Leviticus 11:1 – Starts with… "1 The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron: 2 “Tell the Israelites: You may eat all these kinds of land animals" then goes on to give a detailed list of which animals can/cannot be eaten and animals that they can/cannot touch.

And yet, Colossians 2:22 says they are human commands and doctrines

21 “Don’t handle, don’t taste, don’t touch”? 22 All these regulations refer to what is destined to perish by being used up; they are human commands and doctrines.

For clarification, I read two other questions on this website, that touched on this topic:

How is ignoring clear Biblical instructions in Leviticus justified?

To what extent does the Law of Moses still apply?

But, they were based on “why have these laws changed” or “which laws are we still supposed to follow”. I’m looking for any clarification on why one scripture says God gave these commands, and another scripture says that they were man-made.

  • 2
    A good question and up-voted +1. But it is a very large subject and the question may require to be more focussed as it may be considered too broad. In short, the first covenant was an arrangement on earth which pre-figured the everlasting testament yet to be fully revealed. God gave the figure, but when men tried to continue the figure (rather than receive the fulfilment of that figure) then they were censured for doing so.
    – Nigel J
    May 29, 2023 at 18:47
  • There has been a Gnostic tradition from the first century or first couple of centuries that believes that the Law was sent by evil angels or Satan. The translation of "elementary things" stoicheia as Spirits of world is very relevant to the modern scholars who hold that view. NET ESV translates that word as "elementary spirits", perhaps under the same spirit. hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/83572/…
    – Michael16
    May 30, 2023 at 13:27
  • @Michael16. I read the link you referenced in your first comment. I’m still processing the answers and comments. Interesting stuff and it definitely has me scratching my head.
    – matt
    May 31, 2023 at 16:50
  • @Michael. I can’t get on board with the Gnostic angle you talk about in your second comment. Pointing at an early century belief, to justify a deviation from God’s word, feels like the same battle Paul was fighting at Colossae. If the law was sent by evil angels or Satan, it’s hard to imagine that this was not addressed/corrected by God, a prophet, Jesus or any of the apostles. These laws were such a central issue in so many of the problems of the early church, that it's hard to believe that a “virtuous messenger of God” would not have pointed out that these laws were not God’s commands.
    – matt
    May 31, 2023 at 16:50

3 Answers 3


The OP's characterization of Col 1:21 as referring to Torah food laws is a mis-characterization. Torah food laws are never mentioned nor implied in Col 1:20-23.

Col 1:20, 21 - If you have died with Christ to the spiritual forces of the world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its regulations: “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!”?

This is discussing other worldly regulations, not specified, but presumably part of the rising tide of ascetic ideas that was gaining popularity in the time of Peter's letter. It may also refer to some teachings of some extreme Jewish leaders who went beyond the Torah laws as well.

The food regulations found in places like Leviticus were definitely given by God to the Israelites as the texts says repeatedly. Whether they are still appropriate for Christians is another matter entirely, but the regulations as listed in Leviticus were unquestionably given by God.

Ellicott correctly observes in his comments about Col 1:21 -

There is in the commands a climax of strictness. “Handle not” (the unclean thing), “taste it not,” “touch it not” with one of your fingers. It will be noted that all these commands are negative, not positive. They are marked by the ordinary ascetic preference of spiritual restraint to spiritual energy.

Barnes is similar:

See Schoetgen, and Pict. Bib. in loc. "They allowed themselves no food that was pleasant to the taste, but ate dry, coarse bread, and drank only water. Many of them ate nothing until sunset, and, if anyone touched them who did not belong to their sect, they washed themselves as if they had been most deeply defiled. Perhaps there was at Colossae a society of this kind, as there were in many other places out of Judea; and, if there was, it is not improbable that many Christians imitated them in the uniqueness of their rules and observances;" compare Jenning's Jew. Ant. i. 471, and Ros. Alt. u. neu. Morgenland, in loc. If this be the correct interpretation, then these are not the words of the apostle, forbidding Christians to have anything to do with these ordinances, but are introduced as a specimen of the manner in which they who enjoined the observance of those ordinances pressed the subject on others.

