In Mark 7:14-23, Jesus declares all foods
"clean". Does this statement nullify the Old Testament
dietary law outlined in Leviticus 11?
This is a very interesting question. Let’s first read the
text in question.
Mark 7:14-23: “Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said,
‘Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing
outside a man can make him unclean by going into him.
Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him
unclean.’ After he had left the crowd and entered the house,
his disciples asked him about this parable. ‘Are you so
dull?’ he asked. ‘Don't you see that nothing that enters a
man from the outside can make him `unclean'? 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.") He
went on: ‘What comes out of a man is what makes him
`unclean.' For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil
thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed,
malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and
folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man
Now let’s back away and read what precedes these words from
Jesus. Why was Jesus saying those words?
Mark 7:1-13: “The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the
law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and
saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were
"unclean," that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the
Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial
washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they
come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash.
And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing
of cups, pitchers and kettles.)
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 `unclean'
He replied, ‘Isaiah was right when he prophesied about
you hypocrites; as it is written:
“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are
far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are
but rules taught by men.” You have let go of the commands of
God and are holding on to the traditions of men.’ And he
said to them: ‘You have a fine way of setting aside the
commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For
`Honor your father and your mother,' and, `Anyone who curses
his father or mother must be put to death.' But you say that
if a man says to his father or mother: `Whatever help you
might otherwise have received from me is Corban' (that is, a
gift devoted to God), then you no longer let him do anything
for his father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God
by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many
things like that.’”
Jesus was reacting to the Pharisees’ criticism concerning
his disciples eating with unwashed hands. Immediately Jesus
points out that they “have let go of the commands of God and
are holding on to the traditions of men”.
Jesus wasn’t pleased that a human was putting tradition
above His father’s laws. It’s unbelievable, but we humans
make so many laws (tradition) and confuse them with God’s
will. How indignant Jesus was with that thought.
That is when Jesus made this famous comment: “Nothing
outside a man can make him `unclean' by going into him.
Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him
`unclean.” How true He was. It is not because his disciples
ate food with unwashed hands that they were sinners. It is
what comes out of the heart of men that makes him/her a
sinner (unclean). (verse 15, 16)
Then Jesus clarifies his thoughts with his disciples in
verses 17 to 23: “After he had
left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked
him about this parable. ‘Are you so dull?’ he asked. ‘Don't
you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can
make him `unclean'? 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.") He went on: ‘What
comes out of a man is what makes him `unclean.' For from
within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual
immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these
evils come from inside and make a man `unclean.'”
Nowhere is there mention of clean and unclean food in this
whole context. Why do we read the in verse 19: “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.") “? Does this, in the context of abolishing
hygienic ordinances, make sense?
The error lies in the translations of certain English
versions of the Bible. The King James and the New King James
translations of this passage are more “word by word”
translations of the original Greek language.
Mark 7:18-19: “Do you not perceive that whatever enters a
man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not
enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus
purifying all foods? NKJV
Mark 7:19: Because it entereth not into his heart, but into
the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all
If we look in the original Greek language we would read and
ti ouk eisporeúetai autoú eis
Because not it entereth into
teén kardían all eis teén
his heart, but into the
koilían kaí eis tón afedroóna
belly, and into the draught,
ekporeúetai katharízoon pánta tá
goeth out purging all
In other words the food that we eat is purified by the
stomach. The unhealthy or innutritious parts are separated,
and only the wholesome parts are taken into the system.
“This agrees with all that has since been discovered of the
process of digestion and of the support of life. The food
taken into the stomach is by the gastric juice converted
into a thick pulp called chyme. The nutritious part of this
is conveyed into small vessels, and changed into a milky
substance called "chyle." This is poured by the thoracic
duct into the left subclavian vein and mingles with the
blood, and conveys nutriment and support to all parts of the
system. The useless parts of the food are thrown off.”
As for the sentence: (In saying this, Jesus declared all
foods "clean.")? It simply doesn’t appear in the original
Greek. Jesus is not changing dietary directions here. He is
pointing out the process of digestion that separates the
wholesome from the unwholesome parts of food. What makes a
person unclean or sinful is “For from within, out of men's
hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft,
murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy,
slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from
inside and make a man `unclean.'”
Are you holding tradition of man above God’s law? Is there
something in you that makes you unclean? Maybe it is evil
thoughts, or sexual immorality. Maybe it is theft , murder
or adultery? Maybe it is greed, malice, deceit, lewdness,
envy, slander, arrogance or folly. No matter what is is,
Jesus is ready to forgive you. Heb 8:12 For I will forgive
their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."
Will you come and accept Him in your heart right now?
In the Old Testament, man was under the law. Because
Jesus came and died for our sins, we are no longer under the
"law". So I think your question is irrelevant in this case.
In Mark 7:14-23 Jesus declares all foods 'clean'. Does
this statement nullify the Old Testament dietary law
outlined in Lev. 11?
