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!

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113 COMMENTS

  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.

      • it is known that about 20 % of Americans have trichinosis, diagnosed at autopsy. This is usually from eatimng pork products. Pork was not intended to be used as human food; they are garbage eaters. Neither are shellfish, which concentrate the poisons in the water into themselves, so that for example if you eat oysters from Chesapeake Bay, you are being poisoned by Cadmium, among other poisons. But what comes out of the heart is much worse.

      • That is not what he was saying. Their and Jesus definition of food you will find in Lev and Deut. So when they say food they are using that definition. Just because the nations consider pig food doesn’t mean that G-d does. G-d already defined what is and isn’t food in the writings of Moses.

        • Yes, he did define what food is in the Torah when he told Noah that he could eat all things that move (remes-which has several meanings, but in this case it is defined) BUT that only the clean animals could be sacrificed. Later in Leviticus God tells ISRAEL that they can only eat the clean foods (the foods that were allowed for sacrifice) and so after Noah got off the ark, everything that moved was food. Later, God narrows down food for Israel, the firstborn son, to only the animals that could be sacrificed.

          • Melinda Deason , I’m not sure where you’re getting this, but it is incorrect. Karbanot are a subset of food. Food (including post-Exodus) includes more than karbanot.

          • I’m not sure of your contention Neville. Melinda was saying that animals for Korbanot are a subset of animals kosher for Israel to eat. According to the Torah, only certain animals can be sacrificed on the alter, and yes, all of them are also kosher for food. You two are agreeing, I think.

          • God told Noah that unclean animals must go in pairs,,male and female…Clean animals must go in groups of seven ..
            God created everything for a reason…not everything is for food..

          • Melinda wrote: “Later, God narrows down food for Israel, the firstborn son, to only the animals that could be sacrificed.” , meaning that korbanot is *exactly* the same as food, not a subset.

            But that is obviously not the case, as animals such as locusts or fish are not korbanot.

      • From what I understand, even if pork is cooked ,and well done, it can still retain live parasites in the meat that can cause your body illnesses long term. Why take the chance.

        • Pork when cooked right possess ABSOLUTELY no medical threat. I recommend to enroll into Leviticus and New Testament course we get into this issue there and students can then begin to see the real issues for these prohibitions in Torah.

          • “I wonder why pork is a prohibited food in the Jewish community? According to Jesus, foods do not make a person unclean.” That’s the question from Gayle that I was responding to – I believe many forget that Jews generally don’t follow Christ’s teaching ( except what you find in Torah) and pork seems to be the meat that MOST non Jews are aware was not kosher. They’re not always aware of other animals that were also forbidden. I’m aware that’s not what you were speaking of in this post.

          • Actually, when pork is cooked thoroughly it does kill all the live paracites. HOWEVER, it DOES NOT kill the larvae, which are impervious to heat. You ingest them, they hatch and, WHALLAH!

          • Dr. Eli, I just want to say that we ate pork as a Gentile family. Now, back in 2007, I had the huge surprise to read that I had Jewish ancestors on my mom’s side. I still like to eat bacon. Comments?

          • Who made me a judge between your tongue and your ancestral covenant with God? Have you tried beef bacon or slab turkey bacon?

        • Really God is smarter than we are, and I prefer to believe he does not make mistakes, in our current day in the national news it is stating that pork is causing cancer, along with processed meats. plus they have intelligence of a dog and you would not kill your dog. They are designed to clean up the planet along with all the other unclean animals. I will stick with scripture cannot go wrong with that. Time with all the things wrong with animals now to return to the Garden of Eden diet and give up meat altogether.

          • I agree. Also, how can we be good stewards and honor God’s creation by
            mass slaughtering it? Remember God only allowed these things because of our weaknesses. I have never felt more healed or closer to our living God than I have since adopting vegetarianism.

      • Pork is unclean in the Jewish community because they follow Torah. It doesn’t matter whether Jesus said IT was clean or not , to them, because they don’t follow Jesus teaching or the New Testament.

      • While the bible defineately bans pork and shrimp this is not what is being discussed. It concerns washings by rules made by man that are not in the bible. It’s not about food.

      • Pigs are walking garbage disposal systems and one calls them in American English with the pioneers language that sounds like saying sewer – soowe. Pigs eat poisonous things without dying, but its eater may get very sick or die.

