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Answering The Atheist
February 11, 2007 / Volume 7, Issue 6

THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
Which flying creeping things may we eat? Deuteronomy 14:19 says that all of them are unclean and may not be eaten, but Leviticus 11:21-23 indicates that some may be eaten. Is there a contradiction?

RESPONSE:
Leviticus 11:20 reads, "All fowls that creep, going upon all four, shall be an abomination unto you." (KJV) A generation later, as the Law of God was given again to those who would enter into the land of promise, this was repeated as, "And every creeping thing that flieth is unclean unto you: they shall not be eaten." (Deuteronomy 14:19, KJV).

These texts are the same commandment, though there are some obvious distinctions. The Leviticus text mentions those going upon all four, but the Deuteronomy text does not. The Leviticus text includes an exemption claude (v 21-22), which is not mentioned in Deuteronomy. Do these differences constitute a contradiction?

Not at all. What the questioner has noted is a case where the restating of the Law (Deuteronomy) supplies the generic instruction given by God, but in the first giving of the Law, additional details are supplied. The Israelites would be expected to heed not just the word of Deuteronomy, but also that which was given prior to that, as recorded in Exodus and Leviticus.

Here are a few other examples where the book of Deuteronomy provides the generic law given in Leviticus, but not all that had formerly been spoken. Such was teh case for the instruction regarding:

  • cuts, baldness, tattoos (Deuteronomy 14:1; Leviticus 19:28; 21:1-5)
  • tithing (Deuteronomy 14:22; Leviticus 27:30-33)
  • giving to a poor brother (Deuteronomy 15:7; Leviticus 25:35-37)

Even in our own laws (tax law specifically comes to mind), we will have documents that summarize the intent of the law, but upon examination of the original documentation, exemptions or other specific details may be seen. Thsi doesn't mean that the documents which summarize the law are in contradiction with the original law, they merely do not supply all the details which can be found in the original.

There is no contradiction.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible