“I made myself accessible to those who didn’t ask for me, I let myself be found by a nation not called by my name. I spread out my hands all day long to a rebellious people, who follow their own inclinations; a people who provoke me to my face all the time; they eat pig meat and their pots hold soup made from disgusting things” (Isaiah 65:1-4).
It’s not what goes into a man that makes him ‘unclean,’ it’s what comes out. Jesus made all foods clean in Mark 7; read Acts chapter 10 if you don’t believe me. Peter ate with gentiles so he had to have eaten pork. What about the Council of Jerusalem? There were only four requirements for gentiles. The broken record continues to skip, skip, skip.
Rightly Dividing Mark 7
“The Pharisees and some of the teachers of law Torah who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Yeshua and saw some of his disciples eating food with ‘unclean‘ – that is, ceremonially unwashed-hands” (verse 1).
Verse 1 states two specific things that set the foundation for the entire chapter. First, the disciples are eating food. The Greek word for ‘food’ in this verse is artos and means ‘bread.’ The disciples are not eating just any food, they are eating bread. Second, they have not ceremonially washed their hands.
“The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders” (verse 2).
Verse 2 explains that hand washing was a prerequisite to eating food, in this case bread. Hand washing had become a man-made tradition that even included a prescribed way to wash the hands.
“When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles” (verse 3).
Verse 3 expounds on the tradition that was not just about hand washing, but about everything used for eating. The ‘tradition of the elders’ made cooking and eating a burden because of all the rules, including the ritual hand washing.
“So the Pharisees and teachers of the Torah asked Yeshua, ‘Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean‘ hands?” (verse 4).
The question the Pharisees ask in Verse 4 has nothing to do with what the disciples were eating, but why they were not following the ‘tradition of the elders’ with regard to ceremonial hand washing. According to these leaders, the disciples were eating bread with unwashed or ‘unclean’ hands.
“Yeshua replied, Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men. You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.’ And he said to them, ‘You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions’” (verses 6-8).
From this point, there is no further mention of artos –– bread. The ‘traditions of the elders’ are being disputed in Mark chapter 7, the man-made Jewish rituals that nullify the commandments of God, specifically in reference to hand washing.
Yeshua continues to give other examples of when the Pharisees and teachers of Torah “nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down” (verse 13).
“Again Yeshua called the crowd to him and said, ‘Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean’” (verse 14).
Yeshua doesn’t mention food or bread in Verse 14. He says that nothing ‘outside’ a man can make him ‘unclean.’
“After he had left the crowd and entered the house, the disciples asked him about this parable. ‘Are you so dull?’ he asked. ‘Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? For it doesn’t go into his heart, but into his stomach, and then out of his body (into the latrine)” (verses 17-19).
Yeshua never mentions bread or even food when he explains the parable to his disciples. He says that nothing entering a man from outside makes him ‘unclean.’ The issue still being discussed is ceremonial hand washing. Yeshua’s disciples could have come from the marketplace, a grain field or even from fishing in the Sea of Galilee. Their hands were dirty and they were eating bread. This offended the leaders who held to the ‘tradition of the elders’ with regard to ritual hand washing. According to their tradition, no one is supposed to eat food, in this case bread, with dirty hands. Yeshua tells his disciples that dirty hands don’t make a man dirty or ‘unclean’ in his heart. The dirt that may enter his mouth on the bread from his unwashed hands will go through his body and out into the toilet.
Verse 19 causes all the confusion, “In saying this, Yeshua declared all foods clean.” In some versions of the Bible, there is a footnote clarifying that this parenthetical statement was added later by translators, meaning that some translator injected his doctrinal opinion rather than taking the Scriptural words and discussion at face value.
However, what the translator wrote is also true. Everything created by God for food is ‘clean.’ However, the specific food spoken about in this passage, bread, has always been, and always will be ‘clean.’ Some versions of the Bible have translated artos as ‘meat’ taking Yeshua’s parable in a very different direction than what the Pharisees asked, Yeshua explained, and his disciples understood.
What God Considers Food
Leviticus 11:1-23 outlines what God considers food and what He does not. These verses are referred to as ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ laws or the dietary regulations. These regulations are not only for the Jews because they are God’s dietary instructions; not Jewish tradition. Gentiles who put their faith in Yeshua and are adopted into the ‘Commonwealth of Israel’ are not excluded from obeying Torah commands.
“The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Say to the Israelites: “Of all the animals that live on land, these are the ones you may eat: You may eat any animal that has a divided hoof and that chews the cud. There are some that only chew the cud or only have a divided hoof, but you must not eat them. The camel, though it chews the cud, does not have a divided hoof; it is ceremonially unclean for you. The hyrax, though it chews the cud, does not have a divided hoof; it is unclean for you. The rabbit, though it chews the cud, does not have a divided hoof; it is unclean for you. And the pig, though it has a divided hoof, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you.’””
“‘Of all the creatures living in the water of the seas and the streams you may eat any that have fins and scales. But all creatures in the seas or streams that do not have fins and scales—whether among all the swarming things or among all the other living creatures in the water—you are to regard as unclean. And since you are to regard them as unclean, you must not eat their meat; you must regard their carcasses as unclean. Anything living in the water that does not have fins and scales is to be regarded as unclean by you.’”
“‘These are the birds you are to regard as unclean and not eat because they are unclean: the eagle, the vulture, the black vulture, the red kite, any kind of black kite, any kind of raven, the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk, the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, the white owl, the desert owl, the osprey, the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe and the bat.’”
“‘All flying insects that walk on all fours are to be regarded as unclean by you. There are, however, some flying insects that walk on all fours that you may eat: those that have jointed legs for hopping on the ground. Of these you may eat any kind of locust, katydid, cricket or grasshopper. But all other flying insects that have four legs you are to regard as unclean.’”
God’s dietary instructions include more ‘unclean’ animals than just the pig. There is the rabbit, the camel, bear, and the hyrax. There are creatures in the ocean without fins and scales that are not considered food: sharks, eels, oysters, shrimp, and crabs. Birds such as vultures, ravens, hawks, and owls are not considered food. Insects that walk on all fours are not considered food. Verse 11 clearly states the word ‘unclean’ means ‘not food’: “And since you are to regard them as ‘unclean,’ you must not eat their meat.”
Noah Ate Everything, Right?
Noah lived before God gave His dietary instructions to Israel. Before the flood and during his lifetime, people ate only what they produced from the earth. According to the book of Enoch, in which more details are given for the ‘days of Noah,’ the Nephilim ate everything: every animal, bird, and creature. They even drank the blood of men. They devoured the earth and defiled humanity. God not only saw the lawlessness of the Nephilim, but also every evil inclination in the heart of mankind. He decided to wipe the human race from the earth and with them, the animals, the birds, and creatures that move along the ground (Genesis 6:5-7).
Within this context, Noah was commanded to build an Ark. He was also told to take with him into the Ark “seven pairs of every kind of ‘clean’ animal, a male and its mate, and one pair of every kind of ‘unclean’ animal, a male and its mate, and also seven pairs of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth” (Genesis 7:2-3).
“Pairs of clean and unclean animals, of birds and of all creatures that move along the ground, male and female, came to Noah and entered the ark, as God had commanded Noah” (Genesis 7:8).
Twice it is mentioned that Noah took ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ animals with him on the Ark. Because Noah had never eaten the meat of animals, he probably didn’t know the difference between ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ so God brought the animals to him. From what he was shown in pairs of two or seven pairs of two, he learned and understood the difference immediately.
After the floodwaters subsided and the Ark rested on Ararat, Noah and the animals left the Ark. At this time, Noah worshiped God by offering a sacrifice. He used some of the ‘clean’ animals and birds, but none of the ‘unclean.’
“Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: ‘Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done’” (Genesis 8:19-21).
“Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you green plants, I now give you everything’” (Genesis 9:3).
It would seem that after the flood, Noah could eat the meat of every animal that came with him on the Ark because “everything that lives and moves about will be food for you.” However, if Noah ate one of the pigs, rabbits or hawks, they would have immediately become extinct since there were only one male and one female of every ‘unclean’ animal.
