POSTED 01 NOVEMBER, 2017
“Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited. We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat.”
Hebrews 13:9-10 is a frequently referenced passage, alongside of Mark 7, Acts chs. 10 and 11, Romans 14, Colossians 2:16-17, or 1 Timothy 4:1-5, to claim that the kosher dietary laws of the Torah are a thing of the previous, pre-resurrection era. Most Messianic people, when encountering Hebrews 3:9-10 quoted to them, are caught completely off guard, and do not know what to do. While it is common for various Christian examiners to conclude that Hebrews 13:9-10 demonstrates a negative disposition toward kashrut, it needs to be observed that there is a wide number of Hebrews commentators who are hesitant to draw such a conclusion, and are not so sure that clean and unclean meats is the issue being referred to. It cannot go unnoticed how there are those, who while thinking that the dietary laws are in view for 9:8-10 previously, do not think that they are in view here, and would definitely propose that something more targeted for Hebrews’ audience needs to be considered.
A rather general approach to the issue described here, as stated by the NIV Archaeological Study Bible, is that “‘Ceremonial foods’ is a reference to the legalistic teachings of the Judaizers (see the note on Gal 1:7).” Pamela Eisenbaum interjects the still rather general statement, in the Jewish Annotated New Testament, “Regulations about food [is] perhaps a reference to Jewish dietary laws or to the issue of meat offered to idols (see Act 15; 1 Cor 8).” Another thought, as noted by B.B. Blue in the Dictionary of the Later New Testament & its Developments, is that “This may be a reference to partaking in Jewish cultic meals.” It needs to be steadfastly remembered, as William L. Lane directs, that “Vv 9-14 constitute one of the most controversial passages in Hebrews. The major thrust of the text easily becomes lost in the obscurities of proposals and counter-proposals.” Paul Ellingworth similarly sates,
“Vv. 9-14 have given rise to a wide variety of interpretations, and a final choice between them cannot be made until the whole passage has been examined. The basic problem arises…because the writer refers allusively to a situation which was well known to the first readers, but of which modern readers are largely ignorant.”
The Christian layreader of Hebrews 13:9-10 is most likely to see the author’s reference to “foods,” and then immediately conclude that the dietary code of the Law of Moses is being disparaged. The Messianic reader of Hebrews 13:9-10, even with what is in view involving “varied and strange teachings,” is not too likely to know what to do with this passage. Various Hebrews commentators, as will be seen, have offered some useful perspectives regarding what might have been the problem for the epistle’s First Century recipients.
When the subject of kosher, kashrut, or the dietary instructions of the Torah or the Law of Moses come up in various contemporary Messianic settings, there can be a tendency for some strong emotions to arise. The broad Messianic spectrum represents a diversity of views on “kosher”—ranging from the dietary laws being abolished and only to be observed as a part of Jewish culture, to people advocating a strict adherence to many Orthodox Jewish rulings and practices, to a kosher style diet where people mainly avoid pork and shellfish. At times, there has been an over-amount of attention given to the minutiae of keeping kosher, and not enough time given to some of the significant Biblical passages which either inform us about kosher or have been traditionally interpreted to say that kosher has been abolished for the post-resurrection era. And more than anything else, maintaining an appropriate, Messiah-centric attitude toward all of this, is most imperative. There have been far too many extremes represented regarding the issue of the dietary laws, at times, and not enough reasoned discussion. Too many people have issued accusations against others, and not enough have tried to inquire of both the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Spirit, what is perhaps important about this issue. Human beings have to all eat, after all!
The Messianic Kosher Helper includes a wide breadth of material, addressing a wide array of topics associated with the Torah’s dietary laws. This publication has been divided up into two main parts: The Significance of Kosher and A Theology of Eating and Kosher. You will be able to detect a progression of sorts, in our family’s own approach to the subject matter, as some things are addressed first more generally and then more specifically. In our experience, we ourselves have certainly had to move from a more elementary view of the issue of kosher, to a more developed view, and we recognize how the Messianic community needs to do the same.
It is important to remember how Leviticus 11:44 says, “For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy” (cf. 1 Peter 1:16)—a concept which is directly connected to clean and unclean meats. But, if following this is not enjoined with a better appreciation and understanding of a steadfast mandate for all of us to have clean minds and hearts, imbued with the presence of God’s Holy Spirit, demonstrating the love of Yeshua to all—then outward holiness will not have been joined with the more critical inward holiness. If, however, we learn how to separate external things which are clean and unclean—then perhaps we can also learn, with God’s help, how to separate clean and unclean thoughts, ideas, and attitudes, being mature men and women in Him, and empowered on many different levels for service to His Kingdom!
This is a massive collection of material, well needed for every Messianic home and congregational library!