When we are asked to do something or believe something in regards to Scripture, shouldn't we always be like the Bereans and test everything against Scripture itself (Acts 17:11), the whole of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17)? If a person feels "led by the spirit" to speak, behave, or believe a certain way, they should test that spirit (1 John 4:1) and verify if what that spirit is telling them is in agreement with Scripture or not.
Let's take a journey together through Scripture and see what it has to say about food. As we go, may we say, believe, and do what is right, be merciful in our speech and actions, and walk humbly with the Lord (Micah 6:8).
Scriptural quotations are from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted. Bolded text or other emphases in the Scriptural references are the author's.
As is usually best, let's start at the beginning of Scripture in Genesis.
First Fruits Foods
The very first thing Scripture has to say about food is found in Genesis chapter 1 as part of the story of the creation of man. G-d says that He will make man in His own image. Male and female He created them.
Then G-d said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food"; and it was so. (Genesis 1:29-30)
Things that are pleasing to our senses and are "good for food" may not always be something that G-d wants us to eat.
Initially, G-d gave seed-bearing plants and fruits to humans as food. Chapter 1 of Genesis closes with verse 31: "G-d saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day."
This verse contains the first use of the phrase "it was very good" in the story of Creation and in all of Scripture.
Before Adam and Chavah sinned and they were still living in the garden, Scripture tells us that G-d caused to grow out of the ground every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food. "Every tree" included the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:9). It was later in Genesis 3:6 that Chavah "saw that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eyes." Then she took of the fruit, ate it, and then gave some to her husband.
Things which are pleasing to our senses and are "good for food" may not always be something that G-d wants us to eat.
Clean and Unclean Animals
As we move further into Scripture, we find the next reference to food is in Genesis 6:21. Here G-d instructs Noach bring along food which is edible (i.e. suitable for eating). We again see Scripture indicating that some food is suitable for eating and other food is not suitable for eating. An interesting observation is that, although Scripture never provides any detail about what is and what is not suitable at the time, Noach clearly knows which is which because he does not question G-d about it.
Thus far in Scripture, we have not been given any indication that G-d approves of any food other than the seed-bearing plants and fruits that He provided. That is about to change. In Genesis 9:3 G-d instructs Noach that "every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you". This instruction is given without additional caveat...or is it?
In Genesis 6:19-20 G-d tells Noach to bring in two of every kind of the animals, the birds, and "of every creeping thing":
"And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. Of the birds after their kind, and of the animals after their kind, of every creeping thing of the ground after its kind, two of every kind will come to you to keep them alive. (Genesis 6:19-20)
The Hebrew word for "creeping thing" in both this verse and also in Genesis 9:3 is רמשׂ (remes- Strong's #7431). This term is often used in passages referring to unclean animals. G-d provides some additional clarification in chapter 7.
"You shall take with you of every clean animal by sevens, a male and his female; and of the animals that are not clean two, a male and his female; also of the birds of the sky, by sevens, male and female, to keep offspring alive on the face of all the earth. (Genesis 7:2-3)
Here G-d instructs Noach to take seven pairs of clean animals and birds "to keep offspring alive on the face of all the earth". This begs the question:
Why not just take two pairs like all the other animals?
Because after the Flood Noach offers up some of the clean animals as a sacrifice to G-d (Genesis 8:20). If there had been only one pair of animals then as soon as Noach had sacrificed one or eaten one then that type of animal would have become extinct: it would have had no partner with which to mate and reproduce.
Consider the events surrounding the Flood:
- G-d causes two of every kind of animal to come to Noah to keep them alive (Genesis 6:20)
- Clean animals are taken by sevens, and unclean animals are taken by twos (Genesis 7:2)
- Every person and animal outside the ark perishes in the Flood (Genesis 7:21-22)
- The Flood subsides (Genesis 8:13), and Noah exits the ark (v 18)
- G-d tells Noah to let the animals out of the ark so that "they may breed abundantly on the earth" (Genesis 8:17)
- G-d tells Noah "every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you" (Genesis 9:3)
There are only two options at this point:
- G-d did intend Noah to eat the unclean animals
- G-d did not intend Noah to eat the unclean animals
Let's say G-d did intend Noah to eat the unclean animals and Noah went out, slaughtered the sow [a female pig], and made himself a nice ham sandwich, a few pork chops, and some bacon for breakfast. At that point, pigs would cease to be able to reproduce (there were only two in the ark after all) so G-d's intention to keep the animals alive (Genesis 6:20) and breed abundantly upon the earth (Genesis 8:17) would have been thwarted. It appears that G-d did not intend Noah to eat the unclean animals because that would contradict His will and purposes for bringing the unclean animals on the ark.