  • Agree, Lev. regulations are from God. But we are both making assumptions about verse 21. I assumed that the “do not touch/taste” were connected to the “do not touch/taste” listed in Leviticus 11. But, Paul does touch on Torah law in verse 16, so it’s not an unreasonable assumption. Your answer uses “not specified” and “may also refer to”…..though verse 22 does say they are human commandments.
    – matt
    Jun 1, 2023 at 16:43
  • @ Dottard Ellicott’s says that the commands in Col. 2:21 “have a climate of strictness” and “are negative, not positive”. I don’t see how this separates them from Lev 11. Some form of “do not” is used in Lev 11, roughly 11 times. Lev 11:32-38 feels like the definition of “strict climate”. It says that if a creeping creature dies and falls on clothes, they can be cleaned. If it falls on a pot, stove, or hearth, they have to be destroyed (tough to lose in those days). If it falls on a seed, it is clean. If it falls on a seed that has been watered, it is unclean”.
    – matt
    Jun 1, 2023 at 16:43
  • It may come down to Dick Harfield’s last sentence, in his answer to (hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/24993/…) “Whether verse 22 implies that the Jewish law was originally of God or were simply of human origin is subject to debate.” Which unfortunately is not an answer, but maybe a reality.
    – matt
    Jun 1, 2023 at 16:44
  • @matt - fair enough if you do not believe what the Bible says about itself - dozens of times just in the Torah, we have the phrase, "God told the people or Moses" etc. If one does not accept that, then the Bible is a fraud.
    – Dottard
    Jun 1, 2023 at 21:51
  • I re-read my comment, after reading your comment, and it definitely put my comment in a different light (can I give myself -1). I didn’t intend to imply that the Torah laws were not given by God. I agree that the Bible makes itself clear that “God said”. I was just taking a quote from Dick’s answer (Yeah, what’s up with that Mr. Hartfield?)
    – matt
    Jun 4, 2023 at 14:48

If Paul says these regulations are based on human commands, then I can only conclude he's not talking about the laws given by God. Judaism has an approach to the Law called "fencing the law": in order to help us avoid breaking the law, they introduce many more restrictive rules. If you can keep to those restrictions then you know you haven't broken the actual law. So for example, Jews took the law to not boil a baby goat in its mother's milk and extended it to ban all combinations of milk and meat. The law against boiling a kid in its mother's milk is from God but banning cheeseburgers is from humans.

  • That's true, but Colossians 2:13 makes it plain that Paul's audience is Greek, not Jewish. This isn't a reference to extended Jewish laws, but to pagan asceticism (as clearly stated in both previous answers to this question). May 30, 2023 at 13:19

God's Laws have not changed:

For I am the LORD, I change not; … — Malachi 3:6

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. — Hebrews 13:8

Think not that I [Jesus] am come to destroy the law, or the prophets … — Matthew 5:1

In this case, the confusion is caused by taking Colossians 2:22 out of context.

Notice that Colossians 2:13 refers to "the uncircumcision of your flesh". Clearly Paul is talking to Gentile converts, not to Jews. The laws he is referring to are not the biblical laws.

The rules mentioned here, "Don’t handle, don’t taste, don’t touch", are not God's Laws, but the rules followed by pagan Greeks. Most of the people in Colossus are ascetics and vegetarians, who believe that physical pleasure is wrong.

Paul is telling the Greeks that have recently converted to Christianity that they should ignore the condemnation and scorn of their (former) friends and relatives, and not feel guilty for enjoying meat and experiencing physical joy.

This is the complete opposite of how many people interpret this scripture (out of context), in order to justify their false belief that the distinction between clean and unclean meat has been done away with.

But, as already shown, God's Laws have not changed.

For much more detailed explanations, see my answers to:

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