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Clean vs. Unclean Animals

Download PDF

See also Pig and Pork Facts.

 
Between my Ministry and my Natural Health practice, I am often asked to help decipher what most people consider to be a difficult-to-understand set of rules and regulations regarding what God considers to be “clean” and “unclean” animals. This is information that I prepared for a talk that I gave at an herb conference in 2003. I hope that it helps to “de-mystify” the issue and helps you to understand why God has provided these restrictions for our protection

Most of Christianity has, in general, decided that the food restrictions of the Torah (the so-called “Old Testament”) do not apply today. This opinion is based on an incorrect interpretation of what the Apostles wrote about “clean” and “unclean” food in the Apostolic Letters (the so-called “New Testament”). If God never changes, and the entire Bible is the Word of God, then how can what was “unclean” in the Hebrew Bible be considered “clean” in the Apostolic Letters?

The belief by Christians that they are free to eat anything they want to is based primarily on the following passages:

I know — that is, I have been persuaded by the Lord Yeshua the Messiah — that nothing is unclean in itself. But if a person considers something unclean, then for him it is unclean; and if your brother is being upset by the food you eat, your life is no longer one of love. Do not, by your eating habits, destroy someone for whom the Messiah died! Do not let what you know to be good, be spoken of as bad; for the Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, shalom and joy in the Ruach HaKodesh. Anyone who serves the Messiah in this fashion both pleases God and wins the approval of other people. So then, let us pursue the things that make for shalom and mutual upbuilding. Don't tear down God's work for the sake of food. True enough, all things are clean; but it is wrong for anybody by his eating to cause someone to fall away. What is good is not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The belief you hold about such things, keep between yourself and God. Happy the person who is free of self-condemnation when he approves of something! But the doubter comes under condemnation if he eats, because his action is not based on trust. And anything not based on trust is a sin. (Rom. 14:14-23, CJB)

In this section of his letter to the Messianic Believers in Rome, Rav Sha'ul was not discussing whether or not certain foods themselves are Kosher, but rather whether a Believer has the right to judge his brother on whether or not that brother eats Kosher. His argument is not that all things are acceptable to be eaten, but that an individual must answer to God, not to men, regarding his choices. Additionally, from other writings of Rav Sha'ul, particularly First Corinthians chapter 8 (below), we can know that he is speaking of ritually clean and unclean. Just because you don’t wash your hands in the specific ritual manner prescribed by the Pharisees does not make the food that you are eating unclean, nor does the fact that you bought your meat from other than a Kosher butcher make the food unclean.

Now about food sacrificed to idols: we know that, as you say, “We all have knowledge.” Yes, that is so, but “knowledge” puffs a person up with pride; whereas love builds up. The person who thinks he “knows” something doesn’t yet know in the way he ought to know. However, if someone loves God, God knows him. So, as for eating food sacrificed to idols, we “know” that, as you say, “An idol has no real existence in the world, and there is only one God.” For even if there are so-called “gods,” either in heaven or on earth — as in fact there are “gods” and “lords” galore — yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom all things come and for whom we exist; and one Lord, Yeshua the Messiah, through whom were created all things and through whom we have our being. But not everyone has this knowledge. Moreover, some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat food which has been sacrificed to them, they think of it as really affected by the idol; and their consciences, being weak, are thus defiled. Now food will not improve our relationship with God — we will be neither poorer if we abstain nor richer if we eat. However watch out that your mastery of the situation does not become a stumbling block to the weak. You have this “knowledge”; but suppose someone with a weak conscience sees you sitting, eating a meal in the temple of an idol. Won’t he be built up wrongly to eat this food which has been sacrificed to idols? Thus by your “knowledge” this weak person is destroyed, this brother for whom the Messiah died; and so, when you sin against the brothers by wounding their conscience when it is weak, you are sinning against the Messiah! To sum up, if food will be a snare for my brother, I will never eat meat again, lest I cause my brother to sin. (1Cor. 8:1-13, CJB)

I found this interesting discussion at
http://jesusisajew.org/Short/MK7V19.php
(accessed April 5, 2014)


At the end of Mark 7:19 most Bible translations say, "Thus He declared all foods clean." So its pretty clear that Yeshua ("Jesus") changed the old food regulations in Leviticus 11, and its ok to eat pork, shellfish, or whatever we want, right?

