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Natural or Ceremonial Uncleanness

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Archives / 1932 / April



Natural or Ceremonial Uncleanness

Clifton L. Taylor

Clifton L. Taylor.


Do we as seventh-day Adventists abstain from swine's flesh from physio­logical or theological reasons?

The distinction between clean and unclean animals is recognized in the first book of the Bible (Gen. 7:2) and also in the last (Rev. 18:2). More than two millenniums before the law of Moses was given, Abel brought a clean animal as a sacrifice to God. Clean beasts entered the ark by sevens, the unclean by twos. Abraham set be­fore his heavenly visitors "a calf which he had dressed," a clean beast, "and they did eat." After some two cen­turies of slavery in Egypt, God found it necessary to define anew for His people the line dividing the clean from the unclean. Leviticus 11. Only clean animals were specified as appropriate for sacrifice, as types of the One who would "make His soul an offering for sin." Christ provided for the multi­tude and again for His disciples, fish to eat (Matt. 15:36; John 21:13), but only clean fish. Acts 10:14.

Animals that were unclean in the days of Noah, centuries before the Levitical law, are still unclean, many centuries after that law was abolished. Their flesh is still unfit for food. At the second advent God will visit His displeasure alike on Occidentals who devour swine's flesh, and on Orientals who eat mice and other abominations. Isa. 66:15-17.

Now there is another form of un­cleanness known as ceremonial, which receives much attention in the Scrip­tures. It appears in the Mosaic law in various forms, and may be recognized in expressions such as the following:

"Shall be unclean until the even." Lev. 11:31.

"She shall be unclean two weeks." Lev. 12:5.

"Make an atonement for the house: and it shall be clean." Lev. 14:53.

"Whosoever toucheth . . . a grave, shall be unclean seven days." Num. 19: 16.

These distinctions of ceremonial un­cleanness were all obliterated at the cross. Colossians 2. It is of ceremo­nial uncleanness that Paul declares, "There is nothing unclean of itself." Rom. 14:14. Peter's vision was not, as some suppose, intended to teach that men might eat unclean flesh foods. Peter himself gives the meaning: "God hath showed me that I should not call any man common or unclean." Acts 10:28.

The most pertinent passages in the Spirit of prophecy on this subject may be found in "Testimonies for the Church," Vol. II, p. 96; "Ministry of Healing," pp. 312-314; "Counsels on Health," p. 116. A good exposition of Romans 14:14 is contained in Elder M. C. Wilcox's "Questions and Answers," Vol. I, pp. 196-198. The Expositors' Bible presents some valuable state­ments regarding the scientific basis for the eleventh chapter of Leviticus.

From the foregoing evidence I con­clude that while the law of ceremonial uncleanness was transitory in its char­acter, the injunction, "Thou shalt not eat any abominable thing" (Deut. 14: 3) in the Old Testament, and, "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10: 31), in the New Testament, express an eternal obliga­tion binding upon God's people in all ages. The lists in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 indicated those ani­mals that were naturally, not cere­monially, unfit for food. There is no reason to suppose that the flesh of unclean beasts is better today than when those lists were given. The de­duction is inevitable that we cannot eat these abominable things and at the same time eat to the glory of God.

"The laws of nature are the laws of God."—"Testimonies," Vol. VI, p. 369.

Clifton L. Taylor.

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