Everyone has favorite foods, and in our day many of those most cherished dishes are scripturally unclean. "But that's Old Testament," many will argue. They will then use New Testament verses they say prove that all food is now edible.
How can we be sure? Are animals and plants different today from what they were in Biblical times? Are they all "cleansed" now? Are there New Testament verses proving that all foods are now edible or are those verses being misunderstood?
Let's begin at the beginning. In the first book of the Bible, Genesis 1:29 says, "And God [Hebrew-Elohim] said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat (food)." Man's original diet consisted of fruits, nuts, vegetables, etc. Animal flesh was not given for food until after the flood.
Clean Animals Preserved for Food
Because of the coming flood, Yahweh directed Noah to build an ark to preserve the different kinds of animals according to species. Noah took seven pairs of clean beasts and two of each unclean beast, (Gen 7:2).
Yahweh had a purpose in preserving more clean beasts than unclean for use after the flood. Certain flesh became food as most vegetation was destroyed. Notice that Noah knew there was a distinction between clean and unclean animals long before the dietary law was codified at Mt. Sinai and long before a Jew ever existed. This proves that the clean food laws commanded in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 were not given only to the Jews. They were given to all men from Noah's day forward.
After the universal flood, Yahweh said in Gen 9:3,4, "Every moving thing that lives shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat." He was speaking to Noah and his sons (vs. 1). We already saw that Noah knew the difference between clean and unclean animals. Therefore, when Yahweh said, "Every moving thing," Noah knew that He meant every moving thing that was clean to eat. Yahweh spoke similar words to Adam when He said, "every herb" and "every tree," shall be food for you (Gen 1:29). Adam obviously knew that Yahweh meant every herb or tree that was edible, for many plants are poisonous to man.
In Gen 8:21, Yahweh said, " . . .neither will I again smite any more every thing living as I have done." Are we to understand this literally? Did Yahweh smite those in the ark or aquatic life? No. Therefore, this verse needs to be qualified by understanding it to mean, "every thing living on the ground" as is revealed in Gen 7:22; " And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark.
Many argue that everything that moves is fit for food. Do we accept roasted rat, caterpillar, or jelly-fish on our dinner plates? Are these fit for food? Few of us realize that life is governed by certain laws, just as the sun, moon, and stars are governed by the laws of nature. Yahweh punishes the man who breaks His laws. How? Through the law of cause and effect. Do you desire good health and long life? Remember the eternal promise of our Heavenly Father Yahweh recorded in Exodus 15:26, "If thou will diligently hearken to the voice of Yahweh thy Elohim, and will do that which is right in His sight, and will give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am Yahweh that healeth thee." On the other hand, Yahweh warned that sickness and disease would surely befall the people if they disregarded His law of diet. Even today, medical science is proving that unclean animals like pigs, lobsters, and crabs are health risks.
Many people believe that after our Savior was impaled on the tree to die for the sins of the world, all animals, fish, and creeping things were cleansed for human food. They are misled by a misunderstanding of the writings of the Apostle Paul. Note the caution given us about Paul's teachings in 2 Peter 3:16, " As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures unto their own destruction." The current teaching that the law is done away through Paul's writings is one fulfillment of this prophecy. Many people are blinded by no-law preachers.
Be aware of the teachings of false teachers and false prophets. Imitate what the Bereans did upon hearing the truth and receiving it with all readiness of mind, searching the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. (Acts 17:10,11).
Many are quick to quote Mt.15:11, "Not that which goes into the mouth defiles a man; but that which comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man." They contend this verse allows us to eat all things. If we read this verse in context, including verse 2 and verses 12-20, the light of truth shines through.
The point Yeshua (Jesus) is making is that the indwelling attitude of the individual will determine his actions. He clarifies this in verses 17 and 18, "Do you not yet understand, that whatsoever enters in at the mouth goes into the belly, and is cast out into the draught (sewer)? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man." He then goes on to show that evil thoughts generate evil deeds, which is the root of the problem.