The most important clue for understanding any passage in the Bible is to check the context. In this case, its given in Mark 7:1-5 where Yeshua is asked, "Why do Your disciples not walk according to the Tradition of the Elders, but eat their bread with unwashed hands?" (v.5).

Notice two things: first, the question isn't about the Torah ("Law"), but about a tradition. [See the brief discussion of “takanot”.] Second, its not a question about what may be eaten. It's about whether one may eat at all without a ritual hand-washing.

That explains why Yeshua responded by saying, "Neglecting the Commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men," (v.8) and "You have a fine way of setting aside the Commandment of God in order to keep your tradition" [your takanot] (v.9).

So then, could verses 18-19 have Yeshua setting aside a commandment of God when up until that point He had been criticizing the Pharisees for that very thing (v. 8,9,13)?

And could verses 18-19 have Yeshua talking about a commandment at all, when up until that point His subject had been a "Tradition of the Elders" (v. 3,4,5,8,9,13)?

Lastly, could verses 18-19 suddenly be about food when up until that point the subject had been ritual hand-washing (v. 2,3,4,5)? Obviously, no. This is made even clearer by comparing the same discussion as reported by Matthew (15:1-20). Yeshua concludes by saying, "but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man."

Because the subject of Mark 7:1-19 isn't Kashrut (Biblical diet), it cannot be about abolishing Kashrut either. Ok, but why do so many translations* seem to say that it is?

Again consider the context, but in this case the social context. This discussion took place in a social and historical context different than our own. Language and practice were based on the Word of God. For instance, their holidays were those days set apart in the Bible for special observance, not ours. Their property rights were those of the Bible, not ours. Likewise, only those things that are not taw-may ("defiled", "unclean") were considered food, everything else was not. Reading Mark 7:19 as they would have, it means, "Thus He declared all things-given-by-God as food to be clean, regardless of ritual hand washing."

_______________

  * Although there are many minor textual differences between source documents of the New Covenant, it is very rare that a variance significantly affects meaning. Mark 7:18-19 is one of these rare passages. The difference of a single letter (Omicron or Omega) determines gender for the word "purging, making clean" near the end of v.19 (katharizon). If the word's gender is neuter (written with the Omicron), it attaches to "stomach," and is speaking of the digestive process. (See the King James Version, for instance.) But for translators who believe the word's gender is masculine (written with the Omega), it must look all the way back to the "He" (Yeshua) at the beginning of verse 18 for its masculine subject. For the sake of clarity, these translators insert a phrase that never appears in the Greek: "Thus He declared."

Regardless of which manuscripts and translations are correct, this article attempts to show that Mark 7:1-19 is NOT an instance of Divine self-correction, by assuming the most difficult case, "Thus He declared all foods clean." [RETURN]


“All Foods” vs. “Everything”

Baby Elephant Eating DungDid Yeshua actually declare “all foods clean” in Mark 7:19, meaning that we are now free to eat anything we want, instantly nullifying the very Torah that He gave to Israel through Moshe? Did He teach that all food is cleansed by passing through the intestinal tract as some interpreters teach? Or did He simply, as the Complete Jewish Bible translates the verse, declare all foods ritually clean whether the hands have been washed using the complex hand-washing ritual of the Pharisees? If the latter was His intent, as I am convinced it was, then what He actually taught was that not washing your hands in the complex ritual of the Pharisees does not render kosher food ritually unclean.

Whatever the case, “all food” is not the same as “everything.”

Let us consider for just a moment what is “food” to a baby elephant. Baby elephants are born with no bacteria in their intestinal tract, so before they’re ready to move on to eating solids they first must start their culture, usually by borrowing some microbes from their mother. In fact, their first solid meal is, in most cases, a mouthful of their mother’s dung. After a year or two of regularly eating their mothers’ dung, they have enough beneficial bacteria in their intestines that they can readily digest their normal solid food.

To the first century Jews to whom Yeshua was speaking, all “unclean” animals were the same as “baby elephant food” – not “food” at all!!!

