The Bible and Science

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Earlier centuries saw little conflict between the Scriptures and science. It was common for scientists and churchmen alike to view the Bible and science as in complete agreement. If an apparent discrepancy came to light, the Bible was considered more trustworthy, but the two were widely accepted as harmonious.

But the harmony that once existed between the Bible and the scientific community has largely dissolved. As biblical misinterpretations and assumptions—along with religion in general—have been discredited, people have increasingly turned almost exclusively to science and human reasoning for answers. As a result, people generally have much more confidence in science and scientific pronouncements— verified or not —than in God’s Word.

A brief look at the world around us shows us that science has indeed been enthroned in our culture. Religion, in comparison, has been forcibly dethroned. A recent demographic study concluded that, of the 40 hours a week of free time the average American is said to have, a typical woman allots about 15 hours to television and only a single hour to religion. Among men the time devoted to religion is even less. Technology and entertainment have conspired to knock religion off its pedestal.

Where the usual approach in the past was to let the Bible take precedence over scientific discoveries, now the situation is reversed. “There developed in the nineteenth century what has been called ‘scientism.’ This holds that only science has the key to truth and that whatever is not scientific is false” (James Hitchcock, What Is Secular Humanism? 1982, p. 44). Today the typical academic will elevate a biology text or theory far above the Bible.

What are the implications of this approach?

One significant reality is that science alone cannot offer us a law or moral standard to tell us how to live. Science, because it concerns itself with physical things which can be observed, measured and analyzed, rejects the notion of a spirit world or spiritual influence in human affairs. This has led many to a strictly materialistic outlook. Rejecting any spiritual dimension to our lives and existence, the materialistic approach presumes that man is ultimately only another animal and that the survival of the fittest applies in human affairs as well.

We have seen this approach tragically played out in history. Genocide has been perpetrated more than once in the last century. Our scientific achievements now make widespread genocide a terrifying possibility. Conventional, nuclear, chemical and biological weapons can annihilate entire populations.

When the scientific community replaced the church in the pantheon of humanity’s gods, it promised a utopia of peace, prosperity and plenty that religion had failed to bring about. But, sadly, the scientific world has provided its share of frightening contributions to the witches’ brew of world troubles.

Not only has it failed to produce a peaceful world, but it has given us the nightmarish problems of industrial, chemical and nuclear pollution, among many others. Scientific technology has indeed benefited us in many ways. But it has contributed immensely to the frightening array of stresses, sicknesses and fears we face today.

Basic biblical solutions to human problems

The Bible describes the wrong type of fear as a form of enslavement. It also reveals how we can be freed from fear (see Hebrews 2:14-15 Hebrews 2:14-15 14 For as much then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
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). It tells us that there is no fear in love (1 John 4:18 1 John 4:18There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love.
American King James Version×
). The book of Psalms depicts God’s servants turning to Him to calm their anxiety: “In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul” (Psalms 94:19 Psalms 94:19In the multitude of my thoughts within me your comforts delight my soul.
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). King David took his anxieties to God (Psalms 139:23-24 Psalms 139:23-24 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: 24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
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).

The Bible shares many examples of people who found comfort in the face of death and other sorrows because they found in the Scriptures the solution to these problems. The Bible is a practical book, and it addresses our greatest needs and weaknesses.

God’s Word provides answers to the greatest of problems. We have already seen that the Bible has an excellent track record in its historicity and accuracy. But how about its instruction, which, if followed, affects our everyday lives? How do we know that the information in the Bible is true? Must we take it on faith alone?

The Bible is certainly to be understood and accepted by faith. However, it is not an unreasoning, blind faith. The Bible nowhere requires us to commit intellectual suicide to be able to believe it is God’s Word. When properly understood, the Scriptures are eminently sensible, consistent and logical.

This booklet provides compelling evidence that the Bible is true, and many other books offer additional evidence in much greater detail. Belief in God’s Word doesn’t have to be mere hope; it can be based firmly on fact when all the evidence is considered.

Andrew Dickson White, 19th-century historian, took issue with those who would assert that the Bible is a scientific text. White was correct in pointing out that the Bible is not a science textbook. But it contains scientific truth. It is scientifically accurate.

