The Gospels

It is Not What Goes into, Rather What Comes out of, the Mouth that Defiles a Man

The third prong of the Christian defence, are the passages in the Gospels of St. Matthew 15 and St. Mark 7. These passages really should be dealt together, since they describe the same event. So, despite differing in small points, an overall view can be obtained by examining the different viewpoints of the same event. This ‘combination’ or ‘synopsis’ of an event is a key defence of Christianity against the accusation levelled at their Scripture being ‘self contradictory’ or ‘corrupted’. They say there is no conflict if one understands these are simply different viewpoints that account for the gaps in the other’s narratives.

In these passages, the Christians interpret the statement that

‘There is nothing from without a man that entering into him can defile him. But things that come out of him, those are they that defile the man.’  [Mark 7:15; Matthew 15:11]

To mean all restrictions are off concerning what we eat. As in the earlier chapters, I hope to show that this is a gross misinterpretation of Jesus’ statement, and that, rather than making legal what was prohibited in the Torah, actually upholds the Law of Moses against innovation.

Immediately following this verse is a statement of Jesus which I know depict in bold,

‘If any man has ears, let him hear!  [Mark 7:16]

This verse is a huge signal that this is a PARABLE: a story designed to confuse the educated but elucidate the open heart, as Jesus explained,

‘because they, seeing, see not; and hearing, they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them are fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which says, “By hearing ye shall hear, and not understand; and seeing, you shall see but not perceive”.’  [Matthew 13:13-14]

So, when we look at the context of Mark 7; 2-9 and the explanation of the PARABLE in Matthew 15; 17-20, we can come close to an understanding of this statement. Let’s look at this explanation,

‘Don’t you understand yet that whatever enters in at the mouth goes into the belly and is cast out into the draught?’  [Matthew 15:17]

So, whatever we eat, it is processed in the stomach and ejected through the bowels. That which is ejected is obviously defiled, but whatever goes in is filtered, or processed, by our bodily functions, so we take of it only that which nourishes. This is not an absolute, of course, since the imbibing of poison will actually defile the body to such an extent as to make it ill or make it die. But how the food is served up does not alter its composition to that extent.

‘But those things that proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile [koinoi] a man.’  [Matthew 15:18]

Well, this refers to belief and sincerity. If one’s belief and sincerity is mistaken or malevolent, it obviously will defile its target. But what if one’s belief and sincerity is pure and beneficent? Does that defile you? Again, we are not talking in absolutes. The matter is made clear in the next verse.

‘For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness and Blasphemies.’  [Matthew 15:19]

Now what defiles is as clear as daylight. What about what does not defile?

‘These are the things which defile [koinoi] a man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.’  [Matthew 15:20]

Again, what does not defile is as clear as daylight.

Now this is the explanation of the PARABLE, given by Jesus himself. So why do Christians ignore it and give themselves licenses which were not ordained?

A response to this very simple and obvious explanation above is that one cannot pick and choose verses to their liking, but must use the entire dialogue or story to completely understand the message. So let us proceed to do that.

The verses from Mark 7 support, rather than undermine, what I said about the explanation in Matthew 15. Let’s look at them a little closer. I have put in bold significant statements from which I make my analysis.

Then the Pharisees and certain of the Scribes, which came from Jerusalem, came together unto him. And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashed hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brazen vessels, and of tables.

Then the Pharisees and Scribes asked him, ‘Why don’t your disciples walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?’. [Mark 7:1-5]

So, First of all we are given the context.

a)    The disciples ate bread without washing their hands before eating.

b)   The washing of hands is a Jewish Tradition taught by their elders – that is, the scholars of Judaism.

c)    Other traditions of cleaning pots, pans, plates, cups and table surfaces, are of the same kind – Traditions taught by the Jewish scholars.

Bryan T. Huie states that this passage shows a problem arose in the marketplace because the Messiah’s disciples did not wash their hands in the traditional way. Such specialized washing was traditionally for  ceremonial purity, not cleanliness. He says,

“The word translated “defiled” in verse 2 is a form of the Greek adjective koinos. Like many words, this word and the related verb koinoo (along with their variations) can be used positively or negatively. In the positive sense, these related words mean “common,” such as in Acts 2:44 and 4:32, where the disciples of Messiah were said to have had “all things in common.” In a negative context, these words are used to contrast the “holy” with that which is “common,” “defiled,” or “profane.” This is the sense in which koinais is used in Mark 7:2.”  [Here a Little, There a Little, Are All Foods Clean?]

