Question: [editor’s note: this lengthy question and points being made come from a Jewish Christian who believes that Christians are required to obey kosher food laws, such as the prohibition of eating pork and shellfish. The article he and I both refer to is one about the interpretation of Acts 10. I am attaching this here: A Hebraic Perspective on Peter (3) ]
I am by no means a scholar. But then Jesus did not pick from the educated in regard to the first Disciples. He picked the common laborer like me. Given the above, I will do my best to answer your questions; however, I would encourage you to return to the document I provide and do a thorough reading instead of a quick read. My experience with people who do a quick read is that they miss the main qualifiers (no disrespect to you intended). Personally, I find the conclusion solid. Take the two different Greek words for unclean and apply them to the other controversial Scriptures and tell me if the proposition holds or not. Mark 7:19: If the parenthetical statement was actually made by Jesus, then why doesn’t Matthew, who clearly presents a more thorough witness, note it in his testimony about the same incident reported in Matthew 15:1-20? In Matthew, the key complementary verses would be 15:17-18.
I would suggest the following: Jesus himself, being God, gave the kosher commandments at Sinai. Never ever was pork, crab, shrimp or other items specifically mentioned starting in Leviticus 11 intended for food. It is only man, in his rebellion against God, who took it upon himself to “decide” that pork and other unclean animals were now clean and suitable for food. Didn’t Jesus himself say that he did not come to abolish the Law? And, then he went on to declare the consequences, both good and bad, for those who did change the Law given at Sinai (Matthew 5:19). Matthew 15:1-20 and Mark 14:7 are dealing with hand washing not food. Starting at verse one it is very clear what the topic of discussion is: Rabbinical Oral Law in regard to ceremonial hand washing. Hand washing before eating, to the best of my knowledge, is something that God never prescribed. Jesus, in Matthew 15:3-9, immediatly takes them to task about their own traditions instead of holding to Gods commandments. In verses 10-11, Jesus calls to the people and tells them that it is not what enters into the mouth (food by unwashed hands) that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth. This is the start of the hangup for most people who argue that Jesus did away with kosher. Jesus held to the Law because he gave the Law, and he would have never suggested that unclean meat would have been part of “what enters into a man.” Pork, crab, shrimp, and other unclean items were never intended to enter into a man and were not considered food by Jesus or anyone who held to the Law given by God. Then, Jesus went on to explain that the things out of the heart are those that defile the man, not unclean hands.
Jesus himself defines what the argument and topic at hand was in verse 20: These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man(Emphasis added). People for centuries have automatically assumed that the above mentioned unclean food items are what was in questions. There is no proof from Scripture that that would be the case. Someone who translated Mark added the parenthetical statement without grounds. I know this is simplistic, but I told you I am not a scholar.
I looked at your friend’s interpretation of Acts 10 and I find it very credible. I would not say that it is definitely correct. To be honest, I think it could go either way, but his interpretation definitely makes sense–that God is telling Peter that he can join together in fellowship with a Gentile.
Also, I agree with you that in Matthew 15:1-20 and Mark 14:7, Jesus is talking, not about obeying the kosher laws, but about obeying the additions to the Law which were created by the Pharisees. This passage does not deal with food laws either way. Jesus is not saying here whether Christians ought or ought not to eat non-kosher foods. We know that Jesus obeyed the Mosaic Law while he was on the earth. This fact neither proves nor disproves whether a Christian can eat non-kosher foods, however.
Having said that, I do not agree with your overall conclusion. I believe that what you are doing is known as eisegesis, which means reading an interpretation into the Bible rather than getting it out of the Bible. Here is what we can be sure of as fact: the very early church interpreted the sayings of Jesus and the apostles as allowing the eating of foods which would be “unclean” to the Jews. The reason we know this is that it is a historical fact that the early church ate non-kosher foods. I am talking about the early second century.
About Mark 7, you say that Matthew is always a more complete story and that, therefore, we can simply ignore what Mark said. I am definitely not going to go there. I believe that the entire Bible is inspired by God. Mark quite often has a version with more details than Matthew. Will we simply throw out all the material in Mark which is not also in Matthew? Why not just throw out all of Mark if we only accept things in Mark that are also in Matthew. This is not an acceptable approach to the Bible. You said that the aside in Mark that Jesus declare all foods clean is not in the earliest manuscripts. This simply is NOT TRUE. I have looked around and the evidence does not support this conclusion. I think that this is wishful thinking on your part.
Another point. If Jesus said that Christians are not required to obey the restrictions of the Jewish/Mosaic Law, this does NOT nullify Leviticus 17 and 18. Jesus said that he would not take away a single word of the Law. Instead, he fulfilled the Law. Obviously, Jesus did not eat unclean food, as he was a Jew, but the question is whether Christians who are not Jews have to obey the Law in Leviticus. Are Christians required to obey the Sabbath? The answer, clearly, is no. Does that mean that Jesus nullified the Sabbath teaching in Leviticus? No. He fulfilled it. Do Christians have to obey the command about skin diseases, about Jubilee years, about daily sacrifices? Are Christians allowed to divorce their wives? Your argument simply does not hold up. The very purpose of the book of Galatians is to tell Christians that they are not bound by the Mosaic Law and that people who say they are have denied the faith. They are to be “eternally condemned.” This is strong language. Colossians 2:16 says, “Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come. The reality, however, is found in Christ. From the context there is no doubt that he is talking about Jewish restrictions and laws. Paul calls these things (fore)shadows. In Galatians Paul makes it clear that the law about circumcision does not apply to Christians. Does this nullify Genesis? The answer is no. because these laws were a training ground, a preparation for the Jews. Paul says: “You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ: you have fallen away from grace.” Given that we know he is talking about circumcision, then clearly this very strong statement applies to a command in the Old Testament.
So, although I agree with the interesting interpretation of Acts 10–I am prepared to conclude that it is very likely the correct interpretation and that God is not talking about eating food, I definitely cannot accept your interpretation that Christians are under the Old Testament laws. Paul made it abundantly clear that we are NOT under such laws. Jesus did not abolish these laws, but instead he fulfilled them so that we do not have to. Unless you can show me a passage where a Gentile Christian is told to obey the Jewish food laws, I have to believe that they are not, as Paul is so clear on this and, besides, we know from history as a fact, that this is how the very early church interpreted what the apostles said.
In fact, given the extremely strong wording in Galatians, such as Gal 1:6-9, I feel obligated to tell you that you are on very dangerous ground to tell Christians that they are under the Mosaic law.
About Acts 15, here Peter and the other apostles gave a very short list of things the Gentile Christians ought to do, not because they are requirements of Christians in general, but out of sensitivity to the Jewish Christians who were fellowshipping with the. Specifically, they were told to not eat meat sacrificed to Idols (later, in Romans and 1 Corinthians, Paul said to the church that eating meat sacrificed to an idol is not inherently sinful, by the way), to eat the meat of animals that were strangled or to eat blood. The latter two items are part of the kosher laws for the Jews, but the Gentiles are being asked to do this out of sensitivity, not because they are sinful, per se. Besides, they are quite specific in saying that the Gentile Christians would not be “burdened with anything beyond the following requirement.” I am sorry but your interpretation is DEFINITELY wrong. The apostles were quite specific in saying these three requirements were the only thing requested of the Gentiles. Therefore, obviously eating certain kinds of meat were not part of the request of the apostles at this time. Neither were they required to be circumcised, to observe the Sabbath, to avoid wearing clothes with two or more materials or any of many dozens of other Mosaic laws.