Sadly, many people have come to view science and the Bible as contradictory. Although at times they appear to disagree, when we carefully weigh all the evidence before reaching a conclusion, scientific discoveries often verify the biblical account. We must keep in mind that science itself is a process of learning; new discoveries regularly modify and in some cases overturn assumptions previously regarded as fact. Scientists have long proven other scientists to be wrong.

A close look at the evidence shows that the Holy Scriptures proclaim and impart knowledge that man, through his own scientific research, has only recently discovered. This knowledge is basic, but it would have vastly improved humanity’s lot had it been properly understood and applied.

Let’s consider some truths that were recorded in the Bible thousands of years ago but that were only recently rediscovered and confirmed by other sources as being scientifically supportable.

Bible instruction far ahead of its time

Although the Bible does not give a great deal of instruction that pertains to health and medicine, it does give fundamentally sound advice that is taken for granted by most people.

To grasp how far ahead of its time the Bible’s instruction proved to be, consider the state of medical knowledge in Egypt, the most powerful nation during the period in which God revealed His health laws to Moses. The Egyptians suffered many diseases because they did not understand the health principles God gave Moses. Their ignorance is illustrated in the Ebers Papyrus, an Egyptian medical text dating from 1500 B.C. (about the time of Moses).

“The remedies it prescribes make modern readers cringe. A few of the treatments include: statue dust, beetle shells, mouse tails, cat hair, pig eyes, dog toes, breast milk, human semen, eel eyes, and goose guts … To splinters, the ancient Egyptian doctors applied a salve of worm blood and donkey dung. Since dung is loaded with tetanus spores, a simple splinter often resulted in a gruesome death from lockjaw” (S.I. McMillen, M.D., and David Stern, M.D., None of These Diseases, 2000, p. 10).

The Egyptians believed evil spirits were the cause of illness. Consequently the priest-physicians applied “magical” cures. Conversely, the biblical instructions regarding health maintenance and recovery from illness involve application of cause-and-effect principles—based on true science—that were given thousands of years before scientists developed the technology that enabled them to discover germs, bacteria, viruses, genes and the like. Modern medical science has discovered many principles of good health, but God originated them.

Moses and Egyptian medicine

Moses lived in Egypt while such misguided “cures” were being practiced. Raised in the royal court as an adopted son of the pharaoh’s daughter, he was “educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22 Acts 7:22And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.
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, NIV)—which no doubt included these dangerous infection-spreading practices.

Had Moses simply relied on his own learning to write basic health instructions for the nation of Israel, we might expect them to include many Egyptian medical misconceptions. Yet we find not a single one.

In contrast, God offered a surprising promise: “If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you” (Exodus 15:26 Exodus 15:26And said, If you will diligently listen to the voice of the LORD your God, and will do that which is right in his sight, and will give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases on you, which I have brought on the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that heals you.
American King James Version×
, NIV).

For several centuries the Israelites, like the Egyptians around them, had died of disease by the thousands. God’s promise of freedom from disease was astounding!

“God then gave Moses many health rules, filling a whole section of the Bible … Thousands have died through the centuries, however, because doctors ignored the biblical rules. Finally, when doctors read and tried these guidelines, they quickly discovered how to prevent the spread of epidemics. Thus Moses could be called the father of modern infection control. Even today we are still benefiting from God’s 3,500-year-old instructions” (McMillen and Stern, p. 11).

Basic sanitation instructions

In contrast to the unsanitary medical treatments of the Egyptians, God emphasized physical cleanliness to His people. Today no educated person doubts the connection between hygiene and health. The major plagues and epidemics that killed millions through the ages generally originated because this principle was compromised in some way. Cholera, for example, has been one of the major killer diseases throughout history. It breaks out when sanitation principles are violated, and the resultant epidemics can be global.

To illustrate, a cholera pandemic began in India in 1817, then spread to China, Sri Lanka, East Africa, the Philippines, Japan, Persia, Arabia and Russia. Another wave began in India in 1826, following a similar course, but spread also to mainland Europe and the British Isles. From there it crossed the Atlantic to Canada, and then it made its way to the United States, where it spread throughout most of the country before finally dying out in 1838.

To this day cholera is endemic to many parts of the world and breaks out when unsanitary conditions prevail. This is especially true when the improper disposal of sewage is present, because the disease is usually spread from the fecal matter of cholera victims. Should we see a large-scale breakdown of sanitary measures, health authorities warn that today’s rapid travel could lead to a cholera pandemic in weeks or months.

Yet thousands of years ago the Bible provided instruction that would prevent cholera, typhus, dysentery, hepatitis and other similar epidemics: “Designate a place outside the camp where you can go to relieve yourself. As part of your equipment have something to dig with, and when you relieve yourself, dig a hole and cover up your excrement” (Deuteronomy 23:12-13 Deuteronomy 23:12-13 12 You shall have a place also without the camp, where you shall go forth abroad: 13 And you shall have a paddle on your weapon; and it shall be, when you will ease yourself abroad, you shall dig therewith, and shall turn back and cover that which comes from you:
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, NIV).

“Used as directed, this [simple] prescription could have saved more lives than every drug ever made” (McMillen and Stern, p. 34). God directed that raw human sewage must be disposed of in a manner that keeps people and animals from direct contact with it. We know from sad experience that carelessness by negligent people can start a full-scale epidemic, particularly if the sanitary standards of a community are lax. Collective diligence is essential for avoiding the spread of contagious diseases—just as God directed 3,500 years ago.

A lesson from the Black Death

As we’ve just seen, the foundation of good health is an adequate sanitary code. The Bible reveals the fundamentals of such a code in the book of Leviticus. This book “deals with public hygiene, water supply, sewage disposal, inspection and selection of food, and control of infectious disease” ( New Bible Dictionary, 1996, “Health, Disease and Healing”). Although we take this knowledge for granted today, these principles came to be understood and accepted by scientists only in recent centuries.

Most of these principles were disregarded during the Middle Ages in Europe. Why? Simply because the Bible was not generally available. The consequences of so few people having the knowledge it offered were catastrophic.

The dreaded Black Death of the Middle Ages thrived in the unsanitary conditions of medieval Europe. The plague first appeared there in 1347 “when a Genoese fleet returning from the Orient staggered into Messina harbor, all members of its crews dead or dying from a combination of bubonic, pneumonic, and septicemic plague strains” (Manchester, p. 34). The resulting plagues of that century are estimated to have killed up to a fourth of the Continent’s population.

The plague revisited Europe periodically for several hundred years. It was common practice in the cities of the Middle Ages to allow garbage and sewage to accumulate on the streets. This filth provided an abundant food source for a burgeoning rat population, which served as host to the fleas that bore the plague organisms.

However, the people who practiced the sanitary guidelines described in the Bible were affected much less severely. The Jewish population, which was much better acquainted with the Scriptures during that time, suffered far less because it practiced biblical principles of cleanliness.

For example, they conducted a thorough housecleaning each year in removing leavening from their homes in preparation for the biblical Feast of Unleavened Bread (Exodus 12:15-19 Exodus 12:15-19 15 Seven days shall you eat unleavened bread; even the first day you shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel. 16 And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you. 17 And you shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall you observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever. 18 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even. 19 Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses: for whoever eats that which is leavened, even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land.
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), which removed the food crumbs that attracted rats and mice. And one of their saving practices during the plague was that of quarantining those suspected of being infected with it (compare Leviticus 13:46 Leviticus 13:46All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be.
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).

In fact, “the origin of the word ‘quarantine’ [from the Latin for 40] is the Jewish use of the period of 40 days of segregation from patients with certain diseases … adopted by the Italians in the 14th century because of the relative immunity of Jews from certain plagues” ( New Bible Dictionary, 1996, “Health, Disease and Healing,” p. 455).

Had people known and used the biblical principles of public health when the Black Death first struck, the epidemic could have been controlled or eliminated. Fatalities would no doubt have been only a fraction of what they were. Hundreds of thousands of lives could have been saved.

Death in Vienna

In 19th-century Europe no one knew about bacteria. In a hospital in Vienna, Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis was appalled at the death rate of pregnant women who came to the hospital to give birth. The deaths were attributed to “labor fever.” After the women died, medical students would perform autopsies and then immediately proceed to treat live patients.

After much observation, Dr. Semmelweis arrived at a revolutionary conclusion: It might be contaminants on the medical students’ hands that were responsible for spreading death from one patient to another. Thus he ordered the interns to wash their hands in chlorinated water.

He then watched to see the results. “The history books tell us what happened next … In just three months the death rate fell from 18 percent to 1 percent” (McMillen and Stern, p. 20).

