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Monday, March 20, 2006

Four-footed insects?

Leviticus 11:20 “All winged insects that go on all fours are detestable to you. 21 Yet among the winged insects that go on all fours you may eat those that have jointed legs above their feet, with which to hop on the ground. 22 Of them you may eat: the locust of any kind, the bald locust of any kind, the cricket of any kind, and the grasshopper of any kind. 23 But all other winged insects that have four feet are detestable to you. (ESV)

This is yet again an indication that the numbers of the Old Testament are not necessarily meant to be taken literally. Why? For the simple reason that insects have six legs, not four. God knew this, of course (and still does). I think that in this case he allowed the writer of Leviticus (presumably Moses) to accomodate the writing to common usage, rather than require strict literalness. Some of us call spiders, which have eight legs, "bugs," and some include centipedes and millipedes, which have more than eight, in "bugs," too. If the Bible were being written now, in a way that people of our day could understand it, it might use "bugs" for all of these, even though, to a scientist, they aren't members of the same group, and there is a group of insects which is called true bugs.

The point remains that the numbers in the Old Testament were not all necessarily meant to be taken literally.


Adam said...

Sounded like a translational problem to me, so I did a bit of looking and found this:

I also found this, which has to do with how the Hebrews may have counted 'legs' on an insect, by postulation from the verse above:

That one isn't terribly far-fetched, but I'm not sure I agree with their reasoning.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Adam. I'll check this out.

Martin LaBar said...

I checked out your sources. Thanks.

The first one indicates what I suspected, namely that there is a problem with English usage, too. We might say that insects or millipedes go about on all fours.

The second source seems a little strained to me. The author claims that the Hebrews didn't count the back pair of legs as legs, or at least not as being the same as the front two pairs. Maybe so, but I've got my doubts as to whether that's what caused "four" to be used here.

I think my point remains. We commonly say things that aren't literally true. So does the Bible, since it was written to speak to humans, and some of the numbers in the Old Testament weren't meant to be taken literally.

Hetrulycomes said...

Excuse me, friends. I was looking for answers on this subject and what I've foun is:

Do count how much feet does it have?

Martin LaBar said...

I'm not sure what your question means, but I would suggest that you read the other comments on this blog, as they may be of help.


Hetrulycomes said...

This is what I mean:

Martin LaBar said...

I looked at your post. Perhaps that is the explanation. I don't think it's possible to know for sure what the explanation is. We do know that God knows quite well how many appendages any animal has, and we also know that, at least in the languages I know something about, we aren't always exact, as in calling millipedes millipedes, as if they really did have 100 legs.

Thanks for your comment, and your research.

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