Then the learned men from the Pharisees ask,

‘Why don’t your disciples follow (the Jewish) traditions of the (Jewish) elders?’

He answered and said unto them, ‘Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, “These people honour me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. Howbeit in vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men?”

For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things you do.’

And he said unto them, ‘Full well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your own tradition.’  [Mark 7:6-9]

Please note carefully answer Jesus gives. Does he say, ‘You can lay aside the commandments of God!’?

Indeed he does not. He likens the traditions named (such as washing pots and cups and other things) to “Doctrines of Men”,which they follow instead of the commandments God legislated that they had laid aside. Implicit in the statement is that they do wrong not only in following the traditions of men, but also in rejecting the commandments of God. This is in keeping with his earlier statement when he said,

‘Think not that I have come to destroy the Law, or the prophets. I have come not to destroy (them), but to fulfill (them).’  [Matthew 5:17]

The question has got to be, then, are dietary laws also commandments? James seemed to think so, when he had this letter to the Gentiles written for the proselytizers, in The Acts of the Apostles [Acts 15:28-29]:

The Bishop of Jerusalem’s Letter to the Proselytizers to the Gentiles

Pig is not mentioned there, nor camel or hare, all of which are mentioned as forbidden in Leviticus. However, pig is mentioned (along with these prohibitions) in the Quran, in Surat Al Ma’idah, as follows

Forbidden to you are carrion, blood, the flesh of pig, and that on which has been invoked a name other than God. (Also) that which has been killed by strangling, or stunning, or by a headlong fall, or savaged to death (by animals), or partly eaten (by those animals), unless you are able to slaughter it. (Also) that which is sacrificed on altars (of idols) and the division (of meat) by raffling. [Quran, 5:3]

which indicates that the prohibition against eating pig has never been revoked or abrogated.

‘For Moses said, “Honour thy father and thy mother;” and, “Whoso curses father or mother, let him die the death.”

But you say, “If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban”, that is to say, a gift, “by whatsoever you might be profited by me; he shall be free.”

And you suffer him no more to do aught for his father or his mother; making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which you have delivered: and many such like things do you.  [Mark 7:10-13]

Now Jesus refers to the commandment to honour one’s parents, and NOT take them for granted as if they OWED you what they have given you. This is like the Quranic commandment which says,

Be kind to your parents, whether one or both of them attain old age in your life. Say not a word to them of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honour. And, out of kindness, lower to them your wing of humility, and say, ‘My Lord, bestow on them your mercy, even as they cherished me in childhood’. [Quran, 17:23-24]

telling us We owe Them. Again Jesus says the falling away of the Jews into taking their parents for granted is taking tradition before the commandments of God.

And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, ‘Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand: there is nothing from without a man that, entering into him, can defile [koinosai]  him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile [koinounta] the man.

If any man having ears to hear, let him hear!’  [Mark 7:14-16]

We have the telegraphed indication of a parable, again, to illustrate what causes spiritual defilement, marked by that signal phrase in verse 16. So it needed to be explained,

And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable.

And he said unto them, ‘Are ye so without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatsoever thing from without enters into the man, it cannot defile him, because it enters not into his heart, but into the belly, and goes out into the draught, purging all meats?’ [Mark 7:17-19]

Purging the meat of what? Well, to purge means,

To make physically clean by removing all dirt and waste. [The New Shorter Oxford Dictionary]

It also means “to make spiritually, or morally, pure, or ritually clean” … but how do you make meat morally or ritually pure just by eating it?

Note, “out into the draught” means by defecation or urination, that is; the physical filth that comes out of the man that, instead of defiling him, lets him clean out his insides. In the last part of the chapter, the filth that comes out of the heart (spiritual filth) has the result of defiling, rather the purging, a man.

