Did Christ declare all foods clean? Misunderstandings regarding Mark 7:19

Living in an island nation, I was brought up as any other child in our country, to love our sea food. Prawn, Crab, Cuttlefish were the norm in our diet. A meal without seafood at least once a week was unthinkable. With the Dutch, Portuguese & English influences in our country, we had come to love Pork as well. I myself was a fan of Bacon and had prawn & cuttlefish regularly. I couldn’t think of a life without Seafood in my diet. Growing up, we were taught that God is now more loving than in the Old Testament. He was portrayed as the “God of Love and Grace” instead of the Old Testament version which was the “God who was a consuming fire”.

Furthermore, it was taught that Yeshua(Jesus’ true name) came with a New Covenant, a new teaching, new Laws and we were no longer under the Old Covenant Laws. This worked out fine with our lives, society and our diet, because most of what we ate was what God had told His People not to, in the Old Testament (ie; Pork & Fish without scales and fins which included prawn, crab, cuttlefish, shellfish, lobster, etc).

When I first started looking at the Scriptures as a whole, where no verse can go against or annul another, something dawned on me. Does this mean, we have to still eat and not eat according to what God said in Leviticus 11? But what about Paul’s writings? He seems to be saying that we can eat anything. And doesn’t the Gospels even show Messiah Yeshua declaring all foods clean?

Before I addressed Paul, I needed to see whether our Savior (who we are meant to follow) really did change the Food Laws given by God. The only place I could find Him saying something close to “We can eat anything we want” was in Mark 7.

Mark 7:19 was of particular interest. So I read through a couple of English Translations of the Bible, and most of the versions said that “Jesus declared all foods clean”. Interestingly enough, the KJV did not contain this part, while all of the other versions had this in brackets.

New International Version “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.)
English Standard Version “since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.)
New American Standard Bible “because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thus He declared all foods clean.)
King James Version “Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?”

Why didn’t the KJV, one of the earliest translations into English done in 1611, not contain this portion? And why did the rest of the versions carry it within brackets? As I dug into the issue, I found out an interesting piece of information.

The Original Greek Manuscripts do not carry “In saying this, Jesus declared” which is in Mark 7:19. You can check this for yourself here, in The Codex Sinaiticus.

This had been a later addition by some of the translators to give this verse more clarity. And this was the reason why the KJV Bible did not have this part included. Since this was cleared out, I now had to make sure whether the decision by the Translators to add “(In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean)” was valid. Whether Yeshua was clearly stating that the Food Laws were no more. Looking at the context of the 7th Chapter of Mark leading upto verse 19 was essential to make this decision. Let us study Mark 7, from verse 1, and work our way down to the verses in question.

Mark 7:1-21Is it about eating any food or eating food without the tradition of washing the hands?
Reading Mark 7:1-4, I recognized that the story began with the Pharisees accusing some of Yeshua’s disciples of not washing their hands before eating bread. And Mark went on to note how the Pharisees and the Jews would not eat without washing their hands according to the “Tradition of the Elders”. And how they don’t eat without washing after coming from the marketplace and how they have a lot of these traditions like washing of cups, pots, brazen vessels and tables.

Now, some would associate the Pharisees with the Old Testament and conclude that these washings were from the Old Testament Law of God. But, praise God, I had been privileged to learn about the Pharisees and how they had their own Law & Teaching additionally to God’s Law.  (Learn who the Pharisees were, here).  This made all the difference as I understood what Mark meant by Tradition of the Elders” in verse 3.

In verse 5, the Pharisees ask Yeshua, why His disciple don’t walk according to the Tradition of the Elders”, eating with unwashed hands.

This is what Yeshua addresses in the verses that proceed. Not holding to the Tradition of the Elders & Eating with unwashed hands.

In verse 6&7, He starts by quoting Isaiah 29:13, showing their hypocrisy saying, that they honor God with their mouth but their hearts are far from Him and that in vain they worship Him, teaching “Commandments of Men” as “Doctrine”.

Verse 8-13, He further establishes and clarifies their mistake showing that they are laying aside God’s Commandments and are holding onto the Traditions of Men, which include washing of Cups and pots and such other things. He says that they reject God’s Commandments, so that they can keep their own Traditions. And that they make God’s Word of no effect by Their Traditions. (For more information on this verse, read “Who were the Pharisees”). Observe how Yeshua is pointing out the difference between God’s Commandments and Traditions of Men.

What is the context so far? is it Food? Or is it man made traditions? Isn’t the whole conversation revolving around eating food with unwashed hands which was the tradition in focus? Let us read on.

In Verse 14&15, He said, Nothing that goes into a person from the outside can make him unclean. It is what comes out of a person that makes a person unclean. What is Yeshua saying, if and when we take it in context? Is He saying that we can now eat whatever we want?

What Yeshua said was not a statement, but a Parable. In Verse 17, the disciples ask what He meant by the Parable.

Now we come to the verses in question
Yeshua answers the disciples in verse 18-23 saying, whatever enters into man cannot make him unclean, but only through sin that proceed from the inside of man. It is clear that He says that man is defiled by the Sin which is inside.

But is He in the same go, saying that God’s Food Laws are of no use because whatever we eat is purged out of the stomach? Is the same Yeshua that called the Pharisees, hypocrites for making God’s Law void, saying that God’s Food Laws are now void? Before we make a decision on this, I would like to focus your attention onto Matthew 15. In this chapter, Matthew is recording the same story which is in Mark 7. (I will not go into discussing the whole chapter from the beginning, though reading it for yourself will show that it is identical).

Let us read from Matthew 15:15
Just like in Mark, the disciples, in fact Peter(as Matthew records), asks Yeshua to explain the parable to them. Yeshua goes onto say the same thing “whatever enters into man cannot make him unclean, but only through sin that proceed from the inside of man”.

Matthew 15:20 is the Key
Yeshua, then explains what He was talking about the whole time. He says, “These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”
Doesn’t this single verse explain everything? Whoever uses Mark 7:18,19 to say that Yeshua gave us freedom to eat whatever we like, will have a hard time explaining Mat 15:20. What Yeshua’s whole argument was that “a person does not become unclean by eating with unwashed hands, but by the sin that comes out of the same person.

The fact is, that this whole conversation revolved around “eating with unwashed hands”. Mark 7 and Matthew 15 talks about the same instance and Matthew records Yeshua’s words to be regarding the issue of “Eating with unwashed hands”. There is no mention of God’s food Laws in these chapters and no translator has the authority to add phrases such as “(In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean)” with or without a proper understanding of context.

I will not be addressing the verses written in Paul’s epistles on this post, which I am planning on doing on a later date. Even though the point of this study is not to prove that God’s Food Law still stands, I hope, you have adequately seen that Mark 7:18,19 cannot be used to prove that Yeshua did away with God’s Food Laws written in Lev 11.

134 thoughts on “Did Christ declare all foods clean? Misunderstandings regarding Mark 7:19

  1. K

    Amen. I recently just came to this realization alao. First after I read kjv cover to cover a few times, I realized there is no pre trib. Next I see that noah brought many more clean animals vs just male and female unclean. It was already common sense what was clean by Genesis chapter 7. So that puts the “it’s only for the jews arguement” out the window. Acts 10 and mark 7 are talking about diffetent subjects and not making piggy ok now. Great observation

    1. John

      I have said this before in this thread, and it’s very simple and there is no need to parse scripture.
      The Lord never denies His people any good thing.
      He did deny them pork.
      On that simple reality, nothing more needs to be said.

    2. Sister Lo

      But you can’t take what Paul addresses in 1Corinthians 8 concerning food that was sacrificed to idols and eating in its temple out of this conversation or article, because it has a lot to do with it, because Paul is talking about being free in knowledge knowing that there is but one God whom all things came and we live and but one Lord, Jesus Christ whom all things came, and we live. We must not offend our weaker brother or sister because of our knowledge of what we can and cannot eat. Note that in the Old Testament it was a reason why God told the Jews to stay away from certain animals. So, I encourage you to be persuaded in your own minds, because what we eat does not matter to God, only our hearts and deeds which we will be judged. Anything else is but tradition.

      Lord Help Us All,

      1. RameshDeSilva Post author

        I don’t think it’s accurate to say that what we eat does not matter to God. If so God would have not said “Ye shall therefore put difference between clean beasts and unclean, and between unclean fowls and clean: and ye shall not make your souls abominable by beast, or by fowl, or by any manner of living thing that creepeth on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean. And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the LORD am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine. Lev 20:25,26
        As per God, what we eat effects our soul, and we are to eat/not eat what He has said because it is part of been separated from all other peoples towards God.

        Food was also part of the 4 instructions given in Acts 15, which shows it is an important issue.

        Be a blessing to everyone around you

      2. Sister Lo

        So, this is a Mosaic Law for the Jews and a restriction for the Gentiles who were spiritually adopted through grace by faith only, not a law? Due to the footnotes of Acts 15:20 of the King James Version it reads. “Though redeemed Gentiles are not under the Mosaic Law, four restrictions are place upon them. These are not the usual four prohibitions preached during the twentieth century, but they were amazingly comprehensive and were important to the first-century church. They involve religious, moral, and physical purity. They also concern the primary element separating Jews from Gentiles dietary regulations. These principles did much to remove offensive practices without establishing legalism. Paul more appropriately enunciates two timeless principles for governing Christian conduct apart from the Law: (1) Live by love. (2) Live by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:13 -16).” Also due to the fact that we cannot be sure of how our meat that we buy in the store is prepared before it gets there is why we pray over it giving thanks to God and speaking of blood in our meat. I eat my meat well done lol. I’m not knocking anything anyone is saying to each its own is what I always say and live by your own convictions.

        Thank you for your response I do understand it. I’m just a Gentile saved by grace through faith.

        Lord Help Us All,

      3. RameshDeSilva Post author

        Dear Sister Lo,
        Are we saved by Grace through faith so that we continue in Sin? God Forbid as Paul says in Romans 6.
        What is Sin? It is the transgression of God’s Law – 1Jn 3:4. God does not have one Law for the Jew and and one law for the Gentile – Lev 24:22. When Paul speaks about living in Love in Gal 5;13 he says “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh”. How do we know the works of the Flesh (aka Sin)? for by the law is the knowledge of sin (Rom 3:20). If we say we are saved by Faith and then live the lives we think are right in our own eyes – this is not the Holiness God has called us to. We are surely saved by Faith and none of the works we do are for Salvation. But God’s Word/Law does show the path of Holiness and what He deems right and wrong – including the food you eat.

        Rom 6:1,2 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? (The question is whether you believe God’s Law is the indicator of what Sin is, or whether we choose to define sin the way we see fit)

        Be a blessing to everyone around you

      4. Lolita Toliver

        Are ypu serious right now??? Eating food that God provides for us is not a sin. Gen. 9: 1-4. We going to have to agree to disagree. I’m not going to go back and forth with the word of God. I’m saved and I believe your saved, so let’s keep it right there and we will imbrace each other in heaven.

        God bless family😇

        Lord Help Us All,

        Sister Lo

      5. RameshDeSilva Post author

        Dear Sister Lo,
        Eating Food that God provides us is not sin. The question is whether our cultures decide what “Food” is, or whether God decides on what “Food” is. All animals are not created as food. That is why God has separated Animals as Clean and Unclean. Clean for consumption and unclean for consumption.
        Lev 20:25 Ye shall therefore put difference between clean beasts and unclean, and between unclean fowls and clean: and ye shall not make your souls abominable by beast, or by fowl, or by any manner of living thing that creepeth on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean. Lev 20:26 And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the LORD am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine. (This is not a command only for the Jew – it is for the people who God has severed for Himself)

        May you be a blessing to everyone around you

  2. Pingback: Have you heard the Parable of “Unwashed Hands”? | Bible things in Bible ways

  3. John

    I believe there is mistake here. Christ clearly and unequivocally states that whatsoever goes into a man’s belly comes out in the privy. And he unequivocally states that what goes into a man’s mouth does not defile him.

    You said this is a parable. This is incorrect. The parable that Peter asks him to expound is the plants not planted by the Father being rooted up and the blind leading the blind. I believe this is actually the key missing context from Mark.

    In Mark when asked to expound on the parable he simply reiterates what he already said. That doesn’t make much sense. Peter asked him about the uprooting of the plants and the blind leading the blind. That is why he reiterated his original point, don’t you I’d erstamd what goes in your mouth can’t defile you?

    Regardless of the aforementioned. He clearly states in both passages, that what goes in your mouth cannot defile you. Yes he also says eating with unwashed hands can’t defile you but I don’t think one nullifies the other. They both are in accordance with each other.

    1. RameshDeSilva Post author

      Dear John,
      Let me give you definite proof that this is in fact a Parable.
      This what Both Matthew and Mark Record:
      Mat 15:10,11 And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.

      Note that Christ says “Hear and Understand” before he says “what goes out in does not defile, but what goes out only defiles”. What does “Hear and Understand” mean?
      Look at Mat 13:13-15 Therefore speak I to them in “parables”: because they seeing see not; and hearing they “hear” not, neither do they “understand”. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall “hear”, and shall not “understand”; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and “hear” with their ears, and should “understand” with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
      What is “Hear and Understand”? is it not connected to “Parables” plainly in Mat 13? Did Christ say “Hear and understand” before He said “Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind”? I will leave the evidence with you to make up your own mind.

      On the question of food, Yes… what goes into our mouth goes into our belly and to the privy. Does that mean we can eat whatever we want? The context is not what we can or cannot eat – rather, whether we can eat with unwashed hands. Making a case for eating whatever we want, when He clearly states the answer as “These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man” is unwise. But we are all free to do what we choose – God does not force us to be obedient to Him.
      1Jn 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
      Be a blessing to everyone around you


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