Vol. 8, No. 7
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According to scholars, Jesus was crucified on Friday, April 7, A.D.30. According to Paul, Jesus, as he died, "nailed" the entire Law of Moses "to the cross" (Colossians 2:14). Until Moses' law was nailed to the cross, Jesus cancelled not one command in Moses' law, saying, "Indeed, I assure you, until the heaven and the earth disappear, neither the smallest letter in the law, nor the smallest part of a letter, shall pass away before all things are fulfilled" (Matthew 5:18).
In the Law of Moses certain foods were prohibited, notably pig meat (Leviticus 11:7-8; Deuteronomy 14:8). Before Jesus died, while the Law of Moses was still in effect, Mark's words "all foods" are "clean" (katharizon panta ta bromata, 7:19), have caused some to say that Jesus would not and did not make "all foods" as legal. Indeed, those words were omitted by the scholars who gave us the King James Version (1611). However, the scholars giving us the New King James Version (1979) have corrected their predecessors' mistake, saying that Jesus was "purifying all foods."
An E-mail correspondent says that "Most translations do not" include the words "He declared all foods clean." On the other hand, besides the KJV, my limited bookcase has only one other translation that omits the words, namely, the Living Oracles by Alexander Campbell (1826). All the rest of the translations in my bookcase (eleven in number) do include the statement that all foods are clean: ASV (1901), RSV (1952), PME (1958), NASB (1960), NWT (1961), NIV (1973), SEB (1978), JNT (1979), NEB (1961), NRSV (1989), CEV (1995).
The E-mail correspondent asks, "Will it surprise the reader to learn that" the words about clean foods "are not in the original Greek?" In my bookcase all four copies of the Novum Testamentum Graece, "New Testament Greek" (1941, 1952, 1966, 1979) in Mark 7:19 have katharizon panta ta bromata, "cleansing all the foods." In 1971, Bruce M. Metzger, professor of Greek in Princeton University, wrote: "The overwhelming weight of [Greek] manuscript evidence supports the reading katharizon ['cleansing']. The difficulty of construing this word in the sentence prompted copyists to attempt various corrections and ameliorations" (A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, p. 95).
Thus the evidence back to the first century concludes as Mark has written, "In this way he [Jesus] declared all foods clean" (7:19). Jesus was looking ahead to his "new covenant" (Hebrews 8:8), "the time of the new order" (Hebrews 9:10), when God would say, "Do not call common what God has cleansed" (Acts 10:15; 11:9).
But the prohibition in Moses' law forbidding certain foods was still in effect, even "the smallest letter in the law," and "the smallest part of a letter," and would stay in effect until "all things" in Moses' law were "fulfilled" when Jesus died and nailed the law to his cross (Matthew 5:18; Colossians 2:14). In the "new covenant," all foods are good and clean and none is prohibited (Romans 14:1-4; Colossians 2:16; Titus 1:15). The words in Mark 7:19 were not true when Jesus spoke them, but were anticipatory. Jesus was looking ahead to the "new covenant."
Jesus made another anticipatory statement which was not true when he spoke it until the time of the "new covenant" (Hebrews 8:8). He was asked, "Does the law [of Moses] permit a man to divorce his wife for any reason?" (Matthew 19:3). As Jesus looked ahead to the new covenant, he replied: "Have you not read that the Creator at the beginning made them male and female? And he [the Creator] said, 'For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh,' so that they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, let no man separate what God has joined" (Matthew 19:4-6).
Then a second question Jesus was asked: "Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and release her?" (Matthew 19:7). Jesus replied, "Moses, because of your hard heart, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And, I assure you, that whoever divorces his wife, except for fornication, and marries another, commits adultery" (Matthew 19:8-9).
Thus Jesus showed that in his "new covenant" (Hebrews 8:8), "a time of reformation" (Hebrews 9:10), he was not going to endorse Moses' law on the privilege of divorcing, a law given to people whose hearts were "hard," but he was going back to God's law at "the beginning" of the human race.
When was Jesus' law about marriage and divorce to be put into effect? Not until "all things" about Moses' law had been "fulfilled," and nothing was to be changed, not even "the smallest letter in the law, nor the smallest part of a letter" (Matthew 5:18). But after the complete end of the old, and the beginning of the "new covenant," then Jesus' law about marriage and divorce became valid.
Thus Jesus made statements about foods and about marriage and divorce in anticipation, in looking ahead, for the "new covenant."