Other references to food in Genesis
There are several other references to food in Genesis that provide insight into food and how we should handle it.
Genesis 14:11 is part of the record of the sacking of S'dom (Sodom) and Amorah (Gomorrah) and the capture of Avram's nephew Lot. This verse notes that the food supply was taken along with all the other goods of the towns. At that time (as it is now for armies) food is a valuable commodity.
Genesis 24:33 is found in the early part of the story of Elietzer's search for a wife for Yitzchak. Elietzer has come to the household of Lavan and seen Rivkah, placed bracelets upon her arms. Lavan hears of this, comes to Elietzer and invites him into his home. Lavan unloaded Elietzer's camels and fed them, provided water for Elietzer and the men with him to wash his feet. Food was prepared and brought before Elietzer, but he says (in verse 33) that he will not eat until he has spoken his business.
Elietzer provides an example to us in that he refused to take care of his own needs until he had spoken his master's business. So we, too, should be willing and able to set aside our personal need for sustenance until we have taken care of our Master's business.
Genesis 27 tells the story of Yitzchak's blessing upon Yaakov and Esav. Yitzchak tells Esav to go out and kill some wild game to make a savory dish. At the prompting of his mother, Yaakov tricks his father into giving him the blessing of the firstborn. One traditional teaching in this passage is that Yitzchak allowed his focus on and hunger for food to distract him from properly examining Yaakov to determine if he were truly the firstborn. The lesson is that we should not allow ourselves to be distracted by food from properly investigating and settling a matter.
Genesis 28:20 records the conditions Yaakov includes in his vow to G-d to tithe to Him. Yaakov asks these things:
- G-d to be with him
- G-d will keep him on the journey
- Food to eat
- Garments to wear
- Safe return to his father's house
A lesson we can learn from this is that we should seek these things (including food) from the Source of everything good: our heavenly Father.
Genesis 39:6 informs us that Potiphar did not concern himself with anything in his household except for his food because Yosef had charge over everything.
Genesis 40:17 relates the dream of Pharaoh's baker who dreamed about a basket on his head that was filled with all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh.
Genesis 41 tells the story of Yosef's interpretation of the dreams of Pharaoh and his rise to power to handle the years of plenty and the years of famine. Verses 35, 36, and 48 all mention food.
Genesis 42-47 tells us about Yosef's brothers coming to buy food because of the famine in the land of Kena'an (Canaan).
Exodus 21:10 provides instruction to the man who takes a second wife: he may not reduce the food, clothing, or conjugal rights of the first wife.
There are a number of things that Scripture describes as "abominations". The Hebrew word is תּועבה (toehbah - plural: toehbot). One of the things that Scripture defines as an abomination is the eating of animals that G-d has declared as unfit as food (Deuteronomy 14:3). The translators of the NASB have softened the word in this verse to be "detestable thing". However, the Hebrew word there is the same word used in Scripture to describe sexual immorality, homosexuality, and bestiality but is translated in the NASB in those instances as "an abomination".
We are left with the question: "What has G-d defined as unfit as food?"
Leviticus 11 provides the answers.
Leviticus 11 (in concert with Deuteronomy 14:3) provides a description of the animals that are unsuitable for food for G-d's people, Israel.
Leviticus 11:3-8 describes the animals that are "kosher" [kosher is a Hebrew word that means "proper"].
Acceptable animals are those that:
- have a divided hoof/split hooves
- chews the cud
Camels, the shaphan (possibly a "coney" or rock rabbit?), and hares are specifically excluded. Even though they chew the cud, they do not have a split hoof. The pig is excluded. Even though it has a split hoof it does not chew the cud. Leviticus 11:8 indicates that not only should G-d's people not eat of it but they should not touch their carcasses because they are unclean.