Mark 7:19 reads, "Because it enters not into his heart, but into his belly, and goes out into the draught, purging all meats." The last three words do not mean all unclean food is now cleansed. Yeshua simply meant that waste food was carried off by the digestive tract.
The scribes and Pharisees had seen the disciples eat bread without first washing their hands. This was contrary to their traditional beliefs. At that time, however, the disciples only ate clean food. Therefore, the context is eating clean food with unwashed hands. It has nothing to do with eating unclean animal flesh.
As a result of their question in verse 2, Yeshua rebukes their tradition and their hypocrisy and sums up his statements in Mt. 15:20, "These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashed hands defiles not a man." This chapter has nothing to do with cleansing unclean meat. The issue was centered on tradition and outward ritual cleansing, which made them appear holy. But Yeshua wants us to have complete change of heart and mind, not of the outward appearance.
Another argument against the dietary law is found in Acts 10:9-19. Peter had a vision of a sheet being lowered down to earth with all types of four-footed beasts, creeping things, and fowls of the air on it. A voice tells him to "kill and eat," but Peter refuses stating that he has never eaten anything common or unclean. The voice then says, "What [Yahweh] has cleansed, that call not thou common."
From these verses many people assume Peter's vision allowed him to eat flesh that was previously declared unclean by Yahweh. Notice there is no mention of aquatic life. Does that mean lobster is still forbidden since it doesn't have fins and scales (Lev 11:9-11) and since the vision did not include aquatic life?
The vision of Peter occurred about ten years after the death and resurrection of Messiah and yet, he still hadn't eaten unclean food. Why not, if the dietary law came to an end at Yeshua's death? The truth is that the law had not ended and Peter's vision did not permit him to now eat unclean. The declaration of the Apostle Peter himself in Acts 10:28 proves this: "And he said unto them, 'You know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but [Yahweh] has shown me (in that same vision) that I should not call any man common or unclean." The vision did not cleanse all meat. It taught Peter that Gentiles were accepted into the body of Messiah and should not be looked down upon. We have no right to add our own interpretation of the meaning of this vision beyond what the Almighty said it meant.
Take note that Peter had not eaten two types of things, "common" or "unclean". An unclean animal is one that was created to be unclean and declared unclean by the Almighty in Lev.11 and Deut 14. Something common, however, refers to an animal that was created clean and edible, but for some reason (ie; meat sacrificed to idols) became unedible in a persons mind. Keep that in mind when considering Rom 14:14 later in this study.
Conscience and Idol Meat
Another scripture that has confused many is 1Cor. 10:25-27: "Whatsoever is sold in the market that eat, asking no question for conscience sake. For the earth is Yahweh's and the fullness thereof: If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you care to go, eat whatever is put before you, without raising questions of conscience."
There were many kinds of unclean meats sold in Gentile meat markets. But in the case of the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul was referring to the eating of meat sacrificed to idols, not the eating of unclean meat. These verses must be read in context which includes verses 14 through 33. This entire passage refers to idolatry. The point was that since part of the animal was offered to idols, the idol and its worshipers were sharing a common meal. This, according to Jewish thought, creates a bond of fellowship between them.
Some have stumbled on another of Paul's verses, Romans 14:14, where he writes, ". . . there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him that esteems anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean." The word "unclean" should have been translated "common", as it is from the Greek word koinos. The margin of most good study Bibles will confirm this.
Recall what Peter said in Acts 10:14, ". . . I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean." The word common in this verse is "koinos" and the word unclean is the Greek word "akathartos". Animals declared unclean by Yahweh in Lev. 11 are akathartos. However, when a clean animal becomes unedible for some reason, for example, by being sacrificed to an idol, it is called common or koinos. Paul's statement in Rom 14:14 referred to clean meat which a weak brother would consider common and therefore not eat, preferring instead to only eat herbs, (vs. 2). A pig is unclean of itself, it was created unclean. A goat that was sacrificed to an idol is not common of itself. It became common in the mind of a person through outside means. The weaker brother esteemed in his own mind that meat should not be eaten because it may have become common for some reason. It is common meat that Paul was referring to, not unclean meat.
