Paul’s first letter to Timothy suggests that people should not limit the kinds of food they eat because all food is created by God and is good: “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer” (1 Tim 4:4-5 NASB). This New Testament teaching argues that since God created everything that surrounds us, including the things that we eat, that nothing should be gastronomically off-limits. However, in the Torah, God also expressly forbids Israel to eat certain animals (cf. Lev 11; Deut 14). So how should we understand First Timothy in light what God said in the Torah?

For some New Testament readers, 1 Tim 4 (along with Mark 7 and Acts 10) is a prooftext for showing that Jesus’ arrival marks the end of the Bible’s prior dietary restrictions. But there is a flaw in such logic: In Jewish understanding, the dietary restrictions are not laws for the entire world; rather, they are only for Israel. In relaying the dietary restrictions to the Israelites, God repeats that the prohibited animals are objectionable “to you” (להם lahem; cf. Lev 11:4-8, 10, 12, 20, 23, 26-29, 31). The inclusion of non-Jewish (Gentile) believers in Jesus’ flock does not abolish or change the Torah’s dietary restrictions for Israel since not all Torah commandments were equally applicable to Israel and to those members of the nations who sojourned with them. 

Moreover, the passage in First Timothy is not discussing Jewish food laws at all. The Jewish laws apply only to “animals” בַּהֵמוֹת (behemot) and to חַיּוֹת (chayot) literally “living creatures” (Lev 11:2). First Timothy, on the other hand, addresses the eating of “food” in general (βρῶμα; broma in Greek, and מַאֲכָל; ma’achal in Hebrew)— not only foods that can be made from animals, but fruits and vegetables as well.

Finally, the larger context of 1 Tim 4 shows that food is not the real topic of the passage under discussion. Paul does not disapprove of the biblical diet, but rather criticizes ascetics who teach “doctrines of demons” (4:1), deny their conscience and lie (4:2), “men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created” (4:3). This language does not describe a Torah lifestyle, since Jews certainly do not forbid marriage and only exclude select groups of living creatures as food.

So if Paul’s words do not pertain to Jewish diet, whose notions about food is he criticizing? Judaism was not the only religious movement that regulated the adherent’s diet. For example, Egyptians refused to eat most animals based on their worship. Some Greek and Roman Cynics forbade all pleasures and enjoyments of life, insisting that people should only eat to stay alive. These are not Jewish ways; Paul’s focus seems to be not on Jewish dietary restrictions, but rather on broader restrictions of other religious groups. First Timothy insists that God created foods for which human beings should rejoice, rather than reject, and that we should enjoy the Lord’s abundance with thanksgiving (but it is unlikely that the laws of kashrut are in view at all).

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  1. Paul put it this way in Roman’s 14, if you eat don’t condemn those who don’t, and if you don’t don’t condemn those who do.

  2. Romans 14:15 is instructive here. In it Paul says if what we eat causes others distress we should refrain from doing so in his presence. I believe he is really saying if our actions cause our brothers spiritual pain we should refrain from those acts while that brother is present. In other words do nothing that will lead your brother to sin.

    • Yes, Paul’s words you bring up are relevant, but this article is not about Rom 14. Bringing in another letter context into the discussion usually complicates the matters. I will address that passage in another article.

  3. Dear Professor Shir. I love taking part and learning from the IsraEl Bible Centre. My query is, is it sin then for a Messianic Jew to eat the “forbidden” by faith in the One that created? Please fill in this missing gap

    • Dear Pastor Nathi, God stated that prohibited animals are objectionable “to you” (להם lahem – to Israel) cf. Lev 11:4-8, 10, 12, 20, 23, 26-29, 31. If a Jew (Messianic or not) wants to call himself a Jew and include himself in Israel than he is included in the “to you” group. If God clearly articulated his will but one goes against his will that would logically be a sin. But one does not have to be a Jew if one does not want to be. The good news God loves everyone, Jew or not. His grace and salvation are not dependent on such matters.

    • I highly suggest reading Hebrews carefully and consider the context and scope of the statement you mention. But Hebrews text is well outside of what I wrote here. Let’s stay in Timothy.

  4. I find your view flawed for the following reason taken from 1 Yochanan ( John ) 2:6, “the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” ( NASB ).
    While it is true that not everything in the Torah is applicable to non-Jews, we are admonished to follow Yeshua’s example when it comes to our dietary choices. When it comes to following the Torah, Gentile believers have the option of complying as much as they want short of Jewish conversion. Acts 15 sets the basic rules for Gentiles to follow but the goal is always to grow more and more into the image of the Messiah. Jewish conversion is always optional but not a requirement for Christian/Messianic believers.

    • Dear James, I do not disagree with your line of reasoning at all. I think imitation of our Messiah is a great way of following him (Jew or Gentile). I believe that the nations are absolutely free to voluntarily take upon themselves the ways of Torah if they want to. It is not required, there is no obligation, but it is admirable if this is something people choose. There is a balance in all of this. 🙂

  5. The Lord Jesus himself did away with the dietary laws, and the dietary laws were never really about physical food. It is a myth that God has one set of regulations for Jews and another for Gentiles. During the age of Moses anyone, whether Jew or Gentile, who wanted to worship the True God was required to observe Torah. Similarly, in the New Testament age, everyone is required to worship God in spirit and truthfulness. Our Lord Jesus nailed the ordinances to the cross because ordinances divide humanity, and God’s intention is to unite us in Christ. God’s requirements will not be as they are now in the age to come, the age of the Kingdom — but they will apply to everyone on earth.

    • Obviously, you have worked this all out for yourself, Christian. Sorry to bother you with my thoughts on the matter. I cannot agree with what you wrote for many reasons. I simply challenge you to produce a more convincing argument on this 1 Tim passage without going to other texts to prove me wrong on the whole broad issue that “the Lord canceled everything”. Just substantiate your views with evidence with proving me wrong on this one single text.

      • “restrict you comments to 1st Timothy without going to other texts …” — What happened to “the whole counsel of of God”? And, the Berean Spirit? … Essentially, ‘Accept what I say, and don’t you dare exercise any personal judgmentof the issue’? -Excellent!

        • Actually, what I meant is “do not switch to another context!” Finish this one first… Nothing is off the table, but broadening the scope of any argument (to other texts) dilutes the discussion and complicates it. I believe in academic freedom too much to restrict people. 🙂 But I also believe in not shifting the focus and finishing one matter before engaging in another. One of the known fallacies of proper argumentation is to switch to another issue/passage/context when unable to substantively defend one’s opinion. That is what I call “what about this?” trick. Establish the truth in one context, even if it is provisional, make a temporary conclusion, then move on to another. That is the method I proposed.

      • So, you are saying that in THIS passage Paul declares that the ascetics are wrong for insisting on their dietary laws and are contrary to God’s declaration that all things are acceptable, especially as they are received with thanksgiving, and that here Paul is not making any commentary on Jewish dietary law. Fine. Then you must agree, no doubt, that Paul is very clear elsewhere about the abolition of dietary laws, as is Peter (Acts 15) and Jesus. The Gospel is God’s salvation through faith in Jesus. Anyone who wants to be saved by law must do it perfectly.

        • No one is justified by the law because that, of course, is not the purpose of the law! Just because that is true it does not mean that the law has no purpose at all. Read Romans! Clearly Only God can (has the authority) to abolish the laws he himself established. But if God is truly God then why would he establish the laws he will need to abolish later in the first place. That does not seem very omniscient. Does it?

          • The entire Old Testament is a shadow of the coming of Christ. The nation of Israel was a God-chosen delivery vehicle. Once the Christ had been delivered, the primary reason for Israel’s existence was complete. So there are no longer Jew and Greek, etc, but one flock, one body of Christ, the believers in his Name who have been redeemed by his blood. The law is summarized in the commandments to love God and love your neighbour, broken out in the 10 commandments which are the way to show true thankfulness. No need for clean/unclean.

          • I cannot agree, Henry! Sorry, but your logic on Israel is very short-sighted in this instance. Let’s see… Could my wife be called a “God-chosen delivery vehicle” for my children? Once she has produced some offspring for me I am done with her. Hah! That was her primary reason for existence… Now she is just one of my many female friends that I like to hang out with on occasion, right? I am being facetious, but you should see my point. Do you have an idea what a covenant is? What about promises? And then words like forever and eternal… Have you read the Hebrew Bible (OT)? Christians do not need clean or unclean. But Israel does. That is a part of the covenant God made with us.

    • Not majoring in minors but Jesus said Man shall not live by bread alone, But EVERY WORD that proceeds from the mouth of God! Jesus quoting Old Testament! We don’t follow His Commandments for our Salvation (Yeshua in Hebrew) but as evidence Of Our Salvation as a reasonable form of Worship, because we want to, because He delights in it, blesses it, and Inhabits it! If you expect to walk in His Kingdom, doesn’t it make Sense to want to know the Ways in which He expects us to walk, He Gave Moses Instructions That never change, Gave us Jesus As The Way, Let’s consentrate on Unite in the Body! Amen?

  6. The chapter opens with “in the latter times.” Since we live in those “latter times” it’s easy to see the things that other religions forbid as food. Veganism is huge right now. Opposed to this, we are commanded at times to eat meat (passover lamb, etc).

    Also, there is a difference in what God and His people refer to as “food”, and what others consider “food”. Horses, camels, Shellfish, pigs and other bottom-feeders were never meant for our consumption. God built a racecar and gave us an owner’s manual that calls for Super Unleaded gasoline, but most owners try to fuel their car with mud or sand. The results are predictable.

  7. Shalom, Thank you for this informative lesson. I agree with James that we should try to follow our Messiah who was Jewish and kept Torah. I am trying as best I can. I have not eaten pork in many years and I gave up shell fish all so. I am careful about which fish I eat. I have never eaten Cat Fish. My Mother would not eat them. Do I think I will go to Hell if I do eat the wrong thing? No

    • No, of course not, Dolores. Obedience to God’s commandments is not a matter of going to hell or heaven. I realize some people teach this, but this is cruel and terribly mistaken. We obey God because we love him and already have a relationship with him. We do not obey him in order to have a relationship.

