A Word of Praise

Sorry for the slow updates lately. Just a quick note for my readers: I’ve been in an extensive interview process for what would be my dream job in the secular world, and today I passed the last hurdle and got an offer that suits us both. While not quite as high as I’d hoped for, it’s an excellent starting salary and much better than I’ve ever earned before, with some good opportunities for advancement. So basically, Baruch Hashem! (Praise the Lord! for you Sunday folk.)

I’ve been working on a few things that I’ve not had the time to turn into blog posts, but rest assured that I’ll be getting back into the swing of things soon. Once I get the family resettled in a place a bit closer to work, I’ll have a subway ride to and from work to do my reading and writing on. Until then, I’m in for some long days so please bear with me.

Shalom u’vrekha (peace and blessings)

Iron Show Back On Tonight

IronShowLogoAfter taking a week off due to Iron Johnny sustaining yet another injury (what’s with that guy?), the Iron Show is back, with Johnny, Matthew Millar, and myself hammering away on the book of Judges again. More cool stuff on the prophetess Deborah to satisfy your classical (i.e., non-man-hating) feminist side! We’ll be starting about five minutes late (that’s 10:05 pm EST) while Johnny takes a remedial course in podcasting.

Our Usual Warning: The Iron Show is not recommended for listeners who like their Bible teaching quiet and inoffensive. Side effects of listening to the Iron Show include conviction, repentance, obsession with ancient texts, a desire to learn Hebrew, loss of sleep for those on the East Coast, reverence, irreverence, being on the fringe, wearing fringes, rocking out, irritating your pastor with weird questions, loving sinners, hating sin, tipping better, sharing the Gospel, philo-Semitism, a craving for matzah, the sudden desire to make a pilgrimage to Israel, believing in Yeshua the Messiah, being born again, receiving the Holy Spirit, and a changed life. Women who may be pregnant should not listen to The Iron Show unless they want their sons to have hair on their chests. If you experience sudden bleeding from the ears, turn down the volume and consult your doctor after you finish listening to the show.

Replacement Theology by Any Other Name

There’s a Golden Rule of scholarship: “Understand thy opponent’s position as well as you would have him understand yours.” Since I’m currently working on a book that deals with both Supersessionism (Replacement Theology) and Dispensationalism, I’ve been looking for books and articles on both to make sure that I present them fairly.

Dispensationalism is easy. I grew up in a Dispensationalist church, have a few dozen books on prophecy from a Dispensationalist position, and  you can find thousands of websites written from those who happily and without reservation identify themselves as Dispensationalist standpoint.

You’d think that finding the same on the Supersessionist side would be just as easy. Alas, no one seems to want to be identified as Supersessionist or Replacement Theology for some reason–even if what they actually present falls exactly into that category.

Case in point is this article from Reformedontheweb’s Blog.  The author starts out arguing that applying the term “Replacement Theology” to his own Reformed Covenant Theology is incorrect, going so far as to state, “I am sure that there are some who hold to the erroneous position known as ‘replacement theology,’ yet I do not know of any. Therefore I believe that the reason this term is used against covenant theology is not so much an ignorance of what covenant theology teaches, but instead is used to discredit covenant theology and build prejudices against it.”

Okay, this got my interest. I’ve debated subjects with those of a Covenant Theology persuasion before, but this is the first time that I’ve heard someone claim that Supersessionism (their preferred term) isn’t what they believe in. So what does the author believe?

‘Expansion theology’ basically states that God, while initiating his new covenant towards Israel in the person and work of Jesus Christ, is also expanding the house of Israel unto the uttermost parts of the earth, by bringing Gentiles into the fold. This view is clearly taught throughout the Old and New Testament. Most dispensationalists will state that the mystery hid throughout the ages was that God would start a church during which time he would quit dealing with Israel and deal primarily with the Gentiles. But does scripture teach that? or Does scripture teach that the mystery that was hid throughout the ages, but is now revealed, was that God would make the Gentiles fellow heirs and partakers of the same body of Israelites?

