Original Research - Special Collection: African Hermeneutics

Old Testament dietary laws in contemporary African Christian practice

Onyekachi G. Chukwuma
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 43, No 1 | a2604 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v43i1.2604 | © 2022 Onyekachi G. Chukwuma | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 26 May 2022 | Published: 19 October 2022

About the author(s)

Onyekachi G. Chukwuma, Department of Religion and Cultural Studies, Faculty of the Social Sciences, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria; and Department of Old Testament and Hebrew Scriptures, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


Old Testament dietary laws consist of the rules that God gave to the Israelites pertaining to what may be eaten and what should not be eaten. In the Old Testament, the animals that may be consumed are referred to as ‘clean’, whereas those which should not be consumed are referred to as ‘unclean’. The prohibitions on food were mainly aimed at preserving the identity of the people of Israel. This article analysed the dietary laws recorded in Leviticus chapters 11 and 17. It investigated the observance of the Old Testament dietary laws among contemporary African Christians, with specific reference to Nigerian Christians. The findings of this study revealed that in the contemporary Nigerian Christian practice, some Christians’ compliance or noncompliance to the food laws is faith-based, while for others it is not. Hence, some Christians obey the Old Testament food regulations on the premise of their loyalty to God, while some do not observe the dietary laws because they do not regard noncompliance as an act of disobedience to God. They believe that one’s faith in God is not determined by what one eats or does not eat. Moreover, the study discovered that in recent times, compliance or noncompliance to the dietary laws is also based on health, economy, culture and other factors. A greater percentage of the data used in this work were derived through personal communication. The researcher utilised the descriptive research methodology in analysing the data derived from both primary and secondary sources.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: The article is an Afrocentric assessment of the observance of Old Testament food laws among contemporary Christians. This study contributes to Old Testament modern discourses on dieting and sustainable lifestyle. Its related disciplines are nutrition and dietetics, dietetic medicine, biblical interpretation, African biblical hermeneutics and practical theology.


dietary laws; Old Testament; Christian practice; Leviticus; Nigerian Christians.


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