      • Because pork aswell as some other animals fall into the list of which man can eat or not,Laws given during Moses life.Jesus didnt came to change the Law/Torah but show us how to live by Torah.In our time,the animals forbidden to eat not dirty,have been proven to have intelligence.

      • Biblically speaking, pork is not classified as food which was mentioned in Leviticus 11 because it is not safe to eat it, same with camel, shrimp, lobster and other seafood that does not have scales. God knows what is best for us even in food.

  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

      • People who eat pork, even properly cooked, are more likely to later get cancer. Also, pork fat is different than other fats, in the triglyceride formation and the ability of digestive enzymes to handle it. it is therefore very difficult to digest. Today people can eat pork and shellfish, and though it will not interfere with their ultimate salvation, yet it may shorten their physical life.

        • Larry, shalom. Is this from peer-reviewed scientific research? Because if true it should be taken into account indeed, I doubt it though. But of course I am open to any truth.

        • Dr Eli, I was taught this by my professor in medical school. As for the triglyceride problem, you should be able to find this out by consulting with a professor of nutrition at your local medical school.

    • I’m sorry Daniel I maybe misunderstanding your answer to Gayle or just misunderstanding in the way it was offered. I Personally took your remark on her reading the answers here as a insult. Many of us and I include myself when I ask a question I truly need support to get a correct answer or an option

  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

      • I hear Hebrew Roots people say this too (b/c I use to be one) but putting ourselves in the position of the Pharisees, if Jesus said this, wouldn’t we be expecting him to say “except…” & list the unclean foods? But he doesn’t. Why? Instead, he calls a crowd to himself to make this announcement. Later the apostles are baffled & ask him to explain. Why would they be baffled if this was ONLY about handwashing? The purity laws in Lev 11-15 seem to be connected to being pure in the camp so they don’t defile the temple? Lev 15:31

        • Melinda, you write: “Why would they be baffled if this was ONLY about handwashing?” Go back to the beginning of the whole incident, at the beginning of Mark 7. The only complaint brought was about handwashing. The teachers and Pharisees never say a word of complaint about the disciples having eaten something that was not allowed. This was a longstanding but extrabiblical tradition that was being elevated to the same or higher level as God’s own instructions (torah).

          *IF* Jesus had been correcting a view about the food the disciples had eaten, which was allowed/”clean”, that would make no sense.

    • 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.

      • Untrue because it is an over generalized statement and adds nothing to the understanding of the issue. The issue may be more about reading the Bible in non-jewish cultural contexts. It’s difficult to separate our cultural and language backgrounds from what we read in the Bible. 😊

      • AS a Christian, I find that a tad bit rude, Nkosinathi. Perhaps you could reword it a trifle. I am very particular about what I eat and what I refuse to eat. Much of what I eat never moved at all, unless the wind blew it.

  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?

      • Dr. Eli, I was of the understanding that anyone not accepting the laws of our master is a dog, swine, etc. The pearl is the word of God. Forgive for writing His name out, my tablet kept turning the g to f.

        • Hi Carolyn, dogs and swine are unclean animals. Matthew 7:6 indicates that “dogs” and “swine” are representing people who trample what should be holy and then turn on the person bearing it.

          • Shalom Dr Eli, so if dogs are unclean, no one who believes in Yahweh, should have a dog as a pet, correct?

          • Incorrect. Dogs and other unclean animals (donkeys and camels) still serve man for certain purposes (like guarding, hauling, etc.). There’s no biblical reason not to have dogs.

  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.

  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.

  8. Thank you Dr Eli for your exposition of this passage. I quite agree with you that our Lord was reproaching the foolishness of the Pharisees in their hypocrisy and outward show of religion and oppression of the people with their tradition v7-9. If the source is clean then that which floes from it will be clean. Thank you again Dr.

  9. Declaring all food clean in Mark was a scriveners Note. Look in old translations and it will be marked differently with that explanation. Learned that in Bible College. You might be able to use it for some kind of lesson but it is only a note. What is Food? Definition of food to the writers of the NT. Read Lev. & Deut. that is the writers definition of food. They aren’t even thinking of unclean meat as food. You are correct he is talking about what is in the heart of people not abut food. Adding the thus he declared all food clean, makes no sense in the context of what he is talking about aka HEART ATTITUDE. Blessings! Cathy

  10. I was taught & I believe ; that God our Father used the commands in regards to clean & unclean animals to cymbolize thoughts & behaviour ! The divided hoof symbolizes discernment for what we do & where we go ! Chewing the cud symbolizes meditation for the Spiritual & the Eternal !

  11. Well I have a problem here. My husband use to eat pork he loves ham and bacon but now he can not eat it. It makes him sick. We had a Rabbi here that stayed with us told us that the reason for not eating pork was because pigs do not have sweat glands and can not expel the toxins that is there. It stays in the meat. So I wonder if this true and the reason that we do not eat pork now. So I think that we need to check this more and not keep saying that it is OK to eat it. G~d said to not eat for a reason. Could that be the reason?

  12. (NASB)
    16 Therefore no one is to [a]act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath [b]day— 17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the [c]substance [d]belongs to Christ.

    I think, is nothing to do with medical/ health, if you pray to ask our God to bless our food before we eat.

  13. Jesus was not discussing which foods are considered clean. He was simply teaching that the tradition of ritual hand washing prior to eating was MAN MADE TRADITIONS and not a COMMANDMENT FROM GOD. But since the discussion has turned to the question of why certain foods are considered as unclean, the answer on the basest level is BECAUSE GOD SAID SO and HE doesn’t have to explain why. But with deeper searching of the days of the tabernacle in the wildernest, we see that the REASON is the same for all things that were forbidden to be within the camp.

  14. I worked in the meat industry for many years and have butchered more pigs than I have had hot dinners. The pig is the only animal that has an outlet pipe(for want of a better word) just above the foot – trotter. It has this pipe in order to release the excess toxins because it’s body contains more toxins than other animals due to the
    fact a pig turns absorbed food stuffs into meat far quicker than other animals do.
    I don’t eat pork for religious and safety reasons.

  15. Peter was still keeping the dietary law in Acts 10, and we are told that sin is the transgression of the law -1John 3:4. With that, I am ok with the dietary law.

    • The Lord spoke to Peter in a vision (Acts 10:9-16) and told Peter not to call anything impure that God has made clean. Therefore if God has spoken it to be clean even though it wasn’t before, then who are we to argue with Him. It is like us – we are all unclean, and it is only through the blood of Christ we have been made pure and righteous. So if God can do that for us, why can’t he do that for our food?

      • In Peter’s vision, I believe that Jesus was explaining to Peter to not treat gentiles as unclean… then there was a knock on the door and Peter was asked to visit the house of Cornelius and his family (gentiles) and it was then Peter understood what the vision meant.

      • Acts 10:9-28 refers to the Peter treating gentiles as unclean. The text is clear. If G-D doesn’t change, then what He said in the Torah holds true for anyone who is GRAFTED IN to those same people. Adopted kids r 2 b treated the same.

        • Acts 11:8-9 explains the meaning of the vision that gentles were not unclean but also included in the gospel commission. G-D’s health lawd did not change. For they are given for our good

  16. Agreed that this passage cannot possibly be about food.
    Also agreed that obedience should not be contingent on us finding a rationale for why God gave a particular instruction.

    Nevertheless, this is hilarious:

    “Father, please change the molecular structure of this … complete trash we’re about to shove into our gullet. Please change the Cheetoh into a carrot stick on the way down!” – Tim Hawkins , The Food Prayer

    • I am a “pagan gentile” and no Jewish blood in my Genes. But, you are correct in what in the Levetical tradition to be ritually unclean as against “Kosher. The dietary prohibition on the unclean and even the apostle Paul said eat what is offered to you without raising questions of conscience. Whoa, isn’t this the Pharisee of Pharisees speaking?In the first Council in the book of Acts, it is clear that only those offered to idols. I don’t think we are instructed to suddenly become Jews are we? The context probably was faith. To the one who eats?

      • First off, you aren’t “pagan” just because you’re not Jewish. Secondly, Paul acknowledged that an idol is nothing and ruled it okay to eat meats even if it was slaughtered to idols as long as the issue doesn’t come up. But if the issue arises, then he said definitely do not eat, so as to protest sacrificing to idols. Basically he doesn’t want anyone to stumble in their faith. So if the issue doesn’t come up, great, and if it does, don’t eat.

