Meat - clean vs unclean

Doesn't the New Testament do away with the clean/unclean thing?

What about the Bible verses saying we can eat everything like Peter's vision, Jesus saying it's not what you eat that defiles you, or Paul talking about not judging?

1) "Every moving thing" Genesis 9:3 - Learning Bible language.

First of all, even the old testament used wording that can be confusing to us now. Example: What about 'every moving thing'? "Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things." Genesis 9:3, KJ21.  Let's answer that with another question: Can we eat all green herbs?  What about poison oak or poison ivy? Tomato leaves?  There are hundreds of poisonous plants, and even some animals, that we would never eat.  Likewise here God is simply reaffirming they have permission to eat animals that are living – living being the key word.  Up until now, for hundreds of generations, none of God's people ate meat and God was pointing out they had to KILL the animal to eat it.  They could not eat a dead animal they found.  Again, we know how fast meat decays, but the people who had never eaten needed to be taught. We see it clarified here: "That which dieth of itself, or is torn [with beasts], he shall not eat to defile himself therewith: I [am] the LORD." Leviticus 22:8, KJV.

 It was already clear the distinction between clean and unclean meat, because they had lived on the ark with all the animals separated by 7's and 2's so it was not repeated here. How could they eat an unclean animal and there still be any left if there were only two?  The entire Jewish nation understood that God did not want them to eat 'everything'. Jesus even reinforced this when his said, "You strain the gnat but swallow the camel." He used unclean meat to reinforce their own hypocrisy, but never dispelled the issue of eating the camel. Besides, if literally all "moving things", are meat for us, are not men and women living things? I'm sure you wouldn't eat your neighbor! We must interpret scripture with scripture (Isaiah 28:9-10). We must understand all the context of a Bible verse and not pull one or two text out of context. We can grossly misunderstand the Bible by not prayerful asking God to interpret it for us. The Bible was written over 2000 years ago to a VERY specific culture BY a very specific culture. We can't read it now with our limited and varied understandings. This is precisely why there are 10,000's of different sects of religions who all claim to believe the Bible. Because we allow our own ideas to interpret the words on the page rather than understanding who the author was and who they were writing to. We must use common sense and prayer to gain a knowledge of truth.


2) What about food can't defile the body - Mark 7:18 & Matthew 15:11?

"Don't you understand either?" he asked. "Can't you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you?" Mark 7:18, NLT and Matthew 15:11, "Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out." How do you explain this? Here Jesus was using the example of food in terms of reaching out to others.  The people he was talking with were very concerned about being around 'uncouth' people like they would get defiled by being near them.  This was not about eating but about people. Jesus OFTEN spoke in parables and metaphors. "For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink." John 6:55, NLT. "

If Jesus had intended to do away with the law of unclean meats, His listeners could not have missed the point. If He had made a statement that all foods are now clean, it would have created one of the biggest controversies of His ministry. Did His listeners understand Jesus to he abrogating the Old Testament dietary laws? There were Pharisees present when Jesus made the statement. How would we expect them to respond if Jesus had plainly said that swine's flesh was good for food? There is not a hint in the account that they understood Jesus that way. If they had, they would not have needed to hire false witnesses against Jesus at His trial (Matthew 26:59-60, Mark 14:56-57). They could have simply charged Him with speaking against Moses and the Law. But no such charge was ever made!

The subject in Matthew 15:1-20 is eating without first washing the hands (verse 2). The focus is not eating, but washing. The scribes taught that eating any food without a special ceremonial washing defiled the eater. Jesus said the ceremonial washings were meaningless. In verse 19, He listed certain evils - murders, adulteries, thefts, etc. Then He concluded, "These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man" (verse 20).


3) "What about "Whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake" in 1 Corinthians 10:27?"

1 Corinthians 10:25-29 says that "anything that is sold in the market eat, and ask no questions for conscience sake. If an unbeliever invites you [for dinner] and you consent to go, eat whatever is put before you and ask no questions for conscience sake [but, of course, you can ask questions for health sake, and many already do: low sodium diets, fat-free diets, allergies etc.]. But if anyone tells you, 'This food has been offered in sacrifice', abstain from eating it for the sake of him who warned you, and for conscience sake - I mean his conscience, not your own". The point this passage is making is that it is best to courteously warn your host ahead of time as to your food preferences.
Besides, the above passages are in reference only to meats "offered in sacrifice" (1 Corinthians 10:28). Only clean animals were offered in sacrifices, never unclean animals. In the sacrifices, usually only a part of the animal was consumed. The rest was given to the priest or sold again in the market. Anyone might therefore unknowingly purchase meats offered to idols, and Paul was saying that it was okay to eat meat that was offered in sacrifice.

