18 Things People Think Are Forbidden in the Bible But Aren’t

The Bible, a central text in Jewish and Christian traditions, is often interpreted in various ways, leading to misconceptions about what it explicitly forbids. While some believe it outlines strict rules for every aspect of life, others see it as a guide with principles that require contextual understanding. Here are 18 examples of that.

Eating Pork and Shellfish

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Leviticus 11:7–8 labels pork and shellfish as unclean, but this is part of the Old Testament dietary laws, not a universal, timeless command. These laws were specifically given to the Israelites, not as a moral guideline for all humanity. Acts 10:15 and Mark 7:18–19 suggest that no food should be considered unclean in the new covenant.

Wearing Mixed Fabrics

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Leviticus 19:19 forbids wearing garments of mixed linen and wool, seen as part of the ceremonial law, not a moral law. This was likely related to distinguishing the Israelites from other peoples or had symbolic meanings not applicable today.


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Leviticus 19:28 forbids tattoos, but this is often interpreted within the context of pagan mourning practices. The prohibition was against practices associated with the dead, not necessarily against all forms of body art. The New Testament’s teachings focus more on the heart’s condition than on external appearances.

Working on the Sabbath

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Exodus 20:8–11 commands a Sabbath rest, but Jesus clarified that the purpose of the Sabbath was for man’s benefit, not as a burden. Jesus healed on the Sabbath, demonstrating the law’s intent was about doing good and prioritizing human needs. Early Christians began to meet on Sundays, showing a shift from the strict Jewish observance of the Sabbath.

Drinking Alcohol

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Proverbs 20:1 warns against drunkenness, not the consumption of alcohol itself. Jesus turned water into wine, indicating moderate use of alcohol is not forbidden. The Bible warns against excess and losing control, not against all consumption of alcohol. Challies warns, “There is no disagreement over excess—everyone agrees that drunkenness is sinful.”

Women Speaking in Church

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1 Corinthians 14:34–35’s context suggests it addressed specific issues in the Corinthian church, not a universal rule. The instruction was likely addressing disorderly conduct in worship, not a blanket prohibition. Women like Priscilla were active in early Christian ministry, indicating diverse roles were accepted.

Braiding Hair

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1 Timothy 2:9 advises against elaborate hairstyles as part of a call for modesty, not an outright ban. The emphasis is on not letting external adornment be the primary focus. The advice was to avoid ostentatious displays of wealth, not a general prohibition on hairstyles. Equipping Godly Women advises, “While there are some Bible passages that should be taken literally (do not steal, murder, or cheat, for example), other passages should be viewed from a metaphorical perspective.”

Playing Sports

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There is no biblical passage that directly forbids playing sports; concerns usually relate to idolatry, pride, or neglect of spiritual duties. Physical activity can be seen as stewardship of the body, which is valued in the scriptures. The key is balancing such activities with one’s spiritual life and responsibilities.


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While some associate dancing with sinful behavior, the Bible contains positive references to dance as a form of joy and worship. The concern is more about the context and purpose of the dance than the act itself. King David danced before the Lord with all his might, showing that dance can be an expression of worship and joy.

Listening to Secular Music

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The Bible does not explicitly forbid listening to secular music; concerns usually revolve around the lyrics’ content and the heart’s condition. Believers are encouraged to be discerning about what they listen to and how it affects their hearts and minds.

Getting a Divorce for Non-Adultery Reasons

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Matthew 19:9 provides an exception for divorce in the case of sexual immorality, but this does not cover all possible scenarios. Jesus mentioned that Moses permitted divorce because of the hardness of people’s hearts, suggesting a concession rather than a command. Many churches recognize other serious circumstances, such as abuse, as valid reasons for divorce, seeking to balance justice, mercy, and restoration.

Remarriage After Divorce

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While Jesus speaks against divorce and remarriage in some contexts, the New Testament also addresses the reality of remarriage in a fallen world. The gospel message is one of grace, forgiveness, and new beginnings. Different Christian traditions interpret these teachings in various ways, often allowing for remarriage under certain conditions.

Women Wearing Pants

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Deuteronomy 22:5 speaks against cross-dressing, but this does not directly address modern clothing styles like women wearing pants. The prohibition was likely against practices associated with pagan worship or blurring gender distinctions. Most interpret this as a principle of maintaining clear gender distinctions, not a specific dress code.

Drinking Coffee or Caffeine

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The Bible does not mention coffee or caffeine; concerns usually relate to moderation and stewardship of the body. Believers are encouraged to care for their bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit, which includes healthy habits. As with all things, moderation is key, avoiding addiction or anything that harms the body.

Celebrating Birthdays

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There is no biblical prohibition against celebrating birthdays; concerns usually stem from the pagan origins of certain practices. Celebrations can be seen as times of thanksgiving and joy for the gift of life. “God created mankind and the Earth, so we owe him our utmost gratitude! Rejoice for another year of birth and give up a prayer of thanks,” says Woman’s Day. The key is keeping celebrations in a context that honors God and reflects gratitude.

Reading Fiction

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While the Bible emphasizes truth, it does not forbid the reading of fiction; concerns usually relate to the content and the impact on one’s faith. Fiction can be a legitimate expression of imagination and creativity, gifts from God. The key is choosing works that are edifying, align with biblical values, and do not lead one into temptation.

Practicing Yoga

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Concerns about yoga often relate to its Hindu origins; however, many practice it purely for physical health benefits. The intention behind the practice and the focus of one’s mind are crucial. Some have adapted yoga practices to focus on Christian meditation and prayer, separating physical benefits from spiritual origins. My Vinyasa Practice suggests, “For Christians, yogic practices like breathwork and meditation represent opportunities to calm the mind and prepare the inner self to communicate with God in quiet solitude.”

Playing Cards

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Playing cards has been associated with gambling and superstition, but there is no biblical prohibition against the cards themselves. The key is to avoid gambling or any activity that leads to addiction or harms relationships. Card games can be a form of leisure and fellowship when played responsibly and in moderation.

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