Yet more than 3,000 years earlier God had revealed to Moses the sanitary measures people were to take if they touched a corpse. First, they were to be considered “unclean” for seven days and had to wash with water on the third and seventh days (Numbers 19:12-13 Numbers 19:12-13 12 He shall purify himself with it on the third day, and on the seventh day he shall be clean: but if he purify not himself the third day, then the seventh day he shall not be clean. 13 Whoever touches the dead body of any man that is dead, and purifies not himself, defiles the tabernacle of the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from Israel: because the water of separation was not sprinkled on him, he shall be unclean; his uncleanness is yet on him.
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). As long as a person was unclean, he was to avoid social contact with others.

Although it served a ritualistic purpose, this law also protected others from exposure to harmful bacteria, even though people at the time did not know such things existed. The washing procedure cleansed the person of germs, and exposure to fresh air and sunlight between washings assisted in further purification.

The benefits of sexual purity

One of the current controversies swirling around sexual permissiveness in society is the imperative of practicing “safe sex.” The truth is that there is only one kind of completely safe sex, and that is to live by the laws of the Bible regarding sexual behavior. Sexual practices should always be monogamous and always within the context of marriage.

Rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are surging the world over. “Worldwide, estimates hold that there are more than 300 million cases of STIs annually” ( Johns Hopkins Family Health Book, 1999, p. 861). And “worldwide in the next few decades AIDS is expected to kill almost 300 million—more than the population of the entire United States” (McMillen and Stern, p. 116).

Some experts push condoms as a reliable way to arrest these epidemics. But condoms are not the answer. “Condoms, long the mainstay of the safe-sex public health model, do not protect against the spread of nearly all sexually transmitted diseases, according to a benchmark report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services” ( Women’s Health Weekly, Sept. 6, 2001, emphasis added).

Huge numbers lose their health, reproductive capacity and sometimes even their lives because of sexual promiscuity. They find themselves regretful only when it is too late. “For the lips of an immoral woman drip honey, and her mouth is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword … And you mourn at last, when your flesh and your body are consumed” (Proverbs 5:3-4 Proverbs 5:3-4 3 For the lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil: 4 But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword.
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, 11).

Sexual permissiveness can also cause psychological harm. Adultery saddles a person with guilt and destroys marriages. Sexual profligacy before marriage detracts from happiness after marriage.

For many people cohabitation serves as a substitute for marriage. Yet it is a cheap and ungodly substitute. “People who are cohabiting are less happy generally than the married and are less satisfied with their sex lives” (Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher, The Case for Marriage, 2000, p. 74).

A systematic study found “higher reported levels of emotional and physical pleasure for married people than for cohabiting or single people” ( Journal of Marriage and Family, February 2001). Serial cohabitants also run a high risk of contracting STDs, which they are apt to pass on to later sexual partners, including their spouses if they later marry.

The Seventh Commandment—”You shall not commit adultery”—is God’s way of preventing epidemics of STDs, as well as helping us achieve happiness sexually and in other areas of life. “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Hebrews 13:4 Hebrews 13:4Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
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, NIV).

Treatment of wounds

The Bible also shows by example how a wound should be treated and dressed. The story of the Good Samaritan tells us that he applied wine and oil to the victim’s wounds, then bound them up to protect them while they healed (Luke 10:34 Luke 10:34And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
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). The wine served as a disinfectant and the olive oil as a soothing lotion.

As The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia observes: “Olive oil has certain curative qualities and is still used in modern medicine.” The mixture of the wine and oil provided a disinfectant with which the Samaritan treated the victim (1986, “Oil”). These procedures were largely forgotten for centuries until rediscovered in recent decades.

If similar techniques had been known and used even as recently as the American Civil War, the death rate could have been much lower. In that war “more than one half of the men who died were not killed in action; they simply died of camp diseases: typhoid fever, pneumonia, dysentery, and childhood diseases like measles and chicken pox.”

Thousands perished from relatively minor battle wounds that became infected. “Nothing was known about how and why wounds became infected … The number of men who simply got sick and died, or who got a minor scratch or cut and then could do nothing to check the infection was appalling” (Bruce Catton, Reflections on the Civil War, 1982, p. 43).

The power of a positive attitude

Numerous other examples bear out the truth of biblical principles recorded thousands of years ago. “Getting [habitually] angry is like taking a small dose of some slow-acting poison—arsenic, for example—every day of your life” (Redford Williams, M.D., and Virginia Williams, M.D., quoted by McMillen and Stern, p. 205). The Bible exhorts us in several places to not be easily angered. “He who is slow to wrath has great understanding,” says Proverbs 14:29 Proverbs 14:29He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalts folly.
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.

Proverbs 17:22 Proverbs 17:22A merry heart does good like a medicine: but a broken spirit dries the bones.
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tells us that “a merry heart does good, like medicine.” A generally cheerful and optimistic outlook promotes good health.

Scientific research verifies this simple truth. A 27-year study conducted by Duke University “found that people who reported … despair, low self-esteem, lack of motivation … were 70 percent more likely to have a heart attack” ( Portland Oregonian, June 20, 1996). Additional studies have shown that prolonged unresolved hostility is a significant contributor to heart attacks.

In another study, Dr. Michael Miller and colleagues at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore tested the function of blood vessels of 20 healthy volunteers as they were shown two movies—one humorous, the other stressful. They focused particularly on the endothelium, the lining of the blood vessels, where atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) begins.

They found that blood flow diminished in 14 of the 20 subjects after they watched stressful movie clips. Their blood flow decreased an average of 35 percent during those stressful periods.

In contrast, 19 of the 20 study subjects had increased blood flow when laughing at humorous movie segments, with blood flow increasing an average of 22 percent.

“We don’t recommend that you laugh and not exercise, but we do recommend that you try to laugh on a regular basis,” said Dr. Miller in reporting on the study. “Thirty minutes of exercise three times a week, and 15 minutes of laughter on a daily basis is probably good for the vascular system.” He explained that “laughing may be important to maintain a healthy endothelium, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.”

He also explained that “the magnitude of change we saw in the endothelium is similar to the benefit we might see with aerobic activity, but without the aches, pains and muscle tension associated with exercise.”

In yet another study, 1,005 heart failure patients were tracked and tested for depression by Dr. Wei Jiang and colleagues at North Carolina’s Duke University. Dr. Jiang reported that patients with mild depression were at 44 percent greater risk of dying than those not experiencing depression, excluding other factors such as age, marital status and original cause of the patients’ heart failure.

Bible instructions about diet

Theological as well as medical researchers have recognized the benefits of following the dietary laws given in Scripture. Commenting on Leviticus 11-15, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary states: “In general it can be said that the laws protected Israel from bad diet, dangerous vermin, and communicable diseases. Only in recent days have better laws of health been possible with the advance of medicine. These were rule-of-thumb laws that God gave in his wisdom to a people who could not know the reason for the provision …

“The Hebrew was not only to avoid eating unclean animals; he was not to touch their dead carcasses. Thus the laws automatically helped control vermin. Common unclean animals would be spiders, flies, bugs, rats, and mice. A dead rat in a Hebrew house was not overlooked. It was carefully taken out and buried. In an effort to avoid such problems, the Hebrew housewife would normally keep a clean house …

“It is, of course, true that some cultures have adopted similar rules out of sad experience. The [Old Testament] did not get its taboos from surrounding cultures, but some other cultures in later times adopted by experience some of these taboos … The laws were wonderfully fashioned by God for the general health of the nation” (R. Laird Harris, Vol. 2, 1990, p. 569).

