(Are Old Covenant Dietary Regulations still in force for Christians today?)         


       Dietary issues in the New Testament:

       Let's now turn to the NT and its treatment of dietary issues.  Some believe that during his ministry, Jesus said something that clearly did away with the dietary regulations of the Old Covenant system.  It is believed Jesus abolished the dietary regulations of the Old Covenant by how He answered a question asked of him by the religious leaders of his day.  We see this in Mark, chapter seven?

       Mark 7:1-5: 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' hands?"

       It is apparent Jesus is not being questioned about the keeping of Old Covenant dietary regulations but about the keeping of certain regulations the Jewish leadership had added to the Mosaic Law. This is made very evident by Jesus’ response.

       Mark 7:6-9: 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!

       It is very apparent Jesus is chastising the religious leadership for giving more attention to rules and regulations of their own making than to the commands of God.  In verses 10 through 13 Jesus provides an example of how they have circumvented the command to honor ones father and mother by creating ways to avoid providing for the needs of parents. Jesus is then seen as addressing the crowd and saying the following:

       Verse 14-19: "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."

       Verse 19b: (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean.") NIV

                         (This means all foods are clean.) NET

                         (Thus He declared all foods clean.) NASV

                         (Thus he declared all foods clean.)  RSV

       Is Jesus here abrogating the dietary laws of the Mosaic Law?  Before we answer that question, let's look at the end of verse 19.  There has been a lot of controversy about the end of verse nineteen.  English translations differ depending on what Greek manuscripts are used in the translation process.  For example, translators of the KJV and NKJV used Greek texts that, because of their grammatical construction, require these translators to render verses 18 and 19 in the following manner.

       Mark 7:18b-19: 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?  (KJV).    

       Mark 7: 18b-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).

       The Greek grammatical construction in manuscripts used to produce the KJV and NKJV require Christ making the statement, “purging all meats” or “purifying all foods.”   Other Greek manuscripts show a grammatical construction that requires Mark as the one that says these words, such as in the NIV, NET, NASV and RSV translations.  In those cases the translators put these words in brackets to indicate it is Mark commenting on what Christ was saying about this issue.

       Regardless of whether it was Jesus who said this or Mark reflecting on what Jesus said, taken at face value, it would appear that what is being said is that what you eat does not make you unclean. It is not what goes into you month but what comes out of your month that makes you unclean.  He makes this clear in His next statement.

       Mark 20:23: 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.'" 

       Is Jesus here abrogating Old Covenant dietary regulations?  Under these regulations the eating of certain organisms made one unclean before God. Jesus appears to be saying that only what comes out of the mouth makes a person unclean and not what goes into the mouth.

       Those who teach that the Old Covenant food laws are still operative claim that Jesus was not talking about food but about dirt from eating with unwashed hands. It’s believed He was saying this dirt is purged from the stomach through the bowel.  It’s maintained that Jesus wasn’t talking about the food laws but simply addressing the issue the religious leaders of His day had brought up about eating with unwashed hands.  It’s maintained that Christ was addressing rules the Jews had added and was not addressing God’s food laws at all.   

       It should be noted, however, that whether it is Jesus or whether it is Mark making the statement about all foods being purified or made clean, it is food and not dirt that is being addressed.  The Scripture doesn’t say purging all dirt.  It says purging all meats. It is food that is being addressed.  Jesus was not talking about dirt. Whether it was Jesus or Mark who uttered these controversial words, it is not dirt that is being addressed.  The Greek word rendered meats or food is broma This word appears seventeen times in the NT and over and over again can be seen by context to refer to food.

       So is what Jesus said or Mark’s reflection on what Jesus said abrogate the Old Covenant dietary regulations?  Was Jesus here telling the religious leaders, the crowds listening to Him and later His disciples that the Mosaic dietary laws were no longer in force and they could now eat anything they wanted to eat?  Very unlikely.

