When is a bat a bird? Leviticus 11:13-19

Question

Leviticus 11:13-19 states that bats are birds. How can this be?

Answer

The Bible did not look forward and use modern biological categories, just like we in this century do not look 8000 years into the future and use names they will use then. In 8000 more years a bird may be called a "flycat," or some other unusual name, but for the time being we still call them birds. The Bible is using a rather generic category in which to group bats, as modern science uses a different classification system than the Ancient Near East. To the ancients, creatures such as a bat were considered birds since they categorized all flying animals as birds (bats were also similar in size).

We must read the Bible from the view of its original audience (exegesis) and not bring in modern categories, etc., and read them upon it (isogesis). This is a common error made by many. An example of this is one time at a funeral, a person told me that baptism had to be done by dunking someone all the way under the water as Jesus was buried 6 feet under the ground. What the person was doing was reading an American custom upon something that happened 2000 years ago. Besides, Jesus was not buried 6 feet under but sideways in a tomb!

In the view of the original audience of the Ancient Near East, bats flew so were categorized as birds.

Related Topics:

Birds of the Bible

Life of an Eagle

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).