Friday, November 18, 2011

Is Pork now Kosher?

There is a debate going on among New Testament believers as to whether there are any impermissible items to eat or not. Since the debate seems to be growing in intensity, it seemed practical to bring this matter to the forefront and see if we can shed some light on this issue. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to look at the New Testament passages dealing with food, and see just what they are saying.

Before we get started, let me be clear: salvation is through belief in Jesus, alone. However, once we have become a child of G-d through belief in Jesus then we must live obediently to G-d’s instructions, which tell us how to live pleasingly before Him. Therefore, what we are discussing in this article is not a salvation issue, but one of living obediently to G-d.

Please get a Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance to find the references for the Old Testament dietary laws. I will mostly deal with what the New Testament has to say since the controversy comes not from Torah observant Messianics or Jews, but from those “churched” people who have been taught that the New Testament abolished or canceled the laws – G-d’s instructions - in the original covenant.

The first instance is in Matthew 15:

1) Then some Pharisees and scribes came to Yeshua from Jerusalem, saying,

2) “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”

3) And He answered and said to them, “And why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of G-d for the sake of your tradition?”

So, we see that the Pharisees were calling Jesus on transgressing a TRADITION, but not for transgressing a commandment of G-d. He goes on to talk to them about honouring their parents and then says:

7) “You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you saying,



10) And he called to Himself the multitude, and said to them, “Hear, and understand.

11) “Not what enters into the mouth defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.” (capital letters theirs)

In this passage, Jesus is not even dealing with “unclean” as food because He is talking to Pharisees and scribes, the most pious of all Judaism! “Unclean” wasn’t even in the realm of the conversation with these people (who didn’t even consider “unclean” to BE food), but simply whether or not by eating with ceremonially unwashed hands defiled a man. Jesus goes on to make the point:

18) “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.

19) For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders,

20) These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.

Some translations add a parenthetical clause after this statement which says: (“And thus Jesus declared all foods clean.”) This was inserted by the editors of the various translations, but is NOT found in the original text. This is their editorial OPINION, but is not part of what the Messiah said. How can it be when He was talking about washing or not washing hands and NOT talking about food? This same event is also found in Mark 7:1-23.

Whenever this discussion comes up I’m always confronted with Peter’s vision at Joppa, found in Acts 10, so let’s look at it.

The chapter begins with the story of Cornelius, a Roman centurion, “a devout man, and one who feared G-d with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to G-d continually.” He was visited by an angel who tells him to send for Peter, also known as Simon at a tanner’s house by the sea. He does. While the men are coming to the tanner’s house, Peter goes up on the rooftop to await the noon meal and received a vision from G-d.

10) And he became hungry, and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance;

11) and he beheld the sky opened up, and a certain object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground,

12) and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air.

13) And a voice came to him, “Arise, Peter, kill and eat!”

14) Put Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.

Bible historians date the events in this chapter to be approximately 48-50 A.D., fifteen to seventeen years AFTER Messiah ascended to heaven. So even in the years with Yeshua on earth as well as the interim years to this time, Peter had not eaten anything considered “unclean” by the original covenant. And as we will see, this passage interprets itself and clearly tells us that this vision has nothing to do with food!!

Once Peter’s vision lifts, the Holy Spirit tells him that there are three men looking for him and that he is to go with them for G-d has sent them. The next day, these men take Peter with them to Cornelius’ house.

25) And when it came about that Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshipped him.

26) But Peter raised him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am just a man.”

27) And as he talked with him, he entered, and found many people assembled.

28) And he said to them, “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 G-d has shown me that I should not call ANY MAN unholy or unclean.

If Scripture follows its preceding patterns of Joseph and Daniel, the dream is given in Scripture and below it is given the interpretation. This is the same pattern we find in this passage. Peter does not say that this vision made pigs, shellfish, or any other unclean animal clean. Peter himself tells us what the vision was all about! It was about him going into the home of a Roman, a Gentile, and sharing the gospel with these “unclean” people. This is the first documented time that this has happened – that the gospel was specifically shared with Gentiles. Scripture uses the same words, “unholy” and “unclean” both times to make sure we understand that this was about MEN! The end of the chapter tells how G-d circumvents any misunderstanding that the Jews who came with Peter might have had by orchestrating events that demanded the baptism of these Gentiles, for which Peter is called to give an account to the council in Jerusalem. (See Acts 11:15-18)

Let’s look at this in another way. Believers in Messiah are taught that the Word of G-d does not contradict itself. We are also taught that if we get a “revelation” we believe is from G-d, that it must not contradict the Word of G-d. This premise is correct. So, let’s apply that premise to this section of Scripture that supposedly changed what God said.

Peter receives a vision he believes to be from G-d. The church has taught that this vision turned unclean to food in an instant. However, does this doctrine fit the prescribed premise, above, that the church also teaches?

First, we must remember that when Peter had this vision, the only “Word of G-d” he had by which to judge whether or not an instruction was from the L-RD, was the Old Testament since the New Testament wasn’t written and compiled until around 135 A.D. Therefore, what did the Old Testament say that would apply to Peter’s “new revelation” supposedly changing unclean to clean in an instant?

4. You shall follow the L-RD your G-d and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him.

5. "But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counselled rebellion against the L-RD your G-d who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the L-rd your G-d commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you. Deuteronomy 13:4-5

As a Jewish male, Peter was trained in the torah (traditionally call the “law”) of G-d. Do you think he would have accepted instructions from a voice in a vision that contradicted the written instructions of the Word of G-d? The same Word of G-d that Peter and the disciples now knew in the flesh as Yeshua? (John 1:1-5) NO! He would not!

Therefore, according to the criteria that the church has set for defining what is G-d’s truth, the teaching of unclean being “magically” transformed into clean in an instant does not hold up and again, Peter tells us the vision was about the Gentiles being “grafted in,” becoming part of, and treated no differently by G-d than the “cultivated olive tree” of Israel (Acts 10:28; Romans 11:11-24).

So, once again, we have seen that Scriptures used to defend eating anything have

absolutely nothing to do with this topic.

The next “biggie” I hear is found in 1 Timothy 4.

1) But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,

2) by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a

branding iron,

3) men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods, which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.

4) For everything created by G-d is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is

received with gratitude;

5) for it is sanctified by means of the word of G-d and prayer.

This Scripture is the basis for what Gentiles take to mean that everything is permissible to eat as long as it was prayed over and received with gratitude.

The “everything” in v. 4 is referring back to the subject “food” mentioned in the preceding sentence. So, “everything created by G-d is good, and nothing is to be rejected” ONLY if it is “food which G-d has created to be gratefully shared in…”

Food = Strong’s #1033, broma, bro’-mah; food (lit. or fig.), espec. certain allowed or forbidden by the Jewish law.

This passage is NOT saying that “unclean” has now been okayed by G-d to be considered “food.” In fact, quite the opposite is true. The Greek clearly tells us that what G-d previously said was allowed or forbidden according to the “law” is also the rule for the New Testament believer.

Therefore, Paul is talking about men coming along in the later times and telling you that you can’t eat chicken or salmon (a clean fish with fins and scales) or telling you to abstain from what G-d proclaimed to be food. Paul is NOT endorsing eating just anything and thinking that’s okay with G-d! We seem to constantly forget what Jesus has said about Himself:

“For I, the L-RD, do not change;” Malachi 3:6

“Jesus the Messiah is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever.”

Hebrews 13:8

If that is not enough, why aren’t we at least following the bare basics required in Acts 15? In this chapter, a discussion had arisen concerning believers who were from the Pharisees who said that circumcision was necessary (for salvation) and these were also directing observance of the Law of Moses. (v5)

So, the apostles and elders came together to look into the matter and after much debate, Peter arose and testified about his involvement in the engrafting of the gentiles and clearly says that salvation is by grace; it cannot be earned by circumcision, and then in verse 13, James weighs in:

13) And after they had stopped speaking, James answered, saying, “Brethren, listen to me.

14) Simeon has related how G-d first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name.

15) And with this the words of the Prophets agree….

19) Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to G-d from among the Gentiles, but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood.

21) For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.

Did you notice that three of the four things listed here deal with what we eat? The recommendation was to give the gentile converts some BASIC requirements to follow since Moses (the Torah) was read and preached every Sabbath in every city and from that the gentile believers would learn the rest of what they should do. Remember, there WAS NO “New Testament” compiled at the time these events were unfolding. The ONLY “Scripture” they had by which to live was the OLD TESTAMENT.

When someone becomes a new believer, do you heap on them every single thing they need to do to change their life to be like the Messiah? Or do you give them a few starting points knowing that they’ll get the rest as they go along? This is the example in this passage. It is NOT discounting the validity of what G-d said in the original covenant, a covenant with which gentiles would be totally unfamiliar. Instead, they decided to give them a few things to start and let them learn the rest as they went along. In the realm of food, apparently things containing blood (as strangled animals would) was the top of the list of abhorrent things for the apostles. Yet today, believers eat meat oozing with blood regularly. If we are “New Testament believers” why do we not adhere to the most basic of the requirements given for gentile believers in the Messiah?

From this passage in Acts 15 it is apparent that James and the apostles knew how G-d feels about the consumption of blood. This instruction is found in Leviticus 17:10,

“And any man from the house of Israel, or from the aliens who sojourn among them, who eats any blood, I will set My face against that person who eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people.”

Since the L-RD has told us in His Word that He never changes, I do not want His face set against me! He tells us in this passage that this is the fate of those who disobey His Word and eat blood.

Here are the next verses to consider:

“Do not think that I came to abolish (make obsolete) the Torah or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill (consecrate, execute, i.e. carry out). For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stoke shall pass away from the Torah until all is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:17-18)

So if the Messiah says that the Torah won’t pass away until heaven and earth pass away, the next logical question is, do heaven and earth still exist? To which you’d reply, “Well yes, of course they do!” If this is such an obvious response, why isn’t it obvious that the “law” (Torah) hasn’t been “done away with” as some have been taught in the church?

“…I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law (Torah) and that is written in the Prophets.” Acts 24:14

How can we say that Paul gave us permission to disobey the Torah’s dietary instructions when he made this statement affirming his belief in the entire Torah?

This leads us back to the next passage that confuses people, found in Romans 14.

Paul begins this passage by saying we are to accept those who are weak in faith and the weaker in faith eat only vegetables while the stronger in faith may eat all things. In light of what Messiah said in Matthew 5 quoted above and what we’ve seen that Paul wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4, is Paul advocating eating “anything” as part of eating “all things”? It can mean that only if you are comfortable with the Word of G-d contradicting itself. He cannot be saying one thing in one place and contradict that in another.

So, how do we know that this isn’t what Paul is saying in this chapter? Because he explicitly tells us later in the chapter:

15) For if because of food (broma, clean according to the Old Testament) your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food (broma) him for whom Christ died.
16) Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil;

20) Do not tear down the work of G-d for the sake of food (broma). All things (broma) are indeed clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense.
21) It is good not to eat meat (kreas) or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. (Romans 14)

Paul clearly tells us that the food to which he is referring is BROMA: clean according to the Torah (remember, to Paul, a Pharisee of Pharisees, “unclean” is not “food.”) The meat Paul recommends not eating, kreas, (Strong’s #2907) is the Greek word noting meat sacrificed to idols. Paul also sums up the point of the entire chapter: DO NOT DO ANYTHING WHICH CAUSES YOUR BROTHER TO STUMBLE. If your brother can only handle eating vegetables, then do NOT eat something that offends him or causes him to stumble when in his presence!

The last passage to cover in the New Testament is found in 1 Corinthians 8. I would suggest you read the entire thing in light of what we’ve already covered. Paul cannot be contradicting the Messiah or what he wrote cannot be divinely inspired Scripture. Therefore, we need to “read” this in a new way, a way that is compliant with what Messiah said so that it fits seamlessly into the body of Scripture.

1 Corinthians 8 is summed up in its last verse:

13) Therefore, if food (kreas) causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat (kreas) again, that I might not cause my brother to stumble.

This is just reiterating what he wrote in Romans 14, this time dealing with food sacrificed to idols.

Paul gave us even more insight into how he felt about the Old Testament being applicable for the Gentiles when he said,





AND YOU SHALL BE SONS and daughters TO ME,


Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

2 Corinthians 6:17-7:1

In 2 Corinthians, which was written to Gentiles, Paul is saying that there are unclean things we need to avoid and that there’s something we have to do to cleanse ourselves from fleshly defilement as well as being cleansed from spiritual defilement! We need to come out, be separate, and do not touch, much less eat, what is unclean!

Did Jesus eat pork products or anything “unclean”? No. Jesus lived according to the law, didn’t He? We’re told that He was without sin, which 1 John 3:4 defines as “lawlessness,” so we know that He did not disobey the Torah instructions because we know He wasn’t “lawless” or sinful. Therefore, according to 1 John 2:6, neither are we to disobey the Torah instructions since we are to “walk as He did.”

IF God has said in Scripture that you can now eat pork, shellfish, catfish, shark, etc. and that’s okay with Him, then why aren’t you eating rats, bats, and turkey buzzards? “YUCK!” you say, they carry disease! How about armadillo? They’ve been documented to give people leprosy! Why not maggots if “everything is clean” and you are not “under the law”? Why not add them to your plate? You see, once we begin to take this thinking to its logical conclusion, it is easy to see the fallacy of this stance and to see that it couldn’t possibly be what G-d was saying. He has already told us that He is always the same; do you really think He has changed His thoughts on what we are to eat yet did not specifically tell us?

“BUT,” you say, “what about Jesus teaching in Luke 10?” This passage deals with Jesus sending out the 70, sending them two by two. He sends them out with several directives, one of which is:

And whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat what is set before you;”

(Luke 10:8)

Of course, being sent out among the Jews wouldn’t present a problem as they ate a “clean” diet, and in this passage, that is what He’s saying since He’s sending them to:

“…every city and place where He Himself was going to come”

And we know that He during His life on earth He only traveled a short distance from His home.

To be balanced about the Word of G-d, we see that Messiah tells us that when we are out on His business and the people are receptive to His message, we are to eat what is set before us. This keeps us from offending them before they can hear His message. We also know that we can partake of something deadly and it will not harm us (Mark 16: 15-20). However, that does not give us a license to eat anything whenever we want. This is a specific exemption for a specific purpose and ONLY if you are received in that city. There may also be times when He will tell you NOT to eat what is set before you as a warning to protect you from potential disease in what is offered to you. This is a situation in which you must heed His voice and listen carefully. If you don’t, it could prove to be deadly for you.

Recently, we were given another “argument” saying that the Old Testament doesn't uphold the dietary laws (!) since in Genesis 9:3, the L-RD said to Noah:

"Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the
green plant.”

The belief that this Scripture (“every moving thing”) disputes the dietary law, giving a license to eat anything, is incorrect and the Bible proves this in several ways:

1) Noah knew the difference between clean and unclean. In obedience to the L-RD's command, he took 7 of every clean animal and only 2 (1 male, 1 female) of the unclean animals (Genesis 6:19-22; Genesis 7:2-3).

2) After the flood, upon departing from the ark, Noah offered sacrifice to the L-RD from the clean animals, knowing that the L-RD would not accept an unclean offering (Genesis 8:20) This again shows that Noah knew the difference between clean and unclean, even before the Torah ("law") was given through Moses.

3) Had Noah and/or his family eaten from the unclean animals taken on the ark, then he would have wiped out a species that the L-RD had so carefully preserved! Of each unclean species, there were only two: a male and a female. So, if the L-RD is saying man could eat of the unclean, He'd have just made that species extinct.

4) The position that this disputes the dietary law can only be true if Scripture can contradict Scripture, if the L-RD can change His mind, and thus we are saying that we believe that the L-RD can contradict Himself. Since the Bible is inerrant (Psalm 19:7-11) and G-d doesn't change (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8), then this belief is obviously a mistaken one.

We can see that the Messiah did not contradict everything else He said, whether in the New Testament as the Messiah or as the “Word” of G-d in the Old Testament. He even told us that if we love Him we will keep His commandments. The only ones He gave were in the OLD Testament as He was the one who spoke forth the Torah commands as the “Word” (John 1:1-5). In the New Testament, Jesus simply synopsizes the focus of the Torah – how to live righteously with G-d and with man.

