A growing number of American doctors are recognizing the value of following a Biblical diet. Dr. Josh Axe, a certified doctor of natural medicine in Nashville, Tennessee, says, “All throughout the Bible, references are made to the medicinal properties of foods and herbs. Representing health and longevity from Almighty God, the importance of diet and of preparing and eating food was oftentimes seen as a spiritual act.”
Indeed, Scripture says that your body is the temple of God. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” (1 Cor. 3:16-17) Similarly, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” Are we glorifying God in our body if we pollute it with unclean things?
Dr. Axe lists the “Top 10 Bible Foods with Healing Properties” as follows: Olives and Olive oil (for heart, brain, skin and joint health), pomegranates (anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-obesity and anti-tumor properties), grapes and red wine (anti-oxidant and flavonoid containing resveratrol), flax (omega-3 essential fatty acids, lignans and fiber), whole sprouted grains (enhanced vital nutrients), milk (to prevent anemia and bone demineralization), lamb (rich in nutrients), herbs (detoxification), vegetables including cruciferous (glucosinolates to prevent cancer), and honey (probiotic).
The late evangelist Billy Graham had a different view. “The dietary laws for Israel recorded in Leviticus, chapter 11, which include, for example, a prohibition against eating pork, were given for specific religious and, perhaps, health reasons. The New Testament, however, makes it clear that observation of these Old Testament food laws for religious reasons is no longer required in the New Testament era.” Rev. Graham states that the food laws were given for both religious and health reasons, and that the religious reasons are no longer required. I think most Christians would agree that the religious ritual requirement has ended, but what about the health reasons? Billy Graham left that important question unanswered as if it were unimportant.
Most evangelicals seem to frame the issue as solely a salvation question, and imply that those who obey the food laws are only doing so, thinking that it is a requirement to obtain eternal life in heaven. Billy Graham stated, “In Acts 10:9-16, Peter was informed by God through a vision that he was not to reject the use of certain animals for food on a religious basis.” However, this interpretation is clearly a misunderstanding of the text. Peter momentarily thought that God was allowing the consumption of unclean food but quickly realized otherwise. “Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made enquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate…And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” (Act 10:17, 28) It is curious how evangelicals usually try to frame the food laws today as solely spiritual (a salvation issue), and not about the benefits of physical healthy food, but in Acts 10 they do just the opposite in claiming it is all about physical food, not salvation!
Evangelicals also often misunderstand Jewish ritual law to make their case. Billy Graham said, “Jesus Himself declared that all foods were ‘clean’ (Mark 7:17-23).” The Amplified Version clarifies what Jesus meant: “And He said to them, Then are you also unintelligent and dull and without understanding? Do you not discern and see that whatever goes into a man from the outside cannot make him unhallowed or unclean, Since it does not reach and enter his heart but [only his] digestive tract, and so passes on [into the place designed to receive waste]? Thus He was making and declaring all foods [ceremonially] clean [that is, abolishing the ceremonial distinctions of the Levitical Law]. And He said, What comes out of a man is what makes a man unclean and renders [him] unhallowed.” (Mark 7:18-20)
The Jewish understanding of the words of Jesus also shows that He was dealing with ceremonial rituals: “Thus he declared all foods ritually clean.” (Mark 7:19, Complete Jewish Bible) It is important to realize that being ritually clean is not the same as being physically clean. Dr. Axe states, “avoid pork because, as it says in the Old Testament, the pig is a scavenger and not meant for human consumption. Plus, pigs harbor common viruses, parasites and toxins.”
Most people probably do not realize that Biblical food laws are not necessarily the same as Jewish Kosher requirements. The word, Kosher, means “fit” or “proper,” and indicates that something is in accord with Jewish dietary ritual. Animals are killed according to Jewish requirements that are meant to be more humane, although these rules are not always found in Scripture itself. In addition, Kosher food has a reputation of being cleaner and safer to eat, although a Kosher food processor was cited by government inspectors a few years ago for unsanitary conditions. Kosher law also takes some questionable liberties with the Biblical text, most notably with the requirement to separate meat and milk products. Deuteronomy 14:21 says, “Ye shall not eat of any thing that dieth of itself: thou shalt give it unto the stranger that is in thy gates, that he may eat it; or thou mayest sell it unto an alien: for thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.” (cf. Exodus 23:19; 34:26). This has been given a variety of interpretations by Bible scholars, although it is doubtful that mixing meat and milk is the issue here, or the Biblical text would have clearly said so.
At least the rancor among Christians concerning the Biblical food laws has not elevated to the level of physical assault. In India, “self-appointed cow protectors” attack and even kill those who transgress laws “protecting cows as an essential symbol of a humane Hindu civilization that values life,” according to an article in the Wall Street Journal (4-24-2017, A15). According to newspaper columnist Swapan Dasgupta, restricting beef in India is a matter of “bowing to common decencies.” (ibid.) However, murdering those who disagree does not, apparently, transgress the common decencies of a growing number of stalwarts in India. About 80% of Indians are Hindus, most of whom regard the cow as sacred. Although India is officially a constitutionally secular republic, “thuggish vigilante groups” are “mushrooming” in states such as Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, says the Journal article. The result is “an India that is reducing the choices its people enjoy on matters of food, drink and entertainment.” Recently the western state of Gujarat raised the maximum penalty for eating beef from seven years to life in prison. Similarly, in the state of Chhattisgarh in central India, the chief minister “told a reporter that not a single cow had been killed there in 15 years—and that if anyone killed one he would be hanged.” (ibid.) In “Haryana you can be jailed for five years and fined 50,000 rupees (about $780) for having a steak in your fridge.” An entire ministry is set up there for cow protection. All but a handful of India’s 29 states already place restrictions on beef consumption, most of which laws date back to India’s independence from Britain in 1947.
In a recent conversation with an immigrant from India, he stated that the Hindu laws prohibiting beef consumption only originated about 1000 A.D. from a decree by an Indian cleric. Even now there are disputes among Hindus over the issue of eating milk and eggs, he said. It is so true that traditions of men, once established, are hard to eradicate and are fiercely defended today. There is tremendous peer pressure to conform, including in America where Biblical food laws are often sternly opposed on traditionalist grounds by Christians in the major denominations. British-Israel believers, in contrast, are usually much more interested in following Biblical truth even when opposed by most denominations as well as the secular culture.
We may at times get frustrated with the opposition we receive to Biblical truths, but we are admonished to stand fast in the faith, and, “Whether you eat, drink or whatever you do, do all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)