At first I found this interesting, since it bore some resemblance to my own Adoption Theology. Since part of my purpose in developing Adoption Theology was the hope of providing some middle ground between the extremes of Supersessionism and Dispensationalism, finding a similar theological thread in the Reform tradition would be exciting.

The next few paragraphs of the article fit well enough, demonstrating from Ephesians 2-3 that the Gentiles of the Ekklesia are “fellow-heirs” and “citizens” of “the same body” as the Jewish followers of Yeshua. So far so good, and the author rightly points out that these passages completely undermine the Dispensational paradigm in which the Church and Israel are completely separate bodies.

Paul is plain in these verses that Gentiles were at one time alienated from the citizenship of Israel, from the covenants, and from Christ. But now God is taking two peoples, Jews and Gentiles, and making one body of people out of them. Is this not what Christ declared in “John 10:16 and other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” Did you get what Christ is saying? Jesus declared that he had sheep that were not of the fold of Israel, namely the Gentiles, which he would bring in and there would be one fold and one Shepherd.

Absolutely correct. But where the rubber hits the road is in answering the question, “What then happens to national Israel?” And this is where the author falls right back into what everyone else in the world understands to be Replacement Theology:

Under the Old Testament administration of the people of God, God commanded that every Israelite that would not keep his commands should be cut off. So it is clear that the promises, even under the Old Covenant of Moses were only to the faithful. Can we find evidence in scripture that plainly states that God has cut off natural Israel and is engrafting Gentiles into Israel in order to fulfill the Abrahamic promise of a seed as numerous as the stars? Absolutely. (emphasis mine)

DSC_0442Look at that key phrase: “God has cut off natural Israel.” All of it, apparently. Not a single thought given to the Messianic Jews who still identify with national Israel, as Paul did (Rom. 11:1). And to fulfill the promise, God has replaced, superseded, or, as the author puts it “engrafted Gentiles into Israel.” Now, we have no problem with the concept of “engrafting,” but there is a difference between grafting new branches onto a tree and replacing every single branch in the tree! One will enrich the tree, giving it a longer life, while the other will certainly kill it!

They key element of Supersessionism is the belief that Israel as a body–meaning the Jewish people as a whole–have been cut off from God’s promises and replaced with (superseded by) the Church, which then takes over as a “new” or “spiritual Israel.” Likewise, the Torah is seen as being superseded by (depending on the flavor) either a “new law” or by “grace” and “faith.”

Supersessionism’s deficiency is two-fold: First, not recognizing that there are many Jews throughout history who have believed in Yeshua, but who have rejected the Church’s demands that they give up being Jews in order to be “saved.” As David Rudolph writes, “Often I come across books and articles that assume the non-existence of Messianic Jews or reflect disregard for how a particular reading of a text, if translated into practice, would impact a twenty-first century Messianic synagogue. Having said this, I have also observed that awareness of Messianic Judaism is increasing . . .” (Rudolph, “Messianic Jews and Christian Theology: Restoring an Historical Voice to the Contemporary Discussion,” Pro Ecclesia VOL. XIV, NO. 1, retrieved from Academia.org on May 12, 2015 pp. 1-2).

Second, Reformed on the Web mistakes God’s punishment of Israel with an eternal rejection of Israel when in fact the exile of twenty centuries, when “among the nations” the Jew found “no resting place for the sole of your foot” and they had “no assurance of [their] life” (Deu. 28:65, 66) demonstrates that the Eternal One has never released Israel from her covenant with him–a covenant that ends not in disgrace, but in restoration (Deu. 30:1-10).

So, does Reformed on the Web fall into the category of Replacement Theology? Absolutely. And he does so by failing to read his proof-texts in their original context.

Let’s examine some scripture from Hosea:

Hos 1:6-9 And she conceived again, and bare a daughter. And God said unto him, Call her name Loruhamah: for I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away.

But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the LORD their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen. Now when she had weaned Loruhamah, she conceived, and bare a son. Then said God, Call his name Loammi: for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God.

Listen to what God states here. God plainly declares that natural Israel is no longer his people. God cuts off all the unbelievers because Israel failed to weed them out.

The author recognizes that the prophecy does not end there, but interprets verse 10 exactly backwards: “God tells Hosea that natural Israel shall be cut off, but God will still keep the promises to Abraham of being blessed with a people that is numerous as the sand of the sea, because God is going to bring the Gentiles into the nation of Israel. Paul quotes this portion of Hosea in Romans 9:25-26 while discussing who true Israel consists of.”

My Reformed brother oversteps and misinterprets. Paul does rightly point out that simply being born Jewish doesn’t make one “of Israel” and that God reserves the right to prune his tree. However, what Paul emphatically does not say is that “Israel” ceases to be Jewish, or indeed that all Jews who do not believe in Yeshua cease to be Israel. As I pointed out in “Is the Church an Enemy of the Gospel For Its Own Sake?” if we are to assume that in Paul’s theology “Israel” now means the Church, that would mean that the Church is partially blinded until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, and that the Church is an enemy of the Gospel because of itself. That makes no sense at all. Therefore, it must follow that by “Israel” here, Paul is speaking of the same Israel of which the majority were blinded in vv. 8-10, the same Israel that he starts chapter 9 by describing:

For I could wish that myself were accursed from the Messiah for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the Torah, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Messiah came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen. (vv. 3-5)

As I wrote then: “It is not the Gentile believers who are beloved of God because of the patriarchs–we are beloved solely because of our adoption in Yeshua–but Israel, who received the covenants that God gave to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is Israel who received the Torah, the service of God, and the promises. Sha’ul starts chapters 9-11 by defining Israel in such a way that nobody could mistake him for meaning the Ekklesia, and he ends his argument the same way. How then can some read Romans and suppose that God has forever rejected ‘Israel according to the flesh’?”

At no time does Paul say that the Gentiles become Israel, meaning the Jewish people, but rather that they are “citizens” of Israel the same way that he himself was a citizen of Rome. They are children of Abraham by adoption through Yeshua, yes, but Ishmael, Esau, and the children of Keturah were all children of Abraham–and yet none of them were Israel.

Getting back to Hosea, it take violently tearing the prophecy out of its context to interpret, “Where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ it will be said to them, ‘[You are] sons of the living God” (1:10). First, the very next verse makes it clear that the “sons of the living God” are “sons of Judah and sons of Israel”–that is, the two kingdoms. Secondly, in the narrative of Hosea’s life, he is ultimately reconciled with his wife (ch. 3), and thereby with his children–he doesn’t go out and get a new wife and new children, which is what Covenant Theology claims the Holy Father did!

Let’s look at another example of Reformed on the Web’s error:

Jesus stated in Mat 21:42-43:

Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.

Notice that natural Israel is again in the context of those of whom shall be cut off.

Context is key. Who was Yeshua speaking to? The “chief priests and elders of the people” (v. 23), not all “national Israel.” Yeshua claims that the tax-collectors would enter into the Kingdom before them–but the tax-collectors, like Levi-Matthew, are also Jews! Moreover, in the parable of the landowner in vv. 33-41, the vineyard represents Israel (see Isa. 5) while the vine-dressers represent the leaders. And again, Yeshua quotes Psalm 118:22-23, “The stone the builders rejected, this became the chief corner-stone.” Peter expressly points to the Sanhedrin as being Israel’s “builders” in Acts 4:11.

And if all that were not enough, the Jewish leadership knew darn well who Yeshua was addressing, and it wasn’t the masses: “When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they understood that he was speaking about them” (Mat. 24:45)–not “them” as in Israel, but “them” as in the leaders.

So then, the point is not that God was replacing Israel with the Gentiles, but that Yeshua was replacing Israel’s spiritual leadership with that of his Twelve, to whom he had given the power of binding and loosing (Mat. 16:19, 18:18)–that is, to give authoritative rulings on God’s commandments.

