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(all Bible citations are from KJV)

[Leviticus, chapter 11]

Whatsoever parteth the hoof, and is clovenfooted, and cheweth the cud, among the beasts, that shall ye eat. Nevertheless these shall ye not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the hoof: as the camel, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. (...) And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you.

Then we are dozen hundreds later and there is:

[Matthew, chapter 8]

And when [Jesus] was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time? And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding. So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine. And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters.

The Wikipedia article of Gergesenes says the city lies "to the east of the Sea of Galilee" and inhabited by people who "were culturally more Greek than Semitic" and "this would account for the pigs in the biblical account".

As this article is marked (since 2009) as lacking of sources and requiring improvement, what could be a reason to breed pigs in Israel? Or it really was not Israeli city? (sources are welcome).

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@Voiticus - a somewhat relevant aside: 'unclean' here means for eating. Pigs are not 'taboo' according to Jewish law, they are simply forbidden to be used as food. But they could have been used for their hides, controlling vermin (they are good at keeping rodents under control) etc. Admittedly, not likely, but possible. –  user2590 Jul 14 '13 at 3:47

1 Answer 1

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Not everybody living in Israel at that time was Jewish. The country had been mostly ruled by Greeks since 333 BC, and then by Romans since the mid first century BC. As this was quite recent, this resulted in a real polyglot mix of people, with Greeks performing much of the upper-class administration duties, while the soldiers were Roman. It is generally argued today that a carpenter of the time, such as Jesus' father is said to have been, would likely have found most of his work from richer folk in the nearby Greek settlements, rather than in a backwater Jewsh town like Nazareth.

Greeks and Romans did not share the Jew's taboos about pork, and in fact found it quite tasty. Workers like swineherds (and carpenters) would obviously need to be employed nearby to keep them supplied.

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As a side note, one thing a lot of modern readers really miss from the Gospels is all the racial and political undertones. A highly suggested (and very funny) fictional read that goes into this a fair bit is Christopher Moore's Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal. I can suggest some scholarly works too, but they inevitably tend to be more contraversial. –  T.E.D. Jun 25 '13 at 21:53
    
"all the racial and political undertones". Care to specify? –  user2590 Jul 14 '13 at 3:43
    
@Histophile - Wouldn't mind to, but it isn't really on topic for my answer, and wouldn't fit in a comment. –  T.E.D. Jul 14 '13 at 22:35
    
I'm asking because I wonder if you are perhaps misconstruing some of those passages. Are you reading in the original languages? It is impossible to understand the Bible correctly unless you read the original language, or at least the Septuagint. Many are the distortions, omissions, mistakes and modifications that were introduced in subsequent renderings. –  user2590 Jul 15 '13 at 9:21

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