TO EAT OR NOT TO EAT - Add To Your Learning

Rolan Monje
Kashrut (or kosher) is the body of Jewish law
dealing with what foods we can and cannot
eat and how those foods must be prepared
and eaten.
From a Christian perspective, Kosher Law
refers to the classification “clean and unclean”
foods in the Old Testament (esp. Leviticus
and Deuteronomy) including prohibitions
regarding intake. Kosher foods are allowed
Of the "beasts of the earth" (generally
referring to land mammals), you may eat any
animal that has cloven hooves and chews its
cud (Lev 11:3; Deut 14:6).
Any land mammal that does not have both of
these qualities is forbidden. Lev/Deut specify
that the camel, the rock badger, the hare and
the pig are not kosher because each lacks
one of these two qualifications. Cattle, sheep,
goats, deer and bison are kosher (allowed).
The word "kosher" is the Anglicized form of the
Hebrew kasher, which literally means "good" or
"proper," but came to indicate an item "fit for
ritual use."
Kosher thus describes food that meets these
standards. The word "kosher" can also be used,
and often is used, to describe ritual objects that
are made in accordance with Jewish law and are
fit for ritual use.
The Hebrew word for non-kosher is trayf, from
the word terayfa, "torn" (from the commandment
not to eat meat that has been "torn" by other
Like the Jews, the Samaritans looked for a
final judgment with rewards and punishments
in charge of the Messiah. Both Jews and
Samaritans emphasized circumcision, the
Sabbath, and the Kosher law. Thus Jesus
could stay in a Samaritan home for two days,
eating their food and drinking water from
Jacob’s well (John 4:1-42).
Modern Jews will say that the Torah does not
specify any reason for these laws, and for a
Torah-observant, traditional Jew, there is no
need for any other reason. Some have
suggested that the laws of kashrut fall into
the category of "chukkim," laws for which
there is no reason.
Yet, from a Christian perspective, we may
understand these laws from a holistic view of
Scripture, having received both the Old and
New Testaments.
1. PRACTICAL REASONS - to protect them from
disease, since they lived in a backward society
(compared to ours) and medicine was scarce.
Thus, eating animals that died of natural causes
was dangerous and forbidden (Leviticus 17:15).
A number of disease-carrying animals were
prohibited in Leviticus 11, such as pigs, gulls,
and many insects.
2. SPIRITUAL REASONS - to make them holy,
dedicated, separate them from the nations. Pork,
for instance was not simply a heavy meat
(difficult to digest and less healthy than fish or
fowl), but a pagan food, associated with Egyptian
and Caananite cult.
God knew that neglecting these laws could
result in disease, both physical and spiritual.
The latter was more serious, since imbibing
foreign pagan culture was sure to have
negative impact on His people.
How should we view these rules today? Let’s
look at some principles from Scripture.
On the day they were anointed, the
LORD commanded that the Israelites give this
to them as their regular share for the
generations to come.
During the Exodus, God was continuously
directing his people, “calling the shots” as he
brought them closer to his fulfilled vision for
them as a people.
 Lev 7:36
“The time is coming,” declares the LORD,
“when I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah.
Jer 31:32 It will not be like the covenant
I made with their forefathers
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
though I was a husband to them,’”
declares the LORD.
Jer 31:31
For when the priesthood is changed, of
necessity there takes place a change of law also. (AB)
 HEB 7:12
Jesus replaces Aaron with a priesthood that is both
different and better. And with the Aaronic priesthood
went the law that had been erected with that
priesthood as its basis. So the author says there must
be a change of law.
Jesus actually “changes” the law from one perspective
when he raises the bar of purity in Matthew 5, and
when he enlightens their understanding of food laws
in Mark 7.
By calling this covenant “new,” he has made
the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging
will soon disappear. (NIV)
 Heb 8:13
“From the idea that the covenant is a relationship
existing between God and His people maintained
through atoning sacrifice, it is clear that the high
priest becomes the central figure in it. He is the
minister of atonement. The covenant relationship,
therefore, is only as good as the high priest who
administers it. The ministry of the ancient high priest
was imperfect. Thus the old covenant also was
imperfect and hence transitory (8:13)”— F.F.Bruce,
New International Bible Commentary
Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said,
“Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing
outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into
him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that
makes him ‘unclean.’’” After he had left the crowd
and entered the house, his disciples asked him about
this parable.
Mk 7:18-20 “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see
that nothing that enters a man from the outside can
make him ‘unclean’? For it doesn’t go into his heart
but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In
saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”) He went
on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him
 Mk 7:14-7
And He *said to them, “Are you so
lacking in understanding also? Do you not
understand that whatever goes into the man
from outside cannot defile him, because it
does not go into his heart, but into his
stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thus He
declared all foods clean.) And He was saying,
“ That which proceeds out of the man, that is
what defiles the man. – Amplified Bible
 MK 7:18-20
The dietary laws distinguishing clean and
unclean foods served to mark out God’s
people as holy – separated from all others
(see Leviticus 20:24-26). By declaring all
foods clean, Jesus removes a major boundary
marker that separated Jews from Gentiles. He
signals that this ancient distinction is
disappearing in His Kingdom.
