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Leviticus 11:

4 “’There are some that only chew the cud or only have a divided hoof, but you must not eat them. The camel, though it chews the cud, does not have a divided hoof; it is ceremonially unclean for you.

Moses declared that certain foods were unclean.

Mark 7:

19 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.)

After Jesus' ascension, the Lord showed Peter in Acts 10:

9 About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. 13Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”

14“Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”

15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

16This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.

Did Jesus dismiss all ceremonially unclean food?

How would this harmonize with Matthew 5:

19Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Related questions:

Mark 7:19 - Does Jesus Really Declare "All Foods Clean?" This question did not bring Acts 10 and Matthew 5:19 into play. Also, my question focuses on when and not whether.

How does passing food through the body make all foods clean, as per Mark 7:19 in the modern versions? 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.

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  • Thanks for the link. I added.
    – Tony Chan
    Sep 12 at 15:19
  • We should be careful here - does this mean that it is now OK to eat the hooded Pitohou bird, the Hawksbill sea turtle, the cane toad, the poison dart frog, the Spanish fly, comb star fish, etc, all of which are extremely toxic? Does this mean that it is OK to poison ivy and other toxic plants? I think Jesus is discussing something else.
    – Dottard
    Sep 12 at 21:58
  • 1
    @Dottard Indeed, sea foods such as shell fish can be silently toxic (fatal) if they were harvested during a red tide. To look at them, one would never know that they had ingested the poisonous algae. In giving us His guidelines, God protects us from this hazard and many like it. Ignore His health "advice" at your own risk.
    – Polyhat
    Sep 12 at 22:47
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Jesus never declared all foods clean. There is no such text in the Bible to indicate so.

The vision that Peter had came in the form of symbols, using imagery that Peter well understood, and Peter immediately knew what God was telling him when he descended from the rooftop where he had had the vision and found Gentiles waiting to summon him to their home. Let's take a look at that important passage.

KJV Peter's Vision
Acts 10:9 On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour:
Acts 10:10 And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance,
Acts 10:11 And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending upon him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth:
Acts 10:12 Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
Acts 10:13 And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.
Acts 10:14 But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.
Acts 10:15 And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
Acts 10:16 This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.
Acts 10:17 Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made enquiry for Simon's house, and stood before the gate,
Acts 10:18 And called, and asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there.
Acts 10:19 While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee.
Acts 10:20 Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.

Notice that the vision was given three times, and at its conclusion there were three Gentile men waiting to speak with him.

Prior to the vision, Peter would not have considered eating with Gentiles, because anyone who was not a Jew was considered "unclean," and custom forbad the Jews from eating with the Gentiles. But God was telling Peter not to consider them unclean. God expressly commanded Peter, following the vision, to go with the men, saying that He had sent them.

Because the Bible is self-explanatory as to the meaning of this vision, why do people misread it to think the unclean animals were suddenly declared clean, several years after Christ had ascended to heaven?

People who cannot part with their favorite unclean meats often promote the error that they ceased to be unclean with Peter's vision. But there is zero evidence that Peter, Paul, John, Barnabus, Silas, Timothy, James, or any of the New Testament leaders ever consumed any flesh meats that had been declared by God to be unclean in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14.

One might wish to ask oneself: If the law had been changed, what would be the reason for it? Were the animals now safe to eat? Was there some symbolism involved? Was food in scarce supply, such as after the Flood when clean meats were first permitted?

If there were no logical reason for God to tell us that pigs, shrimp, snails, etc. were suddenly clean, even though they had been unclean for millennia, then why should one accept this on such scarce evidence?

Biologists can tell you exactly why these meats are not clean. Pigs, for example, live in filth and eat filth. In some parts of the world where latrines are not in use, one simply goes out to crouch behind a bush. Afterward, the pigs eagerly clean up the mess, and the person need not even bury it! Pig/swine flesh often harbors a special parasite called a trichina worm. The worm is able to encyst itself in a cocoon-style casing in the pig's flesh which protects it. Even boiling infested pork for five minutes, this trichina worm may survive. The only way to be absolutely certain to have killed it is to cook the flesh at or above boiling temperatures for at least twenty minutes. If the worm is not killed, one may get trichinosis -- a disease from which there is no cure, because the encysted worms are protected from any medicine one might take, and they can remain encysted for long periods of time. As the saying goes, "you are what you eat." That's as true of the pig, as it is of the person who eats it. Why should we desire to consume nature's garbage cans?

