Old Testament

Did God Change His Mind About Dietary Laws?

It is crucial to note that God’s first commandments to humans were related to eating. The Hebrew word “command” is used for the first time in Genesis 2:16-17 to reflect God’s headship over creation. While God gave Adam and Eve dominion over the created order, He still set “boundaries” when He said, but the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat.

This is a pivotal point. Eve really ate a forbidden fruit. The physical reality of eating something that God has “declared” forbidden is linked to the spiritual reality of disobedience to God. If this interpretation was strictly to convey a moral point, then why not turn the entire story into an allegorical lesson? Because you and I both know it’s critical to believe in a literal Eden, a literal tree, and a literal fall of man or otherwise the historical-redemptive piece is missing from the Bible.

It is correct to say the original Edenic diet assigned to man consisted of fruits, nuts, grains, and vegetables (Gen. 1:29-30; 2:9; 3:2). That being said, God was the first to kill an animal in order to clothe Adam and Eve for the purpose of keeping them warm and more importantly, to demonstrate without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness (Heb. 9:22).

It was also Abel’s sacrifice of meat in Genesis 4:4 that was acceptable and pleasing to God, not the fruit of the ground brought by Cain (Gen. 4:3). The main focus was the sacrifice, but that doesn’t mean meat was forbidden in God’s original plan. I believe God always intended for meat to be eaten, and he would later differentiate between clean/unclean in Noah’s time based on Genesis 7-9.

Regardless of whether meat was eaten or not in the garden, the distinction between clean and unclean animals was still made before the more specific covenantal stipulations with Israel at Sinai.Thus, dietary restrictions are not embedded in the socio-cultural context of the Isrealites, but is rather a subset of the clean/unclean distinction as a meta-narrative of the entire Bible.

Therefore, when John Piper associates circumcision with the dietary restrictions, he is committing the fallacy of false equivalence. First, circumcision was deeply embedded in the ceremonial law. One could not come to the temple if they weren’t circumcised. It was also a sign of their “distinction” from the pagan nations. But the separation from Pagan nations rationale doesn’t work with the clean/unclean animals. For instance, W.F. Albright points out in his book, “Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan,” that large and small cattle were more generally sacred, so that it is quite irrational to single out the economically and religiously much less important pig and to explain its prohibition in Israel by its alleged religious significance.”

Additionally, a comparison between Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 demonstrates that the repetition of the dietary code in Deuteronomy 14 is free from ceremonial or ritual regulations connected to the sanctuary or holy place. Also, out of all the eleven kinds of uncleanness that are classified in Leviticus (uncleanness of child birth, mildew in clothing or in house, leprosy, etc) all of them are temporary. Some are 1 day, 7 days, 33 days, etc). The uncleanness of animals, however is permanent (Gen. 7:2; Lev. 11:1-47; Deut. 14:3-21). This means an unclean animal is born unclean and dies unclean. As one scholar pointed out, “the type of uncleanness is hereditary, non-cultic, and universal, while the other kind is acquired, temporary, and ritual/ceremonial.” In fact, the dietary regulations were required for the “sojourner” in Leviticus 17:3 through the law of hunting.

Skeptics argue there are no positive evidence existing in the form of commandments or prohibitions prior to the book of Leviticus to support such a standard. First, let me point out that God still punished Cain for murdering his brotherAbel prior to the 10 commandments. Scripture makes it clear that the law of God is written on our hearts (Rom. 2:15). In fact, God’s invisible attributes are clearly seen in “nature” so that all are without excuse. Secondly, I disagree. If you read Leviticus 11, it is connected theologically with the Exodus from Egypt in terms of motivation for its observation. Recall that Exodus 20:2 starts with “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt,” The same terminology is used in Lev. 11:43 “You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls upon the earth. For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God; you shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” Here cleanness and holiness are linked with redemption from the slavery and bondage in Egypt.

Moreover, God links Leviticus 20:22-26 in connection with the gift of the land. “You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey. You shall therefore separate the clean beast from the unclean, and the unclean bird from the clean. You shall not make yourselves “detestable by beat or by bird or anything which the ground crawls, for I have set apart for you to hold unclean…” The appeal to following the laws of the land are connected with future blessing.

Another objection raised was that if one applies the dietary regulations then do they have to apply the entire book of Leviticus? First, the idea of unclean/clean is not limited to the book of Leviticus. Yes, the specific command is, but the motivation and themes are represented throughout the entire Bible, from Genesis 1 to Revelation. Second, why is it that people hastily jump to the conclusion that the laws in Leviticus are arbitrary? Do you think God would create “revelational” laws in contrast with “rational” laws which man can better understand? Remember Leviticus also condemned prostitution, bestiality, and other abominations that Christians reject as well. As far as the mold, how do you know whether God was trying to protect his people from infection? If you want to do extensive research, look up D.I Macht, “A Scientific Appreciation of Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14.