Approved Food Is Good
A favorite Bible text used by proponents of the "we can eat anything we want" philosophy is Paul's letter to Timothy. "For every creature of [Yahweh] is good, and nothing to be refused if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of [Yahweh] and prayer," 1 Tim 4:4,5.
They believe that saying a blessing over pigs feet or monkey brains will then make them edible. Using that kind of reasoning and taking these verses literally would mean that we could eat human beings since they are "creatures" as well. The key words are underlined. "Sanctified by the word of [Yahweh]" means it is "set apart" somewhere in the Bible (the Word of Yahweh). Edible creatures have already been set apart in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. No other creatures are sanctified by the word of Yahweh. In general, these two chapters teach us that we are not to eat animals that are carnivores (eat flesh) like cats, lions, eagles, neither are we to eat garbage-eaters such as swine, dogs, shellfish, vultures, and crows. No matter how much a person prays over cockroaches, centipedes, jellyfish, or slugs, they will remain unclean and unedible.
A Warning From Our Loving Creator
In speaking of the conclusion of the age of man and the coming fiery judgment, Yahweh inspired the Prophet Isaiah to write that He, "will come with fire, and with His chariots like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire," Is 66:15. Verse 16 says He will plead with all flesh (to repent and live according to His righteous laws). Since they will not listen He will slay many. Why? One reason is found in verse 17, "They that sanctify themselves, and purify themselves in the garden behind one tree in the midst, eating swine's flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, declares Yahweh." It is interesting to note that of all the sins that Yahweh could have used to characterize the recipients of His fiery judgment, He chose eating swine's flesh and mice. Yahweh says something similar in Is 65:1-7, using the eating of swine's flesh and the broth of abominable things as characteristics of those who provoke Him to anger.
Even Paul was very explicit in his admonition to the Corinthian brethren, "Wherefore come out from among them, and be separate, says Yahweh, and touch not the unclean thing: and I will receive you" (2 Cor 6:17).
Yahweh said to us through Peter, "Be ye holy; for I am holy." (1 Pe 1:16). That is a direct quote from Lev 11:44 as a summation of His dietary law. Yahweh then concludes with the following statement; "This is the law of the beasts, and of the fowl, and of every living creature that moves in the waters, and of every creature that creeps upon the earth: To make a difference between the unclean and the clean, and between the beasts that may be eaten and the beasts that may not be eaten." (vss. 46,47).
Therefore, be holy for Yahweh is holy. We are to be living sacrifices. How can we be acceptable holy sacrifices if we are filled with swine's flesh (bacon, ham, sausage, pork chops, etc.) or other unclean animals that Yahweh forbid to be offered to Him as sacrifices? The Apostle Paul wrote, " Know ye not that ye are the temple of Elohim, and that the Spirit of Elohim dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of Elohim, him shall Elohim destroy; for the temple of Elohim is holy, which temple ye are." How does one defile himself or his temple? Lev 11:44-46, " Ye shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creepeth, neither shall ye make yourselves unclean with them, that ye should be defiled thereby. For I am Yahweh your Elohim: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. For I am Yahweh that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your Elohim: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy."
If an Israelite ate anything unclean or abominable, he became defiled and abominable in Yahweh's sight. New Covenant believers are not to defile themselves through any means whether it be by eating unclean or by being joined to a harlot. We are to be holy as He is holy. Nor are we to make ourselves abominable by any means. Rev 21:7,8 says, " He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his Elohim, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death." There is no condemnation for those in Messiah Yeshua if they sin ignorantly, but Yeshua's sacrifice is worthless to anyone who sins willfully unless they repent (Heb 10:26-30).
If you desire to live in complete harmony with Yahweh's will, you will not neglect the clean food law. We are to be a clean people; to live clean, think clean, and eat clean so that our body is a fit temple for the indwelling Holy Spirit. These laws were established for our own good, and we can realize the blessings that come with observing them.