Should Christians Follow Biblical Dietary Laws
Here are some of the Clean and Unclean Meats
Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14
Creatures that are Clean and may be eaten
Animals that part the hoof, cloven footed and chews the cud namely:
Cow, Deer, Lamb, Caribou, Buffalo, Elk, Goat, Moose. Fish that have fins and scales namely: Bass, Bluefish, Crappie, Perch,
Pike, Salmon, Sunfish, Trout. Birds that are clean namely: Chicken, Turkey, Pheasant, Grouse, Quail. Clean creeping animals
namely: Locusts, Cricket, Grasshopper
Creatures that are not clean and may not be eaten
Animals that do not do all of these: part the hoof, cloven footed and chews cud namely: Pig (pork), Rabbit, Raccoon, Squirrel,
Monkey, Dog, Coyote, Fox, Wolf, Lion, Tiger, Horse, Mule, Zebra, Bear, Camel, Elephant, Llama, Hippo, Kangaroo
Water creatures that do not have fins and scales: Catfish, Eel, Marlin, Shark, Abalone, Clam, Crab, Crayfish, Lobster, Oyster,
Shrimp, Jellyfish, Squid, Dolphin, Seal, Whale
Unclean Birds: Bat, Eagle, Osprey, Raven, Duck, Swan, Vulture
Unclean creeping animals: Frog, Toad, Crocodile, Lizard, Snake, Turtle, Salamander, Newt, Snail
Let us look at some of the objections to Gentile Christians being kosher.
Objection: The revelation to Peter “What God has cleansed you cannot call common” is an indication that all the unclean creatures in the world have now been cleansed by God and can be eaten in the New Testament time.
Answer: The main purpose of God’s revelation to Peter is not for him to eat the meat of any creature on earth. If it were so then after seeing the vision Peter would have started looking for unclean foods to eat. We need to interpret God’s intention correctly. When Jesus talked about eating His flesh and drinking His blood He did not mean it literarily (Jn. 6:63). The vision that Peter saw had a spiritual teaching. “While Peter thought about the vision the Spirit said to him, ‘Behold three men are seeking you. Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them.” (Acts 10:19-20) God had guided Peter and showed him the true meaning of the vision. It had nothing to do with the physical eating of unclean foods at all. The unclean creatures in Peter’s vision symbolized the Gentiles that God was going to cleanse. Peter understood its spiritual meaning and said to Cornelius, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.”(Acts 10:28-36). This clearly explains what the voice in the vision said, "What God has cleansed you must not call common."(Acts 10:15)
Objection : Our Lord Jesus Christ said, "There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile the man.” (Mk. 7:15) So Christians cannot be defiled by eating whatever meat they want.
Answer : In order to correctly understand this text, we must carefully examine the context of the passage. Mark 7:1, 2 indicate there was a contention between the Pharisees and certain of Jesus' disciples because the disciples did not go through the ceremonial washing of hands before they ate. The Jews in the time of Christ had added significantly to the commandments of God by instituting all kinds of ritualistic washings and ceremonies that had to be performed before a person ate. Jesus' disciples did not perform these ceremonies. According to Jewish law, what they ate was therefore unclean.
Please note that this discussion has nothing to do with clean and unclean animals as described in Leviticus 11, but instead is talking about the ceremonial washing of hands that made foods clean ceremonially. God never commanded His people to do this; it was a Jewish tradition. Mark 7:3- 5 continues with an explanation of the charge of the Jewish leaders against the disciples of Jesus. Mark 7:6- 13 contains Jesus' tremendous denunciation upon the Pharisees because they had rejected the commandment of God and yet were so meticulous about their own traditions. Verse 8 in particular notes that the tradition Jesus is speaking about is ceremonial washings. Jesus categorically states that if people worship by these traditions instead of the commandments of God, they are worshiping God in vain.
Finally, in verses 15- 20 Jesus specifically addresses the issue of the food that they eat being unclean because it did not go through the ceremonial washings. In Mark 7:19 Jesus declares He has purged all meats. The word translated "meats" is the Greek word bromata, which means "food." It does not refer to flesh food; it simply refers to any kind of food. Again, remember the context. The charge was that the disciples had eaten without going through the ceremonial washing of hands that the Jews required. Therefore, to the Jewish Pharisaical mind the food that they ate was thereby unclean. Jesus now categorically declares that whether they have gone through these elaborate washings or not does not affect the food. It does not make the food unclean, because food simply goes into the system and is excreted. As Jesus says in verse 15, it cannot defile people or make them unclean simply because they did not go through these ritualistic washings.
Jesus was here declaring that ceremonial washings have nothing to do with food being either clean or unclean. This text has absolutely nothing to do with the clean and unclean animals of Leviticus 11. The issue is clearly whether or not Jesus requires His followers to practice the ritualistic washings of the Jews before they eat. He is answering the charge that the disciples are ceremonially unclean because they did not follow these ritualistic washings. Therefore Jesus declares that the ritualistic washings do not affect whether a person is clean or unclean, or whether his food is clean or unclean. The context, then, deals not with biological uncleanness, but with uncleanness supposedly incurred from the omission of ritual washings. See verse 15. The kind of food the disciples ate (verse 2 and 5) is not even referred to, but the way in which they ate it! Throughout, Christ is dealing with the commandments of God versus the traditions of men. To make this verse refer to the clean and unclean animals of Leviticus 11 is to ignore completely the meaning of the Greek and the context of the passage.
Objection: “For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.”(1 Tim. 4:4-5) Does this not indicate we can eat any meat we want including pork chops, sausages, bacon and ham sandwiches as long as we pray and ask God to sanctify them?
Answer: If we interpret these two verses without qualification or limitation then it becomes fatal disaster. If we follow this instruction to the extreme - “For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused” then we should also eat rattlesnakes, skunks, lizards, flies and mosquitoes as long as we pray and ask God to sanctify them. After eating these creatures you don’t have a prayer! Where do we draw the line of what the people of God can and cannot eat? This is where God steps in and tells us exactly what His people should eat and should not eat. In Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 we can find God’s guideline for healthful living.
What Paul was writing to Timothy is not to eat any creature or food that defiles the body just as he had written to the Corinthian church. “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own.” (1 Cor. 6:19) “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.” (1 Cor. 3:16-17) What kind of food defiles the believer’s body that God will destroy? “You shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creeps; nor shall you make yourselves unclean with them, lest you be defiled by them. For I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth. . . to distinguish between the unclean and the clean, and between the animal that may be eaten and the animal that may not be eaten.” (Lev. 11:43-47) Do you ever wonder why so many Spirit-filled Christians still get sick and die? It is because they defile the temple of God that is their own bodies by eating a lot of unclean food.
Objection : The dietary laws described in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 is a part of the laws of Moses that have been abolished and already nailed to the cross when Jesus Christ was crucified. We do not have to keep them.
Answer: Many believers do not know that clean and unclean creatures were revealed to Noah, which is at least a thousand years before God gave the dietary laws to the children of Israel (Gen. 7:2-8). Just like the Seventh Day Sabbath was given to mankind during the time of Creation and we observe it not because of the law but according to grace, therefore we also abstain from unclean meats for the same reason. Another truth is that the dietary laws were given not only because God wanted to sanctify His people unto Himself but also for health purposes as well. They had been living in Egypt for centuries and had learned to live like the Egyptians who ate almost anything and had all kinds of sicknesses and diseases. Moses spoke to them, “If you diligently heed the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the LORD who heals you.” (Ex.15:26) The dietary laws that were given to the children of Israel as recorded in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 are, what in modern terms, called good nutrition or preventive medicine. In other words what God is saying is this, “If you keep My dietary laws on clean and unclean meat you will not get the kinds of sicknesses and diseases like what the Egyptians were getting. Many pious, Spirit-filled Gentile Christians get sick and cannot understand the reason why they remain so. Is it possible that they are ignorant of the dietary laws and have not been eating right? God is saying to them, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I will reject you from being a priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children.” (Hos. 4:6)
Our Lord Jesus Christ did not nail the dietary laws to the cross. The apostle Paul wrote, “having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” (Col. 2:14) How can any law or rule that makes us free from sicknesses and diseases be “against us” and “contrary to us”? No, the dietary laws were not nailed to the cross, only the ordinances that pertain to the curses and the priestly sacrificial system were nailed to the cross (Eph. 2:15; Gal. 3:13; Heb. 9:9-10). Our Lord Jesus Christ could not have abolished the very laws that He had observed all His earthly life in order to qualify Himself as the sin-bearer and perfect sacrifice for mankind. Jesus was the unblemished Lamb of God that took away our sin. He had to be absolutely sinless and 100% healthy. Our Lord Jesus Christ had never been sick all His entire life on earth because He had never defiled His own body and had never tasted even one bit of unclean meat. Should we not also follow His example? (1 Pet. 2:21-24)
Objection: No one can be justified by keeping the dietary laws so why do Gentile Christians have to restrict themselves by observing those dietary laws?
Answer: When God created this universe He gave some universal laws that cannot be broken. One of them is the law of gravity that is a physical law. Our Lord Jesus Christ declared that defying the law of gravity is tantamount to tempting God (Mt. 4:5-7). There are moral laws that relate to disobedience to God’s commands. The first sin in the world that the first man and first woman committed is related to eating. Eating the forbidden fruit had caused suffering, pain, sickness and death to mankind. The dietary laws were given by God not to harm or place obstacles in our pathway of salvation but to help and ensure our having healthy lives. Failure to keep the dietary laws endangers our health and our careless eating habit is, in a way, tempting God.
It is true that we are not justified by keeping the dietary laws, and the Holy Bible does not state that failure to keep them will prevent us from going to heaven. In fact a Christian nutritionist once said with tongue-in-cheek: “Failure to keep the dietary laws will even take us to heaven sooner than we think.” The Bible states that the saved ones first go to Paradise when they die and only go to heaven when the Lord returns to take them there.
Objection: In many countries pork, lobster, shrimp and other foods considered “unclean” are actually staple diets and even considered as delicacies. It is very difficult and almost impossible for Gentile Christians in our churches who have been eating those kinds of foods all their lives to give them up completely.
Answer: There is an actual example in the Holy Bible in which God’s people could have eaten royal and luxurious foods but they chose not to do so. “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. . . . So Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, ‘Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our countenances be examined before you, and the countenances of the young men who eat the portion of the king’s delicacies, and as you see fit, so deal with your servants.’ So he consented with them in this matter, and tested them ten days. And at the end of ten days their countenance appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king’s delicacies.” (Dan. 1:8-15) If we have to give up some delicacies that would improve our health we should do so.
Objection: The Holy Bible states, “For the Kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). We can still go to heaven without abstention from eating pork and other “unclean meats”, so why should we bother to change our eating habits?
Answer: The apostle Paul exhorted the Roman Christians to have tolerance towards one another concerning the issue of clean and unclean meats. Here is what he wrote: “I know I am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything unclean, to him it is unclean. Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; for the Kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men. Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.” (Rom. 14:14-19)