I’m picking on Reformed on the Web not because his thoughts are badly written, and certainly not because I’m looking for a strawman to pick apart. On the contrary, I find his posts to be thoughtful, well-written, and generally a good representation of mainline Protestant Christianity. And that’s precisely what makes them so sad: He claims that Replacement Theology is a boogyman of Dispensationalism, but then goes right on to defend its worst qualities under another name.

replacement-theology-no-thanks1I believe that most Christians have shied away from the term “Replacement” because of a gut-check issue: As many authors have pointed out, if God could replace Israel so blithely with another body because of her disobedience, why couldn’t he do the same to the Church? Is the Church so pure that it can honestly claim to have held to its covenant with the Almighty better than Israel? And if not, then how can those who claim that the Holy One replaced one people–despite all of the Biblical promises not to (e.g., Gen. 13:15)–be assured that he hasn’t replaced them with the Muslims or the Mormons or pick-your-favorite cult?

But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them, and became partaker with them of the root and of the richness of the olive tree; don’t boast over the branches. But if you boast, it is not you who support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in.” Fine. By their unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by your faith. Don’t be conceited, but fear; for if God didn’t spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. (Rom. 11:17-21)


From HebrewRoot: Romans 10:4

For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness for everyone who believes.

The word here translated “end” is telos, which means “goal,” not “termination of” (see 6:22).  In some cases this can imply an end, but it is not required by the word, and in this case cannot be Paul’s intent.  Why?  See 3:31—“Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish (istoomen, lit. “hold up” or “uphold”) the law!”  Indeed, as we study chapters 3-8, we see Paul carefully walking a tightrope, stressing on the one hand that salvation is by faith rather than by keeping the Torah (4:1ff), and repeating on the other that this is not a license to sin (6:1, 15), which he holds is still defined by the Torah (7:7).

Indeed, that sin is defined by Torah—or rather, in opposition to the Torah—is shown simply by comparing the words in their original language:  Torah is the noun form of the verb yarah, which literally means “to hit the mark,” and has the connotation of “to teach, to point the way (to hit the mark)”  The best translation of Torah is not therefore “law” (Gr. nomos) but “instruction.”  Conversely, sin (chattah in Hebrew, hamartia in Greek) literally means, “to miss the mark”—the dead opposite of Torah.  This is why the Apostle John writes, “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness (anomian), and sin is lawlessness” (anomia, 1 Jn. 3:4).

Is Yeshua HaMashiach, Jesus Christ, the goal of the Torah!  Of course!  Did He bring about its end?  Absolutely not!  See Mat. 5:17-19, where He explicitly denies teaching against the Torah.  If He did, He would be a false prophet, not the Messiah King of Israel , by the Torah’s own words (Deu. 12:29-13:5).


From HebrewRoot: Mark 7:19 and Acts 10-11

NoPigAs I state over in my article on Romans 14, I was once very cavalier about ignoring the kosher laws, even to the point of jokingly suggesting that the ultimate test of faith was the ultimate unkosher meal.  After all, weren’t the kosher commandments just a relic of a bygone age when the lack of refrigeration made pork a bit more likely to be parasite-ridden?

I’ve since learned a few things.

Like most Christians today, I pointed to Mark 7:19 and Acts 10:10-16 as evidence that the kosher commandments had been done away with.  But is that what these passages really state?  Or are we Christians simply reading back our anti-Torah biases back into them?

The Gentile Exemption

Before I begin, let me state for the record that I believe that God very specifically exempted Gentile believers from being required to keep kosher—however, I don’t go to the New Covenant Scriptures for such a view.  I base it on two passages from the Torah:  The first is Genesis 9:3, in which the Holy One tells Noah, “Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you.”  Note that He does not say, “Every clean animal,” which He very well could have, since Noah knew the difference between clean and unclean (Gen. 7:2ff)!  Since Noah was the father of all mankind, Jew and Gentile alike, after the Flood, this suggests that God did not make kosher mandatory for all people.