  8. First of all, let me say I really appreciate what I am learning in my studies here from all the teachers 🙂 My question: If Gentile followers of Yeshua are seen as sojourners WITH Israel but not AS FULLY Israel, which was already a category in the Torah, why was the message of being grafted into the tree as wild branches so radical a teaching and such a surprise? The sojourners were not allowed to eat Passover or receive inheritance in the promised land. Peter says we are fellow heirs and a royal priesthood. I look forward to your exposition on Romans 14. and other passages such as the one in Peter.

    • Lois, great and very insightful questions. I will answer very briefly since they are not related to the post. 1. To be a sojourner one actually has to live and operate “within Jewish community” Most Gentile followers of Yeshua did not fit that and especially Romans in Rome to whom these words are directly addressed, hence the need to explain the relationship. 2. Peter’s teaching about “royal priesthood” is taken directly from the Torah text (where it applies to Israel) and in Peter’s message, it is designed to build up and elevate Gentiles who struggled to see how they are connected to God’s promises and blessings. I call my little girl “a princess” all the time, but she is not really royalty 🙂 I just want her to know that is how I see her…

  9. Referring to your recent comment about being a sojourner with Israel, you stated that to do so one has to actually live and function within the Jewish community. While that is true, it’s also true that Gentile believers in Yeshua are sojourners with the Jewish people indirectly more or less. Since they share the same Scriptures, and believe in the same God. And also because they follow a Jewish rabbi Who considers Himself the Son of God.

    • Yes, of course, all of this is true, James. On a spiritual level, all of this is valid. But that is not what the Torah addresses when it gives commandments to the sojourners or defines who a sojourner is. Torah does not presuppose spiritual sojourn, theoretical, theological or long-distance sojourn. Lev 17, 18 and 19 is full of specific and direct commandments that can only be fulfilled if sojourners are physically present. So this indirect idea is wonderful, but it does not work with God’s specific instructions.

  10. Many thanks Prof. Shir for your insightful exposition of 1 Timothy 4:4-5. I agree with you on the fact that we should not approach Scriptures with a baggage of our denominational dogma, we will go off at a tangent, rather we should interpret the Word of God objectively and within its context so that we exhume the meaning as God intended it to be received and as it was received by the first audience. So sound Biblical hermeneutics is always crucial. Stay blessed!

  11. Dear Prof.Pinchas, so it means that the dietary will apply to the gentiles who physically present in the israel area or live in israel? but for gentiles who are not physically present there,will have a choice to do so or not?

    • In my opinion, if a person voluntarily lives inside the Jewish community they have to follow the rules the community follows (and that means dietary rules as well). Not for themselves, but for the sake of others. That community can be in Israel or in Chicago. The key factor is the permanent presence within the community which keeps those standards obligates even outsiders to follow the communally-embraced rules. The laws of sojourners found on Torah apply if this is a voluntary sojourn and a person may leave at which moment the necessity of their adherence is no longer there. Guests and temporary visitors – different story. I explain all this in detail at the end of Jewish Apostle Paul II course

  12. Genesis 9:2-4 “The fear and dread of you will fall on every living creature on the earth, every bird of the sky, every creature that crawls on the ground, and all the fish of the sea. They are delivered into your hand. Every living creature will be food for you; just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you all things. But you must not eat meat with its lifeblood still in it.…” The dietary Torah was for and it will continue to be for Israel only. As prof. Shir stated. He is asking to read in context 1 Timothy 4:4-5 only, then apply its context for the readers back the, and for us today. God will teach those with open hearts.


  13. With all due respect professor, I notice some bias on your part. You refer to one commentor as “Christian” (as if there is a hidden hatred) and ignore the fact that there is neither “Jew” nor “greek”.

    Paul clearly says “Christ is not divided”. By telling so-called gentiles that they do not share in the kingdom priesthood (via story of your daughter), you create a divide subconsciously.

    A gentile who really loves and obeys Yeshua and his father may actually stop serving if they believe God is bias and unfair. Why does it seem the Jewish people are so paranoid and worried that gentiles will be favored by God or share in things that they say was only promised to them?

    The foreign resident was to be treated as a native and Ruth entered into the Jewish family of faith. The Israel of God includes the nations who share in the rights and privileges of the Jews. True, some things I believe do only belong to the one’s who have an inheritance, but really, there are no divisions in God’s household.

    I am passionate about HaShem, which is why I have been paying extra special care to Hebrew explanations about the deeper meaning of the word (including dietary laws) and am so amazed at what I am learning.

    Many faiths have destructive heresies and this includes I feel some Jewish circles. Please let’s stick with facts without adding with certainty what we believe God is absolutely saying.

    When Yeshua comes back, what if he crowned the gentiles and let them sit at the table closest to him? It seems like all of us running the race for life receive the victory crown and revelations speaks of people of all nations joining the so-called 144000 before the throne.
    I could so be wrong as I am learning still, but I really do hate injustice in the form of bias.


