Does Mark 7:19 Point to Unclean Meats?
Jesus said, “because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?” (Mark 7:19). The issue here was not about clean or unclean animals but rather regarding the washing of hands before eating. Let’s read the previous verses in the same chapter: “And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault…Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?” (Mark 7:2, 5).
The scribes taught that eating food without a special ceremonial washing defiled the eater. The context (verses 1–14, 20–23) deals, not with biological uncleanness, but with uncleanness supposedly taking place from the omission of ritual washing (verse 15). The kind of food the disciples ate (verses 2, 5) is not even mentioned here, but only the way in which they ate (verses 2, 5, 15).
Throughout His teachings, Christ deals with the problem of the “commandment of God” versus the “tradition of men” (verses 5–15, 19). Jesus said the ceremonial washings were meaningless in relation to the heart. In verse 19, He lists certain evils–murders, adulteries, thefts, etc. Then, He concluds, “These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man” (verse 20).
Bromata (Greek) – Food
It should be noted that the Greek word bromata, translated “meats,” means simply “that which is eaten,” “food,” and includes all kinds of food; it never refers to the flesh of animals as distinguished from other kinds of food. To limit the words “purging all meats” to flesh foods and to conclude that Christ here abolished the distinction between clean and unclean flesh used as food (Leviticus 11) is to ignore completely the meaning of the Greek.
In His service,