Coronavirus has ground the world to a halt. The global economy is on its knees, people are dying in their thousands and health services – previously seen as beacons of human endeavour – are crippled to the point of despair. It is an era-defining crisis of biblical proportion and it began with a story fit for the pages of the Old Testament, in the wet markets of Wuhan.
Bats have evolved fierce immune responses to viruses, paving the way for outbreaks like COVID-19 to replicate faster and break through to find new hosts in their own bid for survival, research suggests.
Scientists say that coronavirus is highly likely to have come from bats to humans via pangolins.
This is believed to have started in China’s Hubei province and its capital, Wuhan, where the sale of bats and pangolins for human consumption is widespread and profitable.
Chillingly, a passage from the Old Testament appears to predict such a chain of events.
Leviticus specifically forbids eating bats
The Book of Leviticus – written over 2,000 years ago – does not cite scientific research, nor does it explain the intricacies of a bat’s immune system – but it does warn against people eating them.
Chapter 11 offers instructions on how to remain clean by abstaining from the consumption of certain animals.
It reads: “These you shall detest among the birds, they shall not be eaten – the eagle, the bearded vulture, the black vulture, the kite, the falcon of any kind, every raven of any kind, the ostrich, the nighthawk, the seagull, the hawk of any kind, the little owl, the cormorant, the short-eared owl, the barn owl, the tawny owl, the carrion vulture, the stork, the heron of any kind, the hoopoe, and the bat.
“All winged insects that go on all fours are detestable to you.
“Yet 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.
“Of them, you may eat, the locust of any kind, the bald locust of any kind, the cricket of any kind, and the grasshopper of any kind.”
Jews and Christians believe Leviticus documents the direct word of God from a series of speeches delivered to Moses, who then repeated the message to the Israelites.
The messages are said to have been delivered after the Exodus – when the Israelites escaped Egypt to reach Mount Sinai – as a means to educate humanity on avoiding sin and impurity wherever possible.
Though bats are now considered mammals, until the Middle ages, organisms were classified into three categories, those that walked on land, those that flew through the air and those that lived in water.
By this method, bats are grouped into the same category as birds.
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The passage goes on to warn that anyone who does not follow these rules will remain “unclean” until they repent.
It adds: “By these, you shall become unclean.
“Whoever touches their carcass shall be unclean until the evening, and whoever carries any part of their carcass shall wash his clothes and be unclean until the evening.
“This is the law about beast and bird and every living creature that moves through the waters and every creature that swarms on the ground, to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean and between the living creature that may be eaten and the living creature that may not be eaten.”
Some online users have linked this extract with coronavirus.
One tweet reads: “Leviticus specifically forbids eating bats.”
Another adds: “Pretty sure God told us not to eat bats in Leviticus.”
A third states: “In Leviticus God very specifically says you should not eat bats.”
But some have gone one step further, referencing Leviticus 26:14-18, which reads: “If you won’t listen or obey my commands and reject them and violate my covenant, then I will bring on you sudden terror, wasting diseases and fever that will destroy your sight and sap your strength.
“If you still disobey Me, I will punish you sevenfold.”
One Twitter user commented: “If China keeps eating unclean food, God will punish you sevenfold.”
Another added: “Leviticus reveals the punishment for disobedience.”
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