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Are All Foods Clean?

Are All Foods Clean?

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Published by Bryan T. Huie
This article reviews what the New Testament teaches regarding clean and unclean animals, which animals are considered food, and how food may become unclean. Old Testament references on this topic are reviewed, along with Peter’s vision recorded in the book of Acts, Paul's words to Timothy and the Romans, and the words of Yeshua the Messiah.
This article reviews what the New Testament teaches regarding clean and unclean animals, which animals are considered food, and how food may become unclean. Old Testament references on this topic are reviewed, along with Peter’s vision recorded in the book of Acts, Paul's words to Timothy and the Romans, and the words of Yeshua the Messiah.

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Published by: Bryan T. Huie on Jun 27, 2009
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I
ARE ALL FOODS CLEAN?
n Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 God gives us a list of animals that are not to be eaten as food. Included in this listdeclared "unclean" are some of man's favorites: swine, shrimp, lobster, crab, catfish, as well as squid, rabbit, squirrel, etc.However, there are several places in the New Testament where God seems to indicate that He has changed His mind on thesethings:
MARK 7:18 And he said to them, "Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand thatwhatever goes into the man from outside cannot
defile
him, 19 because it does not go into his heart, butinto his stomach, and is eliminated?" (
Thus he
declared all foods clean
.) (
 NASU 
)ROMANS 14:14 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
. (
 NIV 
)ACTS 10:10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fellinto a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by itsfour corners. 12 It contained
all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth andbirds of the air
. 13 Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat." 14 "Surely not, Lord!" Peterreplied. "I have never eaten anything
impure
or
unclean
." 15 The voice spoke to him a second time, "
Donot call anything impure that God has made clean
." (
 NIV 
)
On the surface, it looks pretty clear, doesn't it? Go ahead and eat what you want, God has given you the green light. But hasGod really changed his mind? Are these animals listed in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 now OK to eat?In Malachi 3:6, God declares that He does NOT change. This would seem to indicate the opposite of what's stated above. Inorder to determine if God has really changed His position on the issue of clean and unclean foods (considered importantenough to be included in the
Torah
 