Leviticus 11:9-12 describes the things "in the water" that are suitable for food. The scope of things "in the water" would include fish, shellfish, beavers, otters, etc.
Acceptable things "in the water" are those that:
- have fins
- have scales
Anything with fins and scales is suitable for food. Leviticus 11:12 indicates that anything in the water without fins and scales should be considered "abhorrent". The Hebrew word there is שׁקץ (sheqets) which means "filth".
Leviticus 11:13-19 describes the things "among the birds" which are unsuitable for food. Birds are described differently from the animals and fish in that only animals that are unsuitable are listed. The general gist of what is forbidden seems to be birds that are scavengers or birds of prey:
- the eagle
- the vulture
- the buzzard
- the kite
- every kind of falcon
- every kind of raven
- the ostrich
- the owl
- the seagull
- every kind of hawk
- the little owl
- the cormorant
- the great owl
- the white owl
- the pelican
- the carrion vulture
- the stork
- every kind of heron
- the hoopoe
- the bat
Leviticus 11:20-23 describes the insects which are suitable for food:
- Insects that walk on all fours are forbidden
- Insects that walk on all fours but have jointed legs with which to jump are permitted
Leviticus 11:27-30 provides some general prohibitions and lists specific animals that are unsuitable for food.
These things are forbidden:
- whatever walks on paws (e.g. dogs and cats)
- the mole
- the mouse
- all kinds of great lizard
- the gecko
- the crocodile
- the lizard
- the sand reptile
- the chameleon
Leviticus 11:41-43 provides some additional clarification:
These things are forbidden:
- swarming things that swarm the earth
- whatever crawls on its belly (i.e. snakes and lizards)
- whatever has many feet
It interesting to note that G-d uses a single chapter in Scripture to describe the creation of the entire universe. He then uses multiple chapters in other parts of Scripture to describe animals which are unsuitable for food. This particular passage regarding clean and unclean animals and things that are and are not suited for food (Leviticus 11) concludes with the following:
'For I am the LORD your G-d. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean with any of the swarming things that swarm on the earth. For I am the LORD who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your G-d; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy.' This is the law regarding the animal and the bird, and every living thing that moves in the waters and everything that swarms on the earth, to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean, and between the edible creature and the creature which is not to be eaten. (Leviticus 11:44-47)
G-d tells us that we should
be holy because
He is holy
G-d tells us that we should be holy because He is holy and that these "food laws" are matters of holiness.
For more information see What Scripture Says About Holiness.
As followers of Messiah Yeshua, we should also actively consider what He said about these matters.
The Words of Yeshua
Some teach that Yeshua "did away with" or "changed" the food laws. They often point to a particular verse in the book of Mark in support of their claim. Before we examine that verse, let's also consider the words of the Master from another passage:
"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. "Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19)
A few things jump out at us from this passage:
- Do not think-
Apparently some were thinking that Yeshua had come to abolish the Law or the Prophets so the Master specifically told us "don't think that". Some today try to persist in that very thought but use a different term: fulfill. Fulfill [Greek: plero'o] means to give the fullness of something. In various passages of Scripture He gave the fullness of a commandment. For example: "everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." That is the fullness of the prohibition regarding adultery. In other instances, He fulfilled a word of prophecy bringing about the fullness of its prophetic intent.
- Until heaven and earth pass away-
The last time we checked they are both still here.
- Whoever then annuls-
"Annul" can be defined as "To obliterate the effect or existence of".1 If we are saying there is no relevance for the commandments of Scripture in the lives of believers today then we are nullifying (obliterating the effect of) those commandments. Although some might seek to use different terms such as "it has no relevance to believers today" the net effect is the same: nullifying.
- Shall be called least in the kingdom-
This clearly indicates that the salvation of the person attempting to negate a command is not revoked. They are simply given some lesser measure of reward or standing within the kingdom.
- Whoever keeps and teaches them he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven-
This part of the verse seems pretty straight forward. Since Yeshua will most definitely be the greatest "in the kingdom" it is clear to see where He falls in the spectrum of those who keep and teach the commandments.
