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Clean/Unclean only Ceremonial?

Some say it is so


                               Jim Sorenson

                        From Answers Magazine 1984

THE BIBLICAL BOOKS written by Moses contain a set of laws
concerning which animals were fit for food for God's people. What
was the purpose for this instruction? Are these laws of Clean and
Unclean Meats still in effect for Christians today?

Leviticus 11:1-7, "And the Lord spoke unto Moses and to Aaron,,
saying unto them, 'Speak unto the children of Israel, saying,
These are the beasts which you shall eat among all the beasts
that are on the earth. Whatsoever parts the hoof, and is
clovenfooted, and chews the cud, among the beasts, that shall you
'Nevertheless these shall you not eat of them that chew the cud,
or of them that divide the hoof: the camel, because he chews the
cud, but divides not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. And the
coney, because he chews the cud, but divides not the hoof; he is
unclean unto you. And the hare, because he chews the cud, but
divides not the hoof; he is unclean unto you.
'And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted,
yet he chews not the cud: he is unclean to you.' "


It has been argued by some that the Hebrew word translated
"unclean," tameh (Strong's number 2930 or 2931), really signifies
"ceremonially unclean" and therefore the dietary laws were for
Israelite ceremonial purposes only, and not for Christians today.
(Exposition 109, The Dietary Laws of the Bible. Ernest L.

But is this teaching true? Does tameh mean "ceremonially
unclean?" The answer can be found in the Bible. By using the
Englishman's Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance of the Old Testament,
we can find all the places in the Bible where this Hebrew word is
used. Checking in this reference, we find this word is not always
translated "unclean," but is also translated "defiled." By
following proper Biblical principles of letting the Bible define
the meanings of the words that it uses, there are at least two
scriptures, Leviticus 18:23 and Ezekiel 22:11, that are enough to
prove that tameh does not always mean "ceremonially unclean."
Leviticus 18:23 - "Neither shall you lie with any beast to
'defile' (tameh) yourself therewith: neither shall any woman
stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion. "
Ezekiel 22:11, "And one hath committed abomination with his
neighbor's wife; and another hath lewdly 'defiled' (tameh) his
daughter in law: and another in thee hath humbled his sister, his
father's daughter. "

Do such abominations only make the sinner ceremonially unclean?
Does this question even need to be asked? Obviously tameh means
"unclean" or "defiled." It CAN mean "ceremonially  ritually
unclean," but it is NOT LIMITED to this meaning.

In Biblical times it was possible to become ritually unclean" by,
for example, touching that which was unclean. This uncleanness
prohibited the Israelites from involvement in various religious
practices that were otherwise required (Numbers 6:11, but even in
this there was reason and purpose, not an arbitrary, unreasonable
demand of God for no purpose such as we find in the ceremony of
the pagan religions. One major purpose was to continually remind
the Israelites of the purity of God and the need for man to be


God says in Leviticus 19:2, "You shall be holy: for I, the Lord
your God, am holy." Does this imply holiness for ceremonial
purposes only? Let's see what "The Theological Word Book of the
Old Testament" has to say on this subject. Vol. 1, page 6 article
tameh, number 809: "Whatever theories are adduced to explain the
laws of uncleanness, the scriptures themselves emphatically
associate them with the holiness of God. The so-called Law
Purity (Leviticus 11-16) was placed side by side with the Law of
Holiness (Leviticus 17-26). In the passage which lists unclean
foods, the holiness of Yahweh is emphasized as the reason for
avoiding unclean foods. The regulations regarding cleanness set
Israel apart from other nations. These were object lessons of
God's holiness which could not co-exist with the uncleanness of

The "authoritative" book, "The Jewish Religion," by Friedlander,
page 456, states: "We must take care that we do not consider 
these precepts exclusively as sanitary regulations, however
important such regulations may be. We must not lose sight of the
fact that Holiness is the only object of the Dietary Laws
mentioned in the t Pentateuch."    