       Jesus was a Jew and as such He lived under Old Covenant law.  Kosher law was part of the Old Covenant law and to violate it would have been considered sin. Since Jesus never sinned, he did not violate kosher law and didn't teach anyone else to violate it.  Jesus could not have been teaching that adherence to Old Covenant dietary law was no longer necessary. Such a teaching would have been met with absolute ridicule by both the religious leaders and the average Jew. Observing the dietary regulations of the Mosaic Law was deep seated and Jesus telling the people they no longer needed to obey these regulations would have virtually destroyed any rapport He had developed with the people.  It would have caused an uproar.

       So what was Jesus teaching?  He apparently was teaching that food rendered unclean by Pharisaic laws was not unclean or did it make anyone unclean.

       The Pharisees and other religious leaders had added many laws to the Torah. Requiring that one's hands be washed prior to eating something was not a requirement of Old Covenant law.  This is something that had been added by the religious leaders.  Under this added law, even a kosher food could be seen as unclean if it had been touched by unwashed hands.  Jesus appears to be attacking this Pharisaic perspective.  He was saying that to eat a food with unwashed hands did not make the food or the person eating the food unclean.  Jesus was not instructing that it was OK to eat foods prohibited under kosher law.  He was addressing the inappropriate adding of law that had no legitimate bearing on kosher law.

       The Scriptures do not show Jesus abrogating Old Covenant law but attacking its misapplication. For Jesus to have abrogated any Old Covenant law would have been unthinkable.  To teach the kosher laws had been abrogated would have caused quite a negative reaction not only from the religious leaders but from the general Jewish public as well. As seen below, Peter was still keeping kosher some ten years after the Christ event. He certainly didn't believe Jesus had abrogated kosher law.     

       This all being said, it is apparent Jesus was teaching that spiritual dynamics of behavior were more important than the physical dynamics of the Old Covenant system, let alone the regulations that had been added by the religious leaders.   

       We saw in Mark 7:14-19 that Jesus in part responded to the religious leaders concerns about eating with unwashed hands by saying that nothing outside a man can make him unclean but only what comes out of a man is what can make him unclean.  It is then recorded that after he had left the crowd and entered into the house, his disciples asked him about this parable.  Jesus saying that nothing outside of a man can make him unclean but only what comes out of a man makes him unclean is seen as a parable. What is a parable?

       A parable is a saying or story that provides an illustration.  It often involves the taking of a familiar idea and comparing such idea to another idea to make a point.  Jesus was taking the well known physical cleanliness regulations of the Mosaic Law to teach that real cleanliness involves the spirit and not the physical.  In Jesus’ disciples seeing what He said as a parable demonstrates that Jesus was not here abrogating Old Covenant dietary law but was using such law to teach a much higher level of what it means to be clean before God.   

       During the time Jesus walked on this earth, the regulations of the Old Covenant were still in force and all of Israel, including Jesus, were required to keep these regulations. It is apparent, however, that Christ's focus was on the spiritual, not the physical.  Under the Old Covenant system, doing or not doing certain physical things could made a man clean or unclean. This physical approach to righteousness had become the focus with the addition of many other regulations. Jesus was teaching the religious leaders and His followers that this focus on the physical was not the proper focus.  Only one thing really mattered.  That one thing was the condition of your heart.

      Notice that in His listing of what makes a man unclean there is no mention of such separatist regulations as the Sabbath, Holy Days, New Moon observances or any of the other separatist laws that were part of the physical approach found under the Old Covenant.  Jesus knew these regulations, along with dietary restrictions were going to be abolished with the soon to be implemented New Covenant.

