Did Jesus Declare All Foods Clean? Go Vegan! By Chapman Chen, HKBNews
Updated: Jan 16, 2022
Summary: Mark 7:15 KJV -- "There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man" -- and Mark 7:19 NIV -- "(In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean)" -- are often cited by mainstream churches to justify meat-eating. But "(... Jesus declared all foods clean)" must be a later addition as it is absent in KJV and the Greek manuscripts. As for the participial phrase, “purging [καθαρίζων] all [πάντα] the [τὰ] food [βρώματα]?” (Mark 7:19 KJV), it is in grammatical discordance with the rest of the sentence (cf. Beer 2014). And the sign of interrogation (question mark) “is rarely found before the ninth century” (Metzger 1964:27).
More importantly, the context is some Pharisees criticizing Jesus' disciples for failing to wash their hands ritualistically before eating bread. The conversation is centered around whether one should hold the tradition of the elders and always wash one's hands before eating. And Jesus' conclusion is: God's command is more significant than men's tradition, and evil thoughts rather than food taken without washing hands defile us. Here, Jesus is not saying that we can eat any kind of unclean food or animal flesh ; he is not repealing the Kosher code (cf. Beer 2014).
1. Bible Verses Concerned:
15 There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.
18 And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; 19 Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats? (Mark 7 KJV)
Mark 7: 19 NIV: 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.)
2. "Jesus declared all foods clean" as a Later Addition
The declaration in parenthesis can only found in certain versions like NIV, which came into existence after the King James Version, one of the earliest English translations of the Holy Bible. The earliest available Greek Manuscripts as shown in Biblehub do not contain it. So it must be a remark added by later scribes or translators (cf. Bbvulf 2013).
3. “purging [καθαρίζων] all [πάντα] the [τὰ] food [βρώματα]?”
3.1. Grammatical Discordance
As pointed out by Beer 2014, “purging” (καθαρίζων) is a participium (which functions as the verb of the clause), whereas “he said” (λέγει) is an indicative verb. “And He [Jesus] said to them…[Jesus is] cleansing all the foods” "would not make sense grammatically."
3.2. Punctuation Problem
According to Metzger (1964:26-27), the early papyri as well as the uncial manuscripts have “only an occasional mark of punctuation”, and the sign of interrogation (question mark) “is rarely found before the ninth century” (Metzger 1964:27).
As pointed out by Beer 2014, "the least we can deduce from the texts with punctuation is that later scribes (copyists)" attempted to signify that the phrase “purging καθαρίζων all πάντα the τὰ food βρώματα” should be set apart from the remaining of the sentence. This could mean: "the phrase is not part of Jesus’ question to his followers, but rather an editorial note by Mark".
4. Background of the Verses Concerned:
The Pharisees and certain scribes from Jerusalem spot some of Jesus' disciples eating bread with "unwashen hands" and query Jesus why should his disciples not follow the tradition of the elders and wash their hands before eating (Mark 7:1-5 KJV).
Jesus' response may be divided into three stages.
4.1 Stage one:-
Jesus bluntly calls the Pharisees and scribes "hypocrites" and asserts that in holding "the tradition of men", like the washing of pots and cups, [and of hands before eating], they are in fact going against the commandment of God (Mark 7: 6-13 KJV). So Jesus definitely is not canceling the kosher code and the vegan diet prescribed by God upon creating humans. Instead, he is upholding them as opposed to the tradition of men adhered to by the Pharisees.
4.2 Stage two:-
Jesus tells the crowd that nothing that enters a man from without can defile him while it is the things that come out of him that defile him (Mark 7: 14-15). This is somewhat covert and unspecified. Concerning the first limb, it is not specified whether Jesus is talking about food or something else, like air or sound. But judging from the background as laid out at the beginning of this chapter, it must refer to food eaten with unwashen hands, that the Pharisees claim to be defiled. As for the second limb, it is not specified whether Jesus is talking about exhaled breath, excretion, thought, or action or attitude.
4.3 Stage three:-
Jesus' speech at Stage 3 is more specific and profound than that at Stage 2.
Jesus leaves the crowd and enters the house, where his disciples ask him about the meaning of the "parable" (Mark 7: 17 KJV). The word "parable" suggests that Mark 7:15 is to be understood figuratively or metaphorically.
Jesus then questions his disciples rhetorically: Are you so dumb as to fail to see that whatsoever enters the man from without cannot defile him because it enters his belly instead of his heart and then goes out into the sewer:
"And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?" (Mark 7:18-19 KJV)
Apparently, food ingested, which will become ejected feces, is what Jesus is talking about here. Again, judging from the background as laid out at the beginning of Mark 7, it is not any food, but food eaten with unwashen hands, which the Pharisees frown at. And, as aforementioned, "purging all meats" does not fit in the picture. Grammatically and structurally, it is situated too far away from the subject it is supposed to describe -- "he [Jesus]". Semantically, are we actually supposed to believe that Jesus cleanses all the foods in the universe, including animal flesh like pork, while uttering Mark 7:19? Contextually, Jesus, as aforementioned, is upholding God's commandment concerning food rather than going against it.
Lastly, Jesus clarifies that it is "evil thoughts", evil actions, like murder, deceit, lasciviousness, evil words like blasphemy, and evil attitude like pride and foolishness, that proceed from the heart of people that defile them (Mark 7:20-23 KJV). Now it is specified what things that come out of people will defile them.
To conclude, Jesus did not declare all foods clean, for the declaration in parenthesis can only be found in English translations after the KJV. Nor did Jesus repeal the Torah or the Kosher code. The phrase "purging all meats" must be a later remark or comment added by either Mark or some scribe after him. The line "whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him" is merely a kind of figurative speech or parable. By no means did Jesus mean that we can eat any kind of unclean food or animal flesh.
In Mark 7, Jesus is essentially saying that God's command is more important than men's tradition, that even if we eat without washing our hands first, the food taken in from without will not defile us; that on the contrary, evil thoughts and actions, etc. that come out of our heart will defile us.
This conclusion is corroborated by the fact that Jesus was a vegan/vegetarian, as argued in Linzey (1994), Akers (2000), Saba (2006), York and Alexis-Baker (2012), Chen (2020), Beer (2014) and Erwin 2010).
Pic: From the internet.
Original article link: https://www.hkbnews.net/post/did-jesus-declare-all-foods-clean-go-vegan-by-chapman-chen-hkbnews Amen!
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