Insects have 4 legs

Before you freak out, this is in reference to this post: “The Bible and the Quran Agree: Insects have 4 legs” over at one of my favorite blogs, Dwindling in Unbelief:

“Here’s what the Bible says:

Even these of them ye may eat; the locust after his kind, and the bald locust after his kind, and the beetle after his kind, and the grasshopper after his kind. But all other flying creeping things, which have four feet, shall be an abomination unto you. Leviticus 11:22-23

And here’s the Quran:

Allah hath created every animal of water. Of them is (a kind) that goeth upon its belly and (a kind) that goeth upon two legs and (a kind) that goeth upon four. Quran 24:45

It’s true that neither holy book comes right out and says that all insects have four legs.

But the Bible says that locusts, beetles, and grasshoppers (which are the ones you are allowed to eat) have four legs, while “all other flying creeping things, which have four feet, shall be an abomination unto you.” So that would seem to include insects in God’s “four legged, flying, creeping things” taxon.

The Quran is a bit less clear, but it too seems to imply that insects have either zero, two or (more likely) four legs.”

From this we can infer:

  • It’s totally ok to eat insects. (See “Related posts” for more I’ve written about Entomophagy.)
  • Neither holy book should be taken literally. Especially with regards to taxonomy. :D

If you want to know more about Insects and the Bible, check out “Bible References to Insects and Other Arthropods” by W. G. Bruce. (1958. Bull. Entomol. Soc. Am 4(3): 75-78.)

Locusts are mentioned more than any other insect in the Bible, BTW.
And check out Exodus 8:16-18 for info about lice.

Related posts:

20 thoughts on “Insects have 4 legs

  1. Reminds me of the story about the Harvard biochem student who had E. O. Wilson on his committee. His oral exam was coming up and he was worried about what questions Wilson would ask him. He consulted his advisor and was told that Wilson would only ask basic questions. The day of the exam came and Wilson asked him how many legs insects had. Smiling confidently, the student replied: “Usually 4 but sometimes 5 or 6.” To which Wilson, astonished, said, “Where on earth did you get that idea?”
    “Yesterday I went over to the museum and looked at the collection,” replied the student.

  2. What really floors me is that every single human on earth has seen real, live insects. All you have to do is pick one up and look at it, ESPECIALLY if you are going to eat it. I mean, it’s not that hard to notice that your wee crunchy snacks are not quadrupeds.

    This is not trebuchet science!

    andrea

  3. I suspect there is a translation issue here. (Cross-check other bible versions here: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=leviticus%2011;&version=51;)

    According to this site, the phrase “on all fours” is an English idiom used to translate the concept of walking low to the ground.
    http://www.answerbag.com/q_view/385244

    I figure if you’re looking closely enough at bugs to know which ones have jointed hopping legs, you’re probably close enough to count them! And of course the lack of a modern taxonomy makes it harder to translate the distinctions the bible writers were trying to make. If you think about it, they were trying to invent a sort of taxonomy and describe it the best they could. (Elsewhere on the internet you can read about the apparent discrepencies with rabbits and camels).

    I’m not writing because I feel like the bible needs to be defended (far from it) but because it’s too easy to jump to the “ancient peoples sure were dumb” conclusion – and they probably weren’t any dumber than us.

  4. Actually, my attitude is more “people who insist on taking the Bible literally are dumb.”

    There are so many different versions (as you so aptly pointed out!), that insistence on a literal interpretation seems silly.

  5. The bible should not be taken literally!

    Anyone who has any interest in any religion/science debate owes it to themselves to read Galileo on the subject (in “The Opinions and Discoveries of Galileo” if you must read him in English instead of Italian). His letter to Christina says everything that needs to be said on the topic — including citing St. Augustine, who already had said everything that needed to be said on the subject hundreds of years earlier.

    As part of what he says: If you’re a Christian, the universe is God’s work as much as the Bible is. If you find a contradiction between the Bible and the observed world, your interpretation of the Bible is what’s at fault.

  6. Quran 24:45 doesn’t say anything about insect!
    Quran 24:45 talks about ANIMAL with two legs such as monkey and four legs such as dog, an animal walk upon its belly such as snake.

    Your statement is incorrect my friend!

  7. Bug girl!

    insects are in fact ANIMALS you are right!
    but Does Q24:45 talk about insect? Nope!

    example:
    a baby girl is a person!
    but when we talk about a person with big muscle and long mustache, do we talk about a baby girl? Of course not!

    Learn to use logic, bug girl!

  8. sorry about it bug girl, I didn’t realize you are the owner of this blog. Good luck to you with your blog. Peace!

  9. Sometimes I wonder if the Bible (or its translators) makes a distinction among any small buzzing insects. See http://www.britishbee.org.uk/articles/bee_legends.php (paragraph four) for the old story about Samson finding honey in the ribcage of a dead lion. The story seems to risen from uncharacteristically dull observation, conflated into a monster from a separate and altogether monkish millenium, and lodged in the human collective consciousness. Only bees make honey, right? Not so, there’s another wasp that also has this trick, the honeypot ants. As also, in different context, some aphids. Is there, or could there be, a sweet carrion eater, especially among wasps? Are fly maggots sweet, could they ever be mistaken for brood comb by Neolithic hunter gatherers or johnny come lately shepherds?

    Nice blog, I’ll have to link your pages if I can find the top.

  10. “if I can find the top”
    Uh oh–I hope that doesn’t mean it’s doing that annoying trick of loading strangely again….

    Thanks for stopping by!

  11. I find it rather funny that in all my versions of the Bible and my two Qurans that none of the versus that you quote are even remotely close to what the verses say. For reference don’t use an atheist’s interpretation of “Holy books,” do your own research. If you would like some true versus hit me up, but otherwise you just look ignorant. Have a great day!!!

  12. And so if each of these books is different….that means that the whole “infallible word of God” thing is pretty much a bust, huh?

    Want to tell us which of the many different versions of the Bible is the right one? Or perhaps one of the Hebrew/Greek versions is more accurate?

  13. Hi Bug Girl:
    I just have one question. I know that one of the main characters of insects are that they have six legs. Do you know at least one of them that brokes that chain. I mean, Do you know one insect that have more or less than that??? More or less than six legs??? It is very important for me to know, this is not my area.
    Thank you and you have a great blog!

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