God's Dietary Food Laws - For Jews Only?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012 (All day)

Is there any indication that God's dietary food laws apply to everyone? Aren't they just for the Jewish people?

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[Steve Myers] A recent Beyond Today program, "You Are What You Eat " brought many questions in from our viewers. Of course it dealt with God's dietary food laws. And God's dietary food laws, we know that they're outlined in Leviticus chapter 11 and Deuteronomy 14. And in those instructions many come up with an interesting idea. They think that those food laws are for Jews only. Well, are they? Are the food laws given by God for Jews only?

Well, that's an important question that we need to think about. Now we did address that in the program and showed how the New Testament church—especially through Peter's vision—certainly kept those dietary food laws. But many discount that and say, "Well, if you're a Jew you should do it, but if you're not, you have to ignore it because of Christ's sacrifice."

Well, is there a place that we can go to for more information that gives us an indication whether or not those laws were really just for the Jews or it's something that we better be concerned about as well?

Well you might be surprised to find where you can find information, where you can find that indication that's not just for Jews, but for everyone. And you know where you can find that? All the way back at the beginning of the Bible in the story that I'm sure you're familiar with. It's the story of Noah.

In the story of Noah—it's all the way back, Genesis chapter 6 where God says Noah found grace in His sight, He's going to destroy civilization, and He's going to use Noah. We know the story. He builds an ark and He's supposed to take animals into that ark. Now, what animals did He take into the ark? Well, we know that he took at least two kinds—the only two kinds there were—clean and unclean. How do we know that? Well in verse 2 of chapter 7, here's God's instructions, He says to Noah, "You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and it's female, two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female" (Genesis:7:2).

So what did we find? We find seven pairs of clean animals, two pairs of unclean animals. In fact, most have a misconception that he just took the animals two by two and they were all the same. But they're not. He took more clean animals than unclean animals. We find a little bit later in verse 9, two by two they went into the ark (Genesis:7:9).

Now, how did Noah know the difference between these things? You see, think about the timing of the story of Noah. Were there a Jewish people at this time? There wasn't. This is long before the Jewish people, long before Israel, long before Abraham. So here we are with the designation of clean and unclean animals long before the Old Covenant, long before the Abrahamic Covenant. And so you cannot discount God's dietary food laws and say, well, that's an Old Covenant thing, because obviously this distinction existed long before the Jewish people. This distinction was something that was right there from creation. And so no one knew the difference because God had already instructed him. He was already keeping God's dietary food laws so he understood.

In fact when you look through Genesis 6, Genesis 7 God doesn't tell him what the differences are between these different animals. He already knew it. He already knew it. And so that important distinction for Noah was obvious. And it should be obvious for us as well that God's dietary food laws, they are not for Jews only. They are for all mankind because they help us to realize an important distinction that in our lives we have to make a distinction between what is holy, or clean, and what's common, or unclean. 

I hope that's been helpful today. Thanks for joining us on BT Daily . We'll see you next time.


Gayle's picture

I have been a vegetarian for about 25 yrs and have not eaten anything unclean since then.
I read all labels & stay away from fast food restraurants. I believe
the food laws are for everyone, as I don't believe God makes a difference
between Jews and Gentiles.

Joe Camerata

Joe Camerata's picture

Very pointed presentation and to the point using the earliest book in the Bible. Then one may also look at the last book of the Bible, Revelation and see the references to “unclean” birds and frogs. Now these passages were recorded roughly 60 years after the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ

Revelation 16:13-14 (NKJV) 13And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. 14For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.

Revelation 18:2 (NKJV) 2And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!

D. Miller

D. Miller's picture

Actually, neither the scriptures quoted in Genesis nor the one in Revelation is talking about "food". I find it interesting how when the plain scripture of Mark 7:18-19 is read:

18 And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him;

19 Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?

I find it interesting that when this (just one piece of many scriptures) is brought up, that we're told by some that what is REALLY being talked about here is traditions like washing cups, hands, ect.... can't you also notice the words "purging all meats" at the end of that scripture?