Theology professor Roland Harrison writes: “The classification of animal species into clean and unclean categories (Leviticus 11:1-47 Leviticus 11:1-47 1 And the LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying to them, 2 Speak to the children of Israel, saying, These are the beasts which you shall eat among all the beasts that are on the earth. 3 Whatever parts the hoof, and is cloven footed, and chews the cud, among the beasts, that shall you eat. 4 Nevertheless these shall you not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the hoof: as the camel, because he chews the cud, but divides not the hoof; he is unclean to you. 5 And the coney, because he chews the cud, but divides not the hoof; he is unclean to you. 6 And the hare, because he chews the cud, but divides not the hoof; he is unclean to you. 7 And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be cloven footed, yet he chews not the cud; he is unclean to you. 8 Of their flesh shall you not eat, and their carcass shall you not touch; they are unclean to you. 9 These shall you eat of all that are in the waters: whatever has fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall you eat. 10 And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination to you: 11 They shall be even an abomination to you; you shall not eat of their flesh, but you shall have their carcasses in abomination. 12 Whatever has no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination to you. 13 And these are they which you shall have in abomination among the fowls; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the ospray, 14 And the vulture, and the kite after his kind; 15 Every raven after his kind; 16 And the owl, and the night hawk, and the cuckow, and the hawk after his kind, 17 And the little owl, and the cormorant, and the great owl, 18 And the swan, and the pelican, and the gier eagle, 19 And the stork, the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat. 20 All fowls that creep, going on all four, shall be an abomination to you. 21 Yet these may you eat of every flying creeping thing that goes on all four, which have legs above their feet, to leap with on the earth; 22 Even these of them you 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. 23 But all other flying creeping things, which have four feet, shall be an abomination to you. 24 And for these you shall be unclean: whoever touches the carcass of them shall be unclean until the even. 25 And whoever bears ought of the carcass of them shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even. 26 The carcasses of every beast which divides the hoof, and is not cloven footed, nor chews the cud, are unclean to you: every one that touches them shall be unclean. 27 And whatever goes on his paws, among all manner of beasts that go on all four, those are unclean to you: whoever touches their carcass shall be unclean until the even. 28 And he that bears the carcass of them shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even: they are unclean to you. 29 These also shall be unclean to you among the creeping things that creep on the earth; the weasel, and the mouse, and the tortoise after his kind, 30 And the ferret, and the chameleon, and the lizard, and the snail, and the mole. 31 These are unclean to you among all that creep: whoever does touch them, when they be dead, shall be unclean until the even. 32 And on whatever any of them, when they are dead, does fall, it shall be unclean; whether it be any vessel of wood, or raiment, or skin, or sack, whatever vessel it be, wherein any work is done, it must be put into water, and it shall be unclean until the even; so it shall be cleansed. 33 And every earthen vessel, into where any of them falls, whatever is in it shall be unclean; and you shall break it. 34 Of all meat which may be eaten, that on which such water comes shall be unclean: and all drink that may be drunk in every such vessel shall be unclean. 35 And every thing whereupon any part of their carcass falls shall be unclean; whether it be oven, or ranges for pots, they shall be broken down: for they are unclean and shall be unclean to you. 36 Nevertheless a fountain or pit, wherein there is plenty of water, shall be clean: but that which touches their carcass shall be unclean. 37 And if any part of their carcass fall on any sowing seed which is to be sown, it shall be clean. 38 But if any water be put on the seed, and any part of their carcass fall thereon, it shall be unclean to you. 39 And if any beast, of which you may eat, die; he that touches the carcass thereof shall be unclean until the even. 40 And he that eats of the carcass of it shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even: he also that bears the carcass of it shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even. 41 And every creeping thing that creeps on the earth shall be an abomination; it shall not be eaten. 42 Whatever goes on the belly, and whatever goes on all four, or whatever has more feet among all creeping things that creep on the earth, them you shall not eat; for they are an abomination. 43 You shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creeps, neither shall you make yourselves unclean with them, that you should be defiled thereby. 44 For I am the LORD your God: you shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall you defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creeps on the earth. 45 For I am the LORD that brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: you shall therefore be holy, for I am holy. 46 This is the law of the beasts, and of the fowl, and of every living creature that moves in the waters, and of every creature that creeps on the earth: 47 To make a difference between the unclean and the clean, and between the beast that may be eaten and the beast that may not be eaten.
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) is significant because, being part of the Pentateuchal medical code, it constituted the basis of dietary regulations that are still adhered to by orthodox Jews and by those Gentiles who are concerned with maintaining good physical health.

“This categorizing is also important in view of the fact that it is unique in the annals of Near Eastern literature because its emphasis is not so much upon the avoidance of magical practices associated with certain animal species as upon the positive delineation of dietary principles intended to insure the physical well-being of the individual and the nation alike through a consistent [preventative] approach” ( Introduction to the Old Testament, 1999, p. 603).

Doctors offer their view

Do the health laws of the Bible have a foundation in medical fact? Rex Russell, M.D., writes: “As we look at modern science and nutrition, we will find that … there is an amazing overlap between God’s original laws of clean and unclean and solid hygienic principles … Scripture and medical research agree that modern lifestyles lived without reference to God’s laws and design shorten life and hasten death” ( What the Bible Says About Healthy Living, 1999, pp. 14, 16).

