The vast majority of Christianity believes that the food laws of Leviticus 11 are no longer applicable. One of the Scripture passages used to support this position comes from Mark 7, a passage where Yeshua himself seems to declare that all foods are clean. But is this the case? And if this is the case, doesn't this cause a theological problem?
Mark 7:1-9 (KJV)
Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem.
And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault.
For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders.
And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables.
Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?
He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.
Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.
And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.
This passage is an example of one of the many times where the religious leaders came to Yeshua in an attempt to discredit Him by convincing the people that He was a false prophet that taught contrary to The Law. In this particular case Pharisees (representatives of a strict sect of Judaism) and scribes (copyists, editors, or teachers of authority that came to be called lawyers) came to Yeshua from Jerusalem. That they came from Jerusalem is a pertinent point in that customs and traditions varied in the differing areas of the country. People from Jerusalem were considered to be the "high society" of the nation whereas those from Galilee were considered "hicks". Verse 2 relates that the problem these men had with Yeshua had to do with the fact that some of the disciples ate bread with unwashed hands.
The fault finders go on to say that the Pharisees and ALL the Jews washed their hands before eating because this was a tradition of the elders.This statement is not totally accurate. Not all Jews held to this tradition. The Jews in Galilee were much less likely to wash their hands than the Jews in Jerusalem (http://www.cameronfreeman.com/index.cfm?Fuseaction=ArticleDisplay&ArticleID=354&SectionID=93). However, the statement is true in that the practice of washing hands before eating is a tradition. There is no law regarding this in The Torah.
In verse 4 these fault finders explain that Jews coming from the market would wash their hands before eating. Again, this hand washing is not proscribed in the Bible, but is influenced by Leviticus 11:32-38 where it describes how inanimate objects can become "unclean." Some Jews believed that by being in the market it was possible to pick up some "uncleanness" that needed to be washed away, just like when a carcase fell on a cup or pot that would have to be washed to be made "clean."
It is also important to note that the disciples were eating bread, a kosher food. This will come to play as this discussion continues.
The answer Yeshua gave to the religious leaders begins in verse 6. He called his opponents "hypocrites" because they gave God lip service, but their hearts were far from God. He further explained that these religious leaders were teaching tradition as if it were The Law of God, and in many cases they then violated The Law in order to fulfill their man-made traditions (verses 7-9).
In verses 10-13 Yeshua gave an example of how the religious leaders were
setting aside The Law of God by their traditions and thereby making
"The Word of God of none effect."
Mark 7:14-15 (KJV)
And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand:
There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.
Mark 7:21-23 (KJV)
For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:
All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
In verse 14 Yeshua began to teach the people. The Pharisees
complained that without washing their hands, the disciples could have
become "unclean" by eating something that was "unclean". Since they were
eating bread, which is kosher, they weren't talking about some
"unclean" food entering into the disciples' bodies. Rather the concern
was that they picked up something "unclean" on their hands. While
washing their hands might be a good tradition it was not The Law and shouldn't have been treated as such. Yeshua brought the people's
attention away from what the Pharisees were stressing and began talking
about the weightier things of The Law that come from within a man that
truly defile (verses 21-23).
Verse 19 could be considered as a summary of Yeshua's teaching.
Mark 7:19 (KJV)
Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?
This verse says that food taken into the body, after removing all the nutrients, leaves the body as waste. (The word translated "meat" means food in general, not meat specifically.) Then the end of Mark 7:19 says that this process "purges all meats." Traditional Christianity has determined that "purging" means to "purify" or "make clean". While these are acceptable meanings of "purge", it cannot mean that in this verse.
Deuteronomy 23:12-14 (KJV)
Thou shalt have a place also without the camp, whither thou shalt go forth abroad:
And thou shalt have a paddle upon thy weapon; and it shall be, when thou wilt ease thyself abroad, thou shalt dig therewith, and shalt turn back and cover that which cometh from thee:
For the LORD thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy: that he see no unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee.
This passage from Deuteronomy makes it clear that excrement was viewed as "unclean". So could this normal bodily function that is viewed as "unclean" somehow make something that had been eaten "clean"? Obviously, not. Therefore, the meaning of "purge" cannot mean "make clean". Rather, the meaning of "purge" that is most logical is "to remove". Yeshua's point here was that an unclean particle picked up by eating goes into the body and then is removed from the body and can no longer defile, unlike the wicked heart conditions listed that stay in the body and continue to defile. Remember, that non-kosher food was not the concern here, but rather the "uncleanness" that was picked up on the hands.
This passage, therefore, cannot be used to prove that the food laws are no longer applicable. However, other translations than KJV actually exacerbate the misunderstanding.
Mark 7:19 (NIV)
For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean.")
In the NIV, as an example, there is an extra comment made at the end of this verse. This is the comment that really seals the idea in readers' minds that this passage was about Yeshua making all foods clean. This is in contradiction to the rest of the passage and is not in all versions of Scripture. In The English Aramaic New Testament Andrew Roth states that none of the earliest Greek or Aramaic manuscripts contain this last phrase (Netzari Press LLC. 2008. Mark 7:19 footnote #27, p 108). The inserted comment must be an alteration of the text and the NIV and other versions should not have included this in their translations.
Some reading this blog will still insist that this passage is teaching that all foods are now clean. Unfortunately, that creates a problem. Yeshua had to have obeyed the whole Law in order for Him to be an acceptable sacrifice for sin. Obviously, He never ate anything that wasn't kosher. Yet, according to traditional Christianity He declared all foods clean even before He had died on the cross. If it was Yeshua's death and resurrection that "changed" The Law, it couldn't have been changed before His death. If Yeshua so declared it, He was then in violation of the Law and again could not have then saved anyone from sin. It comes back to the fact that "In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean" must be a spurious addition to the text and should be disregarded. This passage should no longer be used as a proof text regarding the abolition of the food laws.