This is confirmed by Deuteronomy 14:21, which states, “You shall not eat anything which dies of itself. You may give it to the alien who is in your town, so that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner, for you are a holy people to the LORD your God.”  If the meat could be given to the ger (a non-native permanent resident) or sold to a nokri, the pagan, this again suggests that the prohibition against eating meat not killed in a kosher manner was specific to to the native-born of Israel.

I personally believe that God did not make kosher a universal commandment out of mercy.  There are many places in the world where, for example, pork and dog are the primary meats available (such as Indonesia—a cousin of mine served as a missionary there for several years).  God did not burden these people with the kosher laws.

Now think about that for a moment:  If the kosher laws were simply about health, wouldn’t that imply that God didn’t love the gentiles who He did not give them to—or even Noah!—as much as He loves the Jews?  On the contrary, we see Him not give them to all people specifically for their health!

Why Kosher?

What then is the purpose of kosher?  To figure that out, we have to appeal to the “law of first mention” and see when the difference between clean and unclean animals is first stated:  Not in Leviticus, as many would assume, but in Genesis.  That’s right, Noah knew the difference between clean and unclean meats.  But Noah was a vegetarian before the Flood!  It wasn’t until after the Flood that God allowed humans to consume meat (Gen. 2:16 vs. 9:3).  So what possible difference would kosher and non-kosher make to Noah?

The answer is that while Noah didn’t eat meat before the Flood, he did understand the concept of offering sacrifices (Gen. 8:20), which was given from the very beginning (3:21 and 4:4ff).  Therefore, to Noah the difference between “clean” and “unclean” did not mean “eatable” vs. “uneatable,” but rather what could be sacrificed vs. what could not.

So then, when God told Israel to eat only of the clean animals, He was in essence saying to His nation of priests (Exo. 19:6), “Don’t take into the temple of your bodies that which would not be proper to bring before My temple/tabernacle altar.”  

Having uncovered the spiritual principle, should we then disregard the physical command?  That depends: Do we assume that knowing the spiritual reality underlying the physical act of water immersion (baptism; Col. 2:11f) means that we should no longer be physically immersed in the Name of our Lord Yeshua?  I daresay that few of my Sunday brethren would make such a leap.

Rather, I believe that it is good to keep physical kosher if we have the luxury to, only for the reason of being like our Savior even in what we choose to eat.  There is a blessing that comes from obeying God even in the things that we don’t understand; I kept kosher for over a year before the reason for it, explained above, was given to me.

With that explanation in mind, let us look at the two passages in question.  Do they really state that believers in the Messiah, even Jewish ones, should no longer keep kosher?

Acts 10

Ewwwwwww . . .
Ewwwwwww . . .

Let us deal with the simpler passage first.  Acts 10:10-16 reads, in the NASB,

But [Peter] became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; and he saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.” Again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky.

As one reads the Christian commentators, one is deluged with page after page of exegesis based on this supposed end to the kosher commandments, usually tying it into the general assumed end of the Torah.  For example, John Calvin writes in his Commentary on this passage,

He speaketh of meats; but this sentence must be extended unto all parts of the life. It is word for word, That which God hath made clean, do not thou make profane; but the sense is, It is not for us to allow or condemn any thing; but as we stand and fall by the judgment of God alone, so is he judge of all things, (Rom. 14:4.) As touching meats, after the abrogating of the law, God pronounceth that they are all pure and clean.

Calvin is actually self-contradictory on the subject of this supposed abrogation of the Torah, as his Commentary on Mat. 5:17 demonstrates:

“With respect to doctrine, we must not imagine that the coming of Christ has freed us from the authority of the law: for it is the eternal rule of a devout and holy life, and must, therefore, be as unchangeable, as the justice of God, which it embraced, is constant and uniform. With respect to ceremonies, there is some appearance of a change having taken place; but it was only the use of them that was abolished, for their meaning was more fully confirmed.”  One has to wonder why, if the Torah still has authority, we are supposed to be only “hearers,” not “doers” in regards to its ceremonial commandments (contra. Rom. 2:13 and Jas. 1:22).