        Christ was showing that moral/ethical behavior was the determinant as to being clean versus unclean.  Jesus was in essence signifying that a new approach to being clean was on the horizon.  This new approach would replace the old approach of ritual cleanliness.  The old approach was terminated at the cross.  The new approach is seen in what took place after the cross.  The episode with Peter and Cornelius gives profound witness to this new approach 

The Cornelius event:

       The Cornelius event is very instructive as to the question of what laws are applicable under the New Covenant and what laws are not. In Acts 10 we have the account of the Gentile Cornelius, the Roman centurion who became a Christian.  Cornelius was a Gentile Roman Centurion.  He would have had charge of 100 soldiers.  He would be on duty 24/7.  He would be responsible for maintaining peace and enforcing the laws of the Roman Empire.  Those laws would include moral codes of conduct.  On the other hand, Cornelius, being an uncircumcised Gentile Roman Centurion, would not have been keeping the Sabbath.  Cornelius would not have been keeping Holy Days, dietary restrictions or any of the various other laws that separated Israelites from Gentiles.  Cornelius and his family would have been considered unclean by the Jewish community. Yet Cornelius and his family are identified as fearing God and practicing works of righteousness.

       Acts 10:1-2: At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.

       Despite this family being devout and God fearing they would be considered unclean by Old Covenant standards.  After all they weren’t circumcised.  They weren’t keeping the Mosaic covenant.  On his own, Peter would never have associated with this family.  God had to show Peter through the vision of clean and unclean meats that this gentile was not to be considered unclean.

       In the vision Peter is told to eat unclean animals.  That Peter was keeping the food laws some ten years after the ascension of Christ is clear from his reaction to the vision.  When God told him to eat of the unclean animals Peter said:

       "Surely not, Lord!" "I have never eaten anything impure or unclean."

       The purpose of the vision was to show Peter that he is not to consider any man common or unclean. Peter is seen as clearly understanding this when while at the house of Cornelius he said, “God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean.”  This statement by Peter clearly shows that Israelites (and Peter certainly was an Israelite) looked upon Gentiles as being unclean. They looked upon them in this way because they did not conduct their lives in harmony with the Old Covenant system.  Cornelius was considered unclean by Peter.  It was only because of the vision that Peter was made to understand that Gentiles were not unclean even though they did not observe Old Covenant regulations. We then see God confirming what He had shown Peter in the vision by giving the Holy Spirit to these uncircumcised Gentiles.

       Acts 10: 34-35: Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him (KJV).  Verse 44-45; While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles.

       Why were the circumcised believers astonished that God had accepted this Gentile and his family?  They were astonished because they knew these Gentiles were uncircumcised and therefore unclean.  These Gentiles were not converts to Judaism. They knew this Gentile family didn’t keep the Mosaic regulations.  They knew this Roman centurion did not keep the Sabbath, Holy Days, dietary laws, do sacrifices or perform any of the other regulations that they believed made only Israel eligible to have a relationship with God. Yet here they see God confirming that these uncircumcised Gentiles were being accepted by God.  This constituted a direct attack on their ingrained paradigm that only Israelites had access to God facilitated by the many regulations of the Old Covenant.

       After his conversion to Christianity, was Cornelius required to be circumcised, start keeping the Sabbath, Holy Days, New Moons, dietary restrictions, and the host of other Mosaic regulations in order to maintain his new found relationship with God?  No he was not.  At the Jerusalem conference recorded in Acts 15, Peters references his experience with Cornelius and then James makes a decision as to what would be expected of the Gentiles.

       Acts 15:8-11: God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.

       Acts 15:19-20:  It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.

       James clearly points out that God was no longer making distinctions between Jews and Gentiles.  What were those distinctions?  Those distinctions were the separatist laws of the Old Covenant system such as Sabbath keeping, Holy Day observance, dietary laws, and circumcision which was the foundation of these separatist regulations. James only admonition was that the Gentiles abstain from several things that first century history shows to be connected with pagan religious practices and particularly offensive to Israelites.  The prohibition against eating foods offered to idols was later lifted by Apostle Paul (See 1 Corinthians 8 and 10).