With this in mind let's examine the passage in Mark regarding food:
because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?" (Thus He declared all foods clean.) (Mark 7:19)
Those who might claim this singular statement of the Master somehow nullifies the food laws must contend with several issues that stem from it:
- Violation of the Master's mission
- Violation of the Torah
- Violation of G-d's righteousness
- Violation of G-d's unchanging nature
Violation of the Master's mission
As we found in Matthew 5:19 (above), the mission of the Master was to fulfill the Torah, not nullify it. Anyone who claims the Master changed the food laws must deal with the fact that they are stating He not only changed "the smallest letter" (Matthew 5:18) but nullified two entire chapters of the Torah. Since we know that He will be greatest in the kingdom, we cannot honestly make such an assertion and believe His words from Matthew 5 at the same time.
Violation of the Torah
In Deuteronomy 13 we are given a warning about a prophet or a dreamer of dreams who might try to draw Israel away from G-d's commandments. G-d cautions His people in verses 4-5:
"You shall follow the LORD your G-d and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the LORD your G-d who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the LORD your G-d commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you." (Deuteronomy 13:4-5)
It was evident to Messiah's contemporaries that He never changed the food laws.
If Yeshua had "changed the food laws" (as some claim), then He would have violated the Torah. As it is written, "Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it;" (Deuteronomy 12:32). Messiah would have been "taking away" and would have sinned. We know that the Master was without sin (Hebrews 4:15).
If Yeshua had "changed the food laws", then the Pharisees and the chief priests would have had very specific charges to bring against Him. They would have also had ample justification within the boundaries of the Law to kill Him. Scripture tells us, however, that they had to falsify charges against Him and induce others to testify falsely against Him. Never in all of the charges they do bring do they include "changing the food laws".
They do not bring such charges because it was obvious He never changed the food laws.
Violation of G-d's righteousness
Some might claim that since Yeshua is G-d made flesh, then He was entirely within His authority to change the food laws. Those making such an assertion introduce a contradiction in G-d's character and suggest a violation of His righteousness.
May it never be!
Scripture tells us:
G-d is righteous and upright (Deuteronomy 32:4)
G-d abhors inequality in judgment (Deuteronomy 1:16, James 2:2-4)
G-d is a righteous judge (Psalm 7:11)
Those who would claim that Yeshua changed the food laws would also be declaring in the same breath that He somehow "gamed the system" and changed the standard against which He would be measured. All the Jews of His day were judged by the standard of the Torah which included the food laws. If He changed the standard that applied to Himself and believers then He was using a "false balance" which is an abomination in the eyes of G-d (Proverbs 11:1).
It might be possible to assert that Yeshua changed the food laws after his death, burial, and resurrection but for Him to do so before leaves us with a violation of G-d's righteous character.
Violation of G-d's unchanging nature
We know that the Torah is G-d's will and wisdom for His people, Israel. That is the essence of the word Torah. Yeshua consistently declared that He came not to do his own will but the will of the Father. Consider these examples of the words of Yeshua:
- Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work. (John 4:34)
- I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. (John 5:30)
- For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. (John 6:38)
It is evident that the Master would not have taken any action on His own but would have done the will of the Father. If the food laws had been changed then it would have been the will of the Father to do so. We are then left with the question: would G-d have done so? Let us consider the following from Scripture:
- The Word of G-d is G-d (John 1:1)
- G-d's Word is truth (John 17:17)
- "There is no variation or shifting shadow" in G-d (James 1:17)
- The Word of G-d stands forever (Isaiah 40:8)
That certain foods are unsuitable [toebah] for His holy people is truth.
G-d has declared it in His Word and that Word is G-d (John chapter 1). If anyone teaches that is no longer true then we have to ask the question: What part of that eternal truth has changed?
Wouldn't G-d have to deny a part of Himself if He changed the food laws? What part of Himself has G-d found to be no longer true? If G-d did change, that means that James 1:17 is no longer true and there is now a shadow of changing in Him.
May it never be!
All of these problems stem from the same root. If we remove that root, then the problems will be eliminated as well. That root is the mistranslation of Yeshua's words in Mark 7:19.
