One of the most debated and heated topics in Scripture today pertains to something that to many may seem petty and insignificant: The Dietary Laws. What are the Dietary Laws? At their core, they are the specific instructions about what animals are considered acceptable as food and what ones are not from Leviticus Chapter 11 and Deuteronomy Chapter 14. There are some other passages that come into play, such as Leviticus 19:19 that prohibits the cross-breeding of different kinds of animals or mixing different types of plants in the same field, which may result in a cross-pollination that would create a mutant hybrid species, but the main text for this topic is Leviticus 11.
Many of the articles that I have already published have expounded on the theology, science, and historical records that support the notion that these laws still pertain to Believers today. What I want to do here is a bit different from the majority of messages put out in the past. This will be more of a study on certain specific New Testament verses commonly used to claim that these particular Old Testament instructions have been voided for Believers today.
My purpose in putting this study together is the create a simple and direct reference point for those who may need such a tool in their efforts to minister truth to those who have been misled by poor teaching as well as to provide a basic overview of these Scriptures to those who are seeking truth and growing in their efforts to further understand the Word of YHWH (God). During the study we will identify key verses that are commonly used to claim that the Dietary Laws have been voided and examine them in detail. By the end of this study the goal is that you will conclude that there is not a single passage in the New Testament that actually voids the Dietary Laws.
This study is primarily intended to show that the passages within Scripture that are often cited to claim the Dietary Laws are void in fact do not state any such thing. This study is not intended to debate as to whether or not obedience to these instructions from Torah are a salvation issue, but to present the correct meaning behind numerous misunderstood verses. It is my position that if something is instructed in the Bible it does not matter if it is in any way connected with salvation; God said it, and that settles it. You simply obey because God said it.
One thing I simply do not understand is liberal Christianity. Like, I really, really, really don’t get it. You place your faith in a God you have never seen, believe that He created everything that lives, believe that there is a heaven where those who serve Him will spend eternity and a hell where sinners will forever be tormented, believe that He sent His very own Son, Yeshua our Messiah, on a mission to die for you, believe that He sends His Holy Spirit, the Ruach HaKodesh, to live on the inside of you…
You do things that He plainly says in His Word not to do and don’t do things He asks you in His Word to do.
WHERE IS THE SENSE IN THIS??? So then, let’s begin to assess these passages and see if there is any justification for the belief that the New Testament voids the instructions given in Torah.
1. Did Yeshua (Jesus) Declare All Animals Clean?
For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)
~Mark 7:19 (NIV)
This is one of the first passages people will go to in support of the belief that the Dietary Laws have been voided under the New Testament. There are a number of problems with using this verse to support the claim that unclean animals are permitted as food following the work of the cross.
The first thing that is to be noted is that the phrase “Jesus declared all foods clean” is written in parenthesis. This is an area of concern as there is a strong debate about whether or not the phrase was actually used in the original document written by Mark. In English translations of the Bible often times words need to be added in order for a sentence to read properly. Such words would be considered fillers and are generally printed in italics.
The reason why the phrase in Mark 7 is in parenthesis is because there are some early manuscripts where the phrase appears, and others where it does not. This poses the question as to whether or not the phrase was added or taken out of certain early copies of Mark’s Gospel. Parenthesis are often used to add a further explanation to a text or insert a side note (as you will notice I do throughout this message). This appears to be the case in Mark 7:19, but it is not clear as to whether or not Mark added it or someone later in history added it. Of course, this is actually not the major problem with the common interpretation of this text.
The second problem with using the parenthetical phrase in this verse as a justification text to eat unclean meats is that the context of both this verse and the entire story line of Mark 7 had nothing to do with the clean and unclean animal distinctions. First, within our study text specifically, it is clear that Yeshua is using the natural process of the body’s digestive system as a means to explain His point. Let’s consider a couple of other translations of the text.
Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?
~Mark 7:19 (KJV)
For it does not enter into the heart but into the stomach, and then goes out into the sewer, cleansing all foods.
~Mark 7:19 (TLV)
Notice that in these two translations it doesn’t have the added text that is found in parenthesis, the way some other English translations do. This helps us to understand the text by placing the focus on the portion of the verse that is not in question. As you can see, the passage is dealing with the digestive process of the human body, using it as an analogy.
