It should not be a great surprise to anyone studying or evaluating the kosher dietary laws, principally contained in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14, that the question “Is eating kosher really healthier?” is something commonly asked. There is little doubting how the Hebrew Scriptures are materialistic, in the sense that normal human activities like eating or drinking, are not to be looked down upon or spurned.
How do any of us, in a still-emerging and still-maturing Messianic movement, sort through some of the issues regarding “kosher”? How do we get a little more realistic about what we see among the Jewish and non-Jewish Believers within our faith community, remembering that not all people share the same views as we do, and allow for a little more grace and mercy to come forth—rather than any unfair or unnecessary condemnation? How many of our challenges have been caused by an insufficient or under-whelming handling of Bible passages—versus having been caused by an under-whelming level of spiritual maturity on behalf of too many people?
There is little doubting that within the broad Messianic community, there can be huge debates over the application of the Torah’s dietary laws. Most frequently, as has been our family’s experience, the perspectives surrounding kashrut have been too quickly polarized into the realms of those who keep “Biblically kosher,” versus those who keep “Rabbinic kosher.” Those who keep “Biblically kosher,” are those who often have eliminated pork and shellfish from their diet, but at the same time will often buy commercially processed meat at the supermarket, will not look for a hechsher or approved Jewish seal on many food products, and will eat out at most restaurants (perhaps even including fast food). Those who keep “Rabbinic kosher,” are those who will only purchase traditionally slaughtered meat, will look for a hechsher on most food products, will not eat out at most restaurants, and will observe practices such as not mixing meat and dairy, having multiple sets of dishes and utensils.
Observing and/or adopting kosher eating habits is admittedly one of the most difficult things for many Messianic Believers to do. There are many theological arguments made from the Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament) that when viewed a particular way, can seem to suggest that the importance of the dietary laws was rendered inoperative via the work of Yeshua the Messiah. Once a person has overcome many of these theological hurdles in his or her Messianic quest, and sees the validity of the dietary laws in the Bible and how the Apostles continued to eat a degree of kosher, the question of how one is to follow them in a Twenty-First Century world needs to be asked.
The statements made by God in Genesis 9:3-7 are delivered after the Flood is completed, and humanity now has to rebuild itself. In most Messianic examinations of Noach (Genesis 6:9-11:32), we often overlook what is being said here, for a variety of reasons. Vegetarian man is now told by the Creator that he is allowed to eat meat, something previously prohibited, with some specific stipulations on what to do with animal blood. Much of our avoidance of this section is likely because many Christians today use Genesis 9:3-7 as a proof text to show that while Noah and his family were allowed to eat meat, they seem to be told to eat the meat of any animal, which would presumably include those that would later be specifically classified “unclean.” It is thus asserted that the laws of kashrut given in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 were only temporary instructions for Ancient Israel that Noah did not have to follow.
Is this really what is asserted in Genesis 9:3-7, or is there more at work in the text that may be eluding us? What does this part of the early Genesis story tell us about animals for food, human beings, and the need to respect blood? Why did God extend permission for people to eat meat?
J.K. McKee of Messianic Apologetics discusses the place that the dietary laws play in the Torah practices of today’s Messianic Believers, common objections issued to their ongoing relevance, and constructive ways that Messianic people can sanctify their diet.
Much of the Messianic community has promoted what it considers to be “Biblically kosher,” which primarily begins and ends at not eating pork and shellfish. In traditional Judaism, however, what it means to be kosher is much more involved than observant Jews not eating certain meats labeled to be “unclean.” Kashrut involves classification of unclean meats to be sure, but also involves some significant traditions regarding the butchering of animals, how meat is to be prepared, what can and cannot be eaten together, separation of utensils and cookware—as well as a variety of theological and philosophical reasons proposed for the institution of these Biblical instructions, and their subsequent interpretation and application over the centuries by Jewish religious authorities and diverse Jewish communities.
J.K. McKee of Messianic Apologetics goes through the study questions for Ch 6 in the Messianic Beginnings workbook:
1. What verses in the Torah does Peter quote from where the Lord says “you shall be holy for I am holy”? What is some of the context of “holiness,” knowing its Torah background?
2. What is the Hebrew term kashrut derived from?
3. What was the first commandment given to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden?
4. Describe what the forbidden fruit might have been like in light of the Hebrew word ta’avah.
5. Do you or do you not believe that there was an understanding of clean and unclean prior to the Noahdic Flood? Why or why not?
6. Do you think that the Tanach (Old Testament) meaning of “food” carries over into the Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament)? Why or why not?
7. List some of the land animals, marine creatures, and birds that people eat today which are considered unclean according to the Torah.
8. What is the interpretation of Peter’s vision of Acts 10, given by Peter himself?
9. What aspects of your diet do you think may have to change?
10. What do you think about those who defiantly oppose the dietary laws in light of Isaiah 66?