Dog for Dinner?: Shocked by the Bible, Chapter 13

The previous chapter discussed Noah’s Ark and a lot of the misconceptions surrounding it. Part of that discussion included Joe Kovacs pointing out that it wasn’t just two of every kind of animal on the Ark, but that there were actually fourteen of each kind of clean animal. He used that to lead into this chapter, which discussing what animals were considered clean and, therefore, okay to eat.

One of the major points Kovacs appears to be making in this chapter is that Christians are often times disobedient to the Scriptures simply by the food that they eat. He points out that God lists certain foods as unclean and not to be eaten. Two examples of unclean animals were pigs (ham, bacon, pork, etc.) and sea creatures without fins and scales (crabs, shrimp, lobsters, oysters, etc.). He began his point that the status of clean and unclean food hasn’t changed on page 110 when he wrote, “It is clear which foods the Bible labels as clean and unclean, but was there ever a change in the status of these foods? I realize most people, including the vast majority of Christians, believe it’s permissible to eat anything. But let’s take a look at some verses that relate to the question.”

Following that statement Kovacs then began to survey several passages of Scripture that change the status and made all foods clean. He begins with Mark 7, then cites Acts 10, followed by 1 Timothy 4, and ended by citing Isaiah 66 as showing that what people eat will matter at the final judgement. So is Kovacs correct, have the majority of Christians been disobedient to the Bible with what they have been eating? Let’s look at those passages he cited and some he left out that also address this issue of what is okay for us to eat.

Mark 7—Kovacs noted that there is a common belief that a statement made by Jesus made it okay to eat any food. In fact, Kovacs put it this way, “some suggest Jesus Christ came right out and made some kind of declaration that all foods are now clean.” The statement he referred to came from Mark 7:18-19 which reads, “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” Something important to point out is that in the book, Kovacs used the King James Version. This is important because Kovacs made the statement, “The verses do not say Jesus declared all meats clean. Even in the original Greek, those words simply are not there.” The problem, however, is that a quick look at any modern translation (NIV, ESV, NASB, HCSB, for example) will have this declaration present. The full reference of verse 19 in any modern translation includes the statement (or very similar), “In saying this, Jesus declared all foods ‘clean.’”

So then, this brings up a new question. If it is present in many English translations, is Kovacs right that it is not in the Greek? No, it is present in the Greek. However, it is not attributed to Jesus in the Greek (that is why it is in parenthesis in the English translations). The Greek makes it clear that it is a statement by the author of Mark about Jesus statement. So Kovacs is incorrect that the statement is painfully absent from the text.

Acts 10—This passage of Scripture is when the apostle Peter received his vision of the sheet full of unclean animals. In this vision, God commanded Peter to kill and eat from among the animals contained in the sheet. Kovacs pointed out on page 112, “People who feel it’s now perfectly fine to eat any kind of creature often cite these verses, believing all unclean foods have been made fit to eat.” This is because God commands Peter to kill and eat. After receiving the command Peter refused to obey because he had “never eaten anything impure or unclean.” Upon Peter’s refusal, God responded by stating, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

Kovacs pointed out that there is a problem when citing these verses as support. On page 112 he wrote, “Peter did not take this vision to mean that God was making unclean foods clean.” He is absolutely correct; Peter understood this vision had to do with God making the Gentiles “clean.” This is evidenced in Acts 10:19-20, 28-29: “While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them…He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?” As Kovacs put it, Peter understood the vision to mean “that no human being is to be considered unclean.” So he is correct that this passage does not support the view that all foods are now acceptable to eat.

However, Kovacs attempts to show how this passage actually upholds that Christians are not to eat anything unclean. He wrote, “Peter himself stated that he had never eaten anything unclean. This is further proof that Jesus, during His ministry, never declared all foods to be clean. If He had done so, then Peter, a devout disciple, would have been eating them. But as mentioned before, Jesus did not declare all foods to be clean, and therefore Peter correctly abstained from them.” The problem with Kovacs’ logic here is that simply because Peter did not eat anything unclean does not mean that Jesus never declared all foods clean. Jesus could have declared all foods clean and Peter could have chosen to still abide by the Jewish dietary laws. In fact, this would make sense as Peter points out that it was unlawful for a Jew to associate with a Gentile. Why? Mainly because they didn’t adhere to the cleanliness laws (such as clean and unclean foods). Therefore, if Peter wanted to reach the Jews with Christ, it would make sense that he would continue to obey the dietary laws of the Jews.

1 Timothy 4—In this section, Kovacs first quoted 1 Timothy 4:1-5 and then wrote, “Among the supposed doctrines of the devils is the command to abstain from meats. Does this mean the exclusion of unclean meats from one’s diet is a doctrine of devils?…The apostle Paul warned in his letter to Timothy that in the latter days people would adhere to ridiculous beliefs, one of which was abstaining from all meats—in other words, vegetarianism.”

Once again, it is important to note that Kovacs is using the KJV. But it appears that he forgets that it is written in Old English when reading these verses. He takes this verse as meaning that one “doctrine of devils” is vegetarianism. The problem is reads the word “meats” in the King James and doesn’t understand the Old English meaning of the word. This word did not mean meat in the same sense as it does today; it had a much broader meaning then. In fact, this broader meaning is still listed in merriam-webster. It is not that it referred to the actual “meat” of an animal, but it referred to food in general. Once again, reading any modern English translation will reveal this meaning as many read “abstain from certain foods” rather than the KJV which reads “abstain from meats.” The KJV was not wrong, Kovacs read the verse incorrectly.

Isaiah 66—Kovacs even supposes that the Old Testament prophet forbid eating unclean foods. Kovacs wrote, “He even made special mention that people eating “abominations” such as pig meat and mice will be in trouble.” He particularly honed in on verse 17 which reads, “Those who consecrate and purify themselves to go into the gardens, following the one in the midst of those who eat the flesh of pigs and rats and other abominable things—they will meet their end together,” declares the Lord.” Because he was so focused on the fact that God’s judgment and eating pigs and mice were mentioned so closely together, he apparently forgets what the rest of the verse mentions. It connects these actions with “consecrate and purify themselves to go into the gardens.” Those eating pigs and mice were doing so after consecrating and purifying themselves specifically for the purpose of “going into the gardens.” What does that mean? It was referring to idol worship. Isaiah was specifically condemning the actions because they were connected with idol worship. In fact, in 66:3 God appears to condemn those who obey the rules—“But whoever sacrifices a bull is like one who kills a man, and whoever offers a lamb, like on who breaks a dog’s neck; whoever makes a grain offering is like one who presents pig’s blood, and whoever burns memorial incense, like one who worships an idol” (emphasis added). The context of the entire passage is essential, because if all we quoted was that making a grain offering was like offering pigs blood, then Scripture would appear to contradict itself. However, when read in the full context, God was condemning idol worship. Particularly because the Israelites were worshiping God and idols at the same time.

Now, what about those passages he left out? The major passage Kovacs did not address in this chapter specifically addresses this issue. In Acts 15, the question of what food was acceptable to eat was addressed. It was only brought up because of Paul’s missionary work among the Gentiles. What was the answer to the question about food? Acts 15:20, “We should write to them [Gentiles], telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.” There was no requirement that they abstain from eating the meat of “unclean animals.” They were encouraged not to eat meat sacrificed to idols (this is what Isaiah 66:17 referred to). The New Testament does make it clear that Gentiles are allowed to eat the meat of unclean animals. There is no requirement to continue adhering to the dietary laws of clean and unclean meats; however, there is also no prohibition against the Old Testament dietary laws. So Kovacs' underlying point that Christians sin often because of their diet is simply not correct.
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