We at Psalm11918.org admire and respect the work of the translators of the NASB. They have done an admirable job of translation and interpretation across the substantial majority of Scripture. It is because of their outstanding work that we have chosen this translation for the verses referenced on the Psalm11918.org site. This verse, however, represents an inaccurate translation of the Greek and instead reflects the bias of the translators. It is this flaw that leaves us with the contradictions above. If the defect is removed, then the contradictions it causes will also be eliminated.
The Greek New Testament (Majority Text) of Mark 7:19 is this:
ὅτι ουκ εισπορεύεται αυτου ες την καρδίαν αλλ ᾿ εις την κοιλίαν, και εις τον αφεδρωνα εκπορεύεται, καθαρίζων πάντα τα βρώματα
A literal reading of this passage gives us this:
because it does not enter into the heart of him, but into the belly and into the latrine it does go out purging all the food.
Young's Literal Translation, the Analytical Literal Translation, and the King James Version (among many others) are entirely consistent with this literal reading.
This verse does not tell us that Yeshua changed the definition of clean and unclean food. It just indicates that food does not enter into our hearts but merely goes into our belly after which it is passed and gets purged from our bodies into the latrine.
The words of the Master from the parallel of this passage in the Gospel of Matthew confirm this view:
"Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated?" (Matthew 15:17)
Reading the context of the verse provides additional insight. The matter Yeshua is speaking to correct is ritual impurity caused by the failure to wash one's hands (a tradition which is not given in the Torah). Yeshua's point in verses 18-19 of the chapter is that violating a tradition does not make a person unclean but violating G-d's commands (fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, etc., in verses 21-22) does make a person unclean.
The words of the disciples provide even further support for this view. The disciples never understood the Master's words to mean that He had changed the food laws. The evidence is in our next relevant passage.
The Words of the Talmidim
Acts 10 relates a vision that is given to Peter:
But he [Peter] became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; and he *saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. A voice came to him, "Get up, Peter, kill and eat!" But Peter said, "By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean." Again a voice came to him a second time, "What G-d has cleansed, no longer consider unholy." This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky. Now while Peter was greatly perplexed in mind as to what the vision which he had seen might be, behold, the men who had been sent by Cornelius, having asked directions for Simon's house, appeared at the gate; and calling out, they were asking whether Simon, who was also called Peter, was staying there. (Acts 10:10-18)
First, we should note that if Peter, who was constantly with the Master, had ever heard Yeshua change the food laws (as some claim regarding Mark 7) then he would have had no qualms about eating something unclean. Why was Peter so troubled by being offered something unclean now? It is because Peter, like Yeshua's opponents, never understood His statement to mean that "all foods were declared clean".
Second, we should note that Peter was given a vision. There is no place in Scripture where the imagery of a vision is ever taken literally. Visions are always symbolic of something else. So what do the elements of this vision symbolize? How should we understand it? Even Peter, to whom the vision was given, was perplexed as to the meaning (verse 17) so it is not as clear cut as some might think.
Surely no Scripture is a matter of our own interpretation (2 Peter 1:20) but Scripture interprets itself. So where else in Scripture do we find this kind of phrasing? There are only two places outside of Acts 10 where all three groups (birds, beasts, and creeping things) are mentioned: Hosea 2 and Ezekiel 38.
In that day I will also make a covenant for them With the beasts of the field, The birds of the sky And the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword and war from the land, And will make them lie down in safety. (Hosea 2:18)
And the fish of the sea, the birds of the heavens, the beasts of the field, all the creeping things that creep on the earth, and all the men who are on the face of the earth will shake at My presence; the mountains also will be thrown down, the steep pathways will collapse, and every wall will fall to the ground. (Ezekiel 38:20)
The context of this passage in Hosea is that G-d will have a renewed relationship with Israel and will make a covenant for them with these critters. The critters here, however, are not literal animals but are symbolic of the nations of the world. Daniel 4:12, 21 provides an example of this type of imagery.
Using this Scriptural foundation, Peter's vision can correctly be understood to mean that Peter should not call the nations unclean. Indeed, this is the understanding that G-d gives him later in the same chapter:
And he said to them, "You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet G-d has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. (Acts 10:28)
Just to avoid any confusion regarding this vision, G-d makes the meaning of it clear: G-d is showing Peter that he should call no man unholy or unclean.
