I recently decided to research if Christians can eat pork. There are different viewpoints on this topic and people have strong convictions on both sides.
Can Christians eat pork? Yes, Christians can eat pork. Jesus declared all foods clean in Mark 7:19. Since Jesus declares all foods clean, Christians can eat pork. Jesus continued to tell the Pharisees and his disciples that it is not what goes into a person’s stomach that can defile him, it is what comes out of a person from the heart that defiles him (Mark 7:14, 18-19).
How did this come to be? What was the cause of this switch from the old laws, to Jesus fulfilling these laws?
Let’s dive in further to find out and learn why Christians no longer have to follow the Mosaic laws of the Old Testament.
Can Christians Eat Pork?
God no longer says we can’t eat pork. All food (that was once considered unclean in the Jewish context) is now considered clean since Jesus declared this in the Gospel of Mark.
Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled? (Thus he declared all foods clean.)Mark 7:18-19
All foods in the Jewish world, that were once considered unclean now are declared kosher (satisfying the requirements of Jewish law).
In Acts 10:15, Jesus spoke to Peter saying that once God calls something clean, one should not go back again saying it is unclean.
Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.Acts 10:15
Jesus was speaking clearly in these passages that it is not about what comes into us from the outside in (that dictate whether we are clean or not). Instead it is about what is in the heart, that comes from the inside out.
Let’s go through this entire chapter in Mark to get a broader picture of what was going on in this discussion with Jesus and the religious leaders.
Viewpoint #1 – Christians Shouldn’t Eat Pork
Why some Christians don’t eat pork could be for a few different reasons. Some eat pork because the Bible forbids eating unclean foods in Leviticus 11 as well as in other places in the Old Testament.
They might believe that those same laws in the Old Testament about not eating unclean foods continue on into God’s laws today. Or they may be Jewish themselves and according to much Jewish laws, pork is forbidden to eat.
According to google, the Torah forbids Jews to eat pork.
The word kosher, literally meaning “clean” or “pure,” refers to food that has been prepared in accordance with Jewish rules and rituals so it can be eaten by religious Jews. » Because the Torah allows eating only animals that both chew their cud and have cloven hooves, pork is prohibited.
This also would include shellfish, lobsters, oysters, shrimp, and clams, because the Old Testament says to eat only fish with fins and scales.
Another rule also prohibits eating meat with dairy, and poultry (domestic fowl, such as chickens, turkeys, ducks, and gees).e.
Kosher meat is allowed but means the meat must be slaughtered without giving pain to the animal (having the animal killed instantly, rather than being tortured or killed in a longer process).
Other Christians, also choose not to eat pork because they are vegetarian or vegan, and believe that harming animals and killing them to eat, is cruel – something they believe God would not want.
There could be many reasons for them believing this, one would be that God originally designed humans to eat only vegetables and fruit in the Garden of Eden.
Then when sin happened, that is when things changes and humans began eating meat. They believe that one day we will not be eating meat in heaven (or the New Earth, and New Heaven), so why eat meat now?
Others (Christians and non-Christians) don’t eat pork strictly for health reasons, believing that pork is unhealthy to eat, so they choose to limit their intake of it or choose to cut it out of their diet completely.
Reform Jews are not required to keep kosher but if they decide to, they can accomplish that by refraining from eating pork or shellfish, or just observing dietary rules at home, rather than when eating out, or by becoming vegetariansCourier Journal
You can read more about Christians and being vegan here.
As Christians, we must also remember that for 2,000 years, Jews have rejected Jesus as the Messiah.
So their views are quite different than our Christian views of who Jesus is. Jesus coming to Earth as Christ the Messiah, taking our place as a sacrifice, defeating evil and death, is the basis of our faith.
However, some Jews don’t follow all of the Jewish law and have believed in Jesus as the Savior who has fulfilled the law and become followers of Jesus themselves. These Christians usually don’t follow the law of not eating pork.
Or maybe these Jews who do follow Jesus, but still chose not to eat pork, do this because of the tradition of their family, or choose not to eat meat as a personal preference, or with respect to their family.
Viewpoint #2 – Christians Can Eat Pork
The reason why some Christians chose to eat pork, is because if you are a Christian, most understand that we go by God’s moral commandments, not the law for the Israelites in the Old Testament.
Because it seems clear Jesus declared all foods clean in the New Testament, we can understand that we no longer have to follow this law in the Old Testament.
However, some believe that this passage in Mark is not about Jesus declaring all foods clean, but that Jesus is speaking in a way where he is sharing a metaphor.
Some believe that Jesus was using a metaphor to explain that purity and righteousness rest in the heart, not in religious rituals or customary habits.
But according to Scripture, Jesus was speaking and clearly stated that he declared all foods clean.
Since it enters not his heart but his stomach and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.)Mark 7:19
And this makes sense because of the fulfillment of the law (Matthew 5:17-20). Jesus’ work is not to abolish the law, but to fulfill them.
This means to fulfill the Law’s intent and show the goal to which it leads… which is Jesus.
Jesus is saying that He achieves the purpose of the Law and the Prophets in the inauguration of the kingdom of His life and ministry and in its consummation at His return. The “law” is valid under the new covenant when used “lawfully” (1 Timothy 1:8), but cannot be followed rightly apart from Christ.Ligonier Ministries
We no longer use sacrifices in the Old Law for forgiveness of sins, because us believing that Jesus came as God’s holy Son, without blame, sacrificing himself for us, to those who do repent and believe.
