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Posted: Dec 31 2008, 12:32 PM
Member No.: 1
Joined: 30-December 08
Did Yeshua (Jesus) Cancel the Clean/Unclean Dietary Laws?
By Richard Bailey
I believe that there are two standards that must be upheld if we are to obtain a correct Scriptural understanding of God’s clean and unclean dietary guidelines. First, we must recognize that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine for reproof for correction for instruction in righteousness.” (II Timothy 3:16). In this statement, Rav Shaul, (Rabbi Paul) is referring to the Torah (Books of Moses/Law/Commandments) and the Prophets. The B’rit Chadasha (Renewed Covenant/New Testament) was not yet canonized. Second, it is essential that we interpret Scripture within its proper CONTEXT. If not, we can easily go into gross error and lead others down the same path.
Yeshua Is Our Example:
To understand the teachings of Yeshua, the author and finisher of our faith, in their proper context, we must first acknowledge that he was Jewish in every respect. His appearance, his teaching style, the way he honored the traditions of the elders, and how he interpreted and upheld the Torah (Law) and the Prophets, testify to this fact. Even his enemies, when seeking evidence to the contrary, could not find contradictions in the way that he lived his life nor in what he taught.
When Yeshua appeared before the Sanhedrin, Israel’s high court (the high priest, elders, and teachers of the law), to be examined for violations against the Law, we read:
“The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Yeshua so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any.”(Mark 14:55)
Yeshua is the Law (Torah):
Yeshua obeyed “all” of the commandments of God perfectly and taught others to do the same. Why?
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made....The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-3,14)
Clean and Unclean Distinction Established Before Moshe (Moses) at Mt. Sinai:
Yeshua, Creator and the “Living” Torah, defined clean and unclean before he gave the written Torah to Moses at Mt. Sinai.
“The LORD then said to Noah, "Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. 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...Pairs of clean and unclean animals, of birds and of all creatures that move along the ground...,” (Genesis 7:1-2,8)
Direction Given to Aaron – His High Priest:
"You and your sons are not to drink wine or other fermented drink whenever you go into the Tent of Meeting, or you will die. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. You must distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean, and you must teach the Israelites all the decrees the LORD has given them through Moses." (Leviticus 10:9-11)
The Prophet Ezekiel (Concerning the Coming Millennial Temple):
“No priest is to drink wine when he enters the inner court...They are to teach my people the difference between the holy and the common and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean...The priests must not eat anything, bird or animal, found dead or torn by wild animals.” (Ezekiel 44:23)
Reestablished Through the Apostles:
"It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 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. For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath." (Acts 15:19-21)
In other words, as Gentiles stop participating in pagan worship (vs. 20) and begin attending synagogue services on Shabbat (vs. 21), they will hear the books of Moses read and be instructed on how to live godly lives. In due time, they would learn the rest and, for this discussion, know how to distinguish between “clean and unclean” food (Lev. 11 and Deut. 14).
During Yeshua’s time, the first five books of the Bible were read on an annual or three-year cycle in the synagogues. Today, only Messianic and non-Messianic synagogues do this. This is another area where Christianity has departed from Yeshua’s example (Luke 4:16, Matt. 4:23; 9:35; 12:9; 13:54 & more) and their Jewish roots.
Ireneous, a second century leader, who was in a direct line with the apostles, speaks of the practices of the apostles:
“But they themselves...continued in the ancient observances...Thus did the apostles...scrupulously act according to the dispensation of the Mosaic law.” (Jesus and Early Judaism, Dr. John Fisher)
Did Yeshua Change His Mind?
In Numbers 23:19, it is written: “God is not a man that he should lie, not a son of man that he should change his mind.” Also, through the prophet Malachi in 3:6, “I the Lord do not change...”
If Yeshua does not change his mind, then why do some interpret Matthew 15:1-20 (Mark 7:1-19) as evidence that he did change his mind about clean and unclean food? Could it be that this Scripture has been taken out of context? Read this Scripture again within the context of “eating with unwashed hands,” not abolishing clean and unclean dietary guidelines.