We can go a long way to resolving this apparent conflict if we can just remember that the Apostles were all Jewish Rabbis who carefully observed the entire Torah that applied to them (not all mitzvot [commandments] apply to all classes of individual), that the only “Scripture” they had was the Tanakh, that their target audience was overwhelmingly Jewish, and that the Jewish people have never considered anything on the “unclean” list to be included in the definition of “food.” If the Apostle was ever discussing “food,” he was talking only about those plants and animals on the “clean” list, never those animals on the “unclean” list — they simply were not “food.”[1]

Then God said, “Here! Throughout the whole earth I am giving you as food every seed-bearing plant and every tree with seed-bearing fruit. And to every wild animal, bird in the air and creature crawling on the earth, in which there is a living soul, I am giving as food every kind of green plant.” And that is how it was. (Gen. 1:29-30, CJB)

ADONAI said to Moshe and Aharon, “Tell the people of Isra'el, ‘These are the living creatures which you may among all the land animals: any that has a separate hoof which is completely divided and chews the cud — these animals you may eat. But you are not to eat those that only chew the cud or only have a separate hoof. For example, the camel, the coney, and the hare are unclean for you, because they chew the cud but don't have a separate hoof; while the pig is unclean for you, because, although it has a separate and completely divided hoof, it doesn't chew the cud. You are not to eat meat from these or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you.

“‘Of all the things that live in the water, you may eat these: anything in the water that has fins and scales, whether in seas or rivers — these you may eat. But everything in the seas and rivers without both fins and scales, of all the small water-creatures and of all the living creatures in the water, is a detestable thing for you. Yes, these will be detestable for you — you are not to eat their meat, and you are to detest their carcasses. Whatever lack fins and scales in the water is a detestable thing for you.

“‘The following creatures of the are are to be detestable for you — they are not to be eaten, they are a detestable thing: the eagle, the vulture, the osprey, the kite, the various kinds of buzzards, the various kinds of ravens, the ostrich, the screech-owl, the seagull, the various kinds of hawks, the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, the horned owl, the pelican, the barn owl, the stork, the various kinds of herons, the hoopoe, and the bat. [They are either scavengers, or they eat shellfish, rodents, or reptiles, all of which are “unclean.”]

“‘All winged swarming creatures that go about on all fours are a detestable thing for you; except that of all winged swarming creatures that go on all fours, you may eat those that have jointed legs above their feet, enabling them to jump off the ground. Specifically, of these you may eat the various kinds of locusts, grasshoppers, katydids, and crickets. But other than that, all winged swarming creatures having four feet are a detestable thing for you. ...

“‘The following are unclean for you among the small creatures that swarm on the ground: the weasel, the mouse, the various kinds of lizards, the gecko, the land crocodile, the skink, the sand lizard, and the chameleon. …

“‘Any creature that swarms on the ground is a detestable thing; it is not to be eaten — whatever moves on its stomach, goes on all fours, or has many legs — all creatures that swarm on the ground; you are not to eat them because they are a detestable thing.’”

— Leviticus 11:1-42, CJB


ADOANI said to Aharon the priest: “… you will distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean; …” (Lev. 10:10) God was not nearly as concerned with ritual purity in the dietary instructions as he was with physical cleanliness or uncleanliness.

The chart below tabulates the results of a 1953 study in which Dr. David Macht of Johns Hopkins University reported the toxic effects of animal flesh on a controlled growth culture. A substance was classified as toxic if it slowed the culture’s growth rate below 75 percent. In each case, the blood of all the animals Dr. Macht tested showed up more toxic than the flesh. [“It is to be a permanent regulation through all your generations wherever you live that you will eat neither fat nor blood.” (Lev. 3:17, NAS)]

The table … is based on Dr. Macht’s study. The results show that the lower the growth percentage of the culture, the more toxic the flesh. Note that the animals and fish given to us by God for food are all nontoxic, but all forbidden animals lie in the toxic range. (Animals without percentage rankings in the chart were not studied, but are included here to provide a more comprehensive list of clean and unclean meats.)

Don't get confused! Any number above 75 percent is nontoxic, or clean.

This chart should make it easy for us to identify which meats we should choose to eat. It also makes it apparent we are eating many toxic substances that were not created for food.

The differences between clean and unclean animals appear to be related to their primary food source and to their digestive systems. Scavengers that eat anything and everything are unclean, not suitable for food, according to the Bible. Animals described as clean, and therefore good for food, primarily eat grasses and grains.

