Books for Cooks: Leviticus 11, Diet, and Exegesis in Early Christianity

Concern about diet was widespread in earliest Christianity, but not always focussed on specific observance of kashrut or on clean and unclean animals; ascetic dietary patterns such as those in the early Christian novels reflect wider Greco-Roman debates, concerning meat in particular. Christian writers of the second (Barnabas, Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Clement) and third centuries (Origen, Methodius, Novatian) do however engage directly with Lev 11, reflecting not so much any real anxiety about food as a growth of interest in the biblical text and its ownership. They use different strategies - notably dispensationalist as well as allegorizing readings - to counter more literal interpretations of Leviticus and related texts on clean and unclean foods, and to claim them as Christian prescriptions, not for diet but for morality.