Some who might interpret this passage in Acts 10 to mean that G-d has revoked the food laws He previously established would have to deal with the claim inherent to that position that, somehow, it is now OK to eat people.
I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of G-d is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to G-d and approved by men. So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. Do not tear down the work of G-d for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. (Romans 14:14-20)
The Greek word translated as "unclean" in this passage is the word κοινός (koinos- Strong's #2839) which does not mean "unclean", it means "common".
Consider these passages:
- Acts 2:44- the believers had all things in common [shared]
- Acts 4:32- the believers' possessions were common [shared] property
- Titus 1:4- Titus is Paul's "true child in a common [shared] faith"
- Jude 1:3- Jude writes about their common [shared] salvation.
"Common" in this sense can also mean unholy. Holy means "set apart for G-d and His purposes". If something is common, then it is "without special designation"2 and is not holy. There is nothing evil about something that is unholy. For example, we all have forks and spoons in our kitchens that are intended for common use. That does not make them evil.
The Greek word translated as "unclean" in the Levitical food laws is not koinos, it is ακάθαρτος (akathartos- Strong's #169, i.e. "impure, foul"). The Septuagint provides us with this word as it is used in Leviticus 11 for "unclean". It is the same word used in the apostolic writings for "unclean" (e.g. Matthew 10:1, Mark 1:23, Luke 4:36, Acts 10:28, Revelation 16:13).
A more accurate and consistent translation of this passage would be this:
I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing by itself is common; except to the one deeming anything to be common, it is common. But if your brother is grieved because of your food, you no longer walk according to love. Do not by your food destroy that one for whom Christ died. Then do not let your good be spoken evil of. For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For the one serving Christ in these things is pleasing to God, and approved by men. So then let us pursue the things of peace, and the things for building up one another. Do not by your food undo the work of God. Truly, all [people] are clean, but the man who eats with offense is evil. (Romans 14:14-20)
We should also consider the context of the passage and its author, Paul. In Acts 23:6 (well after his Damascus road encounter with Messiah) Paul declares that he is a Pharisee (present tense not past tense). Either Paul was lying or was, indeed, still a Pharisee. To a Pharisee, pork chops and "tenderloin of cat" are just not on the menu.
At issue here was the concern in Paul's day about meat sacrificed to idols (as is apparent from Acts 15 and other examples). In Romans 14:1 Paul notes the issue is "passing judgment on his opinions". Some were of the opinion that meat sacrificed to idols was unclean while others (including Paul in 1 Corinthians 8:4-11) see meat sacrificed to idols as a non-issue... except that it should not become a stumbling block for those weak in the faith.
Ideas regarding what kinds of animals were suitable for food were not matters of opinion but were clearly defined commands of G-d. James 1:17 tells us that G-d never changes...there isn't even a variation or shifting shadow in Him. Since that is true, we know that G-d would not change His mind that these animals are unfit as food for His people. Whether or not a piece of beef was "common" or "holy" was a matter of opinion and in these matters. we were not to "undo the work of G-d" with those opinions.
Paul is definitely not speaking of the food laws in this passage
Galatians 2:11-14 gives us insight into an issue with which Paul confronts Peter: the problem of hypocrisy. This directly relates back to Peter's vision in Acts 10 (see above) and Peter's unwillingness to call all men "clean". Nothing in the passage indicates this problem had anything to do with what was on the menu.
Colossians 2:20-23 records an issue relating to certain Gnostic teachings Paul was correcting for the believers in Colosse.
The Gnostics of Paul's era taught that the things of the physical world were evil and the things of the spiritual world were good. The ascetic lifestyle that they embraced indicated their belief that any kind of pleasurable experience (tasty food, comfortable clothing, a soft bed, marital relations) were to be avoided. This asceticism is what Paul is addressing hence his reference to "do not handle, do not taste, do not touch". All the classical commentaries on this passage consistently take the view that the issue was Gnosticism. The issue was not the food laws given by G-d.
