Clean and Unclean Meats or Vegetarianism?

Romans 14:2, One man has faith…eats vegetables. Is Paul teaching in this passage that it is permissible for believers to eat “all things” including unclean meat, which includes rats, bats, scorpions, lizards and cockroaches? 

First let’s examine the greater context of Romans 14:2, which is 14:1-15:6. Messianic Jewish biblical scholar David Stern in his Jewish New Testament Commentary states that among believers there are two groups: those with “strong faith” and those with “weak faith.” The latter are depicted in this passage as feeling they must abstain from meat or wine and/or observe certain days as set-apart (kadosh), while the former feel no such compunctions.

Stern continues, it is clear from this passage itself that the “weak” cannot be equated with Torah-observant Messianics. Nothing in YHVH’s Torah-law requires an Israelite to be vegetarian (verse 2). It is argued that kosher food might not have been available in Rome, but Rome had a large Jewish colony (Acts 28:17), and it is unthinkable that it would not have had a shochet (ritual slaughterer). Also nothing in Torah requires one to refrain from wine (verse 21); the only exception are Nazirites during the period of their vow and cohanim (priests) on duty. On the contrary, wine drinking is so much a part of Jewish ritual that is lent an aura of sanctity that, at least until recently, made alcoholism very uncommon among Jews.

In Sterns opinion, the weak are believers, either Gentile or Jewish, who have not yet grown sufficiently in their faith to have given up attachment to various pagan ascetic practices and non-biblical Greek or Jewish calendar observances. (This is not a reference to the biblical feasts or appointed times that YHVH spells out in his Torah-law.) He then lists four types of people who fit into this category: (1) Gentiles who want to avoid the appearance of evil by maintaining physical and emotional distance from anything that reminds them of their previous idolatrous practices… who want to avoid the trappings of their former sinful way of life. (2) Gentiles who adopted elements of Jewish practice as part of their faith along with believing in Yeshua. They have, as it were, bought what they considered a whole package and have not yet unwrapped it and decided what is really important for them. In the first century the phenomenon was common enough to require considerable attention among the early believers (Acts 15 and the whole book of Galatians, for starters). (3) Gentiles or Jews who have brought into their faith practices found in other religions with which they are familiar. These practices often appeal to their religiosity but are irrelevant or even contrary to the gospel. (4) Finally, Messianics who have not grasped how the incorporation of the Renewed Covenant into Elohim’s Torah and the presence of the Set-apart Spirit in themselves alters the way in which the Torah is to be applied. They therefore feel a compulsiveness about observing ceremonial and ritual details. When their faith grows stronger they will be free not from the Torah-law but from legalistic compulsiveness (Stern, pp. 431-434).

On the phrase in Romans 14:2, “One man has faith … eats vegetables,” Messianic Jewish biblical teacher JosephShulam writes that the references to “vegetables” (and thus to “meat” by contrast) most likely relates to the problems associated with food offered to idols; vegetarianism was not a religious or theological issue per se during the Second Temple period. The Jewish believers’ sensitivities derive from extensions or “fences” against the possibility of idolatry and or from traditional interpretations concerning kashrut (the laws concerning clean and unclean animals and ritual slaughtering), as well as the laws concerning ritual purity. To exclude meat from one’s diet was a solution to those who doubted the origin of meat, its method of slaughter, and the possibility that it might have been offered to idols before sale in the market. When the “weak” person refrains from eating food that has been offered to idols, Paul considers him in effect to question whether Elohim has more power than the idol (A Commentary On the Jewish Roots of Romans, pp. 457-458).

So contrary to popular opinion, Romans 14 is not discussing whether or not it is permissible to eat unclean meats, but rather vegetarianism as opposed to meat eating as a means of avoiding eating meat sacrificed to idols. So once again, in examining the Hebraic and historic cultural context of the passage we see that the traditional Christian interpretation of this passage as an invalidation of the biblical kosher laws is erroneous and a matter of men’s traditions making of none effect the plain Word of YHVH (Matt 15:7-9 and Mark 7:7-9).

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 (Matt. 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.


3 thoughts on “Clean and Unclean Meats or Vegetarianism?

    • Not me, the Word of Elohim. I have published numerous videos and online teachings (including on this blog if you do a search) on what the Bible says about this subject and how the church has lied to you. Sorry to be so blunt, the truth is truth. It’s not my truth, but Elohim’s. It’s about holiness and righteousness and pleasing our Father in heaven. Blessings to you in your search for the truth that has often been obscured by people whose god is their belly.

  1. Shalom Natan

    The Romans 14:14 rendering of koinos from common to unclean was only introduced into English translations in the KJV. And subsequently copied by pretty much all english translations. The KJV originally had a side bar mark to indicate the introduced change to unclean but that got lost …….

    (House of lee miller has photos of the old bibles from a seminary old book repository library to show it.)

    It gets further confusing when we are not taught that common is not an evil bad state at all as many creatures are common and all were created by God in the 7 days of Creation and considered good. Most though, will never ever be considered HOLY in service to God.

    This status is an attribute that God alone deems upon a creature or item.

    If a creature was considered CLEAN it was considered permittable as food for the separated to God as CLEAN ie those in covenant with God by faith.

    ACTS 10 is all about this aspect in that Jewish Halacha was determining gentile’s status as unclean and therefor to be avoided as contaminators of the Jewish people….. when in fact they were just common in God’s sight & not elevated to HOLYness to serve God generally.

    So Judaism then and now generally tripped in a category error of misapplication of status and ended up creating a solution without God by instigating halacha that created fear and discrimination against the gentiles which led to a man made ruling of Circumcision being shorthand for Proselyte Process to become a part of the “HOLY” Nation of Israel.

    We know these Halachic rulings break Torah as well as support Torah so it is imperfect solution to a man made error. This category error is compounded upon because Jewish men took it into their own hands to make a way of holiness as law by their own hands.

    Perhaps this another sad reaction to be attributed to the Macabean pushback against the wickedness of gentile oppressors but it is a heavy yoke of men and not God’s power to lift a person from common into HOLYNESS. Though no doubt you will receive blessings and cursings for trying to be acceptable before God in your own strength as a gentile.

    If we would only think on what is written more….
    The Abrahamic line became God’s people through God’s Sovereign choice just as much as did Cornelius.

    This category of Proselytism/Circumcsion never existed in the Torah as we clearly see no such requirement except for Faith in God always leading a gentile whether Abraham or Ruth or Rahab into covenant with God just like with Corneliius. What we did see is those particular gentiles outside the camp ending up closer through faith as they learn the ways of God and are recognised as His generally.

    Again all I can say is…..
    What God has made clean IS clean & not common any longer…. although the status may change to defiled with the remedies God has provided in His mercy.

    Peter and Paul struggled with this and ended up understanding and getting over the manmade doctrines and so should we. To be the one new man Messiah died for.
    HOLINESS is determined by God alone. He created rulings about what defiles the HOLY status of those living or inanimate things and the procedures as to; IF and how to restore the status of HOLINESS to them so that they may be used again by God.

    I am grateful to you Natan and also to Seed of Abraham Ministries and House of David for sharing with me some insight into this very simple but confused by men for too long subject.

    Shavua Tov

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