The modern translations present a real conundrum with Mark 7:19. The traditional KJV has it as:

Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats? (Mark 7:19, KJV)

This speaks of foods getting purged from the body via excretion--and says nothing about whether or not they were "clean," only that they did not defile the body (soul temple). But look at what this purgative effect has had on the modern versions!

New International Version (NIV)

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

English Standard Version (ESV)

since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?" [fn] (Thus he declared all foods clean.) FOOTNOTE: Greek goes out into the latrine

Bible in Basic English (BBE)

Because it goes not into the heart but into the stomach, and goes out with the waste? He said this, making all food clean.

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?" ({Thus He} declared all foods clean.)

New Living Translation (NLT)

only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer." (By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God's eyes.)

Revised Standard Version (RSV)

since it enters, not his heart but his stomach, and so passes on?" (Thus he declared all foods clean.)

American Standard Version - 1901 (ASV)

because it goeth not into his heart, but into his belly, and goeth out into the draught? `This he said', making all meats clean.

If all foods/meats were declared "clean" by Jesus, why, after Jesus' return to heaven, is Peter still making these statements found in Acts?

But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. (Acts 10:14, KJV)

But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth. (Acts 11:8, KJV)

If Jesus had actually said what these modern versions claim, clearly Peter, one of the three disciples closest to Jesus, hadn't gotten the message.

But how can anyone think that by virtue of passing through the belly and out into the toilet a food is then made or declared to be "clean"? Upon what hermeneutical basis would such an assumption be considered valid?

  • Because it doesn't touch the soul.
    – Lucian
    Aug 23, 2021 at 12:01
  • 1
    related: Is the text scribal addition? hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/13415/…
    – Michael16
    Aug 23, 2021 at 12:44
  • 3
    That no one reacted to such an extremely startling declaration is proof in itself that Jesus never said any such thing. ¶ What I find most interesting is that the parenthetical remark isn't something that was added to the original Greek text by some careless or overenthusiastic copier in ancient times. The remark seems to be a very recent addition created by the modern English translators themselves. No Greek manuscript contains any text that even remotely resembles "By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God's eyes". Aug 23, 2021 at 13:06
  • 1
    @RayButterworth: The original Greek of Mark 7:19 has cleansing all food.
    – Lucian
    Aug 23, 2021 at 13:17
  • 1
    @Polyhat: Wording and interpretation are two distinct notions; the man said that no Greek manuscript contains any text that even remotely resembles etc., which, needless to say, is a huge overstatement.
    – Lucian
    Aug 23, 2021 at 13:25

5 Answers 5


For Mark 7:19, the TR has the following :

καθαριζον παντα τα βρωματα,

the participle being the nominative, singular, neuter, present participle, active.

The modern versions referred to by the OP are based on the Westcott & Hort/Nestle Aland text :

καθαριζ παντα τα βρωματα,

which employs the genitive plural participle.

Thus the TR meaning, as presented by the KJV (1769) is :

... purging all meats ...

. . . . which meaning is shared by wycliffe (1382), Tyndale (1534), Coverdale (1535), Matthew's (1537), Great Bible (1539), Geneva (1560/1599), Bishop's (1568), Webster's (1833), Green's Literal (1993), as "purgynge alle metis/porgeth oute all meates/ purgeth all meates," and like expressions.

The nominative singular participle (without article) presents an action of a singular kind which is positive in its activity.

Thus 'purging all (kinds of) food', a singular activity in respect of food itself.

The Greek text favoured by the modern versions presents a multiple activity of a genitive kind. Personally, I would have expected an article, if the multiple genitive were to be present 'the cleansing of every single food item'.

But no article is there in the text.

The TR meaning is seen in another passage, bearing a very similar construction and a very similar concept - Hebrews 9:14 :

καθαριει την συνειδησιν υμων απο νεκρων εργων [TR undisputed except for our/your]

... purge your conscience from dead works ... [KJV]

Here, there can surely be no dispute that the dead works are being purged out and discarded. Surely nobody would suggest that the 'dead works' are somehow being not only raised to life again but being 'cleansed' in the process.

Therefore, from manuscript evidence, from the similar construction and from the absence of an article, it would seem to me that the concept is :

purging all foods . . .

. . . . meaning the excretion (and rejection) of all food substance not assimilated already into the digestive system. Which is what I understand to be what the excretive process does with its waste.

I am not aware of any means that the human physical body possesses to 'cleanse' food substance. It can only reject it by vomiting or by defecation.