    • Dear Keyo, I agree with most of what you wrote. All of us have a bias of one or another variety. I recognize my cultural bias and though I seek to keep it in check, I have to continue living with it. Majority of Christians have a bias of Christian theological tradition which can be the opposite of Jewish bias in some matters. Calling someone a Christian is not something negative in my mind. It merely acknowledges that bias. No hatred, but a mere acknowledgment of certain disagreements. Many Jews are ecstatic if non-Jews embrace God who revealed himself to our forefathers and made covenants with them. It is our joint destiny. So please do not create a dichotomy where one does not exist. I appreciate anyone who has the heart of Ruth. But one thing that Ruth understood well is her standing/privileges/rights in the covenant made with Israel. Until she married Boaz she related to Israel and their covenant “by grace and through faith”. I am thrilled to hear that you are serious about Hashem. Me too. And I want to challenge you to recognize there are “functional differences” between members in the household. We are all humans, we all have two legs, we all need to sleep and eat, we all need our father the same, but the roles we fulfill in the family are different. One body, many members… and we are not the same because we are not meant to fulfill the same functions. Thus our responsibilities are not identical either. I explain these things in detail in the 2nd part of my course on Paul

  14. Dear Prof, so for the gentiles who are not live in jewish community they are not suppose to live like jewish? (in this case follow all the torah such as the celebration such as yom kippur, sukkot etc)

    • I think Hashem wants people to be who they are as long as it is not directly against his Word. Based on the teachings of Torah and Acts 15 following the patterns of Jewish life for non-Jews outside of Jewish sphere is an option, but certainly not a requirement. There is a big difference between “can” and “must”.

      • So what do you think if there is a teaching that makes a gentiles “must” do all the jewish law (dietary law, jewish celebration,and so on) and if we are not do it then we are not do the God commandment (and of course it’s a sin). do you think this teaching still on track with the bible or not? sorry to ask so many questions because lately so many teaching like that, and it makes me confuse..thank you Prof

        • I do not mind your questions, Lazarus. I disagree with the teaching you described for many reasons. Torah is very concrete. It is a “national covenant” with a people whom God physically birthed from barren women (described in Gen). Torah is a constitution that requires land, birders, and government (Exodus and Deut). It can be followed as general guidelines by anyone, but only people who were given the covenant and land that goes with it “must” and therefore “can”. I do not believe the nations of the world are obligated to observe Israel’s covenant in the form in which it was given to Israel. Learn from it, follow it in principle – of course. Keeping God’s laws is not a bad thing. Only do not think that “God requires this from the nations of the world”. Anyway, that is my position and a position of the majority of observant Jews whether they follow Yeshua or not.

  15. What paul is talking about is the Jewish diets laws, he telling the Jewish people that it’s all right to eat the food from the gentiles markets, because the Jewish people were only allowed to eat food only prepared by Jewish Butcher and Jewish gardens. If you study 1 century Jewish history and customs you will understand a lot about what Paul is saying. SHALOM

  16. Shalom! Respectfully, I must say that I find difficult to reconcile arguing against bad theology and not attacking the institution or organization that spouses that bad theology. In your comment above you group Pentecostals and Methodists with Romanism. Not that I am a member of the first two, and that is not true they need to be instructed in that regard, but at least they follow (or try) Scripture. Romanism on the other hand, is the worst perversion of Christianity. I do hope when you teach its followers the ways of the Torah you make it clear to them that the doctrines of the Roman Catholic church are far from having any support in the Sacred Writ, clearly a false Gospel. And this, I believe, is the greatest expression of the love of God a believer in Yeshua can extend to one who is in error regarding the Truth.

  17. I appreciate the study today. I grew up in a Christian church that required the dietary laws of the Torah but actually preferred vegetarianism. We were also required to worship on Saturday.
    I’m not vegetarian even though I grew up as one. I do believe foods consumed by others would not separate me from relationship with God. But I do believe the unclean animals were usually the quickest ones to rot upon death and no spoiled meat is healthy… So those have to be prepared quickly if they were eaten. There had to have been a health reason to avoid certain groups of creatures as food. Is it because they are carrion eaters? There are many questions that can be raised. I’m not living in a Jewish communal relationship so that law doesn’t have to apply to me. If I choose to apply it to myself it has to be by choice, not command. There have been enough heath studies done to make me aware there are direct correlations to better or poorer health based on food choices. So I choose to eat by the Torah guideline in my home. If I’m a guest of fellow Christians or non believers I follow Paul’s simpler guides for non Jews. No blood, not sacrificed to idols et. I understand it to be a choice that will not effect my relationship to God.
    Food doesn’t make me more acceptable or less acceptable. My heart and personal relationship decide if I’m serious about loving and serving God. Food doesn’t save me. Faith and acceptance of Jesus sacrifice for my sins are my only path to salvation. Growing in knowledge, growing in being faithful, growing in love for Him and to my fellow believers is require. My acceptable service is not condeming but loving others.
    I enjoy the studies. I also enjoy the discussions.

