Food Laws



When I grew up SDA I was taught that it was ideal to be a vegetarian or even a vegan.  Not just that it was better for your health, but that you are a better Christian because your body is a temple so you should eat healthy (1 Cor 6:19).


Secondly, they state that it is not a sin to eat meat in general so it’s your choice.  But that you have to abstain from certain kinds of meats such as pork and shrimp and that it is a sin to eat them.  The code that they follow here is the same as the Jews and can be found in Leviticus 11.  Growing up SDA I happen to have this figured out in a general sense.  I knew that I couldn’t eat pork, shellfish, or duck.  There are a few other particulars but those are the only common “unclean meats” offered in the american diet so I didn’t have to memorize everything.


Though I was not a vegetarian I did follow the Leviticus 11 rules for most of my life.  Before getting started in presenting why it is Biblically permissible to eat or abstain from any particular food I want to address this concept of the body being a temple.  To do so I am going to paste the whole passage so that we can see it in context.


“12 All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. 13 Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body. 14 And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power. 15 Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. 16 What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. 17 But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. 18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.  19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” 1 Cor 6:12-20 KJV


Read through the above carefully, notice that he is speaking about sins against the body, specifically with regards to sexual immorality.  Also notice in verse 13 he precludes food from being included in this classification.  It is clear from the context that Paul is speaking on spiritual matters not carnal ones.  My point is that it is poor practice to make this passage about health in general.  Doing so strips verse 19 from its context.  Eating healthy is a good thing, but no spiritual blessings or curses are promised either way.


Furthermore it is inconsistent on the part of SDA to assert that you must be a vegetarian due to the fact that your body is a temple, but then say it is not a sin to eat meat.  The passage is about sin, so if it applies to vegetarianism then it would be a sin to eat meat.  It is either one or the other you can’t have it both ways.


The New Covenant


The Bible is actually very clear that prescriptive food laws are obsolete in the new covenant.  They served a function and purpose for a time but apply no longer to a New Covenant Christian.  For a full Biblical breakdown on this I recommend reading my post titled The Law of Christ, you can return after breezing through it.  My point is that Lev 11 is not our source for laws anymore, instead we are to turn to the texts of the New Covenant.


“Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” Col 2:16-17 KJV


This verse above is very clear, most notably there is no other first century religion Paul could be referring to other than Judaism.  And the food laws that they followed are the ones detailed in Leviticus 11.  So since Paul is saying not to judge each other for matters of food and drink when he clearly tells us to judge each other righteously with regards to sin in other places (1 Cor 6:2-3) that must mean that the Leviticus 11 food laws are no longer prescriptively binding on New Covenant Christians.


“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;  Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;  Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.  For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” 1 Tim 4:1-5 KJV


Above we see a chain of events starting with people giving head to seducing spirits.  Forgive me, it might be my own life that I am reading into the text here but I have no problem seeing Ellen White at least applying to this verse in principle.  Even without that though, Paul clearly condemns commanding people to abstain from meats as if it were law and then states:


every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving


I don’t know how one with an honest heart can just ignore that.


“And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats? And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.” Mark 7:18-20 KJV


This verse above is a big one for me.  It used to bug me a great deal as a kid because I was reading it in the NIV at the time.  It bothered me so much that I switched to the clear word where all such verses had been removed or altered.  Because of this many SDA prefer the KJV over other versions as this passage in Mark is easier to ignore due to archaic language.  Let’s look at the same verse in the NIV, not my favorite translation but it was the one I first used as a kid so in this case I’ll pick it for that reason.


“Are you so dull?”he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.”(In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them.” Mark 7:18-20 NIV


In the context of defiling one’s self with sin we see that Jesus has declared all foods clean.  In the KJV it uses the word purge, which can be confusing today because purge is most commonly used to describe throwing something away, like to purge files from your computer.  Below is an excerpt from the 1611 KJV found online.




As you can see, in old english it means the same thing as we see in the NIV or any other modern translation.  All foods are being made clean, and it’s no longer a sin to eat them.


Another passage that just put’s this case to rest is found in Romans 14.

“2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.; 3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.; 4 Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.; 5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.; 6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.” Rom 14:2-6 KJV 

Simply put, in a Spiritual sense it doesn’t matter what you eat or what day you go to church on.  Anybody who rejects this is in open rebellion to the Word and needs to repent. This passage is too clear to be interpreted in any other way.


