Exposition of Mark 7: 1-23

Mark 7:1 And the Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered together around Him when they had come from Jerusalem,
Mark 7:2 and had seen that some of His disciples were eating their bread with impure hands, that is, unwashed.
Mark 7:3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders;
Mark 7:4 and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.)
Mark 7:5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?”
Mark 7:6 And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME.
Mark 7:8 “Neglecting the commandment of G-d, you hold to the tradition of men.”
Mark 7:9 He was also saying to them, “You nicely set aside the commandment of G-d in order to keep your tradition.
Mark 7:11 but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, anything of mine you might have been helped by is Corban (that is to say, given to G-d),’
Mark 7:12 you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother;
Mark 7:13 thus invalidating the word of G-d by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.”
Mark 7:14 And after He called the multitude to Him again, He began saying to them, “Listen to Me, all of you, and understand:
Mark 7:15 there is nothing outside the man which going into him can defile him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man.
Mark 7:16 “If any man has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Mark 7:17 And when leaving the multitude, He had entered the house, His disciples questioned Him about the parable.
Mark 7:18 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;
Mark 7:19 because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thus He declared all foods clean.)
Mark 7:20 And He was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man.
Mark 7:21 “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries,
Mark 7:22 deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.
Mark 7:23 “All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” (NASB)

We are going to examine these scriptures just read and learn if they abolish the dietary laws of YHVH Elohim. May we now eat everything that is forbidden by the Torah? The specific issue of whether Yahshua abolished kashrut (the dietary laws) has arisen at Mark 7:19 and this is the verse along with those that concern Peter’s vision found in Acts that those that hold the dietary laws are no longer valid will quote: To refresh your memory, let me read verse 19 again: “because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thus He declared all foods clean.)” The conclusion most Christian’s draw from this phrase is that all food, even that declared unpermitted may be eaten. Listen carefully, you will understand from this exposition that He had declared permitted foods clean, but did not declare unpermitted food clean.

The problem lies in Christians not understanding the Jewish roots of their religion, and for lack of knowledge they arrive at wrong interpretations on numerous passages. From the beginning of this chapter in Mark, Yahshua is talking about man’s commandments overlaid upon G-d’s given ordinances and laws. The P‘rushim or Pharisees, the forerunners of today’s traditional rabbis had interpreted the written Torah (First Five Books of Moses) and added among other things additional rules of purity and sanctity. Together these came to be called at first the Tradition of the Elders and later the Oral Torah. Other verses that will help you get a clearer picture of the difference between G-d’s Torah and Oral Torah may be found at Mat 5:17, 12:2-11, 18:18-20, 23:2), and you should read these for yourself. The Traditions of the Elders were committed to writing, notably in the Mishna, in the second and third centuries, expanded in the Gemara in the fourth and fifth (Mishna + Gemara= Talmud) and later in other works.

Mark’s explanation of n ‘tilat-yadayim, ritual hand washing, in these verses corresponds to the details set forth in Mishnah tractate Yadayim. In the marketplace one may touch ceremonially impure things; the impurity is removed by rinsing up to the wrist. Orthodox Jews today observe n’ tilat yasayim before meals. The rationale has nothing to do with hygiene, but is based on the idea that “a man’s home is his Temple,” with the dining table his altar, the food his sacrifice and himself the cohen (priest). Since the Tanakh (Old Testament) requires a priest to be ceremonially pure before offering sacrifices on the Temple altar, the Oral Torah requires the same before eating a meal. Even though Peter states we are a Royal Priesthood in 1 Peter 2:9, and it would seem that we would practice ritual hand washing in the office of the Priesthood, we have no Temple in which to serve, so the question or halachah regarding ceremonial washing is moot.

Another opinion that grows out of these verses is that many Christians think that Yahshua’s answer to the question in verse 5 condemns all of Pharisaic tradition. The fact is that He objects only to those practices of the P‘rushim that place human tradition above G-d’s commands (v.8). In verses 7,8 Yahshua quotes from Isa 29:13 Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: (Oral Torah)

Yahshua does not object to traditions as such, but to your tradition (vv. 9,13)…the operative word is “your,” as shown by His example (vv. 10-13), where a “tradition” is allowed to nullify the fifth Commandment, “honor your father and mother.” The authorities by letting people devote to Temple worship, money they should use to support their parents nullifies G-d’s commandment to Honor your parents. So that you will set this in your mind let us read it again with YHVH’s own words from Isaiah 29:13 fresh in your minds. .

Mark 7:11 but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, anything of mine you might have been helped by is Corban (that is to say, given to G-d),’
Mark 7:12 you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother;
Mark 7:13 thus invalidating the word of G-d by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.”