Moreover, we see him reading into the text a whole anomian (“Torah-less”) assumption into this text.  Where Calvin supposes that the vision “speaketh of meats,” Peter himself gives the interpretation in v. 28:  “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean.”

Prophetic visions frequently substitute one object for another for the purpose of making a point.  For example, few would argue that the Antichrist must literally be a scarlet, seven-headed beast as portrayed in Revelation 13 and 17; rather, we understand this beast to represent a mortal man in symbolic fashion.  This was why Peter was initially confused about the meaning of the vision (v. 17):  As a student of the Master, and well-acquainted with Hebrew prophecy, he is well aware that such visions do not often speak literally.  A few verses later, after Peter has met with Cornelius, we learn from the Apostle himself what his vision meant:  It had nothing to do with food, but with people.

“That still represents a change or abrogation of the Law,” some might argue.  “After all, Peter himself says that previously it was unlawful to associate with Gentiles.”

Really?  Perhaps the one so objecting would like to point us to the passage of the Torah which specifically forbids associating with Gentile worshippers of the One True God?  One will look long and hard for such a commandment in vain, for it does not exist.  John Gill tries to find justification in Deuteronomy 7:2, but the context is clear that this passage refers specifically to the Canaanites being driven out of the land, not all Gentiles in general.  Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown admit, “There was no express prohibition to this effect, and to a Certain extent intercourse was certainly kept up.”

On the contrary, there are numerous passages in the Torah which command Israel to love and care for the Gentiles, such as Exodus 22:21, 23:9 and Levititcus 19:10 & 33-34.  Pay special attention to the last passage, which states, “The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God”!

Stern (Commentary 258) notes that

the word “athemitos,” used only twice in the New Testament, does not mean “unlawful, forbidden, against Jewish law,” as found in other English versions, but rather “taboo, out of the question, not considered right, against standard practice, contrary to cultural norms.”

Mark S. Kinzer, in Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism (70), cites Bill Witherington as making the same translation and stating, “There was no formal law that strictly forbade Jews from associating with Gentiles, it was just that they had to be prepared to pay a price for doing so, the price of becoming ritually unclean.” Stern (p. 259) goes on to say that the Jewish cultural barriers against associating with Gentiles was a reaction to “the threat from assimilation to Jewish identity” rather than a teaching from the Torah. Our own commentary on the traditions that forbade Jews from interacting with Gentiles can be found in our series on the Eighteen Measures.

So then, let us sum up our exegesis of this passage:

  1. Peter plainly states that the meaning of the vision was that the Gentiles were not unclean to approach with the Gospel; it had nothing to do with kosher.
  2. There was no command in Torah against associating with Gentiles; this was a purely human tradition, and therefore does not represent a doing away of a Torah command.

Many of my Sunday brethren will recognize Peter’s own interpretation, but continue to assert as a kind of midrash that since God used the illustration of meats, then this passage also teaches the end of kosher.  (Ironically, many of these would be the first to decry the use of midrashic hermeneutics by the Messianic movement.)  However, they ignore a basic fact of Biblical interpretation:  No secondary interpretation can override the p’shat, the plain meaning of the text.  Since Peter himself makes no mention of kosher, and since there is no other passage overriding that which God Himself gave to Israel in that regard, such an interpretation cannot stand on its own.

That leads many of my brothers to turn to Mark 7 or Romans 14 for their support.  We have dealt with Romans 14 in a previous post, so let us examine Mark’s Gospel account to see what it really says now.

Mark 7

Mark 7:18-19 reads in the NASB,

And He said to them, “Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thus He declared all foods clean.)

This passage is one of those that I believe the NASB has gotten completely wrong.  First, notice the italicized words above—this is the NASB’s (and some other translations, such as the KJV) way of telling you that theses words are completely interpolated by the translators; that is, they do not appear in the original Greek.  Moreover, the word “declared” does not appear in the original Greek either; rather, the literal translation is, “because it doth not enter into his heart, but into the belly, and into the drain it doth go out, purifying all the meats” (YLT).

