A very familiar passage, Ecclesiastes 3:1 declares, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” One of the questions that man has struggled with for endless ages is the question, “What is my purpose?” Perhaps more important than questions regarding where we came from or what happens when we die, the struggle to find purpose may be one of the single most driving forces in life. It is through the seeking of purpose that one finds hope for living or falls deep into depression. What I have come to believe, however, is that there is a beautiful illustration of purpose found woven throughout the text of the Bible.
In this third installment in a series of articles intended to lead you, the reader, into a much deeper relationship with Yahweh and His Word, which we know are one in the same, I want to show you the power found in the purpose for which God has created every creature on the face of the earth. In this article we will take a very in depth look at a verse that is commonly misunderstood, and reasonably so, as the English translation when read from the mindset of one who lives today can appear on the surface to mean something very different from what we will see it meant to a first century Jewish follower of Yeshua. After all, those who wrote the books and letters that are compiled into the New Testament of the Bible were all Jewish men writing primarily, at first, to Jewish Believers. So,let’s take a look at this quite peculiar piece of Scripture.
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
~1 Timothy 4:1-5, KJV
Now if you have already read the article “The Key To Divine Health” you are aware that this verse does not mean that you can eat whatever you want, including what God previously called unclean. If you did not read the article you will certainly want to after you finish this one. If you have not yet been convinced that the commonly held interpretation of this verse is wrong, you will likely be convinced of that after you finish through this article. Unlike the first article, where many very strong points were made, or the second one, titled “Living Under The Blessing,” where a more positive focus was placed on obedience out of love and God’s willingness to bless those who follow His commands, this writing will focus on a very in depth study on the key words of the text in 1 Timothy 4.
I have already shared previously that the account in Acts pertaining to Peter’s Vision does not justify eating unclean meats, as Peter himself revealed the true interpretation of the dream as not to call any (Gentile) man unclean. Also, the accounts often referred to from Paul’s letters to the Romans and Corinthians have to do with meats sacrificed to idols and then sold in the markets, having also nothing to do with the distinction between clean and unclean meats. This article will place the emphasis on the one remaining text that seems to have many people convinced that it is acceptable to eat what God called unclean. Let’s begin by taking a look at this verse from another translation of the Bible, one that I am quite fond of as it generally expounds on key words from the original language and gives a much deeper understanding of the text.
All Doesn’t Always Mean All
Who forbid people to marry and [teach them] to abstain from [certain kinds of] foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and have [an increasingly clear] knowledge of the truth. For everything God has created is good, and nothing is to be thrown away or refused if it is received with thanksgiving. For it is hallowed and consecrated by the Word of God and by prayer.
~1 Timothy 4:3-5, AMP
Let’s begin with the first key word of the text ‘everything’. As you may already be familiar with, words that describe ‘all’ or ‘every’ don’t necessarily mean all-inclusive and without exception. We see this in the account of Noah, shortly after the flood waters receded, God told Noah as recorded in Genesis 9:3, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and as I gave you the green vegetables and plants, I give you everything.” The assumption that Noah ate of every animal God created is dispelled on two points, however. The first is the obvious, since clean and unclean animals were regarded differently when gathered to the ark. The clean animals taken by sevens (probably 3 pairs plus one, but possibly 7 pairs totaling 14) and unclean animals a single pair (1 male and one female). So, for Noah to eat unclean animals after the flood would extinct the entire species altogether. The second point is a careful study of the Hebrew word translated as ‘moving thing’, which is the word ‘remes’. As I have pointed out in previous writing, this word describes a specific type of hunted mammal such as deer, antelope, gazelle, and any other number of ruminating wild beasts that fit the Levitical description of having a split hoof and chewing the cud. There is no need to study this further at this time, if you are interested in learning more about this refer back to the article “The Key To Divine Health” or look at Professor John Walton’s description of this in the NIV Application Commentary on Genesis.The primary point I want you to see now, and why I reiterate this passage, is that all does not necessarily mean all the way is commonly thought when we read the word all. In this case all refers to all wild ruminating beasts considered Biblically clean, but this is not easily seen due to a poor interpretation of the original Hebrew word from the text that appears to most to be literally all animals.
