Living in Christian community I have seen and heard people with different eating choices. Recently I have heard about some who choose not to eat shellfish which interested me, so I began to research to find out why a Christian may or may not eat shellfish.
Can Christians Eat Shellfish? Yes, Christians can eat shellfish, but there is some history. The Old Testament states in Leviticus that, “Everything in the waters that has fins and scales, whether in the seas or in the rivers, you may eat.” But we are no longer under this old Law. Jesus even made a point in His life about the the topic of food and what is really important in the big picture of the life of a Christian.
This made me wonder why the Lord would give us only the fish with fins and scales and what makes those without unclean. So what does this mean for us today?
History of Clean and Unclean Food
The Lord spoke to Moses about what should be eaten and what should be considered detestable for humans to eat. Fish is specifically described in Leviticus 11:10. Anything that has fins and scales is acceptable for eating according to this section of Scripture. This Law given by the Lord to Moses is still followed today by Jewish people. In Jewish tradition and religion Kosher food is all that should be eaten.
Kosher is the way that the Lord presented food rules to Moses in Leviticus. There is a rule for each type of wild and domestic animal, sea creatures, and creeping things. What I have found is that clean food is anything that has been listed by God as clean, but also scientifically is clean.
The reason shellfish is not considered Kosher or clean is because they cannot fully process the dirt that they intake which then makes them full of metal and other things. When those metals and excess vitamins are taken into the body, over time can become bad for the person. This is the same reason that pork is not Kosher; pigs do not have the capability of sweating out the toxins in their body, and they will eat anything put in front of them.
Biblical Fish Options
Biblically, we can eat fish as long as they have had scales and fins. If you are shopping at the store and the scales and fins have already been removed, just be aware of the type of fish that it is, if you are concerned about being Kosher. I learned in my research that some fish may have fins but no scales, or scales and no fins. These criteria given in the Scripture to make a fish Kosher needs to include both fin and scales.
Of all the creatures living in the water of the seas and the streams you may eat any that have fins and scales. But all creatures in the seas or streams that do not have fins and scales—whether among all the swarming things or among all the other living creatures in the water—you are to regard as unclean.”Leviticus 11:9-10 NIV
On this side of the life of Jesus we can see that this specific law about clean and unclean foods does not apply to us. We can use it as a standard for what is clean to help our bodies be healthy. We are just not bound to this standard of food anymore because Jesus Himself said otherwise in the Gospel of Mark.
Shellfish can be broken into two categories – crustaceans and mollusks. Each category includes different living organisms that can be found inhabited in both fresh and salt water.
Some examples of shellfish are: shrimp, crayfish, crab, lobster, clams, scallops, oysters and mussels. All of these shellfish include a substantial amount of nutrients and can be very good for the body in small amounts.
Eating Shellfish as Christians
I have found it interesting the different opinions that are coming up throughout my research about this topic. I say this is interesting because many people believe that Christians are picking and choosing which laws from the Old Testament still apply today. I am not here to get into that big topic, but I do recognize it happening.
In the Old Testament we have seen how clear it is what makes food unclean or clean, so that may make you wonder, what about today? Well, I have found that Jesus makes a point to tell His disciples that it is not what a person puts into their mouth but what comes out of a person that defiles them.
Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”Mark 7:14-15 ESV
I found that I had more questions about this topic and want to share with you what I learned.
What is Kosher?
Healthline defines Kosher as “A term used to describe food that complies with the strict dietary standards of traditional Jewish law.” The rules around what makes something Kosher are included in the Jewish Holy Book, the Torah. The tradition and rules to follow from these sacred texts have been passed down orally through generations, Healthline also states.
When researching this topic I also found out that in order to be certified Kosher the company has to go through a process that includes a Rabbi’s blessing over the product and production.
What Are The Health Benefits of Shellfish?
Shellfish hold a lot of vitamins like, iron, zinc, magnesium, B12, and even omega-3 fatty acids. All of these vitamins and low amount of calories make this food a great boost for the immune system, brain and heart. Because shellfish is high in protein and low in calories, Healthline says that eating shellfish may also help slim the waistline. All of the vitamins that are in shellfish also provide benefits throughout the body.
This high protein, high vitamin food also has some negative effects on the body over a longer period of time. Shellfish also has a lot of metal and mercury, which overtime is not good for the digestive and organ health.
Are Halal and Kosher The Same?
To some extent, Halal and Kosher are very similar. They overlap in a lot of areas including the shellfish topic, but Halal does have some exceptions to this rule. Halal is the Muslim way of describing cleanliness of food, these laws are found in the Muslim Holy Book, called the Quran. Halal and Kosher both agree that any pig product is not clean and neither religion should eat them.
The differences with Kosher and Halal involves the topic of alcohol. In Islam is it not clean or allowed to drink any little bit of alcohol. Muslim countries also go as far as products used in the house including cleaning supplies, beauty products and more. Kosher on the other hand will allow grape wine if it is created under the Jewish accordance with the Kosher law. Wine is also very important to the Jewish religion so that is where that exception and difference is there.