Mark 7 – To Eat Or Wash Hands?

As I mentioned in the last post, the next few posts will deal with food.  Should Christians eat kosher or were all foods declared clean?  Mark 7:19 in many Bibles state all food was declared clean.  There is a problem with this verse though.  One, in the oldest manuscripts the verse does not exist and this is why some version do not include the statement which is usually in parenthesis “Thus He declared all foods clean.”  The second problem is the context.  In Mark 7 the issue is not of food, but of ritually cleansing the hands.  Let’s take a look:

V1-2 – The Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered around Him when they had come from Jerusalem, and had seen that some of His disciples were eating their bread with impure hands, that is, unwashed.

Clearly, these two verses set the stage for the topic at hand.  No pun intended.  Notice the Pharisees and scribes accused only some of His disciples with unwashed hands.  They did not accuse all of them, nor did they accuse Yeshua of doing so.  This leads one to believe that Yeshua and some of the disciples did wash their hands.  Not important to this topic, but something to take notice of.

The next few verses is Yeshua condemning this set of Pharisees and scribes for setting aside certain commandments for their own tradition.  Most people have nothing to argue about in these verses.

v14 – After He called the crowd to Him again, He began saying to them, “Listen to Me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man.

Here in v14 Yeshua, is explaining to them the heart is defiled by the words and actions that come from it.  Not by having unclean hands.  Unclean does not mean dirty here.  They are talking about spiritually unclean.  This practice of ceremoniously/spiritually washing the hands came from the priests in the temple. The priests were commanded to wash their hands and feet before approaching the alter to offer sacrifices (Exodus 30:17-21).  We are a kingdom of priests and are supposed to be holy (Exodus 19:6 & 1 Peter 2:9) therefore some decided everyone should want to ceremoniously wash their hands.  Obviously, this was not a commandment for all, yet some of the Pharisees were more concerned about this than the actual commandments.

V17-19 – When he had left the crowd and entered the house, His disciples questioned Him about the parable. And He *said to them, “Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thus He declared all foods clean.).

Up to this point in the chapter, food was never a point of discussion.  Yet, for some reason someone decided to insert all foods were declared clean.  It just does not fit.  If G-d did declare all food clean, then why does Peter approx. 15 years later state his lips have never touched anything common or unclean?  Some have said, well he just continued that b/c that is what he had done all his life.  I also want to point out, Peter still calls the food unclean.  If he chose not to eat it, that is one thing, but he is still calling these animals unclean.  Why does Isaiah 66, which still is prophesy, state in v17 – Who eat swine’s flesh, detestable things and mice, Will come to an end altogether,” declares the Lord.

Yeshua goes on to show what is defiling a man, his actions, his words.  This chapter has nothing to do with food and everything to do with defiling the heart.

I hope this was beneficial to you.  If you have any questions about this verse or other ones, please let me know.

Until next time…kadosh, kadosh, kadosh is the L-rd!