Drinking Deeply

Thursday, February 08, 2007 at 4:13 PM

Dietary Laws

This was an interesting discussion with a friend, so I thought it would be worthwhile to post my thoughts on it.

We were discussing the validity of the OT laws and the specific case of dietary laws came up.

I had actually previously posted on this topic a while ago, but the question came up of when exactly were the dietary laws abolished.

While it probably does not have too much direct impact on how we live our lives as most everyone agrees that the dietary laws are abolished right now, but as the knowledge of God is of inherent worth even if it doesn't have a direct application right now (Jeremiah 9:23-24), I'm going to give my answer and reasoning.

Ephesians 2:13-16
13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
I believe that the dietary laws were abolished with the death of Christ. As I previously posted, dietary laws were one of the means by which Israel was set off from the rest of the nations, and with the fulfillment of the prophecy that Gentiles are now brought into the fold, those laws have now passed away.

The other possibility we were talking about was that Jesus abolished it not with his death, but sometime during his life. The argument for this is Mark 7:14-23
14And he called the people to him again and said to them, "Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him."[e] 17And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18And he said to them, "Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?"[f] (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20And he said, "What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person."
v. 19 here is key - "In saying this, Jesus declared all foods 'clean.' "

Briefly (and I'm still open to change on this), I think the phrase "clean" here isn't referring to ceremonial cleanliness, but rather addressing the legalistic nature of the Pharisees, which had progressed to the point where they were saying some foods were intrinsicly evil or wrong. In contrast to that, Jesus is pointing out that matter isn't evil or wrong, but rather it's disobedience that is evil and wrong. Eating foods made someone unclean not because the food was unclean, but because it was an act of disobedience to God.

That said, I do see a strong argument for viewing clean here as ceremonially clean, so maybe a mediating position would be that some of the OT ceremonial laws started passing away during Jesus' ministry and found their final abolishment in His death?

Evidence for this possibility would be in the very next passage (hmmm!) where the blessings start to overflow upon the Gentile woman.

Mark 7:24-30
24And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon.[g] And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden. 25But immediately a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. 26Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27And he said to her, "Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." 28But she answered him, "Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." 29And he said to her, "For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter." 30And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.
I didn't notice that until just now. What do you guys think? Maybe Jesus abolishes the dietary laws as a sign that the blessings are starting to overflow into the Gentiles, and we have a first evidence of this right after?

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Blogger Jason said...

I agree with your take, that Christ abolished the OT dietary laws.

I'm teaching today on Genesis 9 and the Noanic covenant. Interestingly, it allows the eating of vegetables and meats, with no provisions as to clean/unclean animals.  

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