The topic of clean and unclean foods is a sore subject for many Christians today. Many feel that it is a “Jewish Thing” to be obedient to these statutes and ordinances outlined by God in the Old Testament. Also due to current common Christian teachings, many believe that God’s laws have passed away with the death of Jesus Christ. If you refer to the “God’s New Covenant” page or the “Why Follow The Commandments” page you will see why these common Christian teachings aren’t supported by the bible. Rather the bible, both Old and New Testament testifies that God’s laws remain until heaven and earth pass away and that through Jesus Christ, we are able to repent, receive forgiveness and rehabilitation, and God’s laws are then written into our hearts via the Holy Spirit prompting us to now walk in righteousness (obedience to God’s commandments, statutes, and ordinances) through the spirit. We encourage you to search the scriptures to see that this is the truth.
“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” ~ Isaiah 8:20
The dietary laws had been around a long time before God gave them to Moses. We can see in the time of Noah, that Noah had an understanding of “clean” and “unclean” animals/foods. How he received this ordinance, it isn’t written for us to know.
“Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female.” ~ Genesis 7:2
After the ark came to rest, at first glance in the English translation- God in his original instructions to Noah, permitted him to eat of everything that lives and moves about. Why would God allow this after clearly demonstrating that Noah had a knowledge of clean and unclean? The verse immediately prior to this instruction given to Noah reads:
“And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.” ~ Genesis 9:2
At first glance, one might think Noah was permitted to eat of all things both clean and unclean. Closer analysis reveals that this was not so. See this video below which explains the usage of the Hebrew word “reh’mes” used in this text mistranslated as “every moving thing.”:
Remember, God did command 7 of the clean beasts, and only 2 of the unclean to board the ark, an indication that Noah would eat of the clean. Because of this identification of clean and unclean from the story of Noah, there is biblical evidence that an understanding of these dietary restrictions along with the commandments of God were around from the beginning. Abraham, the father of nations and the founder of the Hebrew (Jewish) nation was given the original covenant over 400 years prior to Moses because he “obeyed God’s voice, commandments, statutes, laws, ordinances etc.” Many believe that these ordinances of God didn’t come until the laws of Moses were given, but the bible indicates these laws and ordinances being in force since the very beginning of this earth, the first of which is mentioned being the commandment of the holy Sabbath day/the 7th day of the week. It wasn’t until the time of Moses that the definition of “clean” and “unclean” animals was clearly and specifically mapped out by God for all to understand.
The Gentile’s Place In God’s Family
We as Gentile Christians can find wisdom and understanding of our “place” in God’s family by reading, learning and remembering the words of Apostle Paul in Romans 11:
“For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them. For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” ~ Romans 11:13-25
As you can see in the picture above, Olive Trees predominately have very large trunks and roots, in comparison to the branches and leaves. You can see here, that the branches of this “good olive tree” represents God’s chosen people- the Jews, or Israel. The root of this tree we can find in the commandments, statutes and ordinances given by God to the Jewish people in the Old Testament from the very beginning. Because of the “unbelief” of many of the Jews, they were disobedient to God’s laws and were cut off from the tree. We, the Gentiles are referred to as branches of a “wild olive tree.” We are grafted into the tree of Israel/God’s chosen people, but there is a warning “But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.” In other words, God’s chosen and holy Israel doesn’t depend on our wisdom to survive, rather the root supports us. The root is the Jewish faith of the Old Testament and contains all of God’s commandments, his nature, statutes, ordinances and his ways. If we desire to be grafted into God’s chosen people, this olive tree, we have to “continue in goodness”/obedience, otherwise we will be cut off just like many of the Jews were cut off for disobedience. While the sacrifice of Christ covers our former sins, and our present shortcomings, the gospel teaches all Christians, Jew and Gentile, to walk not according to their former ways, but according to righteousness (obeying God’s laws, statutes, ordinances, and His perfect law of love)
NOTE- ACCORDING TO THIS PARABLE, ALL ARE AT CONSTANT RISK OF BEING CUT OFF FROM THIS OLIVE TREE OF GOD- BOTH JEW AND GENTILE– IF WE CONTINUE IN DISOBEDIENCE TO GOD’S COMMANDS, REGARDLESS IF WE BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST. THIS INCLUDES THE COMMANDMENTS OF JESUS TO LOVE GOD AND LOVE OUR NEIGHBOR. JESUS DIED TO COVER OUR FORMER SINS AND TO ALLOW US TO BE REBORN INTO RIGHTEOUSNESS. CONTINUING IN WILFUL DISOBEDIENCE PUTS US IN IMMEDIATE DANGER OF BEING CUT OFF. DON’T OBEY BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO, RATHER OBEY BECAUSE YOU TRULY LOVE GOD ABOVE ALL THINGS AND YOU LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. REMEMBER THE WARNING OF PETER- GOD IS NO RESPECTOR OF PERSONS.
