Unclean Foods

Dear Brother Moses,

We are so happy that your little daughter is doing better. I have been praying for you and your family there in Uganda, East Africa. I know how difficult it is to be a husband and father and provider for your family there.

Regarding your question about Leviticus 11 and the clean and unclean foods: God wants His people to be as healthy as they can possibly be in this world. After Noah's Flood, the world became very barren and food much more scarce in the world and so God gave man permission to kill animals and to add meat to his diet. It is for this reason that He told the people of Noah and also the people of Israel which foods were best for maintaining good health. The flesh of scavengers and other filthy animals was not the best of food to be eaten because of parasites and other diseases. Under the theocracy of Israel, God had declared that to eat unclean food was a sin.

In the Christian era in which we now live God still wants His people to be as healthy as they possibly can be, but He has not placed His people under these dietary laws as a matter of sin if they should eat them.  The gospel message of Christ is not a matter of what one eats or drinks and what goes into the belly. Since the gospel message is going into all the world, God is not placing these dietary laws upon the believers as a matter of salvation . Those who wish to abstain from those foods called unclean in the Old Testament will generally greatly benefit in health from this choice. But we must be careful not to teach that those believers in Christ who choose to eat various animals which Leviticus calls unclean will not inherit the kingdom of God.

In other words, the matter of what we eat is not a matter of salvation but a matter of health. It is good not to eat unclean animals but it is not a matter of salvation.  Those who eat unclean things may lose the blessing of optimal health but they will not lose their salvation. Paul was careful not to place circumcision and the dietary laws upon the Gentile believers who were coming to Christ for salvation. In fact Paul was very upset with those Jewish Christians who insisted that the Gentiles must strictly observe circumcision, the ceremonial holy days, strict fasting, and the Levitical dietary rules which forbade the eating of unclean foods.

Colossians 2:16 — 3:17 16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink , or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. 18 Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God. 20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations — 21 " Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle ," 22 which all concern things which perish with the using — according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.

3:1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, 7 in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. 8 But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, 11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.

12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Mark 7:14-15, 17-23 14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, "Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 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." ..... 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 man from the outside can make him 'unclean'? 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.") 20 He went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' 21 For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.'"

You must remember that the Jews considered that anyone who ate "unclean" food was considered to be "unclean". They would not eat with a Gentile for this reason. Gentiles ate anything that they could as food.  This is why Peter was given the vision of the unclean foods in Acts 10

Acts 10:9-16 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: 10 And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, 11 And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: 12 Wherein were all manner of four footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. 14 But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. 15 And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. 16 This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.

Acts 10:25-28 25 And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him . 26 But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man. 27 And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together. 28 And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean .

The Jewish people considered Gentiles to be unclean for two reasons: they were uncircumcised and they did not follow the dietary laws described in Leviticus 11. It is with this prejudice in mind that we can understand what the Lord was telling Peter in this vision. He was telling him that in the Christian era there was no longer to be a distinction between Jew and Gentile. Both groups were now one in Christ. Circumcision and the Levitical food laws were no longer binding upon Christian believers. The abolishing of these distinctives was very difficult for Jewish Christians to accept so the Lord gave Peter this vision to impress upon Peter that the Kosher food laws, the law of circumcision, and the symbolic feast days were no longer to be observed within the Christian community. Thus, we as Christians should not call anyone unclean or unsaved who eats food that is considered not "kosher", or "clean". Food does not make one fit or unfit for the kingdom of God. This is not to say that we should not eat food that is of the best quality if it is available, but we should not make what we eat or drink a matter of conscience, sin or not sin. Food is no longer a matter of defilement of the soul. By the same token, circumcision and the antitypical sabbaths / feast days such as the feasts of Unleavened Bread, the Passover, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles which foreshadowed the sacrifice of Christ have passed away to be observed by Christians.

Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

Titus 1:14-16 14 Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth. 15 Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. 16 They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.

So in summary, I would say that it is good to eat only food that is the most healthy but food does not defile us spiritually or morally in any way before God.

1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

Hebrews 13:9 Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings; for it is well that the heart be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited their adherents.

