Dr. Norman Geisler Responds
On 8/18/2005 8:10:52 PM,…ses.edu wrote:
Thanks for your note. If you read my article (When Critics Ask (page 89-90) under the entry on Leviticus 11:5-6 gives the explanation in more detail), then you know I donʼt believe the rabbit chews the cud in the modern technical sense. It simply makes a chewing motion that from an observational point of view can be associated with other animals that do chew the cud in the technical sense.Norm Geisler
The standard (and erroneous) claim located here.
Why does the Bible refer to rabbits as cud chewers in Leviticus 11:6:
“The rabbit, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof; it is unclean for you.” (New International Version)?
“Rabbits also produce normal droppings, which are not re-eaten. Rabbits, cavies and related species have a digestive system designed for coprophagia. These herbivores do not have the complicated ruminant digestive system, so instead they extract more nutrition from grass by giving their food a second pass through the gut. Soft caecal pellets of partially digested food are excreted and generally consumed immediately. They also produce normal droppings, which are not re-eaten.”
So why are the Creation Scientists trying to compare this process with Rumination?
Edward T. Babinski: You would think that with the O.T. law that made male warriors have to walk outside the Exodus camp in order to go to the bathroom, that the Hebrews would be particularly appalled by coprophagia. Thereʼs even an obscure verse in the O.T. that contains a curse, about holding a “shit stick” up to oneʼs nose. If the Hebrews knew that rabbits were eating something that came out of their rear end, I bet that would have made an impression on them worth mentioning. In effect, I donʼt think that the inerrantist attempts to try and justify the verse about rabbits being “ruminants” makes any sense. Especially since the Hebrew word means to “bring up,” not poop out. More likely they simply noted the appearance that rabbits have of chewing grass for a long time, and some rabbits may have appeared to bring up their food again. One inerrantist mentioned a “throat pouch” in a rabbit in which it might store food and bring it up again, though I havenʼt found any scientific references to such a pouch, and itʼs far easier to store food in oneʼs cheeks, rather than in oneʼs throat which can choke a mammal!
Subject: Re: Rabbit Chews the Cud?
14 Aug 2005
No. A rabbit does not chew a cud.
What is the definition of cud? Tobacco chew qualifies as cud.
cud ( P ) Pronunciation Key (kd)
Food regurgitated from the first stomach to the mouth of a ruminant and chewed again.
Something held in the mouth and chewed, such as a quid of tobacco.
[Middle English, from Old English cudu.]
Main Entry: cud
Pronunciation: ʻk&d, ʻkud
: food brought up into the mouth by a ruminating animal from its first stomach to be chewed again
n 1: food of a ruminant regurgitated to be chewed again [syn: rechewed food] 2: a wad of something chewable as tobacco [syn: chew, chaw, quid, plug, wad]
The Bible Implies Chewing
“of them that chew” ( ʻalah) — “for they chew” (  ʻalah )
The rabbitʼs “caecal pellet” which is in controversy, is not chewed but rather, it is swallowed whole. To qualify as cud, a wad must be chewed. Chewing is mandatory to define a cud.
Three references verifying rabbits do not “chew” this cud or feces pellet:
“Arrival of the caecotrophs at the anus triggers a reflex licking of the anus and ingestion of the caecotrophs, which are swallowed whole and not chewed.”
“Griffiths and Davies assert that the soft pellets are found whole in the stomach and therefore must be swallowed whole.”
A Christian website containing numerous links on the digestive system of Rabbits.
“Rabbits are sometimes called “pseudo-ruminants”… The rhythmic cycle of coprophagy of pure cecal contents practiced by all rabbits allows utilization of microbial protein and fermentation products, as well as recycling of certain minerals. Whereas the feces commonly seen excreted by rabbits are fairly large, dry and ovoid, excreted singly, and consist of fibrous plant material, cecotrophs are about half that size, occur in moist bundles stuck together with mucus, and are very fine textured and odiferous. They are seldom seen, as the rabbit plucks them directly from the anus as they are passed and swallows them whole. Normal rabbits do not allow cecotrophs to drop to the floor or ground, and their presence there indicates a mechanical problem or illness in the rabbit.