The instructions of “the Word” Jesus have not changed from ancient times, and WILL be kept in the future. So what makes us think that we are exempt from the requirements He has placed upon men at these other times? Isaiah 65-66 is a prophetic passage of Scripture. In it, G-d clearly tells us how He will feel in the end of days about this subject:

2) I have spread out My hands all the day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, after their own thoughts

3) A people who provoke Me to My face continually, sacrificing [to idols] in gardens and burning incense upon bricks [instead of at God’s prescribed altar];

4) Who sit among the graves [trying to talk to the dead] and lodge among the secret places [or caves where familiar spirits were thought to dwell]; who eat swine’s flesh, and the broth of abominable and loathsome things is in their vessels;

5) Who say, Keep to you yourself; do not come near me, for I am set apart from you. These are smoke in My nostrils, a fire that burns all the day. (Isaiah 65, AMP)

3) [The acts of the hypocrite’s worship are as abominable to G-d as if they were offered to idols.] He who kills an ox [then] will be guilty as if he slew and sacrificed a man; he who sacrifices a lamb or a kid, as if he broke a dog’s neck and sacrificed him; he who offers a cereal offering, as if he offered swine’s blood; he who burns incense [to G-d], as if he blessed an idol. [Such people] have chosen their own ways, and they delight in their abominations; (Isaiah 66, AMP)

In fact, having gone through every New Testament word for “food” and “meat” and “flesh” in the Strong’s Concordance, I can tell you that there is not ONE word that gives us permission to do away with or ignore the dietary instructions given in the Torah. Other than broma (Strong’s #1033) and kreas (#2907) at which we’ve already looked, the other words used in the New Testament for food, meat or flesh are:

5160, trophe = nourishment; by impl. rations (wages)

1304, diatribe = to wear through (time), i.e. remain,

(as in “having food and raiment, let us be content.” 1 Timothy 6:8)

1035, brosis = eating (lit. or fig.); by extens. (concr.) food (lit. or fig.), the act of eating


5315, phago = to eat (lit. or fig.)

4620, sitometron = a grain-measure, i.e. (by impl.) ration (allowance of food); portion of meat

1034, brosimos = eatable, used only 1 time in Luke 24:41 referring to broiled fish and honeycomb

4371, prosphagion = something eaten in addition to bread; i.e. a relish

5132, trapeza = a table or stool (as being four-legged), usually for food (fig. a meal);


4561, sarx = flesh (as stripped of the skin), i.e. (strictly) the meat of an animal (as food), or (by extens.) the body (as opposed to the soul [or spirit], or as the symbol of what is external, or as the means of kindred), or (by impl.) human nature (with its frailties [phys. Or mor.] and passions), or (spec.) a human being (as such)

Examples of 4561 (sarx):

The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Matthew 26:41

And the two shall become one flesh. Mark 10:8

All flesh shall see the salvation of God. Luke 3:6

And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. John 1:14

That which is born of the flesh is flesh… John 3:6

…I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh; Acts 2:17

…no flesh shall be justified in His sight…Romans 3:20

…and make no provision for the flesh… Romans 13:14

…not many wise men after the flesh, not many might…1 Cor. 1:26

…if we walked according to the flesh…2 Corinthians 10:2-3

…he who was born of the bondwoman was born after the flesh: Gal 4:23

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood…Eph. 6:12

…have no confidence in the flesh. Phil. 3:3

For though I be absent in the flesh…Col. 2:5

As far as I can tell from investigating every listing of this word in the Strong’s, no example of this word in the entire New Testament is in relation to what is eaten.

If Jesus has exempted us from the dietary instructions in the Torah, then He has been grossly unjust to not exempt us from the penalty of disobeying them.

The penalty of disobedience to God’s instructions in the Torah is clearly stated in Deuteronomy 28:58-62:

58. If you are not careful to observe all the words of this Torah which are written in this book, to fear this honoured and awesome name, the L-RD your God,

59. then the L-RD will bring extraordinary plagues on you and on your descendants, even severe and lasting plagues, and miserable and chronic sicknesses.

60. And He will bring back on you all the diseases of Egypt of which you were afraid, and they shall cling to you.

61. And every sickness and every plague which, not written in the book of this Torah, the L-RD will bring on you until you are destroyed.

62. Then you shall be few in number, whereas you were as the stars of heaven for multitude, because you did not obey the L-RD your God.

It’s interesting to note that there is no disease listed under the first part of this chapter (Deuteronomy 28:1-14) when obedience to God’s Torah is followed (which includes the dietary instructions). The only diseases listed (Deuteronomy 28:15, 20-22, 27-28, 35) are from NOT obeying what God instructed us to do.

I’d like to take a moment to clarify a point. I am not speaking of a rabbinically kosher diet based upon the rulings of rabbis who have ruled such things as:

Meat (the flesh of birds and mammals) cannot be eaten with dairy.

Fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables and grains can be eaten with either meat or dairy. (According to some views, fish may not be eaten with meat).

Utensils that have come into contact with meat may not be used with dairy, and vice versa.

Grape products made by non-Jews may not be eaten…(and there are many more)

As an example to show you the difference about which I’m speaking, the Bible simply says we are not to cook the kid in its mother’s milk, which is a specific prohibition. In principle, it tells us not to cook meat in the milk that would nurture that creature. However, the rabbis expanded this principle to say that no meat and dairy can be combined in a dish or in the same meal, nor can you use the same dishes for meat and dairy, nor the same refrigerator or sink! This is adding to the word of G-d, which we are not to do, and making G-d’s word a burden to His people, something for which Y’shua specifically condemned the Pharisees and leaders of His day.

Therefore, I am speaking of eating strictly according to the Word of G-d, which is a biblically clean diet, and obeying the rules and principles that G-d put in His word without following additional rules that have been made by men.

Still, people hold to what they’ve been taught vs. what G-d said in His word. It is not unusual to hear people (who don’t study the word, but quote their preacher, thus “rules made by men”) say, “But, 1 Timothy 4 also covers that anything is now clean..." One day, the L-RD gave us this answer to that statement:

In reality, even you don't believe what you said, that "anything" is clean. What that statement refers to is what your culture says is clean. You consider shellfish, pork and catfish "food" but wouldn't consider rats, bats, roaches, maggots, turkey buzzards, and other things your culture calls disgusting, "food." Therefore, even you don't really consider "anything" to be food. The true issue is whose definition you choose to live by: that of your culture or G-d's.

Having more than adequately made the case for the word of G-d not changing, for the words of Messiah being true and not contradicting what Paul wrote; that we’ve just misunderstood it by reading the Bible through “Gentile glasses” as opposed to seeing it from the perspective of the men who wrote it (G-d’s perspective), it is easy to see how we have misunderstood what the L-RD put into His divinely inspired Word since we do not understand His commandments.

If the L-RD was going to change His instructions and teachings (Torah), don’t you think He’d have specifically told us? And, don’t you think He’d have given us at least one living example of this through Jesus or His disciples? Yet, there is NO Biblical record of them EVER eating ANYTHING unclean.

Decide for yourself whether you are being obedient to His Word, or not….

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mikvah - Ritual Water Immersion (Baptism)

Mikvah - Ritual Water Immersion

By Joelle Chilcott - for my son Josh, who will be baptized shortly...

Biblical Background:

The term ‘mikvah’ in Hebrew literally means any ‘gathering of waters’, but is specifically used in Jewish law for the waters or bath for the ritual immersion. The building of the mikvah was so important in ancient times it was said to take precedence over the construction of a synagogue. Immersion was also so significant that it occurred before the high Priest conducted the service on the Day of Atonement at the Temple; before the regular priests participated in the Temple service; before each person entered the Temple complex; before a scribe wrote the name of G-d.

The Mishnah attributes to Ezra a decree that each male should immerse himself before praying or studying. There were several Jewish groups in ancient days that observed ritual immersion every day to assure readiness for the coming of the Messiah. The Church Fathers mentioned one of these groups called Hemerobaptists which means “daily bathers” in Greek. Among those performed regular immersion were the Essenes and others that the Talmud calls ‘tovelei shaharit’ or “dawn bathers.”

On the third day of creation we see the source of the word mikvah for the first time in Genesis 1:10 when the Lord says, “ the gathering (mikvah) of waters, He called seas.” Because of this reference in Genesis the ocean is still a legitimate mikvah. The word for ‘hope’ is also ‘mikvah’ as used in Jeremiah 17:13 ... O Lord, the hope (Mikvah) of Israel ... just as the immersion pool cleans the unclean, so the Holy one Blessed be he, clean Israel.

There are many examples in Scripture which speak of a ritual washing in order to be declared clean and pure. Below is a partial list of some of the required times to immerse in a mikvah and put on clean clothes.

- After touching the carcass of an unclean animal (Leviticus 11:24-25),

- After touching the carcass of an animal that died of itself (Leviticus 11:39-40),

- (women) 40 days after birth of a boy, 80 days after birth of a girl (Leviticus 12:2-5),

- After being healed from certain diseases (Leviticus 13:6, 34, 14:8),

- 7 days after a women’s cycle (Leviticus 15:8),

- (or for anyone who comes in contact with a woman during her cycle, and even if one comes in contact with articles that have been used or sat upon by such a person)

- After involvement in the mitzvah (blessing) of sex (within a marriage of course) (Leviticus 15:18),

- (men) After a seminal emission during sleep (Leviticus 15:16),

- Before entering marriage (Leviticus 15:19),

- (a man) After letting the scapegoat go for Yom HaKippurim (Leviticus 16:26),.

- (a priest) After burning the red heifer (Numbers 19:7),

- 3 days & 7 days after touching a slain man, a man’s bone, or a grave (Numbers 19:16),

- After touching a dead body - as when burying a relative,

- Conversion.

Even utensils were (and are still) submerged in a mikvah as seen in Numbers 31:21-23

Water immersion therefore was not a new concept for the Jews when John was ‘baptizing’ people in the river. Over the past two thousand years, baptism has taken on many different meanings and styles. But as we have seen with many other things, virtually everything goes back to Jewish roots.

Much of the confusion dividing mikvah and baptism comes from the word itself, baptism. Baptidzo is actually the Greek equivalent for the Hebrew ‘tevilah’ - totally immerse. Tevilah marks a change of status from being tamay to tahor = ritually unclean (impure or unfit for the presence of God) to ritually clean, since anytime a person is to come into the presence of G-d, they must come tahor (pure).

Traditional Jewish Observance:

The practice of the mikvah is still followed by orthodox Jews to this day, however there are some notable changes from the ancient practice since the destruction of the temple in 70C.E. The sacrificial system was gone and the priests had to place to serve. Rabbinic Judaism was forced to adjust biblical teaching in order to accommodate the new reality. Their conclusion, after much debate, was to substitute prescribed prayers and righteous works for the biblical requirement of sacrifice. Hence, the cleansing for the priests and the related healings were no longer practical.

However, modern Judaism maintained the need for mikvah in some situations such as:

- by women to achieve ritual purity after menstruation or child birth

- by men in spiritual preparation for the shabbat or for one of the holy days

- the immersion of gentiles who wish to convert to Judaism.

- in preperation for marriage

The Mikvah itself:

The bible says little about the actual construction of a mikvah. However, what the Bibles leaves undefined, the rabbis discuss, deliberate and conclude in great detail. One main agreement is that the mikvah must contain ‘living water’, which is either rain water, or water from a natural spring or stream. Living water has always been understood and connected to the Spirit of G-d.

Zech 12:10... and I will pour out on the house of David....

Isaiah 44:3 ... and I will pour water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground... pour out my spirit upon offspring...

The Prophet Ezekiel also speaks of new spiritual life through the cleansing waters:

“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.” (Ezekiel 36:25)

To have a 'kosher' mikvah, there must be enough of this water for the full immersion of an average sized man (approx 120 gallons). Additional water from piped sources may be used if this minimum requirement has been met. The concept of immersion in rabbinic literature is reffered to as a ‘new birth’. When a convert entered the mikvah, the water itself was referred to as the womb of the world and as the convert came out of the water, it was considered a new birth, seperating him from the pagan world. The rabbis discussions also included many other tedious details such as location, construction etc... All of these discussions can be found in the Mishna: Tractate Mikvaot.

The immersion itself:

When one immerses themselves in the mikvah, it is important that every part of the body be under the water. (a loose garment may be worn for modesty reasons), however it must be witnessed by at least one member of the same sex.

The following blessings are recited after the person immerses himself or herself one time:

Blessed are thou, O Lord our G-d, King of the universe who has sanctified us by his commandments and commanded us concerning the ritual immersion.

In the case of a new convert to Rabbinic Judaism, and extra blessing is added:

Blessed are thou, O Lord our G-d, King of the universe who has kept us in life, sustained us and brought us to this time.

The fact that the Hebrew blessings are said after the act of immersion of the convert is unusual. Normally a blessing is said before any act of obedience. However, the convert cannot technically recite the blessing until after his immersion, because he is not yet considered a Jew.

In Conclusion

Immersion in the mikvah is very important when a Gentile converts to Judaism. When Gentile converts go down into the waters of the mikvah, they leave behind their pagan ways - symbolically dying to their old life - and come up out of the water as a newborn child with an entire new identity. They are in essence reborn.

Born Again - a Jewish Term

The term ‘born again’ originated in Judaism. It referred to a Gentile who had undergone a formal conversion to Judaism (as stated above). The Talmud (oral law) states, “When he comes up after his immersion, he is deemed an Israelite in all respects.” (Yevamot 47b).

Rabbi Yose says in the Talmud, “One who has become a proselyte is like a child newly born.” (Yevamot 48b)

Understanding that the term born again referred to conversion to Judaism sheds light on the conversation between Yeshua and the sage Nicodemus in the book of John.

Nicodemus wondered, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” (John 3:4) From his Jewish perspective, he essentially queried, “How can I convert to Judaism if I am already a Jew?”

Yeshua answered, “A man must be born of water and spirit.” (John 3:5)

He was explaining to Nicodemus that we cannot rely on our ‘Jewishness’ (or any other heritage) to enter the kingdom of heaven. A conversion of the heart is necessary for salvation.

Judaism regards the mikvah as a symbolic expression of re-birth. The mikvah represents the mother’s womb, which is called in Hebrew ‘rechem’. This comes from the same root as the Hebrew word for mercy (rahamah).

Immersing fully into the waters of the mikvah is like re-entering the womb, the place of mercy; of God’s creative power. Emerging from the mikvah is like being born again.

Immersion in a mikvah also represents death and resurrection. A person under water enters a death-like state, like a person descending into a grave. When he comes back out of the water, he comes back to life as a new creation.

When we are immersed (baptized), we also become a new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Paul understood this death and rebirth imagery of the immersion and compared it to the death and resurrection of Yeshua:

“Don’t you know that all of us who were immersed into Messiah Yeshua were immersed into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism (immersion) into death in order that, just as Messiah was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:3-4)

1 Peter 3:21 says that “the waters of immersion is not the removal of dirt from the body, but one’s pledge to keep a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah.”

John immersed people in the Jordan River. His message was that of turning and repenting. This is the message of Teshuvah!

Teshuvah is a familiar message during the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah (New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). During these Feasts of the Lord, Israel is to assess her spiritual condition and turn back to God. The chronology in the gospels reveals that John’s arrival took place in the fall, which is the time for these feasts.

The mikvah would have been a sign of inward cleansing in spiritual preparation for the Holy Days. Yeshua himself entered the waters of mikvah at this time.

One of the most important teachings in Judaism is that of repentance. According to both Scripture and rabbinic literature, no matter how great the sin, if a person repents and forsakes the sin before G-d he can be forgiven. As we see in the case of John, Jesus, and all New Testament writers, repentance was always involved. The Talmud states, “nothing can stand before repentance” (Yebamos 47b). According to Dr. David Flusser, the Dead Sea Scrolls as well as the New Testament teach that water can purify the body only if the soul has first been purified through repentance and righteousness.

It is evident from Yeshua’s final instructions that tevilah or mikvah would be part of making all the Gentile nations into Talmidim (disciples) of the Jewish Messiah.

He said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, immersing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19)

A convert could repent and have a part in the life to come without immersion, but the emphasis seems to be pointing to the taking on of a new “believer” status illustrated as a “new birth” by immersion.

May you experience great joy as you are cleansed and transformed by the power of His Holy Spirit through tevilah in the mikvah.