Lie — Jesus said it's okay to eat unclean meats

The Story

The prohibition against so-called unclean meats was meant only for Jews, and was intended as a sign to set them apart as the chosen people.

It doesn't apply to anyone else, certainly not to Christians, nor to any Jew that has converted to Christianity.

A look at scripture quickly confirms this:

Historical Facts

When people refer to the Israelites of the Old Testament as Jews, they demonstrate their own biblical illiteracy. In the Old Testament, the Jews were only one of the tribes of Israel. In fact, the first time the word Jews is used in the Bible, 2Kings 16:5-6, the Jews are warring against the rest of Israel.

It was to Israel, which at the time included Jews (the tribe of Judah), that God is said to have delivered the commandments through Moses, who was a Levite, not a Jew.

In the New Testament, the term Jew includes the remnant of the nearly destroyed tribe of Benjamin, and those Levites that weren't taken into captivity by the Assyrians. The other ten tribes were still known during the time of Jesus (e.g. the historian Josephus wrote about them, and Luke 2:36 mentions them), but are lost to modern mainstream historians. (It's interesting to note that unclean meat such as pork and eels have traditionally been avoided by the Scots, who are descended from the Celts that migrated to Scotland from eastern Europe.)

Muslims too refrain from eating pork and some other foods, but it's interesting to note the difference in meaning between halal and kosher. The Bible uses words that mean clean or pure, while the Quran uses words that mean allowed or lawful. Similarly, for meat that isn't eaten, the Bible uses unclean, defiled, or polluted, while the Quran uses forbidden or unlawful. That is, it is Allah's law whether Muslims are allowed to eat certain food, whereas in the Bible it is an intrinsic property of the food itself that determines edibility.

The Bible

While it's true that the Bible does contain some rules that were intended strictly for Israel (e.g. how to run their secular society), most are intended for all mankind. In particular, when it says that God considers something an abomination it means just that, not that it is wrong for one specific group of people.

God's commandments existed long before Moses delivered them to the people of Israel. Many hundreds of years earlier, Abraham was known as a man of faith who obeyed God's laws.

And going all the way back to the flood, while Noah was told to take one pair of each kind of animal aboard the ark, he was also told to take seven pairs of each clean animal. Noah was the ancestor of all mankind, and if he was instructed in the laws of clean and unclean meat, then those laws are for all of us, even today.

The four biblical verses often quoted as proving that Christians may eat pork are usually only referred to, are seldom actually quoted, and are almost never given in context. Let's consider them individually:

Mark 7:19

Jesus made this statement in response to criticism that he and his disciples sometimes ate without first ceremonially washing their hands. (This ceremonial washing was required by the Pharisees (morality police), not by the Bible.) He was pointing out that it is things that we permanently take into our hearts that hurt us, not minor dirt that simply passes through.

Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?

The word translated as meats is actually from the Greek word for food, not necessarily animal flesh. The above quoted King James Version is the most literal translation of the Bible. Some more modern translations say it quite differently though:

RSV - since it enters, not his heart but his stomach, and so passes on?" (Thus he declared all foods clean.)
NIV - 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.)
NLT - Food doesn't go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.” (By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.)

These samples of modern translations blatantly add this parenthetical comment, even though nothing like it appears in the original Greek scriptures. How four simple Greek words referring to a bowel movement can be translated to (By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.) is incomprehensible.

That modern translators would add such comments as if they were Biblical truth is amazing. That it is then used by other less educated people to determine not only their own lifestyles, but that of others, is truly unfortunate.

Acts 10:11-15

Like the other apostles, Peter had been travelling and teaching Christianity to as many people as he could, but he spoke mostly in Synagogues and only to other Jews. Then God sent him a vision:

And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.

Verse 17 says that Peter didn't understand what this vision meant. The next day, a Roman soldier that wanted to become a Christian prostrated himself before Peter and treated Peter as if he were a god. Peter rejected this inappropriate behaviour, saying Stand up; I myself also am a man. In stating his equality with the Roman, Peter realized what the vision meant. Until that point he had taught Christianity to Jews only, and had (according to the rules of the Pharisees) avoided Gentiles as being unfit to receive the Word. Verse 28 shows his understanding: God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.

The vision confirms Peter's belief that God created clean and unclean creatures. but Peter realizes that treating other human beings as unclean is obeying the rules of man, not of God. The animals in the vision were used as an allegory, to show that unlike clean and unclean animals there is no such inherent difference between people. The message was all about the spread of Christianity to Gentiles, and nothing at all to do with dietary law.

Had this vision actually been a revelation that certain animals were no longer unclean, surely it would not have ended with Peter still refusing to eat them.

And Peter's declaration I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean should put to rest any suspicion that Mark 7:19 means that Jesus declared all foods clean. Peter was a disciple and close friend of Jesus, and would have known what Jesus thought about the issue. If Jesus or any of his disciples ever eaten unclean meat, the Pharisees would have mercilessly attacked them for violating God's law itself, not contented themselves with complaining about violations of their own minor hand-washing rules.

Colossians 2:14

KJV - Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
NLT - He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.

People continually take this verse as meaning something it doesn't.

Even today, if someone is convicted of a crime and later receives a pardon, the penalty is considered to have been paid in full, without any further legal obligation for the original crime. The person is free to continue living as if the crime had never happened. That is exactly what is meant here. By paying the penalty for our past sins, Jesus made it as if they had never happened.

But pardoning an individual for having violated a law doesn't in any way mean that the law itself no longer exists. It doesn't mean it in the legal system; it doesn't mean it in Christian theology. Whatever law was originally broken remains the law.

1 Timothy 4:1-5

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

Paul is warning about ministers that will claim to be Christian but who will change doctrines from the original faith, incorporating practices of other religions into what they continue to call Christianity. He lists some of the things they will do, such as forbidding people to marry and forbidding them from eating certain foods.

In this case, he is specifically warning about ideas that come from Asceticism, a Greek religion that believed in abstaining from sex and meat. The meats which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving are the very definition of clean meats, not of all meats.

This is similar to the warning in Colossians 2:16-17, where Ascetics were looking down on Christians for what they saw as immoral behaviour: eating meat and celebrating Biblical holidays and feasts. Paul wanted Christians to know that such things were okay; just because someone appears to be more pious it doesn't mean that their beliefs are correct.

Why

The Roman Church's growth was due to converting people of other religions. This was frequently done by allowing those people to continue the practices and traditions of their old religions, but in the spirit of Christianity, which for the most part meant simply changing the names of their gods to those of Jesus, Mary, or other saints.

There is no way they would have been so successful if the converts had had to give up their favourite foods, so the Biblical doctrines of clean and unclean meat had to go.

During the Reformation, many Protestant churches formed in order to get away from Rome's unbiblical doctrine and practice and to get back to the original teachings of the Bible. Even though many of the reformers came to realize the truth about clean meat (and about the Sabbath), they also thought that promoting such corrections in doctrine would destroy their chances of success. Martin Luther in particular, as a rabid anti-Semite, was forced to reject any changes that would have left him open to being accused of being Jewish.