Re: Duck Meat

Alright… Marjolynne's responded quite pointfully to the earlier response I gave earlier regarding duck meat’s cleanliness:

I wanted to send a reply about the question concerning duck meat. In a nutshell, I firmly believe that duck meat is unclean. It’s true that the Bible doesn’t mention duck meat directly, and that Ellen White’s son, Willie, had shot two ducks for them to eat. Those statements are not factually wrong, but I think that we have to do more research on those quotes before using them as evidence that duck meat is clean.

First, I’d like to address the dietary laws in Leviticus 11 an Deuteronomy 14. As always, context is essential when interpreting anything that is written in the Bible. You have to remember that Moses wasn’t a scientist, and the Israelites were uneducated people coming from slavery in Egypt. So, how would you explain medical terminology to the ancient Israelites, who only had a basic understanding of animals? Today, we know that ruminant bovines are clean meats, and when compared to the dietary laws, they have the exact characteristics as cattle and all the other clean meats. However, birds are a very diverse species. I think that Moses would have had a hard time describing birds of prey or scavenger birds, so he opted to make a list of unclean birds, rather than naming their characteristics. I highly doubt that God, in all His omniscience, knowing that animal species would continue to expand, would use such a static, limited list. It’s our job, then, to find the commonalities between the unclean birds mentioned in the Bible. If you look at those birds, you’ll find that they’re all birds of prey. If you look at all the other animals deemed clean in the Bible, none of them prey on other animals. Owls hunt, and the other birds mentioned eat fish. In the KJV, one of the birds mentioned is translated as swan, and ducks are very clearly members of that family. These birds eat fish, snails, and insects. Clean birds—chickens, quail, and doves—eat plants and grains. Furthermore, we’re seeing today that there is scientific basis to avoiding unclean meats. Lots of those animals are scavengers—pigs, lobster—therefore making them unfit for human consumption. Ducks are also unfit for human consumption, scientifically speaking, because of their extremely high fat content. The meats that God allows us to eat are leaner meats; everyone knows the dangers of a high fat diet. I think God knew what He was talking about when He set the dietary laws.

As for Ellen White, yes, she is known to have eaten deer and duck. First of all, deer is considered clean because it is a ruminating mammal and has split hooves. When quoting Ellen White, it is important to distinguish between her own opinions, her visions, and her diary entries. She had two major health reform visions—1863 and 1865. These visions include the importance of vegetarianism, fresh air, sunlight, and all the other health practices that are still part of the church today. However, even after her visions, she was never a professed vegetarian until 1894, nearly 30 years after her visions. She is human, after all. We have to take her visions as truth from above, and everything else that she says is based on her own experience and choices. Sure, her son hunted duck and she ate it, but that doesn’t mean that it’s acceptable for us to eat duck, given the light that we have today. We only know about this occurence because she mentioned it in her diary, not because she was teaching us that duck is clean. In fact, her husband was never vegetarian; he never even adhered to the biblical dietary laws, and he continued to eat squirrel until his dying day. Do we eat squirrel? No, it’s clearly unbiblical to do so. One misconception that we have is that our church founders did everything right, but that doesn’t go in line with our concept of present truth. Even prophets need time to assimilate new revelations from theory to practice. Yes, they were given the health message, but it took personal conviction before they made the appropriate changes.

That being said, duck meat is considered unclean according to the Bible because it is a bird of prey, consistent with the other unclean birds mentioned in the dietary laws. Furthermore, we should never take Ellen White’s actions as a standard for our own lives. Granted, we can use her life experience as guidance from a very wise woman, but not as absolute truth unless her message is directly from God. She is human, after all. Instead, we should base our beliefs and practices on her visions and the teachings based on those visions.

I hope this helps!

I appreciate all the thought and research that’s gone into all this… and you DO make some good points. Fact is, even the prophets were Human. To boot, there’s a REASON why EGW’s writings weren’t added to the Bible, unlike several other prophets’ writings. Ellen White helped refine the Adventist movement… God sent her visions, that much we can be fairly certain of. I, however, do not subscribe to a fairly common idea among SDAs that we should take everything she’s written as cannon.

 There DOES seem to be a bit of disparity between translations on this bit, however… The KJV writes Leviticus 11:18 thusly:

And the swan, and the pelican, and the gier eagle,

However, the NKJV writes it:

the white owl, the jackdaw, and the carrion vulture; 

The NIV writes it:

 the white owl, the desert owl, the osprey,

My personally preferred (for ease of reading) New Living Translation writes it:

the barn owl, the desert owl, the Egyptian vulture,

To this end, I’m actually quite unsure as to what to make of this. General consensus seems to indicate the “swan” to be an owl… which… I honestly don’t quite know how they made the jump. Two obviously different types of birds. Blatantly.

But I’m assuming there IS a reason. Be it good or bad, someone decided there was a reason to re-translate. Maybe it has to do with older manuscripts, maybe it’s something to do with the variant of the English language being used. I don’t know.

I will, however, concede that there IS a point in that the duck is… technically… a “bird of prey.” In a sense. However, the duck’s diet includes such things as grasses and aquatic plants as well. They’re not solely meat-eaters. What meat they do eat consists of fish, worms, small mollusks, small amphibians, and insects. I’d like to point out that the majority of this is also the diet of most fish, which are also on the “clean meats” list, for the most part. The majority of fish out there aren’t vegetarians themselves :).

As for Ellen White’s writings not QUITE applying, as this particular bit’s taken from one of her journals, I disagree. She would not eat meat on a regular basis, as most people of the time did, for its taste, which was, and IS, the primary reason for most people to partake. However, I find it very difficult to believe that she, herself, would ever consume anything declared “unclean” by God himself. She herself could not speak for others, including her family. She would eat meat declared “clean” in times of necessity, but not for the pleasure of it. That much is the point I was attempting to make with Ms. White’s journal quote.

In short: the wording on the verse varies by translation… so it’s fairly unlikely we can be certain on the accuracy unless we find THE origional manuscripts, and speak very fluent ancient Hebrew. I honestly don’t know how well that factors in. On MY part, however, I will hold to my belief that Ellen White would never willingly consume any unclean meat, even if she was in danger of starvation. These are my… i dunno, the phrase “counter-points” seems so argumentative… whatever they are. I don’t know. In any case, I recommend the original asker uses this information to make his own informed decision. I’ve given my view, based on the given information. Someone else disagrees. There really is only one real answer, but I don’t presume be absolutely certain beyond reason or rational argument. I may be wrong. Been wrong before.

-Howie