In the case of 1 Timothy 4:4 I believe, and will show you through very careful study, refers specifically to everything God created for the purpose of food. For this we must move on the next key word in the passage, the word ‘created’ or‘creature’. As you will see, the better translation of the word is ‘created’ as this passage is going to prove to be talking about everything God created to be eaten as food, which includes fruits and vegetables, and is not limited to animal flesh as the word ‘creature’ would indicate. Of course, plants are regarded in science as creatures, or living organisms, and can therefore been included under the term ‘creature’ as the King James Bible uses. Of course, one of the reasons why it is so critical to do word studies like this is because Bibles like the King James are written in outdated forms of English, and in some cases, as has been shown with the King James Bible, certain passages were intentionally translated to fit the political demands of the kingdom. In addition, some newer versions of the Scripture have been poorly translated due to poor approaches and others are paraphrases which creates even bigger problems for purposes of study. This does not mean that they are completely mistranslated, but they can be misleading, particularly in modern English societies where the common meaning of certain words has changed. Think about this, some fifty years ago the term ‘gay’ in American society was used by people to describe joy and happiness, to say you were gay simply meant you were happy. In today’s society, however, when someone says, “I’m gay,” it means a completely different thing, as it is commonly used in reference to homosexuality and even if an elderly person who lived in the time it meant happy said, “I’m so gay,” they would likely get odd looks from listeners of a younger generation.
What Did God Create That For?
The word “creature” or “created” used in 1 Timothy 4:4 is the Greek word ‘ktisma’. It is derived from the word ‘ktizó’ which refers specifically to that which God alone can create from nothing. In the case of ‘ktisma’ it refers to that which God created. In addition to the passage we are studying, ‘ktisma’ is used in one other place, Revelation 4:13, which states, “And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.” This is interesting seeing as everything God created has the purpose of blessing, honoring, and glorifying Him. What we will be discovering, however, is the purpose these creations have in the natural world we live in, but it is only through fulfilling their natural purpose that they can in fact fulfill their spiritual purpose of blessing, honoring and glorifying God.
Albert Barnes, a noted theologian and minister from the early 1800’s, is perhaps most well known as the author of the Bible Commentary Barnes Notes On The Bible. In this, he draws the following out of the text from 1 Timothy 4:4.
For every creature of God is good -Greek, “all the creatures, or all that God has created” – πᾶν κτίσμαpan ktisma: that is, as he made it; compare Genesis 1:10, Genesis 1:12, Genesis 1:18, Genesis 1:31. It does not mean that every moral agent remains good as long as he is “a creature of God,” but moral agents, human beings and angels, were good as they were made at first; Genesis 1:31. Nor does it mean that all that God has made is good “for every object to which it can be applied.” It is good in its place; good for the purpose for which he made it. But it should not be inferred that a thing which is poisonous in its nature is good for food, “because” it is a creation of God. It is good only in its place, and for the ends for which he intended it. Nor should it be inferred that what God has made is necessarily good “after” it has been perverted by man. As God made it originally, it might have been used without injury.
Apples and peaches were made good, and are still useful and proper as articles of food; rye and Indian-corn are good, and are admirably adapted to the support of man and beast, but it does not follow that all that “man” can make of them is necessarily good. He extracts from them a poisonous liquid, and then says that “every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused. “But is this a fair use of this passage of Scripture? True, they “are” good – they “are” to be received with gratitude as he made them, and as applied to the uses for which he designed them; but why apply this passage to prove that a deleterious beverage, which “man” has extracted from what God has made, is good also, and good for all the purposes to which it can be applied? As “God” made these things, they are good. As man perverts them, it is no longer proper to call them the “creation of God,” and they may be injurious in the highest degree. This passage,therefore, should not be adduced to vindicate the use of intoxicating drinks. As employed by the apostle, it had no such reference, nor does it contain any “principle” which can properly receive any such application.
And nothing to be refused – Nothing that God has made, for the purposes for which he designed it. The necessity of the case the “exigency of the passage” – requires this interpretation. It “cannot” mean that we are not to refuse poison if offered in our food, or that we are never to refuse food that is to us injurious or offensive; nor can it anymore mean that we are to receive “all” that may be offered to us as a beverage. The sense is, that as God made it, and for the purposes for which he designed it, it is not to be held to be evil; or, which is the same thing, it is not to be prohibited as if there were merit in abstaining from it. It is not to be regarded as a religious duty to abstain from food which God has appointed for the support of man.
