is lawful for them. Say: ‘Lawful to you are at-tayyibat(the fine, good, clean and legal things from God).  And (from) those beasts of prey you employ as hounds, trained and taught to catch in the manner directed to you by God, eat of what they catch for you. But pronounce the name of God over it, and have awe of God. Verily, God is swift in reckoning.’  [Quran, 5:4]

The wording in 1 Timothy 4, verses 4 and 5, however, is confusing.  It appears to say that any animal may now be eaten by believers,

For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is SANCTIFIED [hagiazetai] by the word of God and prayer. [NKJV 1 Timothy 4:4-5]

According to Bryan T. Huie, an important condition is often overlooked by those who use these verses to teach the doctrine of dietary freedom.

“Paul tells us that ‘every creature of God is good,’ and is not ‘to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving’ [1 Tim. 4:4]. But he qualifies that statement in verse 5 by saying that these creatures are ‘sanctified by the word of God[I Tim. 4:5]. The Greek word translated ‘sanctified’ in verse 5 is ‘hagiazetai’; it literally means ‘set apart.’ What creatures of God have been ‘set apart’ by the word of God for use as food? Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 conclusively list those creatures of God which are to be eaten and the ones which are not to be eaten. Instead of contradicting the Torah’s prohibition on eating unclean animals, Paul is actually supporting it in this Scripture.”  [Here a Little, There a little, Are All Foods Clean?]

In the translation – the English rendering of the meaning, a verb or two seem to be missing. If it were to read as some wish it to be interpreted, then it should have been written “all creatures of God are good to eat, and no creature is to be refused if it is received with a prayer of thanksgiving.”  Instead, their interpretation relies on emphasis being placed on the words if and thanksgiving, which is supposed to tell us that only thanking God is sufficient to make any food, whether clean or unclean, lawful to eat.

However, strategically placing the word ‘which’, removing ‘and’ and including a second needed verb (is) will help us make a more sensible interpretation. To wit: If verse 4 read For every creature of God which is good is nothing to be refused,”  the scripture suddenly becomes correctly meaningful in English and the rest of the verses fit in.

In other words, in order for (even) lawful food to be accepted as ‘Kosher’, one should thank God for its provision and dedicate its eating to Him (by saying grace when you eat or slaughter it, and giving thanks when you finish eating). This is born out by the next verse, which says, “For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” This attitude reflects the attitude of the Muslim. For it is reported that the Messenger of God (may God praise him) taught his step-son, Umar bin abu Salamah saying:

“Mention God’s name, eat with your right hand, and eat of the dish what is nearer to you.” [1997. Sahih al-Bukhari 7, 70 pp. 188-189  & 2007. Sahih Muslim 5, 13 p. 371. Riyadh, Darussalam]

He also taught us to say after eating:

“Praise be to God – Praise be in abundance! Good and Blessings be in it. It cannot be repaid, or left (aside), nor can it be done without, our Lord.” [1997. Sahih al-Bukhari 7, 70 pp. 224-225.  Riyadh, Darussalam]

Having made some commentary on the verses from 1 Timothy and shown where they are similar to Muslim practice, it is now time to examine how the concept of ‘every animal being good to eat’ fits into the two verses which are supposed to have abrogated the dietary Laws concerning the clean and unclean in the Torah even before they were properly put into effect.

Arguing the case for the proponents of historical abrogation, it is said that the Law definitely was not changed by Jesus. The whole chapter of Leviticus 11, where the prohibition against eating pork is to be found, is for the Israelites to make them Holy at that time, as God himself is Holy. In order to collect the promise God had made to their forefathers, they had to be obedient unto God, too. But when they came to the Promised Land, so it is argued, God gave them rest. He said:

When the Lord your God shall enlarge thy border, as he has promised you, and you shall say, I will eat flesh, because your soul longs to eat flesh; you may eat flesh, whatsoever your soul lusts after. If the place which the Lord your God has chosen to put his name there be too far from you, then you shall kill of your herd and of your flock, which the Lord has given you, as I have commanded you, and you will eat in your gates whatsoever your soul lusts after. Even as the roebuck and the hart is eaten, so you shall eat them, the unclean and the clean shall eat of them alike. Only be sure that you eat not the blood: for the blood is the life; and you may not eat the life with the flesh.  [Deuteronomy 12:20-23]

In another set of verses, He said:

You shall eat it before the Lord your God year by year in the place which the Lord shall choose, you and your household. And if there be any blemish therein, as if it be lame, or blind, or have any ill blemish, you shall not sacrifice it unto the Lord your God. You shall eat it within your gates: the unclean and the clean person shall eat it alike, as the roebuck, and as the hart.  Only you shall not eat the blood thereof; thou shall pour it upon the ground as water. [Deuteronomy 15:20-23]

So, it is argued, only eating the blood would be the abomination. In verse 22, Moses uses the Roebuck and the Hart just as an example of all unclean or clean meat. Therefore, is the conclusion, Christians can eat pork because it is not a sin.

