This is Mark 7:19 from the NIV:

For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)

Every time I see a parenthetical note in an ancient text, I feel like it was a later addition from a scribe.

Does our oldest manuscripts contain that part of the verse? Even it does, is there any reason to believe that it was a later addition?

  • 5
    Just to make sure there is no misunderstanding: There are no parentheses in the Greek original. They were added by the NIV translators.
    – fdb
    Sep 25, 2014 at 18:12
  • To make it even clearer, the original Greek is " ὅτι οὐκ εἰσπορεύεται αὐτοῦ εἰς τὴν καρδίαν ἀλλ᾽ εἰς τὴν κοιλίαν καὶ εἰς τὸν ἀφεδρῶνα ἐκπορεύεται καθαρίζον πάντα τὰ βρώματα". The last few words are "... into the toilet goes out purging all food". It's far more obvious that this means that any dirt from one's fingers is purged from our bodies than that Jesus would make a heretical statement and no one would react to it. The parenthetical versions are wishful thinking, not translation. Jan 18, 2019 at 14:45

5 Answers 5


There are no important textual variations here: all our manuscripts include this parenthetical. There's no manuscript evidence whatsoever that this is a later insertion. (See this list of textual variants as well as the lack of any variants listed at the NET bible.) Thus we can be completely certain that the head of the manuscript tradition (that is the most recent common ancestor of all of our current documents) had this parenthetical.

It does not necessarily follow that the original text had this parenthetical. For example, many experts think part of Galatians 4:25 and/or 1 Corinthians 14:34–35 were marginal notes written by one of the earliest readers of the text rather than part of the original, despite the fact that all our texts contain these verses. This is called a "conjecture" and conjectures with no textual evidence at all tend not to be widely supported. (With the above examples there are at least some interesting textual variations even some version is always present.)

I was able to find at least one author (Ellicot) who conjectures that Mark 7:19 was an early marginal comment. But there doesn't seem to be much evidence to back it up.

  • Yes, it seems a conjecture, but there's at least some support I think. How is it Jesus says this but years later Peter needs a dream to be convinced that all meats are clean?
    – user2055
    Mar 21, 2016 at 12:55
  • @fresbend The Gospels are written retrospectively. Jun 20, 2017 at 14:51
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    But it isn't a parenthetical comment in any of the original Greek texts. It is a simple statement that minor dirt is purged from our bodies. The original Greek contains nothing that even slightly resembles "In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.". Jan 18, 2019 at 14:48

This is not a question of textual criticism, nor is there any reason to reject the authenticity of Mark 7:19. It is entirely a question of interpreting the text. Let us look at the oldest versions:

  • The Greek original has:

    οτι ουκ εισπορευεται αυτου εις την καρδιαν αλλ εις την κοιλιαν και εις τον αφεδρωνα εκπορευεται καθαριζων παντα τα βρωματα

  • The Pshitta has:

    ܕ݁ܠܳܐ ܗ݈ܘܳܐ ܠܠܶܒ݁ܶܗ ܥܳܐܶܠ ܐܶܠܳܐ ܠܟ݂ܰܪܣܶܗ ܘܡܶܫܬ݁ܕ݂ܶܐ ܒ݁ܬ݂ܰܕ݂ܟ݁ܺܝܬ݂ܳܐ ܕ݁ܰܡܕ݂ܰܟ݁ܝܳܐ ܟ݁ܽܠܳܗ ܡܶܐܟ݂ܽܘܠܬ݁ܳܐ ܀

  • The Old Syriac (Vetus Syrus) has:

    ܡܛܠ ܕܠܐ ܗܘܐ ܓܝܪ ܠܠܒܐ ܥܐܠ ܐܠܐ ܠܟܪܣܐ ܘܡܫܬܕܐ ܠܒܪ ܘܡܬܕܟܐ ܟܘܠܗ ܡܐܟܠܐ

  • And the Vulgata has:

    quia non introit in cor eius, sed in uentrem uadit, et in secessum exit, purgans omnes escas

  • And compare the KJV:

    Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?

