As we read in the Torah, we find Moses telling the people of Israel, in painstaking details, what foods to eat and not eat (Leviticus 11). Later on in Deuteronomy, as part of Moses’ farewell speech, he ties up God’s commandments with a neat bow by stating “Do not add to the word which I command you, nor diminish from it, to observe the commandments of the Lord your God…” (Deuteronomy 4:2). We need to remember in the book of Deuteronomy Moses is restates many of the laws that were covered in the previous three books (Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers). In these restatements of important ordinances, he again beseeches the children of the Lord that “You must not eat any detestable animals that are ceremonially unclean….” (Deuteronomy 14:3). He then goes on and relists the animals that should and should not be eaten (Deuteronomy 14:4-21). Apparently this is very important to God.
Some might argue that these laws were only handed to the Israelites at Mount Sinai and the generations that proceeded them. However, when we look at Noah, a millennium earlier, we see that he knew clean verses unclean animals (Genesis 7:2). Thus these laws were established before Leviticus 11. Additionally, to think that these laws are unique to the Sinai people and would imply that God’s laws do not have a Universal application – this would be incorrect (Deuteronomy 29:9-15; Ezekiel 18:5-9; Psalm 94:12, 119:172).
So we can establish that God had His people eat clean for thousands of years. Now, 400 years after the last entry in the Tanakh (Old Testament), the Christian messiah overturns Levitical law by stating that “There is nothing outside a person which, by going into him, can make him unclean. Rather, it is the things that come out of a person which make a person unclean!” (Mark 7:15). He was talking about the ritualistic hand washing that Jews performed before eating. Many Christians believe that he was including food, which makes sense. Furthermore, shortly after the Christian messiah’s passing the new fledgling religion of Christianity made their own decision as to what could and could not be eaten. They shorten God’s list to just three items (Acts 15:20): Do not eat….
- Food offered to idols,
- Meat of strangled animals, and…
- Consuming blood.
If we have any doubts of Christianity trying to modify God’s clean food laws, Paul confirms our suspensions. The apostle Paul adds in 1 Timothy.4: 1-4 that all foods are clean. And let us not forget Acts 11:6-9. This is where Peter has a vision of eating biblically unclean foods. Some say this was God authorizing the Jews to go to the Gentiles, still most say it was Christianity getting the green light to eat pork chops and lobster bisque.
Another thing to consider is what is the benefit of God reneging on His Law? Was there a big gain in adding pork and lobster to our diet? Pork is bad for you and so isn’t shellfish, why would a loving God introduce them into our diet after saying no for 15 centuries? It could be that Christianity was attempting to appeal to the masses. Remember these unclean foods to Torah observant people were delicacies to the rest of the world. This also might be a reason why the New Testament minimized things like circumcisions. By Christianity challenging these standards it would creating fewer obstacles. Acts 15 is all about minimizing the standard. Remember this though, God had these heightened standards to set His people apart, to be Holey. When there is no standard and nothing to set you apart you are no longer Holey, you are common.
God was specific in His laws and made sure to add the disclaimer that no one has the right to mess with His ordinances (Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32). Yet, we have four verses within the add on religion of Christianity that convey that His food laws are no longer relevant. Granted, in some more Torah observant Christian sects they do argue that God’s food laws are still intact. These people can pretty much minimize or explain away the New Testament verses that appear to counter God’s Word on eating clean. What they can’t absolve is the first Christian church taking liberties by both shortening and altering His list (Acts 15:20). Again, God gave us a simple measuring stick:
Deuteronomy 11:26-28 … I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse— the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known.