        • I was taught the meat to idols problem was because it was sold in the market place along with other meats. The subject is washing hands That’s a good idea. Even Peter Learned that certain foods were still kosher While the calling of gentiles was What God wanted excepted..

  17. The issue with pork is no longer trichinosis. However, there is an issue with it, as with the other animals that were declared, “unclean”. These animals of land, sea and air are the scavengers that were created to detoxify our environment. They are able to eat things that other animals cannot, without issue to their health. But these animals also happen to lack the ability to spill the toxins back into the environment. A pig can eat toxins, and because it doesn’t sweat, whatever it eats is not released into the air.

  18. Correct me if I’m wrong or if my question has already been answered but wasn’t hand washing a command given to the Priesthood found within the Law of Moses – as was the vast majority of the Law of Moses only referred to the High Priest and the Levitical Priesthood.

    • Very Good Lynn, that’s right. When the Sadducees cheapened the priestly office, the Pharisees took on customs that mirrored priestly holiness in defiance to the indifference of the Sadducees. It was never a commandment for the non-levites, but it was something that the Pharisees took on in an effort to live a more holy life. But ultimately, most of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day were acting hypocritically caring less for holiness and more for prestige.

  19. Insightful! Also, the Greek doesn’t say “Thus he declared all foods clean”. It simply says “cleansing/purging all foods”. As I understand it, Yeshua is saying that the person or latrine cleanses, i.e. purges, the foods from the person, leaving all the defiling stuff outside of the person, rendering him unclean.

    • Correct, Ryan. Most manuscripts read as you explained. There is, however, a variant spelling of katharizon with an omega instead of an omicron (which is probably just a misspelling in the Greek), but it makes the verb masculine which makes it refer back to Jesus (“he purges” instead of “it purges”). Again, I don’t support this reading, but it is the source for the insertion in some English Bibles.

      • I’m assuming that the omega is correct for argument sake, since that’s typically the conclusion by NT textual critics. I’m open to the authentic reading being omicron though. Nevertheless, why can’t the implied subject be anthropos (m)? Even though it’s accusative in v.18, couldn’t it be the implied nominative here?

  20. If certain foods were unclean in the O.T. dietary laws, why would they be Clean now after the whole earth has literally become more polluted?
    If “what goes in the mouth” does not defile the body, why are many sickened and have food allergies and food poisoned daily?

  21. The Bible is a compendium of fire side tales and fables, recounted orally for generations by goat herders and primitive tribes from the stone age, until writing was invented, and then again, many different sources, transliterations, and versions were copied and written down.

    • Brien, that’s insulting to the rest of us. Please leave the discussion unless you have something sensible (and polite) to say.

  22. The Bible was created during a time where stories were orally passed down over thousands of years. Stories constantly morphed and changed over time, and the Bible is a collection of these.

  23. I believe we can conclude that ‘what we eat’ won’t affect us getting to heaven, but, it definitely will make a difference to how quickly we may arrive there!

    • Only by faith or not. That’s how we arrive there. Food will make no difference, though if we eat the wrong ones, we’ll get somewhere quicker (death)
      ‘The just shall live by faith’ Habbukuk 2:4 etc.
      Our dietary condition will not affect our faith per se.

      • Ian & Linda. Absolutely eating what you wish will NOT keep your from going to heaven, In fact no humans have not/will not go there only Jesus. Why He has the seconding coming and then we meet Him in the air as he comes to rule here for 1000 years

  24. Well, here is where I leave this group. I have noticed several occasions where you value your own opinion ie “intellect” over and above what the Creator clearly states. I choose loving obedience to the Father rather than your modern day takanot. Revelation 22:14!

  25. Is there a place where the “long-standing Galilean Jewish tradition,” you refer to, contrary to the Pharisees’ novel interpretation, is recorded?
    Thanks!

  26. Is the food issue more about design than good or bad? God made sex but He intended it for marriage – other than that from His perspective its not good. Certain animals were designed to clean our world… pigs, vultures, clams, oysters, etc, not to be food.

  27. If Yeshua had made these unclean meats clean He would have been teaching against the Torah and would not have been the Messiah YHVH promised us through the Holy Scriptures.

  28. In Genesis God provided the best diet. Look closely at Noah & the flood 1 GOD allows certain flesh. He also gives its effects a shorter life span. Noah see one of his descendants die of old age. Want to live longer healthier obey. His word will mot be mocked

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