In my opinion, these food laws (Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14) are not given primarily for health or hygienic reasons (i.e., Maimonides, Guide 3:48; Kiddushin 49b [Talmudic tractate]), but for theological reasons.  Israelis are to have no contact with Canaanites (cf. Isa. 65:4; 66:3,17).  Many of the regulations given to Israel through Moses relate to Canaanite eating, socializing, and worshiping practices (e.g., Exod. 8:23).

On the question of "are these food laws binding or even helpful for NT believers," I would say "No!"  Here are my reasons:

1. Jesus rejected the food laws as a way to approach and please God, Mark 7:14-23 (surely the editorial comment by either Peter or John Mark in v. 19 is equally inspired)

2. This very question was the issue of the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15, where it was decided that Gentiles did not have to follow OT cultic laws (cf. esp. Acts 15:19). Acts 15:20 is not a food law, but a fellowship concession to believing Jews who may be worshiping in Gentile churches.

3. Peter's experience in Acts 10 in Joppa is not about food, but about the acceptability of all people, yet the Spirit used the food law's irrelevance as the symbol to teach Peter!

4. Paul's discussion of "weak" and "strong" believers cautions us not to force our personal interpretation, particularly of OT laws, on all other believers (cf. Rom. 14:1-15:13; 1 Corinthians 8-10).

5. Paul's warnings about legalism and judgmentalism in relation to the Gnostic false teachers recorded in Col. 2:16-23 ought to be a warning to all believers in every age!  Be careful of NT Phariseeism!


Copyright © 2014 Bible Lessons International