I feel I have made my case on this topic, if there is something you feel I have left out please drop a comment at the bottom.  Before signing off though I am going to address one final thing that many SDA bring up.  It’s more an argument that the laity toss around, you don’t see serious SDA theologians using it.  But for the sake of those whose consciences might be burdened I’ll take a moment to talk about Noah.


In the Book of Genesis God tells Noah to divide the animals clean from unclean, and to bring different numbers of each into the Ark so that they would survive.


“Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female.” Gen 7:2 KJV


This is of course true, obviously since Moses was the one writing Genesis it stands to reason that the meaning of clean and unclean is the same as what we find in Lev 11.  The argument an SDA will put forward here is to say that:


  1. Noah had to divide the animals by clean and unclean.
  2. Therefore he had to follow the Lev 11 laws.
  3. Since such a distinction existed before the ceremonial law…
  4. The conclusion is that such laws must still in effect today.


The problem is that their argument breaks down at #2.  We have no clear verses commanding Noah to obey the Lev 11 dietary laws nor do we see any examples of his following them.  Instead all we see is how many of each he is to bring on the Ark.


Besides that, there are very clear verses that plainly state Noah did NOT keep the Lev 11 food laws.


“And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” Gen 1:29 KJV


Based on the above passage it would be fair to assert that God wanted all humans to be vegetarian after creation.  This is far more strict than the food laws of Lev 11 in that it excludes all meat from the diet.  So if Gen 7:2 were talking about clean and unclean meat for Noah to eat that would contradict Gen 1:29 where he wasn’t to eat any.  It is because of that reason that I think the purpose of “clean” and “unclean” in Gen 7:2 is to classify the animals rather than to give Noah directions on what to eat.


And below is the biggest problem for turning to Noah to rescue the food laws from the Old Covenant.


Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.” Gen 9:3 KJV


There is no escaping that, after the Flood God opens up the menu for all meats.  He doesn’t restrict it again until Lev 11.  Some SDA have complained about this saying that it is not okay for Noah to eat a poisoned frog.  I find this silly because its not a Biblical assertion at all.  Of course it would be foolish for Noah to eat a poisoned frog, but the eating in and of itself would not be a sin.  And for Noah’s sake I would hope that he would clean the poison from said frog before eating, if possible, as that would just be common sense.


I would argue that of all the things SDA get wrong this one is the most obvious.  They really don’t have a Biblical leg to stand on with their dietary restrictions.  I would personally find it refreshing if they changed their position and simply asserted that they choose to keep healthy food practices for the sake of health.  But then that would be a medical conviction not a religious one.



About ACTheologian

I am a layman who blogs my Biblical studies. Enjoy, please read with an open Bible and do double check with your pastor.
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29 Responses to Food Laws

  1. Melini Moodley says:

    The problem is that their argument breaks down at #2.  We have no clear verses commanding Moses to obey the Lev 11 dietary laws nor do we see any examples of his following them.  Instead all we see is how many of each he is to bring on the Ark.

    i Anthony, I think you made a typo that needs to be fixed. I’ve quoted the paragraph above. I think you meant “Noah” but wrote “Moses”?.
    Also thanks for pointing out that Noah was completely vegetarian until Genesis 9 so the distinction between clean and unclean had nothing to do with his diet at that time. I had never thought of this before and that is why I enjoy reading your posts. It makes me think about things that I may have missed or not considered.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Evin Tucker says:

    “I knew I couldn’t eat pork, shellfish, or duck.” Duck actually IS kosher.


  3. Evin Tucker says:

    How does 1 Corinthians 6:13 preclude using this verse in the context of diet? It simply appears to be making a statement. Also, I know Adventists who will reply to Mark 7:19 by saying that “Jews didn’t consider unclean meats to be food.”

    That being said, this is a good commentary. My only argument on the food laws is that the gospel is about the condition of our souls, not our bodies.


    • Armchair Theologian says:

      Irrespective of whether or not Jews considered unclean meats to be food Mark is very clear as to their disposition in light of Jesus teachings.

      There really is no getting around the verse except to ignore it.


      • Evin Tucker says:

        How does Mark make their disposition clear?


      • Armchair Theologian says:

        since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.)
        Mark 7:19 ESV

        All foods. If he was excluding unclean foods then the statement has no meaning.