Thus the meaning of the words that Jesus speaks is that nothing entering the mouth can defile the heart of man, morally or spiritually. That which enters the mouth, and is not useful for digestion - is ejected from the body.

Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats? [Mark 7:19 KJV]

The food enters the belly (being digested) and goes out into the 'draught' (a KJV euphemism, see below).

It goes nowhere near the heart.

If I were addressing an unlearned audience I would pause to discuss the difference between 'heart' as in food/belly/glucose/bloodstream/right atrium/right ventricle etc etc - and 'heart' in the way Jesus is clearly meaning. But I am writing an article on SE-BH and I do not need to say anymore, except, in passing . . . . .

και εις τον αφεδρωνα εκπορευεται [TR undisputed Mark 7:19]

and unto the apohedra out-proceedeth [literal]

Apohedra is like kathedra (kata, hedra - downwards/from above - seat or 'chief' seat). Giving rise, of course, to a Bishop's 'chief seat' - a cathedral.

But an 'apo' seat is a seat with another dimension to it (as many 'apo' words express).

It is obvious what an 'apo' seat is, in connection with eating and defecation.

But the KJV translators used a euphemism 'draught' which I take it refers to the sanitary system or sewage system itself, rather than draw attention to that which actually contacts the body during the process.


Let's see the context, Mark 7 New International Version:

1 The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus 2and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed.

The Pharisees equated spiritual defilement with physical unclean hands in the act of eating.

5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”

I.e., doing so would cause spiritual defilement in the heart of Jesus' disciples.

14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”

Jesus focused on spiritual defilement/uncleanness, not external cleanliness.

17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18 “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? 19 For it doesn’t go into their heart

Food can not defile the heart of a man because it goes to the stomach.

but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)

Obviously, Jesus didn't declare that all foods were clean on the outside but all foods were clean in the sense that foods were not supposed to defile your heart spiritually.

20 He went on: “What comes out of a person is what [spiritually] defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

The contrast here is outside vs inside (physical vs spiritual). The Pharisees conflated the two and couldn't distinguish them.

How can anyone think that by virtue of passing through the belly and out into the toilet a food is then made or declared to be "clean"?

Jesus didn't really make this logical argument per se. His point was that superficially clean food could not clean one's heart. Clean food and a clean heart were independent. No food could spiritually defile a heart, i.e., no food could make your heart unclean. In this sense, all foods were clean.


The very reason you gave about Peter's discovering the cleansing of the food later, must have been used as the assumption to treat those words as parenthetical by Mark, or even by a later addition of the scribe. Because, the apostles later realized that this teaching was actually cleansing all meats, and that Jesus wouldn't have said those words at the moment. Moreover, the words don't fit well with the flow.

The only textual difference between Byzantine Text/Textus Receptus/KJV and the modern versions is Ax καθαριζων TR/BM καθαριζον; the Alexandrian oldest text uses the subjective form of the word, thus the need of "(he) cleansed all the food". The KJV or the old Bibles rendering seems better, simply saying purging all meats, which avoids "cleansing" which is the accurate meaning of the word. So it's not accurate, but a comfortable translation choice to avoid the problematic nominative cleansing. I suspect the phrase made its way into the text through marginal gloss, and someone inserted it into the scripture. After a few centuries, the Byzantine scribes tried to correct it, and improved it as neuter to fit better with the sentence. The words are certainly either the author's own words or a scribal gloss or interpolation.

Ellicott comments that this could be a later addition by scribes:

A far better construction, both as to grammar and meaning, is found by making the word “purging,” or better, cleansing, agree with the subject of the verb “He saith,” in Mark 7:18—“He saith this . . . and in so saying, cleanseth all meats.” So taken, the words anticipate, in almost the same terms, the truth of Acts 10:15, “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.” The construction is tenable grammatically, has the support of high authority both ancient and modern, and obviously gives a much better sense. It is a possible conjecture that the words “cleansing all meats” may have been, at first, a marginal note (like the addition in Mark 7:16), attached to “He saith,” and have afterwards found their way into the text.

Vincent's Word Studies

Draught (ἀφεδρῶνα)

Liddell and Scott give only one definition - a privy, cloaca; and derive from ἕδρα, seat, breech, fundament. Compare English stool. The word does not refer to a part of the body.

Purging all meats (καθαρίζων πάντα τὰ βρώματα)

According to the A. V. these words are in apposition with draught: the draught which makes pure the whole of the food, since it is the place designed for receiving the impure excrements.

