ews famously don’t touch the stuff. Muslims have followed suit. So why do Christians eat ham, bacon and other pork products?
The banning of ‘unclean’ pig meat is mentioned in both Leviticus 11:7 “Do not eat pigs. They must be considered unclean; they have divided hoofs, but do not chew the cud.”, and Deuteronomy 14:8 “The pig is also unclean; although it has a split hoof, it does not chew the cud. You are not to eat their meat or touch their carcasses.”
Some believe that early Christians’ refrained from eating pork and that the trend for consuming it came later.
And this is technically true, but not so late that the turning point is not in the New Testament.
The key moment is outlined in Acts, chapter 15, which describes the Council at Jerusalem. This was a conference aimed at resolving the conflict between Judaic Christians from Jerusalem, and Gentile Christians from Antioch in Syria. The former wanted the latter to obey Mosaic customs such as circumcision.
A delegation, led by the apostle Paul and his friend Barnabas was appointed to confer with the elders of the church in Jerusalem. It was, essentially, a moment when the Church was modernised. Without it, Christianity might never have taken off as it did, and might not survive today.
The result was a letter sent to Gentile believers which concluded with this compromise: “You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.”
In fact, some argue that Jesus had already pointed the way, saying: ‘Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them’ (Mark 7:15).
This may have been what led Paul to say, “I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself…’ (Romans 14:14-15).
However the argument developed, the decision taken by the Jewish believers at the Council of Jerusalem to allow Gentiles to become Christians without adhering to Jewish dietary regulations and circumcision was arguably a key factor in Christianity becoming a genuinely worldwide faith. It made it clear that membership of the Christian community was to be based on faith in Christ, signified by the coming of the Holy Spirit on the disciples rather than by external observances.