Author Topic: Four-legged birds, insects and Leviticus 11:20-23  (Read 5374 times)

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Offline MichaelArchangelos

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Four-legged birds, insects and Leviticus 11:20-23
« on: July 25, 2007, 06:03:39 PM »
"All fowls that creep, going upon all four, shall be an abomination unto you.....but all other flying creeping things which have four feet, shall be an abomination unto you." Leviticus 11:20,23

There are no four legged birds (except mutations) and as far as I know, there aren't any four legged insects. Why would God have a prohibition against something that doesn't exist?

Reading this has shaken my faith in the Holy Scriptures

Offline Αριστοκλής

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Re: Four-legged birds, insects and Leviticus 11:20-23
« Reply #1 on: July 25, 2007, 06:09:04 PM »
Squirrels, some species do fly, bats.

As to fowls...wonder what the Septuagint says.

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« Last Edit: July 25, 2007, 06:10:12 PM by Αριστοκλής »
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Offline Ebor

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Re: Four-legged birds, insects and Leviticus 11:20-23
« Reply #2 on: July 25, 2007, 06:09:57 PM »
The first thing that came to my mind was bats, because they fly and "creep" when they land so they could be said to have 4 legs.

Ebor
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Offline Ebor

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Re: Four-legged birds, insects and Leviticus 11:20-23
« Reply #3 on: July 25, 2007, 06:18:28 PM »
I just looked up the passage in the KJV, the New American and the NRSV.  The last two have "winged insects" where the KJV has "fowls".  So it may be a matter if Elizabethan/Stuartian English usage.  Also, going down the section it refers to the allowable insects in verse 22: the locust, the cricket, the grasshopper.  And an example of a "four legged" insect could be the Preying Mantis (we have them in our yard so I know what they look like)  Usually you can see them standing on four legs while the front pair are being used rather like hands to hold on to prey.  So they eat meat, as it were, while the allowable insects eat plants. At least I *think* that they only eat plants (thinking of locust swarms on fields)  I'd have to look up more on them if needed. 

Ebor
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Offline Justin Kissel

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Re: Four-legged birds, insects and Leviticus 11:20-23
« Reply #4 on: July 25, 2007, 06:35:05 PM »
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Reading this has shaken my faith in the Holy Scriptures

Yeah, been there, done that ;) Fwiw, when I was having similar issues as a Protestant, I found the book The Debate About the Bible: Inerrancy Versus Infallibility, by Stephen T. Davis, to be helpful.

Offline ozgeorge

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Re: Four-legged birds, insects and Leviticus 11:20-23
« Reply #5 on: July 25, 2007, 06:51:32 PM »
As to fowls...wonder what the Septuagint says.
"έπετα τών πετεινών" ("Things which fly on wings"/"winged creatures")
« Last Edit: July 25, 2007, 06:52:38 PM by ozgeorge »
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Offline falafel333

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Re: Four-legged birds, insects and Leviticus 11:20-23
« Reply #6 on: July 26, 2007, 06:30:47 AM »
"All fowls that creep, going upon all four, shall be an abomination unto you.....but all other flying creeping things which have four feet, shall be an abomination unto you." Leviticus 11:20,23

There are no four legged birds (except mutations) and as far as I know, there aren't any four legged insects. Why would God have a prohibition against something that doesn't exist?

Reading this has shaken my faith in the Holy Scriptures

My friend you should not allow something so small, trite and simple to shake your faith. You will have a very hard time if in every debate you encounter with an individual your faith is shaken so much.

I think the response seems quite simple to me here:

A close reading of the passage will indicate that included with those four-legged flying insects which are forbidden are those which are not forbidden such as the locust, cricket and grasshopper. However, from what we understand of these insects they are not four-legged but actually have six legs, well according to modern day scientific classifications and definitions anyway. How can the passage refer to these insects as four-legged when obviously they aren't, well by our modern day scientific standards anyway? Obviously there must be some difference in definition here.

If we take another look at the text, it seems to differentiate between the feet of the insect and its legs - the legs being the hind legs with which it uses to leap as the text mentions. Therefore, if we add the two hind legs with the four front feet voila we have six feet/legs and problem solved.

I think the problem resides in trying to fit a text with a specific culture, geography, and time within our modern day scientific culture. Moses' intentions were to speak to the people in the language they understood and not in 21st century scientific jargon.

