Questions Concerning Clean and Unclean Meat


The following questions and answers deal with God’s instructions to us concerning clean and unclean meat. One thing to understand here is that in the beginning it was never God’s design that anything, including animals, should die. The diet God originally gave to mankind and animals is spoken in Genesis chapter one:

“And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat (food). And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat (food): and it was so.” (Genesis 1:29, 30)

The original diet was simple and plant-based. It wasn’t until after the Flood when God instructed man to eat certain types of meat that were considered clean and fit for food because the waters wiped out all the vegetation (Genesis 7:2-3; 9:1-3). Later, God reminded His people of the difference between the clean and the unclean by having Moses write it in the book of the Law (see, Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14). Please keep in mind that, just as the instructions concerning writing up of a certificate of divorce were only given “because of the hardness of [our] hearts”, these instructions concerning meat-eating were added accommodations as well. Jesus spoke of divorce in this way:

“They (the Pharisees) say unto Him (Jesus), Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered (accommodated) you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.” (Matthew 19:7, 8)

Like meat consumption, in the beginning divorce was not in God’s original design. It was accommodated (or, permitted) due to the hardness of our hearts. God did this because He knows our moral development at every stage and, if man was going to continue to divorce, then please do it within these guidelines. Likewise, if man was going to continue to eat meat after the Flood, then please do it within these guidelines, however, “from the beginning it was not so”, nor will it be on the new earth which God will make:

“For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind … And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them … The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's meat (food). They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, saith the LORD.” (Isaiah 65:17, 21, 25)

In Isaiah chapter 11 God tells us the reason why no one (man nor animal) will hurt and destroy others:

“They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:6-9)

Along the same lines, Hosea paints a picture of a future era when God will make a covenant of non-violence that includes the animal Kingdom:

In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky and the creatures that move along the ground. Bow and sword and battle I will abolish from the land, so that all may lie down in safety (Hosea 2:18)

Coming into the knowledge of the LORD will be the result of God’s Law being written in our minds and hearts (Hebrews 8:10, 11) to the point that we “shall not hurt nor destroy” anyone, nor any thing. Why? Because God never hurts nor destroys anyone! John tells us that “God is love” (1 John 4:8) and Paul says, “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the Law.” (Romans 13:10). Therefore, as it was in the earth’s beginning, “there shall be no more death” upon the new earth:

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death (of any of God’s creatures), neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain (of any of God’s creatures): for the former things are passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

Notice how Greg Boyd recites his own personal experience in realizing the connection between eating meat, anger in the heart and the ability to love as he made the choice to immitate God's non-violent character:

"Almost immediately after making this pledge [to become vegetarian] I began to understand why the Lord had wanted me to make it. Scripture says a little yeast leavens all the dough (1 Cor. 5:6). Well, I discovered that the little yeast of my willingness to engage in violence towards animals and other creatures for self-serving reasons (e.g. appetite, convenience) was polluting my heart and to some degree compromising my capacity to love. It felt like – and still feels like – my commitment to total non-violence has had, and is yet having, a purifying effect on my heart. Along the same lines, my commitment to purge violence completely from my life has increased my sensitivity to the ugliness of violence, both in my own heart and in the world. Jesus taught that harboring hostile thoughts towards others and speaking hostile words towards others is a form of violence. In fact, he says it’s equivalent to murder (Mt. 5:1-26)! Numerous other passages in the New Testament instruct Kingdom people to purge all hatred, bitterness, anger, unforgiveness, judgment and malice from our minds as well as our speech. All these things are forms of violence and are antithetical to love. I have found that my commitment to non-violence has helped me wake up to all of the violence I have in my thoughts and speech, which in turn has helped me get free from this ugly violence. And this, in turn, has deepened my capacity for love. Five years ago I never dreamed there was a connection between eating meat, anger in the heart and my ability to love. But for me at least, there definitely was. A little yeast leavens all the dough." (Greg Boyd,

The questions and answers in this section are not so much about vegetarianism, but whether or not the New Covenant cancels the distinction between clean and unclean creatures. We will answer the claim that the Law of God is arbitrary and that the death of Jesus somehow changed the creatures that are unclean (unfit to eat) into something clean (fit to eat).