• Sean Esposito

Christians should NOT eat Pork?? No way! - Part 2

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Sink for Washing hands

As I began to question what my Pastor and Professors had taught me regarding Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14, my studies lead me to reexamine Mark 7 and Romans 14. After all, these seemed like clear cut passages that taught that the dietary instructions in the Old Testament were no longer applicable in the eyes of believers today. What I would soon find out, is that this was a very erroneous and impossible conclusion—the dietary instructions could not and would never change until heaven and earth passed away and all is accomplished (Matthew 5:17-20).

Diving into Mark 7, first impressions can either be accepted and unquestioned, or they can be deliberately tested. The danger that every human faces when approaching scripture can be seen in the practice of proof-texting. Proof-texting occurs when one takes a specific portion or an even isolated verse out of context in order to understand or form a desired conclusion. Usually such conclusions are drawn to support a specific presupposition or point of view regarding a certain view of scripture. Mark 7 is an excellent example of how dangerous proof-texting can be in the life of all believers.

And [Jesus] said to them, "Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?" (Thus [Jesus] declared all foods clean.) Mark 7:18-19

Think about how easily our mind believes we understand this text. I mean, look how plainly it is written! Jesus declares all foods clean! When I first read this, especially after the instruction of my Pastor, and then my Professor, it was a "no-brainer". Jesus declared all foods to be clean. It does not matter what enters into a persons mouth—food does not make a person unclean. Simply put, we can eat whatever we want! Or so I first thought...

In the past, I closed the book with that understanding. It was so simple to make that mistake, BECAUSE I WANTED TO BELIEVE IT! It is so effortless to clasp on to what seems obvious especially when we want it to be true!

When I was finally honest with myself, I realized that I did not want to give up the foods I had thoroughly enjoyed my entire life. And to go even deeper, it was my human nature not to want to submit to any rules or instructions—even if they were God's. Isn't that the real truth? We as adults do not want to return to a world of submission—we left that life in our childhood. Us adults have matured past obedience into the life of the self-made man; a matured adult who thinks for themselves and makes their own decisions. We do not need someone to make decisions for us. We are smart enough to assess and make critical decisions on our own. We have reached an advanced stage of life past any form of submission to anyone—submission is for children! After all, we are the ones who have to endure our own consequences or have the opportunity to relish in our successes.

It's true. Adults do make their own decisions and choices. Hardly ever are we prevented from choosing to do whatever we want. This is no different than having our choice of foods be imposed upon. I did not want to give up calamari or bacon, so it was painless and even rewarding to accept what my first reaction told me: Jesus declared all foods clean and all animals free to eat at my own discretion. It wasn't until my desire to apply the very true words of Jesus in my life that I had to force myself to shake my human desire to be the ruler of my own life. Only then could I have eyes to see differently. A new perspective, a point-of-view striving to be taken from the seat of obedience. This was the key that allowed me to give Mark 7 a more critical look.

[Jesus] said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3-4

I wanted to humble myself as Jesus instructed me. So I took a closer look at Mark 7. With this new desire, it didn't take long to see the truth. Not only had I always been begging for Yehovah to reveal the whole truth, it became clear when I started from the beginning of the passage with the intention of finding something I may not have noticed the previous times I had read it.

Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they came from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches). Mark 7:1-4

This was the first time I truly truly understood the importance of context. Yes, we all know, "context is everything." But this time, I truly experienced it and felt it on a spiritual level. This is where I deeply learned that in order to understand every single passage of scripture, we must thoroughly and critically study every context.

We should all remember that the Bible defines itself. The words in the Bible are defined by itself. A word can mean one thing to one culture and another thing to another culture. However, when we utilize a specific source, the source defines the word. Otherwise we would misunderstand what the author intended on conveying.

Mark 7's context is found where one typically is: right in the beginning of the passage. Context proved that this scripture wasn't about specific animals or foods being the issue of making one unclean, but that it was about the washing of hands and if unclean hands made the food you were eating unclean (which would consequently make you unclean). Specifically, it was about Jesus' disciples being accused of not washing their hands according to the tradition of the elders. That is the key. The Pharisees were disturbed by Jesus and his disciples not following their man-made traditions! There is not one command in the Law of God that instructs Yehovah's people to ceremonially wash their hands before they eat in order to ensure that they do not defile themselves. But there sure is in the Talmud, the oral (now written down) law of the Pharisee's and Orthodox Jews. One can discern this without any outside sources from this very passage.