Though Noah had eaten ‘all green plants,’ he probably didn’t eat Aminita mushrooms or poison ivy or the green leaves of rhubarb. Just as some plants were not edible and created as food, some animals had purposes other than food. The camel is a beast of burden as is a horse. A hawk cleans up dead animals on the earth while shrimp and crabs clean up the dead, decaying creatures on the sea bottom. God saying that just as Noah had green plants to eat so he has all animals cannot be all-inclusive given the information God has revealed to Noah regarding the number and pairs of animals brought onto the Ark.
Part of the sacrificial or offering system that was established by God with Israel included feeding the Levitical priesthood. They had been given no land inheritance, no livestock, no farms. They were fed from the offerings, all of which were ‘clean’ animals or those that God created for food. It is the same for Noah. He did not sacrifice and eat ‘unclean’ animals; he sacrificed and ate the ‘clean’ ones that had been shown to him as he entered the Ark. He knew what animal meat God considered food and what He did not.
Making all foods ‘clean’ was not the purpose of Noah’s deliverance from the polluted world of the Nephilim nor was it the message of the prophets, Yeshua or the apostles. It was not the purpose of Peter’s vision nor the conclusion of the Council of Jerusalem.
What About Peter’s vision?
“About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’”
“‘Surely not, Lord!’ Peter replied. ‘I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.’”
“The voice spoke to him a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’”
“This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.”
“While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there.”
“While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, ‘Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.’”
Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?” (Acts 10:9-21)
This account in Acts 10 is about a vision, a trance, and not an actual event. Just as Joseph’s dreams didn’t literally come true, but had spiritual meaning, so does Peter’s vision.
Peter went to the roof to pray. He was hungry and had a vision of a sheet filled with all kinds of ‘unclean’ animals. In the King James Version, this sheet was bound at the four corners suggesting that it was a talit or prayer shawl which adds another dimension to the spiritual meaning of the vision. When God tells Peter to “get up, kill and eat’,” Peter’s first response is, “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
Peter’s first response is to refuse to eat animals that are not considered food. This seems like a strange response from one of Yeshua’s disciples. Peter would have been with Yeshua when he “made all foods clean” in Mark chapter 7 if, in fact, that is what Yeshua actually did. Of course, after dissecting Mark verse by verse, it is clear that Yeshua was not talking about ‘clean‘ and ‘unclean’ foods, but the tradition of ritual hand washing. If Yeshua had, during his lifetime, made the meat of all animals ‘clean,’ Peter, of all the disciples, would have known and should have had a different response to God’s command. If Yeshua had, after his resurrection, made all meats clean, Peter, of all the apostles, surely would have known and should have had a different first response.
God speaks to Peter a second time because Peter is not understanding the vision. Even after the second time, he still doesn’t understand, and God speaks to him a third time. Many well-meaning, but untaught Christians immediately conclude that this vision was about the sudden realization that everything from horse to clams is now considered food; however, Peter, who experienced the vision was still wondering about its meaning even after being told three times! While Peter is still thinking about the vision, some men come to visit him.
At this time was a tradition that a Jewish person would not step foot in a gentile’s home. This was an understood tradition and one that Yeshua himself honored. He never went into a gentile’s home. Never. The Centurion in Matthew 8 understood this tradition and told Yeshua he did not need to come to his home. He knew Yeshua was a man of authority and that whatever Yeshua asked would be done. Yeshua commended him for having greater faith than those in Israel. There was also the Canaanite woman in who had a demon-possessed daughter. She asked Yeshua for help and was told it was not right to take food from [Jewish] children and give it to the dogs [gentiles]. She responded that even the dogs eat the crumbs from under their owner’s table (Matthew 15:21-28). Yeshua healed her daughter.
It isn’t until the following day at the house of a gentile man, a Roman centurion named Cornelius, that Peter begins to understand the vision. Cornelius wasn’t just any gentile. He was God-fearing and righteous. He was respected by all the Jewish people with whom he came in contact. In the presence of Cornelius, Peter finally interprets the vision: the message of Yeshua, the message of salvation, is to go to the nations that were represented by the four-footed ‘unclean’ animals in the sheet.
“Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right” (Acts 10:34).
