Agnosticism, Atheism, Christianity, Culture, Faith, God, Religion, Truth

Contradictions Part 4: Hares Chewing the Cud

The first part in this series can be found here.

Leviticus 11:6 tells us that hares chew the cud. They do not. Animals that chew the cud are called ruminants. When they eat plant matter, it goes to their first stomach to soften, and then it’s regurgitated to their mouth. They spend time re-chewing it, and then it is swallowed and fully digested. Ruminants (cows, sheep, goats, etc.) are recognizable because their chewing of the cud is very obvious. Hares (rabbits) don’t chew the cud; however, their mouths do move frequently, so it’s possible to see why some people may have assumed that they do chew the cud. Of course, God would know they didn’t, and this is why the passage is problematic.

There have been some good attempts at explaining this. First of all, it has been suggested that even though God knew hares didn’t chew the cud, the Israelites probably didn’t. Since they would have seen the chewing motion of hares and assumed that they were cud-chewers, God simply used language that they would understand.

I actually think this explanation has some merit. However, God also knew that the Bible would be used by all people in all times. Therefore, he would have known that this passage could be problematic for modern people. So I don’t see why he couldn’t have said “appear to chew the cud,” or something like that in order to clarify things for both groups. Also, he could have taken it as an opportunity to educate them on the fact that hares don’t actually chew the cud, regardless of what their mouths look like.

Another explanation has been to point out that while rabbits aren’t ruminants, they do re-digest some of their food through the process of coprophagia. This process sounds pretty disgusting. Basically, it’s eating feces to gain additional nutrients. Hares don’t do this with their regular droppings, but with a special type of pellet that essentially consists of partially digested plant matter.

A problem with this theory is that hares don’t actually chew these pellets, they swallow them whole. Also, pigs are known to practice coprophagia as well, yet Leviticus 11:7 says, “And the pig, because it parts the hoof and is cloven-footed but does not chew the cud, is unclean to you” (emphasis mine). So it would appear that “chew the cud” does not include coprophagia.

Bottom line: the Bible claims that hares chew the cud, but we know they do not.

We’ll look at another contradiction in the next post.

139 thoughts on “Contradictions Part 4: Hares Chewing the Cud”

  1. I think it is important to understand the purpose for this passage of scripture, and that is to teach people a way of differentiating animals that may be eaten (clean) from those that may not be eaten (unclean). The animals that may be eaten must have a split hoof and chew the cud. To make this determination a person looks at the animal to see if it appears to be chewing the cud and examines it to see if it has a split hoof. Both rabbits and rock badgers give the appearance they chew the cud, but they do not have a split hoof. Many critics might say; why didn’t Moses say “appear” to chew the cud? This was originally written in Paleo Hebrew (a pictographic language) and translated into modern Hebrew and then into English (possibly Greek first, depending on the translation). There are going to be issues like this in the scriptures. We have to read the context of the message and not get side tracked with the details (chasing rabbits, so to speak).

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  2. Oh, this one is my favorite. I use this example frequently in my talks. Imagine what all the Christians think when I tell them that people become atheists because of rabbits chewing cud. It helps our cause.

    I have written a response, here:
    https://humblesmith.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/rabbits-dont-chew-cud-but-can-we-trust-the-bible/

    The biggest flaw is that it imposes a modern definition onto an ancient culture. But again, even if your comment were true, you have not disproven that God exists nor that the Bible teaches us spiritual truth. The liberal denomination Evangelical Lutherans used to use this exact passage to deny inerrancy, but they hold that the Bible is still the source of truth about God. You have not disproven much here, my friend.

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  3. Imagine what all the Christians think when I tell them that people become atheists because of rabbits chewing cud.

    In my case it was not one issue that caused me lose confidence in the divine inspiration of the Bible. Whilst this particular issue may seem trivial, it adds to the list of issues and also makes a lie of those claims by some apologists that the Bible is perfect.

    I have found that apologists can, through ingenuity {and in some case disingenuity}. explain away any individual issue. If there was only one issue then such an approach might be persuasive, but that is far from the case. One of the books I have is the Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties. That there is the need for such a volume is instructive in itself. What became even more illuminating to me was that many issues I came across were not even covered in this 476 page book.

    My faith in the Bible was eroded by the sheer volume of issues, not one issue.

    Now this does not disprove ‘God’ but it certainly does help the case to prove ‘God’.

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  4. Regarding pashebos first comment way back when.

    He is correct. Hares chew the cud. Ask a farmer who raises them. An Israelite knew the same thing.

    If we put forth OUR interpretation, then we could say turtles are mini hump back whales. Not too smart.

    There is no contradiction and the scriptures are correct. After all, God created the hare, and He knows all about its inner workings.

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  5. Thanks for chiming in, ColoStorm, but I think Peter’s point above sums up how I feel about this issue very well.

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  6. That’s ok, maybe you both will come around in time. God made the stomach for both cow and hare. He knows what He is talking about.

    Btw, I have a friend who raises hares……….He would embarrass your nonsense and lack of knowledge, but he is a good man, and would credit your misunderstanding of animal life to simple ignorance.

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  7. I know all about it chief.

    Perhaps you should do a study on what exactly hares eat……..then decide if their chewing the cud is a problem.

    God, who created the animal, not a cosmic accident by your godless friends, is well aware of His creation.

    And I rather trust His explanation over yours and godless scientists every day of the week.

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  8. “And I rather trust His explanation over yours and godless scientists every day of the week.”
    So I guess you don’t trust medicine, doctors or hospitals either right ?