The Laws were being obeyed in the wilderness, so the argument goes, but when they went over into the Promised Land; that is when they could eat what their souls lusted after, and that happened after the death of Moses. The Food that is sacrificed to the Lord is the forbidden food to eat. But all other food is okay.

Besides this overt argument put forward is a covert one. The verses above contain the words “the Lord shall choose”. Would the proponents of historical abrogation like to portray ‘the Lord’ as Jesus Christ, and the ‘shall’ as referring to the time of his manifestation? It may be that they would also like to link the word “Lord” in these verses to the word “Word” in the verses from 1Timothy at the same time. If that is the case, God says:

O People of the Book! Do not exceed the limits in your religion, nor say of God (aught) save the truth. The Messiah Jesus, son of Mary, was (no more than) a messenger of God and His Word, whom he bestowed upon Mary, and a spirit from Him. [Quran, 4:171]

God is reminding especially the Christians, but also Jews and others, whose religions originate from His revealed message in their Scripture, that they have exceeded the limits set for them, and taken the licenses He gave too far. One such license played fast and loose with are in their dietary habits. Another is taking others as figures to worship beside God. He continues, in the same verse:

So believe in God and His messengers. Say not “three!” Cease! It is better for you. For God is the only One God, Glorified is He above having a son. To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and on the earth. And God is Self Sufficient as the Disposer of affairs.[ibid.] 

Self-sufficiency means not being in need of a helper in Creation, nor in dispensing Mercy and Comfort. God is the Compassionate and Merciful.

“The word”  in this verse does not mean the Lord Creator. Nor does the word ‘Lord’ when addressed to Jesus necessarily mean Creator and Ultimate Judge. The truth is that the word ‘Lord’ has different levels of meaning, and can be applied to men, not just to God. One of those levels of meaning is the one whom we obey.’  Since the ones using the title ‘Lord’  in the Gospels were contemporaries of Jesus and since God orders us to obey His Messengers, there is nothing wrong in attributing such a reference to Jesus as such.

However, there should be no confusion in the matter. We obey the Messengers of God because they are Messengers who speak not of themselves, but what God wills. By obeying them, we are obeying God. But this does not make them gods. Nor can we confuse their ‘Lordship’  with that of God, from Whom every benefit stems, and on Whom we depend for our very creation and continued existence.

One further point; the proponents that say the Israelites’ entry into the promised land demarcates the separation between dietary limitations being applied and being relaxed forget that all the chapters of the Torah were supposed to be written, or at least edited, by Moses long before the Children of Israel went into the Promised Land, which God had promised. Moses was not allowed to go into the Promised Land. So how can one book be referring to a time after settling in the promised land, and another book be referring to a time that the tribes were still wandering. Surely it must be because one book is a prophecy, not an account of what really happened later? These points aside, let us now examine the verses for what they really say, rather than what the proponents of historical abrogation would like them to say.

Permitted and not permitted food

The two sets of verses chosen by the proponents of the theory that God already abrogated the dietary Laws immediately after the death of Moses are very similar. However, the phrase “whatsoever thy soul lusts after”  in Deuteronomy 12, which is one of the lynchpins of their argument, is absent in the later passage of Deuteronomy 15, and therefore it is not viable using the latter as significant in abrogating Chapter 14. The proponents of historical abrogation take “Whatsoever thy soul lusts after”  to mean ‘any animal, even illegal animals, you want to eat.  However, if we diligently search through the rest of the Torah for these words in relation to meat, we find that God became angry when the Israelites lusted for meat instead of manna in Numbers 11:10 and, in Numbers 11:34, He decimated them because of their lust, with a plague.

So to lust after something does not necessarily have good connotations, and may just be referring to what the people were allowed to eat after the supply of manna was suspended. Let us therefore look at the context, or definition, of exactly what one can “lust after.”

And you shall pay the silver for whatever your soul desires: for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for fermented drink, or for whatever your soul desires (i.e. from the permitted foods listed in verses 4-6, 9 & 11 in this chapter). And you shall eat there before the Lord your God; and you shall rejoice; you and your household. [Deuteronomy 14:26]

Furthermore, just as confirmation, from whence can you lust after whatever your soul desires, God says,

You shall kill of your herd and of your flock, which the Lord has given you, as I have commanded you, and you shall eat within your gates whatsoever your soul lusts after. [Deuteronomy 12:21]

So, even if the phrase meant any meat you lusted for,’  the meat so indicated is defined as coming from a “herd”  and “flocks.”