What does Peter say? God accepts people from every nation who not only fear Him, but do what is right. What does this mean? To be a God-fearing gentile meant that the person obeyed God’s commandments. To do what is right is living rightly before God, being righteous.
Cornelius was a God-fearing, righteous gentile. From his interactions and relationships with the Jewish people around him, he already understood their God, His commandments, and what He considered food and what was not food. Cornelius’ eating habits were probably similar to those of the Jews who respected him and considered him righteous! No one in Cornelius’ house, including Peter, ever mentioned food –– eating pig or shrimp –– because food was never the meaning of Peter’s vision. The vision was about going to the gentiles and entering their homes with the message of Yeshua. It was the removal of a man-made tradition that kept the gentiles separated from the Jewish community. Because of Peter’s vision, Cornelius and his family, by putting their faith in Yeshua, could become more fully part of the ‘commonwealth of Israel.’ He and his family were filled with the Holy Spirit and immersed in water. Soon after this event, word spread throughout Judea that gentiles were receiving the salvation of God through Yeshua –– not having pork roasts.
Let’s suppose Cornelius did eat ‘unclean’ meats as many Christians claim. Wouldn’t his new-found faith in Yeshua, along with the righteous condition of his heart, give him the desire to learn the Scriptures and obey God’s commandments? Wouldn’t Peter have taken the time to teach him God’s commands? Or, wouldn’t the Spirit of God now write Torah on Cornelius’ heart? Being a gentile was and is still not an excuse for disobedience, especially after receiving the Spirit of God.
After the event with Cornelius, Peter went up to Jerusalem and was criticized for entering the homes of gentiles and eating with them. Again, it wasn’t about what Peter was eating, but with whom he was eating! Table fellowship bound people together and the leaders in Jerusalem were worried that the Scriptures were going to become watered down if Peter fellowshipped with gentile believers. Peter had to explain that gentiles were coming to faith in Messiah and living lives of repentance. ‘Repentance’ in Hebrew is shuv and means ‘returning to the ways of God,’ which would include His dietary regulations.
“Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story” (Acts 11:4). When they heard that God had baptized the gentiles with the Holy Spirit, they had no further objections to table fellowship between Jewish and gentile believers.
“When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18).
It is a serious distortion of Scripture to say that Peter, a faithful Messianic Jew, would suddenly eat animals that were not created to be food in order to win gentiles to faith in Yeshua. In reality, it was the gentiles who were coming to faith in the Jewish Messiah that were convicted to leave behind their pagan practices and live according to the commandments of God. No one ever mentioned from the first moment of Peter’s vision through its interpretation in Jerusalem that suddenly it was acceptable to eat ‘unclean’ animals. Instead, they rejoiced that the gentiles were being saved and entering the Kingdom of God.
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).
Council of Jerusalem
Some time after Paul began his ministry, certain people came from Judea, in Israel, to Antioch, in the diaspora, and were teaching that unless gentiles were circumcised, they could not be saved. This caused dissension within the Body of Messiah, and between Paul and Barnabas. They decided to go to Jerusalem to present the matter to the apostles.
The apostles considered the question and resolved that gentiles did not have to be circumcised in order to be saved, meaning that gentiles did not have to convert to Judaism through ritual circumcision, but could remain as gentiles. Because the elders heard that God was purifying the gentiles’ hearts and anointing them with the Holy Spirit, they concluded that justification is by faith in Yeshua alone. From these decisions, they developed a judicial statement and decided that turning to God should not be made difficult for gentiles. They outlined four beginning requirements.
“Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood” (Acts 15:20).
Each of these four requirements were part of pagan ritual worship and had to be removed from the gentile’s life so as not to pollute the growing Body of Messiah with the ways of the nations. This was to be the beginning of how gentiles to turn to God, not the only requirements. In fact, these four requirements encompass nearly all Torah commands given to Israel: dietary laws, sacrificial laws, sexual immorality laws, and idolatry.
The next verse is rarely quoted with the four requirements, but is just as important, if not crucial, to the growth of every new believer then, as well as now:
“For the Torah of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath” (Acts 15:21).