Your brother in Christ,

Bill Diehl


Leviticus 11:1-47 (return to text above)

1 Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them, 2 "Speak to the children of Israel, saying, 'These are the animals which you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth: 3 'Among the animals, whatever divides the hoof, having cloven hooves and chewing the cud — that you may eat. 4 'Nevertheless these you shall not eat among those that chew the cud or those that have cloven hooves: the camel, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you;

5 'the rock hyrax, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you; 6 'the hare, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you; 7 'and the swine, though it divides the hoof, having cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. 8 'Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch. They are unclean to you. 9 ' These you may eat of all that are in the water: whatever in the water has fins and scales, whether in the seas or in the rivers — that you may eat.

10 'But all in the seas or in the rivers that do not have fins and scales, all that move in the water or any living thing which is in the water, they are an abomination to you. 11 'They shall be an abomination to you; you shall not eat their flesh, but you shall regard their carcasses as an abomination. 12 'Whatever in the water does not have fins or scales — that shall be an abomination to you. 13 ' And these you shall regard as an abomination among the birds; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, the vulture, the buzzard,14 'the kite, and the falcon after its kind; 15 'every raven after its kind, 16 'the ostrich, the short-eared owl, the sea gull, and the hawk after its kind; 17 'the little owl, the fisher owl, and the screech owl; 18 'the white owl, the jackdaw, and the carrion vulture; 19 'the stork, the heron after its kind, the hoopoe, and the bat. 20 ' All flying insects that creep on all fours shall be an abomination to you.

21 'Yet these you may eat of every flying insect that creeps on all fours: those which have jointed legs above their feet with which to leap on the earth. 22 'These you may eat: the locust after its kind, the destroying locust after its kind, the cricket after its kind, and the grasshopper after its kind. 23 'But all other flying insects which have four feet shall be an abomination to you. 24 ' By these you shall become unclean; whoever touches the carcass of any of them shall be unclean until evening; 25 'whoever carries part of the carcass of any of them shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening: 26 'The carcass of any animal which divides the foot, but is not cloven-hoofed or does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. Everyone who touches it shall be unclean.

27 'And whatever goes on its paws, among all kinds of animals that go on all fours, those are unclean to you. Whoever touches any such carcass shall be unclean until evening. 28 'Whoever carries any such carcass shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening. It is unclean to you. 29 ' These also shall be unclean to you among the creeping things that creep on the earth: the mole, the mouse, and the large lizard after its kind; 30 'the gecko, the monitor lizard, the sand reptile, the sand lizard, and the chameleon. 31 'These are unclean to you among all that creep. Whoever touches them when they are dead shall be unclean until evening. 32 'Anything on which any of them falls, when they are dead shall be unclean, whether it is any item of wood or clothing or skin or sack, whatever item it is, in which any work is done, it must be put in water. And it shall be unclean until evening; then it shall be clean.

33 'Any earthen vessel into which any of them falls you shall break; and whatever is in it shall be unclean: 34 'in such a vessel, any edible food upon which water falls becomes unclean, and any drink that may be drunk from it becomes unclean. 35 'And everything on which a part of any such carcass falls shall be unclean; whether it is an oven or cooking stove, it shall be broken down; for they are unclean, and shall be unclean to you. 36 'Nevertheless a spring or a cistern, in which there is plenty of water, shall be clean, but whatever touches any such carcass becomes unclean. 37 'And if a part of any such carcass falls on any planting seed which is to be sown, it remains clean. 38 'But if water is put on the seed, and if a part of any such carcass falls on it, it becomes unclean to you.

39 ' And if any animal which you may eat dies, he who touches its carcass shall be unclean until evening. 40 'He who eats of its carcass shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening. He also who carries its carcass shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening. 41 ' And every creeping thing that creeps on the earth shall be an abomination. It shall not be eaten. 42 'Whatever crawls on its belly, whatever goes on all fours, or whatever has many feet among all creeping things that creep on the earth — these you shall not eat, for they are an abomination. 43 'You shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creeps; nor shall you make yourselves unclean with them, lest you be defiled by them.

44 'For I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth. 45 'For I am the LORD who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy. 46 ' This is the law of the animals and the birds and every living creature that moves in the waters, and of every creature that creeps on the earth, 47 'to distinguish between the unclean and the clean, and between the animal that may be eaten and the animal that may be eaten and the animal that may not be eaten.' " (return to text above)