Jesus Kept Kosher (prof. Daniel Boyarin)

In his talk “Jesus Kept Kosher” Prof. Daniel Boyarin argues that Mark 7:19 passage “Thus He (Jesus) declared all foods clean” has been misunderstood.

Daniel Boyarin is a professor of Talmudic Culture at University of California at Berkeley.  There is a saying that goes something like this: “Religion exists to comfort the disturbed, and to disturb the comforted.” When I think of this saying I think of Daniel Boyarin.

To watch this fascinating 15 minutes movie, please, click HERE.  You will not be disappointing. I guarantee it.


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Dr. Eli Lizorkin-EyzenbergTo secure your spot in our new course “The Jewish Background of New Testament” - CLICK HERE NOW

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  1. Johannes

    I argue below, on the basis of linguistic and contextual considerations, that the traditional interpretation of Mk 7:19 is far more probable.

    To that purpose, I will bring into consideration a passage of the Acts of the Apostles in which Peter, while staying in Joppa (Jaffa) with a certain Simon, a tanner, “went up on the housetop about the sixth hourb to pray. And he became hungry and desired to eat, but while they were preparing, he fell into a trance and saw the heavens opened and a certain vessel like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth, in which were all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of heaven. And a voice came to him: “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!” But Peter said, “In no way, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.” And a voice came again to him for the second time: “What God has cleansed, do not call common.” Now this took place for three times, and immediately the vessel was taken up into heaven.” (Acts 10:9-16).

    First, let us note that, in the original Greek text, the heavenly statement in Acts 10:15,

    “Ha ho Theos ekatharisen, sy mē koinou.” = “What God has cleansed, do not call common.”

    has the same transitive verb as Mark’s understanding of Jesus’ teaching in Mk 7:19:

    “katharizōn panta ta brōmata” = “purifying all foods”

    Thus, if we wanted to achieve full linguistic consistency, we would have to translate both instances as either “cleanse” or “purify”.

    Now, since Acts was written by Luke, I need to find a strong contextual link between this passage and Mark that makes it highly probable that Mark had this passage in mind when writing his Gospel. And Acts itself provides that contextual link, as we will see next.

    Let us recall that, immediately after having this vision, Peter went to Caesarea to the house of a centurion Cornelius to announce the Gospel to them, after which the Holy Spirit had to descend visibly on Cornelius and his family to overcome the mental resistance of Peter and his companions to baptizing Gentiles (Acts 10:44-47), and that, on Peter’s return to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers took issue with him saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” (Acts 11:2-3), upon which Peter had to justify himself by narrating the events in detail (Acts 11:4-18). While this passage does not say where exactly that conversation took place, we know that shortly afterwards Peter, on being released by an angel from the prison where king Herod Agrippa had put him, “came to the house of Mary the mother of John, who is called Mark, where there were many having gathered together and praying.” (Acts 12:12). Therefore, it is highly probable that Mark heard directly from Peter his detailed narration of the events in Joppa and Caesarea, and it is 100 % probable that he heard it from either Peter or one of the direct listeners, so that either way he had Peter’s vision of Acts 10:9-16 in mind when, a few years after, he wrote in Mk 7:19 his interpretation of Jesus’ teaching in Mk 7:14-23.

    Thus, given that in Peter’s vision the heavenly voice had stated that God had cleansed the contents of the vessel, “in which were all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of heaven”, which implies that God had abrogated the Deuteronomical kashrut laws, the most probable interpretation of Mk 7:19 is as meaning that Jesus was abrogating those Deuteronomical laws, not just declaring invalid the pharisaic oral traditions about purity.

  2. Woka

    I’m quite late in adding a comment to this blog…but, maybe because of my own ignorance, I find it almost impossible to deny. First I will say-Thank you! so much for these studies – I’m so grateful to you, Dr. Eli, for sharing them with us. I was raised by a Christian mother whose life was a consistent, loving follower of Christ. There was never a bias against the Jews EVER in word or deed…so my attitude was – this is family..even if they don’t realize it yet :>) I don’t remember any direct teaching but in my heart – my “center” has always been…Jesus WAS the Torah come in flesh, as John wrote, “The Word made flesh and dwelt among us…” We humans had proven over the centuries we would never be able to keep a promise of salvation if it was dependent on our behavior. God…am I correct in saying that one of the definitions here would be “wholly giving Love with understanding”? …..HAD to provide a simpler, more complete way to provide redemption to the children He had created. The written Torah/Word was too difficult and heavy – but now – in His own Son – the Word became flesh and those who believed in Him – the Torah made flesh – would become His children. (John 1) This would be His vehicle for “one new man” – not just-some the old, not just -some the new – but in total….one new man – as all came to understand and believe. For this reason I have not seen the need for practicing Kosher although I have high respect for those who do…but if I am missing something important in the question of whether to or not…I’d appreciate having a better understanding.