The participle καθαριζων “purifying, purging” can be construed either with αφεδρων “excretive system”, or with the subject of the verb “he said”, that is: Jesus. So the Greek text can mean either that the intestines purify the foods, or else the quotation can end with the word εκπορευεται, followed by the statement that “he” (Jesus) thereby was “purifying all foods”. The Latin has the same ambiguity (purgans can go with secessum, or with the subject of dicebat), but the Pshitta allows only the former interpretation (ܕ݁ܰܡܕ݂ܰܟ݁ܝܳܐ is feminine and must therefore go with ܬ݂ܰܕ݂ܟ݁ܺܝܬ݂ܳܐ). The Vetus Syrus, however, allows both interpretations, though the latter (with Jesus as the referent) seems very forced.

  • "Latrine" is probably better, but there is discussion about the exact meaning of this rare word.
    – fdb
    Jan 28, 2015 at 1:05
  • So the alternative to "Jesus declared all meats clean" is "the intestines makes all meats clean"? That makes no sense.
    – user2055
    Mar 21, 2016 at 12:46
  • @fredsbend: Digestion makes perfect sense. Always. (Luther himself saw it the same way, and I doubt that anyone would ever accuse him of legalistic tendencies).
    – Lucian
    Aug 1, 2017 at 13:44
  • @Lucian It doesn't make sense because it still enters your body unclean.
    – user2055
    Aug 1, 2017 at 14:47
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    @fredsbend: There was, at that time, no logical reason to suspect such an interpretation. (Indeed, even the Pharisees didn't, and they were actively looking to find any kind of fault in Him, and in His teachings, but neither Christ Himself, nor His Holy Apostles, have ever consumed unclean products, nor did they start doing so afterwards).
    – Lucian
    Aug 1, 2017 at 15:06

Moved by a compelling desire to let the text speak for itself, I present Mark 7:18,19 as follows:

18 And he said to them, "In this way you, yourselves, are also being unwise. Do you not understand that anything outside, having entered into the man, is not able to defile him, 19 because it has not entered into the heart of him, but into the belly? Then after purifying all the food, it is discharged into the toilet."

Reasoning for verse 19:

enter image description here

@davidbrainerd in his answer was right to draw attention to this verse, and I submit my answer to show the Greek for all to see, that there is clearly textual support for his concern.

Additional Comments

  1. The principle subject of Jesus' words in Mark 7:19 is "food":

    • that it can't corrupt the man because it goes into the belly, not into "the heart"

    • that something happens to it while in the belly, requiring a discharge into the toilet.

  2. To communicate the second point, Jesus introduces the idea of "purifying" THE FOOD by means of a participle, καθαριζον (NNS) in the TR, but καθαρίζων (NMS) in WH.

  3. The idea that "the foods" are the subject of the "purifying" is easier to accommodate using TR, because the participle and "the foods" are all nominative-neuter. It presents a problem, however, for the NIV translators because in the WH there is no such agreement. So, they were compelled to manufacture an agreement by making the "purifying" a declaration of Jesus concerning "all foods".

    I say manufactured because there is no way to present the Greek in its natural state, as I have, which shows the connection they have made.

  4. The NIV, however, didn't have the same difficulty with 1 John 5:7,8, where the participants in the "witnessing" μαρτυρουντες (participle nominative-masculine) are το πνευμα, το υδωρ and το αιμα (nominative-neuter).


The need for the bracketed text of the NIV (and others) was brought about by a modern preference for WH Greek, rather than TR. However, if it is okay for the NIV translators to accept an irregularity in regard to the Greek of 1 John 5, without the need to manufacture something that is not in the Greek, then so they should in regard to Mark 7:19.

  • It seems to me that this is really more like an answer to this other question about Mark 7:19.
    – Susan
    Dec 4, 2016 at 4:06
  • @Susan Thanks for drawing the other question to my attention. What drew me to this question was the OP's clear dissatisfaction with all the usual explanations, and the very shabby treatment davidbrainerd received for daring to point out that the parenthetical text really isn't present in the Greek. If I get any feedback that fredsbend doesn't find my answer helpful, I will move it to the other. I not sure if there is site-method for doing such things, but delete and repost will work, otherwise.
    – enegue
    Dec 4, 2016 at 6:03
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    As far as I now the only way to do this is to delete and repost. (Your conclusion that translations are "manufacturing" a phrase reflects a misunderstanding about the difference between Greek (agreement-based) and English (constituent-order based) syntax. καθαρίζων is a masculine nominative participle; κοιλία -- its supposed "subject" per your second bullet -- is a feminine accusative noun. But I've already discussed this ad nauseam.)
    – Susan
    Dec 4, 2016 at 6:31
  • @Susan "the belly" is not the subject, "the purification" is, since it is nominative case. The belly is merely the location of that process. Jesus says in the very next verse, "That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.". Do you think Jesus may have been drawing a comparison between what is separated out from food and goes into the toilet, and spiritual dross, i.e. evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, and foolishness.
    – enegue
    Dec 4, 2016 at 12:59
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    @enegue Are you familiar with predestination? It would seem that God has given you ears to hear. Apr 21, 2017 at 20:05