    • Sound thinking, Mary. Thanks for sharing. What if I told you that in the ancient world most common/average people of the Mediterranean (both Jews and non-Jews) ate very little actual meat, maybe a few times per year, actually? Most of the discussions assume the opposite, that they were like us with meat readily available to them on a weekly if not daily basis. That is not true of ancient society. The meat was not mass produced back then and thus rarely eaten. Blessings to you on your spiritual journey.

    • Mary Calder, you wrote: “There had to have been a health reason to avoid certain groups of creatures as food.”

      To that, I must ask … “Why?”

      I see/hear people making this justifying argument frequently, but it presupposes that God can’t just do as He wishes for his own reasons.

    • Similarly, Mary, I see/hear people apply this logic to marriage/sexual instructions. They reason that forbidden marriage/sex would result in sickly/deformed/dead children.

      But that reasoning fails in the example of a union with “the wife of your father’s brother”, who would not necessarily share any DNA with you (except through Noah).

  18. One major nugget most people always miss in 1st Timothy 4 is verse 5

    for it is Set-Apart by the Torah (Word) of Elohim and Tefilla (Prayer).

    Meaning, The menu of Leviticus 11 for all believers of 𐤉𐤄𐤅𐤄 remains forever.

    There is one Torah (Instructions/ Law) for the native-born and for the stranger who sojourns among you.

    Shemot (Exodus) 12:49


  19. I believe that the Torah was the main gospel basically for Isreal ( first born of God), but when God saw that it was not having the absolute effect that God wanted it to have that he created the second convenant to encompass the Gentiles. Paul said that no body should judge the Gentiles based on what they ate because back then Jews where having problem accepting Gentiles since the believed that they where not keeping the dietary laws, but God in his infinite wisdom knows that all race differs. I am from the black race and right from my forefathers till now, they did not keep the dietary laws, ate all things including Pigs, catfish, snails, snake etc but they still leave upto 100 years and even.more. God’s wisdom supersedes man’s knowledge.

    • Dear Enefiok, thanks for your comments. I will pose a question to you if you do not mind.

      God saw that it was not having the absolute effect that God wanted it to have that he created the second covenant to encompass the Gentiles

      Do you think God did not know this to begin with and had a “plan B”? Including non-Jews into his covenant with Israel was always a part of God’s original plan (Gen 12). Majority of observant Jews believe that laws of clean and unclean are not universal and were never meant to be practiced by the nations of the world. Read some of my other articles to sort this issue out. They are not about health. I have met people who smoked cigarettes like chimneys and died in their nineties, and those who ran 5 miles each day and died in their sixties. I am not about to pick up smoking, though 🙂 Though commandments can be practically useful their main purpose is spiritual.

  20. Shalom, very nice topic, Prof.when you adopt a child in your house, do you have different rules, food, clothing for the child?

    In 1Tim4 I can see a legalistic teaching of those who have departed from the faith. They taught that it was by following this list of man-made rules that one was justified in God’s sight and that you would be more holy to God if you didn’t marry, and if you did not eat certain foods, forgetting that God knows the best for us even in foods,

    Continue bringing these teaching but it’s should not be a point of discussion but Love,

    • Not, of course not, Mirel. But an adopted child has to “physically live in my house” and be surrounded by other family members otherwise the adoption is superficial and the child cannot and will not ever truly become “family”. That is what is described in the laws of sojourners (Lev 18, 19 and etc)

      • for this statement as in romans 8:15, that all the gentiles also adopted as the Child of God. what should we do Prof? as we are not obligated to do the Torah.

        • Lazarus, do with Rom 8:15 as one does with all teachings. Understand the intent of these words. I support anyone honoring Shabbat. It is a good way of life and it praises God in a very beautiful way. For Israel, Shabbat is a sign of our relationship with God and thus an obligation. Something we are happy to carry because it is what our Father gave us, commanded us to do, and he knows best. For the nations, Shabbat can be a very meaningful way to live. As far as it bening an obligation… I do not think so. An option, an invitation, not a covenant. There is a big difference between “may” and “must”.

          • Prof, what i mean is many preachers nowadays using that verse (Rom 8:15 also Rom 11:11-36) as a verse that show gentiles also need to do Torah, because gentiles are adopted/grafted to serve Israel’s God together with the Jews people. So as an adopt child we should do the same like the real child. what should we answer for this kind of statement?

          • Dear Lazarus. There is a lot of confusion, because of ignorance. There needs to be clarity in the message: practical need, want and legal obligation are all different things. Commandments are useful to all but not all are legally obligatory for all. Consider the commandments for married people… Do they apply to a single person? But that is what people do with Torah. A person who is a member of a covenant is in one status. A non-member is in a different status.

      • Are not gentiles truly adoptees? Do they not live in the same body of Yeshua with Jewish believers? One new man, one new body, one new church… what does this mean to Jewish believers?

