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Author Topic:   Did Jesus Declare All Food Clean?
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Message 1 of 2 (608734)
03-13-2011 6:49 AM

In Jesus: A Profile, Alan Watson argues that, contrary to popular translations, Mark 7:19 does not actually say that Jesus declared all foods clean, and that Jesus most certainly never made such a declaration.
For the technical aspects of the argument, Watson makes mention of a translation difficulty with the text in Mark 7:19 that supposedly states Jesus to have declared all foods clean. The verses in question are these (since translation differences are important, I've included two translations for comparison and italicized the significant parts):
Mark 7:18—19 (NRSV):
He said to them, 'Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?' (Thus he declared all foods clean.)
Mark 7:18—19 (KJV):
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 his belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?
According to Watson, the KJV translation is to be seen as more accurate, as he says:
Watson in Jesus: A Profile (1998):
Even more to the point, Mark 7:19 does not in fact say, "Thus he declared all foods clean." The Greek καθαρίζων πάντα τὰ βρώματα contains nothing akin to "he declared." The problem emerges clearly when we look at the discussion by C. S. Mann. He translates, "So (by saying this) he declared all things clean." But he candidly admits to a difficulty: "But the translation we have given depends upon supplying 'by saying this.'" But any such interpretation is impossible in the absence of something like "he declared" or "by saying this"and there is no justification for their addition. The Greek that I have quoted is better translated literally, "purging all meats," as in the King James Version: [quoted above]. The text is dealing with the physical effects: what is eaten is purged by the body. Still, whether one takes as the correct reading καθαρίζον or καθαρίζων "purging," the phrase cannot properly be constructed. (pp. 64—65)
Thus, from the text, the part of Mark 7:19 translated in the NRSV as '(Thus he declared all foods clean)' is difficult to reconstruct as an actual declaration of the cleanness of all foods; and even when so translated, the words are far from attributable to Jesus himself.1
For the theological and textual interpretative aspect of the argument, we can look to a few facts brought up by Watson:
  • Jesus never otherwise makes a pronouncement directly against God's law as set out in Scripture.
  • Such a teaching by Jesus would have caused a sensation not mentioned or recorded.
  • Along with the rest of the related passage (i.e, 7:14—15) Jesus appears not to be declaring as clean food of a species declared unclean by God, but only declaring that food of a clean species did not become unclean by contamination (the teaching was spurred, after all, by a question on hand washing).
  • Jesus' supposed declaration is never cited or mentioned in the early debates between Jewish and Gentile Christians over food laws.
These points, along with the problematic translations, seem to weaken the position that Jesus did in fact declare all foods clean. All together, it certainly leaves the matter open to ask the question: did Jesus really declare all foods clean?
1 Regarding the quibble over καθαρίζον or καθαρίζων, I know nothing of Greek; the presence of anyone who could explain that specific would be greatly welcomed in this thread!
Watson, A. (1998) Jesus: A Profile. Georgia: UGP.
Edited by Jon, : Edit to fix signature glitch...

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Message 2 of 2 (608747)
03-13-2011 10:12 AM

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