“Common and Unclean” Explained

Romans 14:14, Nothing is unclean in itself. In this verse, is the Apostle Paul declaring that there is no longer a distinction between clean and unclean foods, therefore making void the biblical dietary laws? Let’s analyze the contextual and linguistic aspects of this passage to see what Paul is really saying here.


The word unclean (koinos) in this verse can also mean “common,” and in three places in the Apostolic Scriptures the two words “common” and “unclean” are used side by side; q.v. Acts 10: 14, 28 and 11:8, which says, “But I said, Not so, Master: for nothing common [koinos] or unclean [akathartos] has at any time entered into my mouth. “From this example, we see that unclean in Romans 14 can also mean “common” as we find in Acts 11. The word for unclean in Acts 11:8 is an entirely different word; therefore, akathartos is a reference to unclean meat, as proscribed by the Torah. Koinos, on the other hand, cannot mean unclean meat in Romans 14, or else Acts 11:8 would be a superfluous and unexplainably redundant in using two words that mean exactly the same thing. The word koinos is used elsewhere in the Apostolic Scriptures not to mean “unclean,” as in “unclean meat,” but “unclean” as in unwashed hands (Mark 7:2), or “common,” as in something that is shared commonly among people (Acts 2:44; 4:32; Tit 1:4; Jude 3). Of the seven places this word is used in the Apostolic Scriptures it never means unclean meat.

In David Stern’s Jewish New Testament Commentary, on Romans 14 he states that Paul is not abrogating the biblical dietary laws. On verse 14, Stern states that Paul is referring to ritual purity, not whether something is unclean (nonkosher) meat or not. What is ritual purity? It is a reference to either how something was slaughtered, and whether it was bled properly, or whether the meat had previously been sacrificed to idols before being sold in the public meat markets—a common practice in that day in pagan cities.

Furthermore, Paul could not have been advocating eating swine, and other unclean meats, without making himself into a total hypocrite and liar, since in several places in the Book of Acts he strongly states (toward the end of his life) that he was a Torah-observant Jew and walked orderly and kept the Torah (Acts 21:20), and that he had not broken any of the Torah laws (Acts 25:16), which would have included the dietary laws contained in the Torah.

Let’s also keep an important point in mind when speaking of YHVH’s biblical dietary commands: When some­one gets born again or regenerated spiritually their digestive system does not change. Eating unclean or biblically unkosher meat is, from a purely medical standpoint, deleterious to one’s health regardless of whether one is a believer in Yeshua or not.


4 thoughts on ““Common and Unclean” Explained

    • Thanks for catching that typo. Correction made.

      I appreciate people who take the time, like you, to actually look up the Scriptures and to make sure that is what the Bible is saying. This is being a good Berean and proving or testing all things as Scripture instructs us to do (1 These 5:21). Too many people take at face value without questioning what their pastors and Bible teachers are telling them without actually verifying it in the Word of Elohim. This is why so many people believe the traditions of men by which the Word of Elohim has been made of none effect (Mark 7:9, 13), which Yeshua warned us against. Kudos and blessings to those people, like you, actually take the time to check everything against Scripture!

  1. Is there a way to know what is a ritual and what isn’t. I want to study that subject. Is there a certain word in the 1st Testament which is used. I haven’t tried to search yet, but just thought I would ask before I do. Thank you. Marilyn

    • By dictionary definition, a ritual is “a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.” The Bible is full of rituals. The rituals that YHVH commands his people to do in the Bible are good rituals. Man-made rituals that go against the Bible are not good. Other rituals that are not forbidden by the Bible or go against it that have been invented by humans may or may not be good.

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