And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, "Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?" And [Jesus] said to them, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,

"'This people honors me with their lips,

but their heart is far from me;

in vain do they worship me,

teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'

You desert the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men." And [Jesus] said to them, "You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!" Mark 7:5-9

Discerning the context made this passage crystal clear: it was about the Pharisee's ceremonial tradition of washing hands before one ate! The context then pointed me to what Yeshua was actually trying to teach: abandon the traditions of men, and cling to the commandments of our Heavenly Father. In other words, I realized that this was a situation of Yeshua distinguishing between the importance of avoiding and abandoning traditions created by men (even if they were created with good intentions). It was another call to cling to the pure instructions of our Creator.

But what about Jesus declaring all foods clean later in the very same chapter??

Why would Yeshua say that all foods are declared clean if this passage was about the washing of hands? After I had discerned the context, this answer came more freely. In this passage, Yeshua continues to teach what truly defiles a person. I discerned that his goal was to teach his audience that they could walk away from this man-made tradition of ceremonially washing hands and cling to the truth! That what was on their hands was not what defiled them, but the things that came out from their hearts that could defile them.

And [Jesus] called the people to him again and said to them, "Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him."

And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, "Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?" (Thus he declared all foods clean). Mark 7:14-17

I thought to myself, "Jesus... What do you mean all foods are declared clean??" And then it hit me. First of all, Jesus never said that. Was the portion in parenthesis part of the words he literally said to his disciples? No. When you look closely, you will see that it is a note added by either the author of Mark, or by one of the scribes who copied his work, or by a translator of the original manuscripts. However, it is still solid scripture and is 100% accurate. So what could the author mean?? The key is right in the very sentence:

Thus he declared all foods clean.

It was as if Yeshua revealed the truth to me through my spirit— FOOD!!! He is talking about FOOD! Not animals. Food! The context wasn't even about making certain animals clean for food that were once unclean. The context was about eating with unwashed hands. The author understood that Yeshua was declaring all food clean—even when eaten with unwashed hands! The FOOD is clean! FOOD is not unclean and cannot be made unclean by unwashed hands! What Yehovah has declared as food is already considered clean!

I keep repeating food for an important reason. Yehovah reminded me that He had already declared what was to be considered food and what was not to be considered food. Yeshua—just as well as the author of Mark, their audience, and every audience after that took the time to read this very scripture—would or should know what the definition of FOOD is according to our Creator! In the biblical context, and in the context of believers who place their trust in the Holy Scriptures, one should recognize that Yehovah had already given us a definition of "food". You can find the definition of what Yehovah declared "food" clearly illustrated in the Bible; right in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14—right in the front of the Book! For instance, our Creator commands believers not to eat pork and shellfish because they are not food and are to be considered unclean to you. Beef and chicken are examples of what our Creator deems food and are to be considered clean to you. Yeshua is not and would not be disobedient to his father. He would not speak against, alter, or change what his father had already commanded food was for His people. In the case of Mark 7, Yeshua DECLARES ALL FOOD CLEAN! He does not change what is to be considered food: pork is still unclean and not food. Beef is still food and clean. Yeshua taught that the man-made practice of ceremonially washing hands was to be forsaken, and that clean food is declared still clean.

We should all remember that the Bible defines itself. The words in the Bible are defined by itself. A word can mean one thing to one culture and another thing to another culture. However, when we utilize a specific source, the source defines the word. Otherwise we would misunderstand what the author intended on conveying.

Yehovah's definition of Food is not the same as many cultures today. Just as some countries consider dog, cat, rat, as food, the Western culture typically does not. They would not call it food, but more likely pet. It is the same as some in our culture that consider rabbit, snake, and squirrel as food, when a majority does not. Simply put, if the Bible has a definition for food—a certain declared perception of what that word means to it as the source—we have to accept that declaration as the definition throughout the text. There can only be an exception to this if the author or authors clearly redefine and declare a change to the definition. And when there is a change, there should follow a direct, clear, and precise declaration of the change. In other words, there would be no debate that the change was made; it would be blatantly obvious. Especially since we know that Yehovah is not an author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33).

This means Mark 7 is speaking of "food", just as the English translations accurately translate from the Greek manuscripts. All Foods are declared clean. There is no detail in this text that there was a change to what was considered food. Chicken is still considered food and pork is still not considered to be food—it is unclean. In Yeshua's eyes, as well as his believing audience, Yehovah declares what is considered food. And they all knew that He already had, which was recorded in the only scriptures that were available to every audience member of this time: the Tanakh (Old Testament). This makes even more sense when one takes a closer look at Peter's reaction in Acts 10.

This realization was groundbreaking. My perspective of Mark 7 was transformed by a more accurate understanding of the context, the Bible's definition of "food", and the clear message that Yeshua was striving to convey to his audience. The details of the text make more logical sense when seen in the light of an accurate context.

  • If Yeshua was teaching something new, wouldn't he be breaking the Torah (God's Law) and thus sinning against Yehovah (Deuteronomy 13)?

  • Nothing can be added or taken away from the Torah, right (Deuteronomy 12:32)?

  • If Yeshua was making a change, wouldn't it be substantially more clear? Subtlety when changing something rarely occurs.He would be changing the very definition of what his Father declared to be "food". Does that sound like obedience? Where is the clear-cut blatantly obvious new definition or proclaimed changes?

  • Wouldn't there be a debate about this? Wouldn't it be questioned? Yet, there is no debate regarding a change to the definition of "food" in scripture.

Question after question could be asked as to why this major detail would be only slightly mentioned if it was in fact Yeshua's intention to declare all animals clean for food. The detail is so minor that it is not even mentioned in the identical account found in Matthew 15. The author of Matthew did not say anything or even something close to "Thus declaring all foods clean". Again, its is not even mentioned. That is why it is extremely dangerous to insert such an idea into the text. Yeshua and the author were as clear as they needed to be, which included the details and their own conclusion in the lesson:

(Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, "What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person. Mark 7:19c-23

What was Yeshua truly teaching? That out of the heart of man come evil thoughts that defile a person, not the what enters them when they eat with unwashed hands. Food remains what Yehovah clearly defined in the Tanakh. There is no change and it even blasphemous to change the very words of our Heavenly Father.

Thankfully, I did not have much of an ego or stake in the game to begin with. I could easily accept that I was wrong about this passage. That I had made a mistake. Remember, I was practically a new believer striving to understand the truth of scripture. I hadn't lived my life with this understanding—I had been an Atheist most of my life. I hadn't taught many others that this was what scripture declared—that all animals were now clean for food and that Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 were old news and incorrect in the life of believers today. I hadn't yet preached this to my congregation, or taught it to my students, or even taught my children that we could eat whatever we liked. In other words, I had not taught many people against the word of Yehovah (Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14). I wasn't deeply invested in this stance. Thankfully, that helped me shake it off and reject it rather quickly, but that left much much more that I had learned to critically test.

This perspective made the most sense to me. In fact, the idea that the Old Testament was just as relevant and in agreement with the New Testament made scripture even more powerful and "God-like". It destroyed the contradictions that most biblical teachers strive to mend. It cleared up every contradiction that new and seasoned believers struggled with. It connected scripture and made it whole.

In the past, I had seen the scriptures to show a God that changed. At this point, I had caught a glimpse of a Creator that never changed. One that was solid and above the fallible human qualities that are seen in our struggles and mistakes. A Creator that didn't change? One that did not take back what he said, but only supported and clarified it even more? A Father that gave perfect and sound instruction the very first time? Now that is powerful. That makes more sense!

Testing the understanding of Clean and Unclean foods in the lives of believers today started in Mark 7. My understanding had only just begun.

Stick around as we take a look into the other passages that seem to contradict Yehovah's perfect instructions (his Law). Our ministry will take a deeper look at Mark 7, Matthew 15, Romans 14, 1 Timothy 4:1-4, Acts 10, and other passages that give us a better understanding of what our Creator is truly striving to communicate to those who desperately want to know the truth. May we all continue to strive to be obedient children before the Most High! Shalom!

Sean Preaching

Sean is a former Atheist who was finally awoken to the reality of our Creator—which lead him to the one place he thought he would never step foot: “Bible College.” During his studies, our Heavenly Father flipped his Christian worldview upside down in order to reveal the Whole truth of His perfect Word. As a follower of Messiah Yeshua (Christ Jesus), Sean encourages believers to deepen their faith, seek the truth, test everything, and be willing to walk in the true image they were created: the image of the Most High and his flawless son.

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