Herd = A group of cattle (cattle = bovine animals)  or other domestic animals of a single kind kept together for a specific purpose, or a number of wild animals (usually herbivorous)  of one species that remain together as a group: [2010. American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co.]

Flock = a number of domestic (usually wool or down producing) animals, especially sheep, goats, or geese, that are kept together. (Derived from flocc). [Oxford Dictionaries Online]

Both types of animal are “lawful”  for eating in Deuteronomy 14 and Leviticus 11 – whichever you fancy.

These proponents of misdirection also say that both sets of verses mention the hart and the roebuck, and associate them with the unclean and the clean. Again, the argument is very weak. Firstly, a quick, honest assessment of the sentences containing these words in Deuteronomy their discursive markers makes it obvious that the clean and unclean are not congruous with the two animals mentioned, but another object. Furthermore, this paired object interacts with the two animals by consuming them, but on certain conditions. For instance, in Deuteronomy 12 it says,

Even as the roebuck and the hart are eaten, so you shall eat them; the unclean and the clean shall eat of them alike. [Deuteronomy 12:22]

“Them  in both the first and second clause, refers to something similar to (as) the two animals. The unclean and the clean”  are congruent with you”. Compare that with

You shall eat it within your gates: the unclean and the clean person shall eat it alike, as the roebuck, and as the hart. [Deuteronomy 15:22]

Again, You  is congruent with “the unclean and the clean person”. The fact that the clean and unclean describe a person rules out any congruency with animals. “It, however, is compared to each animal.

Secondly, neither animal is unclean, as can be seen from verse 5 of Deuteronomy 14, These are the animals which you shall eat … the hart and gazelle, and roebuck, and wild goat, and …”, which lists the lawful animals the Israelites were permitted to eat.

And, if one cavils at accepting that You”  can refer to the unclean”  because God chose the Jews – and He would not choose anything unclean, you need but turn to the last two verses in Deuteronomy 14 for confirmation that You”  includes the stranger, who is “unclean”  to the Jews:

At the end of three years, even the same year, you shall bring forth all the tithe of your increase, and shall lay it up within your gates. And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the alien, and the fatherless, and the widow who are within your gates shall come and shall eat and be satisfied; so that Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do. [Deuteronomy 14:28-29]

So what about the conditions for eating “whatsoever your soul lusts after, as the hart and as the roebuck”?

  1. In Deuteronomy 12, the condition is that the herd or flock owner is unable to get to the place “the Lord your God has chosen to put his name”  because it is too far away. From this verse in Deuteronomy 15, You shall eat it before the Lord your God year by year in the place which the Lord shall choose,  it can be deduced that this refers to the religious centre, the synagogue or temple or stone, where sacrifices can be officiated adequately. Sacrifices, remember, are limited to domesticated animals such as goats, sheep or oxen, as can be seen in Leviticus 1:10.  Wild animals, like the hart and roebuck, are not suitable for sacrifice.
  2. Nor are the domestic animals referred to in Deuteronomy 15 that are lame, or blind, or have any ill blemish  suitable for Sacrifice. And only the pure can partake of the sacrifice.

Therefore the condition for anybody eating as one pleases boils down to the food eaten not being a sacrificial animal. Anybody can eat a permitted wild or blemished animal – whatsoever ones soul lusts for – even the impure alien, the non-Jew, because they are merely slaughtered, not sacrificed.

Finally, the suggestion is made through emphasizing the rule against eating blood (and the reference that it should be poured onto the ground), that sacrificial meat is forbidden. Well, that whole argument seems irrelevant, here. The blood is forbidden because the consumption of blood is forbidden by God, even for Christians [Acts 15:28-29], sacrificial or not. In this case, pouring it out on the ground like water indicates the animal is simply to be slaughtered, not sacrificed, because Jewish sacrifice involves collecting the blood and then spraying it on the congregation by Jewish tradition [Leviticus 4:4-7]. And this is confirmed by the context – what is to be done if the owner of flocks or herds is unable to get to the place of sacrifice or only has blemished domestic animals. What is forbidden is the eating of that blood, not the animal from which it comes.

Conclusion

Thus this additional prong of the Christian defence for non-compliance to Divine commands concerning diet is comprehensively voided due to the incredible misreading of the texts cited. The only point that seemed to have substance on first reading is from 1 Timothy, which is then shown actually to support the dietary laws of God rather than loosen them. Therefore “Whatsoever the Soul Lusts After” does not infer free choice of whatever Christians would like to eat, but a choice limited by what God has legislated as fine things (good) and lawful (permitted).

Read on: Camels

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