Of course the reason for the laws of clean and unclean was given
for "holiness." But what is "holiness?" Are not the two words
"holiness" and "defiled" opposites? There is nothing ceremonial
about these opposites. God is Holy and commands man to be holy,
undefiled. (1 Peter 1:19). A pure and undefiled man comes only
through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, by being washed with His
blood. (Revelation 1:5). But does His sacrifice give us license
to defile ourselves? (Romans 3:31; 6:2,15). Does it take a man
with an IQ of 180 to understand that when you are defiled, you
are unholy, and that unholiness is the same as unrighteousness
and all unrighteousness is sin. (I John 5:17). Sin that is not
repented of and covered by the blood of Jesus Christ will take
you into the lake of fire.


But is holiness the only object of these laws? Israel was not a
spiritual nation. Israel was a physical nation with physical laws
- physical laws to make it physically clean, physically holy, for
physical reasons, to fulfil physical promises. This was not
ceremony. There were no promises to ancient Israel in ceremony;
the promises were for obedience. These promises were physical,
and the breaking of physical laws reaps physical punishments.
(Deuteronomy 11 and 28). Do we need to be told that the laws of
clean and unclean meats were given for health purposes? Is God
required to spell out every reason for each law? We are not told
that lepers were separated from other people so that the disease
wouldn't spread to others, yet when this law (Leviticus 13:46)
was broken in the Middle Ages, leprosy became rampant and was not
brought under control until the Catholic Church enforced this
Biblical law and separated those with the disease. Do we have to
understand "why" before we obey? Where is our faith? Knowledge
and understanding come with faith and obedience.


It is now possible, after centuries of faith, to show by science
that certain animals are not fit for human consumption. This is
possible through a urineisaliva test developed by Dr. Carey Reams
which can actually tell by the chemistry of your body when you
have eaten unclean meat, that this unclean meat is harmful to
your health. Dr. Reams explains it with the analogy of putting
hi-test airplane fuel in your automobile. It may run for a while,
but the fuel will burn out your engine. (Health  Guide for
Survival, by Salem Kirban, pages 46-50).


And what about the actual diseases many of unclean animals carry,
of which trichinosis is the most commonly known? Physical curses
promised to ancient Israel for disobedience to the laws that God
gave to them.
Deuteronomy 28:22 - "The Lord shall smite you a consumption, and
a fever and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning..."
Verses 27-28 - "The Lord shall smite you with the botch of Egypt,
and with the emerods, and with the scab, with the itch whereof
you cannot be healed, Lord shall smite you with madness, and
blind and astonishment of heart." Verse 35 - "The Lord shall
you in the knees, and in the legs with a sore botch that cannot
be healed from the sole of your foot unto the top of your head."

What are the diseases mentioned here? Are cancer, heart disease,
rheumatism, arthritis, and other degenerative diseases among the
curses described? Since modern man disobeys these laws of health,
is there a connection to this disobedience and to diseases that
are becoming and more recognized as being related to our diet?
Some forms of madness, hyperactivity in children and even some
criminal tendencies can be traced to nutritional problems.
You need to think about the answers to these questions. I believe
that when God pronounced curses upon man, it was because He had
already built into man what the results of this disobedience
would be. He does not need to intervene. YOU defile your OWN body
with the meat of unclean animals. You, or your children or your
children's children will reap what you sow.


Many of the laws considered "ritual" can be found in the same
book and chapters of the Bible as those laws that are not
"ritual." One way to distinguish the difference is that the
ritual laws usually mention a time period of uncleanness. It is
common for someone to confuse the two - to recognize, for
example, that there is a time limit placed upon certain ritual
laws, and then apply that to the laws of unclean meat. A CLOSE
reading of these laws of clean and unclean animals in Leviticus
11 will not show any time element associated with these laws.
These animals are simply unclean, not to be eaten. Those laws
that are ritualistic or ceremonial speak of the MAN as becoming
unclean for a specified time. This is one important distinction
that you must be aware of to keep from being lead astray by those
who misapply scriptural understanding, or those who do not wish
to obey the commandments of the Almighty.


Answers Magazine 1984

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