Most Christians firmly believe that the New Testament clearly abolished the dietary laws of the Old Testament, but is that conclusion correct? A closer look at the main New Testament “proof text” passages that deal with this topic reveals that this is actually one of the most misunderstood, but most easily corrected, topics in the New Testament.
I encountered several teachings from 119 Ministries that cover the material really well, so I’ve posted those videos with the corresponding scripture references below.
Mark 7:19 – “Thus He declared all foods clean.”
And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?”(Thus he declared all foods clean.)
This is the easiest verse to deal with because the parenthetical statement (Thus He declared all foods clean) in Mark 7 was nowhere to be found in the original text.
You can see the actual, literal Greek here: http://interlinearbible.org/mark/7-19.htm
Additionally, taking the context into consideration reveals that the subject being discussed was the washing of hands before eating – something God never commanded. Men added this rule, which wasn’t necessarily bad in itself. It was the elevation of this rule to a standard of righteousness that was the dangerous part.
Acts 10 – Peter’s Vision
The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.
Does this vision mean that unclean animals are now to be considered clean? Though that’s the conclusion most of us have drawn, it’s not at all the conclusion Peter or any of those who heard the vision came up with.
1 Timothy 4:1-5 – Clean meats from deceitful spirits and teachings of demons?
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving 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 thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
Is teaching about the dietary laws of the Old Testament paramount to departing from the faith and being devoted to deceitful spirits and teaching of demons? That’s certainly what it sounds like the text is saying, but a closer look reveals the truth. God didn’t create all animals to be received as food. He only created certain animals to be food. See Leviticus 11 for details.
Acts 15:19 – Not troubling the Gentiles
Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.
This scripture was a confusing one to me for a while. Does this verse say that Gentiles who turn to God don’t have to keep the dietary laws?
When talking to one of my Messianic Jewish friends about this part of scripture, I was instructed to read one verse further. This verse says, “For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”
So, it seems the members of the council were assuming new believers would eventually hear all of the law. There was no need for them to adhere to everything BEFORE admitting their salvation. The law was never a pre-requisite for salvation; it was God’s direction for how his already-saved people should walk. God would reveal more of Himself to them each week through His word.
Genesis 9:3 – Every living thing will be food for you
Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.
And for those who question what God allowed Noah to eat, there are answers for this verse too.
Here is a more in-depth study of the verse: