77% of the world’s population identifies with one of the five largest religions: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism. Each of these religions follows its own customs and practices. Yet, they do each have something in common: dietary restrictions.
Islam has Halal and Judaism has kosher. Buddhism and Hinduism forbid most animal-based foods. There are even Christian dietary laws, which aren’t spoken about often and are adhered to even less frequently.
You always strive to be a better Christian. Part of that is knowing what Christians shouldn’t eat. That’s why we’re bringing you this guide to the dietary rules you should be following.
Want to know which restrictions apply to Catholics but not to Eastern Orthodox Christians? Keep reading to learn the answer to this question and more!
The Origin of Christian Dietary Laws
In Leviticus in the Old Testament, God gives a detailed description of what the Israelites can and cannot eat. He tells His chosen people that they should avoid eating camels, rabbits, pigs, and carrion birds. He also forbids sea creatures without fins or scales and all winged insects but for those that “swarm or jump.”
Further unclean foods in the Bible include:
- Not drinking the blood of any animal
- Not boiling kid goats in goat milk
- No yeast during the Feast of Unleavened Bread
Sound familiar? If you know anything about Judaism, you’ll recognize that these Old Testament dietary restrictions are the same ones Jewish people follow today. In the New Testament, though, God clarifies that these dietary laws are only for descendants of the Israelites (i.e., people of Jewish descent).
For example, in Acts, God orders Peter to eat from a bounty of unclean animals. Peter refuses three times, thinking it’s a test. Most modern Biblical scholars interpret this scene as God metaphorically releasing Peter and other non-Jewish Christians from the Old Testament food laws.
Still, many Christians prefer to avoid certain foods. If that sounds like you, keep learning about Christians and food choices.
Modern Christian Food Rules
Though the New Testament seems to repeal the Old Testament dietary laws, many dominations still follow Christian food laws.
One of the most prominent examples of this is that many Christians will avoid buying meat that has been offered to another God. That means not shopping at Halal butchers. It also means paying attention to the foods you buy in places like India, where local butchers may offer food to Hindu gods.
Also, some people believe that God never lifted the restriction on animal blood in the New Testament. That means avoiding animals that haven’t been drained of blood (i.e., strangled animals). Look out for blood-containing foods, too, like blood sausage and black pudding.
Still, others believe that regardless of the New Testament, Old Testament dietary restrictions apply to all Christians. Not just descendants of the Israelites. If this is how you feel, here’s a list of foods that generally considered clean for all Christians.
- Some birds, including chicken and turkey
- Some hooved-animal meats such as beef, venison, and lamb
- Fish, as long as they have scales and fins
Locusts, bald locust beetles, and grasshoppers are also allowed under Christian dietary laws. We think God would understand, though, if you’d prefer to avoid crunching down insects.
During Lent, Catholics practice food restrictions regarding meat. You are not allowed to eat meat on Fridays for the six weeks leading up to Easter.
Good Friday and Ash Wednesday also have rules surrounding food. In this case, though, the rules are regarding fasting. Catholics are to abstain from eating on these religious holidays.
Eastern Orthodox Christians are similar to Catholics in that they fast. Though these fasts occur weekly rather than only on holidays. On Wednesdays and Fridays during weekly fasts, Eastern Orthodox Christians must avoid alcohol, eggs, dairy, fish, meat, and olive oil.
Eastern Orthodoxy also has fasting seasons and fasting days. These take place throughout the year and have various food restrictions to follow. Fast days include The Eve of Theophany (January 5th), The Beheading of St. John the Baptist (August 29th), and the Elevation of the Cross (September 14th).
Seventh-Day Adventists are among the only modern Christians who follow year-round restrictions on some foods. Seventh-Day Adventists are often called lacto-ovo-vegetarians. This means they don’t eat any animal products, except for eggs and dairy.
Of all the food laws among the different Christian dominations, Mormonism is perhaps most restrictive.
This is especially true regarding any mind-altering substances. Of course, that applies to drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. Yet, it also includes coffee, tea, and other highly-caffeinated drinks.
Additionally, Mormons must eat “respectfully.” This typically means eating small portions, wasting nothing, and refraining from binge-eating activities.
Like many other Christian religions, Mormonism also features fasting. On the first Sunday of every month, Mormons must abstain from two meals.
The Takeaway About Christian Dietary Guidelines
While the New Testament is hazy about Christian dietary laws and what you should eat, God does have something to say about how much you should eat. Never is this more apparent than when He discusses self-control. In Timothy, Galatians, and Peter, God says that a lack of self-control is a sin, which also applies to eating habits.
So, what’s the bottom line about what Christians shouldn’t eat? While many Christians agree that you don’t have to follow Old Testament restrictions, your health is probably better off if you do. Pray about your decision to follow these dietary guidelines, and you can’t go wrong.
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