Why I Can Eat Bacon

Bacon and Eggs Breakfast at Nona"sA friend who believes in long ages of time rather than recent creation once challenged my belief in the literal interpretation of Genesis.  I started explaining evidences that argue in favor of a recent creation such as the fact that the moon is moving away from the earth at a rate of 1.5 inches per year, the earth’s magnetic field is decaying, and there is not one plausible theory for how stars form through natural processes.  He just said there could be alternate explanations for those things other than a young earth.

Do you eat bacon?

He then changed his tactics by asking me, “Do you eat bacon?” When I replied that I did, he accused me of being inconsistent in my literal interpretation of the Bible because the Old Testament law forbade the eating of pork.  I started to explain that the prohibition only applied to the Children of Israel and did not apply to non-Jewish Christians. Unfortunately, I did not have a Bible with me to prove my points and we were out of time.

So, my skeptical friend, this post is for you.

The first thing you need to understand is that God’s requirements sometimes change.  In the beginning, when God first created the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, God created mankind and all animals to be vegetarians (Genesis 1:29-31).  Death did not begin until after Adam’s sin.

Adam’s fall brought the curse and death.  By the time of Noah, all flesh had become corrupt and the earth was filled with violence (Genesis 6:11-13), which is why God judged the earth with a global flood.

While it is possible that fallen sinners began eating animals before the flood, it was only after the flood that God gave mankind permission to eat meat.  At that time God gave Noah and his family permission to eat “any moving thing that lives” (Genesis 9:1-4).  The eating of pork was therefore permitted.  The only restriction was to not eat blood, because life is in the blood (Gen. 9:4; Lev. 17:11).

Death did not begin until after Adam’s sin.

There is no record in the Bible of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, or anyone else being commanded not to eat pork until the giving of the ceremonial law by Moses to the children of Israel in the wilderness, after leaving Egypt.  The ceremonial law makes a distinction between clean animals which could be eaten and unclean animals which could not.  These instructions were given in Leviticus 11 and were repeated in Deuteronomy 14:3-20.

Lev. 11:7 and Deut. 14:8 specifically prohibit eating swine / pigs, but many other animals were on the forbidden list as well.  Among land animals, only those that had cloven / divided hooves AND chew cud were considered clean.  It is interesting to note that among water creatures only those with fins and scales (i.e.: fish) were permitted. Lobster, crab, clams, oysters, shrimp, and squid were considered just as abominable as pork, and were off the menu.

It is important to understand that these dietary restrictions and other ceremonial laws helped define the identity of the children of Israel and separate them from other tribes and nations as God’s chosen people.  Like keeping the Sabbath holy, these ceremonial laws are a sign of the perpetual covenant between God and Israel that they are His people (Ex. 31:12-17; Deut. 7:6).

Now my friend, to address your point we must answer the question of ‘are non-Jewish Christians required to obey the ceremonial laws Moses gave the children of Israel?’  This question was addressed at the Jerusalem Council recorded in Acts 15. The quick answer is no.

Initially, all those who turned to faith in Jesus as the Messiah, and trusted in Him for salvation, were Jews in Jerusalem. When Stephen was martyred and Saul of Tarsus began persecuting those who believed in Jesus as the Christ, the believers scattered throughout Judea and Samaria, preaching the gospel (Acts 8:1-4).

Philip went to Samaria preaching Christ, and many Samaritans believed.  Acts 10 records the first conversion of a gentile as Peter preached the gospel to a Roman Centurion at the prompting of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:1-11:18).

While Paul and Barnabas were in Antioch, men came from Judea saying that circumcision in obedience with the laws of Moses was required in order to be saved. When Paul and Barnabas disputed with them, it was decided that they should bring this question to the apostles and elders in Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-2).

In Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas reported all God had done through them, including the conversion of Gentiles.  Some believing Pharisees responded that it was necessary to circumcise Gentiles who believe, and command them to keep the law of Moses.  The apostles and elders then met to consider this issue.  (Acts 15:3-18)

Are non-Jewish Christians required to obey the ceremonial laws Moses gave the children of Israel?