This question of clean and unclean foods has troubled many
people. Probably the best way to deal with it is to follow
The first reference to 'clean' animals is found in Genesis
when Noah was told to take 7 of each of the clean animals on
board. Since animals are only known as 'clean' or 'unclean'
in the context of whether or not they are good to eat, this
suggests to me that meat was on the diet in pre flood times,
despite what some 'health message' proponents may claim.
Genesis 7:2-AV Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee
by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that [are]
not clean by two, the male and his female.
There is another important aspect to this verse in that this
was still quite a long time before there was ever a Jew.
Those who say the food laws apply only to the Jews should
note that animals were regarded as 'clean' and 'unclean', by
God, before the flood.
Now, after the flood Noah was told that all animals were to
be 'meat' for him.
Genesis 9:3-AV Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat
for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.
Consider carefully this verse. We know from the above
that Noah knew full well what was 'clean' or not. We also
know that God does not change. So this is not a reference to
God changing what was 'clean'. By this time the only food
not destroyed would have been what Noah brought with him on
the Ark, and possibly, fish. I believe that this is God
telling Noah that he could decide himself what to eat,
probably to avoid waste as much as anything else. I would
expect that Noah and his family would have eaten 'clean'
food whenever possible.
Then we come to the food laws. A careful examination of
these laws will reveal that they were given more in the
interests of good health than anything else. It is evident
too that these health laws also included instructions for
personal hygiene and methods of dealing with boils, leprosy
and other maladies. Following these laws did also set the
Jews apart from those around them.
One thing one learns when exploring the Bible - God is very
practical. There are some quite good medical reasons for
following the food health laws. Here are some of them.
All 'clean' animals are ruminants. That is they have four
stomachs. This ensures a much more thorough processing of
food than is possible with one stomach, and less pollutants
are stored in the flesh. It has also been discovered that
ruminants are not subject to flesh worms. These can be
acquired from eating the flesh of almost every other animal.
The pig which got special mention as 'unclean' stores
poisons in its body fat. A snake cannot kill a pig. The
poison is just stored in the fat under the skin and is
ingested by anything that subsequently eats that pig. Many
outback Australian properties keep pet pigs around the home
buildings to deal with snakes which come in plague
proportions when the cracks in the ground, where they live,
are closed by the swelling of the earth after rainfall. Pigs
love snakes - they suck them up like spaghetti. My wife grew
up with pet pigs that were kept for this purpose.
Concerning the flesh of the pig. With today's hygienic
methods of raising these animals it is unlikely they would
carry the same risk as one raised in the wild, but consider
this: the meat takes 4 days to digest in the bowel instead
of 2 for 'clean' meats. Bowel cancer has been linked to
excessive meat consumption and if the length of time spent
in the bowel has anything to do with it then pork is twice
as bad as beef.
Likewise the birds that are clean have an organ called a
'gizzard' which again permits the bird to process it's food
Most of what we call 'sea food', prawns, crabs, shell fish
etc. are filter feeders. What they do is clean up the
pollution in the oceans and store it in their bodies.
Oysters for instance thrive best downstream from sewerage
outlets. When one eats these creatures the pollutions become
more concentrated in our own bodies. Calcium kidney stones
for instance are often the result of over indulgence in
these foods. Fish without scales, like sharks and catfish,
are scavengers and are at the top of food chains. Their
bodies will contain a much higher level of pollutants than
creatures further down the chain. Even among the 'clean'
fish there are some that you can't eat. The 'Chinaman', a
beautiful big red reef fish looks great but contains poison.
One creature we do not seem to eat much unless we live in
Afghanistan, is the grasshopper or locust. Its clean. Get
stuck in. I'm told that when cooked they taste somewhat like
sausages and contain more protein than beef. I must admit
the only time I have eaten one was when riding a motorbike
and for some reason opened my mouth at the wrong moment.
Leviticus 11:22-AV [Even] these of them ye may eat; the
locust after his kind, and the bald locust after his kind,
and the beetle after his kind, and the grasshopper after his
In Mark 7 Jesus is talking about spiritual defilement. He
made no reference to 'clean' or 'unclean' foods except to
say that the man is not defiled by what goes into his mouth,
but what comes out of it. The whole argument started with an
objection to some of His disciples eating bread without
washing their hands. If you take this passage to mean that
it is all right to eat unclean foods, you have missed the
point. Jesus is virtually saying that whatever a man decides
to eat, it will not defile him spiritually. This is totally
consistent with the earlier reference to Noah being allowed
to eat all things. It is also consistent with the food laws
being guidelines for good health rather than hard and fast
laws in the same sense as murder and stealing etc.
Paul also had something to say on the topic. Consider
1Corinthians 10:23-AV All things are lawful for me, but all
things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but
all things edify not.