  3. Deborah

    I am new to this blog and have been reading it with great interest. I am a great advocate of knowledge and knowing scripture. I am rather amazed at some of the comments and how wrapped up in intellectual mazes people become. Jesus came ,not to abolish the law, but to fulfill the law. It seems that all the discussion misses an essential truth. The Old Testament laws were designed to make people acceptable to God, to belong in His family. He desired the Jewish people’s hearts just as they had His heart. Over and over again God shows us that when the Jews turned from Him, He disciplined them and then would seek to win their hearts again by saying “then they will be my people and I will be their God.” The rules and laws were just about impossible to keep fully showing the people that they could not gain salvation by their own efforts. All the sacrifices in the world could not give them eternal salvation. Then comes Jesus whose sacrifice was the final sacrifice. He gave himself that we could have forgiveness of sins and eternal life just by believing Him and being His disciple ( doing His Will). He fulfilled the law by giving us the means to true and lasting salvation: it was by His actions that we gained salvation. He emphasized that the kingdom of God was about what was in our hearts and that our actions should be a result of our hearts. Keeping the law without love had no meaning in God’s economy. God knew we could not keep all the laws out of simple obedience and thus He gave us Jesus. We are saved by grace, not because of anything we do but because of what Jesus did for us. He says ‘if you love me, you will keep my commandments.” That love starts with Jesus, is initiated by Him and it is what propels us forward to know Him more and more.

  4. Kat

    What laws are included in this covenant?
    “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

    1. Brad Thompson

      Who is more righteous, a person who prays and studies Torah in isolation, or a person doing G_d’s Will when they are going about their daily business? Answer may provide insight into Jeremiah 31:33. Prayer and studying G_d’s Word are good and necessary, but also need to be follow-up with acts of kindness toward our neighbor. It’s not all about prayer and knowledge of G_d’s Written Word. We need to exercise our new found understanding and knowledge of G_d via Good Deeds. All three are required as taught throughout G_d’s Written and Living Word. Love of G_d in our heart is one of the greatest gifts. This leads to a knowledge of G_D.

      1. Kat

        The one who is more righteous is the one who has sought “his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). The law becomes internal rather than external ((fruit of the Spirit Gal 5:22). What I learned from second law (prior to hearing the gospel) is that we can’t love God without loving our brother ( this completing my faith in God). What does this have to do with food? I have been taught that a food choice is an individual choice blinding me to the many social and economic impacts, but they were a community.

  5. Katy

    sorry I didn’t edit that before it got submitted but Yeshua was actually a very strict Rabbi,his parents kept all the traditional Jewish feasts and traditions. He actually was a strict Pharisee who stated if you look at a wam with lust you have committed adultery with Her already. The only time that he actually broke a sabbatical law was when it came to saving a life. he spoke against the temple as it was under Roman occupation and was a pressing the people with the over taxation andother human rights and social justice issues

  6. Katy

    I think a possibility could be after theRoman captivity with the majority of the new testament was written in Greek had influences of the Greek culture including Sunday worship etc. established by the Roman catholic church. A lot of the Scriptures are in the Vatican along with other artifacts that were in King Solomon’s Temple. but the encouraging thing I find is as the messianic age is John close people are going back to Hebrew and the feast days

  7. Kostya

    I humbly disagree with the professor. My main points:
    1. Jesus upholding the law is not the point in his criticism of the scribes and Pharisees in the first part. Jesus is pointing out their hypocrisy.
    2. It is sufficiently clear from the text that a parable is not just a story with a moral. The use of it here is in the sense of a proverb or dark saying that needed to be explained. Jesus refers to it and explains it in vv18-19
    3. The hermeneutical key that Boyarin does not use that makes it all clear is that Jesus is the Messiah, and all that implies.
    4. I do not see why Peter as a Jew believing in Messiah, would have a problem in adding ‘ thus he declared all foods clean.’v19

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Kostya, hi. Its been a while, good to see you back on the blog :-). Do read Boyarin’s Jewish Gospels where he makes a better argument than he does here. I also suggest that you listen to it 2-3 times on video (it took me a wihle to get it too). The problem is not in “thus he declared all foods clean”, but in where we place the accent. We usually place on “thus he declared all foods clean”, while I think it should be “thus he declared all foods clean”. It makes a huge difference. In the first version he says to the Jews of his time – YOU CAN NOT EAT A HAM SANDWICH, in the second he says – DON”T INTRODUCE NEW LAWS THAT GO AGAINST THE TORAH (Washing of hands).

      1. Kostya

        Hag Sameach Eli! I kept my last post to a minimum because it was restricted to 500 characters – a real challenge!
        I have listened to the video six times, since you first posted it originally. It does not get much clearer each time unfortunately. I will read Boyarin’s Jewish Gospels as you suggest.

  8. Hayden Borrell

    Dr Eli

    I read your emails as it relates to the translation of Hebrew and Greek words and it has created a profound hunger to know more. however, I have some questions. Is your course of study accredited? Is it a degree; a BA or a Masters program? what is the authenticity of the program’s you offer? I am not saying that the information shared is erroneous, but how am I to know that it isn’t? Hiw much would it cost me to do both the Hebrew and Greek courses? Could these courses be done online? I am really eager to learn more. I hope you can be off assistance. The reason for my quest for this knowledge is because I want to understand what God said and is saying in his word. I await your feedback.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Shalom, Hayden.

      You wrote: “Dr Eli, I read your emails as it relates to the translation of Hebrew and Greek words and it has created a profound hunger to know more. however, I have some questions. Is your course of study accredited? Is it a degree; a BA or a Masters program? what is the authenticity of the program’s you offer? I am not saying that the information shared is erroneous, but how am I to know that it isn’t? Hiw much would it cost me to do both the Hebrew and Greek courses? Could these courses be done online? I am really eager to learn more. I hope you can be off assistance. The reason for my quest for this knowledge is because I want to understand what God said and is saying in his word. I await your feedback.”

      Good to hear from you. All of our Ancient Langauges programs (Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek) are already accredited by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel’s Harvard). Jewish Background of New Testament and the Jewish Gospel Courses are not yet, but will be (I am the author of these courses).
      I am not sure what you mean by something being erroneous? Do you mean accurate?

      You can read some endorsements here –

      If you are interested send me your phone number and country I will forward it to the admissions center that will contact you with the rest of the details at

  9. Tom

    This is my first time on this blog though I have been interested in your course for some time.

    I watched the video a couple of times. Dr. Boyarin’s descriptions of Jewish practices of the time, e.g.. the significance of “honor,” were very helpful. However, I found his overall thesis unconvincing. I own almost all of the best-regarded Christian commentaries on Mark. None of them argues that Jesus set aside the whole of Torah in this passage nor that vv. 9-13 are an interpolation. The story of the practice of Corban is perfectly illustrative and supportive of the Isaiah passage Jesus quotes. Verse 19b applies to dietary laws only. Whether the rest of Torah still applies is not settled by Mk.

    1. Tom

      My statement re: owning most Christian commentaries on Mark is in reply to his statement “most Christian scholars.” I wish he had offered a citation.

      1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

        Tom, I think you can look up everything you own on Mark 7 and you will see the same old same old there. Sadly he is right.

    2. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Well… they don’t and they do. Jesus teaching that an Israelite can now eat pork (that is how most do interpret Mark 7) amounts to setting aside Torah. Now that is not to say that this means that Christians think that Torah is devoid of value of course not. But this is not what Boyarin is saying I don’t think.
      By the way he makes a far clear argument about this in his only book for popular audience “The Jewish Gospels”.

  10. Robert Fruehling

    Whether Y’shua kept kosher or not is a mote point. He fulfilled all of the Law though Himself.
    I am more than a little bothered by the seeming unfamiliarity with the Writings of the New Testament.
    1 Corinthians 8: 8 “But food does not bring us near to God; we are not worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.” Romans 14: 17; “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
    I really doubt that at the Gate of Heaven Y’shua is going to ask if one went to Red Lobster.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Dear Pastor Robert, hi. Thanks for your reply. I of course passionately disagree that whether or not Jesus kept kosher (in biblical sense of course) is a mute point (unless is you meant moot point) :-). I don’t think at all that you should be bothered by Jesus’ teaching that upholds the Torah including kashrut, etc. when it comes to Israelites (after all Jesus was not writing as Paul did all of his letters to non-Jews/Gentiles). You are quoting Paul who is talking to Gentiles who were already fully in Jesus and did not understand that that is all they needed.

      Let me challenge you though a little here. I agree with you about the “red lobster” comment (for the non-American’s among us this Red Lobster is a food chance that serves deletions sea food among other things much of it is not kosher). But Jerusalem council did rule that there are some types of foods Gentiles can not eat. Look it up it is in Acts 15 plain and clear. So, while non-Jews (just as in what today has become a normative Judaism) were set free from the obligations of Christ-following Jews (Apostles and Elders of the Jerusalem Council), they were CERTAINLY not given permission to everything.

      Check it out the council (as it seemed good to the Holy Spirit) has degrees otherwise.

      Once again the main confusion here (and I say this respectfully) is between Jesus’ teaching to the Israelites/Jews and between Paul’s statements to the non-Jews who wanted to follow Jesus. They should not be mixed as they normally are.

      1. Robert Fruehling

        Eli, Thanks for the reply. I have trained with Jews for Jesus and Chosen People Ministries so I have studied these passages.
        1. If the Vail of the Temple was torn revealing the Holy of Holies, direct access to Father God. What could food add to that?
        2. Ephesians compares Jews and Gentiles as “one new man”, and “…by abolishing in His flesh the law with is commandments and regulations. Eph. 2: 14-18”
        3. Does not even the Talmud say that in the time of war the Law of Kosher can be suspended?
        The State of Israel has never been at peace with all its neighbors.
        4. Hebrews states that God, HImself found fault with the Old Covenant, therefore He made a new one. Jeremiah 31/Hebrews 8.