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Ancient Jewish Laws and Demonic Pigs

Q. The Gospels mention swineherds. Didn’t ancient Jewish dietary laws forbid eating pork?

A. You are correct that faithful Jews in Jesus’ day could not eat pork because of the ancient dietary laws given by God, which declared pigs ritually unclean (see Leviticus 11:1-8). But if you look closer at the Gospel passages referring to herds of swine, you find good reason to believe that they were owned not by Jews, but by Gentiles.

For example, when Jesus cast a “legion” of demons out of a man and into a herd of swine, he seems to have been in a locale on the far side of the Sea of Galilee, an area where many Gentiles lived (Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:32-39). Ruins of an ancient town still stand on the traditional site of this exorcism, and they demonstrate that the town was built along Hellenistic (Greek) lines, with public baths, theaters, a pagan temple, and a stadium for horse and chariot races. The town was part of the larger region widely known as the Decapolis (see the previous question).

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