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Conservative Messianic Judaism
MAN-NA - Messianic
Alliance of North America (note this is a generic listing not all
sites follow Conservative Messianic Judaism)
Ask the Rabbi - Doesn't
Mark 7 do away with Kosher?
Doesn't Yeshua declare all meats clean in Mark 7?
This article is provided by Assoc. Rabbi Michael.
Mark 7:18-19 reads in the NASB,
And He said to them, "Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you
not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot
defile him, because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach,
and is eliminated?" (Thus He declared all foods clean.)
This passage is one of those that I believe the NASB has gotten
completely wrong. First, notice the italicized words above-this is the
NASB's (and many other translations') way of telling you that theses
words are completely interpolated by the translators; that is, they
do not appear in the original Greek. Moreover, the word "declared" does
not appear in the original Greek either; rather, the literal translation
is, "because it doth not enter into his heart, but into the belly, and
into the drain it doth go out, purifying all the meats" (Young's Literal
On what basis can we say that a command of Torah has been done away with
when we have to interpolate a whole clause into the sentence in order to
do so? That would be like someone translating Romans 6:1-2, "What shall
we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May
it never be that we fail to! How shall we who died to sin still live in
it?" No honest Biblical scholar would let such a translation stand
unchallenged, let alone admit the validity of an exegesis made upon it!
Interestingly, the Complete Jewish Bible agrees with the NASB reading
here, translating the end of the verse as a parenthetical, "(Thus he
declared all foods ritually clean.) " Stern is clear in his translation,
however that the subject is not kosher, but rather "ritual purity as
taught by the Oral Torah in relation to n'tiat-yadayim"-that is, ritual
hand-washing, per vv. 2-4-"not kashrut at all!" Since the subject of
whether kosher had been annulled never even comes up, we perform
eisegesis (reading our own opinions back into the text) not exegesis
when we use this verse as justification for rejecting kosher.
Stern summarizes Yeshua's intent as follows:
Yeshua is continuing his discussion of spiritual prioritizing (v. 11&N).
He teaches that tohar (purity) is not primarily ritual or physical, but
spiritual (vv. 14-23). On this ground he does not entirely overrule the
Pharisaic/rabbinic elaborations of the laws of purity, but he does
demote them to subsidiary importance. . . Yeshua here is making
This interpretation follows Matthew's rendering of the conclusion, which
is to say that "to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man"
Why then does Stern follow the practice of interpolating "Thus he
declared" into the text? He writes that he believes the "one meaning
this passage can have" is that "it is Mark's halakhic summary of
Yeshua's remarks." He admits, however, that many hold to the
interpretation that we favor here. I would argue that our interpretation
holds more firmly to the text.
Some may object that I have thus far cited only one Messianic
commentator. Such people would be surprised to learn that many Christian
commentators have come to similar conclusions:
The word "purging," here, means to purify, to cleanse. What is thrown
out of the body is the innutritious part of the food taken into the
stomach, and leaving only that which is proper for the support of life;
and it cannot, therefore, defile the soul.
and goeth into the draught; בית הכסא, "the private house", as the Jews
call it, without going into the heart at all:
purging all meats; that which it leaves behind, is pure and nourishing;
and whatever is gross and impure, is carried with it into the draught,
so that nothing remains in the man that is defiling.
Now, the meats are all purged out of your body; they don't defile you in
a spiritual sense. And of course, we're talking about ceremonial
washing. The meat that you eat doesn't defile you. Now, it can make you
sick or it can do things, but spiritually it doesn't defile you. There's
no spiritual defilement in it, because it passes through your body.
Note that none of the above commentators remark at all on kosher, but
understand that the passage is dealing with "ceremonial washing."
Indeed, some Christian commentators utterly refute the idea that this
passage abrogates kosher:
Of course, Jesus did not mean at this time to abrogate the Mosaic law of
legal uncleanness. These uncleannesses worked no spiritual defilement,
but were merely typical of such; for the food in no way touched or
affected the mind or soul, the fountains of spiritual life, but only the
corporeal organs, which have no moral susceptibility. The Pharisees had
erred in confusing legal and spiritual defilement, and had added error
to error by multiplying the causes of defilement in their tradition. By
thus showing that legal defilement was merely symbolic, Jesus classed it
with all the other symbolism which was to be done away with when the
gospel reality was fully ushered in (Col. 2:16-17). In saying,
therefore, that Jesus made all meats clean, Mark does not mean that
Jesus then and there repealed the law.
To be sure, there are also many commentaries that do see in this passage
the end to the kosher laws. However, given the universal (among
Christians) belief that kosher is no longer valid, it is surprising to
find so many sources failing to find their justification here. Indeed,
seeking to find justification for an end to kosher puts Yeshua in the
role of having a double-standard, as Fisher explains:
Many have interpreted the next section, Mark 7:17-19, to mean that
Yeshua set aside the food laws. But by doing so he would have
contradicted himself. His detractors had just accused him of not
observing their traditions, and he had responded that they did far
worse; they did not observe the commandments of the Torah (vv. 9-13). To
choose this time to set aside other commandments of the Torah would have
undercut his whole response. It would have left him open to the charge
they made, and which he implicitly denied. It would also have shown him
to be inconsistent.
It also would have left Him subject to a charge of being a false
prophet, based on Deu. 12:32-13:5 (see here). Indeed, if He had been
teaching His disciples not to keep any part of the Torah, His enemies
could hardly have missed the opportunity to bring that up at His trial!
It would have negated the whole need for false witnesses!
So then, we return to the following key facts about this passage:
1. There is little to no justification for interpolating in the words,
"Thus He declared" into v. 19.
2. Regardless of the translation one prefers, the subject of whether
non-kosher meats, like pork, were now allowed never even came up.
3. Even many Christian commentators admit that there is no justification
for overturning kosher in this passage.
4. The anti-Torah interpretation makes Messiah out to be double-minded,
castigating the Pharisees for annulling a direct commandment of Torah by
their tradition in one breath, and annulling a direct commandment of
Torah Himself in the very next!
The command to discern between the clean and the unclean meats is a
direct commandment of Scripture (Lev. 11:47). Against this very clear
commandment, Christian commentators have three passages which are
propertied negate it; Romans 14, Acts 10, and Mark 7. Romans 14, we have
proven elsewhere, does not refer to kosher, and neither does Mark 7. The
vision of Acts 10 uses non-kosher meats as a symbol of the Gentiles, to
prepare Peter to accept Cornelius and his house as full brothers in the
L-rd, as Peter himself interpreted it. Where then do we find any
Scripture which negates the Torah on this matter?
Nowhere. The simple fact is that while one can make a case that Gentile
believers are not required to keep kosher from the Torah itself (as
explained at the beginning of this article), there is nowhere in
Scripture that either releases Jewish believers from the command or
which discourages Gentiles from joining them in keeping it, provided
they do so with the right heart.
Shalom - Rabbi Gavri'el
Plant a Tree