On what basis can we say that a command of Torah has been done away with when we have to interpolate a whole clause into the sentence in order to do so?  That would be like someone translating Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?  May it never be that we fail to! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?”  No honest Biblical scholar would let such a translation stand unchallenged, let alone admit the validity of an exegesis made upon it!

Interestingly, the Complete Jewish Bible agrees with the NASB reading here, translating the end of the verse as a parenthetical, “(Thus he declared all foods ritually clean.) “  Stern is clear in his translation, however that the subject is not kosher, but rather “ritual purity as taught by the Oral Torah in relation to n’tiat-yadayim”—that is, ritual hand-washing, per vv. 2-4—“not kashrut at all!” (ibid. 95)  Since the subject of whether kosher had been annulled never even comes up, we perform eisegesis (reading our own opinions back into the text) not exegesis when we use this verse as justification for rejecting kosher.

Stern summarizes Yeshua’s intent as follows:

Yeshua is continuing his discussion of spiritual prioritizing (v. 11&N).  He teaches that tohar (purity) is not primarily ritual or physical, but spiritual (vv. 14-23).  On this ground he does not entirely overrule the Pharisaic/rabbinic elaborations of the laws of purity, but he does demote them to subsidiary importance. . .  Yeshua here is making Messianic halakha.

This interpretation follows Matthew’s rendering of the conclusion, which is to say that “to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man” (Mat. 15:20).

Why then does Stern follow the practice of interpolating “Thus he declared” into the text?  He writes that he believes the “one meaning this passage can have” is that “it is Mark’s halakhic summary of Yeshua’s remarks.”  He admits, however, that many hold to the interpretation that we favor here.  I would argue that our interpretation holds more firmly to the text.

Some may object that I have thus far cited only one Messianic commentator.  Such people would be surprised to learn that many Christian commentators have come to similar conclusions:

The word “purging,” here, means to purify, to cleanse. What is thrown out of the body is the innutritious part of the food taken into the stomach, and leaving only that which is proper for the support of life; and it cannot, therefore, defile the soul. (Barnes Notes on Mark 7:19)

and goeth into the draught; בית הכסא, “the private house”, as the Jews call it, without going into the heart at all:

purging all meats; that which it leaves behind, is pure and nourishing; and whatever is gross and impure, is carried with it into the draught, so that nothing remains in the man that is defiling.  (Gill, Commentary on Mark 7:19)

Now, the meats are all purged out of your body; they don’t defile you in a spiritual sense. And of course, we’re talking about ceremonial washing. The meat that you eat doesn’t defile you. Now, it can make you sick or it can do things, but spiritually it doesn’t defile you. There’s no spiritual defilement in it, because it passes through your body. (Chuck Smith, Mark 6-7 (C2000 Series), available at http://www.blueletterbible.org)

Note that none of the above commentators remark at all on kosher, but understand that the passage is dealing with “ceremonial washing.” Indeed, some Christian commentators utterly refute the idea that this passage abrogates kosher:

Of course, Jesus did not mean at this time to abrogate the Mosaic law of legal uncleanness. These uncleannesses worked no spiritual defilement, but were merely typical of such; for the food in no way touched or affected the mind or soul, the fountains of spiritual life, but only the corporeal organs, which have no moral susceptibility. The Pharisees had erred in confusing legal and spiritual defilement, and had added error to error by multiplying the causes of defilement in their tradition. By thus showing that legal defilement was merely symbolic, Jesus classed it with all the other symbolism which was to be done away with when the gospel reality was fully ushered in (Col. 2:16-17). In saying, therefore, that Jesus made all meats clean, Mark does not mean that Jesus then and there repealed the law. (McGarvey and Pendleton, Commentaries on Mark 7)

To be sure, there are also many commentaries that do see in this passage the end to the kosher laws.  However, given the universal (among Christians) belief that kosher is no longer valid, it is surprising to find so many sources failing to find their justification here.  Indeed, seeking to find justification for an end to kosher puts Yeshua in the role of having a double-standard, as John Fisher explains:

