Unclean Food

AS, Cape Town

How can I explain 1 Corinthians 8 to a family member who believes this chapter is a proof that new covenant believers are not bound by Scriptural restrictions with regards to unclean food types.


Paul’s guidelines in 1 Corinthians 8 (and several other passages in the New Covenant Scriptures) should be put in the proper perspective, and read within its proper context. The issue here is whether believers in the Messiah should be allowed to eat FOOD OFFERED TO IDOLS, or not (see verses 1,4,7,10). This question presented a problem to the new believers in Messiah because it arose from a new (cultural and practical) situation, not directly addressed by the written laws of Yahweh. Nobody questioned the existing written laws, contained in what was known to those early believers as “The Scriptures”. The only exception was the issue of circumcision which is addressed separately in a number of New Covenant passages and in which case a distinction is being made between believers from a Jewish background and those from a non-Jewish background. In all other cases, clearly, the general understanding was that the Word of Yahweh or Scriptures remained the final authority and therefore the commandments and requirements contained within Scriptures, were not disputed. This is why Paul wrote to Timothy that “all Scripture is breathed by Elohim and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for setting straight, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of Elohim might be fitted, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17). This is also why Peter, many years after Messiah’s earthly ministry, declared without hesitation: “Whatever is common or unclean has never entered into my mouth” (Acts 11:8). It is not correct to apply Paul’s guidelines in 1 Corinthians 8 to the question of clean and unclean foods. To the early believers, this was never an issue, simply because Scriptures clearly stated that unclean food types were an abomination in Yahweh’s eyes and should not be taken as food. Those who have joined the early group of believers known as the “set apart ones” would not even think of ignoring such a clear commandment from Yahweh’s Word. It was only years later, when the Catholic theologians started to discredit the Old Testament and labelled certain practices (and most of the Old Testament, for that matter) as “Jewish” and “unchristian-like”, that Yahweh’s clear prohibition against eating unclean foods was suddenly embedded in a cloud of suspicion. Hopefully this will help to understand 1 Corinthians 8 more clearly.