Christ was enforcing the truth that all defilement comes from within. This was in the face of the Rabbinic distinctions between clean and unclean meats. Christ asserts that Levitical uncleanness, such as eating with unwashed hands, is of small importance compared with moral uncleanness. Peter, still under the influence of the old ideas, cannot understand the saying and asks an explanation (Matthew 15:15), which Christ gives in Mark 7:18-23. The words purging all meats (Rev., making all meats clean) are not Christ's, but the Evangelist's, explaining the bearing of Christ's words; and therefore the Rev. properly renders, this he said (italics), making all meats clean. This was the interpretation of Chrysostom, who says in his homily on Matthew: "But Mark says that he said these things making all meats pure." Canon Farrar refers to a passage cited from Gregory Thaumaturgus: "And the Saviour, who purifies all meats, says." This rendering is significant in the light of Peter's vision of the great sheet, and of the words, "What God hath cleansed" (ἐκαθάρισε), in which Peter probably realized for the first time the import of the Lord's words on this occasion. Canon Farrar remarks: "It is doubtless due to the fact that St. Peter, the informant of St. Mark, in writing his Gospel, and as the sole ultimate authority for this vision in the Acts, is the source of both narratives, - that we owe the hitherto unnoticed circumstance that the two verbs, cleanse and profane (or defile), both in a peculiarly pregnant sense, are the two most prominent words in the narrative of both events" ("Life and Work of Paul," i., 276-7)

  • In what way is "purging" more "comfortable"? That's an unusual word choice.
    – curiousdannii
    Aug 23, 2021 at 14:25
  • @curiousdannii this is why it avoids the more unusual parenthetical text which could well be a scribal interpolation. The word choice is poor, but reading is better and comfortable as it avoids the parenthetical remark.
    – Michael16
    Aug 23, 2021 at 14:27
  • I don't see how it can be considered better in any way. Parenthetical remarks are very common through the Bible. It's fine to make a judgement that it's not a parenthetical in this case, but shouldn't we still expect an accurate translation then?
    – curiousdannii
    Aug 23, 2021 at 14:29
  • 1
    @curiousdannii yes, but if they removed a possible or a likely interpolation then its a good decision. The text really doesn't seem to be something that the apostle would write, unless we interpret it as a prophetic saying about future cleansing of all food. There is no way Jesus could cleanse or declare clean all unclean food, that is simply violation of the Mosaic law. It was only cleansed after the institution of the new covenant. Since its not prophetic, we must avoid it as an interpolation.
    – Michael16
    Aug 23, 2021 at 14:44
  • Ah, that make sense. It might be good to add to your answer: that from the perspective of those who teach Jesus is not God it must not be the words of Jesus, because he didn't have the authority to make such a declaration.
    – curiousdannii
    Aug 23, 2021 at 22:14

The issue is dealing with the participle. See What is the best translation of the participles in the Great Commission, Matt. 28:19-20?

 ὅτι οὐκ εἰσπορεύεται αὐτοῦ εἰς τὴν καρδίαν ἀλλʼ εἰς τὴν κοιλίαν, καὶ εἰς τὸν ⸀ἀφεδρῶνα ἐκπορεύεται˸, καθαρίζων πάντα τὰ βρώματα (Mark 7:19, NA28)

Leaving it as an English participle would be, "making all food clean."

The issue is how this fits in the context. Your question interprets the participial phrase as part of Jesus' discourse. Most of the translations take the phrase as Mark's parenthetical phrase as an application of Jesus' discourse. That is why they add wording like "thus he declared." Daniel Wallace takes this phrase as a nominative absolute in his grammar, "Cf. also Mark 7:19; 12:40; Rev 2:26; 3:12." (Wallace, D. B. (1996). Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (p. 654). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.); thus the parenthetical comment by Mark.

Here's the comment from a second prominent Greek scholar:

Mark 7:19

Making all meats clean (καθαριζων παντα τα βρωματα [katharizōn panta ta brōmata]). This anacoluthon can be understood by repeating he says (λεγει [legei]) from verse 18. The masculine participle agrees with Jesus, the speaker. The words do not come from Jesus, but are added by Mark. Peter reports this item to Mark, probably with a vivid recollection of his own experience on the housetop in Joppa when in the vision Peter declined three times the Lord’s invitation to kill and eat unclean animals (Acts 10:14–16). It was a riddle to Peter as late as that day. “Christ asserts that Levitical uncleanness, such as eating with unwashed hands, is of small importance compared with moral uncleanness” (Vincent). The two chief words in both incidents, here and in Acts, are defile (κοινοω [koinoō]) and cleanse (καθαριζω [katharizō]). “What God cleansed do not thou treat as defiled” (Acts 10:15). It was a revolutionary declaration by Jesus and Peter was slow to understand it even after the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Jesus was amply justified in his astonished question: Perceive ye not? (οὐ νοειτε; [ou noeite?]). They were making little use of their intelligence in trying to comprehend the efforts of Jesus to give them a new and true spiritual insight. -- Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Mk 7:19). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.