Many have interpreted the next section, Mark 7:17-19, to mean that Yeshua set aside the food laws.  But by doing so he would have contradicted himself.  His detractors had just accused him of not observing their traditions, and he had responded that they did far worse; they did not observe the commandments of the Torah (vv. 9-13).  To choose this time to set aside other commandments of the Torah would have undercut his whole response.  It would have left him open to the charge they made, and which he implicitly denied.  It would also have shown him to be inconsistent.  (“Jesus through Jewish Eyes,” quoted by Brown, Objections Vol. 4, 276)

It also would have left Him subject to a charge of being a false prophet, based on Deuteronomy 12:32-13:5.  Indeed, if He had been teaching His disciples not to keep any part of the Torah, His enemies could hardly have missed the opportunity to bring that up at His trial!  It would have negated the whole need for false witnesses!

So then, we return to the following key facts about this passage:

  1. There is little to no justification for interpolating in the words, “Thus He declared” into v. 19.
  2. Regardless of the translation one prefers, the subject of whether non-kosher meats, like pork, were now allowed never even came up.
  3. Even many Christian commentators admit that there is no justification for overturning kosher in this passage.
  4. The anti-Torah interpretation makes Messiah out to be double-minded, castigating the Pharisees for annulling a direct commandment of Torah by their tradition in one breath, and annulling a direct commandment of Torah Himself in the very next!


The command to discern between the clean and the unclean meats is a direct commandment of Scripture (Lev. 11:47).  Against this very clear commandment, Christian commentators have three passages which are propertied negate it; Romans 14, Acts 10, and Mark 7.  Romans 14, we have proven elsewhere, does not refer to kosher, and neither does Mark 7.  The vision of Acts 10 uses non-kosher meats as a symbol of the Gentiles, to prepare Peter to accept Cornelius and his house as full brothers in the L-rd, as Peter himself interpreted it.  Where then do we find any Scripture which negates the Torah on this matter?

Nowhere.  The simple fact is that while one can make a case that Gentile believers are not required to keep kosher from the Torah itself (as explained at the beginning of this article), there is nowhere in Scripture that either releases Jewish believers from the command or which discourages Gentiles from joining them in keeping it, provided they do so with the right heart.

It is not the purpose of this article to “force” my Sunday brethren to forego ham and shrimp.  However, I do hope to encourage them to reconsider handing a ham sandwich to a Jewish brother or sister as a test of faith.  Indeed, I would that in Christian churches across the world, the choice would be made to willingly forego serving treif at church functions, so that their Jewish brethren might associate and eat freely with them without having to violate their own consciences.


10 questions about marriage from the Supreme Court arguments

From http://erlc.com/article/10-important-questions-asked-by-the-supreme-court. The most important question to those who support religious liberty and freedom of conscience is #7:

7. Referencing Bob Jones University’s wrong and sinful banning of interracial dating, Alito asked whether redefining marriage would eventually pose risks (such as the loss of tax-exempt status) to the religious liberty of religious institutions.

This was the most shocking moment in the arguments, one that should give people on all sides cause for concern. The Solicitor General said the question of tax exemption might well be an “issue” to be considered later. This demonstrates just how perilous the American principle of recognizing the natural right of religious liberty has become.

If a revisionist view of redefined marriage is treated as a matter of civil rights, then the government could seek to use its tax power to coerce religious institutions to violate their own God-given consciences and their constitutionally guaranteed free exercise of religion. The Founders warned us that the power to tax is the power to destroy. The Solicitor General is signaling that at least this Administration is quite open to destroying those who hold a view of marriage held by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox, evangelical Protestants, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, many Sikhs and Buddhists. It was even a position held by the President himself until his most recent idealogical evolution.

I would argue that not only could “use its tax power to coerce religious institutions to violate their own God-given consciences and their constitutionally guaranteed free exercise of religion,” but that this is the whole point of the exercise.

Call me a crackpot if you will.