[Sharp Eyed Watch, 2013, JA Van Devender]
Deuteronomy 14:7–8 (NKJV)
7 Nevertheless, of those that chew the cud or have cloven hooves, you shall not eat, such as these: the camel, the hare, and the rock hyrax; for they chew the cud but do not have cloven hooves; they are unclean for you. 8 Also the swine is unclean for you, because it has cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud; you shall not eat their flesh or touch their dead carcasses.
From Wikipedia " Rabbit Fever" F. tularensis
F. tularensis has been identified as the cause of human outbreaks in ancient Canaan in about 1715 BC and in 1075 BC. A long-lasting epidemic that plagued the eastern Mediterranean in the 14th century BC was also traced back to a focus in Canaan along the Arwad-Euphrates trading route. According to Siro I. Trevisanato, this epidemic contaminated an area stretching from Cyprus to Iraq, and from Palestine to Syria, sparing Egypt (due to a quarantine) and Anatolia (owing to effective political boundaries). Subsequently, wars are believed to have spread the same disease into central Anatolia, from whence it was deliberately introduced into western Anatolia, in acts constituting the first known record of biological warfare. Finally, Aegean soldiers fighting in western Anatolia returned home to their Greek islands, further spreading the same epidemic.
I did some hunting when I was growing up but, strangely enough, I was hesitant to hunt rabbits. No, contra Jimmy Carter's famous "attack of the killer rabbit", I was not afraid of being bitten by the fuzzy little critters, but the folk wisdom of my day made it sound like every third one of them would be infested by "wolves" (parasitic worm like organisms that spoiled the meat) or would kill you with "rabbit fever." This last was particularly scary to me because, again - folk wisdom, said that when you gutted the bunny that if it had the fever by then it was too late... you were infected and, of course pessimistic as I was, death was inevitable. It didn't seem to stop my dad. He had an old carbide coal miners head-lamp that he would wear as he went out at dusk and when he saw their beady little eyes sparkling in the beam, well, that was all she wrote. He lived until his eighties but I still don't like the idea of skinning a wild rabbit.
The Wikipedia article above supports the Deuteronomic injunction pretty well. Just about the time that Moses was reading the people of Israel God's riot act, the area was being plagued with rabbit fever. Who knows, God may have decimated those awful "giants" in Palestine that so scared the Israeli spies with a brand of biological warfare such that the Israelites could have walked all over them if their faith had been stronger. The bottom line of all this is, of course, that those old "clean/unclean" laws were not trivial, "merely" ceremonial components of God's providential care for His people.
Famously Jesus came to transition God's people into a New Covenant relation with their Creator/Father God. It was not a uniquely new Covenant but an extensively new one. The out pouring of the Holy Spirit was to be unto all nations and therefore the physically distinctive aspects of God's law, that which formed a boundary between Israelites and Gentiles, the wall of separation spoken of by Paul, were discarded. God's people were no longer to be distinct from those outside the pale by their physical circumcision, their dietary laws, their manner of dress and their Levitical worship. No, now God's people were to be distinguished by their active faith, the outworking of the Holy Spirit separating the sheep from the goats through the changed heart and dispositions that God's grace imparted to them. Interestingly this was brought home to Peter when he visited Cornelius' house in Acts and it was not Paul, but Peter who first enunciated God's changed relations with the world. This further highlights Peters sin which Paul confronted in Galatians.
The bottom line... it's no longer a matter of breaking God's law for me to eat a wild rabbit (or a domestic one), which still doesn't mean that it is a good idea.
I think the freedom that we have in Christ dictates that similar types of "judgment calls" be consciously undertaken throughout the spheres of our lives. Not everything that is lawful is wise. There is a place for a modified "clean/unclean" distinction in our Christian walk also. We know that such things cannot separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus but there is an obedience that should flow out of us that registers in "what is best for my Master?", "How can I serve Him best in this or that?".... Subjectively, this can sometimes include avoiding some things that are not, in and of themselves prohibited by God's law. There are some "games" that are more prone to dishonoring God than others. There is a difference between a "high stakes" poker game and a friendly "penny-ante" evening out with "the boys." If you have never put down a sizable bet on a poker hand then you are probably better off for not having done so. The energy/fear that accompanies such a bet is pretty far removed from trusting God and the passions that control you when the bet is lost ain't pretty.
I don't think it absolutely sinful to appreciate certain artistic representations of the human body... however, I find Donatello's "David" repulsive while I am not uncomfortable with Michaelangelo's "David" at all. The first appeals to prurient interests almost entirely... the second, not so much, though I would not have a copy in my house of it either. Bernini's is a far better portrayal. The point is not trivial.
It is not "legalism" to consciously orient one's life along lines of "these things I can do without real concern... those things I cannot in anyway pursue... and in the middle are things which are subjectively, contextually determined." Sometimes we may actually find it God glorifying to undertake a course of action which in other circumstances would not do so at all.
The basic idea is this: God's righteous law, summarized in the Ten Commandments, furnish us with the outer boundary of actions and pursuits which must not be violated because to do so will not bring glory to our God at all. If we have been crucified in Christ then the law has no condemnation for us but it still functions to delimit our sphere of possible actions. That doesn't mean however that everything else is "hunky-dory". Judgments still have to be made within the sphere of God's lawful boundary. We ought to give a bit more thought perhaps to the principle of "clean/unclean" distinctions which should still be part of our visible witness to the world about us.
note bene: K. Barth has an excellent discussion on this approach to "law keeping" in his discussion of the Sermon on the Mount, Church Dogmatics, II.2 p. 685ff.