* Biblical Scholars speak on the question:
Interpreterʼs Dictionary of the Bible, page 525:
The OT…refers to the hare only to indicate that it is an unclean animal, but its assertion that the hare is a ruminant is contrary to fact. Probably, as in the case of the hyrax…some movements of the mouth and jaws have been erroneously interpreted as cud-chewing.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, page 616:
This animal is mentioned only in the lists of unclean animals in Leviticus and Deuteronomy…The hare and the coney are not ruminants, but might be supposed to be from their habit of almost continuously moving their jaws.
Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, 2000 edition, page 552:
Because it “chews the cud” but “does not have divided hoofs,” the hare is classified as an unclean animal (Lev. 11:6; Deut. 14:7). Actually, it is not a ruminant but may have appeared as such to ancient observers because of its constant chewing movements.
*Credit to John Kesler
On 8/15/2005 7:18:00 PM, Edward Babinski wrote:
My two cents to add to the case you have built.
Great job continuing the discussion and asking plenty of questions. The question of “certainty” is of course a central one. How do you get anyone to honestly admit their uncertainties? And if they canʼt be sure about just how “scientifically true” and/or precise/imprecise the origial Hebrew is about “cud chewing,” or whether the ancient Hebrews might not have simply noted the appearance of “cud chewing” in rabbits (and then modern fundamentalists try to stretch the meanings of words to suit a more “scientifically true” explanation), then that opens the question for discussing many other uncertainties as well. Heck, the Hebrew term for rabbit remains uncertain, since that same word could also be referring to a coney or rock badger, and might even be referring to both a rabbit and a coney, another embarrassing possibility for inerrantists to consider, since neither of those two Middle Eastern animals “chews the cud” and only one of those two even “refects.” So thereʼs that further uncertainty as well.
There is far from being any airtight case concerning the Bibleʼs infallibility or inspiration or inerrancy. At most, Biblical “Evangelicals” are ever-attempting to save face, and posit certainties where there are none. Let me quote something concerning such failed Evangelical attempts:
“As James Barr perceptively concluded in his 1977 book, Fundamentalism, the fundamentalist is no literal reader of the Bible. Rather, he will use every logical or factual means at his disposal to avoid what the Bible literally says in order to harmonize what he thinks to be its meaning with what he thinks to be logical, factual, or historical reality. This he does in obedience to his belief in what he calls biblical inerrancy, or infallibility.” [Bruce Vawter in an essay in the book, Is God a Creationist?, ed. Roland Mushat Frye]
“Once the defender of the inerrancy of the Bible allows himself to meet the critic on critical grounds and not on grounds of a priori principle, he is lost. He finds himself involved in more and more complicated and improbable conjectures in order to save the Bibleʼs inerrancy, and he is vulnerable at so many points, that he is caught, one might say, in a Ptolemaic system of spicycles and yet more epicycles. It can hardly be a coincidence that the fundamentalist tradition has not produced one biblical commentator of sufficient status as to be recognized throughout the scholarly world.” [R. P. C. and A. T. Hanson, The Bible Without Illusions]
Through The Eyes Of Ancient Observers
by Edward T. Babinski
August 10, 2005
The ancients probably saw rabbits and cows eating grass and both chewed the grass for a while before swallowing it. They also probably noted the way that cows regurgitate the bolus of food from their stomachs and chewed it some more, and probably assumed that rabbits did the same. They didnʼt know a lot about biology or how to divide creatures. They had few names for animals in the Bible period and the very word translated as rabbit might mean rock badger as well. What I find least likely is that the same ancient Hebrews who spoke of the serpent as “eating dust” [sic] also knew about “excrement eating,” i.e., “refection” in hares (and/or coneys).
Recall that when the Bible mentions excrement, even cowʼs excrement (that Yahweh allowed Ezekiel to use instead of human excrement to bake bread over) the mention of the “excrement” coupled with disgust is quite evident. If an ancient Hebrew had seen animals eating their own excrement they would probably have mentioned that fact rather than disguising it as merely “chewing the cud” [sic]. And likewise I doubt that the Hebrews studied hares or rock badgers/coneys so carefully and employed such a wide definition of “chewing the cud/regurgitation in the Hebrew” as to include eating oneʼs own defecation. Odds are, as I said, they probably simply assumed that rabbits, like cows, chewed their grassy meals and “brought them up again” (isnʼt that the meaning of the Hebrew?) to chew them some more.
