Unclean Animals and Food
Examined from a Biblical Perspective


"Do not think that I came to pull down the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to pull them down but to fulfill. Truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, there is no way one letter or one dot will pass from the law until all is implemented.

"Thus whoever removes one of these commandments in the least, and teaches men so, he shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that if your righteousness does not exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, there is no way you will enter into the kingdom of heaven."
Matthew 5:17 to 20




'For I am Jehovah who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.

'This is the law of the beasts and the birds and every living soul that moves in the waters, and of every living soul 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.' "
Leviticus 11:45 to 47



Contents


Food and Unclean Creatures 1

God's Declaration of Clean and Unclean Animals 1
Fat and Blood Forbidden 3
God's Laws are for our Good Always 4
Clean and Unclean Laws go way Back to Abel 4

Clean and Unclean Animals in the New Covenant 5

Unclean Animals During the Great Tribulation 6
Eating Unclean Animals Can Lead to Death 7
Jesus Came to Establish God's Law 8
The Order of Melchizedek 11
Scriptures Misused to "Abolish" God's Food Laws 11
Mark 7 - Unwashed Hands 11
Acts 10 - Peter's Vision 14
Romans 14:14 - Defiled Food 15
1 Timothy 4:4 - Forbidding Clean Meats 18
Conclusion 19


Food and Unclean Creatures

In Leviticus chapter 11 God tells us which animals we are allowed to eat and which animals are not acceptable as food for humans. Many Christians believe that in the New Covenant God removed this prohibition and all animals are now acceptable as food. Is there clear Biblical support for this idea, or is it yet another form of lawlessness that Satan uses to deceive people into elevating their own laws above those of God? Let us examine God's Word to understand the truth of this question.


God's Declaration of Clean and Unclean Animals

The first comprehensive listing of clean and unclean animals we have is recorded in Leviticus 11. However, the list was not created as a new law just for the Hebrews. The Bible clearly reveals that Leviticus 11 only confirms a previously established situation. More than one thousand years prior to the Exodus God told Noah to take seven pairs of clean animals and two pairs of unclean animals in the Ark. (Genesis 7:2, also note Genesis 8:20) Even further back, probably only a few decades after Creation, Abel sacrificed a clean animal, one of his first-born sheep, to God. (Genesis 4:4) The Levitical list is summarised in Deuteronomy 14:

"These are the animals which you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, the deer, the gazelle, the roe deer, the wild goat, the mountain goat, the antelope, and the mountain sheep. And you may eat every animal with cloven hooves, having the hoof split into two parts, and that chews the cud, among the animals.

"Nevertheless, of those that chew the cud or have cloven hooves, you shall not eat, such as these: the camel, the hare, and the rock hyrax; for they chew the cud but do not have cloven hooves; they are unclean for you. Also the swine is unclean for you, because it has cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud; you shall not eat their flesh or touch their dead carcasses.

"These you may eat of all that are in the waters: you may eat all that have fins and scales. And whatever does not have fins and scales you shall not eat; it is unclean for you.

"All clean birds you may eat. But these you shall not eat: the eagle, the vulture, the buzzard, the red kite, the falcon, and the kite after their kinds; every raven after its kind; the ostrich, the short-eared owl, the seagull, and the hawk after their kinds; the little owl, the screech owl, the white owl, the jackdaw, the carrion vulture, the fisher owl, the stork, the heron after its kind, and the hoopoe and the bat.

"Also every swarming thing that flies is unclean for you; they shall not be eaten.

"You may eat all clean birds.

"You shall not eat anything that dies of itself; you may give it to the alien who is within your gates, that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner; for you are a holy people to Jehovah your God. You shall not boil a young goat in its mother's milk.(1)
Deuteronomy 14:4 to 21(2)

An examination of the clean animals shows that they are generally herbivores. In contrast, many of the unclean animals are carnivores or scavengers. Many shellfish are filter feeders which remove contaminants from the water. Viewed simply from a health perspective, God's choice of clean animals makes good sense. When we also remember that He is the designer and Creator of humans and all the animals, it is obvious that God knows which meats are suitable as food for us.


Many of the unclean animals traditionally have not been regarded as food in Western nations. As these nations were partly built on a heritage of Biblical principles this should not be a surprise. Unclean meats which have been commonly consumed are rabbits, pigs, shark and shellfish. Today it is becoming fashionable to eat many other unclean meats such as crocodile, snake, ostrich and octopus as well.


Fat and Blood Forbidden

God also tells us that some parts of the clean animals are not to be eaten:

'This shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwellings: you shall eat neither fat nor blood.' "
Leviticus 3:17
Today we know that saturated animal fats are harmful to our health and eating them can lead to heart problems, obesity, etc. However, the prohibition on consuming blood is largely spiritual:
"for the soul(3) of all flesh is its blood; It is one with its soul. Therefore I said to the children of Israel, 'You shall not eat the blood of any flesh, for the soul of all flesh is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off.'
Leviticus 17:10 to 14
Therefore, because God made us, He knows how our souls are constructed and where they reside.


God's Laws are for our Good Always

God does not give us laws for His own amusement. Rather than fight against our Creator's Laws, we need to heed the words of Moses and understand that all of God's laws are given to us for our own good:

'And Jehovah commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear Jehovah our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is this day. Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before Jehovah our God, as He has commanded us.'
Deuteronomy 6:24 and 25
Part of God's Laws also forbid drunkenness and gluttony. (Deuteronomy 21:20, Proverbs 23:21, Isaiah 56:11 and 1 Corinthians 6:10) Both of these excesses can damage our bodies and reduce our desire to obey God.

Clean and Unclean Laws go way Back to Abel

We have seen that God's Laws on clean and unclean animals were included in the Mosaic Covenant. We also showed that these laws actually go all the way back to Noah and even to Adam and Eve's son Abel. As Noah is an ancestor of every person alive today, through him that law applies to every human. Further evidence that God's entire system of laws existed long before the Exodus is provided in Genesis 26:4 and 5 when God addresses Isaac:

"And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws."
As we know that God "is the same yesterday, today, and forever." (Heb 13:8) we can be sure that the commandments, statutes and laws that Abraham kept are the same ones that God gave through Moses and are still in effect today.



Clean and Unclean Animals in the New Covenant


Discussing unclean animals in the New Covenant requires us to begin by examining the Hebrew and Greek words used to convey these concepts to the readers of English translations. It reveals that these concepts have been carried over from the Hebrew to the Greek Scriptures. The willingness of some Christians to eat unclean meats is generally based on poor translations from the Greek and by interpreting verses out of their context.


Hebrew

Tame - Strong's number 2931 -Means unclean (or impure.)
-when used of unclean animals, etc as in Leviticus and Deuteronomy it means permanently unclean by nature, unable to be cleansed, not fit for human food.

Chalal - Strong's 2490 - Primary meaning is to defile or make common.

Greek

Akathartos - 169- Unclean- Greek equivalent of Tame. Composed of a (Gk= not) and kathartos (Gk=Clean)

Koinos - 2839- common with two meanings - defiled or ordinary.
In the defiled sense it means making something that was holy into something that is now ordinary or making something that was acceptable into something contaminated. Nonetheless these are things that can be cleansed again.

Using these definitions, let us see what the New Covenant tells us:

The first thing we need to know is that there is a direct command in the New Covenant for us to avoid unclean things. If we are not to even touch an unclean thing, such as flesh cut from an unclean animal, it is obvious that we are not to eat it either:

"And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people."

Therefore "Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty."

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
2 Corinthians 6:16 to 7:1

Unclean in the above passage is translated from Akathartos. It is worthwhile to remember that only clean animals were to be offered to God at His temple under the Mosaic Covenant. (Eg. Leviticus 9:1 to 4) As we are now God's temple, surely only clean food should enter us too.


Unclean Animals During the Great Tribulation

Unclean birds (and unclean spirits) are mentioned in Revelation showing that unclean animals will still be unclean even near the end of the coming Great Tribulation:

And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, "Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a habitation of demons, a prison for every unclean spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird! For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury."

And I heard another voice from heaven saying, "Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.
Revelation 18:2 to 4

We must abandon such practices if we do not want to suffer the plagues which God will send against Babylon.


Eating Unclean Animals Can Lead to Death

God has prophesied in detail about the fate of those who are eating unclean animals and following unclean practices when Jesus returns to establish God's Kingdom. First let God establish that a mouse is an unclean animal, and then we will look at the prophecy.

'These also shall be unclean to you among the creeping things that creep on the earth: the mole, the mouse, and the large lizard after its kind;
Leviticus 11:29


For behold, Jehovah will come with fire and with His chariots, like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by His sword Jehovah will judge all flesh; and the slain of Jehovah shall be many.

"Those who sanctify themselves and purify themselves, to go to the gardens after an idol in the midst, eating swine's flesh and the abomination and the mouse, shall be consumed together," says Jehovah. "For I know their works and their thoughts."

"It shall be that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see My glory. I will set a sign among them; and those among them who escape I will send to the nations: to Tarshish and Pul and Lud, who draw the bow, and Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands afar off who have not heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they shall declare My glory among the Gentiles.

"Then they shall bring all your brethren for an offering to Jehovah out of all nations, on horses and in chariots and in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem," says Jehovah, "as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of Jehovah. And I will also take some of them for priests and Levites," says Jehovah.

"For as the new heavens and the new earth which I shall make stand before Me," says Jehovah, "So shall your seed and your name stand. And it shall be that from New Moon to New Moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before Me," says Jehovah. "And they shall go out and see the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be put out, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh."
Isaiah 66:15 to 24

The context proves that the initial setting is the time of Christ's Return and then moves into the establishment of the Millennium of Peace on earth. The prophecy reveals some aspects of what true worship of God will be like at that time. But in the context of this article it demonstrates that God will destroy those eating swine and mouse, both unclean animals, and following pagan religions. Leviticus 11:11, 13, 20, etc show us that unclean animals are abominations. As Christ's Return is still future, this prophecy proves that God has not repealed His laws relating to unclean animals.


Jesus Came to Establish God's Law
Indeed Jesus Himself tells us not to think that He came to destroy His Father's Laws:

"Do not think that I came to pull down the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to pull them down but to fulfill. Truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, there is no way one letter or one dot will pass from the law until all is implemented.

"Thus whoever removes one of these commandments in the least, and teaches men so, he shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that if your righteousness does not exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, there is no way you will enter into the kingdom of heaven."
Matthew 5:17 to 20

Just to make sure we got the message, Jesus gives it to us again:
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but those who do the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, in Your name did we not prophesy, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many powerful works?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'"
Matthew 7:21 to 23
Let us not practice lawlessness, for we want to be included in God's Kingdom. Jesus died to free us from sin (sin is the breaking of God's Laws -1 John 3:4) Now that we are liberated from sin, we are enabled by the Holy Spirit to keep to God's Laws:
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For the law was powerless in that it was weak through the flesh. God sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and because of sin He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Romans 8:2 to 4


By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.
1 John 5:2-3


And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Revelation 12:17


Watch, lest anyone rob you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the elements of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of Divinity bodily; and you have completeness in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.

In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in immersion, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the record of our debts to the law that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.

Therefore let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the body of Christ.
Colossians 2:8 to 17

In the Colossians passage note especially vs 14 which shows that the New Covenant does away with the list of our sins against God's law. It does not do away with God's Law as is commonly taught. Also in verses 16 and 17 notice that it is only the body of Christ - the true Church of Christ- which we should listen to in matters of food or festivities, not the principalities, powers and robbers of this world nor the traditions of the false "church".


The Order of Melchizedek

Hebrews chapters 7 and 8 also shows that some temporary regulations that were added to the Mosaic Covenant due to the transgression of God's fundamental laws have been replaced by better laws. For example, the Levitical priesthood has been replaced by the order of Melchizedek, led by Jesus Christ. Animal sacrifices have finished, being superseded by the sacrifice of the Son of God. (Hebrews 7:27) God's laws are no longer written on stone, but placed in our hearts. (Jeremiah 31:33, Ezekiel 36:26-27) This is the true circumcision which has replaced the physical. (Romans 2:25 to 29) Again, God was with the Israelites during the Exodus, but today He actually lives within us. (John 14:19-21)


Scriptures Misused to "Abolish" God's Food Laws

Having now laid a firm basis showing the continued validity of God's laws, let's look at some of the scriptures which are twisted to make lawlessness appear to be righteousness.

Mark 7 - Unwashed Hands

This confrontation between Jesus and some Pharisees and scribes is often claimed to teach that it is acceptable to eat whatever we want:

Then the Pharisees and some of the scribes came together to Him, having come from Jerusalem. Now when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they immerse. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the immersion of cups, pitchers, copper vessels, and tables.

Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, "Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?"

He answered and 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. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrine the commandments of men.' For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men; the immersing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do."

And He said to them, "All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.' But you say, 'If a man says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban (that is, dedicated to the temple)"; and you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do."

And when He had called all the multitude to Him, He said to them, "Hear Me, everyone, and understand: 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 a man. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!"

And when He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable.

So He said to them, "Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus cleansing all the food?"

And He said, "What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, unchastity, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man."
Mark 7:1 to 23

Indeed in verse 21 Jesus says that it is not eating food which defiles a man, and the eating of it can actually cleanse the food. But we need to notice two things about this statement. First, there is no mention whatsoever of unclean things (Akathartos), but only defiled things. Second, it is only food which is cleansed through eating. Unclean things are not food for us as God made clear in Leviticus 11. But Jesus did not leave us in doubt about this conversation. It is also recorded for us in Matthew, where Jesus' final statement is given:
"Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.

These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man."
Matthew 15:17 to 20

Jesus clearly shows that the issue being discussed is whether it is acceptable to eat clean foods which have been "defiled" by being touched with hands which have not been washed in the traditional manner of the Pharisees. Jesus shows that as these washing regulations are not from God, they are not important and do not really defile either the food or the consumer. If His disciples were eating something that was actually unclean, the Pharisees would have made that the major issue. Indeed as the next scripture shows, Peter makes it clear that even several years after Jesus' crucifixion he was still following Jesus' example and had never eaten anything unclean.


Acts 10 - Peter's Vision

The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air.

And a voice came to him, "Rise, Peter; kill and eat."

But Peter said, "Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything defiled or unclean."

And a voice spoke to him again the second time, "What God has cleansed you must not call defiled."

This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again.

Now while Peter wondered within himself what this vision which he had seen meant, behold, the men who had been sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon's house, and stood before the gate.
Acts 10:9 to 17

As we noted above, Peter still believed that people should not eat things which were unclean or Biblically defiled. So we see that he is puzzled by this vision which appears to tell him that it is now acceptable for him to eat defiled and unclean food. However, he (and we) are not left in doubt about the meaning of this vision for long. Within two days Peter was inside a gentile's home and then he understood what God was telling him in the vision:
And as he talked with him, he went in and found many who had come together. Then he said to them, "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 defiled or unclean.
Acts 10:27 to 28
As with the earlier hand washing example, the "law" against a Jew entering a gentile's home was not one of God's laws but rather was one of the traditions of the Pharisees, the founders of Judaism. Sadly, Peter had been observing this tradition. He finally understood that Jesus had died to cleanse all of humanity from sin. (1 John 1:7, Ephesians 2:14) He could no longer restrict his ministry to Jewish people only. Peter now embraced the knowledge that he could not regard all non-believing gentiles as unclean or believing gentiles as defiled anymore. Jesus did not die to cleanse unclean animals. The unclean animals were only used as symbols in the vision to reveal to Peter how terrible his attitude towards non-Jews was at that time.


Romans 14:14 - Defiled Food

First let's read this verse accurately translated and presented in its context:

So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way.

I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing defiled of itself; but to him who considers anything to be defiled, to him it is defiled.

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. Do not pull down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense.

It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.
Romans 14:12 to 23

The above passage correctly translates defiled in verse 14 from koinos. As we shall see, the "defiled" food consists of clean food which has been handled with "defiled" hands or has been offered to idols. The following quote of the Authorised Version is taken, exactly as it appears here, from the Online Bible, including the editor's comment in brackets. The editor thus admits that 'unclean' should not have been used. This example shows how an incorrect translation can twist the meaning of Scripture. This AV translation makes it appear that Paul is saying there is no longer anything that is really unclean.
14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. {unclean: Gr. common}
So we see that Romans 14 is talking about defiled food rather than flesh taken from an animal that God has declared to be unclean. As we have already talked about defiled hands, let's look at food offered to idols:
"Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from fornication, from things strangled, and from blood.

"For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath."(4)
Acts 15:19 to 21

So here we have a specific list of prohibitions to be kept by Gentiles who are becoming Christians. Fornication is forbidden. They are also to keep away from blood and from eating animals killed in such a way that their blood has remained in the body (ie- strangled). Things polluted by idols refers in part to food, often meat, which has been offered to an idol before being sold as food. This restriction was intended to keep the gentiles from getting caught up again in the pagan religions which they had just been liberated from. The following passage clearly explains the issues raised in Romans 14:14:
Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him.

Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is only one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.

However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.

But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.

For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?

But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.
1 Corinthians 8:1 to 12

Eating foods defiled through being offered to idols is a problem if we think the idols are somehow real. As some Christians (and many non-Christians) still think idols have some significance, it is better for us to avoid eating such things for their sake.


1 Timothy 4:4 - Forbidding Clean Meats

This passage must also be examined carefully. Reading verse 4 alone suggests that all meat can now be eaten. However, reading the verse in context shows that the passage actually supports God's laws on unclean meat. Both verses 3 and 5 reveal that verse four can only refer to vegetables and clean meat as that is what God has sanctified by declaring them to be clean foods. God has never sanctified unclean animals.

Now the Spirit's words say that in latter times some will depart from the faith, adhering to deceiving spirits and demonic teachings, in the hypocrisy of liars, their own conscience having been seared, forbidding to marry, and saying to abstain from foods which God created for partaking with thanksgiving by the believers and those knowing the truth.

For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be set aside if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified through the word of God and prayer.
1 Timothy 4:1 to 5

The context clearly shows that issue being discussed in Timothy 4 is the lies of false teachers who forbid God's people to marry and eat clean meat which God has sanctified for food. There have been various cults that have done this, such as the Roman Catholic 'Church' which forbids their clergy to marry and for many centuries forbad the eating of red meats on Fridays. The traditional 40 day Lent fast prescribed by many churches, especially Eastern Orthodox, also prohibits eating meat. Another cult example is Ellen White of the Seventh Day Adventists who taught that Christians should be vegetarians. These teachings are all unscriptural, as shown by this passage. Romans 14:2 teaches that Christians can be vegetarians if they wish, but there is no requirement to be vegetarians since the Flood (Genesis 9:3 & 4). In fact, our current inability to produce Vitamin B12 and the lack of B12 in vegetable foods suggests that God intends us to require some animal food in our diets. We think that this has been done to remind us that just as our physical health requires the death of animals, our spiritual health requires the death of Jesus. (5)



Conclusion

We now know that there are scriptures in both the old and new covenants which forbid eating the flesh of unclean animals. There are also scriptures which forbid gentile Christians from eating food offered to idols and recommend that no Christians eat such things. There are no scriptures which tell us that God wants us to eat unclean things. We must each choose whether we will follow God's Way or the world's way. But we must always remember that the spiritual things are paramount even while dealing with the physical:

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.
Romans 14:15 to 18



Endnotes

1. This verse is misused by orthodox Judaists to justify their extreme practices of total separation of meat and dairy foods. They have separate kitchens for meat and dairy foods and will not consume a dairy product until at least six hours after eating meat. -This is part of what they claim to be the "oral laws of Moses." In reality Moses only passed on the commandment in Deuteronomy 14:21 which was given to him by God and it was limited to this one practice. The prohibition prevented God's people from following what was a pagan religious practice at that time, protecting them from getting ensnared in paganism. Return

2. The translation used throughout this article is that of the Central Highland Christian Publications or the New King James unless noted otherwise. Return

3. Soul in this passage is accurately translated from nephesh in the Hebrew. The soul and blood relationship is examined in more detail in our Spirit, Soul and Body article. Return

4. The context shows that this is only a short list intended to get the gentiles started on the right path. Things as basic as honouring God's name, not lying or stealing were not included here. This was because "Moses was read in the synagogues every Sabbath" and they expected the gentiles to continue attending Sabbath services at the synagogues where they would mature and learn to obey the real "Law of Moses" written in the Old Covenant. The "oral law of Moses" -ie the traditions of the Pharisees- was excluded by this definition. Indeed it was the attempt of Pharisaical Christians to force these man-made oral traditions onto the gentiles which led to this decree recorded in Acts. Return

5. For the last decade or two the use of B12 extracted from soil bacteria allows vegans to get around this limitation. Return



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