When Insects Have Six Legs… and Four Feet?

Critics of the Bible often attempt to discredit God’s word by claiming that it contains scientific inaccuracies and so could not have been written by an omniscient being, God or otherwise.

One such criticism is leveled against this passage from the Pentateuch:

All winged insects that go on all fours are detestable to you. 21Yet among the winged insects that go on all fours you may eat those that have jointed legs above their feet, with which to hop on the ground. 22Of them you may eat: the locust of any kind, the bald locust of any kind, the crickets of any kind, and the grasshopper of any kind. 23But all other winged insects that have four feet are detestable to you. The Third Book of Moses, called Leviticus 11:20–23

In our time of scientific enlightenment, most of us have been taught one of the characteristics of insects is that they have six legs. Most children are likely aware of this fact, so what was Moses thinking when he penned those words?

What are we to do with this Bible verse which states that some insects have four feet? Do we seek to correct the Scriptures and in so doing admit that an all-knowing intelligence had nothing to do with them, or do we acknowledge that there are some insects which get around in a quadrupedal motion?

Our passage allows the Jews to eat a particular type of flying insect, specifically the hopping insects (e.g., locusts, grasshoppers).

But don’t those insects have six feet? In scientific classification, of course they do! Notice, though, the distinction made by the Leviticus passage: the legs used for hopping are considered separately from its other feet.

In many flying insects, the first pair of legs seem to extend forward while the second two sets extend backward; to the Jews, that distinction may allow the phrase “go on all fours” to apply to insects without any thought of contradiction.

Or perhaps the phrase was used figuratively for horizontal locomotion.

In any event, simply because we would have worded a phrase or description differently in our day, we should not assume that the phrase was inaccurate nonsense in the context of when it was written.

The Bible is not a science book, nor is it a handbook on creation itself. It contains only that information which God desired that we should know — nothing more, nothing less.

What we should not do is expect the Scriptures to fit with, well, our expectations. Sometimes it will, but often it won’t. That much we should expect!

7 thoughts on “When Insects Have Six Legs… and Four Feet?”

  1. There are a lot of similar sections.

    Most notably the word “replenish” (I can’t quite remember where). Now it means to fill something up again. Back in the “day” it meant both to fill and refill.

  2. Colin: You’re absolutely right. The passage you’re thinking of is Genesis 1:28:

    And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

    The King James Version, rather than translating God’s command as “fill the earth,” reads, “replenish the earth,” which to the ears of 99% or so of English speakers worldwide implies that the earth had been filled prior this point and that Adam & Eve were starting over for humanity rather than starting fresh.

  3. It is believed that there were a pre Adamite world. One way to look at this would be Genesis 1:1-2 In the beginning YAHUWAH created the heavens and the earth But verse 2 says: The earth was without form and void (of life) and darkness was on the face of the deep. YAHUWAH does not create a mess. So there seems to be a time span between verse 1 and 2 of Genesis 1.

  4. Jasper — That is a rather widely held belief; however, Genesis does not state that God created a mess; it more or less says that he created a lump of clay (so to speak) which he had yet to form.

  5. Er, am I missing something, the earth was formed 4.5 billion years ago, it was not made by anybody.
    To single out the example of insects having six legs rather than four seems to pick an easy example from a book that informs us that serpents eat dust, that the earth is built on pillars, the moon is an independent light source, that light was created three days, and plants one day, before the sun and that St. Peter could fly.
    Forgive me if you deal with these and other mistakes and contradictions. The faithful seem to spend a lot of time trying to think up rationalisations of the more absurd ideas of the bronze age priests who wrote the bible but wouldn’t it be easier to trust what science can demonstrate.
    But then I would think that because I am an Amalekite.

  6. A few years later….

    James, did you find the answers to your questions yet? It seems easy enough to answer all that stuff. :)

    Also, a fundamental error is assuming that science can demonstrate anything at all. It really can’t establish knowledge. Science is based on observation, induction and the development of models of reality. Nothing that science says can’t be epistemically justified. So, unless you want to weaken the nature of the concept of knowledge, science has nothing to offer in that regard. It may be able to help us to improve our living conditions, or perhaps dramatically worsening them (depending on who does what to whom) but it cannot be of any help in defining any aspect of human experience: epistemic, ethical, or aesthetic.

    There is no source of universality in either observation or induction. So any logical argument that attempts to move from them to a universal is necessarily invalid. As logicians say, you can’t get blood from a turnip.

    So, simply put, science is no authority. God’s word has authority but science does not. Science must presuppose the truth of God’s word in order to function. The very basis for any kind of validity of theories made from observation and induction depends on the existence of the Triune God of Scripture.

    The philosophy of science is quite a different topic than any particular field of science. Shockingly, hardly any scientists have considered the logical foundation of their own field. Most just assume that science will eventually explain everything! No wonder the masses, who have only a popular science idea of science, place their trust in science.

    The Triune nature of God is at the heart of all human experience and endeavor. Take predication, for instance. In a proposition consisting of subject, verb and predicate a simple entity is formed that must be either true or false. A proposition, “all men are sinners”, has the “twin” aspects of simplicity (truth/falsehood) and complexity (subject, verb, predicate). How can one thing be both complex and yet form a simple unity? This question is at the heart of every philosophical and scientific discipline. Christianity has the answer – any denial of the Triune God of Scripture leads to absurdity. Thus, science cannot logically function without presupposing the existence of the very God whom they claim to be independent of.


    1. The moment you reject science on those bases, you essentially dismiss *all* knowing — how can you truly trust your senses, after all?

      You’re accepting God’s word as absolute, but with absolutely no reason to do so. You can dismiss it just as easily — easier, in fact — as science, if you pick at it even just a little bit.

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