God’s Dietary Laws Obeyed By First Christian Gentile Congregations
Please know that God’s dietary laws, the feasts, and the new moons, etc were kept and obeyed by the first Christian Gentile congregations. We can see an example of this in Colossians 2. Keep in mind, Apostle Paul is speaking to Gentile Christians, living in a city full of Gentiles.
“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” ~ Colossians 2:8-17
We can confirm that Paul is speaking to Gentiles in the statement he makes “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh.” These Gentile Christians in Colossia were being bombarded by the philosophies of the many Gentiles that resided in the city. They were being judged for acting differently than the rest of these people. Paul tells them- “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days, which are a shadow of things to come.” Remember, this was in the area of Greece and this was not a Jewish city. The people of this city did not hallow the Sabbath, and did not honor Jewish holy days. These Gentile Christians obviously stood out in this city because they had changed their lives in obedience to the Sabbaths, holy days, new moons and even God’s dietary laws (in meat and drink). These ordinances set up by God are as Paul said “a shadow of things to come”, and that is why we continue to obey them, regardless of whether others in society judge us according to their vain philosophies, etc.
Paul also instructs the Corinthians, also a Gentile congregation, to continue in the ordinances that he has taught them. If God’s ordinances passed away with the death of Christ, why would Paul be teaching them and asking the first Christians to continue in them? Again, the truth shines brightly that these things have continued since they were originally given by God.
“Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.” ~ 1 Corinthians 11:2
Note– Please remember that Paul’s writings are extremely difficult for the “unlearned” to understand (unlearned meaning someone that doesn’t study all of scripture in it’s entirety). If you seek to understand his teachings, a strong understanding of the entire bible, especially the Old Testament is necessary for complete understanding. Some of his writings are very easy to twist to our own destruction (as Apostle Peter already warned us), and for this reason we encourage you to search and study all of his writings along with all of the scriptures available to us in the Old and New Testament.
The prophet Isaiah prophecied warnings about the end of days when God would destroy men with fire, and destroy the earth. In this prophecy he mentions those that eat swine:
“For by fire and by his sword will the Lord plead with all flesh: and the slain of the Lord shall be many. They that sanctify themselves, and purify themselves in the gardens behind one tree in the midst, eating swine’s flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, saith the Lord. For I know their works and their thoughts: it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and see my glory.” ~ Isaiah 66:16-18
Isaiah also mentions:
“A people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face; that sacrificeth in gardens, and burneth incense upon altars of brick; Which remain among the graves, and lodge in the monuments, which eat swine’s flesh, and broth of abominable things is in their vessels; Which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou. These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day. Behold, it is written before me: I will not keep silence, but will recompense, even recompense into their bosom, Your iniquities, and the iniquities of your fathers together, saith the Lord, which have burned incense upon the mountains, and blasphemed me upon the hills: therefore will I measure their former work into their bosom.” ~ Isaiah 65:3-7
The complete dietary ordinance given by God through Moses can be found in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. These contain listings of clean and unclean foods, and for simplicity, we will list them here:
Mammals that chew the Cud and Part the Hoof– Antelope, Bison/Buffalo, Caribou, Cattle/beef/veal, Deer, Venison, Elk, Gazelle, Giraffe, Goat, Hart, Ibex, Moose, Ox, Reindeer, Sheep, Lamb, Mutton