As we know from the complete ministry of Yeshua, He was a strong proponent of teaching with the use of analogy, as He often used parables to teach spiritual truths. This is not unlike YHWH (God) the Father who so often speaks to His people through the use of dreams and visions, which always seem to be using an analogy to teach a lesson (remember this, it will come up again later in this study).
The human body processes food, taking the parts that are of nutritional benefit to the body and distributing these nutrients throughout the body, and taking the portions of the food that are not useful and disposing of them (when you go to the bathroom). The fact is, however, that science shows that unclean meats quite often contain toxins, parasites and diseases that are not eliminated, but remain in the body of those that consume them and ultimately cause a variety of health problems, many times very serious ones. This shows that, scientifically, the body cannot “purge” or “purify” meats that come from unclean animals, meaning that eating unclean things would be contrary to the statement Yeshua makes here.
The other issue with Mark 7 is that the entire context of the passage was related to an accusation made against the Disciples of Yeshua for eating bread without first washing their hands after the tradition of the Elders. This was actually more than just the basic act of washing your hands before you eat, which is always a good idea. There are very specific ceremonial traditions that have developed over the years within Rabbinical Judaism, many of which have been placed equal with God’s Laws. In the Mark 7 passage this is what was happening.
And they saw that some of His disciples were eating bread with unclean hands, that is, not washed. (For the Pharisees and all Jewish people do not eat unless they wash their hands up to the elbow, keeping the tradition of the elders. And when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they perform a ritual washing. There are many other traditions they have received and hold, such as the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels.) The Pharisees and Torah scholars questioned Yeshua, “Why don’t Your disciples walk according to the tradition of the elders? Why do they eat bread with unwashed hands?”
~Mark 7:2-5 (TLV)
This is what Yeshua was addressing up to his conclusion in verse 19. The entire passage between verses 6 and 23 are Yeshua’s rebuttal to the false accusation of the Pharisees who were calling the action into question.
The same story is also recorded in Matthew’s Gospel, the 15th Chapter. Let’s take a look at the verse in Matthew that is parallel to Mark 7:19.
For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.
~Matthew 15:19-20 (NIV)
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.
~Matthew 15:19-20 (KJV)
For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, and slander. These are the things that make the man unholy; but to eat with unwashed hands does not make the man unholy.
~Matthew 15:19-20 (TLV)
For out of the heart come forth wicked thoughts, murder, adultery and other kinds of sexual immorality, theft, lies, slanders. . . . These are what really make a person unclean, but eating without doing n’tilat-yadayim does not make a person unclean.
~Matthew 15:20 (CJB)
Notice that all of these verses are consistent and provide details about what comes out of the heart making a person defiled and how the act of ceremonially washing hands does not defile the man. Mark was saying the same thing in his Gospel (Mark 7:19); he just didn’t offer the same details. These stories were being taught as the Apostles traveled throughout the region spreading the Gospel. Most everyone had heard or eventually would hear it the way Matthew records it, so they would have understood it as such, even if they had heard the more vague rendition that Mark records first.
In addition, the Complete Jewish Bible uses a Hebrew term, “N’tilat Yadayim”. This phrase refers specifically to the ceremonial handwashing that was being addressed in the passage. The rules for this tradition go as follows:
After Kiddush and before the meal, each person in the household should wash hands by filling a cup with water and pouring it over the top and bottom of the right hand and then the left hand. Before wiping the hands dry on a towel, the following blessing should be recited:
“Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us concerning washing of hands.”
This type of tradition continues to this day. I have even been through a form of this myself while participating in the Passover Seder, a traditional Jewish meal kept in celebration of the Passover that has developed out of the original commandment to keep the Feast. I had this opportunity in a class on Old Testament Theology while attending Bible College years ago, a Messianic Jewish couple connected with the ministry and college conducted it for us. While the Seder has aspects that are not seen in Torah, it does hold to the initial instructions. It is believed that the Last Supper was actually a Passover Seder. It is good to participate in one if you have an opportunity, but I do not believe it a necessary part of faith practice as it is not what Scripture commands for Passover.
At this point I think it becomes quite clear that no matter how you look at this passage, it clearly was not declaring things like pigs, shellfish, rodents and all other previously deemed unclean animals as being clean. There is one other point that seals the matter on this passage, which will lead us to our next verse. If Yeshua was teaching here that it is now OK to eat unclean animals, why was Peter still holding to these commandments as documented in Acts 10, which is an account that takes place approximately 10 years after Christ’s Ascension and the establishment of the New Testament Church?
2. Did YHWH (God) Tell Peter To Start Eating Pigs?
On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour: And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending upon him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.
~Acts 10:9-16 (KJV)
This is usually the very next passage that people turn to, after saying that “Jesus declared all animals are clean to eat” (which we have already seen that Yeshua wasn’t talking about the Mosaic/Levitical Dietary Laws at all in Mark 7). Certainly this one seals it, right?
The first thing we must consider is that this was a vision. Remember earlier I mentioned how visions are used in Scripture? Let’s consider a few other visions that are recorded in Scripture.
Joseph had a dream, it is recorded in Genesis 37. In the dream he saw sheaves of grain bowing to him. It explains that that the sheaves represented Joseph’s brothers, however, if we use the interpretation method that people use in Acts 10 we should have seen Joseph running out into the fields looking for the grain that would bow to him… and we should be running out into grain fields today looking for the same.
In Genesis 41 we see the Pharaoh that was in power at the time had a dream. In his dream there were seven fat cows grazing in the fields. Then seven skinny cows came up and ate the seven fat cows. It is explained that this dream was the foretelling and warning of a coming famine that would last for seven years, but there would be a period of seven years of abundance leading to it. The people chose to head the warning and store up excess food for the coming famine, not use the interpretation method that Christians want to apply to Acts 10, which would have had them out searching the fields endlessly for those skinny cows that were attacking the fat cows.
In Ezekiel 37 we see the Prophet is taken in the Spirit (through a vision) to a valley of dry bones. Through the process of the vision YHWH leads him to speak life into the bones, which he does, and the bones come to life, with flesh and then skin coming back onto them. At the conclusion of the vision he saw an army of men ready for battle. The vision is explained to be a coming restoration to the people of Israel and how they would be returned to their land. Of course, Ezekiel could have used the Acts 10 method of interpretation and went out trying to raise up an army of zombies from local grave sites.
Peter actually gives us the interpretation of the vision, Acts 10:28 (KJV) states, “Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” Never once do we see an indication that Peter took the vision to mean that he could now eat pigs. This is because he knew the process of how dreams and visions are used, and he knew that YHWH would not actually change His Laws.
Something else we need to consider in this passage is that there are two different words used to describe the animals on the sheet in the vision: common and unclean. These two words are actually describing two completely different things. In the Greek, which is generally considered the original language of the New Testament, the word used for “common” is koinos and the word for “unclean” is akathartos.
Koinos is a word that is generally used to describe something that is a violation of the traditions of the Jewish Elders. For example, eating bread without ceremonially washing your hands would make the bread koinos. Akathartos describes things that are unclean according to Torah (Genesis through Deuteronomy, where the Laws of YHWH are recorded by Moses, the instructions often called the Mosaic or Levitical Law).
If you notice in the passage, every time Peter tells God that he has never eaten anything common or unclean, God replies by telling him not to call common that which He has made clean. According to the traditions, a clean animal became unclean if it was in contact with an unclean animal. Since all kinds of animals were on the sheet, there would have been clean animals rubbing up against unclean animals, making them koinos (common).
Peter understood what God was telling him in the vision after pondering on it for a while. Since it was also a traditional view of the Jewish people of the time that Gentiles were considered koinos, Peter realized that he was being instructed to lose that bigoted perspective from his mind and take the Gospel to them. Throughout the Old Testament we see God’s heart for the Gentile nations, He has never desired that any should perish. He never considered them unclean, and has always had a plan for receiving them into His Kingdom.
To top all of this off, since God kept telling Peter to not call common (koinos) what He made clean, never once telling him to call clean what He made unclean (akathartos), the only animals in the vision that Peter was actually being instructed to , “Rise, kill and eat,” were animals that were listed as clean according to Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. So, even IF we read into this vision that it gave any permission to eat things deemed unclean by the Jews, it would only be permission to eat clean animals that rubbed up against unclean animals.
3. Did Paul Tell Timothy He Can Eat All Things?
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, this one right here, if they can’t get you with Mark 7:19 or Acts 10, this verse seems to be the smoking gun for those who argue that it is OK to eat unclean meats under the New Testament. Of course, this only works if you only read the English translations and develop your interpretation from a modern American cultural perspective. Once you look at the Greek used in many key words in the passage, it becomes perhaps the greatest proof text to support the notion that “Mosaic Dietary Laws” were kept perfectly in tact in the New Testament Church.
Before I break this down (which I have done already in a past article, so I will just give you the basics on this, you can read more details in the article titled “Created With A Purpose”), let’s look real quickly at the verses 1-3 where the key elements of the false teachers are defined.
It says that they will give heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. To say that the false teachers are trying to teach that you obey Torah Dietary Laws is to say that the instructions of Torah are doctrines of devils given by seducing spirits. It goes on to say that these false teachers forbid to marry. Well, I am not personally aware of any Believer teaching Torah who is forbidding marriage. The instructions of YHWH from Torah are not lies spoken in hypocrisy, they are the foundation of God’s will for all humanity!
Now as far as the portions of this passage that deal with food, allow me to explain this in detail by looking at the Greek words used in all of the key words in verses 3-5. The first key word we see is in verse 3, the word “meats”. It states that the false teachers are telling people to abstain from meats. The common belief is that this means anyone teaching Torah, which commands to abstain from unclean meats, is a false teacher.
The Greek word used that is translated as “meats” in the King James Bible is “bróma” and it literally means: food, especially allowed or forbidden by Jewish Law (Strong’s Concordance 1033). What this word actually refers to is food as it is defined under Mosaic/Levitical Law, which includes the instructions regarding what meats are clean and unclean. The false teachers were not commanding to abstain from unclean things, quite the contrary. They were actually teaching to abstain from eating all animals, including clean ones. This was a belief held by groups like the Gnostics and Montanists, not the followers of The Way.
It goes on to say that the “bróma” that they were commanding people to abstain from were created by God to be received with thanksgiving. God simply did not create unclean animals to be received (as food) with thanksgiving, as we will see.
The next key word, or in this case phrase, is “every creature of God” and it refers to a specific type of created thing. The Greek word used here is “ktisma” and it refers to something that is created for a specific purpose. Considering that Paul was already speaking about “bróma”, it becomes easy to see what he was referring to as things that were created for the purpose of food… it was those things considered as food under the parameters of ‘bróma”!
The next key word is “refused”, and we see that it says nothing is to be refused. Under the consensus interpretation of the text this means that you are not supposed to tell people they can’t eat bacon and ham. In fact, that is not what it means at all! The word does not actually mean that you refuse to eat something.
The word used here, translated as “refused”, is the Greek word “apoblétos”. It means, “thrown out, rejected, cast aside.” It is saying that you should not throw away good food (bróma) after you have received it with thanksgiving… in other words, don’t waste good (clean) food.
Verse 5 says that the Word of God and prayer sanctify the food. Most people skip the first part and just say, “See, if I pray over my pork I don’t have nothin’ to worry ‘bout.” Well, it DOES say that it is sanctified by the Word of God. Let’s put this all together. If Paul is talking about bróma (food as defined under the parameters of Torah), and he is saying that everything created by God for the explicit purpose of food (again, as defined by Torah) is good and should not be wasted (thrown away), then it becomes the logical conclusion that being sanctified by the Word of God means that it is sanctified under the parameters of Torah, where it is defined what things are acceptable (sanctified) as food.
So, what this verse is really saying is, “…commanding to abstain from clean foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For everything God created for the purpose of food is good, and none of it should be thrown away and wasted, after you have received it with thanksgiving, because it is sanctified under the parameters of Torah and prayer.” As I noted earlier, this completely changes the message and makes this verse arguably the most convincing argument to KEEP the Torah Dietary Laws as a New Testament Believer.
4. Don’t Judge What I Eat!
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
~Colossians 2:16 (KJV)
This is another one people like to go to. Often times I respond to them by saying, “OK, you don’t judge me for obeying Scripture and I won’t judge you for rebelling against it, we’ll let God be the judge.” Of course, by the time this verse comes up I have already explained the previous verses with the same or greater detail than what I have done above, so this one tends to be an act of grasping at straws, trying to strain a gnat in order to justify the lustful desire to eat a piece of bacon or a pork chop or a lobster.
First of all, in this passage the word “meat” should be translated “food”, and it is the Greek word “brósis”. This word is related to the word “bróma” that we looked at in 1 Timothy 4. “Brósis” actually means, according to Strong’s Concordance: eating, food, a meal, rust. This means that we are not to let anyone judge us in eating or what we eat, but when you trace it back to “bróma” it means that we are not to let anyone judge us for eating (or drinking, as the verse relates the two together) according to Torah instructions (what is deemed to be food based on passages like Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14).
Let’s take a closer look at some of the surrounding verses to this text.
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
~Colossians 2:8 (KJV)
This seems similar to how Paul starts out in the similar passage of 1 Timothy 4, where he states that there are false teachers telling people not to marry, departing from the faith and giving in to doctrines of demons. In order to deem 1 Timothy 4 as meaning that we are permitted to eat unclean things, one thing the interpreter must do is deem the Torah, God’s Word through Moses, to be a doctrine of demons. I would caution you against doing that!
Again, we see in Colossians that a warning is giving to not allow yourself to be deceived through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and NOT after Yeshua the Messiah. I would ask you, is the Old Testament, and specifically the Torah, merely philosophy? Is it vain deceit? Is it the tradition of men? Is it the rudiments of the world? Or is the Torah and the entirety of the Old Testament the Word of YHWH, The Creator, God, The King of the Universe? Is not the Torah the very thing that Yeshua the Messiah followed, practiced and taught?
So, if Yeshua practiced and taught Torah, and if Torah is the Word of YHWH, then it obviously is NOT mere philosophy, vain deceit, tradition of men, the rudiment of the world, a doctrine of devils delivered through the mouth of false teachers and seducing spirits, and it most certainly is not lies and hypocrisy. After all, one third of the New Testament is actually references back to the Old Testament (many vague, some that are exact quotes). So if the Old Testament is lies and hypocrisy, doctrines of devils, traditions of man, and so on, then at least one third of the New Testament as well!
He wiped out the handwritten record of debts with the decrees against us, which was hostile to us. He took it away by nailing it to the cross.
~Colossians 2:14 (TLV)
I don’t even understand how anyone can think this verse means that “The Law was nailed to the cross” after Yeshua specifically said He came not to abolish The Law and the until heaven and earth pass away not the smallest letter or punctuation mark would pass from The Law (Matthew 5:17-20). Did He come to nail His own Word to the cross, or did He come to nail the punishment for our sins to the cross? And I should remind you that this means those things you commit prior to repentance, as Hebrews 6:4-6 reminds us that if we sin after we know what The Law says we crucify AGAIN the Son of God and put him to an open shame. This passage also says it is impossible to be renewed again through repentance if you are openly sinning after having received the knowledge of the truth (see also Hebrews 10:26 and Numbers 15:22-31).
Don’t let anyone deny you the prize by insisting that you engage in self-mortification or angel-worship. Such people are always going on about some vision they have had, and they vainly puff themselves up by their worldly outlook.
~Colossians 2:18 (CJB)
Once again, is being a Torah-observant follower of Yeshua to be equated with self-mortification or angel-worship? Obviously that would be a blatant contradiction with the overall theme throughout the entirety of Scripture.
It is rather interesting that the passage talks about people who are always going on about some vision they had. This is certainly commonplace in a lot of Christian ministries today. While I fully believe in the supernatural as portrayed in Scripture, which includes visions, dreams, miracles, divine healing, even raising the dead, I do feel that many of today’s ministries have taken advantage of these things to build personal windfalls. Regardless of whether the signs and wonders seen in a ministry today are real or staged, they were never meant to be misused and abused for the purpose of building a ministry, they are intended to demonstrate the divine power of YHWH to the lost.
“Don’t touch this!” “Don’t eat that!” “Don’t handle the other!” Such prohibitions are concerned with things meant to perish by being used [not by being avoided!], and they are based on man-made rules and teachings.
~Colossians 2:21-22 (CJB)
In verse 21 the words for “touch” and “handle” actually mean the same thing. They come from the Greek words “haptomai” and “thigganó” respectively and both are defined as “touch or handle”. “Haptomai” deals with knowing carnally (intimately), and “thigganó” deals with injury or harm. One of the only two other places “thigganó“ is used is in Hebrew 11:28, where it says (KJV), “Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them.” So, in a sense, these two “rules” don’t actually have anything at all to do with food.
So, what about that one in the middle, “Don’t eat that!” The word “eat” in this passage (translated as “taste” in some Bibles) is the Greek word “geuomai”. It means “to taste or experience”. It is the same word used in Hebrews 6:4-6, which says (CJB), “For when people have once been enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, become sharers in the Ruach HaKodesh, and tasted the goodness of God’s Word and the powers of the ‘olam haba — and then have fallen away — it is impossible to renew them so that they turn from their sin, as long as for themselves they keep executing the Son of God on the stake all over again and keep holding him up to public contempt.”
It is also used in Matthew 16:28, Mark 9:1, Luke 9:27, John 8:52 and Hebrews 2:9 in reference to tasting (experiencing) death. It is used in 1 Peter 2:3 to say, “now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” In fact, the only two places in Scripture it is used in any type of association with food is in Luke 14:24 when Yeshua is teaching during a Sabbath meal (which people ironically think that Colossians 2:16 is teaching against doing, despite the fact that Yeshua was keeping the Sabbath his whole life, as were the Apostles as recorded through the entire Book of Acts) and in reference to tasting wine as in Matthew 27:34 and John 2:9. So, the word is almost never used in the context of physically tasting something, and never is used as a reference to food. It has to do with experience, and almost always in the context of a spiritual experience.
These are a foreshadowing of things to come, but the reality is Messiah.
~Colossians 2:17 (TLV)
The confusion in this part of the passage comes with some translations, like the KJV or NIV, using the word “shadow”. Although the passage holds to context by saying “things to come”, the term “shadow” has somehow caused confusion to people, as they interpret “shadow” as being something that is in the past.
In reality, this verse is saying that these Torah instructions provide a foreshadowing (foretelling, prediction, something to look forward to) of things that are still coming in the future of the Believer. They point to Yeshua the Messiah in the context of His return. It is perfectly clear in Scripture that such things as the Holy Feasts of YHWH, Sabbath observation, clean/unclean animal laws, sacrifice, and Temple worship will be a part of the Millennial Kingdom. What Paul was telling the Colossian parishioners is that these things point us to Christ and prepare us for His return.
IF people are granted access to the Millennial Kingdom as non-Torah-observant Christians, they will have a LOT of catching up to do. They will need to be educated on the practice and observance of these things. They will need to go through purification processes outlined in Torah. Simply put, IF they make it at all (because there is a Scriptural argument to suggest that you won’t even make it if you are not practicing Torah, but that is another thing altogether), they will need to go through somewhat of an intense conditioning the likes of a military boot camp to become prepared for what they should have already prepared for.
After all of this, however, I can conclude that Colossians 2:16 cannot be teaching that young converts and Gentile Christians should not let those “legalistic Judaizing modern day Pharisees” judge them because they don’t keep the Sabbath, the Feasts, or eat clean. It appears it would be quite the contrary, but for the sake of the argument let’s assume that the verse is saying just that.
In reality, if you pull the verse out of the text and remove the surrounding context that has just been broken down for you, the verse COULD say that you should not be judged for ignoring Torah just as much as it says you should not allow yourself to be judged (by the pagan unbelievers you left behind) FOR KEEPING TORAH. Here’s the thing I want to point out about that; Those people who claim this verse means, “I don’t have to obey the Mosaic Law and you can’t judge me for it,” really show their hypocrisy. Why? How? These very people almost always and unanimously also say that people who DO obey Torah are in some type of legalistic bondage… Yep, this means that THEY ARE JUDGING PEOPLE in regard to food, drink, Holy Days, Sabbath, New Moons, and anything else that someone is seeking to obey from Torah. They violate their very own standard and become judge of those who ARE obedient to the Word of YHWH. I don’t know about you, but I find this completely mind-boggling!
5. Is it “weak faith” to continue in Torah and refrain from eating pork and other unclean things?
For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
~Romans 14:2-3 (KJV)
For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
~Romans 14:17 (KJV)
But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.
~1 Corinthians 8:8 (KJV)
Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble.
~Romans 14:20 (NIV)
Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake:
~1 Corinthians 10:25 (KJV)
I would advise reading the entire chapters of Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 8 and 1 Corinthians 10 from at least one traditional English Bible like the King James or New International Version as well as either the Complete Jewish Bible of Tree Of Life Version, as this study has already become longer than I initially intended it to be. I do want to touch on these chapters, however, as they are also often used to justify eating what God specifically said not to.
To start out with, the word “food” from Romans 14:20 is, once again, the Greek word “bróma”. Since this has already been defined, we need not look further, except to remind you that it means food as defined by Torah. So, in other words, all food that Torah calls clean is clean.
Many people read these texts and somehow determine that the person with weak faith is the one who continues in Torah, by refusing to eat pork or shellfish. That is NOT what the text says. It says the weak person refuses to eat meat (which is implied by the fact that they only eat herbs/vegetables). This would obviously include the meat of clean animals, regardless of whether or not it includes the meat of unclean animals.
Since this study has already given a clear and convincing argument that none of the other “go-to” verses allow for eating unclean things, and since we already saw that “bróma” applies here as well, we could easily just conclude that this passage too does not actually teach against abiding by Torah. However, this text actually has some important information that I want to talk about.
In Romans 14:2-3 the variations of the word “eat” is used, and there are actually a couple of Greek words that originate “eat” in these verses. The Greek words “phago” and “esthió” refer to the act of eating food. Since further in the text we already saw that Paul uses “bróma” to reference the food he is speaking about, we can conclude that he is talking about eating food as defined by Torah.
Here’s what was going on at the time: A teaching was developing, some say through Gnostics, others Montanists, possibly some other group, or maybe a combination of all of them, that you could not eat any meats because under Roman society there was no way to know if meats sold in the market were first offered to idols. It was a well established doctrine that Paul even made clear at the council in Acts 15 (I’ll touch on this very briefly in just a moment) that the Believers were not to eat meat offered to idols. So, this doctrine of fear started up that people should not buy meat in the markets because MAYBE it was offered to an idol.
Careful reading of these passages reveals that the person with weak faith was the person who operated out of this fear, refraining from a key source of nutrition out of the thought that they would accidentally break God’s Law. This is not unlike the man-made traditions Yeshua often rebuked the religious leaders and teachers for, as they often focused on man-made rules designed to prevent people from accidentally breaking God’s Law. These methods are developed with the best of intentions, but almost always become oppressive and have, at times, actually create scenarios where the parishioners cannot keep the Torah because the man-made rules get in the way.
What Paul was teaching in all of these chapters was that it is OK to eat (clean according to Torah) meat that was sold in the markets, so long as you didn’t have knowledge it was offered to an idol. Let’s look at an example of how this applies today. If you go to the market and buy meat, you would have no idea if the person who raised or butchered the animal was a follower of some pagan religion who offers their livestock to their deity in a ritual prior to sending it to the market.
However, in the religion of Islam there is a process of identifying meats as “Halal”, which is similar in fashion to how Jewish farmers and butchers would identify meats as “Kosher”. To certify meat as “Halal” under Islamic regulations, however, the animals must be slaughtered facing Mecca in a ritual that offers them as a sacrifice to their deity “Allah”. This means that if meat at the market is labeled “Halal” you know it was sacrificed to an idol and you would avoid buying it.
Another example of meat sacrificed to an idol is the tradition many hold of eating (pork) ham at Christmas. This is based on a pre-Christian form of pagan worship in Germany and surrounding regions. They ate pork during this time as an offering to one of their false gods, Freyr, who was associated with the wild boar. While eating (pork) ham alone is a violation of Scripture, doing it on Christmas makes it twice as bad as you include the act of eating meat offered to an idol (or a false god).
Ultimately, due to the amount of text in these passages from Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 and 10, it would require a full study on them alone to get down into the details and finer points. The main thing to remember, though, is that Paul was telling the people it is OK to eat meat from the market. You are not eating meat offered to an idol as long as you are not made aware it was offered to an idol and as long as you are not actually participating in a ceremony where meats are being offered to idols.
6. Did Paul say we can eat pigs and shellfish as long as they are not offered to idols and we don’t eat the blood?
Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
~Acts 15:19-20 (KJV)
A lot of people assume this to mean that Paul said this is the only “rules” that the Gentile Believers should be bound to. This presents some major problems, but let’s just consider the obvious.
First of all, I want to point out that these regulations mirror the instructions God gave to Noah after the flood. Some refer to these as the Noachide Laws. What is interesting about this is that all people, both Jews and Gentiles, can trace their ancestry back to Noah, but only Jews can trace their ancestry back to Moses and Abraham. Noah actually knew the difference between clean and unclean animals, and would not (in fact, could not) eat unclean animals. But that is for another study.
One major problem with the assumption that these are the “only rules” imposed on Gentile Believers is that they a missing some pretty bad prohibitions. For example, the commandment not to murder is not listed. Neither are commandments not to steal, lie, or many other “pretty bad things”. So, to conclude that because prohibitions against eating unclean animals are not listed by Paul here we can just ignore them would mean that we could also murder, lie and steal.
Like so much of the time, Christians seeking to place their own desires into the interpretation ignore passages critical to the text. This is the case here as well, as Acts 15:21 points out that Moses (a reference to Torah, the writings of Moses) is read and taught weekly in the Synagogues. We must remember that First Century Believers in “The Way” (see Acts 9:2) attended the weekly Sabbath services in the Synagogues. There is no record of formal Sunday gatherings aside from one possible such meeting in Acts and there were no “Christian Churches” mentioned anywhere in the Bible. Keeping in mind that this is the statement immediately following the four instructions Paul deemed to be the things to start new converts with, consider how Acts 15:21 is stated in the following Bible translations:
We must remember that the Law of Moses has been preached in city after city for many years, and every Sabbath it is read when we Jews meet.
~Contemporary English Version (CEV)
My reason for these four exceptions is that in every city there are Jewish communities where, for generations, the laws of Moses have been proclaimed; and on every Sabbath, Moses is read in synagogues everywhere.
This is basic wisdom from Moses, preached and honored for centuries now in city after city as we have met and kept the Sabbath.
~The Message (MSG)
For Moses from ancient generations has had in every city those who proclaim him, since he is read in all the synagogues every Shabbat.
~Tree Of Life Version (TLV)
Perhaps it’s time that Believers return to the pattern Paul outlined, start with what God instructed Noah, and then teach Moses (Torah) every week on the Sabbath. This would really not be difficult, as most Churches do not meet on the Sabbath and clearly have plenty of meeting space, they could easily start a Torah service either on Friday evening or Saturday morning, teaching Moses weekly on the Sabbath.
In John 5:46 (TLV) Yeshua says, “For if you were believing Moses, you would believe Me—because he wrote about Me.” Since Moses wrote the Torah, we must conclude that the Torah is about the Messiah. I propose to you, as John opens his Gospel stating, “In the beginning was the Word (Torah), and the Word (Torah) was with God, and the Word (Torah) was God… and the Word (Torah) became flesh (Yeshua) and dwelt (tabernacled) among us,” we also should consider that Yeshua is the Torah and the Torah is Yeshua.
If this study has opened your eyes to the truth about what was actually taught by Yeshua and the Apostles regarding the Torah instructions regarding clean and unclean meats, perhaps you should share this with your Pastor or leadership at your local Church. Tell them that you would love to see a Torah teaching service started on the Sabbath. They don’t have to close their regular Sunday services, the early Believers met daily, and Sunday services neither break or keep the Sabbath, since the only day you can keep or break the Sabbath is on the Sabbath (which runs from sunset Friday evening until sunset Saturday evening every week).
I would like to encourage you to study this out further for yourself. Get a Strong’s Concordance (or use tools available online), look at different translations (especially the Complete Jewish Bible and Tree Of Life Version that hold more closely to the original language even retaining the Hebraic names of major Bible characters), and seek to understand the Bible from the perspective of First Century Hebrew Believers who wrote and read the text, as opposed to only trying to interpret modern English Bibles using a modern American perspective. As you do, you will be amazed at what the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Ghost) teaches you.
Blessings and Shalom!
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