According to Dr. John Fisher, Messianic Jewish Rabbi and noted scholar, “In pre-Pharisaic times, the washing of hands was necessary for handling holy objects (Shabbat 14b). This was later extended to handling food. But here once again, there was a debate between Shammai and Hillel [the two main Pharisaic schools]. Shammai insisted on washing the hands before filling the cup...In fact, in their commitment and zeal, some had gone so far as to define eleven categories of pollution which could defile a utensil.” Dr. Fisher goes on to say in his paper, Jesus and Early Judaism, that their (the Pharisees) complaint here was not consistent with the mainstream Pharisaic teachings concerning “washings.” There are several Talmud (Oral Torah) references that speak of Pharisaic views on this subject (Assumption of Moses 7.9-10, Hullin 3.2, Tosefta Berakhot 5.13)
Another point Dr. Fisher makes is that if Yeshua had rendered all food clean in Matt. 15, then his teaching would have been inconsistent. They had just accused him of not following the traditions of the elders and he responds with “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” Clean and unclean dietary guidelines are not based upon the traditions of man but are the commandments of God!
The last point to be made on this Scripture is where some modern translations have “added” text to Mark 7:19b: “(In saying this, Jesus declared all foods ‘clean.’).” Dr. David Flusser, renowned Hebrew scholar at Hebrew University, states: “The passage about the washing of hands does not justify the assumption that Jesus opposed the Jewish legal practice of his time; but by the third century, Origen understood it as signifying the rejection of Jewish dietary laws by Jesus. The overwhelming majority of modern translators thoughtlessly accept Origen’s interpretation when they take Mark 7:19b to mean ‘Thus he declared all foods clean,’ although the Greek original can hardly be read in this sense.” Dr. Fischer follows Dr. Flusser’s statement with: “Origen and Chrystotm pioneered this interpretation. Neither of them can be viewed as neutral to Jewish people and culture in view of their anti-Jewish writings (e.g., Chrystom’s ‘Homilies Against the Jews’).”
What about Peter’s vision in Acts 10:9-11:18?
Many misinterpret Peter’s vision because they fail to read “all” of this Scripture and, once again, within context. We see Peter readily admitting that he had not eaten anything unclean and it offends him immensely at the idea. Let’s look at Acts 10:28 which tells us the real purpose of this vision:
“You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean...” And in Acts 11:18 he states: “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.”
Gentiles, by their pagan lifestyle, were considered unclean by all Jewish people, even by Yeshua and the apostles. Here, God gives Peter a radical vision to show him that he was bringing the Gentiles out of paganism into the ways of the Torah. God miraculously confirms this by giving a witness, the Ruach HaCodesh (the Holy Spirit).
Did Rav Shaul (Rabbi Paul) teach differently?
Many credit Paul with changing the clean/unclean dietary commandments as well. Would Paul do such a thing? He states in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Messiah.” I believe we will see below that this devout follower and observer of the Torah would in no way cancel the dietary guidelines.
What did Paul say about himself?
“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today.” (Acts 22:3)
“Then Paul...called out in the Sanhedrin, "My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee. I stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead.” (Acts 23:7)
“However, I admit that I worship the God of our fathers as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the Prophets....So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man...I came to Jerusalem...I was ceremonially clean when they found me...” (Acts 24:14-18)
“When we arrived at Jerusalem...The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders...reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles...Then they said to Paul: "You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everybody will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law.” (Acts 21:17-24)
“When Paul appeared, the Jews...bringing many serious charges against him, which they could not prove...Paul made his defense: I have done nothing wrong against the law of the Jews...” (Acts 25:7-8)
“When we got to Rome...Three days later he called together the leaders of the Jews. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: "My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans.” (Acts 25:16-17)
What About Paul’s Teaching in Romans 14?
From Paul’s testimony above, we know that did not break the commandments of God nor teach others to do so. So why would we think that Paul is canceling the dietary guidelines in Romans 14?