This examination of clean and unclean flesh could be a more revealing study considering today’s modern toxicological technology. A loving God protects His people by showing them just which foods are safe. He summarizes His will in Leviticus 11:43: Do not defile by any of these creatures. Do not make yourselves unclean by means of them or be made unclean by them.” …

Note than an animal doesn’t have to be a scavenger to be unclean. Horses and rabbits, for example, are unclean because they do not have split hooves. Although they are considered to be good food in some countries, studies have shown that horse meat often contains viruses and parasites. Rabbits, as innocent as they appear, are the cause of tularemia (an infectious disease) in humans. …

One reason for God’s rule forbidding pork is that the digestive system of a pig is completely different from that of a cow. It is similar to ours, in that the stomach is very acidic. Pigs are gluttonous, never knowing when to stop eating. Their stomach acids become diluted because of the volume of food, allowing all kinds of vermin to pass through this protective barrier. Parasites, bacteria, viruses, and toxins can pass into the pig’s flesh because of overeating. These toxins and infectious agents can be passed on to humans when they eat a pig’s flesh. …

In Biblical Archeological Review, Jane Cahill examined the toilets of a Jewish household in Jerusalem, finding no parasites nor infectious agents, but only pollen from the many fruits, vegetables and herbs they had eaten. A similar study about Egyptians revealed eggs from Schistosoma, Trichinella, wire worm and tapeworms, all found in pork. All of these organisms cause significant chronic diseases.

(Compiled from Russell, Rex, MD. What the Bible Says About Healthy Living. Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1999, pp. 76-78.)

Clean and Unclean Meats
(Any number below 75% is toxic — See text for explanation)
Four-Footed Animals
CLEAN
(Cloven-hoofed, cud-chewing)
UNCLEAN
(All Others)
calf 82%
deer 98%
goat 90%
ox 91%
sheep 94%
black bear 59%
camel 41%
cat 62%
coney (guinea pig) 46%
dog 62%
fox (silver) 58%
grizzly bear 55%
ground hog 53%
hamster 46%
horse 39%
opossum 53%
rabbit 49%
rat 55%
rhinoceros 60%
squirrel 43%
swine (pigs/hogs) 54%
Flying Animals
CLEAN UNCLEAN
goose 85%
chicken 83%
coot 88%
duck 98%
pigeon 93%
quail 89%
swan 87%
turkey 85%
bat  
cormorant  
crow 46%
eagle  
falcon  
hawk  
heron  
ibis  
kite  
nighthawk  
osprey  
ostrich  
owl 62%
pelican  
raven  
red-tail hawk 36%
sparrow hawk 36%
sea gull  
stork  
vulture  
Water Creatures
CLEAN
(With scales and fins)
UNCLEAN
(Without scales and fins)
black bass 80%
black drum 105%
bluefish 80%
carp 90%
channel bass 80%
chub 91%
cod 98%
croaker 90%
flounder 83%
flying fish 87%
goldfish 88%
haddock 80%
hake 98%
halibut 82%
herring 100%
kingfish 83%
mullet 87%
pike 98%
pompano 110%
porgy 80%
rainbow trout 81%
rock bass 100%
salmon 81%
smelt 90%
sea bass 103%
shad 100%
Spanish mackerel 98%
spot 80%
sturgeon 87%
tuna (bluefin) 88%
white perch 81%
whiting, Carolina 84%
yellow perch 87%
catfish 48%
clams  
crabs  
eel 40%
lobster  
octopus  
oysters  
porcupine fish 60%
puffer 51%
sand skate 59%
scallops  
shark (dogfish) 62%
shrimp  
squid  
stingray 46%
toad fish 49%
 
Insects
CLEAN
(Winged, with jointed
hopping legs)
cricket
grasshopper
katydid
locust
UNCLEAN
(All others)

_______________

  1. For those who would claim that the “clean” and “unclean” classes of animals are part of the “Old Testament Law” and not applicable to non-Jewish people today, remember that over a thousand years before the “Law” was given at Sinai, Noah recognized the difference between “clean” and “unclean” of animals. “Of every clean animal you are to take seven couples, and of the animals that are not clean, one couple; also of the birds in the air take seven couples — in order to preserve their species throughout the earth.” (Gen 7:2-3) [RETURN]

Page last updated on Saturday, 03 July 2021 12:38 PM
(Updates are generally minor formatting or editorial changes.
Major content changes are identified as "Revisions”)

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