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  9. CS, the point is that God didn’t write the Old Testament — people did. According to the writer, God gave this information to Moses, but why should we believe this actually happened? At the very, very least, saying that hares chew a cud is confusing, at best. God could have made it plainer, and there’s no obvious reason why he wouldn’t have. Doesn’t look promising for the “God verbally inspired my book” claim.

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  10. For God’s sake chief, I work in the medical field.

    Maybe you should actually talk to a hare raiser. There are some very smart farmers doncha know.

    I trust God to define animal husbandry, not Barnum and Bailey’s circus.

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  11. “For God’s sake chief, I work in the medical field.”

    Emptying bed pans CS does not make you an expert on cud chewing but it might help you to understand coprophagy. 🙂

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  12. God’s word: 10
    Chief’s lack of knowledge regarding hares: 0
    Chiefs lack of knowledge regarding employment: 0

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  13. I do hear a lot where people say, “…God said this,” or “God did that…” but in reality, the more accurate statement would be, “that guy said that God said this,” or “this man said that God did that…”

    You say that God stated that Hares chew a cud, while when observed, Hares do not chew a cud, but eat their pooh, like some weird german fecal freak video 😉

    So either the all knowing God got confused about his own long eared creation, or the men who claimed to speak for God weren’t being exactly accurate in their claims…

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  14. I’m trying to look up the Hebrew word for Cud.

    We’ve all heard that “cud” is a relatively modern term, and that we shouldn’t put ancient writings in modern boxes, etc…

    While I do think that hocking pre-eaten goop up from the throat, into the mouth to chew on is quite different that selecting a particular poop pellet to chew on. And it also seems like a rabbit eating its poop is more akin to a pig eating its poop, than it is to cow, chewing on what we call a cud (food hocked back into the mouth) – and the scriptures say that pigs, who eat their poop, do not “chew the cud….”

    But with only a quick search, it looks like the hebrew word we have translated into “cud” is “garar” which means to scrape – like to scrape the throat – http://biblehub.com/hebrew/1625.htm

    does a rabbit pellet scrape the throat like pre-eaten food scrapes the throat of a cow when it hocks it back up to chew on?

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  15. There is no contradiction in the Bible; only a lack of understanding. The apparent contradiction concerning the phrase “chewing the cud” is easily reconciled through the realization that the definition of “ruminant” is modern and is being applied to an ancient text. The understand of what “chewing the cud” refers to is obviously different today, than it was then.

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  16. Maybe. The text, as written, is wrong. Maybe you guys are right that this comes down to a problem with trying to define ancient words. As it is, there are many more obvious problems in the Bible, and there are plenty of other contradictions that we could discuss. As Peter said, this just represents yet another example. No need to get bogged down on this particular one.

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  17. @nate
    This is why you chose atheism. You are not content with the Creator and His dealings and explanations of His creation, not yours. You are calling into question that which has long been settled.

    Hares chew the cud. Cows chew the cud. HOWEVER, it is the hoof issue that escapes you. Cows are clean, hares are not. Rats are unclean. Lambs are clean. Get it?

    But maybe God is mistaken and you are cooking rat tonight for dinner? Didn’t think so. It’s embarrassing nate to watch people sit in judgment of God. God does not make mistakes.

    So maybe you should reconsider why you are bogged down with such petty details?

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  18. I have to disagree that the text “as written” is wrong. It is the interpretation of the text (applying a modern definition to an ancient text) that is wrong. When correctly interpreted it is spot on; as is the rest of the Bible. I would be interested in knowing what other ” biblical texts” you consider problematic. I’ve read a lot of claims of apparent contradictions in the biblical text, but when considered in the original language and in context of culture, history and the time period written, I’ve never come upon a claimed contradiction that could not be explained (when properly interpreted). The Bible is an ancient document that has been translated (Hebrew, Greek, Engish) and yet it still remains consistent throughout. It was written over a period of 1500 years by 40 different authors (most of whom never met) and yet its theme remains consistent throughout. It really comes down to the readers bias, and not really a problem with contradictions in the bible.

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  19. The Bible is an ancient document that has been translated (Hebrew, Greek, Engish) and yet it still remains consistent throughout.

    Obviously, you have not read the many bible scholars that refute your statement.

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  20. We obviously disagree about the nature of this text and the Bible in general. If you’re interested in discussing similar issues, just check out my home page. I have a lot of posts linked there. I recommend checking out my multi-part series on Ezekiel’s prophecy of Tyre.

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  21. Tom,

    Again, even if our modern english word “cud” isn’t as precise a translation as it could be, the original hebrew word used Lev 11:6 (which has been translated to cud), doesn’t seem to suit the chewing of poop, while it does seem to align with hocking junk up from the throat. See: http://biblehub.com/hebrew/1625.htm

    Even if you’re still somehow correct, an all knowing perfect God could probably have found a clearer and less confusing way to explain what he meant – and he simply chose not to.

    and along with Nate’s few suggestions, i’d toss in the Virgin birth in Isaiah 7, the genealogies of Matthew and Luke, and Matthew’s Zechariah quote which he credits to Jeremiah as other places to start. There are quite a few issues.

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  22. Nan — just as I’m certain you have not read many of the scholars that support my position. It’s just the nature of studying historical documents. Anything historical cannot be proven through the scientific method. Instead, it must be proven to a reasonable conclusion by “preponderance of the evidence”, which leaves a lot of room for bias. It really boils down to what we choose.

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