Frederic Richard Lees, who also lived in the early 1800’s, was a stern advocate against the use of alcohol by Christians and made great strides in combating the ideas that drinking alcohol violates the Word of God and His commands for people. He, along with Dawson Burns, co-authored The Temperance Bible Commentary. In this theological work the following is stated in commentary on 1 Timothy 4:3-5.
The ‘meats’ (brõmata) referred to by the apostle, include the fruits of the earth, and whatever is fit to be eaten; but to quote this text, as some have done, in opposition to the Temperance cause, is a lamentable perversion of Divine truth. (1) Intoxicating liquors are not ‘meats,’ the amount of nourishment in them being infinitesimally small. (2) In their manufacture a great destruction of good food inevitably occurs. (3) By their consumption, the means of procuring suitable and sufficient food are denied to tens of thousands of families in our country alone. (4) Abstinence from them would at once stimulate the demand the demand and supply of food to an extent hitherto unknown. Every ‘creature of God’ (ktisma, created thing) ‘is good’ in the place where He has placed it, and for the purpose for which He has designed it; nor is anything He has fitted for food to be refused – cast away – churlishly or superstitiously; but to be accepted with thanksgiving, being sanctified to the user by the Word of God and by prayer. The fundamental idea of this passage is, that the bróma or ktisma is innocuous, safe, and adapted to the human organism by the Creator. In regard to intoxicating drink, this idea is not only not realized, but is essentially reversed. There is an expressive proverb that drinkers well know, but are very apt to forget – “God sends us food, and the devil sends us cooks.” This evinces that the common mind quite understands the difference between God’s work and the brewers work – between nature and art – between that which demonstrates the Divine wisdom, and that which simply proves human perversity and depravity. Who would tolerate the language made explicit, which, by an abuse of the words of this passage, makes God not only a ‘Creator,’ but a brewer and a gin-spinner? Stripped of its varnished pretence of piety, this is virtually what the objector contends for, when he foolishly asserts that “alcohol is a creature, and therefore to be received with thanksgiving.” The analyses and experiments of science prove, beyond all reasonable doubt, that alcohol is not ‘meat’ or food; and not less so that Nature, in her laboratory, abstains from producing this special article and seductive poison. “Nature,” said Count Chaptal, the great French chemist, a half century ago, “never forms spirituous liquors; she rots the grape upon the branch, but it is art which converts the juice into [alcohol] wine.” Professor Turner, in his ‘Chemistry,’ also affirms the non-natural character of alcohol.“It does not exist ready formed in plants, but is a product of the vinous fermentation” – a process which must be initiated, superintended, and, at a certain state, arrested by art. The term ‘sanctified’ shows that the apostle here is writing against those who attached a ceremonial uncleanness to certain meats, or against the early Gnostics, who ascribed all moral evil to all material things. In opposition to both theories, Paul teaches that nothing which is intrinsically adapted for food is ‘unclean’ or ‘evil,’ and that it becomes, on the contrary, ‘sanctified,’ set apart to a sacred use,if its reception is accompanied by devotion and praise. In this teaching everything is in beautiful accordance with the Temperance principle, but entirely out of harmony with the drinking system in all its parts; for alcohol is not a food, is not a creature of God (in the sense here intended), its acceptance has never been Divinely commanded, and its tendency to disturb and destroy the temple of man’s body is not diminished by any thankfulness with which it is mistakenly received.
I want to make note of some from these writings that are now almost two centuries old. First of all, the emphasis seems to be that the passage in 1 Timothy refers specifically to that which God created for the purpose of consuming as food. Barnes notes that the passage cannot refer to something that would be poisonous to the body, and Lee emphasizes that those who would use this passage to justify alcohol consumption (as alcohol is originated from natural, living members of God’s creation) cannot be correct in such an interpretation either. Both men point out that this verse can only refer to those members of living creation that are purposed for human food. Another thing that is pointed out by both men is that articles of ‘food’ that have been perverted by the hands of men and altered to an unnatural state are no longer to be considered food. This is in line with the use of the word ‘clean’ in passages such as Romans 14:20 where the original Greek word is ‘katharos.’ This word is properly defined as ‘without admixture’ and indicates the addition of ingredients into foods that don’t belong there or the altering of foods into a completely unnatural state, as is the case with most heavily processed “food products” today. Examples, in addition to alcohol as noted by Lee, would be artificial sweeteners (such as aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame-k, saccharin, neotame, and others), artificial flavors (or really just ANYTHING artificial used in foods), chemical food dyes (such as FD&C colors, which are made from coal tar and some of which are so toxic they require their own MSDS, a document for the safe handling of extremely toxic chemicals), chemical preservatives (such as sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, sodium nitrites and sodium nitrates), carbonation in beverages (which are believed to rot your bones and teeth making them weak and brittle), and pretty much anything that doesn’t belong in your food or your body.