At the conclusion of the discussion, James, the brother of Jesus and leader of the Jerusalem church, pronounced his judgment.  They should not trouble Gentiles who turn to God through Christ, but should tell them to obey just four restrictions.

The four limitations listed in Acts 15:19-21 are to keep oneself from:

  1. The pollutions of idols
  2. Sexual immorality
  3. Eating animals that were strangled
  4. Eating blood

Only the last two prohibitions are related to diet, and they both relate to the command God gave Noah and his decedents not to eat blood, so they apply to all people and predate the laws of Moses. The reason eating strangled animals is forbidden is because they were killed without bleeding, so their meat still contains their blood.

The Bible teaches that at the mouth of 2 or 3 witnesses, every matter shall be established (Deut. 19:15; Matt. 18:16; 2 Cor. 13:1).  It is interesting to note that this fourfold prohibition for Gentile Christians is repeated twice (in Acts 15:24-29 and Acts 21:25) for a total of three times.

Based on this threefold witness, the ceremonial laws of Moses, including those which forbid eating pork, do not apply to non-Jewish Christians.  Our only dietary restriction is the one given to Noah when he was given permission to eat meat.  We are not to eat blood or meat that contains blood.

So, my friend, when you examine the whole Word of God, it is consistent, and quite permissible, for a Bible believing Christian to eat bacon (and other pork products) as long as the hogs have been properly bled.

Shabbat in Jerusalem

The Sabbath in JerusalemWhat is Shabbat?

“Sabbath” has only one meaning in English.  It is a weekly day of rest.  It originated with the fourth of the 10 Commandments given to Israel (Ex. 20:8-11; Dt. 5:12-15), and was specifically on the seventh day.  “But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work” (Dt. 5:14 / KJV).

Resting the seventh day is based on God creating everything in six days then resting the seventh day.  “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Ex. 20:11 / KJV).  Following the night and day pattern established in Genesis, the Jewish Sabbath is observed from sunset Friday night and ends at sunset Saturday.

The English word, “Sabbath” is based on the Hebrew word, “Shabbat” (שבת).  In Hebrew, Shabbat is used both as a verb and a noun.  The noun form is similar in meaning to the sabbath as a day or period as rest.  The verb form is used as a common word with several meanings.  It means “to cease” or “desist” (from an activity or work), and so “to rest.”

Interestingly, related words from the same Hebrew root include “seven” and “to swear an oath” (to bind oneself).  The Jewish Shabbat (Sabbath) was instituted by the Mosaic Covenant with which the Children of Israel bound themselves to cease from work on the seventh day each week for a day of rest and worship.

Traveling to Jerusalem on the Sabbath

Now that we have examined the meaning of Shabbat in Judaism, we will resume the story of my first full day in Israel, which happened to be on a Sabbath.

Breakfast at Nona"sI woke up feeling refreshed after 10 hours of sleep during Israel’s night and day of rest.  At 10:30 I went across the street for an excellent brunch at Nona’s restaurant, which included eggs, toast, vegetables, hash browns, and bacon.  They had many other options, including tofu and salmon, but I chose the meat I like.

Was it wrong for me to eat bacon in Israel? I was surprised to see bacon on the menu, but it they were willing to serve it, I was willing to eat it. (I did not see or eat any pork for the rest of my trip though.)

After finishing my marvelous meal, it was time to find my way to Jerusalem.  When I checked out, I asked the hotel clerk the best way to get to Jerusalem since the buses and trains were not running.  He informed me that even though the government buses do not run on the Sabbath, the private buses do.

He told me I could take the number 5 bus to the Tel Aviv station for 8 shekels, and get a bus to Jerusalem from there for 45 shekels.  This boosted my hopes considerably.  There was a number 8 bus stop on the other side of the street from the hotel, so I crossed over and waited.

A little yellow “Sherut” bus soon approached, but passed without stopping.  After another Sherut passed without stopping, the hotel clerk came over to help me flag one down, suggesting that his Israeli “hutzpah” might make a difference.

When the next one passed without stopping, he explained that these buses only hold 10 passengers.  Once they are full, they only stop for traffic signals and to let people off.  Not even “hutzpah” can get a full bus to stop. He suggested taking a taxi to the bus station, but I decided to keep trying.

