In To the Hebrews 13:9, is the author saying that kosher laws are useless and pointless?

Heb 13:9 Stop being carried away by all kinds of unusual teachings, for it is good that the heart be strengthened by grace, not by food laws that have never helped those who follow them. International Standard Version

This seems to be related:

ISV Heb 9:9 This illustration for today indicates that the gifts and sacrifices being offered could not clear the conscience of a worshiper, Heb 9:10 since they deal only with food, drink, and various washings, which are required for the body until the time when things would be set right.

This is something from Paul that might be relevant:

1Co 8:8 However, food will not bring us closer to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat food that has been offered to an idol, and no better off if we do.

  • I'm a bit confused. Do you believe the author is warning about food sacrificed to idols, or do you think this verse has to do with ceremonial cleanliness? Or do you believe the dietary laws have been abolished?
    – Cannabijoy
    Jul 26, 2016 at 3:17
  • @anonymouswho I'm open. It is an odd verse.
    – user10231
    Jul 26, 2016 at 5:26
  • Who knows? Hebrews may be more symbolic than Revelation, or it may be a bunch of nonsense. Is it trying to deceive us into believing Yeshua was offered as some sort of atoning sacrifice to fulfill the Levitical system and a god's lust for human blood, or is it speaking metaphorically of the kingdom of God within us? My heart won't let me give it up just yet, but this seems like an excellent place to put it to the test and see if it stands.
    – Cannabijoy
    Jul 26, 2016 at 5:50
  • @anonymouswho Metaphor upon metaphor upon "the Christ event".
    – user10231
    Jul 26, 2016 at 5:57
  • A symbol may point to a certain concept (in this case, [un]cleanness), but cannot substitute itself for the actual reality (i.e., discerning clean meats from unclean ones might be a good reminder and/or exercise for choosing good over evil, no matter how much the latter might kindle our appetites [pun intended], but, in and of itself, does not guarantee that that's what will necessarily happen when the soul is tempted in the unbearable furnace of lust, hatred, greed, jealousy, pride, etc).
    – Lucian
    Aug 8, 2019 at 13:39

2 Answers 2


This verse may refer to Jewish food laws, however the following verses provide some context that could refer to the Mosaic sacrificial banquets, as we see in the New American Bible footnote to Hebrews 13:9:

Strange teaching: this doctrine about foods probably refers to the Jewish food laws; in view of Hebrews 13:10, however, the author may be thinking of the Mosaic sacrificial banquets.

Meyer's NT Commentary says the majority of commentators believe this refers to the Levitical ordinances concerning pure and impure food, but goes on to say the expression is more applicable to the enjoyment of sacred meats than to the avoiding of unclean meats.

  • An excellent point. The common Christian approach is to conflate the entire sacrificial system into the sin sacrifice, completely ignoring the fellowship and peace offerings at which a meal was shared. The Day of Atonement is elevated to the holiest day of the year, despite the fact people were not even required to be present and overlooking the requirement to be present at Unleavened Bread, Weeks, and Booths, all times of celebration and fellowship. Jul 24, 2016 at 22:19
  • "Mosaic sacrificial banquets"... would that be the feasts (in the previous comment)? Or the fact that for the Levites the altar served as an awesome BBQ? And how would either be "strange" (of foreign origin)?
    – user10231
    Jul 24, 2016 at 22:49
  • Remember that opinion is still somewhat divided on the meaning of this passage, but my understanding that the reference to 'feasts' would mean special occasions. Meyer says ξέναι, because they are opposed to the spirit of Christianity Jul 24, 2016 at 23:10

I don't think that would make a lot of sense. This letter was definitely written to the Hebrews, so "kosher" laws would hardly be "strange" to them. You're translation is a bit deceptive though. It puts the word "laws" after food, but this was added by the translator. The Greek says:

διδαχαῖς (by teachings) ποικίλαις (multiple) καὶ (and) ξέναις (new/ foreign) μὴ (not) παραφέρεσθε (be carried away) καλὸν (good) γὰρ (indeed) χάριτι (by favor) βεβαιοῦσθαι (to be established) τὴν (for the) καρδίαν (heart), οὐ (not) βρώμασιν (to foods), ἐν (in) οἷς (which) οὐκ (not) ὠφελήθησαν (were profited) οἱ (those) περιπατοῦντες (being devoted)

That word ξέναις means "new" or "foreign", so the author cannot be talking about anything that concerns the Law. This seems to be metaphorical, since it doesn't make much sense that one could "walk according to" or "be devoted" to foods. Yeshua says:

"Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed." John 6:27

In this way, food may be understood as "that which is consumed". I think this would make sense given the context, since the author goes on to say that we have an "alter from which to eat", and that those serving the "tent" or "flesh" do not have authority to eat from it. This may tie in with verse 15, which says to offer the sacrifice of praise "a fruit of lips confessing the name of him". This is similar to what Peter says:

"As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:

If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,

Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 2:2


"Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul" 1 Peter 2:11

Also when Yeshua talked to Peter:

"So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs." John 21:15

Most assume that Paul wrote Hebrews, but the lack of personal pronouns make it obvious he didn't. Others believe it was Barnabas, Apollos, or another that was influenced by Paul. Martin Luther didn't care for Hebrews because it explicitly contradicts Paul. But I believe the opposite- that Paul was influenced by Peter, and Peter wrote Hebrews and 1 Peter. Even the early church noticed how flawless the Greek is in Hebrews, as though whoever wrote it had a perfect knowledge of the Greek "tongue". So maybe in order to understand Hebrews, we have to understand Peter. And to understand Peter, we have to understand Yeshua. And to understand any of it, we have to understand the word of God:

"And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of YHVH doth man live." Deuteronomy 8:3

  • First time I see someone serious suggest authorship of Hebrews to Peter when he clearly didn't write possibly anything himself!!! So Hebrews wrote Mark, kinda ignoring whole authorship research. :)))
    – Enoch
    Jul 25, 2016 at 14:23
  • Hello @user12422. I'll try to post a question about this later tonight, but why would you say Peter couldn't possible write anything himself? Is it impossible that a fisherman could suddenly have knowledge of a language he never knew? "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus." Acts 4:13
    – Cannabijoy
    Jul 25, 2016 at 14:34
  • Because Mark wrote it
    – Enoch
    Jul 25, 2016 at 14:54

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