Paul set up the following rule in all the congregations he established: “Was any man called circumcised? He is not to become uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in uncircumcision? He is not to be circumcised.” (1 Corinthians 7:17-19)
Paul demonstrated this principle by not compelling Titus (a Greek) to be circumcised (see Galatians 2:3). However, he supported the circumcision of Timothy because he was Jewish (the son of a Jewish mother and a Greek father). Paul did so in the anticipation his rule regarding circumcision would be rightly challenged by the local Jewish community, since his co-worker Timothy was, in fact, Jewish, but was not circumcised (see Acts 16:3).
Sometime later, Paul wrote to Timothy: “Some will fall away from the faith… forbidding marriage, abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. 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 Timothy 4:1-4)
The traditional interpretation of this passage is that Paul was instructing Timothy to oppose the Torah’s division of things “clean” and “unclean.” It assumes that the topic of the text is unclean foods. However, such a reading is problematic for multiple reasons.
First, such an interpretation ignores the fact that the entire creation is “good” (טוב; tov) because God declared it so (Genesis 1:25). Second, just because God’s creation is good, it does not follow that all of it can be used for food by Israelites (see Leviticus 11:13). In fact, Paul states that anything can be eaten if two specific conditions are met: (1) God has sanctified, and (2) the worshiper has sanctified it through prayer. (see 1 Timothy 4:4)
Paul instructed Timothy to remember, especially after his circumcision, that he must honor the God of Israel in every detail of his life as a Jesus-following Jew, which would include the way he ate. Did Paul tell Jewish Timothy to eat unclean? No, in fact, he told him the exact opposite!