The last four words of Mark 7:19, καθαρίζων πάντα τὰ βρώματα (katharidzon panta ta bromata, cleansing all the foods”), have caused many Christians to suppose that Jesus did away with the biblical food prohibitions and declared “clean” (טָהוֹר, tahor) what the Torah declares “unclean” (טָמֵא, tame). The way English versions of the Bible have translated this verse has strengthened the misunderstanding: “Thus he declared all foods clean” (RSV, NRSV and NAB); “In saying this, Jesus declared all foods ‘clean’” (NIV); “By saying this, he showed that every kind of food is acceptable” (NLT); “Thus he pronounced all foods clean” (NJB); “Thus He was making and declaring all foods [ceremonially] clean [that is, abolishing the ceremonial distinctions of the Levitical Law]” (AMP).
In the Torah “clean” and “unclean” are also used of permitted and forbidden food, and therefore, because of this passage, Christians usually have believed that the biblical food laws were abrogated by Jesus. However, one should not be too quick to throw out large portions of the Torah, in this case, portions of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, because of a four-word parenthetical comment by Mark at the end of a long halachic discussion. Such a serious reversal of God’s commands and contradiction of God’s word would need explanation and discussion.
The Torah prohibits Jews from eating certain animals (Lev. 11; cf. Deut. 14; Negative Commandments #172-179). We can assume that Jesus would not have violated these commandments. (Otherwise, he would have been condemned by the words of Torah, and would have been a sinner.) Nor would he have taught others to violate the commandments since he himself taught, “Anyone who breaks them [the commandments of Torah] or teaches others to break them will be called ‘light’ [קַל, kal, that is, of no esteem]” (Matt 5:19). In other words, such a disciple could not become or remain part of the “Kingdom of Heaven,” a term that Jesus sometimes used to refer to his band of full-time disciples.
-  “It needs to be borne in mind that ‘declaring all foods clean’ is Mark’s interpretation of Jesus’ statement in 7:15, not Jesus’, and that Matthew seems to have a much less radical interpretation of the dominical saying” (Joel Marcus, Mark 1-8 [AB 27; Garden City: Doubleday, 2000], 458). In fact, Mark’s editorial comment, “cleansing all the foods,” is missing entirely from Matthew’s parallel (Matt 15:17). “The syntax clearly marks out καθαρίζων πάντα τὰ βρώματα as a parenthetical editorial comment, since there is no masculine singular subject within the reported speech to which it can relate (hence the emendations found in some MSS, representing attempts to ‘correct’ the syntax by those who failed to recognize the nature of the clause…The subject therefore is Jesus (the subject of λέγει, v. 18a), whom Mark thus interprets as ‘cleansing all food’ in the sense of declaring that it is no longer to be regarded as ritually ‘unclean’” (R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text [NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002], 291; cf. 276). Mark’s interpretation may have been intentionally ambiguous. It faithfully describes the halachah for those who are concerned with halachic purity, and it even has a secondary application to Gentiles who are not responsible for the Torah food laws. ↩
-  Paul’s instructions about eating meat sold in the market or meat set before you by an unbeliever at a dinner to which you have been invited (1 Cor. 10:25-29) was directed at former Gentiles (now followers of Jesus) who lived in heathen environs and near pagan temples. Paul championed the status of believing Gentiles within the Edah (community), but he would not have instructed Jews to enter pagan homes or eat food offered to them by pagans. Former Gentiles who were members of the Edah were, by apostolic halachah, not obligated to keep all the commandments nor to circumcise their male children (Acts 15); however Jewish followers of Jesus were so obligated (Acts 21:18-24), and this obligation included the keeping of the community’s Oral Torah, its interpretation of the Written Torah. ↩