On the contrary, Yahshua could not be opposing all tradition as such because the Messianic Scriptures itself speaks favorably of its own traditions (I Cor. 11:2, 2 Thessalonians 2:15), and at John 7:37 we have an example of Yahshua honoring a tradition spoken of in the Mishna, but nowhere in the Tanakh. In verses 7:37-39, although it is not mentioned in the Tanakh, Jews then had a ceremony of carrying water from the Pool of Siloam and pouring it into a silver basin by the altar of burnt offering, each day, for the first seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles. On the eighth day this was not done, making Yahshua’s offer of the water of eternal life from Himself even more startling as eight is the number of new beginnings. “New beginnings” should not to be confused with New Testament (Covenant), which is not in the manuscripts and is derived from the Latin Vulgate. We also know He participated in the Festival of Hanukkah also not mentioned in the Tanakh.

In essence just as a country’s legislation should not contradict or supplant its constitution, so too tradition (Jewish, Messianic, Christian) cannot violate or alter G-d’s word (Mat 12:2-11, Mat 18:18-20). However, the Oral Torah comes very close to implying that it can (Bava Metzia 59a, quoted at Acts 9:4); but according to the present passage and others this position is inconsistent with Messianic Judaism. A modern example of man’s traditions or laws supplanting G-d’s Law is the Roman Catholic Church, which holds that church law may supersede G-d’s law.

This brings us to the verse cited in Mark 7:19. The preceding verses were discussing korban, literally “sacrifice,” from the Hebrew word “near.” A korban is something brought near to G-d, and it brings the offerer nearer to G-d. Mark treats korban as a technical term, first transliterating it into Greek and then explaining it as a “gift to G-d.”

Yahshua’s objection is to bad priorities not to eating unpermitted food.. Vows and oaths are not to be used selfishly to give a pretext for avoiding doing what G-d, love, and righteousness require. Compare Mat. 5:33-37, 12:7, 23:16, and see how Yahshua continues this teaching in vv. 12-23. The rabbinic elaboration of the formulas and rules concerning oaths and vows can be found in Talmud tractates Shvu ‘ot and N’adarim.

Yahshua emphasis as pertains to ritual hand washing here is that all foods are ritually clean even if the participants at the meal have not washed their hands. But Yahshua did not, as many suppose, abrogate the laws of kashrut (G-d’s dietary laws) and declare unpermitted foods clean. We must remember that since the beginning of this chapter the subject has been ritual purity as taught by the Oral Torah (man’s traditions and laws) in relation to n ‘tilat-yedayim (ritual hand washing) (vv. 2-4) and not kasrut at all. It is the same pattern found in Acts and Peter’s vision. There is not the slightest hint in these passages that the foods are anything other than what Jews are allowed to eat by G-d’s decree. Neither is kashrut abolished in Acts 10:9-28 or Galatians 2:11:6. Rather, Yahshua is continuing His discussion of spiritual prioritizing (v. 11). He teaches that tohar (purity) is not primarily ritual or physical, but spiritual (vv. 14-23). On this ground he does not entirely overrule the Pharisaic/rabbinic elaboration of the laws of purity, but he does demote them to subsidiary importance. In John 7:22-23 on the halakhic process (legal process) of assigning ranks to potentially conflicting laws, Yahshua is making Messianic halachah. In His analogy He compares the concept of the B’rit Milah (circumcision) and healing on the Sabbath to make a point by pointing out the illogic application of a man-made law. Let me read and observe the process He utilizes.

John 7:22 “On this account Moshe has given you circumcision (not because it is from Moshe, but from the fathers), and on the Sabbath you circumcise a man.
John 7:23 “If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath that the Law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath?
John 7:24 “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”

Yahshua is saying if you can circumcise on Shabbat, a work that is good, isn’t it a little ridiculous to condemn healing a whole man on Shabbat, which is greater. This is called Val k Chomer an argument known in rabbinic literature as “light and heavy.” It corresponds in philosophy to a fortiori reasoning. If A is true then B must be even truer with greater strength.

We should note also that at this point in the text cited, Mark 7:19, the Greek is a dangling participial clause, literally, “cleansing all the foods.” There is no “Thus he declared” in the manuscript, and was supplied by the translators. Interestingly, this phrase is not found in the KJV that unfortunately has errors of translation of its own. The NIV does contain it, but both translations contain in the preceding verse eighteen, words that might be misinterpreted to conform to an unsupported claim that the dietary laws of G-d are abolished. Whatever translation you use there is only one meaning this passage can have, and it is Mark’s halakhic summary of Yahshua’s remarks, which are that the body cleanses all foods we partake of in the digestive tract. With this understanding Yahshua is saying that the human digestive tract cleanses all permitted foods for bodily usage so that hand washing is of minor importance, and the P‘rushim shouldn’t be giving it so much attention. Against this rendering is the focus on personal hygiene instead of ritual purity, which is the topic of the rest of the passage. So we see that Yahshua was talking about ritual purity and not abrogation of kashrut laws.

Baruch haba b’shem Adonai