Food As Defined By Torah
If we jump back to verse 3 of 1 Timothy 4, which states from the KJV, “Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth,” I have noticed something of interest about the word “meats”. In this passage it comes from the Greek word “bróma” (referred to above) which, according to Strong’s Concordance, is defined as, “food, especially allowed or forbidden by Jewish law.” In other words, the “meats” (which is a bad translation anyway, it is supposed to say “foods”) that the false teachers were commanding people to abstain from were foods as defined by Torah, foods as defined by Moses, foods as defined by Yahweh’s Eternal Law. The false teachers were not telling people to abstain from pork or shellfish, they were teaching to abstain from clean foods. So, 1 Timothy 4:3 should be understood like this (as far as the food portion is concerned): “They (the false teachers mentioned in verses 1-2) forbid people to marry; they command people to abstain from [Biblically clean] foods (as defined by Mosaic/Levitical Law) that God created for the faithful to share with thanksgiving, having come to know the truth.”
It is also important to note that in verse three of our text there are two things that the false teachers Paul is addressing here are doing. In addition to commanding people to abstain from certain kinds of foods, they also forbid people to marry. Since these two statements are made together, they must be interpreted in the same manner. If the latter were referring to meats deemed unclean by Torah, of which eating them is considered an abomination according to the record from Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14, then we would have to say that the forms of marriage being forbidden would be those that would violate Torah in some way. Today we see a movement within society to become accepting of same-sex marriages and other unions that both Christian and Jewish faiths would consider immoral. But if this passage is referring to unclean animals and saying that it is wrong to forbid eating them, then we as Believers must become accepting of same-sex marriage, we cannot forbid them because Paul would be saying here that it is a false teacher who forbids two people to get married, even if those two people are the same gender. To put it another way, if the New Testament allows eating unclean meats than it also allows same-sex marriage. Both are listed as an abomination in Torah, so if one is no longer an abomination than the other would require the same treatment. Verse four says “everything God created is good”. Since the passage addresses both marriage and certain foods being forbidden, then we would also have to say same-sex marriage is good if we use the passage to claim unclean meats are now good. So, are you willing to change your views on the issue of marriage and sexual morality simply to further justify eating what God plainly said to never eat in the first place?
Let’s take a quick look at a few of the more common animals that are called out in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible, written by Moses, Genesis through Deuteronomy) as unclean. The first and certainly most commonly eaten would be the pig (aka the swine or the sow). This is a creature that has one of the most vile diets of any creature known on the earth today. These animals eat everything from garbage to rotting flesh to dead carcasses to feces to the tumors of other dead pigs. They have been commonly used in ancient societies to eat raw sewage where it gathered outside of the city. Pigs, unlike ruminating animals (such as cows, deer, goats, sheep, antelope, etc., that consume a vegetarian diet, chew the cud, and have a very lengthy digestion process) have a very rapid digestion process, so very little of the toxic mess in their diet is processed out. In addition, pigs do not have sweat glands, so in addition to not excreting the toxins and diseases in their diet, they don’t sweat them out either. It is for this reason that pork consumption puts you at a high risk of infection from toxins, diseases, viruses, parasites and so on. Some studies have also shown that eating pork causes fat build up in the area of the human body from where the pork meat originated on the pig. So, eating a lot of bacon may be the cause of fat build up on the back of the head and neck (not trying to sound rude, but certainly you know someone with those big fat rolls on the back of their neck), consumption of ham may cause weight gain in the thighs, hips and buttocks, and consumption of meat from the pig’s belly area may cause weight gain in the human abdominal region. It goes without saying that excess weight leads to a number of health risks.
