Did Christ declare all foods to be Clean in Mark 7:19?

4 min

At the end of Mark 7:19 most Bible translations say, “Thus He declared all foods clean.” So its pretty clear that Jesus changed the old food regulations in Leviticus 11, and its ok to eat pork, shellfish, or whatever we want, right?

Lev_11:10 And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you:
Lev_11:11 They shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcases in abomination.
Lev_11:12 Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you.
Lev_11:13 And these are they which ye shall have in abomination among the fowls; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the ospray,
Lev_11:20 All fowls that creep, going upon all four, shall be an abomination unto you.
Lev_11:23 But all other flying creeping things, which have four feet, shall be an abomination unto you.
Lev_11:41 And every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth shall be an abomination; it shall not be eaten.
Lev_11:42 Whatsoever goeth upon the belly, and whatsoever goeth upon all four, or whatsoever hath more feet among all creeping things that creep upon the earth, them ye shall not eat; for they are an abomination.

The most important clue for understanding any passage in the Bible is to check the context. In this case, its given in Mark 7:1-5 where Jesus is asked, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the Tradition of the Elders, but eat their bread with unwashed hands?” (v.5).

Mar 7:1 Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem.
Mar 7:2 And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault.
Mar 7:3 For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders.
Mar 7:4 And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables.
Mar 7:5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?
Mar 7:6 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.
Mar 7:7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
Mar 7:8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.
Mar 7:9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.
Mar 7:10 For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:
Mar 7:11 But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.
Mar 7:12 And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother;
Mar 7:13 Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.
Mar 7:14 And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand:
Mar 7:15 There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.
Mar 7:16 If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.
Mar 7:17 And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable.
Mar 7:18 And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him;
Mar 7:19 Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?
Mar 7:20 And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.

Notice two things: first, the question isn’t about the Torah (“Law”), but about a tradition. Second, its not a question about what may be eaten. It’s about whether one may eat at all without a ritual handwashing.

That explains why Yeshua responded by saying, “Neglecting the Commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men,” (v.8) and, “You have a fine way of setting aside the Commandment of God in order to keep your tradition” (v.9).

So then, could verses 18-19 have Jesus setting aside a commandment of God when up until that point He had been criticizing the Pharisees for that very thing (v. 8,9,13)?

And could verses 18-19 have Yeshua talking about a commandment at all, when up until that point His subject had been a “Tradition of the Elders” (v. 3,4,5,8,9,13)?

Lastly, could verses 18-19 suddenly be about food when up until that point the subject had been ritual handwashing (v. 2,3,4,5)? Obviously, no. This is made even clearer by comparing the same discussion as reported by Matthew (15:1-20).  Jesus concludes by saying, “but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.”

Mat 15:20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.

Because the subject of Mark 7:1-19 isn’t Kashrut (Biblical diet), it cannot be about abolishing Kashrut either. Ok, but why do so many translations* seem to say that it is?

Again consider the context, but in this case the social context. This discussion took place in a social and historical context different than our own. Language and practice were based on the Word of God. For instance, their holidays were those days set apart in the Bible for special observance, not ours. Their property rights were those of the Bible, not ours. Likewise, only those things that are not taw-may (“defiled”, “unclean”) were considered food, everything else was not. Reading Mark 7:19 as they would have, it means,

“Thus He declared all things-given-by- God-as food to be clean, regardless of ritual hand washing.” additional studies here

In other words, eating fruits or bread before washing of hands would have been unlawful to the Pharisees and that was the topic in discussion. So again, do you think Pharisees who took offence at Christ’s disciples eating bread before washing hands will say it’s cool to eat pork? I think not.

Like it? Share with your friends!