This seems to be talking of the dirt on meat, put there by using unwashed utensils or unwashed hands, maybe. It reminds me of a narration reported by both Jábir and Anas from the Prophet, who said,

If a morsel of food falls from any of you, he should pick it up, wipe of the (surface) dirt and then eat it. He should not leave it for Satan. [Imam Nawawi from Muslim in Riyádh us-Sáliheen, Chapter 109, n° 751-753]

The Christian says that that is precisely their point. They would say, ‘The LORD Jesus said as much. It wouldn’t matter if you ate wood shavings, THEY DON’T DEFILE YOU. It is the evil in one’s own heart that defiles them. Hence the statement that what goes IN doesn’t defile but what comes OUT. What good is it for a person to eat certain foods but still not love their neighbor as themselves? Jesus was trying to make this point to a generation of people that had lost touch with what GOD really wants from us. They were worshipping a SYSTEM and not HIM.’ For evidence they quote:

‘That which comes out of the man that defiles the man; for from within, out of the heart of men, proceeds evil thoughts: adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and defile the man’. [Mark 7:20-23]

However, I think they miss the point. The system that God is warning us against is the man invented system of religious habits which had become ritual, not the de-establishment of God’s commands and rules of life. He is not saying, through His messenger ‘ignore My commandments.’ He is saying, ‘do not take man made rituals as My commandments.’

So the message seems to be that lawful food has not the power to defile you. It does not say that ‘some foods that are defiled defile you because they are forbidden,’ but that ‘any food, ‘defiled or not by dirt form unwashed hands, or from non-adherence to manmade commandments, would be purged of defilement by passage in the body anyway.’ Rather than a license to eat anything, this seems to be a warning against ignoring the commandments listed in the verse, each of which is regarded as evil in thought.

These commandments are Not to

a) commit adultery

b) fornicate

c) murder

d) Steal

e) Covet (what another has)

These commandments are also broadened into principles, which discourage the people from

a) giving the evil eye

b) deceiving someone

c) blasphemy

d) pride

e) foolishness

f) lasciviousness (greed)

If you still remain unconvinced, Bryan T. Huie points out that  Mark 7:19 is rendered differently in different Bibles. Where most modern translations ends the words of Jesus with “eliminated” (ekporeuetai) and attributes the final phrase to commentary by Mark, the New King James Version attributes the whole verse to Jesus. The former interpretation declares all animals to be edible, in contradiction to Leviticus11 and Deuteronomy 14. But this interpretation, according to Huie, is wrong. He says,

“Why is there a difference between the two? The reason for the differing translations is a ONE letter variation between the Greek manuscript base used by the  NKJV translators and the manuscript base used by the translators of other modern versions (such as the  NASU). The vast majority of the Greek manuscripts of Mark end verse 19 with the conclusion to Yeshua’s statement being “. . . thus cleansing all foods” (Gr.  katharizon panta ta bromata). The “o” in katharizon (καθαριζον, “cleansing”) is the Greek letter omicron (ο). However, a very few Greek manuscripts instead have katharizon (καθαριζων) spelled with the “o” being the Greek letter omega (ω) instead of  omicron. The omega changes the word’s gender from neuter to masculine, allowing for the difference in translation. Without getting into a technical debate regarding Greek grammar or the pros and cons of each manuscript base, the overwhelming textual evidence supports the  NKJV rendering of verse 19 over the  NASU translation. Most Greek manuscripts of Mark 7:19 literally read: “Because it does not enter into his heart, but into the stomach, and into the toilet passes, cleansing all foods.”  It is clear that Yeshua is not declaring all foods “clean” here, because the cleansing process he refers to is digestion, which ultimately leads to defecation. Yeshua’s point here appears obvious: Breaking God’s law defiles a man, not non-adherence to man-made traditions. This parable has nothing to say about eating unclean animals.”  [Here a Little, There a Little, Are All Foods Clean?]


Therefore, we understand that from this, and from Matthew 15, these verses do not constitute permission to ignore dietary Laws and the Commandments of God, but are, instead, a diatribe against the following of man-made doctrines, and an urging to follow God’s Commandments in general, and permission, specifically, to ignore all the rituals of culinary hygiene introduced into the religion by the Jews as innovations. Hence, this is not a specific abrogation against the prohibition of eating pork or meat sacrificed to deities other than God. But it does serve as an abrogation of the various cooking and cleaning rituals that had become established as religiously necessary with the cooking and eating of food.


Read on: The Torah


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