        • Adoption imagery is an analogy, not meant to be pushed. Inggrafting imagery is an analogy too. Please consider how many Christians “adopted into the family of Israel” actually even remotely resemble the very family they are adopted into. Salvific, theological adoption does not translate to tangible change in thinking or lifestyle, does not even change loyalties, political, ideological, theological, ethical… I want you to understand Diane, that using generalistic terms like “adoption” does not really solve the problem of actual differences between Israel and the nations, differences that God himself ordained.

  21. “for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer”

    Doesn’t it seem to make sense that two stipulations were given; An animal must be first sanctified by the Word of G-d and then prayed over. Only the clean animals were sanctified(according to Leviticus 11).

  22. The early Jewish Christians followed Torah, the Gentiles did not have to follow Torah, except for Love God and your neighbor, do not commit fornication and abstain from eating food offered to idols. Gentiles did not need to convert to Judaism to be Christians. Circumcision would have been a big obstacle to overcome for Gentile adult men.

  23. Prof. Pinchas Shir
    I want to understand. Why did God divide some clean and some unclean animals? Is there any symbolic or just to see if Israel will obey God’s will as in the case of forbidden fruit for Adam?

  24. Dear Professor, I tried to read all the comments, but may have missed something in the multitude of words. I did not see any mention of God telling Peter to eat something that was, under the Torah, “unclean.” This is the story concerning the conversation of Cornelius in Acts 10. Peter said he had never eaten anything unclean, but God said he had cleansed the unclean animals. So if followers of Christ want to eat pork chops, God said it was OK. Many passages in Hebrews refer to the New Covenant replacing the Old. See Hebrews chapter 8, etc.

    • Dear Jefferson, you are combining a whole lot of things into one system, seeking to harmonize them all at once in your thinking. First, the book of Hebrews specifically addresses the Temple matters and priesthood. Read those ideas in that particular context and do not switch to another. The pork chops were indeed allowed to human beings after the great flood (Gen 9). But later they were specifically forbidden to Israel as God’s chose among the rest of the nations. What happened with Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10 does not change the status of pork chops which Cornelius (as a Roman) probably enjoyed on occasion. He was “clean” for God and for Peter despite his diverse diet.

  25. Peter was observing dietary after Yeshua had died. Peter made it very clear the unlearned would twist Paul’s words to their own destruction. Paul is following Torah in Sabbath’s,appointed days,etc.It is a progession from heathen ways to the ways of God. People who want to become a part of God’s kingdom will adapt and will move towards God’s ways.Paul mentions food that was created/santified to be eaten.A sheep,goat,beef hanging in the shabbles is not a pig.Moses being taught on Sabbath.eventually,the real hearers would hear and transition to the ways of God.The others will not!The narrow road!

  26. Interesting discussion. I’m currently in a Bible study where we are studying the book of Mark. I’d be
    interested in knowing the meaning of Mark 7:18-19.

    18 “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? 19 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.)”

    Would you shed some light on what is meant by “Jesus declared all foods clean?”


  27. Some of the arguments here surprise me. Jesus came to release us from bondage. The Hebrews are a set apart nation with a specific purpose and calling. They are required to stand out among the nations by their conduct and unique history of relationship with God. A Gentile who has received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is not a Jew, and not required to practice these dietary laws.

    God does not condemn us for what we eat but for If we have truly made Jesus Lord of our lives.

      • I always thought that the pharisees washed their hands before eating, not out of hygienic concern (Louis Pasteur’s theory of germs still thousands of years away), but to avoid eating inadvertently non-kosher food. Jesus is basically saying never mind. The HEART is what matters.

        • You can’t inadvertently eat unkosher food unless it is a part of a complex recipe in which many ingredients are mixed and you have no knowledge of what went inside. That was not the culinary culture in the 1st century, no ready-made foods as experience today. When one’s diet is 90% vegetarian is hard to make it non-kosher. And washing was not for hygiene, but for spiritual reasons, i.e. impurity (which is not a fully physical idea).

          • Dirt is non-kosher:it’s the food of snakes(Gn3).
            You said earlier:”Is-Yeshua-answering-a-question-he-was-not-asked?”Many times Jesus goes above and beyond the question asked. Concerning the sabbath,as-far-as-I-know,he could counter:it’s only your narrow interpretation(‘fences-around-fences’)that makes you think I am breaking the sabbath law.And then proceed to find the Scripture passages that define work. But-instead-Jesus-adopted-a-position-tantamount-to:even-if-I-broke-the-sabbath-law(not-that-I-concede-I-did,but-just-for-argument-sake)I-still-did-the-right-thing(some-kind-of-epikeia).Jesus-even-pronounced-himself-‘lord-of-the-sabbath’,which-is-unimaginable-if-confined-himself-to-the-question-at-hand.

          • Is there a reason you hyphenate all your words, Kòddrapo? Sorry, it’s hard to understand, because that is not how conventional English works and I keep thinking there is some distinct reason for it. The question about Yeshua answering the question he was being asked or answering a question he was not even being asked is about Mark 7. Please don’t take us away from this instance. Is he expanding far beyond what was was asked, or is he staying on topic here? My position is that he stays on topic, which is why I interpret Mark 7 the way I do. P.S. dirt is not unkosher. There are no prohibitions against eating it, by the way. It is not really edible, in my personal opinion. The clean/unclear category (kosher is not even a biblical term) relates to animal products alone. So let’s exclude those items from the discusions of biblical texts.