Avoiding sin is much more than just eating
right! The things which defile a man issue
forth from the heart.
Jesus called the crowd around him because he
wanted them to hear the crux of his teaching
about what is clean. He prefaced his statement
with a prophetic call to hear his words and then
stated clearly what does and does not make a
person unclean. What is external cannot defile a
person. Food, for example, cannot do this--even
if it is eaten with unwashed hands or declared
unclean by kosher food laws. What really makes a
person unclean comes from within, out of the
heart and the will--what one thinks, says,
desires, and does. - Walter Wessel, Zondervan
International Bible Commentary
“Animal products such as milk (usually sheep
and goat), butter and cheese were more
common than meat as the former were
continuing products. The pig and the camel
were forbidden meats to the Jew in the OT,
but pork was a favorite with Greeks and
Romans. In the NT dispensation they were
legitimate food. All kosher laws disappeared
after Peter’s vision and Paul’s missionary
work.” - Merrill Tenney, Zondervan
Encyclopedia of the Bible, s.v. “Foods”
Paul had this problem when he was dealing
with the Christians in Colossae.
It seems that they were struggling with
regulations and prohibitions from their
Judaistic past.
Once focused on Christ, it is easier to mind
the more important matters of the faith and
not be caught up in minor judgments.
When you were dead in your sins and in the
uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you
alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having
canceled the written code, with its regulations, that
was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took
it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed
the powers and authorities, he made a public
spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the
Col 2:16-17 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by
what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious
festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.
Col 2:17 These are a shadow of the things that were to
come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
 Col 2:13-15
The Levitical law did prohibit certain foods,
and the observance of certain times was
obligatory. But Christ by His death has
abrogated these legal demands, and to look
to these is to prefer the shadow to the
substance which is Christ Himself.
What are we focused on, the shadow of Christ
(Old Covenant) or the substance of Christ
(New Covenant)?
In light of what Christ did, the Colossians
were to let no one "judge" their standing
before God on the basis of their observance
or nonobservance of the regulations of the
Mosaic law.
In such matters the principle of Christian
liberty comes into play (cf. Gal 5:1).
The false teachers at Colosse laid down rigid
restrictions with regard to eating and
drinking and with regard to the observance of
the religious calendar. Paul points them to
the more important matters regarding Christ,
allowing them to practice Christian liberty.
They were not to impose on their fellow
Christians something which God did not
Accept him whose faith is weak, without
passing judgment on disputable matters. One
man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but
another man, whose faith is weak, eats only
Ro 14:3-4 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.
 Ro 14:1-2
The “weaker” brethren at Rome should
probably be identified with the Jewish
element in the church, those who had
avoided certain foods because of the dietary
laws of the OT. Information may have reached
Paul that with the return of Jewish Christians
to Rome.
The point is that Christians should accept
each other’s differences when it came to
opinion matters.
Practical: If “all foods are clean” one should
be free to eat whatever food he/she prefers,
taking responsibility for one’s own health.
For instance, one is free to eat pork, but one
should know that a porcine heavy diet brings
much bad cholesterol to the body.
If eating one kind of food is an aversion to
you, then you are free to avoid such food.
Others should not impose their tastes on you.
Some related questions
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
Isa 66:16-17
This is concerned with the fate of rebellious Jews,
especially those guilty of degrading and
idolatrous practices; as well as Gentiles.
This is in the context of idolatry, and simply
borrows the image of the food prohibitions in the
Pentateuch. You cannot conclude from this text
that eating pork brings the curse of God. What
about for us today?
“Jesus declared all foods clean (Mark 7:19), and
Hebrews 13:9, Colossians 2:21 and other
passages warn us about the legalism of
regressing to the kosher laws. “ - Douglas Jacoby
In 1 Timothy 4:3-4, Paul makes note that
there would arise false teachers who would
prohibit several things, including the eating
of meat. But, notice that in verse 4, Paul
makes it expressly clear that ALL animals
were to be considered as food if they were
received with thanksgiving. Thus, meat eating
has always been permissible for man since
Tensions were being resolved regarding the
church in Antioch. At the Jerusalem Council,
James shared his piece in Acts 15:13-21.
“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.
 Ac 15:19-20
In Leviticus 3:17, God forbade the Jews from
ever eating fat or blood. In Lev. 7:26, 27, God
again reminds His people that they could not
eat blood lest they be separated from the
house of Israel. In Lev 17:11, 14, God again
speaks to the children of Israel and forbids
them to eat of the blood of any animal and
makes other restrictions regarding the eating
of flesh that has been killed by another
Remember that the purpose of the Council’s
letter was to lessen the friction between
disciples of different backgrounds in the
Antioch church.