       Let’s return to Peter’s vision for a moment.  In the vision experienced by Peter, he was presented with a host of unclean animals and told to kill and eat. This group of unclean animals is presented to Peter three times.  Peter recoils at the instruction to kill and eat and answers that he has never eaten anything impure or unclean.  It is apparent Peter, subsequent to the Christ event, was still strictly following the dietary regulations God gave to Israel though Moses.  Peter is then told to not call anything impure that God has made clean. Some believe that in God telling Peter to kill and eat unclean animals and not to call anything impure or unclean that He has made clean, God was in effect showing that the dietary regulations regarding unclean meats was no longer valid.  Is this how Peter viewed the vision?   

       Peter sees the vision telling him that he was no longer to look upon Gentiles as inferior but to accept them as being equals with Israelites. There is nothing here indicating Peter viewed this vision as God abrogating the dietary regulations given to Israel.  It appears Peter was simply brought to acknowledge that salvation through Christ was not only for Israelites but for Gentiles as well and that is what the vision was all about.  In understanding this, Peter had no hesitation in going to the see the Gentile Cornelius.

       Having said this, I have heard it argued that God would not have told Peter to eat unclean animals and thereby violate the Law and commit sin.  It is argued that God could not say He cleansed the meats if indeed He hadn’t and then use unclean meats to symbolize cleansed people?  It is argued that for the symbolism to be valid, formerly unclean meats were no longer unclean just as formerly unclean Gentiles were no longer unclean.

       While this argument is interesting, it is certainly apparent that symbolism is often used in Scripture to make a point and such symbolism doesn’t require that there be a one to one validity between that being used as the symbol and that which it symbolizes. Figurative language is common in Scripture. For example, Paul used Hagar figuratively to represent Mount Sinai and to symbolically represent Jerusalem in Galatians 4:22-25.

       With Peter and the Cornelius event, it is very probable that God was using the cleansing of unclean meats purely as a device to show Peter he was not to consider Gentiles as unclean and nothing more than this.  This certainly appears to be how Peter understood this.  It is instructive that Peter was still keeping the dietary laws years after the Christ event.  We see in NT Scripture that the death of Christ brought the covenant God made with Israel to an end along with the Mosaic regulations on which it was based. Yet Peter is still strictly keeping the dietary laws and presumably the Mosaic regulations in general.  After the cross, the regulations that separated Jews and Gentiles were no longer in force. Recognition of this fact for Jews who became Christian was a slow and arduous process.  One example of this is the altercation between Paul and Peter as recorded in Galatians 2. 

      Galatians 2:11-14: When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.  Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.  When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?

       Peter apparently had been eating with Gentiles but when some Jewish associates showed up, Peter withdrew himself because He feared what they might say.  Paul rebuked Peter for being two faced and pointed out that Gentiles were not compelled to live as Jews.  How did Jews live?  They lived by a variety of Mosaic regulations which included the dietary laws of the Old Covenant and a variety of added regulations such as washing your hands in a certain way before eating.  The Gentiles didn’t do any of these things.  They did not observe Mosaic regulations or the regulations added over the years including rules pertaining to the eating of food. Only Gentile proselytes to Judaism would have been doing these things.   

       Now it is unlikely Peter had abandoned kosher law.  When Paul says that Peter used to eat with the Gentiles, it is unlikely he was eating foods deemed unclean under Old Covenant Law. As already discussed above, all indications are that Peter and most other Jewish converts to Christianity, (probably Paul included) continued to observe Mosaic regulations. 

       What they probably did abandon was the added Pharisaic regulations. It certainly would make sense that they would have abandoned such add on law in view of what Jesus taught about such matters,   To this extent Peter had been living like a Gentile as Paul pointed out.  Peter simple became squeamish when his Jewish friends showed up who apparently hadn’t yet come to separate themselves from these added regulations or come to accept such close interaction with Gentiles as eating a meal with them. Eating with Gentiles was a huge taboo in Judaism.  It took some time for Jewish converts to Christianity to feel comfortable sharing a meal with a Gentile.            

