Many Christians wonder: Does Leviticus 11 still apply? The sad truth is that nowadays many Churches teach that the dietary laws are not valid anymore and therefore, they can eat anything they want. However, there is no clear statement in the Bible that proves the abolition of the dietary laws. Most of the time, things are taken out of context or freely interpreted. It is also often argued that Jesus fulfilled the law, and therefore, there is no need to adhere to any of God’s commandments. The fact that the law and, consequently, the dietary laws in the Bible are still valid is evident simply because God has told us that the commandments are eternal. Moreover, Jesus taught nothing to the contrary.
More on this can be found here: Jesus did not abolish the law of Moses
In this article, you will find both a list of clean and unclean animals according to the Bible, and an explanation of why Leviticus 11 still applies today and the dietary laws are still valid.
Table of Contents
What are the dietary laws in the Bible? Which animals are considered unclean according to the Bible?
The dietary laws of the Bible are found in the Old Testament in Leviticus 11. There, it is detailed which animals are clean and which are unclean. God commanded the people to eat only clean animals.
As is apparent from the verses above, only animals that have both a cloven hoof and chew the cud are considered clean. Furthermore, fish must have fins and scales to be considered clean. Regarding birds, clean birds are listed, and all other flying or creeping things are considered unclean. Creeping animals are unclean, with a few exceptions like locusts, bald locusts, beetles, and grasshoppers.
List of clean and unclean animals according to Leviticus 11
Please note that this list is not complete. Only the most common animals consumed by humans are listed here. Leviticus 11 mentions additional animals and even insects. For all other animals, you have to differentiate based on the specified characteristics to determine which are considered clean and which are considered unclean according to the Bible.
Unclean animals, which according to the Bible should not be eaten
Since Leviticus 11 still applies, these animals are unclean and therefore should not be consumed:
Unclean land animals: Pig, Hare, Horse, Predators (such as Cats, Dogs, etc.)
Unclean water animals: Seafood and Shellfish (such as Crabs, Lobsters, Shrimps, Prawns, and Mussels), Mollusks (such as Jellyfish, Octopus, and Squid), Fish without scales (such as Sharks, Rays, Catfish, Eel, Pangasius)
Unclean birds: Waterfowl (such as Duck, Goose, Swan), Birds of prey (such as Eagle, Falcon, Buzzard, etc.)
Clean animals, which according to the Bible, can be eaten
These animals, on the other hand, are clean and can be consumed:
Clean land animals: Cattle/Cow, Sheep, Goat, Deer
Clean water animals: All fish with scales and fins (such as Salmon, Cod, Herring, Tuna, etc.)
Clean birds: Poultry, Chickens, Turkey
Peter’s vision is not about the abolition of dietary laws
Nowhere in the Bible can one find a passage explicitly stating that the dietary laws of the Old Testament have been lifted. Many Christians refer to this passage in the Bible, which supposedly suggests that God declared all animals clean. However, this passage has an entirely different meaning and does not suggest in any way that the dietary laws of the Old Testament are done away with.
In no way can it be inferred from this passage that God declared all animals clean, at most only the animals that were actually in the sheet at that time. However, one cannot simply conclude from this verse that God has completely lifted the dietary laws, and every animal can be eaten without hesitation. On the contrary, this verse actually indicates that the animals in this sheet are still unclean, and God would have had to cleanse them for Peter to be allowed to eat them. Yet, they were taken back to heaven.
Interestingly, at this point, Peter even affirms that he had never eaten anything unclean up to that time and, therefore, had observed the dietary laws. Consequently, we can assume that Jesus and his disciples never ate anything unclean.
In reality, this vision has an entirely different meaning and has nothing to do with the dietary laws, as the Bible tells us. Immediately after this revelation, Peter went to the house of a non-Jew. At that time, it was forbidden for Jews to enter the houses of non-Jews. However, this was not a law of God but a law made by humans. The significance of the vision was that God did not want to consider the Gentiles as unclean, despised beings but intended to save them. Hence, it is stated:
Jesus never declared all food clean
As mentioned above, Jesus and his disciples were Jews, thus adhering to all the commandments of the Old Testament, including the dietary laws. None of them would have thought of consuming unclean animals, as their consumption is strictly prohibited in the Torah.
In many instances, it is crucial not to take the text out of context and manipulate it for personal purposes. In this case, some translations have gone so far as to add their own sentence to the Word of God, justifying disobedience to God’s dietary laws. See for yourselves:
However, the actual wording does not include this sentence because it does not fit the context at all:
In fact, the dietary laws are not even the topic of this passage but rather eating with unwashed hands. However, the commandment that you should wash your hands before eating was solely a human command and not ordained by God, which is why the disciples did not adhere to it:
Paul also did not abolish the dietary laws
Furthermore, verses from Paul are often used to declare the dietary laws of the Bible invalid. However, here it becomes crucial to understand the background of Paul’s letters. In the letters to the Colossians and Acts, the focus is not on abolishing the dietary laws but on meat sacrificed to idols!
In the ancient Roman Empire, it was common to sacrifice meat to false gods or bless them in their name and then sell them in the market. As a result, people often did not know exactly where the meat came from or whether it was ceremonially clean. Many Christians, therefore, chose to become vegetarians entirely to be sure, while others continued to eat meat if they did not know the source. This issue is precisely what is addressed, for example, in Romans 14.
This is also the reason Paul instructed that no one should judge another regarding food and drink. This was not about the dietary laws in Leviticus 11 but about the uncertainty of the food source:
However, he added that if someone were to eat meat from the market with a guilty conscience, it would be a sin for them. But for the one who considers it “common,” it is clean.
This distinction becomes even clearer when looking at the Greek original text. Two different words are used for “generally unclean foods according to Leviticus 11” (katharos) and “generally clean foods that have been ceremonially defiled” (koinos). This difference becomes especially evident in Acts 10:14 in the original text, where Peter distinguishes between the two.
You can check it here: https://bibeltext.com/interlinear/acts/10-14.htm
Of course, no one is judged for unintentionally eating something unclean. Faith in God saves, not what you consume. However, confessing God as the Father also means adhering to His commandments.
People are not defiled by food but by disobedience to God’s commandments.
Conclusion: Leviticus 11 still applies today and therefore the Dietary Laws are still valid
As we can see, the dietary laws of the Old Testament have not been abolished. The truth is that the consumption of unclean animals (katharos) was never even discussed in the New Testament, as it was clear to all believers that Leviticus 11 still applies.
Like all of God’s commandments, the dietary laws serve our own well-being and protection. God has given us His commandments out of love, so that we may prosper. Those who willingly disregard the dietary laws not only jeopardize their relationship with God but potentially their health as well. The Bible states that we will prosper if we observe God’s commandments: