What We Teach about the Biblical Food Laws

This article presents what we teach about the biblical food laws; it shows that God designated animals as clean or unclean before the establishment of the Old Covenant, that He taught His people not to eat anything unclean, and that He has not abolished these laws in the New Covenant.

We teach that God has determined which items are acceptable as food for His people. Animals were classified as clean or unclean before the Flood, and these designations continued after Christ’s death and resurrection.

Prior the Flood, God had already revealed which animals were ritually clean and suitable for use as sacrifices. In Genesis 7:2, God told Noah, “Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate.” After the Flood, Noah offered some of the clean animals as sacrifices.

Later, when God brought the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage, He taught them what they could and could not eat. Leviticus 11:1-2 says, “And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them, ‘Speak to the people of Israel, saying, “These are the living things that you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth.”’” He allowed them to eat any of the clean animals but not the unclean creatures.

God called Israel to be a holy nation and a royal priesthood; they were set apart for a special ministry. He wanted His people to set an example to unbelievers, and they enjoyed clear health benefits as a result.

Many people wrongly believe that Jesus abolished the Torah, but throughout the New Testament, the apostles clearly assumed that the Mosaic Law was still in existence and still relevant for defining right and wrong.

The early Christian church taught Jewish and Gentile believers to avoid physical uncleanness. In 2 Corinthians 6:17, Paul wrote, “Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you.” This is not talking about defilement in the heart or mind; Paul specifically commanded Christians not to touch anything that is unclean, and the only place in the Bible that defines what is clean or unclean is in the Torah, the Law of Moses.

In the late first century, Jesus gave John detailed prophecies about the future of the world and His second coming. John saw the destruction of the satanic Babylonian kingdom that has oppressed God’s people since the foundation of this age. In Revelation 18:2, an angelic messenger called out with a mighty voice, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast.”

This vision occurred almost 70 years after the resurrection of Jesus, yet God still considered animals to be clean or unclean as defined by His laws. Clearly, Jesus doesn’t believe that the Torah has been abolished and neither should we.



Scriptures are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.


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