A Philosopher's Blog

Lobster & Leviticus

Posted in Religion by Michael LaBossiere on December 19, 2008

I have been thinking about Leviticus for two reasons. The first is the ongoing debate about same sex marriage. The second is that my Dad sent me some Maine lobsters for Christmas.

Why the link between lobster and same sex marriage?

Interestingly, male homosexuality and shellfish (technically all aquatic creatures lacking fins and scales) are both abominations.

In regards to the lobsters: “Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you.” In regards to male homosexuality: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.”  And, just to be complete, in regards to sex with lobsters: “Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion.”

I have no inclination to have sex with other men or with lobsters. But, I am rather fond of eating lobsters and would prefer not to think of myself as being involved in an abomination as I dip that claw meat into the butter (no, that is not a euphemism-I am talking about lobsters and lobsters alone).

When the rules in Leviticus were written it would make sense to regard shellfish as unclean. After all, there are many health concerns with them. For example, red tide can transform shell fish from a tasty treat to a toxic feast. Given the rather limited understanding of biology back then, such a sweeping injunction could be quite sensible. Now, if that is the reason behind the rule, then the rule would not really apply today. After all, with our better understanding of biology and health issues, we can consume shellfish safely.

Of course, some people believe that the rule is a direct command from God to never eat such things ever. As such, the argument that the rule was reasonable then but is no longer needed does not carry any weight. The question then arises as to what grounds the claim that such aquatic creatures are unclean abominations.

One possibility is the obvious one: they can be unclean in a very literal sense-they can be contaminated with toxins or other nastiness (bacteria, etc.). Of course, if they are not so contaminated (like the lobster I cooked and ate), then they would not be unclean. This, obviously enough, takes us back to the argument I presented above.

A second possibility is that such aquatic lifeforms are intrinsically unclean abominations. However, if being unclean or an abomination are real qualities, they should be detectable in the biology or the genetics of such creatures. However, there seems to be no biological or genetic standards for what would be an abomination.  As far as being unclean goes, that would seem to only mean that the creature is contaminated with substances harmful or unpleasant to humans. That could apply, but would take us back to the matter just considered.

A third possibility is that such aquatic lifeforms are metaphysically unclean or metaphysical abominations. That is, of course, to say that God made some nasty things. Of course, such metaphysical qualities seem to be undetectable. I’m a professional meta physician and I’ve eaten hundreds of lobsters. Yet, I have never discerned any metaphysical qualities relating to their being unclean or abominations. Then again, maybe that green stuff in them is the abomination or uncleanness. Naturally enough, if someone can show me the metaphysical uncleanness of a lobster, I’ll stop eating them. But, I’ve never even had  a stomach ache from eating lobster-so,if they are unclean, most people seem immune to their uncleanness.

A fourth possibility is that they are unclean abominations just because someone says they are. In this case, being unclean or an abomination merely means being called that by whoever gets to label things in this manner. It is not that the creatures have any objective qualities that make them unclean or abominations. They are just those things because someone says so. This would be analogous to something being illegal because people in charge say it is so. For example, if I were to park in a reserved space at my university, I would be ticketed and my truck might be towed. This is not because the space has special qualities. Rather, this is because the people who tell the folks with the tickets and tow trucks say that is how it will be. Perhaps this is the same situation for lobster-everyone who has eaten such creatures will eventually get a ticket or something for breaking the rules.

What about same sex marriage? Well, I have no desire to be involved with that myself. But, some of what I said about lobster would probably apply to that as well.


12 Responses

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  1. Pastor Curt said, on December 19, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    You have left out a rather important difference between lobsters and same sex marriage. The New Testament continues to prohibit homosexual behaviour while declaring that now all foods are clean. (cf I Cor 6:9 &Mark 7:19)

  2. magus71 said, on December 20, 2008 at 5:20 am

    Pastor Curt took the words right out of my mouth.

  3. Florence said, on December 21, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    About: “A third possibility is that such aquatic lifeforms are metaphysically unclean or metaphysical abominations. That is, of course, to say that God made some nasty things.”
    –God didn’t make any nasty things. Nasty things are a result of the effects of sin in the world. Just like Lucifer/Satan. God didn’t create Satan; he created Lucifer, and because of sin, Lucifer became Satan.

  4. mad ant said, on December 21, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    An interesting topic of discussion. I would not like to jump in the discussion about same sex marriage, just to point out that your ‘lumping’ of same sex marriages and eating lobsters (shell fish) does not quite seem logical (if we can use that term) here. For one, having sex and eating are by no means the same, if so, we could equate having sex with shell fish and eating men also, a rather disturbing idea. It is however interesting that the bible does frown on eating men and having sex with ‘beasts’, … I would however love to see the man (or woman) that tries to lie with a lobster!

    As I understand it, the rules regarding the foods that should be eaten were meant to protect for health reason – hence being called unclean. That being said, the above commenter that stated that foods are now all clean according to the bible (i.e. in the New Testament) is incorrect. A proper investigation of the matter will prove that. He is quite right, however, in claiming that the bible continues to frown upon same sex unions.