       As is plainly seen from reading through the letters of Paul, the statement seen in Acts 15 about not making it difficult for the Gentiles included not having to be circumcised, not having to keep the Sabbath, Holy Days, New moons, foods laws and other Mosaic regulations.

       Colossians 2:16-17:  Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

        There no longer was a need for the shadow.  The reality had come in the person of Jesus Christ.  Uncircumcised Gentiles, who did not keep the food laws, Sabbaths, or any other Mosaic separatist regulations, were no longer to be looked upon as unclean.  If these physically uncircumcised Gentiles were no longer to be viewed as unclean, then it should be obvious that the keeping of the Mosaic separatist regulations was no longer necessary to be clean, that is, to have a relationship with God.  So why did God implement these regulations in the first place?

       Galatians 3:19:  What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.

       The Mosaic system was added because of the transgression of preexisting law. This pre-existing law was largely the moral law extant from creation.  There was also sacrificial law that predated the Old Covenant as we see the Patriarchs offering sacrifices to God. These sacrificial regulations included distinctions as to what animals could and could not be used for sacrifices as we see with Noah after the flood.  But now that the promised seed had come, sacrificial law no longer applied. Neither did the entire Mosaic worship system.  It was no longer a matter of doing physical things to be clean.  Circumcision of the flesh was no longer the focus.  What now became necessary to be clean was circumcision of the heart.

       Romans 2:29:  No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God.

       Remember what Christ said: "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.'"  

Paul and Dietary Issues:    

       We find Paul on several occasions dealing with the matter of dietary issues and in every case he draws the conclusion that what one eats or doesn't eat is not important.

       Romans 14:1-4: Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

         While it may be Paul is here dealing only with vegetarianism versus non-vegetarianism, he does appear to identify the vegetarian as being weak in the faith. Why would such person be considered weak in the faith?  Why would it be a matter of being weak in the faith to be a vegetarian?  When "the faith” is mentioned in NT Scripture, it generally is a reference to belief in the Christ event and all that event signifies.

        If the faith Paul is referring to is the New Covenant that Christ came to inaugurate, is Paul saying that that to restrict oneself from eating certain foods is to lack understanding of what the faith allows? In verse 14, Paul clearly says no food is unclean in and of itself and concludes his discussion about food by saying the Kingdom of God is not about eating and drinking.     

       Romans 14:14: As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean.            

       Romans 14:17: For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

       In Paul's first letter to the Corinthians he deals with the issue of eating food that had been sacrificed to idols. He concludes that it is not sinful to eat such food because the idol is nothing. It isn't a god or a lord. Paul states there is only one real God who he identifies as the Father and only one real Lord who he identifies as Christ. He concludes with the following:

       1 Corinthians 8:7: But not everyone knows this. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.       

       While the issue Paul is dealing with here is not Old Covenant dietary regulations as such, we again see Paul seeing the eating or non-eating of food as not being of importance in our relationship with God.  Paul again addresses a food issue in his letter to Timothy.  Apparently there were some teaching against marriage and the eating of certain foods.

       1st Timothy 4:3: They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.      

       Now we don’t know what foods Paul is referring too here.  It could be he is referring to foods sacrificed to idols.  Eating or not eating foods sacrificed to idols was a big issue in the early church.  Paul had already dealt with this issue in his letter to the Corinthians where he indicated it was OK to eat such foods provided it didn’t offend a brother.

       Some will argue that when Paul speaks about knowing the truth about foods he is saying the truth involves knowing that only the clean foods identified by the Law of Moses are to be eaten.  It is argued that only these foods are consecrated by the word of God and therefore only these foods were created by God to be received with thanksgiving. Is this a valid argument?  Paul is dealing with an issue involving some forbidding people to eat certain foods which God created to be eaten.  In response to this issue of some forbidding others to eat certain foods, Paul goes on to make a rather broad statement about foods. We must assume Paul is still talking about food here as that is a focus of verse 3. 

