- Slides: 44
TO EAT OR NOT TO EAT A Study of Kosher Food Laws in light of New Testament Teaching 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 foods.
Example: forbidden food � 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 animals).
Jews and Samaritans � 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.
Why these laws? � 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.
Principle #1: God gives directives to his people with perfect timing. 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
Looking forward from Lev/Deut “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
Principle #2: The New Covenant supersedes the Old Covenant. � 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
Principle #3: Jesus declared all foods clean in the New Covenant. � � 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 ‘unclean. ’ 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.
On Mark 7 � 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”
Principle #4: The Cross frees us from Old Covenant Regulations � 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.
The Cross removes judgment � � � 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 cross. 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).
Principle #5: Christians are to respectfully practice their freedom. � 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 impose.
The tension among Romans � � 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 vegetables. 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
Q. Does Isaiah 66: 16 -18 prohibit forever the eating of pork? 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. 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 creation.
Q. What about the “blood prohibition” of Acts 15? � 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
Background � 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 animal.
Purpose of the Council’s letter � 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
Which is binding teaching? � 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
Food and meat issues (Acts 15) � � � Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. ” 1 Co 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. 1 Co 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 God. 1 Co 10: 25 -26
Freedom within limits � 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.
Doctrine + conscience � 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 58 AD, after the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15. Remember that Acts 15 represents an unusual time in the learning curve of the early church.
� 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.
Q. What about queer food laws? � 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.
Q. What about those not found in the kosher lists (e. g. turkey meat)? � In the Torah, the criteria is less clear 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.
Conclusions � God has perfectly planned for the institution of the New Covenant which supersedes the Old Covenant. � Jesus declared all foods clean, and Paul reiterated that no one should judge others on food preferences. � Paul saw the importance of Christian liberty. For further study: Romans 14: 1 -15: 7, 1 Corinthians 8: 1 -11. � 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 Christians.