Were swine prone to transmit disease in the conditions around the time of Moses? This consideration and similar are what I'm interested in.

Please answer only if you have a clear and solid source to back up the scientific foundation of your claims, wikipedia being okay for this purpose.

UPDATE: To clarify what I mean by dietary restrictions, due some of the discussions that followed: I do not mean ritual cleanliness, but rather the diet itself, i.e. ruminates, fish, locust.

As I have mentioned in the comments a complete answer can not be expected, but if someone has studied this subject, they will still find an open slot for an accepted answer.

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    Not sure it is enough for an answer, but trichina is certainly one theory; as is omnivorism, as is the practical side of pig-keeping in the middle east. If we assume there was a practical reason, finding proof of it at this point would still be hard. – Marc Gravell Jan 21 '12 at 22:06
  • Thanks, for that - this sort of information is what I was looking for. There still are questions of rabbits, oysters and others, and I suppose one would have to list them all to completely answer my question, to be fully strict, but because this is a historical matter as well as scientific, only partial answers are actually possible, as I see it. – audio.zoom Jan 21 '12 at 23:46
  • ultimately, no matter whether whether you believe the origin is human or divine, it is also possible it is more of a "bacause that's the rule, do as I/we say". – Marc Gravell Jan 22 '12 at 10:44
  • Logically yes, but humanly that seems the least likely scenario. Why would someone do something as difficult as convincing an entire nation of follow a rule, pointlessly? Even in the most tyrannical governments each law is crafted for a precise purpose. – audio.zoom Jan 22 '12 at 10:57
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    Yes, like Deut 22:11, Lev 19:19, Lev 19:27, Lev 21:17-18, Deut 17:2-7... On the tyrannical govt level: having a purpose is not the same as having a valid/sensible/fair/just purpose - control, power and greed can also be reason enough – Marc Gravell Jan 22 '12 at 16:22

Your title and question are very different, so I will respond based on the title.

You may find this article very interesting:


Basically, there is no hygienic reason for these dietary rules, as, if a clean animal died on its own and you ate it, then you must wash your clothing and be unclean until evening. (Leviticus 11:40)

So, would it make sense that you had some disease, but once the sun set you were now healthy?

There is nothing to imply that this was for health reason, but for ritual reasons, and perhaps to help the Jews to understand that they were not like other groups, and by following a different diet they could set themselves apart.

There is also Leviticus 11:35, where the rule is that if an unclean food was ever used on that oven or stove is now unclean and must be destroyed, as it will always be unclean.

If this was for health reasons, it could be scoured, disinfected with bleach, but if you are following these restrictions then you must take apart the oven or stove, regardless.


Everything, moreover, on which part of their carcass may fall becomes unclean; an oven or a stove shall be smashed; they are unclean and shall continue as unclean to you

If you feel you must follow these dietary restrictions, then you must follow all of them, including never use a used stove/oven, for example, as is found in James 2:10 (http://bible.cc/james/2-10.htm)

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

  • Thanks for your answer, James. I can't agree that the title and the body of the question are very different. The body clarifies the aspect of the question of interest. The question is not "should a Christian follow these rules?", but what scientific reason, if any, did the originator of the rules, whether God or Moses, have for giving them? – audio.zoom Jan 21 '12 at 23:03
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    @audio.zoom - My point is that there is no scientific reason. We can guess what it may be, but that involves cherry picking from Leviticus in order to justify the position, and that is always a dangerous step. – James Black Jan 22 '12 at 4:08
  • I agree with you, as I mentioned in a comment above, a complete answer to this question is practically impossible. Although I think grouping ritually unclean ovens into dietary restrictions is a bit of a far reach. I've clarified the question to indicate what I mean by those. audio.danger.zoom – audio.zoom Jan 22 '12 at 7:41

Take a quick glance at either of these sites:

Both of them give the names of illness-causing bacteria that are found in pork. So to answer your first question, yes, swine and the handling of pork can transmit disease today. It is likely that these bacteria were present in Moses's time, as well.

You will note on the same pages that shellfish, beef, poultry, lamb, and undercooked eggs can also transmit foodborne pathogens. As your title question is different than your main question, I would note that while shellfish are not kosher, the rest of the list (beef, poultry, lamb, and eggs) are permitted in the OT. This poster is led to conclude that there is something other than the "pragmatic purpose" at work in the Mosaic law.

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    Thanks for your answer. But, to be quite honest my curiosity on the subject is not quite satisfied. Perhaps I ought to look to a Jewish community for some answers to this. – audio.zoom Jan 21 '12 at 23:08
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    @audio.zoom: Here you go! Jewish Life & Learning – El'endia Starman Jan 22 '12 at 8:05
  • You are quite welcome, @audio.zoom. Are you asking something like "Are the OT dietary laws based in pragmatics or something else?" I would say that one can find pragmatic reasons for some of the dietary laws; however, pragmatics are not the main, driving factor for the dietary laws. I believe that they were given as a gift to God's people in order to separate themselves from the surrounding, pagan nations. For example, "Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk" (Deut 14:21) has no pragmatic basis, but instead, God was prohibiting his people from participating in pagan fertility rituals. – rajah9 Jan 22 '12 at 18:29
  • Since long before I have read books 2-5 of the Pentateuch I have heard from some dietitians that mixing different animal proteins was not the best idea. While this is a controversial claim in today's science, in my personal experience that was usually true. While the combination never made me sick, I've felt less of a drain on my energy level after a meal in consistency with that advice. I wouldn't be so rash as to outright reject mixing of milk and meat as having no pragmatic basis. Although I must admit the above recipe irks my sense of morality as well. @rajah9 – audio.zoom Jan 23 '12 at 10:04
  • Combining meat and milk: Is it healthy? Is it godly? In Gen 18:8, Abraham serves a calf, curds, and milk to the Lord, contravening the Deut 14:21 prohibition. To your "energy level" comment, @audio.zoom, there is strong evidence to suggest that any meat or dairy has a deleterious effect on health; see my post on skeptics.stackexchange.com/a/2058/1403. – rajah9 Jan 23 '12 at 15:07

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