Jesus was a Jew and was speaking to Jews. Therefore when it says he was declaring all food Kosher, he was talking about what was food to a Jew not what is food to a western mind (even if it was Mark who pened this in). Besides the problem at hand was not the "Jewish" food but it was not washing your hands before you eat the food thereby making the food unclean or unfit to eat....Sorry but cats, rats and pigs were never on the Jewish food menu.

In Act 25:7-8. When Paul came in, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him. They brought many serious charges against him, but they could not prove them.

8 Then Paul made his defense: “I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar.”

He could not have said he did nothing against the Jewish law if he didn't eat kosher. Not eating kosher was definitely against the Jewish laws. Paul traveled and preach too many different people but yet he stayed kosher. Yes I know you may quote Peter's vision but the Holy Spirit revealed that the Gentiles we're now acceptable to God it had nothing to do with food...In Acts 10:28 Peter said : " And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean." Also it says when the Jews heard that Peter went to Cornelius's house they did not praise God for freeing them from kosher laws but they they understood what Peter's vision ment ...that now the repentant Gentiles, who were unclean, are considered clean and I praise God for now accepting the Gentiles who believed. Thats found in Acts 11:18. "When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.". They did not thank God for freeing them from the Jewish kosher laws....Do not impose something God never intended into his words. You get stuck in your great Greek knowledge and miss the context of what's being said.


In checking this I first looked at the KJV, which says

Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?

Where is the "In saying this, Jesus declared"? Its not there. Now its not normal for the KJV to be the one to omit words. So I looked at the Greek.

οτι (because) ουκ (not) εισπορευεται (entereth) αυτου (it) εις (into) την καρδιαν (the heart) αλλ (but) εις (into) την κοιλιαν (the belly) και (and) εις (into) τον αφεδρωνα (the draught) εκπορευεται (goeth out) καθαριζον (purging) παντα (all) τα βρωματα (the food)

So there is an addition here in the NIV that is not in the Greek, namely "In saying this, Jesus declared"

  • 2
    "the Greek" doesn't particularly mean much. Which Greek? What manuscripts is this quote from? The NKJV says "purifying all foods," also missing the "In saying this, Jesus declared." The last paragraph in the top upvoted answer has an explanation for this.
    – user2055
    Sep 28, 2014 at 3:57
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    @fredsbend, I looked at Robinson-Pierpont's 2005 Majority Text, Stephanus 1550, and Tischendorf's 8th edition, and they were all the same. Sep 28, 2014 at 21:28
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    As someone who is fluent in a language structurally very different from English, this is utterly unconvincing. Just because there are not one-to-one matches for the words does not mean there was an "addition". I can easily compose sentences in Turkish with clauses that cannot be translated into English without adding a considerable number of words to describe the implication of the clause that are clearly not there in the Turkish. Without dealing with the actual Greek grammar and how the words that are there relate to the rest of the text, any accusation of things being added rings hollow.
    – Caleb
    Sep 29, 2014 at 12:36
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    -1 This answer has a lot of problems. First, before relying solely on the KJV's phrase "purging all meats", take a look at the NKJV's rendering: "thus purifying all foods". That's closer to what the readers of the KJV would have understood this to be saying. Second, regardless of the word "purging" or "purifying", it is clear that Jesus is saying the food passes through the system and does not make the person impure. Sep 29, 2014 at 18:40
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    It's hard to find a way to interpret that in such a way as to suggest Jesus was upholding the kosher laws, regardless of whether Mark says Jesus was putting an end to them. Third, by comparing only the KJV and the NIV, you've ignored virtually the entire history of translation of this verse into English. At least since the ASV of 1901, the majority of translators have interpreted this as Jesus saying all foods are now clean. Sep 29, 2014 at 18:43