    That being said, I would think that if the actions of an animal makes it unclean, i.e. not fit for food in one dispensation (Old Testament), it should also be unfit for food in the other (New Testament), since its activities have not changed. Buzzards still eat dead meat, swine still transmit Trichinosis, shell fish still accumulate toxins and act as the cleaners of the sea, and the list goes on………. As a matter of fact, it is my opinion that some meats formerly known as ‘clean’ should now be considered ‘unclean’ due to man’s modification of their natural ecology (See Chickens, Beef, etc and how they are now grown and harvested).

    This brings to fore another interesting thought… the difference between the health laws in the old testament and the law of God as spoken from the mountain… but that is another topic for another time….

    Happy hunting my friend………

  5. kernunos said, on December 21, 2008 at 11:41 pm

    I prefer crab meat. Mmmmm, mmmmm. Oh, and if you are not getting sick eating Lobster then you need more butter.

  6. Pastor Curt said, on December 22, 2008 at 9:47 am

    Mad ant, I acknowledge that the animals declared unclean in the Old Testament were, and still are, not a healthy choice for consumption. My point was that consuming lobster under the old covenant was a transgression of the law and therefore a sin. Under the new covenant, it is no longer a sin in the spiritual sense.

    Homosexual behavior on the other hand is still declared sinful.

  7. dynamomelano said, on December 23, 2008 at 12:26 am

    Pastor Curt, if unclean meat laws from the Old Testament were abolished in the New Testament by Jesus as you claim, why then, Peter (after Jesus’ death), when talking to Jesus during his vision, said “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean”, when replying to Jesus’ order “Rise, Peter; kill, and eat”? (Acts 10:13,14; all KJV)

    The unclean meat laws were not abolished, the only abolished ceremonial laws were the ones having to do with the sacrifices and the forgiveness of sins and Yom Kippur; and only after Jesus’ death, since his sacrifice is the only one worthy enough to forgive every single sin of every single person that has ever lived and will live on Earth, and forever, without needing additional subsequent sacrifices for future sins.
    –“the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom” (Matthew 27:51) = the sacrifices were no longer needed; a human did not tear the curtain (containing the blood from sacrifices) in the temple, it was ripped from top to bottom, not bottom to top
    –Jesus, before dying, said “It is finished” (John 19:30) = the plan of salvation was finished, completed, no more need for more sacrifices because His was enough

    And please, understand that the vision in Acts 10 has nothing to do with eating certain types of foods, it has to do with all kinds of peoples being equal in God’s eyes and deserving salvation equally (Acts 10:15,28,34). The Jews believed they were the only ones deserving the grace of God and salvation, but Jesus taught otherwise: Matthew 15:22-28, Mark 7:25-30.

  8. magus71 said, on December 23, 2008 at 4:27 am

    Sorry, but it’s been pretty clear for 2000 years. Lobster OK. Man on man sex: Not so ok.

  9. Pastor Curt said, on December 23, 2008 at 9:05 am

    dynamomelano, The earthly ministry of Jesus was “to the house of Israel”. It is in Acts 10 that the ministry is intentionally extended to include the Gentile world. As more and more Gentiles were converted there was great debate over whether or not the Gentile converts had to adapt the Mosaic law, including circumcision and the dietary restrictions. It was decided that conversion to the Mosaic law was not necessary. You can read the story for yourself in Acts 15:22-29.

  10. mad ant said, on December 23, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that WHOSOEVER believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the WORLD to condemn the WORLD; but that the WORLD through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:16-18 KJV)

    [note.. this does not specify Jews] … there is more like this… but I will stop here for brevity.

    This is just to say that Jesus’ earthly ministry was not ONLY to the Jews, it was for everyone. He came to give them another chance to fulfill the mandate that they were given from times past (Old Testament) to spread the good news of God’s love to the world. Alas, they crucified him and then stoned Steven ultimately rejecting that mandate and Christ in the process.

    Pastor curt is right in stating that the mandate was extended to the Gentiles in Acts, but that was the whole point all along…. The message was never meant to be only for the Jews. They were chosen as Christ’s (God’s) representatives and were supposed to show the nations around them who the true God is, but they did not. They instead got ‘Haughty” and ‘Puffed up’ thinking of themselves as ‘better than’ everyone else and their religion became a ‘form of godliness’ but ‘lacking the power thereof’.

    Your friendly lurker
    – mad ant

  11. Pastor Curt said, on December 24, 2008 at 8:18 am

    mad ant, I agree that the ministry of Jesus was meant for the whole world. On this day before Christmas it would be appropriate to cite a portion of Simeon’s statement when Jesus was presented at the temple as an infant, Jesus was, and is, ” A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,” Luke 2:32a

  12. Dan said, on January 26, 2009 at 4:57 am

    Man on man sex can spread deadly disease, so does eating unclean meat.

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