The key is really to look at the passages in the New Testament to see if God’s commandments concerning clean/unclean animals have been abolished. First, the Mark 7 passage is mentioned to argue God abolished the old testament dietary law. According to the text, I agree with the statement that there is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him, but the things which come out of a man are what defile him. No one is suggesting the animal itself is what defiles us. Otherwise, God wouldn’t call his entire creation “good.” Second, when the Jews obeyed God through circumcision, temple worship, honoring the Sabbath, etc, were those “practices” keeping them from being defiled? Of course not. While it was an external sign of their obedience, it was their “faithfulness” to God and desire to be “holy” that was pleasing to God. And our salvation is never found in the law, but in Christ.

At the same time, faith without works is dead. There is no such thing as a disobedient “faith.” Same is true with the Sermon on the Mount. He did not abolish these commands, but rather to show that they all went down to motives, not just external acts. So when God tells us what is clean/unclean for food, and we disobey that command, then it’s our disobedience that “pollutes the heart.”

Moreover, this passage has been studied in detail by R.T. France. He makes this statement.
“The syntax clearly marks out καθαρίζων πάντα τὰ βρώματα as a parenthetical editorial comment, since there is no masculine singular subject within the reported speech to which it can relate (hence the emendations found in some MSS, representing attempts to ‘correct’ the syntax by those who failed to recognize the nature of the clause…The subject therefore is Jesus (the subject of λέγει, v. 18a), whom Mark thus interprets as ‘cleansing all food’ in the sense of declaring that it is no longer to be regarded as ritually ‘unclean’” (R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text [NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002], 291; cf. 276).

As I argued beforehand, it’s clear from the passage in Matthew 15:20 that Jesus concludes with why he made the statement: “These are what defile a person (murder, anger, lying, etc); but eating with UNWASHED HANDS does not defile them. There is no mention of “unclean animals.” Secondly, the Greek word bromata that is used refers to all foods of any kind. If flesh meat was the subject under the discussion, the word for flesh, sarx, or even a reference to animals would be a more appropriate distinctive. If all foods are employed, then even poisonous berries and mushrooms are now okay to eat. I don’t think this was the driving force behind Jesus’s statement here.

Finally, in Acts 10, Peter saw a great sheet let down from heaven with all kinds of animals, birds, and reptiles in it. Peter was instructed to rise, kill, and eat. Then God says, “What God has cleansed, you must not call common.” The lesson is God was trying to show Peter that Gentile converts were acceptable to God and should be received by the believers. This is evident because Peter was perplexed until Acts 10:28 when he explains what he thought the vision meant: “But God has shown me that I should not call any MAN impure or unclean.” The context is clear Peter was referring to the Gentiles, not food.

The vision also needs to be understood. It does not say the sheet was full of unclean animals. There was a mixture of animals, both clean and unclean. The words used are koinos or common and akathartos or unclean. The unclean animal is clearly one that God assigned in Leviticus 11. The other kind was a clean animal that had “been contaminated or defiled by contact with an unclean animal.” Moreover, Paul rebukes Peter when he says, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?” If Peter was accused of being like the Gentiles, it surely wasn’t because he started eating unclean meat. For he said in his vision in Acts 10:14, “I have NEVER eaten anything uncommon or unclean.”

Romans 14:14-17 is another passage where Christians say Pauls point was to tell Gentiles to abstain from consuming unkosher foods since it would offend the “weaker Jewish brother,” not because there is still a creation distinction of clean/unclean. But Paul defines the weaker brother in verse 2 as one who eats only vegetables. The question was whether meat was acceptable at all since meat was sacrificed to idols. One might accidently consume it without knowing it came from a pagan temple.

In 1 Timothy 4:1-15 the traditional interpretation is Paul condemns the practice of abstaining from certain foods for religious reasons and shows that every creature God made is now clean because they are sanctified by prayer. When Paul says every, it’s not to be absolute. For example, in Genesis 1:29 God told Adam to eat every tree and plant, but we know in Genesis 2:16 that the tree of knowledge was off limits. The meaning of this passage is every creature God made for “food” is to be received with Thanksgiving because it is sanctified by God’s word through his law (Lev 14/Deut 14).

In conclusion, God always has a purpose for his laws. They are not arbitrary. They are for our good. Marriage is for our good. The Sabbath is a day of rest since humans need breaks. Eating clean animals helps nourish our bodies. These laws are to protect us from harm. Above all, God wants us to obey these laws to keep us healthy and demonstrate our “faith” by our works. Our works don’t save us, they only reveal our trust and commitment to the only one who can save us, Jesus Christ.

The 4 Major Themes of the Bible: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration

Christ_Handing_the_Keys_to_St__Peter_by_Pietro_Perugino

There are 4 main themes that interconnect the history of the Judeo-Christian worldview. The first is creation. In the beginning, God created time and the universe by His power, turning nothing into something (ex-nihilo). He created the stars, galaxies, fish, cucumbers, trees, giraffes, and his greatest work of all, humankind. God placed the man Adam and his wife Eve in the Garden of Eden, a perfect environment, and gave them the responsibility to tend the garden and take care of the animals.

