A Messianic Christian Rabbi made the statements, “eating pork is sin,” “”All foods are clean, BUT pork is NOT food – food is only what is described as food in Leviticus 11″; and ”Mark 7 has not a thing to do with the dietary commandments. Plainly, if you read the passage IN ITS ENTIRETY, it says it is about RITUALISTIC HAND-WASHING, not the dietary commandments.”
First let me say that mankind has found at least some benefit for following at least some of the dietary laws. However, this brings up the question of whether Christian should keep Torah (observe the laws given in the Mosaic Law), and if so, what parts and why. I believe the Torah tells us what God considers sin, but I do not think we are required to follow all the law. I will expound on why in a future article. In this article, we will deal with whether Christian should keep the dietary laws found in the Mosaic Law.
Let us address the statement, “pork is NOT food – food is only what is described as food in Leviticus 11.”
To understand how this is not accurate, we must look at what scripture says about food.
Notice that we see that, originally, mankind was given green vegetables to eat.
29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.”
There was a notion of clean and unclean animals at the time of Noah, as we see in Genesis 7:2-3, before the flood, before any mention of animals being eaten. As such, there was no concept of taking in clean meat or not taking in unclean meat:
2 Take with you seven of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and two of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, 3 and also seven of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth
But after the flood, God gave Noah and his sons everything that lives and moves (ie. land animals and fish and birds) to eat. To underscore this, he reminded Noah that He had originally given the green plants to eat, and in the same way He was giving all animals to eat:
3 Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. 4 “But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it.
While it is possible to narrow the term everything to include only clean animals, I think that ‘everything’ in this instance included clean and unclean animals. Otherwise, why would God specify to Noah ‘everything’ here rather than specify to not eat unclean animals, to only later specifically lay out what animals were clean and unclean to Moses and could and could not be eaten (which He did in Leviticus 11)? It would be reasonable to spell out which animals to eat for Noah if that were important. But in fact, it was not until the exodus that God laid out for the Jews certain animals as being unclean in terms of food and so they could not eat them.
Before the Law, all animals were given to mankind as food, with the only stipulation being to not eat meat with its lifeblood still in it. This stipulation was repeated by James in Acts 15:12-21.
12 The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. 13 When they finished, James spoke up: “Brothers, listen to me. 14 Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself. 15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:
16” ‘After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, 17 that the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’18 that have been known for ages.
19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”
Lest you think that the statement that Moses had been preached from the earliest time and is read in weekly in the synagogues meant that these things to abstain from were just was to be just a starting point and they were to learn to follow the Law from listening to it on the Sabbath, recognize that the apostls and elders, indeed the whole church, chose to not bother the Gentile believers with anything further than what was in the letter they sent – with no mention of learning more and following to the Law – WHEN THAT WAS THE WHOLE POINT OF PAUL GOING TO JERUSALEM TO BEGIN WITH.
In fact, look at what Peter said in response to people trying to make the Gentiles follow the Law:
5 Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.“
6 The apostles and elders met to consider this question. 7 After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. 8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9 He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
The apostles and elders, indeed the whole church, agreed with Peter and James to not require the Gentile believers to obey the Law of Moses. As such, they told the Gentile believers they did not wish to burden them with anything other than to say they were to “abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.”
22 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, two men who were leaders among the brothers. 23 With them they sent the following letter: The apostles and elders, your brothers, To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings.24 We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said.25 So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. 28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements:29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.
In the same way, Jesus declared all food clean – that nothing from outside a man (including food) can make him unclean – in Mark 7:14-23.
14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’ “
17After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18“Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? 19For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”)
20He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ 21For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’ “
Now, the Jewish people were familiar with people of other cultures and religions, so they knew that food included all things edible, but that the Jew was forbidden from eating certain foods, as they had been considered unclean. But here we see Mark telling us that Jesus declared all food clean.
Some want to say that the words are in parentheses because they are not in the original text. However, depending on the version, sometimes the words are in parentheses and sometimes not. Look in various versions of the Bible (NIV, NASB, NLT, ESV, CEV, NKJV, NCV, ASV, Youngs Literal Translation, Holman Christian Standard), the words are there, sometimes in parentheses, sometimes not – but the versions which give footnotes that the best or oldest manuscripts do not have certain passages do not have any such footnote. The only versions I found which did not have it are Darby, KJV, KJ21, and Wycliffe. Yet, even those verses DO include the phrase, just using different language: “purging all meats” (Darby, KJV, WYC, KJ21), “purifying all foods” (NKJV).
Someone might say, “Mark 7 has not a thing to do with the dietary commandments. Plainly, if you read the entire passage , it says it is about ritualistic hand-washing, not the dietary commandments.”
Yes, the conversation in Mark 7 began by discussing the traditions of the elders of washing hands before eating, but it ended discussing the things that actually make a man unclean, and it was NOT anything that enters the body from outside (including food). Mark 7 was not simply about ritualistic hand-washing, or any other hedge-laws enacted by the rabbis. It is also about what really makes one clean or unclean. Jesus was clear that things that enter our bodies from the outside, including food, do not make us unclean. But it is our heart-attitudes, what is inside us, that makes us unclean.
In fact, Paul is clear that he did did not think any food was unclean according to Romans 14:13-21:
13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. 14 As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. 15 If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. 16 Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. 19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.
So, all food is clean. As believers, we are free to eat what we choose. Although, we should never eat something or not eat something that might cause our brother to stumble. Additionally, we should be convinced in our own minds whether something is clean or unclean, and if we consider something unclen, then it is, but by the same token, if we consider something clean, then it is. It is not about what the Law said, but what God said to people who had faith in Christ. And God gave all animals as food, and Jesus declared all foods clean.
Of course, this does not speak to health benefits that following the diet found in dietary laws might (and in some cases have been proven) accrue to one. To me, that is an entirely different issue than when one must keep them – since God has declared all foods clean.
If you think you can follow the dietary laws and not replace the grace of God with the following of these laws (Galatians 1:6-8), then feel free to do so. Paul didn’t think it was something you should do, but you should be convinced in your own mind. Likewise, those who are convinced that there is no requirement to follow said laws should show love to those who do.
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