          • Is there a reason you hyphenate all your words, Kòddrapo? Sorry, it’s hard to understand, because that is not how conventional English works and I keep thinking there is some distinct reason for it. The question about Yeshua answering the question he was being asked or answering a question he was not even being asked is about Mark 7. Please don’t take us away from this instance. Is he expanding far beyond what was was asked, or is he staying on topic here? My position is that he stays on topic, which is why I interpret Mark 7 the way I do. P.S. dirt is not unkosher. There are no prohibitions against eating it, by the way. It is not really edible, in my personal opinion. The clean/unclear category (kosher is not even a biblical term) relates to animal products alone. So let’s exclude those items from the discussions of biblical texts.

      • You said earlier:”the-Father-in-his-all-knowing-wisdom-gave-those-laws”. Jesus,in his equally all knowing wisdom,couldn’t he foresee the risk of misinterpretation in his declaring all food clean? That would be a poor choice of words! Or Acts 10:don’t-call-unclean-what-God-made-clean. Later in Acts we see Peter, and all other disciples (even Barnabas,says Paul)eating-freely-with-the-Greeks.I-can-hardly-imagne-them-bringing-their-little-kosher-lunchbox.Elsewhere-you-said-Peter-interpreted-his-dream-as-meaning-poeople-not-food.I-can’t-find-where-he-said-that.Anyway-if-true,what-poor-choice-of-words-from-an-all-knowing-God-not-being-able-to-foresee-that-Peter’s-dream-would-lead-to-abuse!!!

    • “Imitate” can mean many things and can be understood in many ways. The question you ask is very complicated and I cannot answer it briefly properly. I am of the opinion that God desired to have Israel distinct for a reason and he did not intend for the whole world to live the way Israel was commanded to live. Otherwise, he would have made a covenant with the entire humanity and not just with one family. I think God likes diversity and being different is not something negative. I also feel that all nations are free to incorporate laws given to Israel into their lives, as long as they understand that is not “a must in order to have God’s love” and simply keeping certain laws does not actually make them Jewish 🙂 Following things God’s commanded should also not be seen as something bad or wrong.

      • God only has one kind of love:preferential. We humans can’t.But God being infinite can treat each person, each people as his favorite person, his favorite people. It’s the logic pushing the shepherd to leave 99 to seek the one lost sheep, or John to call himself the-disciple-that-Jesus-loves.The-whole-biblical-epic-is-a-show-and-tell-display-how-God-loves-Israel-with-a-preferential-love.The-good-news-is:He-loves-each-one-of-us,each-people-with-the-same-love:preferential(qualitatively-speaking,not-quantitatively).

  28. BUT what about Peter’s vision in Acts 11 of the ‘sheet’ let down full of all sorts of edible critters, beasts & birds, formally forbidden but which YHWH has now ‘cleansed’ for him, a Jew, to eat? And in Acts 15, the Council of Jerusalem only proscribes ‘things sacrificed to Idols’, ‘Fornication’ & things ‘Strangled’….for both believing Jew or Gentile. As Paul says elsewhere, those that live by the Law will be ‘judged by the Law’ – and naturally fail, as only Yeshua H’amashiach could keep the Law. MARANATHA!

  29. I would like to ask a question to the people that comment on here. If Yahweh, who said that certain things are an abomination!, from what we eat to adultery, and so forth, EVER change HIS mind on what was once considered an abomination?? No, He would not. Could you dare say Yah don’t think a man having sex with another man or even with an animal is not an abomination anymore?? He does not change. The Messiah fulfilled the sacrificial lamb offering. Yeshua also told us in Matthew what else changed as far as Yahweh laws-teachings-instructions.

  30. To finish,
    You have heard it said to do not commit adultery, I say if you even LOOK at a woman to lust, you have ALREADY committed adultery with her in your heart! And there are more, but there are people I know who would fight and debate o be able to eat their pork!.
    Not being mean, I have just realized the truth for myself. I want to be clean before my Maker and my Messiah.
    Thanks for your time.

  31. May this verse doesn’t point to the abolition of Israel’s dietary laws – but Acts 10 should be a good basis to revise the dietary laws. If you don’t like the word abolish – use revision instead. Acts 10 provides a really good revision so we have liberty in these

    • I do not know who you mean by “we”. God puts forward his laws, he is perfect, so his laws must be perfect. He does not give bad laws. If that was the case he would not be a good God. Revising is fine, but why? The nations were not given the same laws as Israel, so there is no need to claim liberty where it was never restricted. Israel’s liberty was restricted by design and remains so as long as Israel is in covenant with Hashem. It’s not about us, but about him. And Acts 10 is not about food, but people.

  32. Good day, Professor –

    Since the subject passage is 1 Timothy 4:4-5 , and the larger context of 1 Tim 4 shows that food is not the real topic of the passage, then why not lead with that evidence and dispense with the (now unnecessary) rest of the arguments?