Why don't folks let God instruct them instead of men? lol...thanks

Brian Johnson

Brian Johnson's picture

In the Book of Mark 7th chapter verses 14-23.
Jesus said, "There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him , those are the things that defile him. He then repeats this in verse 20; And He said, "What comes out of a man, that defiles him.
In verse 18 Jesus said, "Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, 19 because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?
Under God's written word no foods are unclean, Jesus said it not me.

Larry Walker

Larry Walker's picture


Several Bible scholars recognize the error of interpreting this passage as an abrogation of the laws of clean and unclean meats. Certain grammatical factors, as well as the context of Scripture, determine how to properly translate verse 19. The Greek word translated "purifying" is a participle and must agree in grammatical gender with the noun it describes. Because this participle has a masculine ending, it cannot refer to "stomach," which is in the feminine gender in Greek. Thus many scholars instead relate "purifying" back to "He said."

However, another alternative provides a better explanation. The expression "is eliminated" in the New King James Version is a euphemistic rendering of what the original King James Version translates as "goeth out into the draught." "Draught" (draft) is an archaic way to translate the Greek word aphedron, which means "a place where the human waste discharges are dumped, a privy, sink, toilet" (BibleWorks software). Aphedron is a masculine-gender noun, so "purifying" can refer to the end result of human waste, the toilet.

For more information I will refer you to my article, "Did Jesus Declare All Meats Clean?" in the Nov-Dec 2001 Good news ()http://www.ucg.org/doctrinal-beliefs/did-jesus-declare-all-meats-clean/.

D. Miller

D. Miller's picture

You're correct Brian. That's what it says. There are some who want to "get around" what Jesus said to suit their own agendas but it can't be more plain and you hit it right.

Brian Johnson

Brian Johnson's picture

Thank You D. Miller. I see where you had already post the same scripture. I was having difficulty with the site that day and it post later.
I believe that people should not rely on their own understanding. I am not a Bible scholar nor a theologian. But when we were born again we received a helper, The Holy Spirit. I do not believe in taking scripture out of context and I do not believe in adding or taking away from scripture. God did not make the Bible so hard to read that only "scholars" could understand His inspired word. His inerrant word. Jesus also did not want us to focus on trivial things but His purpose & plan for our lives. Dissecting scripture and retranslating it to your own understanding just confuses those that need to hear the gospel.
I respect your opinion Larry Walker but I respectfully disagree with you. You stated, "The Greek word translated "purifying" is a participle and must agree in grammatical gender with the noun it describes." These are mans ways, especially calling something a participle and using grammatical gender. Really......come on......do you really think this is necessary. While we are sitting hear debating the meaning of a word and it's true meaning there are people that need to hear the gospel and could care less what the interpretation of man says.
I agree with D. Miller that some people want to get around what Jesus said. It is plain what He said.
I don't like debating with a fellow brother in Christ, but we have to be accountable to each other.

Brian Johnson

Brian Johnson's picture

I am trying once again to post a new comment.....I have tried over the weekend to post but it never did. Before I post here again I am going to see if this goes through.
D. Miller, I agree with you.
The Bible says not to rely on your own understanding. Instead of listening to what man says I had rather listen to the Truth. God's inspired word. His inerrant truth. When we became a Christian we were given a helper the Holy Spirit who helps us discern and understand God's word. We don't need someone to break down scripture and analyze it using man's own knowledge. I am not a bible scholar nor a theologian but God reveals himself to us through the Holy Spirit by His word, Prayer, our church, fellow Christians. You can't add to His word nor take away from it. You can't take it out of context and make it say what you want it to say.
God did not intend for His word to be this difficult to understand. He wanted people to read and trust in His word and draw near to Him. If everyone had to break down scripture like Larry Walker has done no one would bother to even try and read the Bible.
I respect your opinion Mr. Walker but I have to disagree with you. You stated, "The Greek word translated "purifying" is a participle and must agree in grammatical gender with the noun it describes."
Really, come on. What if I were trying to witness to someone and had to explain all this. Oh wait read this but that's not what it really means, let me break it down for you....NO, that would not work. Your witness would be lost because no one would even believe what they were reading.