        Specifically he identifies clean food, the opposite if which would be unclean. So if you’re saying mark is teaching us that Jesus just made all clean foods clean I think that would strip Marks commentary of meaning.


  4. Evin Tucker says:

    Mark 7:19 was not included in the texts that the KJV was translated from, but earlier manuscripts have been found that do contain the verse. Because traditional SDA doctrine is based almost entirely on the KJV (and always has been), they can conveniently ignore this verse because the translation they rely on doesn’t have it.


    • Armchair Theologian says:

      Actually the KJV does have it. It just uses the word purged and in modern English the meaning is missed. But the textus receptus does have the verse. Look at it in the MEV, a modern translation using the textus receptus. It’s there see:

      since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.)
      Mark 7:19 ESV


  5. Elisabeth Williams says:

    From the context in Genesis 8:20 it becomes clear that the distinction of clean and unclean animals given at the flood was for the sake of the sacrifices. Noah sacrificed only clean animals after he had left the ark.


  6. Stranger says:

    So do you believe we will be eating meat in heaven?


    • ACTheologian says:

      No idea to be honest. The Bible doesn’t speak to this.


      • Stranger says:

        Well okay, do you think that there will be death in heaven, either of people or of animals?


      • ACTheologian says:

        Like I said, it’s not something I speculate about. We will find out when we get there.


      • Stranger says:

        Interesting. When I read the Bible it seems obvious and not speculative. We can read how in heaven the lion will even lie down with the lamb. There appears to me to be a clear depiction of no more death. Revelation 21:4 specifically says no more death or mourning the old order of things will pass away.
        I’m curious as to the parts of the Bible that might cause you to be unsure? What scripture causes you to believe it would only be speculation?


      • ACTheologian says:

        I’m not comfortable assuming that no death for humans is the same thing as no death for animals. Maybe you are? I won’t. And I certainly wouldn’t draw any conclusions off such an assumption even if I was willing to make an exception.

        Does the Bible teach that animals have souls? No. Who atones for their sin? How do they repent and receive forgiveness? Who committed original sin for animals to make it pass down through their lineage to today? Should I baptize an animal?

        These are not biblical categories for animals. They are for us though. So I would distinguish on some level a difference between death as it pertains to animals and death as it pertains to humans.


      • Stranger says:

        But I’d like to understand more of what you are saying based on the Bible can you give some scripture that presents these issues? As scripture says the Lion lays down with the lamb, that doesn’t happen now unless the lamb is dinner, so there appears to be a great difference. All the old order of things pass away, not just some of them.
        How about in the Garden of Eden? I believe that Christ’s return will be the start of a restoration of what the Garden of Eden was before the fall. So was their death of any kind in the Garden? Death of people? No we agree on that, but death of animals? And can you support your difficulty with scripture? I’m just trying to understand better.


      • ACTheologian says:

        That’s fine. Don’t ask me to give you scripture on something scripture doesn’t speak to. I will address the ones you cite though.

        I believe that we should interpret apocalyptic texts as if they were apocalyptic texts. By that I mean, we should respect the genre and read them figuratively rather than literally. The lion with the lamb passages are regarded as apocalyptic narrative. So I don’t understand it as a literal lion and lamb, also, I hold to amillenialism which means I don’t even read those passages as being about heaven (the eschaton).

        Agree or disagree, as you can see there is more between us on such passages than we are going to overcome in an exchange of comments on wordpress. If you want to read my post on the millennium and discuss that there I can drop a link for you below this paragraph.

        I don’t believe the eschaton is a return to eden, or even a restoration. I would instead say that the eschaton suprpasses eden, it will be better. Agree or disagree, obviously I’m not going to be moved by conclusions you’re drawing from a restoration thesis.

        We don’t see animals eating from the tree of life in the garden of eden, so I would assume that they did undergo some form of entropy. It’s a logical assumption not an exegetical one. As I stated above, there is no scripture specifically stating either way. So just as you would be wrong to dogmatically assume they didn’t die I would be wrong to dogmatically assume that they did. We are however free to speculate how logic leads us.

        I believe that in situations where you cannot clearly exegete a thesis then you shouldn’t base any conclusions on said speculation as doing so would make your conclusions contingent them.

