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Leviticus 11:20-23

All flying insects that walk on all fours are to be detestable to you. There are, however, some winged creatures that walk on all fours that you may eat: those that have jointed legs for hopping on the ground. Of these you may eat any kind of locust, katydid, cricket or grasshopper. But all other winged creatures that have four legs you are to detest.

While some would see this as a scientific error, J.P. Holding has an “explanation”

Is this an error — since insects have six legs, not four, and since “fowl” have two legs, not four? The reference to “fowl” is thought by some skeptics to refer to birds, but the word used here is ‘owph, which merely means a creature with wings — it is the same word used in verse 21 (flying). The reference in both cases is to insects. But there is an even better – and more correct – answer.

Quite simply, the big back legs on the locust, etc. were not counted as “legs” in the same sense as the other legs. Let’s use an illustration from our popular literature, George Orwell’s Animal Farm. In this story, Snowball the pig invented the slogan, “Four legs good, two legs bad” so as to exclude humans from Animal Farm society. The geese and other fowl objected, because they had only two legs. Snowball explained (more clearly in the book than in the movie) that in animal terms, the birds’ wings counted as legs because they were limbs of propulsion, not manipulation, as a human’s arms and hands were.

Now note the differentiation in Leviticus above — referring to “legs above the feet” for leaping. The “feet” are being differentiated from the “legs above the feet” because of their difference in function. They are legs, but in a different sense than the “four” legs which are just called “feet.” We are being told of two types of legs: The “on all four” legs (which are nowhere called legs; they are only called “feet” [v. 23]), and the “leaping legs.” It is clear that the Hebrews regarded the two large, hopping hind limbs of the locust and the other insects of the same type, which are the only types of insects mentioned here (we now translate “beetle” as “cricket”), as something different than the other four limbs – perhaps because they were used primarily for vertical propulsion, whereas the other limbs were for scurrying around. (Shifts of terminology like this happen even today; check this proposal to redefine “planet”.)

Comment

What the above explanation so clearly misses is the fact that when the Bible mentions that “All flying insects that walk on all fours are to be detestable to you” [Group A] this group does not include those with leaping legs as shown by the fact that the very next passage states “There are, however, some winged creatures that walk on all fours that you may eat: those that have jointed legs for hopping on the ground.” [Group B]

Now if the passages lacked the first half discussing Group A, evangelical apologists such as J.P. Holding may have some ground. But as the bible clearly differentiates Group A, i.e. those with no jointed legs, as separate to Group B, i.e. those with said jointed legs and yet both groups are defined as having four legs, this argument can be of no defense. Even if J.P Holding was correct on the still unsubstantiated basis that crickets and similar insects of Group B were defined by Hebrews as having four typical legs and two “jointed legs” for leaping that still would not explain the missing legs of the beetles and other non-leaping insects from Group A which are discussed separately.

One should also note that the mentioned passage from “Animal Farm” was an example of the pigs making up a clever excuse to justify and amend a previous mistake. In fact it was a complete satire on how apologists operate, a literary device that went right over the head of J.P. Holding, who to the surprise of none, thinks the pig should be taken seriously. A real life apologist invoking the B.S. excuse of a fictional apologist and not realizing that the character was actually a mockery of himself, is pure poetic justice.