Of course the same folks who want to claim that they have discovered a modern “scientific” way to re-interpret such passages as “rabbits/coneys chew the cud” are also the same ones who spend their time trying to explain away the Bibleʼs “heart/blood/bowel” focus on human life and behavior (without mentioning the most vital organ that holds the most vital part of oneʼs “life” and “direction,” i.e., the brain and nervous system), and they are also the same folks who spend their time trying to explain away the Bibleʼs flat earth and geocentric assumptions concerning the cosmos and the firmament and the order of creation:
On 8/15/2005 5:16:12 PM, thestewarts/canada.com wrote:
I am confident that Moses knew what he was writing. If he wrote that cows “alah gerah”, and that rabbits also “alah gerah”, but that swine do not “alah gerah”, then I am satisfied that it is so.
Am I smarter than the translators? No, of course not. However, I might suggest that perhaps they were not as smart at times as they and others give them credit for. The original text was inspired by God. Thus, I affirm that Moses wrote what is truthful. Translations are not inspired by God. There is potential for translation errors. If Moses says that both the cow and the hare “alah gerah”, but the swine does not, then it appears that “chew the cud” was not a completely accurate rendering of what Moses said. Perhaps the translators thought it closely conveyed in the English what the Hebrew text said. I guess not closely enough for you. Canʼt say that I have lost any sleep over it.
Itʼs sad that atheists and liberal Bible theologians get so tied up with things like the eating habits of rabbits and cows, that they miss the entire point of the Bible.
May I correctly assume then, that your beef here (didnʼt intent to make a pun with the cow, but anyhow) is not with what Moses said, but with what the translators have given us?
I fully admit that man is fallible. I understand that what we have in our English language is a translation which has been comprised from copies of copies (and translations of copies of copies) of the original texts. I do not affirm that any English translation of the Scriptures is without error. I have not seen one yet. However, the translation errors and transcription errors which are present are minute and insignificant when it comes to basing oneʼs faith upon the Bible.
Had the translators been more careful and a bit wordier, then maybe they would have supplied an English phrase for “alah gerah” which adequately describes what Moses meant. It appears that maybe they did not. I still donʼt plan to lose any sleep over it, and could I suggest that you not employ too much of your time pursuing it. In the greater scheme of things, it is a very, very, very small issue.William J. Stewart
I find it ridiculous that he even believes with such surity “Moses” wrote the whole Pentateuch, and equally ridiculous that this fellow “knows what was meant” by the ancient Hebrew phrase (that clearly mentions bringing something “up”), his own translation of course is inerrant in all cases, and he is certain that the obscure Hebrew term for those animals refers to “rabbits” alone (rather that to coneys, or rather than to both rabbits and coneys, both alternative translations of which would drive a nail through any inerrancy argument) and “refaction” (as though the ancient Hebrews were such careful naturalists, but not so careful as to speak of serpents eating dust or insects having four legs or cattle being born with stripes simply by looking at striped sticks or the heart and bowels directing a man), all in the service of Biblical “inerrancy."
“Rabbits also produce normal droppings, which are not re-eaten.”
Rabbits, cavies and related species have a digestive system designed for coprophagia. These herbivores do not have the complicated ruminant digestive system, so instead they extract more nutrition from grass by giving their food a second pass through the gut. Soft caecal pellets of partially digested food are excreted and generally consumed immediately. They also produce normal droppings, which are not re-eaten.Source: Encyclopedia Coprophagia
Edward T. Babinski: You would think that with the O.T. law that made male warriors have to walk outside the Exodus camp in order to go to the bathroom, that the Hebrews would be particularly appalled by coprophagia. Thereʼs even an obscure verse in the O.T. that contains a curse, about holding a “shit stick” up to oneʼs nose. If the Hebrews knew that rabbits were eating something that came out of their rear end, I bet that would have made an impression on them worth mentioning. In effect, I donʼt think that the inerrantist attempts to try and justify the verse about rabbits being “ruminants” makes any sense. Especially since the Hebrew word means to “bring up,” not poop out. More likely they simply noted the appearance that rabbits have of chewing grass for a long time, and some rabbits may have appeared to bring up their food again. One inerrantist mentioned a “throat pouch” in a rabbit in which it might store food and bring it up again, though I havenʼt found any scientific references to such a pouch, and itʼs far easier to store food in oneʼs cheeks, rather than in oneʼs throat which can choke a mammal!Labels:chewing cud, clean meat, coney, cud, cud chewing, deuteronomy, hare, hyrax, leviticus, meat law, moses, rabbit, ruminant, ruminants, unclean meat
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