Nutritionist David Meinz says that even though we may not understand all aspects of the biblical dietary laws, we would be wise to follow them. “Much of the wisdom revealed in the Bible now makes sense to us from our modern perspective,” he says, “but should that mean we won’t consider the areas that haven’t yet been scientifically proven?

“We’ve only discovered that animal fat is bad for us in the last 50 years. To the Christian a century ago, the directive in Leviticus 3:17 Leviticus 3:17It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations throughout all your dwellings, that you eat neither fat nor blood.
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to avoid animal fat made no sense at all. Yet it’s clear to us today. What if there’s something in lobster that’s harmful to our health? What if we don’t discover what it is until 50 years from now? Do we require scientific proof before we give the Bible the benefit of the doubt?” ( Eating by the Book, 1999, p. 226).

Reginald Cherry, M.D., comments on why medical doctors and researchers have come to agree with the Bible’s instruction not to eat fat. “Why is this prohibition against fat so important for us?” he asks. “Over 53 percent of people in large industrialized countries die of heart disease. Heart disease is most commonly caused by fat deposits that build up in the arteries, often beginning in the teenage years” ( The Bible Cure, 1998, p. 20).

Cultural taboos or divine revelation?

If some of the Bible’s dietary regulations have been shown to offer proven health benefits, what might that tell us about its other instructions?

Dr. Cherry continues: “The Old Testament … overflows with many revelations from God about hygiene, healthy foods, and the … prevention of diseases. As a medical doctor specializing in preventative medicine, I find the Old [Testament] fascinating and intriguing. Throughout its ancient Hebrew text, one finds many unveiled secrets and mysteries concerning what we should eat, how to avoid contaminated and diseased objects, and what natural substances are used of God to effect healing.”

Dr. Cherry explains that the Bible’s proven instructions regarding health and diet are all the more surprising considering the ancient Hebrews’ lack of interest in medicine or doctors compared to other
cultures around them.

“The Hebrews did not seek to know more about anatomy, science, or the natural order as did their counterparts in the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, or Greece,” he notes. “Quite the contrary. Anything that might be uncovered in the ancient Hebrew texts of the Bible had to come to them through divine, supernatural knowledge revealed by God.

“So what we shall unearth from the Old [Testament] does not arise from human speculations on health and medicine but rather from God’s particular Word to us about His pathway of healing for us—His creation. As Creator, God knows more about our bodies, His creation, than we could ever discover either through philosophy or science” (pp. 16-17).

He cites as an example the Bible’s instructions about which kinds of animals may be eaten. “The lists of clean and unclean animals in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 have a significance often ignored. Far from being a catalog of food taboos based on fad or fancy, these lists emphasize a fact not discovered until late in [the 1800s] and still not generally known: Animals carry diseases dangerous to man” (p. 22).

Health risk to human beings?

Dr. Russell asks, “What is so good about ‘clean’ meats, and what is so bad about ‘unclean’ meats?” He explains that “the flesh of clean animals such as beef, and fish that have scales and fins, is ideal for the health of humans—just as we would expect from the hand of a loving Creator … Many land animals God designed for food provide an additional benefit in that they generally eat grasses and grains that were also designed for food” (Russell, pp. 73-74).

In contrast, David Meinz summarizes the potential health risk of eating creatures the Bible classifies as unclean. “Almost all of the creatures on the unclean list are scavengers,” he notes. “In many cases they don’t hunt for their own food; they eat the dead and decaying matter of our environment. A catfish does that at the bottom of a pond; lobsters and shrimp do it in the ocean. A pig will eat anything. Vultures, almost by definition, are known for their scavenger habits” (Meinz, p. 225).

Dr. Russell notes that “the differences between clean and unclean animals appear to be related to their primary food source and to their digestive systems. Scavengers that eat anything and everything are not suitable for food, according to the Bible. Animals described as clean, and therefore good for food, primarily eat grasses and grains.

“… [But] note that an animal doesn’t have to be a scavenger to be unclean. Horses and rabbits, for example, are unclean because they do not have split hooves. Although they are considered to be good food in some countries, studies have shown that horse meat often contains viruses and parasites. Rabbits, as innocent as they appear, are the cause of tularemia (an infectious disease) in humans.