The Context

14 And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” 17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:14–23, ESV)

Textual Commentary

  7:19      καθαρίζων {A}

The overwhelming weight of manuscript evidence supports the reading καθαρίζων. The difficulty of construing this word in the sentence prompted copyists to attempt various corrections and ameliorations. -- Metzger, B. M., United Bible Societies. (1994). A textual commentary on the Greek New Testament, second edition a companion volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th rev. ed.) (p. 81). London; New York: United Bible Societies.

Senses in the New Testament from Logos Bible Software

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  • 2
    @Polyhat καθαρίζoν πάντα τὰ βρώματα quite clearly means 'purging all the food'. There is absolutely no warrant for turning the participle 'purging' into an interpretation 'making clean'. The word 'clean' is not in the text. The word 'purging' is. I agree with you.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 23, 2021 at 13:46
  • 1
    Is there a difference between these variants? Ax καθαριζων TR/BM καθαριζον
    – Michael16
    Aug 23, 2021 at 14:06
  • 1
    @Michael16 The difference is a point of grammar. As I understand it, the TR form of the word is in the accusative case, making the word the direct object. The edited/modern version has it in the nominative case, making it the subject. How it should be translated from there depends on the construction of the remainder of the words in the sentence.
    – Polyhat
    Aug 23, 2021 at 14:43
  • 1
    That really shows that the old bible rendering is based on the accusative form of it; and the issue is rather due to the oldest mss using nominative. Thanks, that's what I was suspecting. I will add this in my answer coz that's the crusial reason for translation difference.
    – Michael16
    Aug 23, 2021 at 14:46
  • 1
    @Michael16 Upon closer inspection, the TR must be correct, because the verb matches in gender with the subsequent adjectives and noun. In the revised codices, the Greek word is in the masculine form, instead of in the neuter form, which means it does NOT match the words in the rest of the sentence.
    – Polyhat
    Aug 23, 2021 at 15:15

The uncleanness referred to in this verse is the uncleanness of the ritualistic law of Judaism, and does not refer to being physically unclean. When Jesus came he abolished the ceremonial/ritualistic aspect of the law (read Galatians and Hebrews) but upheld and extended the moral aspect of the law (i.e., the ten commandments; See Matt. 5-7).

Eating unclean foods was considered unclean according to the ritualistic law, but Jesus' point is that that has no bearing on morality. Because the food passing through the stomach and into the drain and didn't enter into the heart, eating unclean food does not make one morally unclean. Therefore after abolishing the ritualistic law eating "unclean" food no longer makes one unclean.

Regarding Peter's insistence that he has never eaten anything unclean, this goes to show just how hard it is to change people's mind! Even though the Lord spoke about this clearly Peter still didn't get it. There are a number of instances in the book of Acts where ritualistic practices of Judaism continued to inflitrate the early New Testament church, despite those things having been abolished by the Lord. Some examples:

  • Acts 1:26 - the apostles "cast lots" to decide who should be the 12th apostle
  • Acts 11:3 - the Jewish believers in Jerusalem did not think it right to eat with a Gentile
  • Acts 15:1 - some believers taught circumcision was required to be saved
  • Acts 15:29 - "things strangled" is included as a food not to be eaten
  • Acts 16:3 - Paul circumcised Timothy to appease the Jewish believers
  • Acts 21:20 - the new believers in Jerusalem were zealous for the law
  • Acts 21:24 - some believers were participating in a rite of purification

This last act seems to have been a "last straw" as the Lord seemed to not allow Paul to complete the rite of purification with those believers and instead caused him to be arrested by the Jews, and later the Romans.

Going back to Peter, Paul talks in Galatians about rebuking him to his face because he was still acting hypocritically by not associating with the Gentiles when ones "from James" came (Gal 2:11-14).

In other words, the ritualistic and ceremonial aspects of the law were a continual hinderance to the New Testament believers, long after the Lord spoke those words in Mark 7:19.

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