1 Timothy 4:4-5
Some may point to 1 Timothy 4:4-5 as evidence that Paul has told Timothy to disregard the food laws. A quick examination of the context dispels such a notion. The context reveals yet another matter of asceticism being addressed by Paul:
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which G-d has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by G-d is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of G-d and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:1-5)
The context of this passage is centered on apostates to the faith who are following deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons. To call G-d's Word regarding food laws "doctrines of demons" borders on blasphemous if not just simply uninformed in this matter.
These men Paul opposes are both forbidding marriage and advocating abstention from certain foods. The scope of this passage is clearly not Jews who see the commandment to be fruitful and multiply as a major one that is strongly promoted. Paul is again speaking about the Gnostics who oppose anything enjoyable or pleasurable to the flesh in order to strengthen the spirit.
Just as sandal leather, plastic wrap, and cockroaches are not "food" in the eyes of Americans today, "food" to Paul (who is a Pharisaic Jew as per Acts 23:6) does not include pork, shellfish, or other things G-d has said are not suitable for food. Paul's point is that these men are forbidding people to eat the beef, chicken, fish, and other foods that G-d has said are permitted (as the Gnostics were doing).
Verse 5 is exceptionally interesting when we consider the "foods which G-d has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe". Of which foods has G-d spoken of in His Word? What food has G-d's Word sanctified? As the Word made flesh, what food did Yeshua sanctify? That food which is defined in Leviticus 11! For Messiah to have done otherwise would have been sin which would have invalidated his Messiahship.
Revelation 18:2 provides an additional thought regarding the relevance of animals being clean or unclean. If the concept of "unclean birds/animals" was done away with by the teachings of Yeshua (some 30+ years before the writing of Revelation) then Yochanan's reference to "unclean birds" (in any context...food or otherwise) would have been meaningless to his readers.
The book of Isaiah also supports the idea that the laws forbidding certain animals as food are still relevant in the end times:
For behold, the LORD will come in fire And His chariots like the whirlwind, To render His anger with fury, And His rebuke with flames of fire. For the LORD will execute judgment by fire And by His sword on all flesh, And those slain by the LORD will be many. "Those who sanctify and purify themselves to go to the gardens, Following one in the center, Who eat swine's flesh, detestable things and mice, Will come to an end altogether," declares the LORD. (Isaiah 66:15-17)
The whole of Scripture is entirely consistent: forbidden animals (especially pork!) are definitely not on G-d's menu for humanity.
Scripture tells us that G-d has declared certain animals, birds, insects, and other critters as unsuitable as food for His people. It is a matter of holiness. Scripture also provides an explicit declaration that G-d is unchanging. In the absence of any Scriptural evidence that Messiah or the talmidim took a stance against G-d's commands, or that G-d Himself somehow voided some portion of His Himself and His Word, it then stands to reason that the food laws are as relevant to believers today as they were to Yeshua, His talmidim, and the believers of the first century.
30 verses that contain 32 instances of the Hebrew noun for food: מאכל (ma'akal- Strong's #3978)
1 Kings 10:5
2 Chr 9:4
2 Chr 11:11
706 verses that contain 817 instances of the Hebrew verb for eat: אכל (akal- Strong's #398)
40 verses that contain 43 instances of the Greek nouns for food:
τροφή (trophe- Strong's #5160) or βρωμα (broma- Strong's #1033)
Matt 14:15, 19
John 4:8, 32, 34
John 6:27, 55
Acts 27:21, 33, 34, 36
Rom 14:15, 20
1 Cor 3:2
1 Cor 6:13
1 Cor 8:7, 8, 13
1 Cor 9:13
1 Cor 10:3
2 Cor 9:10
2 Cor 11:27
1 Tim 6:8
Heb 5:12, 14
139 verses that contain 158 instances of the Greek verb for eat: εσθίω (esthio- Strong's #2068):
Footnotes1. Excerpted from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition © 1996 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Electronic version licensed from INSO Corporation; further reproduction and distribution in accordance with the Copyright Law of the United States. All rights reserved. [back]
2. Excerpted from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition © 1996 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Electronic version licensed from INSO Corporation; further reproduction and distribution in accordance with the Copyright Law of the United States. All rights reserved. [back]