“One reason for God’s rule forbidding pork is that the digestive system of a pig is completely different from that of a cow. It is similar to ours, in that the stomach is very acidic. Pigs are gluttonous, never knowing when to stop eating. Their stomach acids become diluted because of the volume of food, allowing all kinds of vermin to pass through this protective barrier. Parasites, bacteria, viruses and toxins can pass into the pig’s flesh because of over-eating. These toxins and infectious agents can be passed on to humans when they eat a pig’s flesh” (Russell, pp. 76-77).

Don Colbert, M.D., adds: “Besides being gluttons, swine are also extremely filthy animals. They will eat garbage, feces, and even decaying flesh. All that is eaten usually becomes part of the pig’s own flesh … Aside from the diseases routinely carried by swine, pork is also a very fatty meat. The toxins in pork are held especially in the fat, which is not isolated from the meat as can be the case in lean beef, but rather, it is dispersed throughout the meat” ( What Would Jesus Eat? 2002, pp. 49-50).

In light of such seldom-publicized facts, we can better understand and appreciate God’s words through Moses: “Observe and obey all these words which I command you, that it may go well with you and your children after you forever, when you do what is good and right in the sight of the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 12:28 Deuteronomy 12:28Observe and hear all these words which I command you, that it may go well with you, and with your children after you for ever, when you do that which is good and right in the sight of the LORD your God.
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). (To learn more about these issues, request or download our free booklet What Does the Bible Teach About Clean and Unclean Meats? )

Scripture and science complement rather than conflict

True science and the Bible do not conflict. There is no need for advocates of either side to engage in a protracted war with the other. Open-minded study reveals that science and Scripture complement and often uphold each other, as the examples in this booklet demonstrate.

Humankind has a need for the Bible and science. We can discover certain tenets of truth only from the source of divine revelation, the Bible. We should also study to increase our scientific knowledge to improve our lot and better understand our world.

Some scientists and theologians have recognized that the two disciplines need not stand in opposition. Several centuries ago, when modern science was still in its infancy and before some of its overzealous proponents declared war on the Bible, many reasonable men saw the value of both.

During that time “proponents of scientific inquiry would often argue that God had revealed Himself in two books—the book of His words (the Bible) and the book of His works (nature). As one was under obligation to study the former, so too there was an obligation to study the latter” (John Hedley Brooke, Science and Religion: Some Historical Perspectives, 1995, p. 22).

A study of one—the Bible—is essential. A study of the other is helpful. Men of God have always exalted the Word of God first, but they have not feared science. They have known that the creation and the existence of physical laws were proof of God’s handiwork (see “The Biblical Authors: Men of God and Science”).

When the Bible seems to disagree with science

What should we do when the Bible appears to disagree with science?

In the last few centuries mankind’s inquisitive nature has teamed up with our increasing ability to record, analyze and pass on what we have learned, resulting in a staggering increase of knowledge. Amazingly, the Bible foretold this knowledge explosion as a hallmark of modern society long before our technological and scientific advances could have been imagined (Daniel 12:4 Daniel 12:4But you, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.
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).

Some people believe that much of recently acquired knowledge disagrees with the Bible, particularly in the areas of biology, anthropology, geology and astronomy. It is precisely this perception—of science contradicting Scripture—that has led many people to doubt the veracity and authority of the Bible.

At first glance we see what appears to be a collision course of revelation with science. We think we must choose between physical, scientific evidence and the claims of Scripture. Our resulting quandary may distress us. But the Bible itself encourages us to find answers, to review all the relevant information before reaching a conclusion (Proverbs 18:13 Proverbs 18:13He that answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.
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).

We find that true scientific knowledge does not disagree with the Bible. Nor does the Bible contradict proven scientific discoveries. We address some of those assumed conflicts in this booklet.

Although God’s Word encourages us to learn and discover the truth, it also urges us to keep an open mind. Many people assume that the Bible says certain things that it doesn’t really say. Others hold fast to a mind-set prejudiced against the Scriptures because of what they imagine is a mountain of evidence contradicting the biblical record.

Sadly, it will be difficult for such people to give the Bible a fair hearing. We hope you will search out the truth, objectively examining the evidence to see whether the Bible is indeed what it claims to be—the inspired Word of God.