Fish with Fins & Scales– Anchovy, Barracuda, Bass, Black Pomfret, Monchong, Bluefish, Bluegill, Carp, Cod, Crappie, Drum, Flounder, Grouper, Grunt, Haddock, Hake, Halibut, Hardhead, Herring, Alewife, Kingfish, Mackerel, Corbia, Mahimahi, Minnow, Mullet, Perch, Bream, Pike, Pickerel, Jack, Pollack, Boston Bluefish, Rockfish, Salmon, Sardine, Shad, Silver Hake, Whiting, Smelt, Snapper, Sole, Steelhead, Sucker, Sunfish, Tarpon, Trout, Tuna, Turbot, Whitefish,
Birds With Clean Characteristics– Chicken, Dove, Duck, Goose, Grouse, Guinea Fowl, Partridge, Peafowl, Pheasant, Pigeon, Prairie Chicken, Ptarmigan, Quail, Sagehen, Sparrow, Swan, Teal, Turkey
Insects– Types of Locusts, Crickets, Grasshoppers
Note– There is a proper way to kill the animal and drain it’s blood as given by God’s instruction in the bible. Today this would be called “kosher” meat, and can be found in health stores and some grocery and specialty stores. The Kosher label should affirm that the animal was killed and drained properly in obedience to biblical instruction. Also understand, even in scientific study- the animals listed by God as “Clean”, are the healthiest for us- while the animals listed as “Unclean” tend to carry toxins and disease.
Swine– Boar, Peccary, Pig, Hog, Bacon, Ham, Lard, Pork, Sausage, Pepperoni
Canines– Coyote, Dog, Fox, Hyena, Jackal, Wolf
Felines– Cat, Cheetah, Leopard, Lion, Tiger, Panther
Equines– Donkey, Horse, Mule, Onager, Zebra
Other– Armadillo, Badger, Bat, Bear, Beaver, Camel, Elephant, Gorilla, Groundhog, Hippopotamus, Kangaroo, Llama, Mole, Monkey, Mouse, Muskrat, Opossum, Porcupine, Rabbit, Raccoon, Rat, Rhinoceros, Skunk, Slug, Snail, Escargot, Squirrel, Wallaby, Weasel, Wolverine, Worm, All Insects except Locusts, Grasshoppers and Crickets
Marine Animals without Fins & Scales– Bullhead, Catfish, Eel, European Turbot, Marlin, Paddlefish, Shark, Stickleback, Squid, Sturgeon, Swordfish, Caviar
Shellfish– Abalone, Clam, Conch, Crab, Crayfish, Crawfish, Crawdad, Lobster, Mussel, Oyster, Scallop, Shrimp
Soft Body Marine– Cuttlefish, Jellyfish, Limpet, Octopus, Squid
Other Marine– Dolphin, Otter, Porpoise, Seal, Walrus, Whale
Birds of Prey/Scavengers– Albatross, Bittern, Buzzard, Condor, Coot, Cormorant, Crane, Crow, Cuckoo, Eagle, Flamingo, Grebe, Grosbeak, Gull, Hawk, Heron, Kite, Lapwing, Loon, Magpie, Osprey, Ostrich, Owl, Parrot, Pelican, Penguin, Plover, Rail, Raven, Roadrunner, Sandpiper, Seagull, Stork, Swallow, Swift, Vulture, Water Hen, Woodpecker
Reptiles– Alligator, Caiman, Crocodile, Lizard, Snake, Turtle
Amphibians– Blindworm, Frog, Newt, Salamander, Toad
God was very specific with how we should treat these ordinances
“Whatever I command you, you must be careful to do. You must not add to, nor take away from it” ~ Deuteronomy 12:32
Because of this, we must be careful that we don’t add to this or take anything away. The Jewish Rabbis over the years have added strict laws that you cannot eat meat and dairy together, nor can you even use the same utensils for both at the same time. These practices are not rooted in scripture, but rather were added by rabbis due to a misunderstanding of a single scriptural verse:
“The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the Lord thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.” ~ Exodus 23:19
Rabbis have taken this one verse, and created a vast number of laws and rules regarding mixing meat and dairy. If we look closely to understand what this means, we find that The proper understanding of this verse deals with the ancient Egyptian and Canaanite idolatrous fertility rite. The liquid (milk), was sprinkled over the fields by the pagans, after the fall harvest, ‘to ensure’ a bountiful harvest from their god or goddess, for next year. God was instructing them to not be involved in pagan rituals, and this had nothing to do with mixing meat and dairy. The Scripture does however reveal that Father Abraham gave God and His two angels (Gen. 18:22; 19:1), both dairy and meat to eat at the same time and that they ate it. In Genesis 18:8 we read:
“And he (Abraham) took butter (cream), and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them, and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat.” ~ Genesis 18:8
So you can see, this was probably the type of thing that angered Jesus when he was alive- that the Jewish leaders would add many rules and laws that were not from God. There is no indication in scripture that there is a restriction from eating meat and dairy together. God’s ordinances were very clear, and there is no clear reference in the bible of this type of restriction. As long as they are both clean (meat & dairy), no law is broken. There is however a clear restriction about eating blood or fat:
“It is a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwellings: you must not eat any fat or any blood” ~ Leviticus 3:17 (see also Leviticus 7:23, 26; 19:26; Deuteronomy 15:23)
Peter’s Dream About Unclean Animals
Christianity today has tried to use the dream of Apostle Peter as evidence that God’s dietary laws are no longer in effect. The claim is that this was a literal dream given to Peter to tell us that we can eat anything now- but through a close study of the entire text, this dream had a very different meaning. Let’s examine this closely:
Peter received a vision before Cornelius’s men came to his home. He “saw heaven opened” and a sheet descending “down to the earth.” It was filled with unclean animals, creeping things, and fowls (Acts 10:11-12).
- When Peter is told to “kill, and eat” these unclean animals he says, “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean” (Acts 10:14). Peter was never taught by Jesus in all the time that they had together to eat anything “common or unclean.” He can’t believe the Lord would tell him to do this as it goes against God’s ordinance. This is a clear indicator that up until this time, Jesus and all of his Apostles obeyed the dietary ordinances of God.
- “Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean” (Acts 10:17). If the Lord literally told him to eat unclean animals, why would he doubt? Wouldn’t the change in dietary laws be obvious? Peter doubted because he knew that the ordinances of God never change, and realized the vision was symbolic—not referring to literal unclean animals.
- When Peter came to Cornelius’ home, he realized, “God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean” (Acts 10:28, emphasis added). The Holy Spirit was given to Gentiles just as He had been given to the Jews on Pentecost. Peter learned that the Gospel message was meant for all the world, not just the Jews. The vision was not about dietary laws, but about giving the gospel message to all—because no one was to be considered “unclean,” or unreachable by Christ’s redemption. The vision used unclean creatures as symbols of Gentile nations now called to come to God through the Gospel. Upon studying this part of scripture, you can see clearly that the dietary laws were being practiced, and that this vision in no way changed those ordinances but rather carried a very different meaning- an expansion of God’s work to the Gentile nations.
So you can see that the laws and ordinances of God remain intact, and Peter in no way changed this ordinance as far as we can see. If he had, he would have said so. There are other texts of contention in the New Testament that have sparked disagreement between Christians, which we encourage you to research deeply on your own. We hope that this page will help you in your study to live a life that is righteous in God’s eyes. There is ample evidence that both the first Messianic Jewish and Gentile Christian congregations observed and obeyed these ordinances that came from God. We are mindful that God does not change, and we believe today is no different. That being said, choosing to eat only clean animals WILL NOT justify us before God. Be careful not to glory in the fleshly things. Remember that we are only justified by grace because of our pitiful humanness, yet out of belief and love for our Father in Heaven we obey his commands to the best of our ability while walking in the Holy Spirit. We live in exciting times where many are being called back to the truth in God’s holy word. We pray that you have strength to obey His will, and the inspiration to share his ways with others.
SPECIAL NOTE: This topic is one of disagreement among many Christians. We encourage you to vet the Word of God for yourself on this matter deeply, and do what the Holy Spirit leads and convicts you to do whole heartedly. YFTUSA discourages division over matters of the law, and rather encourages love for all people while walking with God in the Spirit as it convicts you personally according to His never changing Word. Avoid arguments and vain disagreements about the law that result in anger and strife within the body of Christ, in obedience to the advice of the NT Apostles.