Next on the list is creatures of the sea considered unclean. Think of any type of shellfish (lobster, shrimp, crabs, clams, oysters, mussels, scallops, conch and other snails, and any other type of shellfish), octopus, squid, eels, catfish, sharks and so on. The Bible says that only those creatures of the waters that have both fins and scales should be eaten. When you look at the diets of these clean fish, they commonly eat a healthy diet of live plants and smaller living fish, though it is not uncommon for some clean fish species to eat things like shellfish. Scales have been shown to allow for the release of toxins through the skin of fish that meet the Scriptural criteria to be called “clean”. On the other hand, those creatures from the water called unclean are well known to eat dead sea creatures, fecal waste, dead and rotting plants, and anything else toxic to the water. Much like the pig many of these creatures are the ‘cleanup crew’ of the various bodies of water. Also, much like pigs, these creatures retain the toxins, diseases,and parasites they consume. Needless to say, like the pig, when you eat these creatures you are eating their filthy and unclean diet with them. Think about this for a moment; in many regions there are even seasons where it is illegal to harvest shellfish as a result of them being so poisonous that they can cause death upon consumption!
One of the top testimonies I have received, through ministering on this topic, is from people who stopped eating pork and shellfish. In some cases they do it at the recommendation of a Doctor, in others they simply read the Bible and decided to obey it. People have told me such things as, “I had high cholesterol, but I stopped eating pork and shellfish and not my cholesterol is good,” or, “I had some tests done and my heart was at risk, my Doctor told me to stop eating pork and shellfish and now, after following the Doctor’s orders, I am no longer showing these risk factors.” If you simply obey the Bible, you will be blessed!
When it comes to birds there are those that are called clean, such as chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese,pheasant, quail, and the like. These are birds that eat a healthy diet of mostly seeds and plants. On the other hand, some unclean birds given as examples of unclean are scavengers like vultures and buzzards that consume dead rotting animal carcasses, and others include birds of prey that constantly consume disease infested creatures like rodents.
I could go on, but you are hopefully seeing the trend here. Those creatures God called unclean can be put into two categories: scavengers and top predators, all consuming a diet that infects them with diseases, toxins, parasites and viruses that are harmful to people when eaten. The fact is, God did not call these creatures unclean for some ceremonial reasons, but BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT CLEAN! In essence, He created them with a purpose. The purpose of the unclean creatures of the earth, ironically enough, is to keep the earth clean. They are tasked with the burden of consuming that which would otherwise poison the earth. Their purpose is not for use as human consumption, and consuming these creatures makes a person “unclean” (diseased and sick). This is not the same as the ceremonially uncleanliness that results from other aspects of the Torah Law, which held one unclean until the end of the day, preventing them from participation in tabernacle or temple worship. The uncleanness that results from eating unclean animals is one where you are more permanently marked as unclean, because you are marked with the diseases and signs of one who refutes the Word of God and eats what is forbidden, or not purposed, for use as food.
Don’t Throw That Away!
So now we move on the word ‘refused’ from our subject text. This word is the Greek word apoblétos and refers to something that is thrown out, rejected, cast away, and so on. As seen in the Amplified Bible above, this is the more accurate way to translate this word. Refuse is still used today in reference to garbage or waste. In fact, I recently drove by a waste facility where the sign in front of the place used the word refuse in place of garbage or waste. This would certainly fit with what I noted above about words that may have been common at one time in the English language to describe a thing, but that use has dwindled with time. Obviously in today’s English speaking society the word refuse is more commonly associated with something that one would insist on not doing. For this reason it is understandable that many would assume this passage is saying to not refuse eating whatever is placed before you.
Let’s think about this for a moment. If you take this interpretation of the verse, that would mean that you must not refuse ANYTHING that would be considered a creation of God, plant or animal. There are plants, fruits, and berries that are known to be poisonous and cause death upon consumption, should we not refuse to eat them? This was well illustrated at the climax of the movie “The Hunger Games”. There are creatures such as maggots, spiders, cockroaches (which are close cousins to shellfish species like lobsters, shrimp and crabs by the way, all are arthropods), worms, bats, rats, snakes, scorpions, beetles, and the list of creatures goes on, with the thought of eating them being something that would turn most people’s stomach. If your interpretation of 1Timothy 4:4 is that you can eat anything and everything that God created, to refuse these gross creatures would make you a hypocrite. Most people have seen the movie “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” Imagine if you were at the feast held in the temple in India in that scene where the python was cut open and live snakes crawled out, the eyeball soup, the chilled monkey brains. Nothing is to be refused! If you were at that table would you eat or would you pass out like the woman traveling with Indiana did?
