Abolished in the New Testament?
READERS: The purpose of this article is not to condemn or insult those who hold to the standard Christian teaching that God�s dietary laws are abolished under the New Covenant. The purpose of the article is to examine the New Testament passages which are commonly quoted in support of this teaching, and to show that these passages do not really teach what most Christians think they teach.
The Bible tells us that there was a distinction between clean and unclean animals for at least a thousand years before the Torah was given to Moses. This distinction between clean and unclean animals is mentioned in Gen. 7:2 and 8:20, in the account of Noah�s Flood. Genesis does not tell us which animals were clean and which were unclean, but it is obvious that Noah knew the difference.
About a thousand years later, when the Torah was given to Moses, God went into great detail and listed which animals were clean (kosher; fit for human consumption) and which were unclean (non kosher; not fit for human consumption). The entire 11th chapter of Leviticus is devoted to this subject. A shorter version of the list is repeated in Deuteronomy 14.
Orthodox Jews take these commandments literally, and do not eat pork, shellfish, or any of the other forbidden meats. Christians, on the other hand, feel that there is nothing wrong with eating these things. Many Christians (and doctors and nutritionists, too) will admit that people would be a lot healthier if they followed God�s dietary laws, and a small number of Christians actually do make an effort to avoid meat from unclean animals. But the great majority of Christians do not view the dietary laws as Divine commandments which ought to be obeyed.
A number of arguments have been put forth to support the standard Christian position. Probably the oldest argument is drawn from the Second Century Epistle of Barnabas. The writer spiritualizes the dietary laws, and says that the various unclean animals represent different types of behavior in which a Christian should not engage. While there may be alegitimate analogy here (Christians shouldn�t behave like pigs, etc.), the analogy fails to prove that God does not want His people to take the commandments literally and abstain from these meats.
Of course the most common argument against the validity of the dietary laws is the claim that God abolished them in the New Testament. This claim is often coupled with the idea that God originally gave the dietary laws because people didn�t have refrigeration in Old Testament times. I�ve got news for you. People didn�t have refrigeration in New Testament times, either. If God�s dietary commandments had anything at all to do with the absence of refrigeration, He wouldn�t have "abolished" them until about a hundred years ago, when refrigeration was invented.
There are six New Testament passages which can give the impression that God did, indeed, abolish the dietary commandments which He established in the Old Testament. However, a close look at these passages reveals that they really prove no such thing. The only way a person can use any of these passages to "prove" the nullifying of the dietary laws is to: 1) ignore the context of the passage; 2) ignore the historical background of the passage; 3) ignore what the rest of the Bible says about the subject; 4) ignore the implications and logical conclusions of this theological position.
Before we look at the six New Testament passages, let us consider two important questions:
1) Were the dietary laws, as written in the Bible, man-made traditions, or were they commandments of God? Bible-believers must admit that these were commandments which God expected His people to obey;
2) Did the Son of God teach His disciples to disobey the commandments of God? Some might think this is a ridiculous question, yet this is exactly what some Christians actually believe Jesus did in Matt. 15, the first passage we will look at.More
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