Ivan Veller

Ivan Veller's picture

Hello Mr. Miller, the UCG recognizes that "[i]n the original Greek the words 'In saying this, Jesus declared' (NIV) and 'Thus He declared' (NASB) are not present; translators have added them to explain what they think Mark intended, thereby placing their own preconceived and mistaken interpretations on Jesus' words" ("Does the New Testament Abolish Meat Distinctions?").


D. Miller

D. Miller's picture

Hi Brian,
Well yes. And you make a good point on the witnessing as well. And you know that in the scriptures Jesus is talking about food we eat. Not poison as some might say, or dirt from our hands. It's clear that the byproduct of the foods and drinks we consume goes out the draught or waste system. All this being said Brian, there was a reason God gave this command to the Israelites and it's good to know why so when others ask....you can have the answer. And also, if people want to abstain from meats or drinks, well that's their business....it really is. But the "reason" they do that might be a problem...if it is...it's between them and God. As with many things...the "reason" makes all the difference since Gods law is written on our hearts. We must worship God in spirit and truth or it isn't really worshipping God is it. thanks

Steven Britt

Steven Britt's picture

D. Miller and Brian,

Firstly, you can't deny that God had very specifically laid out the concept of clean vs. unclean in the Old Testament, and you can't deny that it is part of the law that Jesus adhered to perfectly in order to become our spotless sacrifice. Are you alleging that Christ abolished the law before His death, during which time He was also keeping it to the letter better than anyone else has ever done? Even among people who claim that Christ did away with the law, I don't know of any who claim that He did so before His death; rather, almost everyone who says so argues that He did it BY his death. Based on this alone, I would say there is no way that Mark 7 can be used to support your claims since He was still alive.

Secondly, consider what Mark 7 actually says. If you eat something unclean, it will eventually LEAVE your body and you are then "purged" (i.e. made clean.) Have you not read in the Old Testament that when a person becomes unclean that it is always for a specific period of time? Check out Leviticus 11:31, for example. On the other hand, if something unclean comes from within you then it doesn't naturally leave your body, and thus you remain unclean (unless you repent and God cleanses you by REMOVING it).

Rather than think about the point being made, all you see are the words "purging all meats" and you immediately jump to the conclusion that you want without allowing for any cross examination. It's well known that the KJV uses the word "meats" for "foods" (such as the "meat offering" of Leviticus 2 which doesn't involve an animal at all). I don't understand why you are reluctant to examine the original Greek to determine whether the English translation is misleading or not - you don't have to be a scholar to look up a word in Strong's, which is what I do when I'm unsure of something. Judge for yourself which is more important: to easily witness a lie to someone because of what it appears to say or to labor a little and witness the truth.

D. Miller

D. Miller's picture

Ok. I almost don't want to go thru this effort since I can't cure the blind. But I'll lay it out for all of you then I'm done with this thread.

First, no meats were given to eat in the beginning. Only plants. All meats were given to eat when Noah left the ark. Read it in Genesis. Food restrictions were given to the Israelites in Leviticus. This was a shadow of what was to come. Jesus fulfilled the Law. He made all things spiritual and not by the letter. The letter kills but the spiritual give life. Nothing we eat causes us to be unclean. Only what comes out of our mouths since it begins in our hearts can make us unclean. But we can confess to God and repent and be forgiven. We are saved by GRACE folks...not works or lawkeeping or abstaining from foods/drink. This is clearly stated in Gods word. Any attempt to get around this is to negate the cross of Christ. Jesus is clear. Paul is clear. Peter had problems in letting go of Judaism but he came around. James is clear. You who desire to live under the levitical law are obligated to keep the whole law. You who are cherrypickers and hypocrits have to work hard to twist Pauls words but as Peter admits, Pauls words can be hard to understand. But look who Peter is talking to when he says this. Babes in the word. We need to grow in the word of God and never look at ourselves has "better than others". Chris is our priest forever. Not thru Levy, though...clearly stated in the Word. Forget what Herbie says and look to the Lord.