Remember that the apostle Paul was writing to Christians whose sole "Scripture" was what we term the Old Testament! His teaching to the Corinthian Church was founded on the writings of the Old Testament. They were thoroughly familiar with the division of food into "clean and unclean"! As Paul wrote to Timothy: "Cling to the truths that you have learned and of which you are convinced, knowing who your teachers were, and that from infancy you have known the sacred writings which are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is profitable for instruction in righteousness:" (2 Timothy 3:14-17). With their respect for the Old Testament, it would take some convincing that Paul was telling them to flaunt God's Laws! Especially in view of Jesus' attitude to God's Law - "I have not come to destroy [abolish] the Law" (Matthew 5:17).

4) 1 Timothy 4:4 says, "Every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused." Can you explain this?

This Scripture passage refers to meats "which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving" (verse 3). Therefore, it may be presumed that He created things which were not to be received as food. These meats, as we have already discovered, are the meats listed in Leviticus chapter 11 and Deuteronomy chapter 14. Verse 4 makes it clear that all creatures of God are good and not to be refused, provided that they are among those created to "be received with thanksgiving" (the clean animals).

Verse 5 tells the reason why these animals are acceptable foods: because they are "sanctified [set apart] by the word of God." Where in the Bible are foods "set apart" for consumption? In Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. Paul did not say that everything created by God was good for food without qualification. This verse also says it is sanctified by a "prayer" of blessing, which is offered before the meal. Please note, however, that God will destroy people who try to "sanctify themselves" while eating unclean foods (Isaiah 66:17).


5) Some people claim that to abstain from certain meats is a "doctrine of demons". Is this true?

There is one reference to this subject in Paul's letters. It is his warning to Timothy (I Timothy 4:1-5), he said, "Many shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons." One of these "doctrines of demons" is "commanding to abstain from meats, which God has created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth." What, precisely, does this mean? Well, it is important to note that this is not merely a discussion of eating meat. The term, "meat" does not mean animal flesh, but food in general. The Greek word is broma, which means "food". Upon taking a closer look, this cannot refer to a command not to eat the "unclean meats" of Leviticus 11. If it did, it would be tantamount to calling Leviticus 11 a doctrine of demons! And as we all know, Leviticus 11 is a doctrine of God.


6) Romans 14:3,14,20 says: "Let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth." "There is nothing unclean of itself." "All things indeed are pure." Can you explain this?

Verses 3-6 are a discussion of those who eat certain things versus those who do not. The passage does not say either is right, but rather counsels that neither pass judgment on the other. Instead, let God be the Judge (verses 4,10-12). Verses 14 and 20 refer to foods that were first offered to idols (and were thus ceremonially unclean) - not to the clean and unclean meats of Leviticus chapter 11. (Read 1 Corinthians 8:1,4,10,13). The point of this discussion is that no food is "unclean" or "impure" just because it has first been offered to idols, because an idol is "nothing in the world" (1 Corinthians 8:4). But if a person's conscience bothers him for eating such food, he should leave it alone. Or even if it merely offends a brother, he should likewise abstain. Compare the similarity of Romans 14:15 with 1 Corinthians 8:11. Also, compare the use of the term "weak" in Romans 14:1-2 with 1 Corinthians 8:7-12. If you read Acts 15:29; 21:25, you will see it confirms all the above.


7) What about Peter's vision?

But didn't God cleanse all animals in Peter's vision, as recorded in Acts 10? No! In fact, the subject of this vision is not animals, but people. God gave Peter this vision to show him that the Gentiles were not unclean, as the Jews believed. God had instructed Cornelius, a Gentile, to send men to visit Peter. But Peter would have refused to see them if God had not given him this vision, because Jewish law forbade entertaining Gentiles (verse 28). But when the men finally did arrive, Peter welcomed them, explaining that ordinarily he would not have done so, but "God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean" (verse 28). In the next chapter (Acts 11), the church members criticized Peter for speaking with these Gentiles. So Peter told them the whole story of his vision and its meaning. And Acts 11:18 says, "When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life." So, Peter interprets this vision as pertaining to Gentiles, not animals.

Peter understood this vision because the comment from the Holy Spirit in Acts 10:19-20 allowed Peter to finally interpret what his vision meant. Remember, this is a vision, a dream, and a dream does not have to be literally true in order for it to be understood. For example, look at Genesis 37:5-10. When Joseph dreamed that his "sheaf arose, and stood upright", and his brother's sheaves bowed down to Joseph's' sheaf (verse 7), did his brothers sheaves literally have to bow down to Joseph's' sheaf before they understood that the sheaves were symbolic of his brothers? No, of course not. When Joseph dreamed that "the sun and the moon and the eleven stars" bowed down to Joseph (verse 9), did the sun, moon, and stars literally have to bow down to Joseph before they understood that his symbols applied to his mother, father, and brothers? No, of course not. So why would the unclean meats have to be made literally clean before Peter understood these beasts were symbolic of the Gentiles?

Still a little confused about this chapter. Here's a breakdown of Acts 10, verse by verse. Acts 10:1-2: Cornelius was a Gentile, but a devout man. He feared God, prayed to God, and wished to know more about God. What this means is that the Holy Spirit called Cornelius to reverence God, because no man can come to God unless the Holy Spirit draws him to God (John 6:44).

Verses 3-6: shows that Cornelius' desire to be shown the way to salvation was met. God sent him a vision of an angel to instruct him as to whom he should seek to be taught these things: Peter! At this time, Peter would not teach, or have anything to do with, a Gentile. Peter looked on Gentiles as unclean because they didn't keep the clean food laws, making themselves unclean, abominable, and defiled (Lev.11:43). Gentiles were considered as dogs or swine, because they ate all manner of unclean beasts.
But remember, Cornelius was not one who broke God's Laws. Verse 2 says he was striving to reverence God. Peter was brought up in the Laws of God, and he knew and kept the Dietary Laws of the clean and unclean meats. The angel instructed Cornelius to go to Peter for instruction and knowledge.
Verses 11-14: is the vision. Notice in verse 14 that Peter himself states that he has never eaten anything unclean. This was some 10-20 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus taught Peter to eat unclean meats, why had Peter not eaten it?
Verse 15: is still part of the vision, and says, "Do not call anything unclean that God has made clean." But just what does this vision mean? The vision contained all manner of unclean beasts. Did Peter jump up and down and shout for joy that he could now eat all these cleansed animals?
Verse 17: has Peter still wondering what this vision meant. Peter had no idea what his vision meant at this point. (Some people think they know what this vision means, but let's have Peter tell us, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit...)
Verse 19-20: While Peter wondered about this vision, the Holy Spirit said to him, "three men seek thee." These three men were the men Cornelius sent to find Peter (verse 8). This comment from the Holy Spirit allowed Peter to finally interpret what his vision meant. We are told the interpretation of this dream. It is made clear in Acts 10:28.
Verse 22: Notice Cornelius is a "just man" and had a good report among the Jews. Anyone living contrary to all or any one of God's Laws, including the Dietary Laws of the clean and unclean beasts, would not have any good report with any Jew.
Verse 27: Many had come together to hear what Peter had to tell them.
Verse 28: We are told what Peter's vision actually meant, "...God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean." This verifies that it was considered unlawful for a Jew, even one who accepted Jesus as the Messiah and Saviour, to keep company with a Gentile, no matter how observant that Gentile was of God's Laws. The vision was not to show Peter that all beasts are now clean, but to show that any man, no matter what race or color or nationality he might be, when he turns to Jesus and becomes clean, he is no longer to be considered common or unclean.
Verses 34-35: Again, Peter explains what is commanded thee of God in verse 33. "But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him." Again, confirming that no man is unclean who believes in God.
Verse 48: Peter then "commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord". Before this time, repentance was considered to have only been given to the Jews. Afterwards, it was accepted that God had granted repentance to the Gentile nations as well.

In the next chapter (Acts 11), the church members disputed and criticized Peter for speaking with these Gentiles. So Peter told them the whole story of his vision and its meaning. Acts 11:18 repeats the biblical interpretation of this vision. It says, "When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life." This vision made Gentiles clean, it did not make the unclean beasts clean. AGAIN, we must let scripture interpret scripture using prayer and common sense.

More on meat - clean and/or avoiding it all together, like the Eden diet and Daniel, click here.