  33. Certainly, I don’t believe that Paul abolished kashrut. But your explanation drives an artificial wedge that YHWH has already closed. We are one people in Yeshua! Consider Isaiah 56. Kashrut was meant as a blessing for Jew and Gentile alike to keep us all healthy.

    • We are one, and we can be one, but we do not have to be “the same” or “identical” to be one. I am one with my wife, but let me tell you… we are so different and we function so different every day. Hope you see my point. You can push unity to be something it was never meant to mean.

  34. Nowadays if someone believes that certain meat may not good for his or her health, it is he or her right to abstain from eating it. But we should say that certain animal or fruits it’s bad because it’s all God’s creations.

  35. You write:”Christians do not need clean or unclean. But Israel does. That is a part of the covenant God made with us.” So Israel is not Christian and neither are you?

  36. Can you please give the references where Peter “interpreted his vision as being about “rejecting Gentiles as unclean”? Can’t find it.

    • Please do a word search in Google, Bing, Yahoo or a Bible Program. 🙂 Knowledge for which you did not labor has little value 🙂

      • There is a deep anthropological reason why the unclean animals = Gentiles. All primitive societies build their system around the totem,and the taboos (what to avoid) or obligations (what to do) revolve around it.It is their deep identity: clan-of-the-Bear,of-the-Eagle,of-the-Horse,etc.They-even-wear-body-markings-that-identify-them-as-such. The Old Testament revolution did away with totem:Thou-shall-not-have-no-graven-image-before-my-face. But-it-did-not-purge-the-need-for-taboos-or-markings. With-the-coming-of-the-Christian-revolution,it-is-significant-that-baptism-in-water(which-leaves-no-marks-on-the-body)became-the-rite-of-passage.And-ultimately:”by-this-sign-they-will-recognize-you-as-my-disciples,by-the-love-you-have-for-one-another.The-blood-of-Jesus-destroys-the-wall-that-separated-Jews-and-Gentiles(totem,taboos,marks,etc)

        • I understand your anthropological ideas. In my view what separated Jews and non-Jews in antiquity is not kashrut laws or anything of that sort, but the fact that pagans lived in “a state of sin” and thus were off-limits. Israel had a covenant and ways to deal with it within their society. The nations did not. Yeshua defeated the power of sin and that is what makes the interaction between Israel and the nations possible. Assuming the nations chose to overcome sin through Yeshua’s sacrifice. The enmity, the barrier is sin, my friend and now it is destroyed.

  37. But since Paul documents termination of dietary laws better in other places, and the New Testament does so in other places even better than that (Mark 7:18-19: “Jesus declared all foods clean”), the implication that the 1 Timothy passage is the determent text is misleading.

    • You can’t terminate a law that does not exist. Torah never implemented dietary laws for the nations of the world, so there is nothing to terminate. Remember, Paul is an apostle to the nations, that is his calling, that is his ministry.

  38. If, as you say, “Paul did not believe that non-Jews were under any obligations to Torah, so he does not need to cancel anything for them”, then I think that answers the question “Did Paul Abolish the Torah’s Dietary Laws?” better than the article.

    • Obviously! However, how many people will tell you that this is exactly what these verses are doing? Many, many people quote these verses each day to prove that Paul was abolishing the law. What I offer is a simple proposition to accept, that Paul saw non-Jews in a different way in their relationship to Torah, but so many people do not embrace this idea and thus have a very different conclusion.

  39. The Larger issue here is following the Mosaic law,the entire 613 mitzvas and not conveniently in bits and pieces , is it possible to follow them by the Jews or for any one else? The apostle Peter states that he as well as forefathers find it difficult to follow them.

    • A life of Torah takes discipline, indeed, and it takes a community with similar commitments. Samuel, I think it is not helpful to look at commandments as a list with checkmarks. In Jewish tradition, we look at the entire body as a covenant, sort of a long marriage contract. It may contain many details and obligations, but as in marriage, the big picture matters the most. Bening a good spouse each and every time may be difficult, but people stay in such relationships and often succeed for many years.

  40. If distinction between clean and unclean animals was abolished how would you explain this verse. “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast”. Rev.

    • First of all, Paul wrote letters, not the Bible, per se. The fact that his letters (directed to particular people and particular groups) have been canonized is a separate matter. Paul’s words apply directly to those to whom they were originally addressed. Then if anyone wishes to extract somethign good out of his words, that is secondary. That was not his purpose or intent as a writer. These are just facts. Imagine that I read Exodus where God tells Moses “go deliver your people” and I say that those words are a commandment directed at me! So I jump on the plane and go to Egypt seeking to deliver any Jews left there. One can’t just apply everything to themselves because they want to…

      • It’s not that Paul’s words do not apply to natural-born Jews. Its that Paul’s words apply to those to whom they were addressed. Everyone else outside of his audience has to make a call if they apply and how they apply if they can be applied in our world. I am not trying to minimize Paul, but we are not living in Corinth or ancient Rome exactly and much of his words are very practical, like sermons, though people love to make them into theology. Oh well…


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