Offline Tzimis

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Re: Four-legged birds, insects and Leviticus 11:20-23
« Reply #7 on: July 26, 2007, 10:03:48 AM »
αλλα ταυτα φαγεσθε απο των ερπετων των πετεινων α πορευεται επι τεσσαρα α εχει σκελη ανωτερον των ποδων αυτου πηδαν εν αυτοις επι της γης

They are trying to make a distinction as to what type of flying bugs they are allowed to eat. Bugs that have four legs like the rear legs of a dog. Than it states the bugs as locust, cricket and grasshoppers in 11-22
Excellence of character, then, is a state concerned with choice, lying in a mean relative to us, this being determined by reason and in the way in which the man of practical wisdom would determine it. Now it is a mean between two vices, that which depends on excess and that which depends on defect.

Offline Heorhij

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Re: Four-legged birds, insects and Leviticus 11:20-23
« Reply #8 on: July 26, 2007, 10:12:18 AM »
Honestly, I would not even bother finding out, exactly what is meant under "four-legged birds."

It seems to me that it is the evil one who tries to implant into our heads thoughts like, "if something in the Bible is not true (meaning, exactly-precisely-literally factual), then the entire Bible is not true and my faith is not based on anything." I believe that Scripture was penned under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, but by men who had the knowledge about the world characteristic of the time and the culture they lived in. So, yes, they might have believed that the Sun orbits the Earth, or that there exist some "birds" that are four-legged, etc. Why should that impair my absorption of those high spiritual truths that the Bible contains?
« Last Edit: July 26, 2007, 10:12:57 AM by Heorhij »
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Offline Justin Kissel

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Re: Four-legged birds, insects and Leviticus 11:20-23
« Reply #9 on: July 26, 2007, 10:25:14 AM »
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Why should that impair my absorption of those high spiritual truths that the Bible contains?

With the approach you have, I'd agree: there shouldn't be a problem. However, not everyone takes that approach. Many people (including some Orthodox Christians) believe that there are absolutely, postively no errors in the Bible. They believe that the Bible not only has no bad teachings, but also has no wrong dates, no contradictory numbers, etc. They believe the Bible to not only be infallible, but also inerrant. I used to believe that as a Protestant. It was part of the foundation for how I understood the world. When I came to realise that (IMO) there are factual errors in the Bible, it threw me for a loop. I had to wonder, if I had been wrong about that important issue, maybe I was wrong about others? What about salvation? What about God himself? I remained a Christian for years after that, so it's not like I suddenly stopped believing, but I can definitely remember how hard it was to deal with at the time.
« Last Edit: July 26, 2007, 10:25:44 AM by Asteriktos »

Offline Heorhij

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Re: Four-legged birds, insects and Leviticus 11:20-23
« Reply #10 on: July 26, 2007, 11:22:34 AM »
With the approach you have, I'd agree: there shouldn't be a problem. However, not everyone takes that approach. Many people (including some Orthodox Christians) believe that there are absolutely, postively no errors in the Bible. They believe that the Bible not only has no bad teachings, but also has no wrong dates, no contradictory numbers, etc. They believe the Bible to not only be infallible, but also inerrant. I used to believe that as a Protestant. It was part of the foundation for how I understood the world. When I came to realise that (IMO) there are factual errors in the Bible, it threw me for a loop. I had to wonder, if I had been wrong about that important issue, maybe I was wrong about others? What about salvation? What about God himself? I remained a Christian for years after that, so it's not like I suddenly stopped believing, but I can definitely remember how hard it was to deal with at the time.

Asteriktos, I am sorry that it "threw you for a loop." I never experienced that, as I was raised in an absolutely secular-humanist family and in a very atheistic society. The notion that everything in the Bible is "inerrant" was never ingrained in me. As I am now, I believe that "God is" - yet, I believe it not because "the Bible says so," but because the world without God makes no sense to me, it is absurd.
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Offline Tzimis

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Re: Four-legged birds, insects and Leviticus 11:20-23
« Reply #11 on: July 27, 2007, 12:01:33 AM »
There is nothing wrong with the verse. What your reading as 4 legs I am reading as four jointed leg or four tarsal segments. Its that simple. The way your understanding the verse, it would lead you to believe that there are 4 legged bugs. It's only indicating the characteristics of one leg on the bug.
Excellence of character, then, is a state concerned with choice, lying in a mean relative to us, this being determined by reason and in the way in which the man of practical wisdom would determine it. Now it is a mean between two vices, that which depends on excess and that which depends on defect.

Offline Symeon

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Re: Four-legged birds, insects and Leviticus 11:20-23
« Reply #12 on: July 27, 2007, 03:30:49 PM »
Good old Tektonics...