God gave us the health laws for our sake. He wants us to be healthy and happy, and knows, as our Creator, exactly what that requires.

Asking "when did Jesus declare all foods clean" is virtually like asking "when did Jesus tell us to eat junk food."

Conclusion

The answer is simple: He never did.

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  • I think this deals with Acts 10 well, but the question asked includes Mark 7, etc.
    – Dottard
    Sep 12 at 22:43
  • @Dottard The parenthetical addition to Mark 7:19 is a gloss. It's not even in my Bible (KJV). It's also been addressed in other questions. I asked that question HERE.
    – Polyhat
    Sep 12 at 22:53
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Well, did he? The parenthetical sentence in Mark 7:19 is not found in the KJV or YLT etc. Where it does appear, as in the NIV, a footnote explains,

"In saying this, Jesus declared all foods 'clean' - Mark adds this parenthetical comment to help his readers see the significance of Jesus' pronouncements for them (see Acts 10:9-16)."

But did Mark add that comment? Or was it added by copyists at a later date? That seems most likely given two points. First, Acts 10:9-16 certainly relates the vision Peter received from heaven, about eating meats that had been forbidden. But the whole point of that vision was the spiritual truth that now he (a Jew) could go into the homes of Gentiles and share the gospel of Christ with them, as well as eating what they served up at table. That vision was to enable him to then accept the invitation of men sent by the centurion, Cornelius. He'd had an angelic visitation telling him to send for Peter. Likewise, Peter had a vision, and the Holy Spirit telling him to go with those three men to the home of Cornelius. That resulted in the start of Gentile converts to Christ.

The key point in Acts 10 is that Peter was told from heaven, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” But it did NOT say, "Do not call any food..." The 'thing' that was now clean in God's view was the Gentile man, Cornelius (and his household) and all subsequent Gentile converts to Christ. The unclean animals were used as an illustration of formerly 'unclean' people - the Gentiles.

Second, Jesus was teaching his listeners about immaterial spiritual 'food' that goes into the heart, as opposed to literal food that goes through the alimentary canal and out of the body. Jesus was not advocating freedom to eat any food you fancied! He stuck to the dietary laws all Jews adhered to. He never ate anything that violated such dietary laws in the Hebrew scriptures. The whole context is that of religious hypocrites accusing the disciples of eating without observing all the ceremonial regulations about dipping fingers into various cups of water while eating. It wasn't even the matter of what was being eaten (for all the food on the table was in harmony with Jewish dietary laws). That is why Jesus then turned to the crowd and said:

"There is nothing from without the man entering into him that is able to defile him, but the things coming out from him, those are the things defiling the man" (vs. 15 YLT).

"Do ye [the disciples now] not perceive that nothing from without entering in the man is able to defile him? because it doth not enter into his heart, but into the belly, and into the drain it doth go out, purifying all the meats... for from within, out of the heart of men, the evil reasonings do come forth, adulteries, whoredoms, murders, thefts, covetous desires, wickedness, deceit, arrogance, an evil eye, evil speaking, pride, foolishness; all these evils do come forth from within, and they defile the man" (vss. 18-23 YLT).

Finally, the counsel of the disciples in Jerusalem, as to whether Gentile converts should be circumcised, clearly said "No", for that would then oblige them to keep all the laws, including the dietary ones. Instead, they were told to avoid meat that had been strangled (which would not have had its blood drained out) and that would include not drinking blood either. Blood was never to be consumed by either Jewish or Gentile Christians, according to that decree in Acts 15:19-21. But the list of dietary laws in the Hebrew scriptures no longer applied to either Christians or Gentile converts to Christ. That was because the law was nailed to the cross of Christ as having served its purpose:

"Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross... Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days, which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ" (Colossians 2:14-17).

Freedom of conscience as to what to eat and drink is part of the liberty that is found in the crucified and resurrected Christ. But it was not Christ himself who gave rise to the claim that he had "declared all foods clean". He did no such thing.

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  • What was nailed to the cross was Jesus's human body. “Which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross” applies to human body. As Paul explains in Romans 7 and 8. Sep 13 at 23:04
  • @ארקדיוס Of course it was Jesus' literal human body that was nailed to the cross, and that was what could be seen visibly. But the spiritual significance is stated in Col 2:14-17. The handwriting of ordinances was contrary to us because it exposed us all as sinners unable to keep that law. Only Jesus' sinlessness and sacrificial death dealt with what was - to us sinners - an insurmountable obstacle condemning us in God's righteous sight. Romans 7 & 8 deal with spiritual realities, not physical human bodies!
    – Anne
    Sep 14 at 10:00
  • Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. Sep 14 at 22:30
  • For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. Sep 14 at 22:31
  • For he that is dead is freed from sin. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. Sep 14 at 22:31
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Jesus never declared all foods clean. Although Polyhat and Anne did a great job answering the question, I would like to add a couple of things.