There is a particular frog found in tropical regions called the golden poison dart frog. It is a tiny frog, no bigger than a person’s thumb, yet its tiny body contains enough poison to kill ten men. It has been historically used by native indigenous people in jungle regions to lace hunting darts with the poison from their bodies, which would aid in taking down large game species. So the big question that must be asked: Maybe you would be willing to eat spiders or worms in a desperate situation, perhaps even if in a dire survival scenario you would even go so far as eating human flesh, but would you be willing to eat a frog so poisonous that you would die from eating it? After all, it is a creature of God, so it must be “good” for food. As such it is not to be refused. Either you need to eat the poison frog or admit that maybe, just maybe, you have a wrong interpretation of this verse.
Since the original Greek word is better translated as ‘cast aside’ or ‘thrown away’ we can come to a better conclusion that we should not be throwing away good food. What determines if something is good food? Well, the answer can be found through another question: What is the purpose God it for? As we are seeing, every creature of God or created thing has been created for a purpose. Those things that He has purposed for human food He has outlined in His Word as such, and those things which He has not, He has, through His grace and love for us, specifically instructed us not to eat. It is amazing, isn’t it, every creature seems to know through natural instinct what they are meant to eat, and they stick to it. When it comes to people, however, He went so far as to TELL US what to eat and what not to eat, according to His purpose and divine order, and yet we are the only creature who choose against His natural order. Have you ever seen an eagle eat grass or a rabbit eat an eagle? Of course not! Have you ever seen a tree eat a giraffe? No, the giraffe eats the leaves of the tree, not the other way around. But God tells us what to eat and not eat, and yet many ignore it. Does it even make sense to say that you believe that God created all life and that the Bible is God’s Word, and at the same time do things that are in direct contradiction to His Word?
Then we come to the portion of the verse where it says, “if it is received with thanksgiving.” Of course the common interpretation when reading this on the surface is that nothing else matters as long as you pray over your food. When I was first introduced to these truths during a service at World Harvest Church, the speaker, Ted Broer, made the point of how many missionaries return from overseas with deadly parasites in their bodies because they, “Prayed over it and ate it,” referring to eating unclean animals commonly eaten in the cultures they were ministering in. Many use this as a proof and support text for the practice of praying over their meal, the act traditionally known as “saying grace.” The main thing I want to note about this portion of the verse is that it is written in a past tense. This would indicate that the food has already been received and thanksgiving given when the decision is made as to whether or not to ‘refuse’ it. This further supports the idea that the word ‘refuse’ cannot mean a rejection before reception, but rather an act of throwing it away uneaten and wasting it AFTER receiving it (with thanksgiving). As I have often noted, this is supported by Yeshua’s own ministry where He always commanded His disciples to gather the leftovers after feeding the masses, not allowing any good food to be wasted.
Sanctified By Torah
The final point I want to make on this passage is from verse 5, where it says that the food is sanctified by the Word of God. One has to consider that when these New Testament books and letters were being written the only Bible the believers had was the text that makes up the Old Testament. The Torah, of course, was still regarded as the primary text that guided their faith. So what ‘Word of God” was Paul referring to when he wrote this letter to Timothy? I firmly believe that more than anything he was referencing the Torah. In fact, at the council seen in Acts 15 Paul cuts off the debate by telling the Gentile converts to focus on four things, all in line with the Torah Law. These four things, per the instructions of Torah, result in a person being cut off from the people if violated. So, Paul was telling the council to start with things that were necessary to make sure the newcomers were not cut off from the body. After that they would learn the rest of what they needed to know while attending the synagogue every Sabbath, where Moses (The Torah) was read to their hearing, which Paul says right after giving the four “starter” instructions to focus on. So then, it stands to reason that the Word of God that sanctifies the food is the Torah, where it is defined what foods are indeed sanctified to be eaten and what ones are not.
Many people, when presented with facts like these, turn to Galatians 2:14 and say, “I’m not a Judaizer.” So what then is a Judaizer? Many think that it is one who insists on adherence to the Torah, but I don’t find this is consistent with the Church and the believers in the New Testament, particularly in the Book of Acts. These believers are shown to have continued in observing the Sabbath and attending the Jewish synagogues, Peter clearly continued in abstaining from eating unclean meats (and nothing indicates he ever interpreted his vision as an approval to do so, with no record indicating that he or any other Apostles changed their dietary practices after his vision), Paul was said to be ceremonially clean when at the temple to offer sacrifices (not something that could be done overnight or on the fly, this is something he had to maintain as a lifestyle, and this account takes place around 60 a.d.), and the list goes on.
