Aren’t Christians banned from eating shellfish?

In several recent on-line debates I’ve seen/been involved in, when discussing the Biblical approach to sexual matters (i.e. “gay” marriage) the critisim has been thrown around that Christians aren’t consistent because we ignore passages on things such as eating of shellfish.

My reply to such things is pretty simple – read Acts 15. As gentiles entered the church, the Apostles sat down in the very first church council and discussed whether or not the new gentile believers were bound to the Jewish law – all that stuff about shellfish and not shaving you beard etc.

The result is this letter:

The apostles and elders, your brothers,

To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia:


24 We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. 25 So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. 28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.


Now, this letter is obviously in the Bible itself. So all those guys who are claiming Christians are ignoring stuff written in the bible, are… ignoring stuff written in the Bible.

But I’m not here to give you my version. No, why read what I have to say on the topic when you can read what a trained theologian, who did his masters’s thesis on the subject, has to say.

Next, there are clear indications that food restrictions that were introduced in the Law of Moses were temporary and restricted in scope. They were only intended for Israel, marking Israel out as different from other nations, until the purpose of God’s dealings with Israel was fulfilled when Jesus came into the world as the promised descendant of Abraham. God’s injunction to the Israelites was that these animals would be “unclean to you” (Leviticus 11:8). In Deutreonomy 14:1, all of these restrictions are mandated on the rationale that “You are the sons of the LORD your God.” In fact, for one of the restrictions (an animal that has just died of natural causes), we get another insight into the rationale (Deuteronomy 14:21): “You may give it to the sojourner who is within your towns, that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner. For you are a people holy to the LORD your God.” Laws against theft, murder or kidnapping were certainly never expressed this way – It’s wrong for an Israelite, but foreigners living among you can murder to their hearts’ content! But food laws were different, applying uniquely to descendants of the twelve patriarchs.

Anyway, go read the whole thing.

One final thought. I recognise that there are people out there that think Christianity is rubbish. I get told this every time I debate moral or theological issues with any atheist. But could someone, somewhere please recognise occasionally that just because you think something is wrong, that doesn’t mean it’s simple and it doesn’t mean that the people who have spent their lives studying it don’t know anything about what they’re talking about.

1 comment

  1. This is something that common sense deals with. The reasons for not eating shell fish (and probably pork) relate to practical problems with disease. Even today these require considearble more care than beef and lamb. Shell fish are the first encounter with nasty bacteria as environmental problems develop so it makes sense for a group with little science to be told to leave these alone. Later its made clear that nothing in the food line is forbidden. That the old warnings would probably still be minded makes sense but the later advice is a theological statement rather than a housekeeping one.

    The warnings against lax morals remain consistent and I guess there’s sound reasons for that whether you like it or not. Promiscuity does have a cost and its how you weight that that dictates how you behave.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: