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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 even carry “(In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean)” 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.

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