Evidence shows Christians continuing to maintain the Dietary Laws of the Torah throughout the first, second, third and fourth centuries, records from the seventh century indicate that this was still practiced by Christians, and throughout history there are those who have continued to observe these things. The Judaizer, then, is not the one who teaches obedience to the Torah. It would appear that the Judaizers were those who, such as the Pharisees and Sadducees that Jesus often confronted, insisted on the Talmudic Law (a system of man-made Jewish laws intended to help prevent the accidental violation of Torah Laws, more on this another time). In many cases they were not even obeying the Torah, which they wrote the Talmud to avoid doing.
As an example, Kosher diet in accordance with Kashrut and the Talmud says that one cannot have dairy and meat together. That means not cheeseburgers, not tuna mac’n cheese casseroles, no glass of milk with your meal if it contains meat, etc. This is not found in the Torah at all, the closest thing is the passage to not boil a baby goat in it’s mother’s milk, where the rules to not mix any meat and dairy originate. On top of all this, the references to this instruction are associated with things to be done or not done during the Holy Feast Days. To be specific: baby goat, mother’s goat milk, nothing more, nothing less, that is what were not supposed to do. This is Judaizing, demanding the non-Biblical Jewish laws written in addition to the Torah. So if you want to say you are not a Galatians Judaizer fine, just so long as you know what a Galatians Judaizer is and what it is not. (see Exodus 23:19, 34:26, and Deuteronomy 14:21)
In her book Holy Cow! Does God Care About What We Eat? author Hope Egan, a Messianic Jewish Christian, says this about the Jewish Kosher rule regarding meat and dairy:
The biblical command not to boil a kid in its mother’s milk has actually spawned a myriad of related rules. Modern-day observant Jews who practice meat and dairy separation (one aspect of “keeping kosher” introduced in chapter five) go beyond avoiding cheeseburgers. Current meat/dairy dietary fences might include kitchens stocked with two sets of dishes, silverware, pots and pans. Some might even have separate sinks and dishwashers. These precautions reach so high that they guarantee that the follower will never accidentally boil a kid in mom’s milk.
Most believers ascribe little, if any, authority to Judaism’s current interpretation of this command. Even believers like myself, who attempt to incorporate Torah’s instructions into their lives, generally ignore the scruples of meat and dairy separation as something not entirely biblical. We all need to come to our own conclusions on the matter. So long as we actually do not boil young goats in their mother’s milk – right?
Understanding What Paul Was Saying
To conclude this article, let’s go back to our text and see if we can make a better interpretation of it. Remember the two translations we looked at? Let’s look at them again real quick:
Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
~1 Timothy 4:3-5, KJV
Who forbid people to marry and [teach them] to abstain from [certain kinds of] foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and have [an increasingly clear] knowledge of the truth. For everything God has created is good, and nothing is to be thrown away or refused if it is received with thanksgiving.For it is hallowed and consecrated by the Word of God and by prayer.
~1 Timothy 4:3-5, AMP
We know through this study that the Amplified translation seems to be more accurate, but can we get even more accurate? I believe that through this study we can. Consider thinking of 1 Timothy 4:3-5 like this:
These false teachers forbid people to marry; they command people to abstain from [Biblically clean according to the Torah] foods (see Leviticus 11, Deuteronomy 14) that God created for the faithful to share with thanksgiving, having come to know the truth. Everything God created with the intent and purpose of use as food by people is good, and none of it should be thrown away or cast aside after it has been received with thanksgiving, as it is consecrated and sanctified by the Torah and by prayer.
~1 Timothy 4:3-5 (author’s translation)
Even if you don’t agree with my use of ‘Torah’ in place of ‘the Word of God,’ which I do believe that the Torah is just as much the Word of God today as it has always been, you should at least agree through this study that the rest of this translation gives a much better understanding of what this verse was really saying. Ultimately, God created everything with a purpose. Some things are not created for the purpose of human food, and yet humans insist on eating them anyway. The question then is: How can you bless, honor and glorify God through a blatant disregard for His Word and the purpose for which He Divinely orchestrated the world to operate?
~Blessings and Shalom~
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