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).

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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


The Real Story Behind the Biblical Kosher Laws—Holiness!

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 (Strong’s H3787) 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 Continue reading


Does prayer a make unclean meats kosher?

1 Timothy 4:3–5, Foods. Many take this passage to mean that simple “prayer over the food” sanctifies nonkosher food. Were we to take this logic to its illogical conclusion, then we might suppose that prayer over skunk meat, certain poisonous types of frogs, snakes and salamanders as well as poisonous mushrooms would make them edible. Of course, this is ridiculous. Is this really what Paul, the orthodox Jewish Torah scholar, is teaching? Once again, understanding Scripture in its context is essential to obtaining its proper interpretation. These verses read:

Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which Elohim has created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of Elohim is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving, for it is sanctified by the Word of Elohim and prayer. (emphasis added)

What does this passage really say? Does it say that the meat we eat is sanctified (i.e. set aside for special use) only through the act of prayer?

In verse five Paul teaches that the meat we eat is sanctified through prayer and the Word of Elohim. When Paul wrote this letter to Timothy there was no Testimony of Yeshua or New Testament—only the Tanakh  or Old Testament. Where in the Tanakh do we find which meats YHVH has set aside or sanctified for man as edible? Leviticus chapter eleven, of course. Furthermore, in verse three above Paul talks about “them which believe and know the truth.” How does Scripture define truth? Yeshua defined truth as the Word of Elohim (namely the Hebrew Scriptures, which is all that existed at that time) (John 17:7). The Tanakh define truth as the Torah-law of YHVH (which contain YHVH’s biblical kosher laws pertaining to clean and unclean meats; see Ps 119:142 and 151). 

So when examined in its proper context this passage in 2 Timothy in no way teaches that it is scripturally permissible for believers to indulge in unclean meats. On the contrary, this passage in fact validates the biblical kosher laws as outlined in the Torah and shows clearly, if we let Scripture speak for itself and define its own terms instead of reading into it our own meanings, that the biblical dietary laws are for believers today.


Did Yeshua Really Sanction Eating Everything?

Is this what Yeshua is really saying in Mark 7:19? Think again…!

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.

This phrase, “Thus He declared all foods clean 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!

Not only that, the context of this passage has nothing to do with eating meat. It has to do with eating bread (v. 2). No mention of meat is made here. Only bread, which in verse two is the Greek word artos meaning “food composed of flour mixed with water and baked.” This has nothing to do with meat. The issue was whether it was mandatory to wash one’s hands before eating bread, which was not a Torah law, but was an extra-biblical Jewish legal law. Period. This is what Yeshua was addressing.

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.


False Teachings and Destructive Heresies in the Early Church

Who goes there?

Thief sneaking through door2 Peter 2:1, False teachers…destructive heresies. When did several prominent but destructive, non-biblical heresies creep into the early church, which are now major doctrines in mainstream Christianity? Here is a partial list along with the approximate times the early church fathers began teaching these doctrines.

The Human Soul Is Immortal

The immortality of the soul was not  a Hebraic concept, but originated from the ancient Greek philosophers. This pagan concept made its way into the church as Gentiles who were steeped in the thinking of the Greek philosophers gained control of the early church after the death of the last apostles.

A.D. 130— The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus, ch. 6

Ca. A.D. 155—The First Apology of Justin Martyr, ch. 18

Ca. A.D. 180—Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, Book Two, ch. 34

Ca. A.D. 180—Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, Book Five, chaps. 7.1; 31.1

Teachings Against the Sabbath and Biblical Feasts

There is no record in the Bible of the early New Testament believers replacing the seventh-day Sabbath with Sunday. To say so is wishful thinking, a twisting of the Scriptures and biblical revisionism. It wasn’t until the fourth century at the Council of Nicea under Roman emperor Constantine that the Sunday officially replaced the Sabbath in the early church. Until that time, many Christian churches still observed the Sabbath throughout the Roman empire. The process of transitioning from Sabbath to Sunday observance was a slow one beginning in the early second century and had its roots largely in antisemitism.

A.D. 130—The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus, ch. 4. The author calls the Sabbath and biblical feasts “utterly ridiculous and unworthy of notice.”

Ca. A.D. 130—Epistle of Barnabas, ch. 2 (also ch. 14). The author says that the Sabbaths (weekly Sabbath and biblical feasts) are abolished.

Early part of second century A.D.—Epistle of Ignatius to the Philippians, ch. 14

Observance of the Lord’s Day (Sunday) Advocated Over Sabbath Observance

Early part of second century A.D.—Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesian, ch. 9. The author says to keep the Sabbath on Sunday.

Early part of second century A.D.—Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallians, ch. 9

Ca. A.D. 130—Epistle of Barnabas, ch. 14

Ca. A.D. 155—The First Apology of Justin Martyr, ch. 67

Teachings Against the Torah

Early part of second century A.D.—Epistle of Ignatius to the Philadelphians, ch. 6. The author declare, “If anyone preach the Jewish law, listen not to him.”

Early part of second century A.D.—Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesian, ch. 10

Ca. A.D. 155—The First Apology of Justin Martyr, ch. 47. The author states that out of “weak-mindedness,” some Christians observe the Mosaic law. Sabbath and feast days observance are optional, but not encouraged.

Anti-Semetic/Anti-Torah Theology

Early part of second century A.D.—Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesian, chaps. 8, 10

Ca. A.D. 180—Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, Book Four, ch. 16.4. The author declares that the Decalogue was not cancelled by the New Covenant, but the statues and judgments of the Torah were a bondage to the Israelites and are no longer binding on Christians.

Teachings Against the Biblical Dietary Laws of Clean and Unclean Meats

Early part of second century A.D.—Epistle of Ignatius to the Philadelphians, ch. 6. The author states that one who adheres the biblical dietary laws “has the apostate dragon dwelling within him.”

Easter Celebration Established a Christian Holiday

Ca. A.D. 150—The celebration of the resurrection within the early church began in the middle of the second century (History of the Christian Church, vol. 2, pp. 207–8, by Philip Schaff). The date of Easter and its formal establishment and disconnection from Passover occurred in A.D. 325 at the council of Nicea.

Sabbath Officially Changed to Sunday

A.D. 321—Sunday officially becomes the weekly day of worship (in place of the Sabbath) by a legal enactment of Emporer Constantine (History of the Christian Church, vol. 3, p. 378ff, by Philip Schaff; History of the Christianity, vol 1, p. 93, by Kenneth Scott Latourette)

Christmas Established as a Christian Holiday

Ca. A.D. 354—Christmas originated in the middle to the end of the fourth century as a Christian holiday as an outgrowth of a pagan festival celebrating the birth of the pagan sun god.