Finally, a bus with only 7 passengers stopped for me and took me to the “station,” which was just a public street crowded with their buses. Once there, I paid my 45 shekels and wedged in-between three other people on the back seat of the next Sherut to Jerusalem. Now that I was on my way to Jerusalem for only 53 shekels (about $15), I felt much better about my decision to spend my first night in Tel Aviv.

Our tour leaders said our Jerusalem Gold hotel was near the central bus station, so I rode the Sherut to the end of its route in Jerusalem, which was too far because this was not on a government bus going to their central station.  When I asked how to get to my hotel, they pointed up hill in the direction from which we came, and said I would need to take a taxi because it was too far.

I had several hours before I needed to join my tour group though. Since I had plenty of time, I decided to walk. Soon after leaving the bus on my uphill trek, I noticed something strange. The city streets were empty! There was no traffic to dodge. The streets were deserted; I had them all to myself.

Occasionally, I saw Hasidic Jews walking to or from Synagogue.  The men wore long black coats and black hats (which looked very hot).  I wondered what they thought of this American in blue jeans carrying a backpack and dragging a suitcase up the streets of Jerusalem on their day of rest, when all work was supposed to cease.

When I got to a large intersection where the road shifted, I thought I should get directions again. I asked the only people in view, who turned out to be an American couple on vacation.  Unlike me, they had activated their cell phones for international service, so the man simply pulled out his cell phone and checked it for walking directions.

Google Maps works in Israel

It turns out that Google Maps works in Israel just as well as in America. He showed me the directions and I continued my uphill journey.

Jerusalem Gold HotelAs I walked, I sought out patches of shade to hide from the hot Israeli sun.  I was surprised as I passed a couple sitting on a bench in the shade, when the man asked if I was with Biblical Byways. What gave me away, my American clothes, my backpack and suitcase, or my walking the deserted streets at all? I suspect it was all of the above.

Dennis and Esther invited me to join them and we started getting acquainted. So ended my solitary wandering in Israel. Dennis led me to our hotel where we met a jet lagged group of exhausted travelers waiting to check in. It was time for this introvert to be social.

Shabbat in Israel – Contrasting Jerusalem with Tel Aviv

Comparing the Sabbath in Tel Aviv with the Shabbat in Jerusalem is like night and day. I am sure there was less activity in Tel Aviv on Saturday than other days, but it seemed pretty normal to me. The restaurants were full; there was a steady stream of cars, sheruts, taxis, and bicycles on the streets; and the people were dressed normally. I did not feel out of place at all. If I did not know the shops were closed and the government transportation shutdown, I would have thought it much like a typical Saturday morning in America.

Empty Streets in Jerusalem

Jerusalem, on the other hand, was like a ghost town. Everything was closed, restaurants and gates as well as shops. With the exception of rare intruders (like me) or the occasional uniquely-dressed Hasidic Jew, the empty streets of this historic city felt desolate, being devoid of people and activity. I had never seen or experienced anything like it before. I marvel at how hard these faithful Jews are willing to work at keeping their covenant to rest on their Shabbat.


If you like this, you may like my previous post:  Initial Impressions of Israel – The Sabbath in Tel Aviv

My next post will describe the first day of our Bible study tour in southern Israel, which began the next day.

Initial Impressions of Israel – The Sabbath in Tel Aviv

Sunset over the MedBecause our group had people traveling from many different states and nations, our tour was scheduled to start from a hotel in Jerusalem, so we all made our own travel arrangements to and from Israel. I decided to arrive a day early to visit Tel Aviv and begin adjusting to the time difference (7-hours).

TLVBen Gurion Airport

My flight landed at Ben Gurion airport (TLV) at about 3:30 PM. By the time I cleared customs, exchanged dollars for shekels, and arrived at the information desk, it was 3:55 on a Friday afternoon in Israel. I began to realize something was different when I asked the best way to get to my hotel in Tel Aviv and was told, “The buses and trains stop running at 4:00, so you will probably need to take a taxi.”