        1st Timothy 4:4-5: For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

       This statement, if taken at face value, would appear to teach that all living things God created can be used as food if they are received with thanksgiving. This statement by Paul, whether intended or not, virtually reflects on what God told Noah after the flood.   

       Genesis 9:3: Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.   

       If this was God’s intention for mankind after the flood, why do we find in the Law of Moses prohibitions against eating certain organisms that are identified as being unclean?  The only conclusion we can draw is that these organisms identified as unclean were not in some way bad to eat but God simply required these dietary restrictions as part of an entire package of separatist laws to distinguish Israel from the rest of mankind. 

       Leviticus 20; 24-26: But I said to you, "You will possess their land; I will give it to you as an inheritance, a land flowing with milk and honey." I am the LORD your God, who has set you apart from the nations. "`You must therefore make a distinction between clean and unclean animals and between unclean and clean birds. Do not defile yourselves by any animal or bird or anything that moves along the ground--those which I have set apart as unclean for you. You are to be holy to me because I, the LORD, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.      

       I discussed above numerous regulations contained in the Law of Moses governing being clean or unclean.  These laws pertained to both people and things.  Menstruation caused uncleanness for seven days, and whoever touched the woman's bed was unclean until evening.  If a man slept with his wife during menstruation, he would be unclean for seven days, and any bed he laid on would also be unclean.

       Normal sexual intercourse rendered both husband and wife unclean. Childbirth made women unclean.  If a person touched a corpse, he would be unclean for seven days. If a person touched an unclean bed, he would be unclean until evening.  Even if a person accidentally touched something that was deemed to be unclean, he was considered guilty of being unclean.  He had to confess his sin and make a sin offering. 

       Being unclean was seen as synonymous with committing sin. Such sin had to be atoned for by presenting a blood offering to God. Such offerings were all a precursor to the sacrifice of Christ atoning for the sins of the world. 

       The system of clean and unclean given to Israel was very complicated and difficult to sustain. This was clearly acknowledged by Peter at the Jerusalem conference in Acts 15 where the question of Gentile converts to Christianity having to keep the Law of Moses was being considered.

       Acts 15:7-11: After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: "Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are."

        Peter clearly identifies the Mosaic regulations as a yoke that neither they nor their fathers were able to bear.  Paul on several occasions identifies these regulations as a yoke of slavery. 

       In this essay, we have touched on just a few of the multiple dozens of regulations under the Old Covenant.  As you read through the Pentateuch you will see that many of these regulations were given to achieve separation for Israel from the rest of the human race and to keep the Israelites in constant need of doing physical things to maintain an awareness of their privileged status as God’s chosen people.  Included in these regulations was prohibition against eating certain kinds of organisms which were defined as unclean.

       The dietary regulations were part of the many laws of clean and unclean. Under the New Covenant, the whole matter of being clean relates to the condition of our heart. As can be seen in what Jesus said, the condition of our heart relates to ethical/moral behavior and not whether we eat or don’t eat a ham sandwich.

       Our acceptance of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and accepting Jesus as Lord of our life is where it all begins.  Being clean no longer has anything to do with physical rituals.  We are clean before God because of what Christ did on the cross, not because we avoid eating certain foods.  Accepting Christ as Lord of our life means we will endeavor to please Him by implementing the law of love which is a spiritual law of righteous behavior toward our fellow man.   This is the law which facilitates spiritual cleanness. The New Covenant is all about spiritual cleanness.  Spiritual cleanness is all about living the law of love.

       For additional discussion of the dynamics associated with transition from the Old to the New Covenant, go to "What is Holiness?" "What Law Is and What Law Ain't," "Which Day is the Christian Sabbath?" and "Hebrews: A Study in Covenantal Transition."