Why don't Christians keep kosher?
September 25, 2005 10:10 AM   Subscribe

Why don't Christians keep kosher?

I'm not very familiar with the new testament or Christian doctrine, and I've been wondering why the church does not promote a kosher diet. Jews can point to Leviticus as a source for the rules of keeping kosher. Christianity recognizes the old testament, and Leviticus is used as a source for a variety of church teachings (e.g., opposition to homosexuality, divorce, etc), but not this. Judiasm and Islam both have similar dietary restrictions, yet Christians do not. Why? I'm looking for pointers to church doctrine, biblical verses or similar.

Please don't turn this thread into an argument about the merits of a kosher diet or an argument about religion in general.
posted by i love cheese to Religion & Philosophy (14 answers total)
Christ came and fulfilled the law, is what I've heard. Therefore neither the dietary, nor any other Laws in Leviticus and elsewhere, need to be be followed.

That's why the christians don't keep kosher (another question altogether is why do they cite leviticus at all).
posted by dash_slot- at 10:13 AM on September 25, 2005

Here's my Christian understanding:

When Jesus came as Saviour, he created a new covenant- a new way for people to be in relationship with God. A lot of the old rules (kosher) were not necessary anymore, because Jesus obliterated the old covenant for all those who accept them as Saviour. In the New Testament, Romans 4-6 provides Paul's take on the old covenant vs. the new.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:18 AM on September 25, 2005 [1 favorite]

I think dash_slot- is on the right track. The old testament has been basically superseded by the new testament. Most significantly, all this eye-for-an-eye or sacrifice-your-son-if-God-commands-you-to crap has been certifiably revoked through the teachings of Christ.

Those you cite Leviticus are for the most part just a bunch of weirdos who are completely out of touch with the core tenets of Christianity.
posted by sour cream at 10:21 AM on September 25, 2005

Whether old testament or new, christians have many internally conflicting interpretations of the bible. That they conflict with jewish interpretations is inevitable.
posted by mischief at 10:23 AM on September 25, 2005

Matthew 15:11: "not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man, but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man."
posted by smackfu at 10:26 AM on September 25, 2005

About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat."

"Surely not, Lord!" Peter replied. "I have never eaten anything impure or unclean."

The voice spoke to him a second time, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean."

Acts 10 (9-15)
posted by thirteenkiller at 10:26 AM on September 25, 2005

Yeah, there is actually a NT verse where it states Jesus declared all foods clean.

Without getting into an argument here, while the ceremonial laws have already served their purpose, the moral directives (such as not committing sexual immorality) stand. As Christians we are to follow the Spirit-and actually in a way it really is a higher standard. The Law dealt with outward actions, while now we are judged by our attitudes and our heart.
posted by konolia at 10:48 AM on September 25, 2005

the moral directives (such as not committing sexual immorality) stand.

Even this is debatable, konolia. There are many "moral directives" in the OT which are comfortably ignored by modern Christians. Most Christians take a very interesting "pick-and-choose" attitude when using OT verses that suit their political needs.
posted by Miko at 11:33 AM on September 25, 2005

There is nothing unclean of itself.
- Romans 14:14

Nevertheless, these shall ye not eat, of them that chew the cud
or of them that divide the cloven hoof; as the camel and the
hare, and the coney; for they chew the cud, but divide not the
hoof, therefore they are unclean unto you. And the swine,
because it divideth the hoof, yet cheweth not the cud, it is
unclean unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, nor touch
their dead carcass.
- Deuteronomy 14:7,8
posted by The Jesse Helms at 11:46 AM on September 25, 2005

Yeah, there is actually a NT verse where it states Jesus declared all foods clean.

yes, but it really depends on different Christologies' emphasis in the different Gospels. don't you find interesting that Matthew, when quoting Mark's passage, quickly deletes the "(Thus he declared all foods clean.)" aside? Matthew even goes as far as writing that every part of the Law is to be kept until the End of days (Matt. 5:17-18)

the fact is, Jesus (again, we sense a pattern here) didn't actually settle this issue. the early Christian communities were split very bitterly on this topic (just like they were split on circumcision -- were non-Jews required to get cirucmcised when they converted? see the Jerusalem meeting in Acts between Paul and the Pillars, the one that saved billions of Christian men's pee-pee's from the mohelim knives).

anyway, an interesting summary that answers your question is here:

Reader's Guide to Meals, Food and Table Fellowship in the New Testament
Meals, food, table etiquette and commensality remained a constant problem in the traditions ascribed to Jesus and in the history of the early Church. The remark above from the Clementine Homilies indicates the potential of commensality to symbolize group boundaries as well as social conflict. In regard to foods, one of the three customs which characterize Judeans, a kosher diet, was abrogated first by Jesus (Mark 7:19) and then by the early Church (Acts 10:14-16; 1 Cor 10:23-27). In Acts, Peter's vision of unclean foods descending from heaven (10:9-15) functions as a cipher for a further discussion of impartial membership in the church (10:28-29, 34). The change from a restricted to an open diet, then, symbolizes for the disciples of Jesus a change in membership, from an exclusively Jewish group to one which included Gentiles as well (Acts 10:28; 15:23-29). The longest piece of exhortation in Paul's first letter to Corinth deals with diet, namely, the eating of meat sacrificed to idols (1 Cor 8 & 10); this issue and the foods of participants at the Lord's Supper (1 Cor 11:17-34) have major social repercussions in the community. Diet, or what one eats, can serve as an identify mark (e.g., pasta, egg rolls, goulash, etc.), and so functions as an important social clue.

As regards Jesus' own eating customs, his choice of table companions, his disregard for washing rites preceding meals, and his unconcern for tithed bread all provoke controversy with alternate religious reformers. According to Luke 14, Jesus gives instructions for table etiquette and fellowship which fly in the face of custom. Paul, too, had much to say about the eating habits of the Corinthian community (1 Cor 8:7-13; 10:14-11:1; 11:17-34). He speaks to a different kind of problem in Rom 14-15, but one that also has to do with food, commensality, and group identity and unity. Paul criticized Peter's eating practices in the celebrated confrontation at Antioch (Gal 2:11-14). Conflicts between Paul and Judaizers over kosher food play a major role in the struggles noted in Phil 3:19. The issue of commensality was formally addressed in the instruction to Gentiles that they observe the Noachic dietary regulations (Acts 15:20, 29). Thus meals, table etiquette and commensality were major social concerns for Jesus, Paul, and the early churches.

also, let's hear it from Elaine Pagels:
Take, for example, Paul's bitter argument with Peter. Most Christians take Paul to mean that the Torah given to Israel has become obsolete; followers of Jesus can forget about circumcision and kosher laws. But a few scholars, including my colleague John Gager at Princeton, suggest that Paul meant that while Jews should continue following Torah, Christ opened up a new way of salvation especially for Gentiles. I wish that I thought this more ecumenical view was what Paul meant--but I suspect it wasn't: no wonder they call Paul the "founder of Christianity."
posted by matteo at 11:50 AM on September 25, 2005

Matteo: interestingly enough, at least one Victorian philosemite, the evangelical novelist Charlotte Elizabeth [Phelan Tonna], argued that Jews who converted to Christianity should nevertheless continue to keep kosher.

The common Christian distinction between "ceremonial" and "moral" laws does not, strictly speaking, exist in rabbinical Judaism. Obviously, different Jewish sects have different attitudes to the meaning and historical relevance of the laws, with Reform Jews often adopting a position similar to that of the Christians; see, for example, the Jewish Encyclopedia and this Wikipedia article.
posted by thomas j wise at 12:28 PM on September 25, 2005

Without getting into an argument here, while the ceremonial laws have already served their purpose, the moral directives (such as not committing sexual immorality) stand.

Surely this requires and arbitrary (and very convenient) distinction between which laws are "moral" and which laws are "ceremonial"? Apologies for being crude, but if "what goes into your mouth" is a ceremonial law, why is "what goes into your butt" a moral law?
posted by Jimbob at 6:12 PM on September 25, 2005

matteo - wow! Thank you. This is an issue that has irked me for years, but for which I never really sought answers. It actually has become HUGE in my life as of late and you have given me a great reading plan. Thank you.
posted by caddis at 6:30 PM on September 25, 2005

The Law is meaningless.
The heart is the Truth.

Deal with other folks the way you want to be dealt with.
Be kind and considerate, love your fellow human.
Show compassion for others.

Pretty much everything else is something someone tossed in the pot in order to make you feel less worthy and therefore easier to manipulate for material reasons. But note, the above, observed properly, will preclude certain things you simply should not do, such as hatred and the seeking of revenge.

Rejoice and wage peace. Love, be loved, and make love, but wish no harm and bring no harm, on anyone.

There you have your basic Christian conduct. Simple to learn, you can spend a lifetime striving for perfection. But this leaves out the spiritual part, without which, as positive as it is, it is dead.
posted by Goofyy at 12:36 AM on September 26, 2005

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