Saturday, March 20, 2010

Biblical Dietary Laws part 3

Among what Becky Holm calls my "wee little food articles" in her Douglas County News:

Biblical Dietary Laws, Part 3 by Larisa Sparrowhawk,

Last week we left off with "you shall not boil a kid in its mother's milk", which I believe is an injuction against cruelty to a young animal's mother. There are health reasons, as well. Milk contains lactoferrin, which inhibits iron absorption, and vegetables contain vitamin c, which increases iron absorption. Neither milk nor meat contain fiber; they require fiber from vegetables to move through the digestive tract. Therefore, we would do better to eat meat with vegetables and not with milk products.

Wheat, oats, barley, spelt and rye were all grains used in Israel. A famous early recipe for bread in Ezekial includes both grains and beans and is a complete meal. During Biblical times, leavened breads were made from grains that were soaked, thus creating sourdough that tasted better and was more easily digested. They were somewhat domed, small round loaves about the size of the palm of your hand and men typically ate several a day, along with lentils and vegetables. Meats were eaten IF they had been slaughtered and prepared in a kosher manner, with appropriate thanks given to God.

During the long exile of Jews from Israel, both the Vatican and the Talmudian Rabbis had political reasons to disassociate their religions from each other, despite both claiming ancestors in the Old Testament. Thus, it became common for Jews to greatly expand upon Biblical dietary laws. Christians, interpreting part of the Book of Matthew and teachings of Paul, abandoned dietary laws. However, a closer reading of the Books of Matthew and Acts has brought some Christian groups, most notably the Seventh Day Adventists, back to the Law in Leviticus.

Paul taught that one should eat whatever was placed before him, without question and if one bought meat at a market, one should not worry that it may have come from a ceremony worshipping idols because unpure foods could not make a man unpure. However, Jesus followed the laws of kashrut (kosher foods), and well after the Crucifixion, Peter still ate kosher. Jesus, in Matthew 5:17-20, said "I came not to destroy the Law or the Prophets... til heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law until all is fulfilled. whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven..."

When the Philistines confront Jesus regarding washing hands before eating bread, Jesus gives a long answer, only part of which is commonly quoted (Matthew 15:11): "Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man." Peter asks for clarification, and Jesus explains in Matthew 15:18-20: "...whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated. But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man... evil thoughts, murders, aldulteries... these are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man."

In Acts 10:10-28, Peter, while praying on the roof, has a vision in which a sheet descended from heaven, covered with non-kosher animals. A voice told him to eat, but Peter answered, "Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean." God advised he should never call what He had given him common or unclean. Peter, still musing this, met Romen men at the door and realized the meaning: "God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean."

Continued next week!

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