Steven- the clean/unclean you mention laid out in the ot is not about food, it's sacrificial. You refuse to accept that & that's your perogative. You make this statement- "Are you alleging that Christ abolished the law before His death, during which time He was also keeping it to the letter better than anyone else has ever done?" And another part you say "I would say there is no way that Mark 7 can be used to support your claims since He was still alive."

Steven, the gospels were written after Christ died. Surely you know that. And using those words...before his death...u'r like those trying to set a trap for our Lord here. Hebrews 9:16-17 tells us the death of the testator is necessary for the testament to be in force.

Steven Britt

Steven Britt's picture

D. Miller,

How have I laid a trap for Him? It doesn't matter that the gospel was written after His death, He said those words during His life! If He didn't mean for them to be in effect until after His death, then surely He would have clarified that to keep the disciples from sinning - what you're asserting is a real stretch here. Also, as far as the OT food laws being about sacrifices and not about food... I'll let the scripture speak for itself:

Leviticus 11:2 - "These are the animals which you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth"

Leviticus 11:8 - "Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch. They are unclean to you."

Leviticus 11:44 - "For I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth."

Leviticus 11:46-47 - "This is the law of the animals and the birds and every living creature that moves in the waters, and of every creature that creeps on the earth, to distinguish between the unclean and the clean, and between the animal that may be eaten and the animal that may not be eaten."

It's pretty obviously about food. Also, I take offense to the following:

"We are saved by GRACE folks...not works or lawkeeping or abstaining from foods/drink. This is clearly stated in Gods word. Any attempt to get around this is to negate the cross of Christ."

No one here has asserted that keeping the law can earn a person salvation. Answer me this: can a murderer enter the Kingdom of God? Or a sorcerer? Or an idolater? You know better - ignoring these laws can disqualify someone from receiving grace because they are not obedient, and this is all that I've said. Indeed, whoever breaks one commandment is guilty of all of them, and whoever breaks the least of the commandments will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven. How will God deal with those who break the food laws and make excuses for why they shouldn't have to obey them?

Isaiah 66:16-17
"The Lord will judge all flesh; And the slain of the Lord shall be many. Those who sanctify themselves and purify themselves,To go to the gardens After an idol in the midst, Eating swine’s flesh and the abomination and the mouse, Shall be consumed together"

Ivan Veller

Ivan Veller's picture

@Mr. Miller, Re: “I can’t cure the blind”

I would tremble to be “rebellious” against God – “provok[ing Him] to [His] face – by “eat[ing] pig's flesh” (Isaiah 65:2-4 ESV).

“‘[E]ating pig’s flesh’” is an “‘abomination’” which is “‘evil in [God’s] eyes’” (Isaiah 66:4,17, ESV 2011). This is still true under the New Covenant, because the context includes Christ’s second coming: “‘the Lord will come in fire…to render…judgment… [A]ll nations and tongues…shall come and shall see my glory…from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, declares the LORD” (Isaiah 66:15-18, 23 ESV).

Adeline Matthee

Adeline Matthee's picture

I have read through each comment - I have a question - "In what Language is the original words of YHWH Elohim said/written and what Y'shua said?

- I think also "Greek" was LONG after the original language and do not count at all when it is being looked at the true given written word in Hebrew and the true meaning of what is really been said.... Greek translation do not count for me at all - lot of deception came into the True Word of YHWH Elohim due to translators and translations, of translations of different "Bibles" and not the true valid Scriptures of the Word of YHWH Elohim and Y'shua. Matt; Mark: Luke & John is the true account of the life and words of Y'shua and count as the true fulfillment of the Old Covenant (Love instructions of YHWH Elohim) .. ALL the others in the Re-newed Covenant is letters of ordinary people to one another that is valuable only when read and learned through Old Covenant (Torah - Prophets and Writings)
I do worship and have a relationship of obedience (Sh'ma) towards the Word, Will and Voice of my Creator Master and Savior and can only please Him in my obedience and not toward the perception of other people of translated word that is not the truth... The Truth sets us free and nothing else...
My testimony is to do YHWH Elohim's Will, Word and Voice through Y'shua HaMashiach by the power of His Set- apart Spirit of Truth (Rauch HaQodesh) and eat according to obedience of His love-instructions of His Whole Word.... Shalom!

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