QUESTION: "We have been reading 'Is All Animal Flesh Good Food?' with much interest. We live in the country and have our own garden and meat for the table but need to know if liver, heart, tongue and kidneys are edible meats. We are certain it is in the Bible but are unable to find it."
Mr. and Mrs. A.H.,
ANSWER: The reason you cannot find any instruction in the Bible regarding the eating of organ meats is because it isn't there. The Old Testament does mention that some organs were to be burned along with the fat when an animal was sacrificed, but this had nothing to do with the normal killing and eating of these animals (Ex. 29:13).
There is no Old Testament prohibition against eating organ meats of "clean" animals. However, the Israelites were told not to eat fat and blood (Lev. 3:17; 7:26-27). This admonition against eating blood was repeated in the instructions of the elders of the early Church to the Gentiles (Acts 15:20-29; 21:25).
Q: "You wrote that the Bible says, 'No one has ever seen God' (John 1:18; 5:37). What do you have to say about the following scriptures? In Genesis 18:1-8, God appeared to Abraham, and God did eat! According to Genesis 32:24-30, Jacob wrestled with God and wouldn't let go until God blessed him. In II Samuel 22:9-11, God appears with smoke pouring out of His nostrils and riding on the back of a cherub! Everyone knows that God does not have a physical body. Why do the Old Testament writers say that He does? This implies that He has mortal needs such as food and water. Did or did not God appear to the people the Bible says He did?"
A: The article specifically referred to no one having seen God the Father. The verses cited (John 1:18; 5:37) make the same distinction. So who did Abraham dine with? The answer is that the member of the God family who became Jesus Christ was the God of the Old Testament, the God who appeared to Abraham, Moses and others. This is explained in the free reprint article "Who - What - Was Jesus Before His Human Birth?"
The Old Testament writers did not say that God has a physical body. They merely recorded the fact that God appeared in physical form. As the Creator of all physical things, God certainly has the power to manifest Himself to men in physical form, though He is a spirit. And again, the Old Testament record doesn't say God needs food, water, and so on, but He is certainly able to partake of physical amenities and enjoy them. The free article "What Will You Be Like in the Resurrection?" explains further.
Commentators agree that the description of God in II Samuel 22:9-11 is clearly a case of poetic license and not a literal description.
Q: "Could you please tell me if it is wrong to read the Apocrypha?"
A: The Greek term apocrypha originally meant "hidden" or "mysterious." Later it came to mean "spurious" or "heretical" and hence was applied to writings that were regarded as questionable in terms of inspiration or canonicity. The term is now generally used to refer to those books not included in the Jewish and Protestant Old Testament which are, however, included in the Roman Catholic canon of the Old Testament.
The Old Testament Apocrypha consists of 14 or 15 books (seven of which have been included in the Roman Catholic Old Testament), mostly composed in the period from about 200 B.C. to A.D. 100. For unknown reasons, some of these books came to be included in the G reek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament known as the Septuagint, the work of Greek-speaking Jews in Alexandria, Egypt. (This translation was evidently spread over the last two or three centuries B.C.)
The New Testament teaching clearly seems to be that the Jews were given the custody of the Old Testament Scripture. Romans 3:2 states: "The Jews are entrusted with the oracles of God" (see also Acts 7:37-38; Matt. 23:1-3; I Peter 1:12). Regardless of when the final decisions were made, the books later known as the Apocrypha were never included in the official Jewish canon of the Old Testament. This situation is reflected in the statement of the first-century Jewish historian Josephus, who wrote: "For we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another, as the Greeks have, but only twenty-two books, which contain the records of all the past times; which are justly believed to be divine" (Against Apion, book I, section 8). From Josephus' enumeration it is hard to see how the seven apocryphal works could have been regarded by the Jews as divinely inspired in the first century.
Later, in the second to the fourth centuries A.D., it appears that some of the early fathers of the Catholic Church regarded certain Apocryphal books as canonical. Others, however, did not. For example, Jerome, who translated the Scriptures into Latin circa AD. 400 (the Latin Vulgate), did not regard the Apocrypha as inspired: "Jerome explicitly stated that the Old Testament Apocrypha might be read for edification, but not for confirming the authority of church dogmas" (Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, article "Apocrypha" ).
