Barnabas 10 offers an allegorical discussion of kashrut. The writer addresses dietary laws in two groups of three: prohibitions against the eating of pig, vulture and eel, followed by prohibitions against eating hare, hyena and weasel. In each case, the allegorical interpretation construes diet as comportment (e.g. one should not behave like a pig, vulture etc.). Concerning the hare, readers are admonished not to emulate its corruption of children – a behaviour linked to its annual acquisition of an anus. Parallel allegorical interpretations of the Jewish food laws can be found in the Letter of Aristeas and Philo, De specialibus legibus 4 and similar quasi-scientific observations about animals occur in texts ranging from the rabbis to Physiologus. However, the rabbit poses a particular problem since no known precedent exists for either its behaviour or its physiology. The present investigation thus focuses on the rabbit, attempting to reconstruct the literary and historical background for its unusual characterisation.
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