Does Romans 14 give Christians license to ignore the biblical dietary laws?

This may be what your pastor and church tell you, but it’s not what the Word of Elohim says!

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 says 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 neither does their digestive system change nor Elohim’s standards of holiness and righteous living. Eating unclean or biblically unkosher meat is, from a purely medical standpoint, deleterious to one’s health regardless whether one is a believer in Yeshua or not, and Scripture still refers to eating unclean meat as an unholy, sinful act and an abomination, and the Word of Elohim does not change yesterday, today or forever!

 

The biblical dietary laws are primarily about holiness NOT just health!

What is the chief attribute of Yehovah Elohim? It is holiness, for this is what Scripture revealed that the spirit beings in his heavenly throne room are chanting day and night.

 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the YHVH of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” (Isa 6:1–3)

The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: “Holy, holy, holy, YHVH Elohim Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!” (Rev 4:8)

What is holiness? The Bible defines it is as those things, people, times and practices that YHVH himself has determined are to be set apart or are above or are transcendent. Set apart from or transcendent above what? From those things that are mundane or earthly, defiled or polluted by sin or by that which is unholy and ungodly.

Why is it important to know that the chief character attribute of Elohim is holiness? Because he wants his children to be holy as he is holy (Lev 11:44, 45). Why is this? Because he wants to spend eternity with his redeemed and glorified children, for without holiness no one will see Elohim (Heb 12:14). It’s really that simple! Therefore, it’s important that his children learn now the difference between what YHVH considers to be the holy and the profane (Lev 11:47), so we can hang out with him in his holy presence for eternity.


Natan’s Commentary Notes on Leviticus Chapter Eleven

Leviticus 11:1–47, The biblical dietary laws are about holiness.

Let’s briefly discuss the subject of clean and unclean meats. The focal point of biblical dietary laws are holiness and separation. There are other issues here that need to be explored as well. How serious are you about obedience to YHVH’s commands, or is your belly your god? (See Phil 3:19; Rom 16:18.) Do your taste buds or the Word of YHVH rule your life? Remember, Torah covers all aspects of life: physical, spiritual, emotional, relational, civil, agricultural, political, jurisprudence, religious and economic. ­Torah is a very holistic handbook on life. Are you one who takes the (humanistic) pick-and-choose approach to Torah-obedience? “I’ll obey only the biblical laws that suit me.” Such an approach is akin to what the serpent told Adam and Eve when he said, “You can have it your way … YHVH didn’t really mean what he said when it comes to obedience.”

When most people think of word kosher, the biblical dietary laws come to mind. This is only part of the picture that the Bible presents when it comes to the subject of kashrut. The biblical kosher laws involve not only clean and unclean meats, but many other areas as well such as health issues, holiness (not defiling the body, the temple of YHVH’s Set-Apart Spirit), and separation issues—how we’re to act, live, eat, worship, think, dress and talk differently than the heathens around us. The word kosher derives from the Hebrew word kasher/RAF meaning “to be straight, right, acceptable” (see Est 8:5; Eccl 11:6; 10:10). YHVH has called his people out of this world and sanctified (set-apart) them to be “straight, right and acceptable” to him. Therefore, YHVH hasn’t give us the liberty to act, speak, dress, eat and live the way the heathens do. He has called us to a higher moral and spiritual standard. We can’t expect to be called the children of the Most High, and still live like the children of the world. We must choose whom we are going to serve (see Josh 24:15): YHVH or mammon and this world (Matt 6:24).

Leviticus 11:4, 47, Unclean.The word unclean is the Hebrew word tameh meaning “defiled, impure, polluted ethically, ritually or religiously” and the word clean is the Hebrew word tahor meaning “pure physically, ceremonially, morally, ethically.” In verse 43, YHVH says that in eating unclean meats one becomes abominable (or detestable, filthy). In Ezekiel 22:26, YHVH rebukes his people because, “Her priests have violated my Torah-law, and have profaned my set-apart [Heb. kadosh] things: they have put no difference between the set-apart and profane, polluted or common, neither have they shown difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.” In Leviticus 11:45, the Torah states, “For I am YHVH that brought you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your Elohim. You shall therefore be set apart, for I am set apart/holy.” 

Continue reading
 

Yeshua a pork eater? Yeah right!

Many Christians misread Mark 7:19 to mean that Yeshua was okaying them to eat pork in direct opposition to the eternal laws of Elohim as spoken from the mouth of Elohim in his Torah. How can people believe such lies? It’s because they don’t know the Word of Elohim, including most pastors, Bible college professors and Bible teachers in the mainstream church. They are willingly ignorantly and foolish and are misleading YHVH’s people. Shame on them all! People need to start reading their Bibles instead of listening to these false teachers. Spiritual power to the people!

