Did Yeshua Advocate Eating Pork and Other Unclean Meats?

Matthew 15:11, see Mark 7:19, Thus He declared all foods clean. This phrase is excluded from the KJV, but is included in the NAS, NIV and some other modern translations. Some Bible teachers see this phrase as Yeshua’s endorsement for eating unclean meats such as pork. Even if this phrase were in the original  language, Yeshua would never have considered swine to be food—a very non-Jewish concept and out of context with a Torah-adherent society. Furthermore, the Jews in his audience would have strongly reacted against Yeshua saying such a thing. What’s more, earlier in this passage Yeshua upholds the Torah over men’s tradition (Mark 7:6–13), and so Yeshua wouldn’t be teaching anything against the Torah by saying we can eat swine!

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The Hebrew Roots Version, which is a translation from the Aramaic, confirms the KJV rendering of this verse. However, some of the modern texts (e.g., the NIV and NAS) add the phrase to the end of this verse, “In saying this [Yeshua] declared all foods clean.” This variant phrase in the newer English translations is the source of the confusion in the minds of many who read this.

The KJV is translated from the Greek family of manuscripts called the Textus Receptus or Received Text, which until the end of the nineteenth century was accepted as the most authoritative and purest manuscripts by the Protestant church. On the other hand, the newer (e.g., the NAS and NIV) translations derive from another family of Greek manuscripts that were rejected by early Protestant scholars as being inferior to the Textus Receptus, but liberal scholars from England challenged these beliefs of earlier scholars and were instrumental in popularizing the variant and previously rejected family of Greek manuscripts (called the Western family of texts).

The debate has raged on for more than 100 years as to which family of manuscripts is the oldest and most reliable and in accordance with the actual autographs (which no longer exist). But since no one knows for sure, can we approach the issue of determining whether the added words in the newer English translations, “In saying this [Yeshua] declared all foods clean” are accurate or not per the original language? Was Yeshua saying here that the dietary laws delineated in the Torah are now nullified? If so, would this be consistent with the rest Yeshua’s teachings?

Briefly, what was Yeshua’s stand on the Torah? In Matthew 5:17–19 he said,

Think not that I am come to destroy the Torah-law, or the Prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Yeshua here instructed his followers to not think that he had come to annul the Torah-law.

Then in Mark 7:9 Yeshua rebukes the religious folks of his day for nullifying the Word of Elohim by their man-made traditions. What did he mean by the phrase Word of Elohim? When he made this statement there was no “New Testament,” but only the Tanakh (or “Old Testament”). He was rebuking the Jews for changing YHVH’s Word of which the biblical dietary laws in the Torah were a part. So for him to rebuke the Jews for changing the Word of Elohim, and then a few verses later to be advocating the annulment of the dietary laws found in that Word would have made Yeshua not only a hypocrite, but a Torah-law breaker and thus a sinner (1 John 3:4). To suggest that Yeshua was a law-breaker is utter blasphemy(!) and nullifies the entire gospel message and the rest of the Testimony of Yeshua. Therefore, he could not have been advocating the violation of the Torah-law, and at the same time be the Word of Elohim made flesh and be YHVH’s sinless redemptive Lamb, as the newer translations imply by the addition of the phrase, “In saying this [Yeshua] declared all foods clean.” Therefore, we utterly reject this phrase as it appears in our modern Bibles as a corruption of the original text.

By looking at the context, we see that the issue in these passages in Matthew and Mark was not about eating kosher versus not eating kosher, but whether it was allowable to eat with unwashed hands or not. According to Jewish non-biblical oral tradition, it was imperative for one to go through an elaborate hand washing ceremony for mystical reasons before partaking of food. These commandments were rooted in traditions of men, not in the Torah-law of YHVH. Yeshua is taking the Jews to task for placing more emphasis on man-made traditions rather than on the pure and firm Word of Elohim. This seems to be a chronic problem in many religious circles even in our day. Sunday worship replaced the seventh day Sabbath. Christmas and Easter replaced the appointed feasts of YHVH such as Passover, Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles. And the list goes on.

Even beyond the issue of Jewish handwashing traditions, Yeshua was using this as a teaching opportunity to instruct the Jews on the issues of the heart. Whether one eats with unwashed hands or not is of less importance to Elohim than the unwashed condition of the carnal human heart. Religion has made a fine art of addressing surface issues or gilding the proverbial “garbage can,” while overlooking the contents therein. This is what Yeshua was really addressing in this passage.


5 thoughts on “Did Yeshua Advocate Eating Pork and Other Unclean Meats?

  1. Also in
    Matthew 15:20 KJV

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

    He explains what he meant, not food but unwashed hands!

  2. After reading Matt 15 and Mark 7:1-23, I received the takeaway message that as wrong as Jesus said it was to obey man made traditions and discount God’s commandments, the real issue here was of the heart — that’s where the defilement comes from — what we think and what we say. Hand-washing of itself was not the real problem but what goes on in our heart. (see below reference Matt 15:11-20)

    To underscore this concept, we heard of a man with a young family who became smitten when the Lord showed him that his occasional temptations in his thoughts re: the opposite sex were actually no different than his wife’s flirtatious relationship with a family friend. “God showed me that when I entertained those wrong thoughts, I had already done it in essence.” God granted him a sincere repentance, and he was able to make things right with his wife, taking his place as a “purified” head of the home instead of an “unclean” one. Husband and wife began praying together each morning, and several problems with child discipline began to diminish. The wife reported a relief that at last she felt supported instead of feeling judged. I was deeply impressed with the fact that the infractions on both sides were not of the obvious immoral caliber, and yet both parties had a deep repentance for the darkness of their HEART. Previously, the wife had repented of her flirtations and asked forgiveness of her spouse, which he granted, but he confessed later, that he always felt that he had not fallen to HER depths, because he had only thought of the indiscretions but had never acted on the temptation. It was sobering to realize his judgments against his wife still remained as a wall between them, until the husband repented for his part in uncovering the family through his thought life, even though he had previously expressed his forgiveness for her sin. Whew! We can only sort these things out with Ruach HaKodesh showing us our heart issues!

    Here is the whole passage from Matt 15: 11 – 20 in KJV:

    Mat 15:11 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.
    Mat 15:12 Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?
    Mat 15:13 But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.
    Mat 15:14 Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
    Mat 15:15 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable.
    Mat 15:16 And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding?
    Mat 15:17 Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?
    Mat 15:18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.
    Mat 15:19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
    Mat 15:20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.

    BTW, the reference to the added words “thus he declared…” was in Mark 7:19.

    • Very good. Thank you. Also, thanks for the correction about the added phrase being in Mark 7:19, not in Matthew 15. As you can tell, I don’t use a NAS or NIV Bible. I have them on my book shelf, but seldom use them.

  3. This was a midrash. Everyone listening knew what food was (Lev 11, Deut 14). Even if this obvious redaction were present in all manuscripts, the fact it is a parenthetical insertion stands out like a sore thumb. If he were advocating eating things not food (pigs, mice, cardboard, etc) would anyone have been listened to him one second longer (Deut 13,18)? Food can be made common (koinos) as he alludes to, by not draining the blood, strangling, dieing of itself, etc but even this is not the thrust of the message. It’s about what is in the hearts of men, Yah’s instruction or their own. “Create in me a clean heart” Psa 51:10.

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