Meanwhile, a mighty angel named Lucifer, who was once created perfect, rebelled against God because of pride and envy. He was cast out of heaven and took the form of a serpent. He tempted Eve to disobey God by eating something God told her not to do, for her protection, and when this happened, both the man and the woman felt shame and their relationship became fractured from God. This is often referred to as the second major theme of the Bible. The fall of Man, or as Christian scholars would say, original sin. This means that human beings are no longer born morally good, but are born with an evil inclination to disobey authority.

The struggle between good and evil continued in the first couple’s family. One of their sons, Cain, murdered his brother. Several generations later, the world was filled with such violence and defiance towards God, that the only man alive at the time, Noah, was extended grace. God revealed to Noah that He would send a great flood to bring judgment on the people, and so he told Noah to build an ark. After the flood, Noah and his family began to repopulate the earth.

Noah’s descendants birthed the start of Judaism by the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in 1900 BC. God promised to bless Abraham’s offspring and, through that seed, to bless all the nations of the Earth.  Jacob, the youngest of the patriarchal Fathers, had twelve children, and the eleventh child, Joseph, ended up becoming a powerful force in Egypt for 400 years until the Pharaoh of Egypt, Ramses II, enslaved them. To rescue the Israelites, God raised up a prophet named Moses, from the tribe of Levi, to bring the people out of Israel out of Egypt and back to the land which had been promised to Abraham.

Once safely out of Egypt, the children of Israel camped at Mount Sinai, where God gave Moses the 10 commandments, which was the basis of their covenant. In addition to the moral code (Do not murder, steal) the law defined the role of the priest and offering of sacrifices to atone for sin. Atonement could only be made by the shedding of the blood of a spotless sacrifice. The law also detailed how to build the holy tabernacle, in which God’s presence would dwell and where He would meet with His people.

Over the next several years, Joshua led the people of God through various battles and they began to conquer many nations. However, they started to worship the gods around them and lost their identity. As a result, they no longer wanted God to be their king, but asked for a human king because they wanted to be like other nations. God granted their request, and Samuel anointed Saul as Israel’s first king. Saul was a disappointment, disobeyed God and was removed from power. God then chose David, of the tribe of Judah, to succeed Saul as King. God promised David that he would have a descendant who would reign on throne forever (the promised Messiah being Jesus Christ, God in the flesh).

David’s son Solomon reigned in Jerusalem around 950 BC, but civil war broke out, and the kingdom was divided. The northern kingdom was Israel and the southern Kingdom Judah. Israel continued to have wicked kings, and God brought the Assyrian nation upon Israel in judgment. After the northern kingdom was destroyed, the nation of Judah was overtaken by the Babylonian empire around 574 BC. This is during the time when the prophet Isaiah predicted a Suffering Servant who would suffer for the sins of His people and be glorified and sit on David’s throne. The prophet Micah predicted that this promised one would be born in Bethlehem.

The Jewish people were deported into Babylon for over 70 years, and after they fell to the Persian Empire, the Jews were released to return to Judah. The Jews returned home to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. Malachi wrote the last book of Jewish history and prophesies that the Lord would come to His temple and that a future king would come into Jerusalem riding on a donkey.

This brings us to the 3rd theme of the Bible: redemption. The Old Testament is the story of God’s plan to bring redemption of man. The sacrificial system, the spotless lamb, the savior of the world, the one who would die for his own people, was about to arrive on the scene. The suffering servant of Isaiah, the Son of David, the Messiah of Daniel, and the humble king of Zechariah, all to be found in one person, Jesus Christ.

Jesus grew up as an observant Jew. He began his public ministry at the age of 30. John the Baptist had been preaching of the coming Messianic kingdom and baptizing those who believed his message and turned from their sins. People were following Jesus and calling him the Son of God, which was considered blasphemous because Jesus was equating himself as equal with God.

In his final trip to Jerusalem, Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples. That night, during a time of prayer, Judas betrayed him and Jesus was arrested and dragged through a series of mock trials. He was condemned to death by crucifixion by the Roman governor. At the moment of His death, there was a great earthquake. Jesus’ body was taken from the cross, laid in a nearby tomb, and on the third day, Jesus’ tomb was discovered empty.

The Jewish people realized that the sacrificial systems, the tabernacle, the priesthood, the atonement, the suffering servant, all of these prophecies were fulfilled in the God-Man, Jesus Christ: He is the ultimate lamb of God, He is the High Priest, He is the King of all, and He is the Savior of the World.

The final theme is restoration. It is when Christ will return and make all things right. We are living in the already-not yet eschatology. This means that Christianity is spreading, and the kingdom of God is growing, but the millennium, the thousand year reign of Christ, hasn’t yet occurred. We are waiting for the day when the Messiah will bring peace to the Earth and establish a new heaven and a new earth. Read this verse and meditate on this future day. We have this hope in Christ. God bless and share this good news with others!

Revelation 21:1-8 says, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.”