Mark 7:19, Thus He declared all foods clean. Many mainstream Christians believe that in this verse Yeshua is sanctioning the eating of all food not matter what. Thus he is categorically rejecting the biblical dietary prohibitions against eating…drumroll please…beloved pork. Is this what Yeshua is really saying here? Before jumping to conclusions, let’s take a step back, demonstrate a modicum of logic and ask ourselves some questions.

First, would a Torah-observant Jew like Yeshua really be advocating the eating of anything the Torah forbids such as pork and shellfish? Second, would Yeshua the Messiah, the one destined to be the sinless Lamb of Elohim Messiah be advocating sinning by going against the biblical dietary laws? Third, what is the biblical definition of food? Does the Creator of the universe even consider something to be food that he forbids people from eating? Fourth, if Yeshua had been advocating the eating of unclean meats, what would have been the reaction of his Torah-touting audience of Pharisees? With the answers to these questions dancing around in the reader’s mind, let’s now discuss this potentially enigmatic passage in depth and in its logical context to see what it’s really saying.

Continue reading
 

Dear Natan: What is the larger issue Paul is addressing in 1 Timothy 4?

Recently, in responding to my commentary on 1 Timothy 4:3–5 about praying over food, Jerry posed a very good question. He asked what was the larger issue that Paul was addressing in this passage to Timothy. I’ve known the answer to this question for 40 years, but I had never actually written it out. So thank you Jerry for giving me the opportunity to do this. I hope this strengthens the reader in their trust in the immutable nature of the Word of Elohim, regardless of the lies and traditions of men that would tell us that the biblical dietary laws have been done away with.

1 Timothy 4:1–3 Doctrines of demons…forbidding to marry…abstain from foods [Gr. broma]. 

Asceticism—A Doctrine of Demons

What social and cultural forces were affecting the saints such that Paul had to instruct them to beware of “doctrines of demons” that were encouraging them not to marry and to abstain from eating meat? 

Is the Greek word food (Gr. broma) as used in verse three a reference to “articles allowed or forbidden by the Jewish law” (i.e. Elohim’s Torah-law or law of Moses) as the well known Strong’s Concordance claims? Is The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (The TDNT)correct in its definition of this Greek word, when declares that broma relates to the “cultic and ascetic prescriptions of Judaism which are declared  to be religiously indifferent by Jesus and early Christianity…[thus the] distinction between clean and unclean meats is done away” (vol 1. p. 642)—a claim that Arndt and Gingrich don’t even make in their  touted Greek lexicon (nor do the lexicons by Vine or Thayer)? 

Clearly, contrary to what some biblical scholars assert, Paul can’t be referring to the Torah here, since the Torah-law of Elohim neither prohibits marriage, but encourages it, nor does it command the abstention of eating biblically approved meats. In fact, the whole Levitical and tabernacle system revolved around the sacrifice and eating of kosher animals. To say these are doctrines of demons (as some Christian teachers claim) is blasphemy against YHVH Elohim’s Torah, which is the Creator’s very instructions to humans on how to live righteously and without sin (Ps 119:172; Deut 10:12; 1 John 3:4; 2:3–6; John 14:15).

Continue reading
 

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.

 

The Biblical Dietary Laws—The Real Reason for Them (it’s not what most people think!)

The Genesis creation account records that YHVH Elohim made man in his own image (Gen. 1:26). As such, the first humans, Adam and Eve, had spiritual communion with their Creator. Though man fell quickly to the temptation to sin, which separated him from a sinless, set-apart and righteous Creator, YHVH has desired to redeem man from the power of sin to be set-apart (kadosh) as he is set-apart (e.g. Lev 11:44).

kosher brown stamp isolated on white

Israel was redeemed from YHVH’s judgment against sin when they sacrificed the lamb on Passover and painted the blood on the door posts of their homes. YHVH then immersed Israel in the Red Sea (a picture of baptism for the remission of sins) and led them to the foot of Mount Sinai. YHVH revealed his Torah-truth (his instructions, teachings and precepts in righteousness) to the nation of Israel from Mount Sinai so that they could become a set-apart (kadosh) kingdom of priests (Exod. 19:6). He was showing them the pathway of righteousness so that after having been redeemed by the blood of the lamb—a direct prophetic picture pointing to Yeshua the Lamb of YHVH slain from the foundation of the world—they could have fellowship with him by avoiding sinning by walking in the straight and narrow path of righteousness.

Part of the walking in a loving relationship with a righteous and totally set-apart (kadosh) YHVH involves keeping his commandments as Yeshua said in John 14:15. To know and to love YHVH is to obey his commandments (1 John 2:3-6). Those who love him and back up their belief in him with the actions of obedience (faith without works is dead, Jas. 2:14-26) are better off than the demons who believe in Elohim only, but do not back up their belief with obedience to YHVH’s righteous commands. Those who love and obey YHVH Continue reading