1Corinthians 10:24-AV Let no man seek his own, but every man
1Corinthians 10:25-AV Whatsoever is sold in the shambles,
[that] eat, asking no question for conscience sake:
1Corinthians 10:26-AV For the earth [is] the Lord's, and the
1Corinthians 10:27-AV If any of them that believe not bid
you [to a feast], and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is
set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake.
1Corinthians 10:28-AV But if any man say unto you, This is
offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that
shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth [is] the
Lord's, and the fullness thereof:
Paul is consistent here with the trend that has been
emerging. All things are lawful to him but he would not give
offence to another by eating something the other thought
unclean, in the other's presence. He would consider the
other's feelings above his own. If invited out to a meal, he
would show good manners by asking a blessing and cheerfully
eating what was put in front of him rather than offend the
host by rejecting what would probably be a carefully and
lovingly prepared meal. This is the code I was taught as a
child. Meat sacrificed to idols is not a problem in western
cultures but may be in some pagan cultures.
Romans 14:1-AV Him that is weak in the faith receive ye,
[but] not to doubtful disputations.
Romans 14:2-AV For one believeth that he may eat all things:
another, who is weak, eateth herbs.
Romans 14:3-AV Let not him that eateth despise him that
eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that
eateth: for God hath received him.
Romans 14:4-AV Who art thou that judgest another man's
servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he
shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
In this passage Paul again supports the concept that eating
is a personal choice and that we should not despise another
on account of what is eaten, but support and encourage each
other. (I like that bit about 'One that is weak eateth
herbs' - Paul apparently was not a vegetarian) Just on that
- It would probably not be nice to refer to vegetarians as
'weak' - some of them are actually pretty tough. The spirit
of this message is to give support and tolerance to others
and not bother about what they choose to eat.
One more relevant point we should consider.
1Corinthians 6:19-AV What? know ye not that your body is the
temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you, which ye have of
God, and ye are not your own?
1Corinthians 6:20-AV For ye are bought with a price:
therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit,
which are God's.
1Corinthians 10:31-AV Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or
whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
From these verses it would seem prudent to take good care of
our bodies and this would mean avoiding foods that may not
be good for us. We should eat, drink and live our lives to
the glory of God, not for our own pleasure.
To sum this up, it is my belief, supported by the quotations
above that eating is a personal choice, and that the food or
health laws should be taken as good advice. The God who told
us what was 'clean' and 'unclean' is the same God who made
these creatures. He should know. Jesus did not nullify the
guidelines (health laws) given in the OT. Nor did he say not
to wash your hands before you eat. We have brains and
intelligence to work things out and do what is best for our
own bodies, always considering the needs and feelings of
My Pastor said that in this scripture, Jesus was not
referring to dietary laws but to
spiritual laws. They were accused of not washing their hands
before a meal, not of eating unclean food. Breaking bread is
considered an alter before God. Therefore the law of washing
your hands before a meal was a symbol of coming before God
with a clean heart. Jesus was referring not to what they ate
but to the ungodliness, hypocrisy, and total disregard for
what God wants that was in their hearts. He was indicating
that their hearts were so filthy that they pollute
everything around them. Jesus said in Matt. 5:15 that He did
not come to abolish the law but to fulfill the law and
nothing was to be removed from the law until the end of
In answer to this weeks question I would just like to say
yes. I took this question to my Pastor looking for a answer
because I didn't know, and when I gave him the question he
just looked at me and said yes. He didn't need to elaborate
on this because I knew he was right by just saying yes.
This question enters on a false premise. Jesus does not
declare the unclean animals clean. He simply states that the
eating of these animals does not make a person a sinner
Jesus further illustrates that it is what one feeds the
heart and mind then what that action produces come out of a
person and defiles them. In other words a sinner sins.
Another similar scripture used to bring up this question of
clean and unclean is Peter's Acts 1: 5 I was in the city of
Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A certain
vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet, let down from
heaven by four corners; and it came even to me: 6 Upon the
which when I had fastened mine eyes, I considered, and saw
fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and
creeping things, and fowls of the air. 7 And I heard a voice
saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat. 8 But I said,
Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time
entered into my mouth. 9 But the voice answered me again
from heaven, What God hath cleansed, [that] call not thou
common. 10 And this was done three times: and all were drawn
up again into heaven.
As we continue in our reading though we learn the correct
reason for the vision. It was to tell Peter that the
gentiles are acceptable to God to receive the Gospel and the
benefits of fellowship with Jewish Believers.
No, I do not feel that Mark 7:14-23, makes Leviticus 11
null. In the wilderness the Israelites were not satisfied
with manna from Heaven. So, God gave them meat, but He let
them know what kind they could eat. In Mark, He later said
that it is not what you eat that makes you unclean, because
that is only going into your stomach. But what goes comes
out of your heart is what makes you unclean.
If I feed my spirit man with things of the world then I am
eating unclean food. Therefore, what comes out of my heart
will be unclean and unpleasing to God. But if I feed it with
God's word then I am eating clean food and good things that
are pleasing to God will come out of my heart.
Jacqueline C Weathersby