twice
), let's look at the passages above (and a few others) in more detail. You may besurprised at what the Scriptures
really
say on this topic.Let's begin in the seventh chapter of Mark. In order to fully understand Yeshua's words, we'll start at the first of the chapter andget the context:
MARK 7:1 Then the Pharisees and some of the scribes came together to him, having come from Jerusalem. 2Now when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with
defiled
[
koinais
], that is, with
unwashed
hands,they found fault. 3 For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a specialway, holding the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unlessthey wash. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups,pitchers, copper vessels, and couches. 5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, "Why do yourdisciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?" (
 NKJV 
)
This passage is the background context for what Yeshua states afterward. As the Scripture shows, the problem that arose wasrelated to Messiah's disciples not washing their hands in the traditional way. The reason for this specialized washing was for 
ceremonial
purity, not cleanliness.The word translated "defiled" in verse 2 is a form of the Greek adjective
koinos
. Like many words, this word and the relatedverb
koinoo
(along with their variations) can be used positively or negatively. In the positive sense, these related words mean
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"common," such as in Acts 2:44 and 4:32, where the disciples of Messiah were said to have had "all things
in common
." In anegative context, these words are used to contrast the "holy" with that which is "common," "defiled," or "profane." This is thesense in which
koinais
is used in Mark 7:2.Yeshua uses the Pharisees' criticism of his disciples over a non-biblical ritual to launch a scathing attack on their use of humantraditions to override the scriptural commandments of God. He then spoke a parable to the crowd to illustrate the true cause of spiritual defilement:
MARK 7:14 When he had called all the multitude to himself, he said to them, "Hear me, everyone, andunderstand: 15 There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can
defile
[
koinosai 
] him; but thethings which come out of him, those are the things that
defile
[
koinounta
] a man. 16 If anyone has ears tohear, let him hear!"(
 NKJV 
)
As with most parables Yeshua used, this one was not readily understood (Matt. 13:10-15). The disciples asked Yeshua for afurther explanation of what he meant:
MARK 7:17 When he had entered a house away from the crowd, his disciples asked him concerning theparable. 18 So he said to them, "Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive thatwhatever enters a man from outside cannot
defile
[
koinosai 
] him, 19 because
it does not enter hisheart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods
?" 20 And he said, "What comesout of a man, that
defiles
[
koinoi 
] a man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evilthoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evileye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and
defile
[
koinoi 
] a man."(
 NKJV 
)
Yeshua explained to his disciples that those things which go into a man's body from the outside (such as dirt from unwashedhands) do
not
keep a man from being holy. Instead, the evil things that come out of a man's heart and lead him to commit sinare the things that prevent him from being holy. Now let's look more closely at verse 19. The
 New King James Version
renders this verse differently than does the
 New  American Standard Bible
1995 update cited at the beginning of this article. The
 NASU 
(and most other modern translations)ends Yeshua's quotation after "eliminated" (
ekporeuetai 
) and sets off the final phrase as an explanatory comment by Mark.According to this interpretation, Yeshua was using the parable to declare all animals to be edible, in contradiction to Leviticus11 and Deuteronomy 14. However, the
 NKJV 
considers this entire verse to be the words of Yeshua.Why is there a difference between the two?The reason for the differing translations is a
ONE
letter variation between the Greek manuscript base used by the
 NKJV 
translators and the manuscript base used by the translators of other modern versions (such as the
 NASU 
). The vast majority of the Greek manuscripts of Mark end verse 19 with the conclusion to Yeshua's statement being ". . .
thus
cleansing all foods"(Gr.
katharizon panta ta bromata
). The "o" in
katharizon
(καθαριζον, "cleansing") is the Greek letter 
omicron
(ο).However, a very few Greek manuscripts instead have
katharizon
(καθαριζων) spelled with the "o" being the Greek letter 
omega
(ω) instead of 
omicron
. The
omega
changes the word's gender from neuter to masculine, allowing for the difference intranslation.Without getting into a technical debate regarding Greek grammar or the pros and cons of each manuscript base, theoverwhelming textual evidence supports the
 NKJV 
rendering of verse 19 over the
 NASU 
translation.Most Greek manuscripts of Mark 7:19 literally read: "
Because it does not enter into his heart, but into the stomach,and into the toilet passes, cleansing all foods.
" It is clear that Yeshua is not declaring all foods "clean" here, because thecleansing process he refers to is digestion, which ultimately leads to defecation. Yeshua' point here appears obvious: BreakingGod's law defiles a man, not non-adherence to man-made traditions. This parable has nothing to say about eating uncleananimals. Next, let's look at the experience of Peter recorded in Acts 10 to see if it supports eating unclean animals. As we did with Mark 
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7, let's start at the beginning to get the proper context:
ACTS 10:1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the ItalianRegiment, 2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously tothe people, and prayed to God always. 3 About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angelof God coming in and saying to him, "Cornelius!" 4 And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said,"What is it, lord?" So he said to him, "Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial beforeGod. 5 Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter. 6 He is lodging with Simon,a tanner, whose house is by the sea. He will tell you what you must do." 7 And when the angel who spoketo him had departed, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier from amongthose who waited on him continually. 8 So when he had explained all these things to them, he sent them toJoppa. (
 NKJV 
)
Here we see that Cornelius, a God-fearing Roman centurion, was given a vision of a holy angel. In the vision, the angel toldhim to send for Simon Peter and have him come to his house in Caesarea. In obedience to the words of the angel, Corneliussent
THREE
men (two of his household servants and one of his soldiers) to get Peter. That particular number will beimportant a little later in the story:
ACTS 10:9 The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetopto pray, about the sixth hour. 10 Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they madeready, he fell into a trance 11 and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the fourcorners, descending to him and let down to the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of theearth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 13 And a voice came to him, "Rise, Peter; kill andeat." 14 But Peter said, "Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything
common
[
koinon
] or
unclean
[
akatharton
]." 15 And a voice spoke to him again the second time, "What God
has cleansed
[
ekatharisen
]you must not call
common
[
koinou
]." 16
This was done three times
. And the object was taken up intoheaven again. (
 NKJV 
)
 Notice the situation; Peter went to the rooftop about noon to pray at the same time the three men from Cornelius were drawingnear. After he had finished praying, he became very hungry. While those in the house were preparing the noon meal, Peter (stillon the roof) fell into a trance and had a vision. In this vision, he saw a sheet being let down from above with all kinds of animals in it, both clean and unclean.When a supernatural voice told him to rise, kill and eat, Peter responded the way any good
Torah
-observant Jew of the 1stcentury would have. He refused, saying that he had
NEVER 
eaten anything "common" (
koinon
) or "unclean" (
akatharton
).That statement by itself is interesting, considering that it had probably been at least ten years since the resurrection of Messiahat that time. Clearly, Peter did not take Yeshua's words recorded in Mark 7 (examined above) to mean that any animal couldlegally be eaten.Why did Peter differentiate between "common" ("defiled") and "unclean" in his reply? The Greek word
akatharton
specifically refers to those animals prohibited from being eaten in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14, as an examination of theGreek 
 Septuagint 
translation of the Old Testament clearly shows. But "common" referred to a different group of animalsaltogether. Only clean animals designated as food sources in the
Torah
could become "common" or "defiled" in such a way thatthey became inedible.Peter was saying here that he had never eaten any "unclean" animals or any clean animals that had been "defiled" ceremonially.The angel's answer to Peter is interesting; it conclusively shows that
food
is not the subject of this vision at all. The angel toldPeter not to call "common" that which God
had cleansed
(
ekatharisen
). There is no mention of the "unclean" here at all bythe angel. This statement was repeated
three
times before the vision ended.
ACTS 10:17 Now while
Peter wondered within himself what this vision which he had seen meant
,behold, the men who had been sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon's house, and stood beforethe gate. 18 And they called and asked whether Simon, whose surname was Peter, was lodging there. 19While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Behold,
three men
are seeking you. 20 Arisetherefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them." (
 NKJV 
)
 Notice that Peter did not immediately understand the vision. As he sat on the roof contemplating what the vision meant, the
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