“One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. (Romans 14:2-5)
What is the context of Paul’s teaching here? Since he just reaffirmed obeying the Torah in the previous chapter, I believe Paul is addressing man’s conscience concerning eating or refraining from eating “clean” food (i.e., meat). He addressed a similar situation in I Corinthians 10 about eating food in an unbeliever’s house. I’m sure that each of us at one time or another has refrained from eating meat or other foods because we didn’t know its origin or how it was prepared. I, for one, can relate to this situation having traveled in foreign lands (including Rome). In this Scripture, we have some folks who will only eat “vegetables.” I believe that they feared that “clean meats” in the marketplace had been defiled. Yet, on the other hand, others had a clear conscience about eating these “clean” meats.
We see Paul again upholding Yeshua’s teaching:
“Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.” (1 Corinthians 8:13) [Sin is: Transgression of God’s Law (which defines clean/unclean dietary guidelines)]
The special days mentioned in Romans 14, were not, as some use them today, to justify Sunday vs Shabbat worship or Passover vs Easter observance. Within the context of this food discussion, he is addressing special days that possibly certain foods were eaten or not eaten (e.g., similar to some modern Catholics who eat only fish on Fridays).
Daniel Botkin of First Fruits of Zion, in his article The Ghost of Marcion, speaks of Ted Turner, CNN owner, declaring “the Ten Commandments obsolete, and offered his own ‘Ten Voluntary Initiatives’ as an alternative to God’s out-dated laws.” He goes on to say, “We believers may scoff at Turner’s ideas of replacing God’s laws with human ideas, yet is this not the very thing the church has done with some of God’s commandments? We have replaced the twenty-four hour Sabbath with an hour or two of Sunday morning worship; we have replaced the Biblical Holy days with holidays of pagan origin; we have replaced God’s dietary guidelines with our own ideas about what we should eat.”
Spiritual Reasons for Doing the Physical:
Remember, in Scripture, there are always spiritual reasons for every physical commandment that God gives us to obey.
“In his book "To Be a Jew" (an excellent resource on traditional Judaism), Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin suggests that the dietary laws are designed as a call to holiness. The ability to distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil, pure and defiled, the sacred and the profane, is very important in Judaism. Imposing rules on what you can and cannot eat ingrains that kind of self control. In addition, it elevates the simple act of eating into a religious ritual. The Jewish dinner table is often compared to the Temple altar in rabbinic literature.” (Sound the Shofar web site)
What about us today?
Are we guilty of doing what Daniel Botkin said above and what God said in Ezekiel 22:26-28?
“Her priests do violence to my law and profane my holy things; they do not distinguish between the holy and the common; they teach that there is no difference between the unclean and the clean; and they shut their eyes to the keeping of my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them. Her officials within her are like wolves tearing their prey; they shed blood and kill people to make unjust gain. Her prophets whitewash these deeds for them by false visions and lying divinations. They say, `This is what the Sovereign LORD says'‑‑when the LORD has not spoken.
As Yeshua’s priests, we are to follow his example by keeping his commandments and teaching others to do the same. Paul reminds us below that we are to distinguish between clean and unclean.
“What harmony is there between Messiah and Belial ? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people." "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you." "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:15-18)
If we do not follow the Torah and teach others the same, Yeshua states:
“Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19)
For those who work against the Torah, he says:
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:21-23) [iniquity: against the Law]
Finally - The Coming Messianic Kingdom:
We see God’s dietary guidelines being upheld in the future Messianic kingdom. Truly, He does not change!
“See, the LORD is coming with fire and his chariots are like a whirlwind...For with fire and with his sword the LORD will execute judgment upon all men, and many will be those slain by the LORD. ‘Those who consecrate and purify themselves to go into the gardens, following the one in the midst of those who eat the flesh of pigs and rats and other abominable things‑-they will meet their end together,’ declares the LORD. ‘And I, because of their actions and their imaginations, am about to come and gather all nations and tongues, and they will come and see my glory...As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me declares the LORD, "so will your name and descendants endure. From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me," says the LORD. ” (Isaiah 66:15-23)
Tree of Life