Pastor of Largest Church in US says “Eat Kosher”

Posted on February 20, 2009 by Aaron

In August 2006, Joel Osteen gave a sermon series entitled “Healthy Living,” in which he instructed his congregation of over 40,000 members not to eat pork or shellfish.

“Let’s talk a moment about pork, ham, bacon, pepperoni. These are some of the things that the Scripture tells us we should not eat.”

A video of this teaching resurfaced recently on YouTube and has recently generated a lot of buzz.



Osteen’s rationale for this teaching is that pork and shellfish are unhealthy for humans to eat, which is why God prohibited them. Ultimately, the reason for avoiding them is not simply obedience to God’s command, but for our own physical well being.

This thought process sidesteps the objections of traditional Christian law-vs.-grace doctrine, but ultimately misses the point of kosher law.

It seems to be borne out by modern knowledge that clean animals tend to be more healthy that unclean animals. However, the Bible never claims that this is the case or offers it as rationale for kosher eating. In fact, it does not offer any specific rationale, except for elevating the level of holiness of Israel.

See what I wrote about the reasons for kosher laws in my Biblical Kosher site.

Until the scientific facts that Osteen cites were discovered, there would have been no rationale for avoiding pork at all, it seems. But modern scientific knowledge seems to be showing that it would have been to the advantage of previous generations to avoid unclean animals. But the only reason they would have had to do so was obedience, not health. Do you get what I’m saying?

Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of generations before modern science. We don’t know that pigs are unhealthy. All we know is that God said not to eat them. If we obey, we benefit physically without even knowing it. If we disobey, we reap the consequences, again with no knowledge.

Suppose scientists came out with a definitive statement that farm-raised pork has no negative health effects. Does that mean pork  is back on the table again? Or does it simply put us back in the middle ages where pork was still harmful but people didn’t realize it?

Furthermore, could there possibly be a positive or negative impact of eating unclean animals beyond health? We know from Leviticus 11 that it affects holiness and ritual purity. Could there be other negative spiritual side effects? The Bible doesn’t say there are, but then again, it doesn’t mention health concerns either.

But consider the implications of these parallel passages in the Gospels. (I have indicated key words of specific interest in bold.)


Matthew 8:28-34

Luke 8:26-37

And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, twodemon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way.

Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs.

And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?”

When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.”


For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time it had seized him. He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.) Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered him. And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss.

Now a herd of manypigs was feeding at some distance from them. And thedemons begged him, saying, “If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of pigs.” And he said to them, “Go.”

Now a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him to let them enter these. So he gave them permission.

So they came out and went into the pigs, and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the waters.

Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

The herdsmen fled, and going into the city they told everything, especially what had happened to the demon-possessed men.

When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country.

And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region.

Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned.


Some questions on these passages:

Why were the demon-possessed men so drawn to the tombs? What is it about tombs that makes demons more comfortable?

Why did the demons beg to be sent into the pigs? Why not into another animal or object?

The Gospels also sometimes refer to demons as “unclean spirits,” which seems related to the term in Rabbinic literature ruach hatum’ah. Tombs, containing dead bodies, are ritually unclean (Numbers 19:16). Pigs are also ritually unclean. Demons seem to be at home in that environment.


Now this is pure speculation, but is it possible that eating unclean animals may have a detrimental effect on our spiritual well-being, an effect that cannot be detected scientifically or may have no physical manifestation whatsoever? The Bible does not say so, but it certainly may be true.

Nonetheless, our motive for keeping kosher should be simple: God said so. No other rationale is needed.