In Mark 7 we read about a sharp debate between Judean Pharisees and Jesus over the fact that his Galilean disciples did not follow an important Pharisaic innovation introduced long ago. This innovation had to do with the perceived need to ensure that prior to consuming clean/fit and properly prepared food, a person must also wash hands, in order not to make something that is already holy, common by accident. By the time the conflict recounted in Mark 7 occurred, this Pharisaic innovation had already become “a tradition of the elders” and was treated as such, with great respect by most Judeans. (vs. 1-4)

Quoting Isaiah, Jesus accuses the Pharisees of neglecting the commandments of Torah, holding instead to the tradition of man. (vs. 8) Addressing the crowd, Jesus states: “There is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him, but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man.” (vs. 15) This was but a summary of regulations governing bodily discharges as spelled out in Leviticus 15. These bodily discharges come out of the body and do not enter it. According to Jesus, a much deeper spiritual reality is concealed here – namely, that all evil comes out into the world from the human heart (meaning inside out not the other way around). (vs.20-23)

Some rightly seeking to reclaim the intensely Jewish character of Mark’s gospel has mistakenly suggested that vs. 19 (Thus He declared all foods clean) is an editorial addition to the original text, made by Gentile Christians disinterested in Jewish issues. I suggest, however, that this line is in fact, an integral part of Mark’s very Jewish argument! The law of bodily discharge is a case in point. Defending Torah against the Pharisees, Jesus upholds a long-standing Galilean Jewish tradition, declaring that foods cannot make an Israelite unclean, because in Torah it works the other way around!



  1. I love the ancient cultural insight that is given here. It's something that brings such depth of understanding, yet it's incredibly difficult to grasp.
  2. Dear Gayle, Pork is forbidden in the so-called "Jewish community," why not People of Israel, because it is forbidden in G-d's Torah to eat it; it has nothing to do with making a person unclean! Do you actually read what is written here or just comment on it? Daniel Boyarin
  3. The key issue that needs clarity is whether the Jews to whom Jesus was talking could now start eating what they previously considered to be unclean - such as pork. What is the meaning of food in this case. Is the distinction between clean and unclean food now invalid?
    • Joseph, since the discussion here has nothing to do with it (but with natilyat yedaim - hands washing), nothing in this text can answer the question you are asking :-).
  4. I agree food as prescribed in the Torah does not make you unclean. We still would NOT want to eat anything which is an abomination Deuteronomy 14 v3. My view is the eating laws were not changed by our Messiah. He never ate anything we are told not to eat. He was not rewriting changing or obseleting the Torah, but elevating it higher! Shalom to all
    • Indeed. The text should be read in the correct context as nothing nullifies the Lev 11 prescriptions on what to eat or not to. The idea that we now can eat everything and anything prohibited in Lev 11 seems to come from Christians who have unlimited appetites for anything that moves.

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  5. “Food” in the scriptures represents the kind of people with whom we have close fellowship. We need to pray for discernment regarding the people we come into contact with. Do not cast your pearls before swine. Not everyone who says to Yeshu’a “Lord, Lord” will be in the kingdom of heaven.
    • Well... food some times does represent something else, but some times it is just food :-). what is the context about the pearls and swine here I did not get the analogy. Can you please unpack it for me?

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  6. Acts 10 Romans 14:20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. 1 Corinthians 8:8 But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. 1 Corinthians 10:30-31 But if I partake with thanks, why am I evil spoken of for the food over which I give thanks? Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to Agape.
    • Loy, I know that this is an accepted party line (forgive my anology), but try to reread this post and then also read see if this can help you to rethink this issue. For those interested in deeper treatment of this YOU MUST enroll (yes!) and watch the roundtable talk between me and Rabbi Joseph Shulam.
  7. After living in a country for almost 15 years where pork is a mainstay, I am personally biased against it. The odor of cooked pork alone makes my stomach turn. It's interesting to read Maimonides' description in Guide to the Perplexed of the French over 1000 years ago regarding pork. He makes a very strong argument against consuming pork using that example, and it was part of the many reasons for me to cement my position on it. I don't condemn anyone for eating what someone labeled "non-foods" but I cannot fellowship at a table with pork for personal reasons. 14+ years was too much for me and the odor of pork was practically all around me almost every day. Let's also keep in mind that all research is biased to begin with; all humans have personal opinions. Now if I'm in the pork industry, I will accept and publish only researches that satisfy my claims. It's the same with almost any industry, especially science and education. I read about so-called organic pigs but like dogs, pigs don't sweat out their toxins. That alone for me is reason enough to avoid eating anything that will produce more toxins in my body. Eating carefully and healthy is part of living a holy life, not a self-righteous life (which some people would accuse me of).
    • Sweat glands primarily help in regulating temperature, not removing toxins. Cows have very few sweat glands and chickens, not being a mammal, have none. But they all do have kidneys and livers which have the primary function of filtering and removing toxins.

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    • Thank you. I'm am ridiculed by my family because I've given up pork. But I feel so much better that I don't miss it.
    • Agree
      Recently, micro particles of plastic were found in pork products which have been deposited in their eaters .
      Torah stood the test of time ( not that “time” is the only proof as Torah’s integral , inherent, and embed-within Devine Proof is more than evident .
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