My taxi driver was “a Polski” who spoke Russian, Hebrew, and a little English. While he spoke far more English than I speak Hebrew or Russian, our conversation was limited. So I watched the Israel countryside while my driver texted on his phone as he weaved through busy highway traffic.

My Hotel – Dizengoff 208

By 5 PM, my driver dropped me off at the Dizengoff 208 Hotel in Tel Aviv, and collected 180 Shekels. I had just spent 25% of my Shekels in the first hour of my trip!

My Hotel in Tel AvivThe hotel clerk was friendly, checked me into my room, instructed me on how to use the room’s hot water heater and AC, and gave me his perspective on the Sabbath in Israel. Not only had the trains and busses stopped running a 4 PM, but most of the shops closed too. He complained that he only got one day off a week, and everything was closed, so there was nothing to do!

I didn’t think he would appreciate it, so I kept silent rather than saying that was the whole point. The Sabbath is intended as a day of rest from one’s labors, a day to recharge your mind and body, and give your soul to reflecting with gratitude on God’s goodness and provision, which allows you to have the day off from work.

I told him I needed to go to Jerusalem on Saturday and asked him the best way to do so. He said, “The trains and buses will not be running, so you will need to pay 400 Shekels for a taxi.” I began to think my arriving a day early for a night in Tel Aviv, might not have been a such a good idea. While I admired the Jews for observing the Sabbath, I began to better understand the clerk’s attitude about it being inconvenient (and expensive).

Exploring the Mediterranean Shore in Tel Aviv

The British Proposition

The British Embassy

Once settled in my room, it was time to explore the Mediterranean shore, which was only a few blocks from my hotel. I headed west and walked toward the beach. The first sight that stopped me in my tracks was a huge picture of two gay men on the side of a building. While this would not have surprised me in America, I did not expect it in Israel. Then I noticed that the building was the British embassy.

I marveled that the British government believes the best use of their embassy wall is to promote gay marriage (instead of general tourism in England). I sadly reflected that the nation which gave birth to Darwin has been spiritually poisoned by his ungodly theory. It is no wonder that the sun is now setting on the British empire.

My melancholy thoughts continued as I resumed my walk toward the beach. It grieved me that all of Europe swallowed Darwin’s poisonous pill, and now America seems to be rushing to catch up in throwing off the shackles of Biblical faith and moral restraint. And what does this mean for people in the Promised Land? “When the Son of man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8)

The Med at Tel AvivMoving on, I soon arrived at a small park on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean shore. As I walked down a path paralleling the shore, the beaches, boats, and scantily clad bodies hugging a western sea reminded me of San Diego. This impression was reinforced by the warm climate, brown hills with sparse vegetation, and the stream of runners who passed by me along the way.

The shops and public transportation may have been closed, but the beach and restaurants were hopping! In many respects, Tel Aviv reminded me of any other western city by the ocean.

There were differences of course.  Most of the signs were in Hebrew. The general fitness level seemed higher than in America, and more skin was on display. In addition to women in bikinis, young children were stripped naked to shower, and many runners were ripped young men wearing only speedos.

Herods HotelI noticed another difference from America. In the USA, upscale areas and run-down/seedy areas are usually separated, but here they seemed to coexist. By the shore, I saw a stripper club next to the Herods hotel, and walked through a dark alley that smelled of urine.

Sunset over the Mediterranean Sea

Still I enjoyed my evening stroll along the shore with the blue sky and sunshine I would enjoy every day of my trip. The highlight for me was watching the sun set over the Mediterranean Sea with a small crowd that had gathered in Spiegel park. With the setting of the sun, the Sabbath had begun.

Sunset over the Med

The Sabbath Begins at Sunset

Perhaps, like me, you wonder why things shut down at 4 PM when the Sabbath is from sunset Friday to sunset on Saturday. I asked our Israeli tour guide about this later. She confirmed that the Sabbath begins at sunset. She said the reason things close at 4 PM is to give people time to prepare.

With the setting of the sun, the Sabbath had begun

My next post, Shabbat in Jerusalem, contrasts the Sabbath in Jerusalem with Tel Aviv.

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