        For example, if you speculate that animals did not die, that’s fine, but you can’t then say based on said speculation that animals will not die in heaven either. Conversely, I cannot say that because I speculate animals did die in eden that I think they certainly will in the eschaton. What you have there is two assumptions. Now we end up weighing assumptions against each other, it’s a fools errand.

        Instead we should concede we don’t know, and base prescriptive conclusions regarding vegetarianism on all the clear prescriptive passages in scripture commanding it to new covenant Christians. Of which there are none. Alternatively, we have many passages prescriptively saying we can eat whatever we want as I cited in the blog post we are commenting on.

        I think dogma based on speculation is sloppy theology. Maybe we disagree on that. But if that’s the case they maybe this is what we should be talking about instead of vegetarianism.


      • ACTheologian says:

        Hey friend, I noticed you haven’t had the time to reply. That’s fine. I saw this passage the other day and thought of you though. As I explained above, O hold to amillenialism. So I would read this as pointing to Jesus first coming as he conquered death and hell on the cross. I respect those who prefer a second coming referent though as it also allows for that. You seem to read all of these as being about heaven. So I’m curious what your take is.

        The Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; A banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, And refined, aged wine. And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples, Even the veil which is stretched over all nations. He will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord G od will wipe tears away from all faces, And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; For the Lord has spoken.
        Isaiah 25:6‭-‬8 NASB

        Notice they are eating meet and drinking aged wine. Thoughts?


      • Stranger says:

        I don’t see where from Isaiah you are suggesting they are eating meat. Seems to me that the description of marrow according to strong’s could represent that we are eating well with friends or companions, or it could mean even vegetable marrow. You narrowly assume it means meat, maybe because you already have a picture that includes meat.

        I think it’s more interesting that he swallows up death. Because of your existing view you narrowly assume again that only death for people is swallowed up, but there are no such limitations placed on the text. Swallowed up death implies all death, which means there could not be any meat. Just as in your perceived view implies meat is okay you say that the Bible doesn’t state whether there was meat eating before sin. But we know that death came as a result of sin, not just death of humans but death as a whole. The first animal that died, was killed by the hand of God to make coverings for Adam and Eve. I guess to your point it doesn’t state that categorically, and if you want to hold to a certain belief you can wish away all implications of the texts.

        This is an interesting discussion none-the-less. It is interesting to see how other people view these things. I also found it interesting you choose NASB as the translation of choice here. Maybe because it translates the ‘aged wine’? Based on the original text I’d suggest that the ‘aged’ portion is incorrect, it really seems to be talking about drink of feasting, and it further suggests that drink as pure, refined, clarified. I’d have a hard time stretching that to mean alcoholic, but again we’d get into preconceived beliefs.


      • ACTheologian says:

        Right, a feast of vegetable marrow and grape juice. With respect I think you’re tap dancing around the text. First off vegetables can be marrow but they don’t have marrow. The text says choice pieces with marrow. Pieces of what?

        Did ancient Hebrews consider vegetables to have marrow? Think it through.

        Other scholarly versions say aged wine as well. And in the KJV refined often means to ferment. Remember the old English. So with respect it’s not a matter of opinion. You’re just misinformed.

        Thanks for responding though.


      • Stranger says:

        Your current worldly view of feasting and drinking may require flesh and alcohol, but that doesn’t mean that a person can’t enjoy feasting with friends and pure grape juice as a celebration. Jesus Christ works in me to deny self, and to redefine my preconceived notions. (regardless of what the “translations” may say)
        When I was in college I used to think the only way to party was to get drunk and use drugs. But my taste buds have changed. No one has misinformed me, it is of my own study. Maybe you don’t have the same convictions, but it’s definitely not a matter of Old English or KJV or any of the translations. Many of these are influenced again by people with their own preconceived ideas about what is or is not acceptable. Looking at the words used by Isaiah in Hebrew, and looking at their meaning, looking at the context, looking at the life of the prophets. I convicted of a different interpretation, I guess only the Holy Spirit can inform of the correct interpretation.


      • ACTheologian says:

        Try to hold back the arrogance a little better. To assume it’s worldly you must first assume your eisegesis of the text is correct. Which only compounds the fallacy. Also you’re not addressing any of the points I raised or your anachronisms. If you take the time to do so I’ll allow the comment and respond.


  7. Pingback: Do not call unclean what God has called clean… | Armchair Theologian

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