The problem in Mark 7:1-23 and Matthew 15:1-20 is not Torah based ritual purity. It is the traditions of the elders. The handwashing discussed in the chapter is still practised by Jews today, and it is called netilat yadayim in Hebrew.

The tradition of netilat yadayim prior to eating bread originated with the rabbis of the Talmud . It derives from various practices concerning ritual impurity from when the ancient Temple stood in Jerusalem. The priests who performed the temple rituals were given gifts of oil, wine and wheat that could be eaten only after ritual washing. For various reasons, the ancient rabbis extended this practice to all Jews before eating meals. Some sources suggest that the practice was instituted so the Temple’s washing ritual would not be forgotten. Whatever the reason, the practice, incumbent upon both men and women, was established by talmudic times and later included in the medieval codes of Jewish law. Some passages in the Talmud indicate that failing to wash hands before a meal is a significant transgression. One talmudic sage even says that eating bread without washing is tantamount to having sex with a prostitute, while another says that acting contemptuously toward this ritual causes one to be uprooted from the world.https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/hand-washing/

So the verse “in saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean” applies not to uncleanness according to the book of Leviticus but to man-made rabbinical traditions. Jesus's point was that none of the things rabbis introduced make one unclean.

As for Peter's vision it is all based on the Book of Enoch. The so called “Animal Apocalypse” (chapters 83-90). Peter also quoted from it in his second letter. Peter must have loved that book, since God used it to show him something.

3. ...I saw in a vision on my bed, and behold a bull came forth from the earth, and that bull was white (Adam); and after it came forth a heifer (Eve), and along with this (latter) came forth two bulls, one of them black (Cain) and the other red (Abel). 4. And that black bull gored the red one and pursued him over the earth, and thereupon I could no longer see that red bull. The Book of Enoch 85

9. But that white bull which had become a man (Noah) came out of that vessel, and the three bulls with him, and one of those three was white like that bull (Shem), and one of them was red as blood, and one black: and that white bull departed from them. 10. And they began to bring forth beasts of the field and birds, so that there arose different genera: lions, tigers, wolves, dogs, hyenas, wild boars, foxes, squirrels, swine, falcons, vultures, kites, eagles, and ravens; and among them was born a white bull (Abraham). 11. And they began to bite one another; but that white bull which was born amongst them begat a wild ass (Ishmael) and a white bull (Isaac) with it, and the wild asses multiplied. 12. But that bull which was born from him begat a black wild boar (Esau) and a white sheep (Jacob); and the former begat many boars, but that sheep begat twelve sheep. 13. And when those twelve sheep had grown, they gave up one of them to the asses, and those asses again gave up that sheep to the wolves, and that sheep grew up among the wolves. 14. And the Lord brought the eleven sheep to live with it and to pasture with it among the wolves: and they multiplied and became many flocks of sheep. 15. And the wolves began to fear them, and they oppressed them until they destroyed their little ones, and they cast their young into a river of much water: but those sheep began to cry aloud on account of their little ones, and to complain unto their Lord. 16. And a sheep which had been saved from the wolves (Moses) fled and escaped to the wild asses; and I saw the sheep how they lamented and cried, and besought their Lord with all their might, till that Lord of the sheep descended at the voice of the sheep from a lofty abode, and came to them and pastured them. 17. And He called that sheep which had escaped the wolves, and spake with it concerning the wolves that it should admonish them not to touch the sheep. The Book of Enoch 89

It goes like this through all the history of Israel. And this is how the story ends:

37. And I saw that a white bull was born, with large horns and all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air feared him and made petition to him all the time. 38. And I saw till all their generations were transformed, and they all became white bulls; and the first among them became a lamb, and that lamb became a great animal and had great black horns on its head; and the Lord of the sheep rejoiced over it and over all the oxen. The Book of Enoch 90

So God used Peter's hunger and a story that depicted humans as all sorts of animals (clean and unclean) to show the apostle that in the end He makes everyone clean in Messiah.

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