Dietary Laws

Another dividing difference among Christians are the dietary laws of the Old Testament. The Seventh Day Adventist denomination stands out as an example of a church that goes against the mainstream thinking of the Christian body regarding the requirements to follow the Levitical dietary laws.

Simply put, most Christian churches and denominations believe that the following biblical passage demonstrates the early Christian message that all of the Levitical laws, including dietary laws, were no longer in force in the new Jewish sect called Christianity:

Now on the morrow, as they were on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour: and he became hungry, and desired to eat: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance; and he beholdeth the heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending, as it were a great sheet, let down by four corners upon the earth: wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts and creeping things of the earth and birds of the heaven. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common and unclean. And a voice came unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, make not thou common. And this was done thrice: and straightway the vessel was received up into heaven. Now while Peter was much perplexed in himself what the vision which he had seen might mean, behold, the men that were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon’s house, stood before the gate, (Acts 10:9-17)

In the above account Peter is praying, and had a vision. In the vision he saw all kinds of beasts that were forbidden to eat according to Levitical law. In the vision the Lord commanded Peter to kill and eat of these “unclean” animals. Peter replied that he had never eaten anything unclean. And the Lord answered Peter, saying, that he shouldn’t call things unclean that God has now made clean.

The vast majority use this verse as their biblical basis for saying that it is now acceptable to eat pork, birds, reptiles, and any other food that was previously forbidden under Levitical law. After all, in the vision the Lord instructs Peter that the animals are now clean and it is okay to eat them.

However, some churches, including the Seventh-day Adventist denomination, say that this verse does not refer to eating laws. They say that the clear context of this verse is who is acceptable to be saved. Previously, only Israel contained God’s chosen people.  Now they say, because of these verses which are an analogy, all people, even those who had previously been unclean, are eligible to be God’s people.  They say the verse is clearly an analogy used only to identify to Peter that the Gentiles he is about to meet are now “clean” and that he should witness of them just as he would to a Jew.

Furthermore, the dietary laws are presented as food guidelines that, like the principle of resting on the seventh day (the Sabbath), are simply principles that God instituted for the benefit of mankind.

© copyright 2011 Mark W Smith, all rights reserved.

Scroll to Top