This final statement was to be the foundation of the life of every believer whether Jew or gentile in the first century. Born again gentiles who were turning to God attended synagogues every Sabbath. They heard the reading of the Torah and were being convicted regarding their sinful lifestyles. Through the Holy Spirit, their circumcised hearts were transformed and their minds renewed. The unity of Messianic Jews and gentiles in the synagogues testified to the ‘one new man.’
For the first 30 years after Yeshua’s resurrection, the Messianic community, including all gentile believers, were taught and instructed in the first five books of the Bible. They did not have Acts chapter 10. They did not have a New Testament book called Mark from which to create commentary about food. They only had the Torah with which to learn God’s commandments. They only had the Prophets and Writings to understand their new covenant Messianic faith.
At the Council of Jerusalem, there was nothing mentioned about dietary changes. No one suggested that eating pork, camel or dog was now acceptable because “Jesus had died on the cross.” In fact, quite the opposite was true. Sacrificing and eating ‘unclean’ animals along with idol worship was not to be found among the gentiles who were living lives of repentance. New believers from the nations obeyed these requirements because Yeshua’s death and resurrection had given them a new life in the Kingdom of God.
The Real Problem with ‘Porky the Pig’
Jewish people who were forced to convert to a new religion called Christianity were called maranos. This word in Spanish means ‘damned, accursed, banned, and hog.’ This name was applied to Spanish-Portuguese Jews when they succumbed to eating the ‘flesh of swine’ in order to save their lives.
Pig in the form of pork, sausage or bacon has been used throughout Christian history to force Jewish people to convert to Christianity on pain of death. Jewish people converted to this foreign religion to avoid cruel and inhumane persecutions based solely on the fact that they obeyed God’s commandments: did not eat pig, circumcised their sons, and kept the Sabbath, and the Feasts of the LORD. They were forced with threat of death to disobey God’s eternal commands in order to reside within the Christian community as a marano ‘pig’ convert.
The whole issue of eating pork, bacon, and ham –– the flesh of swine –– has been and continues to be used by the enemy to keep Jewish people from knowing the love of God through their own Messiah. It is eaten explicitly by people who say they know and love Jesus Christ! This is unfortunate because the Jews are looking for a Messiah who will teach the Torah in proper perspective as Yeshua did. They do not recognize a pork eating Christian Jesus as their deliverer and they never will.
The Millennial Kingdom
“Those who consecrate and purify themselves to go into the gardens behind one of their temples and eat the flesh of pigs, rats and other unclean things – they will meet their end together with the one they follow,’ declares the LORD” (Isaiah 66:17).
The prophet Isaiah speaks about the Millennial Kingdom, the era before the new heavens and earth, when Yeshua will judge the nations. One of the judgments will be against those who eat the ‘flesh of swine’ behind their temples. Pig roasts, along with pork chops and ham, have become more prevalent in church fellowship meals as Christians fight for and defend eating the ‘flesh of swine.’ Bacon has become an almost revered food and flavors nearly everything offered in main and side dishes. If eating pig was no longer considered something ‘unclean’ in the eyes of God, then Isaiah would not have prophesied that those who eat this meat “behind their temples” will meet their end with the one they follow.
Yeshua did not make all bread ‘clean’ for he did not have to; it was already a ‘clean’ food. Noah understood the difference between animals that were considered food and those were not based on the number of pairs of animals God brought to the Ark. God’s dietary regulations for Israel made no mention of health or under-cooked meats. The only requirement was faith being expressed through obedience. Peter’s vision did not remove ‘unclean’ foods from a God-fearer’s diet, but was a revelation that the promise to Abraham was being fulfilled –– the good news of salvation was going to the nations. The Council of Jerusalem laid the foundation for gentiles who were coming to faith in Yeshua that included obeying the Torah commands about idolatry, sexual immorality, and the eating of blood. Finally, Isaiah prophesied what will happen to those who rebel against God and His commands by eating the ‘flesh of swine.’ They will meet their end with the one they follow who cannot be Yeshua –– the Jewish the Messiah.
©2010 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved. No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. For a hard copy of this article, please purchase Journey with Jeremiah: Nourishment for the Wild Olive.