In Acts 15:1-2 the main issue had to do with
circumcision and the Law of Moses.
The letter of the Council was not to impose
more rules on an already rigid theology
(15:28-29). Besides, Paul already learned
Christian freedom from Jesus’ teaching.
It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us
not to burden you with anything beyond the
following requirements:
Ac 15:29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to
idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled
animals and from sexual immorality. You will do
well to avoid these things.
The prohibitions were more about helping
Gentile Christians come into the faith while at the
same time respecting Jewish freedoms (and not
make the Jewish Christians stumble).
 Ac 15:28
We can say that sexual immorality is wrong in
any age because there are many verses in the
New Testament that support it. But we cannot
say the same for the food laws. The New
Testament does not support this.
“Even on the issue of eating food sacrificed to
idols, Paul later modified this teaching by saying
that you could eat it if you didn’t know it had
been sacrificed in an idol temple, and in fact, you
should not ask (1 Cor 10:25-30).” – Gordon
Ferguson, Revolution: The World-Changing
Church in the Book of Acts
Eat anything sold in the meat market
without raising questions of conscience, for, “The
earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”
1Co 10:27 If some unbeliever invites you to a meal
and you want to go, eat whatever is put before
you without raising questions of conscience.
1Co 10:30-31 If I take part in the meal with
thankfulness, why am I denounced because of
something I thank God for? So whether you eat or
drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of
 1Co 10:25-26
Paul lays down three principles: (1) Though
Christians have the right to do all things,
such as eating sacrificial meat, it may not be
beneficial to them. (2) Such practices of
liberty may not in fact build up a fellow
Christian. (3) In summary, Christians are not
merely to seek their own good but to
promote the good of their fellow Christians
and the glory of God.
We cannot lump the three food laws (food
sacrificed to idols, blood, meat of strangled
animals) as a matter of sin in the New Covenant.
Paul as a matter of principle declares in 1 Cor 10
that foods may be eaten freely, while responsibly
thinking of the conscience of others.
Note also that Colossians (which tells us not to
judge based on “what you eat”) was written
around 58AD, after the Jerusalem Council in Acts
15. Remember that Acts 15 represents an
unusual time in the learning curve of the early
Thus, it is fine to ingest the items mentioned
above as the stipulation in Acts 15 during an
unusual transitory time of the church from
Old Covenant rules. The letter was a
concession, not a doctrinal treatise.
At the same time, one (in modern times)
should not be forced to eat anything against
their preference.
Some food laws are truly queer (e.g. “cooking
a young goat in its mother’s milk”). God
must have a reason for putting them there.
Research in the area of Ugarit testifies to the
depraved nature of Canaanite religion around
the time of the Exodus. including the boiling
of a goat kid in its mother’s milk, a practice
warned against in Exodus 23:19 and 34:26
and which probably lies at the heart of the
kosher laws.
Again, these are not binding on those who
participate in the New Covenant.
Gen 9:4 But you must not eat meat that has
its lifeblood still in it.
The life of the creature is its blood; so the
spilling of the lifeblood is the giving of its life
as the atoning sacrifice. (See Dt 12:23)
“ ‘Do not eat any meat with the blood still
in it. “ ‘Do not practice divination or sorcery. ‘
 Lev 19:26
The emphasis and frequent prohibition of blood
suggest that in this context eating blood or the
flesh with the blood was a common heathen
practice. It had to do with false religion in
Canaan during that time.
The Israelites were to resist the influences of the
Canaanite culture and were not to conform to
Canaanite religious practices.
In the Torah, the criteria is less clear for fowl
meat than for others. We are provided a list
of forbidden birds (Lev 11:13-19; Deut
14:11-18), but does not specify why these
particular birds are forbidden.
All of the birds on the list are birds of prey or
scavengers, thus some Jewish rabbis inferred
that this was the basis for the distinction.
Other birds are permitted, such as chicken,
geese, ducks and turkeys. However, some
people avoid turkey, because it is was
unknown at the time of the giving of the
Torah, leaving room for doubt.
Again, we must return to the principle that
Jesus declared all foods clean, supported by
the superseding of the Old Covenant.
God has perfectly planned for the institution of
the New Covenant which supersedes the Old
Jesus declared all foods clean, and Paul reiterated
that no one should judge others on food
Paul saw the importance of Christian liberty. For
further study: Romans 14:1-15:7, 1 Corinthians
We can practice Christian freedom to eating
anything, while at the same time not causing
others to stumble if they shun certain foods.
The Cross helps us focus, not on the things that
divide us, but on what we have in common as

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