However, later Catholic leaders such as Augustine accepted certain Apocryphal books as Scripture. During the Reformation, Protestant Old Testament scholars rejected these books as uncanonical and accepted only the Jewish Old Testament canon. In response to this, the (Catholic) Council of Trent in 1546 declared them canonical and inspired. The situation has remained basically the same until the present day.
According to the New Testament, Christians should accept as canonical Old Testament Scripture only those books which have been officially accepted by the Jews. Those Apocryphal books generally included in the Catholic Old Testament would not, therefore, qualify as canonical Scripture. However, this does not mean that a Christian should not read them! These books do contain valuable historical data of the intertestamental period as well as interesting and informative writings by Jewish religious thinkers of that day. It would not be wrong at all to read them for educational, informative purposes; in fact, it would be good for Christians to be aware of their contents since they illustrate aspects of Jewish history and religious thought just preceding and during the time of Jesus.
In addition to these, there are a number of early Christian writings sometimes referred to as "New Testament Apocrypha." These consist of a great number of books of all kinds — gospels, acts, letters, apocalyptic literature, etc. Nearly all of these works are spurious embellishments of the contents of New Testament books. "That any of them preserve authentic traditions of words or doings of their heroes — notably Jesus, the apostles, the Virgin, and other characters in the canonical New Testament books — is most unlikely" (ibid.). None of these books can be seriously regarded as having a claim to New Testament canonicity. The New Testament canon has been practically undisputed for the last thousand years.
For more information on this subject, read our free reprint article "Do We Have the Complete Bible?"
Q; "Should a Christian read science-fiction literature? Or any type of fictional literature, for that matter?"
A: What one chooses to read is largely a matter of personal taste. Unless such literature causes a person to break God's law (like pornographic or hate-oriented material might), there is nothing wrong with reading many different types of literary works — both fiction and nonfiction. If one approaches such books solidly grounded in God's Word and His law, there is much that can be learned and gained from reading various fiction works. For example, the apostle Paul was well versed in the secular poetry and literature of his day, and quoted this material in his discussion with unbelievers and in his epistles (see Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12).
Of course, there are some really poor-quality books (both fiction and nonfiction) that would be a waste of time to read. Also, some books can produce emotionally objectionable effects such as depression. But whether one reads a book or not is basically a matter of personal judgment and preference. Well-written science-fiction material can be informative, educational, entertaining, and very intellectually stimulating to read.
Q: "A friend and I had a discussion on the subject of making jokes about sex. He says 'jesting' about sex is out. I don't see any harm in this. Obviously, filthy jokes are no good, but aren't there harmless jokes about sex?"
Beckley, West Virginia
A: The verse on which your friend based his opinion is found in Ephesians 5. Here the apostle Paul is instructing the Ephesian church to be "imitators of God" and "walk in love." Verse 4 reads: "Let there be no filthiness, nor silly talk, nor levity, which are not fitting; but instead let there be thanksgiving." In the original Greek the word translated "filthiness" is aischrotes, meaning "ugliness or wickedness." "Silly talk" was translated from the word morologia meaning "silly or foolish talk or conversation"; "levity" from eutrapelia which came to have the connotation of "coarse jesting" or "buffoonery" (Arndt-Gingrich Lexicon of New Testament Greek).
Obviously, wickedness is something in which we should not participate. Also foolish talk, coarse jesting and buffoonery are something' Christians would want to avoid.
But there is a place for a sense of humor and a joyful appreciation of wit in the Christian personality. The apostle Paul himself made a pun which he recorded in his letter to Philemon. Verses 10 and 11 contain a play on the word "useful" and the name of the slave Onesimus, which in the Greek meant "useful." In most of our present English translations the relationship of these Greek words is not evident.
Sex of and by itself is not obscene. It is a normal body function and is perfectly wholesome and good within the God-defined limits of marriage (Gen. 1:28, 31; Heb. 13:4; I Cor. 7). There are some jokes about the subject of sex that are not "evil" or "obscene!" Each individual Christian should be able to discern which jokes are funny and inoffensive, and which are coarse and vulgar to him and others, and to act accordingly.
But don't offend your friend by telling him even harmless jokes on the subject if he has made it clear to you that "jesting about sex is out" with him. Each one of us has a special obligation not to offend our neighbors in joking about some of these more sensitive subjects. Ethnic jokes are in a similar category. The apostle Paul wisely advised us not to "put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in [our] brother's way" (Rom. 14:13, KJV).
For a more complete biblical perspective on the subject of sex, read our free booklet Is Sex Sin?