Quote
    Lev. 11:20-3 All fowls that creep, going upon all four, shall be an abomination unto you. Yet these may ye eat of every flying creeping thing that goeth upon all four, which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth; even these of them ye may eat; the locust after his kind, and the bald locust after his kind, and the beetle after his kind, and the grasshopper after his kind. But all other flying creeping things, which have four feet, shall be an abomination unto you.

Is this an error -- since insects have six feet, not four, and since "fowl" have two feet, not four? The reference to "fowl" is thought by some skeptics to refer to birds, but the word used here is 'owph, which merely means a creature with wings -- it is the same word used in verse 21 (flying). The reference in both cases is to insects. Now we might be cute here and call this a poetic phrase (i.e., "crawling around on all fours"), and this is partially right. But there is an even better - and more correct - answer.

Quite simply, the big back legs on the locust, etc. were not counted as "legs" in the same sense as the other legs. Let's use an illustration from our popular literature, George Orwell's Animal Farm. In this story, Snowball the pig invented the slogan, "Four legs good, two legs bad" so as to exclude humans from Animal Farm society. The geese and other fowl objected, because they had only two legs. Snowball explained (more clearly in the book than in the movie) that in animal terms, the birds' wings counted as legs because they were limbs of propulsion, not manipulation, as a human's arms and hands were.

Now note the differentiation in Leviticus above -- referring to "legs above the feet" for leaping. The "feet" are being differentiated from the "legs above the feet" because of their difference in function. They are legs, but in a different sense than the "four" legs which are just called "feet." We are being told of two types of legs: The "on all four" legs (which are nowhere called legs; they are only called "feet" [v. 23]), and the "leaping legs." It is clear that the Hebrews regarded the two large, hopping hindlimbs of the locust and the other insects of the same type, which are the only types of insects mentioned here (we now translate "beetle" as "cricket"), as something different than the other four limbs - perhaps because they were used primarily for vertical propulsion, whereas the other limbs were for scurrying around. (Shifts of terminology like this happen even today; check this proposal to redefine "planet".)

Unacceptable? The alternative is to say that the Hebrews - who ate these things raw, for crying out loud - didn't see that these bugs had six legs. Maybe they closed their eyes before putting them in their mouths...?

(...)
http://www.tektonics.org/af/buglegs.html

Offline ytterbiumanalyst

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Re: Four-legged birds, insects and Leviticus 11:20-23
« Reply #13 on: July 27, 2007, 03:34:24 PM »
An amusing read, but I'm not ready to sign up for the Church of Orwell just yet.  ;)
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Offline Ebor

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Re: Four-legged birds, insects and Leviticus 11:20-23
« Reply #14 on: July 27, 2007, 10:43:10 PM »
This passage is, I think, a good example of how in reading things from other times, languages, translations etc. the connotations of some words can change.  One example that comes to mind is the word "naughty".  In my lifetime the word has usually applied to children who are up to mischief or misbehaving.  In earlier centuries such as in Middle English it meant 'wicked' 'evil' and 'immoral'.  In the 16th century it had such meanings as 'unhealthy' 'vicious' and 'inferior'.   Languages change, words get new shades of meaning or new definitions. 

http://www.bartleby.com/61/27/N0032700.html


The other thing is that in the first post of the thread the middle section of the passage is left out. It's shown that there is some missing material with the elipses.  And it is in that section that an explanation of what is meant is found! 

So, earlier meanings of words and looking at context can be very helpful.
 ;)

Ebor
« Last Edit: July 27, 2007, 10:43:57 PM by Ebor »
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Offline ozgeorge

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Re: Four-legged birds, insects and Leviticus 11:20-23
« Reply #15 on: July 27, 2007, 11:10:26 PM »
Yemenite Jews still eat locusts, which are considered kosher food, and if you look at a locust, you can see that indeed it is a winged creature which "has legs above it's feet" used for "leaping" (Leviticus 11:21). But compare this to the mole cricket (which belongs to the same kingdom, phylum, class and order as locusts) but which is not kosher, because, although it has wings, it does not have legs for leaping.
So clearly, "going on four feet" in this passage from Leviticus does not mean the same thing as "having only four legs", since locusts are described in the passage as "going on four feet", and as the quote cited by Symeon says:
Quote
"The alternative is to say that the Hebrews - who ate these things raw, for crying out loud - didn't see that these bugs had six legs. Maybe they closed their eyes before putting them in their mouths...?"

LOCUST:

MOLE CRICKET:
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