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Jesus Ate Kosher

      When I speak of Jesus eating kosher, I'm referring to following the guidelines set out in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 regarding what meats are to be eaten and what are to be avoided. This includes not eating blood (Leviticus 17)or animals found dead (Deu. 14:21). I'm not as concerned here with the traditional separation of meat and dairy, although there is no evidence that Jesus did otherwise here either.

      First of all, Jesus must have eaten kosher; it would have been difficult in his society to do otherwise. Jews did not shop in places where non-kosher food was available. If Jesus had been associated with forbidden food, it would have caused a great scandal. But there is no mention of that in the gospels.

      Jesus mentions food or is connected with food on many occasions. IN each of these instances the foods are those that are considered biblically clean. The idea that Jesus would eat a ham sandwich (or even a cheeseburger) cannot find support in the gospels.

      In fact, in at least one of his parables Jesus uses the distinction between clean and unclean food as the point of the parable. In Matthew 13:47 Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a net full of fish. The fishermen kept the good fish but threw the bad fish away. The Sea of Galilee is home to several species of fish, both clean and unclean. The bad fish in the parable were no doubt the catfish, which were not edible, not having fins and scales. They would have been caught in any net along with the good fish.

      We also see that Jesus invariably blessed God before eating or serving food. The blessings used in Jesus' day were traditional and are still used today. They bless God for being the King of the universe, and acknowledge that food comes through his provision. If Jesus were disobeying the command of God in what he ate, he would not have been able to bless God in this manner while eating it.

      Another clue is that Jesus was welcomed into synagogues and into the houses of Pharisees. If there had been knowledge that Jesus disregarded the food laws, he would have been most unwelcome in these places. The biggest complaint his opponents could find was that his disciples didn't wash their hands in a ritual manner prescribed by a certain group of Pharisees.

      In another instance, although the kosher issue isn't specifically mentioned, Jesus uses an example that refers to eating in a specifically Jewish manner (Matt. 15:21-28). He is outside the land and a Gentile woman begs him for healing. After first claiming that he was sent only to Israel, Jesus compares Gentiles to dogs begging around the children's table. It is clear that the "children" are Jews, eating in a way that distinguishes them from Gentiles.

      Perhaps the strongest evidence that Jesus ate kosher and taught others to do so comes from observing the convictions of his disciples after he was gone. In Acts 10 Peter is clearly an adherent of the kosher laws and believed strongly that he was honoring God in doing so. Later, in Acts 15, when the apostles are determining a minimal halakhah for newly believing Gentiles, the dietary laws figure prominently. Not eating pork or shellfish would have been assumed. But the apostles wanted the new believers to be clear that they were not to eat blood or meat killed in an unkosher manner. It's clear from these positions that Jesus did not eat or teach contrary to the food laws given in the Torah.

What About Mark 7?

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Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name.
Psalm 119 :132