Matthew 5:17 Ministries

Real Defilement – Mark 7:14-23

What Is Yeshua Saying?

In discussing ritual and spiritual purity, Yeshua responded to the defilement question in Mark 7:5. He first addressed the crowd with a general principle applicable to everyone and then privately explained it to his disciples. Yeshua’s words suggest that the danger point for humans lies within their internal depths rather than their physical bodies. Essentially, he conveyed that nothing entering a person can make them unclean. But to fully understand the depth of this, let’s look at the passage in Mark.

A Comparison

Mark 7:14-23 TLV

14Then Yeshua called the crowd again and began saying to them, “Hear Me, everyone, and understand.

15There is nothing outside the man that can make him unholy by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of the man that makes the man unholy.”

16[footnote: Some mss. Add: If any man has ears to hear, let him hear.]

17When He had left the crowd and entered the house, His disciples questioned Him about the parable.

18And He said to them, “Are you then also lacking understanding? Don’t you grasp that whatever goes into the man cannot make him unholy?

19For it does not enter into the heart but into the stomach, and then goes out into the sewer, cleansing all foods.”

20And He continued, “It is what comes out of the man that makes the man unholy.

21For from within, out of the heart of men, come evil intentions, sexual immorality, theft, murder,

22adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustfulness, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness.

23All these evil things come from within and make the man unholy.”

Mark 7:14-23 NASB

14After He called the crowd to Him again, He began saying to them, “Listen to Me, all of you, and understand: 15there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man. 16[If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”]

17When he had left the crowd and entered the house, His disciples questioned Him about the parable. 18And 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, 19because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thus He declared all foods clean.) 20And He was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. 21For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. 23All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”

Did Yeshua Declare All Foods Clean?

It’s important to note that some English translations of verse 19 have “(In saying this, Jesus declared all foods’ clean.’).” Translators likely added this verse section as it is not found in the original Greek text. Some translations, like the NKJV, do not have this addition. It’s also important to know that the distinction is not between clean and unclean food but between clean and unclean animals. So we can see that contrary to common evangelical teachings, Yeshua did not abolish the kashrut laws and thus declared ham, lobster, and shrimp, for example, kosher! He essentially declared all foods ritually clean, meaning it was clean even if the participants at the meal had not washed their hands.

The matter of consuming unclean animals pertains to spiritual cleanliness rather than just physical cleanliness. The absence of this terminology in Mark 7 or Matthew 15 implies that the passage does not relate to dietary regulations. Furthermore, there is no indication that the food mentioned in this verse is anything beyond what the Bible permits believers to eat, such as kosher food. Kashrut is not eliminated in Acts 10:9–28 or Galatians 2:11–16.

Clean and Unclean

Yeshua stated that he came to fulfill the commandments, not abolish them (Matthew 5:17-18), indicating his intention to establish, uphold, and execute them. It is worth noting that if Yeshua were discussing clean and unclean animals, he would have to address coming into contact with the dead bodies of unclean animals. However, he does not do so, which would contradict his defense of the commandments in the entire chapter.

If Yeshua were to redefine the differentiation between clean and unclean animals, it would mean altering the biology of numerous creatures and rearranging the entire creation. His blood was not shed to change an animal’s biology so that people could consume pork. The purpose of his blood is to forgive our sins, as mentioned in I John 1:7. G-d uniquely made every animal in creation, and their composition determines their cleanliness. The animals considered unclean were so from the beginning and will continue to be. Despite being unsuitable for consumption, these creatures play significant roles in the natural world.

Spiritual Prioritizing

In his discussion of spiritual prioritizing, Yeshua emphasizes the importance of purity as a spiritual rather than physical or ritual concept (14-23). While he does not entirely reject the Pharisaic and rabbinic interpretations of purity laws, he places less emphasis on them. Yeshua shifts the focus away from external practices and towards the necessity of G-d’s cleansing of one’s heart (as in Psalm 51) to achieve true purity. Rather than being solely determined by external traditions, morality is rooted in one’s inner character and actions.