Jesus was the end of God’s sacrificial system. We now obey God’s demand for atonement by approaching Him through the shed blood of Christ (Hebrews 10:1-8).
Many Christians believe that not eating pork is not a part of the moral law of God’s commandments, but a part of the old law that was fulfilled by Jesus.
The moral law has always been about a heart that should be set apart to obey God joyfully and without hesitation.
The old messianic law was strictly for the Old Testament Jews who were constantly breaking these laws and needing constant forgiveness of sins through animal sacrifices.
The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy SpiritRomans 14:17
For these reasons, many Christians believe they don’t have to not eat pork. We can further this study by looking closer at the context of the passage of Scripture found in Mark 7 about Jesus declaring all foods clean.
A Look Into Mark 7: Jesus & The Pharisee’s Discussion
From the Enduring Word Bible Commentary, I studied this passage in Mark further to find out what Jesus was getting at when speaking to the Pharisees, his disciples, and with other followers of him listening in.
Three points I found from this commentary stood out to me. I will highlight them in bold further down.
First, we can find this discussion with the Pharisees and Jesus, started when the religious leaders came to Jesus about his disciples not observing ceremonial washings (Mark 7:1-5).
The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders.
When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.
So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, ‘Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?’Mark 7:1-5
The religious leaders from Jerusalem had already made up their minds about Jesus and wanted to find fault in him and his disciples.
The aim of these men was to protect Israel from false prophets. In this sense, what they were doing was good. But they went about it all wrong in condemning Jesus from man-made traditions.
“Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders?” the Pharisees asked. But the Pharisees knew that the washings were commanded by tradition, and not by Scripture. Yet, they still criticized the disciples for not following these traditions.
In Judaism of that time they honored the written law. But there was also the oral law, which was written down, but was man’s tradition and interpretation on top of the written law. Many Jewish leaders of Jesus’ time honored the oral law even more than the written law.Enduring Word Commentary
The Pharisees and Jews didn’t eat unless they washed their hands a certain way. A really strict Jew would do this not only during each meal but also during each course (Enduring Word Commentary). They asked Jesus why his disciples didn’t do this.
Here is Jesus’ response (he responded with Scripture):
And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrine the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men. This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of me. You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.Mark 7:6-8
Okay wow, Jesus did not hold back when speaking to these religious leaders. He called them out for being hypocrites for carrying more about traditions, than what God actually says and wants us to obey.
God’s will is for us is to love God from the heart, not by mere traditions from man, or by the Old Law.
Jesus Is More Concerned About the Heart, Than Outward Appearances
I found these three points from Enduring Word Commentary.
- Jesus speaks to the multitude about the mere image of religion.
Because Jesus spoke to them saying that once God declares something clean, one should not go back again saying it is unclean (Acts 10:15), there is no need to uphold to these standards. It isn’t about the image of religion we hold, but about loving God in our everyday actions even when other’s don’t see.
2. Jesus speaks to His disciples about religious externalism.
Jesus explained to His disciples that He is more concerned with the evilness of the human heart, than in them not performing certain rituals or by eating or not eating certain foods.
Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.Mark 7:17-23
Jesus basically says, there is a whole lot of other things we should be worrying about.
What does our thought life look like? Are we constantly wanting what others have? Are we deceiving our own selves? Do we have pride in our hearts that we need to ask Jesus to take care of? Are we carelessly thinking wicked things that lead to being foolish in our actions?
This is what Jesus wants us to take seriously and get right with God.
3. The traditions the Pharisees practiced actually dishonored God.
Jesus said that these people (the religious leaders) honored him with their lips, but their heart were far from him.
Jesus Fulfilled The Law
The written Mosaic laws of the Old Testament were for the Israelites to follow for a time being in order to be clean, to come before a holy God.
God is still the same and is still a holy God, expecting us to come clean before him. But the problem is God’s level of holiness is so far from us, and we can no longer perform sacrifices to cleanse ourselves of sin.
The Israelites would perform sacrifices shedding animals’ blood as forgiveness of their sins before appearing before God.
Now, the promised Messiah has come as the ultimate sacrifice shedding his perfect blood on the cross. This is so we can receive this gift ourselves, and be seen as clean in the eyes of the Lord.
Because God sent Jesus to do this, He is the only way we can come to God. It is nothing we can do or perform, only through Jesus’ work on the cross that makes us clean.
Jesus came not to abolish the law, but fulfill the law so that we can freely come to God.
We are still to take God’s moral commandments seriously. And God still takes our sins seriously. We are to be in constant communication with Him, asking Him to get rid of any wicked thing in us.
Written laws like not eating pork, is no longer something God’s people have to follow. In the Bible, Jesus says He’s more concerned with the heart issue.
To fulfill means to “fill up the Law’s intent and show the goal to which it leads.” The goal is being able to freely come to God to glorify Him all the days of our lives.
When it comes to eating pork, I believe it is a personal choice.
Remember that it is about the heart issue, what are you letting in that maybe you should reconsider? Are you being too lenient with allowing pride, covetousness, or any wicked thought to linger?
Don’t wait, and get your heart right with God today.