Q: Does it violate the Biblical injunction against consumption of unclean meat to use medicines, vitamins and mineral supplements derived from unclean animals? Is it a violation to use gelatin products, which might be derived from parts of unclean animals?
A: The Bible prohibits the consumption of the “flesh” of certain animals, designated as unclean in passages such as Leviticus 11:1-8 and Deuteronomy 14:7-8. The Church has long understood that the use of medications, mineral supplements or vitamins derived from unclean animals does not violate the Biblical injunction against eating the FLESH of unclean animals. Until recently, diabetics had to use insulin derived from pigs, and the Church did not prohibit such use. (Now, the best form of insulin is derived synthetically). This is based on the understanding that medication, drugs and supplements fall into the category of non-food. For instance, calcium can be extracted from oyster shells.
The consumption of these types of non-food items is not the equivalent of eating the flesh of unclean animals. Likewise, blood transfusions are not Biblically prohibited [although the Bible does prohibit the consumption of blood], since the transfusion is not the equivalent of eating blood. If one were to carry the Biblical prohibitions too far, kissing or sexual intercourse would be prohibited as well, due to the exchange of bodily fluids.
Regarding the consumption of various gelatin products, most gelatin is a meat by-product made from beef, calf or pork skin. It is used in many natural and unnatural forms, such as cereal bars, ice cream, yogurt, certain dairy drinks, medicines and chocolate, among other things. It is often difficult to find out if the gelatin is pork or beef derived. There are, however, vegetarian and kosher gelatin products available as well. Gelatin products derived merely from beef include Emes Gelatin and Three Star calf gelatin. When the question of the use of gelatin relates to the use of vitamins, supplements or medications, the principles would be the same as set forth in the first part of this Answer.
For instance, the modification of natural amino acids in gelatin is used to stabilize the shelf life of vaccines and therapeutic proteins and to enhance the attributes of various products. Gelfoam, a biodegradable carrier for osteogenic (bone producing) cells, is derived from pork gelatin. This procedure is used for the healing of the bones in cases of fractures and bone defects. Gelatin has also been used, with some success in some cases, in the treatment of arthritis, digestion, intestinal disorders, anemia, muscular dystrophy and even cancer.
Even apart from gelatin used in medicines, vitamins or minerals, an orthodox rabbi has certified JELL-O gelatin as kosher, although JELL-O gelatin is extracted from the skins of beef, calf and pork. This certification was based on the belief of many that during the manufacture of gelatin the composition of the original material undergoes a complete change or metamorphosis, that is, its original source becomes unidentifiable. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not consider gelatin to be a meat product. Nevertheless, they have also stated in 1998 that gelatin derived from cattle residing in, or originating from, countries reporting BSE should not be used.
Each Christian has to make the decision as to whether, and in what circumstances, to partake of the products as described herein. While it is true that the kingdom of God is not eating or drinking (Romans 14:17), and that “nothing that enters a man from the outside … can defile him” (Mark 7:15), the prohibition of the consumption of unclean flesh is still clearly valid, and we are admonished to honor or glorify God in our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and not to defile the Holy Spirit that dwells in us (1 Corinthians 3:17). Based on the foregoing, we must never eat or drink or do anything that violates our conscience if we feel that we would be compromising with the Word of God (Romans 14:23).
We must all strive to live our lives correctly administering the Biblical patterns revealed to us. As Jesus Christ so clearly explained in applying God’s Word, the religious leaders of His time had so burdened the people that the Way of God was stifled in long lists of “do’s” and “don’ts”. As we in the Church of God strive for a right balance, let us all seek God’s continual guidance so that we may do only those things, which are pleasing in His sight.