Dietary Laws: Did Jesus Model or Dismiss Them?


When my oldest son moved out of the house, he called to brag about his newfound freedom. “Hey, mom, I’m just standing here with the refrigerator door wide open. This morning I got up, with all the lights still on, and ran down the hall with scissors in my hand yelling — it was awesome.”

To this day, I can only assume that he just wanted to give me a laugh — which he did. But the truth is he could have done all those things. He lived under his own roof, not mine. He could have, but I don’t believe he did. Although he still loved to push his mother’s buttons, he knew the wisdom behind those house rules. He no longer followed them because I made him; he willingly acted accordingly because he understood it prudent and beneficial.

In reading the New Testament and attempting to see it through author Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s eyes in Kosher JesusI’m trying to discern whether Jesus really was a Jewish rebel who dismissed dietary laws, or if that is merely an uninformed perception of the Christian church.

If in fact our God is a good Father, and I believe He is, and He gave His people laws to live by including dietary laws for their benefit, not His — why would Jesus rescind them?

I’ve recently come to the conclusion that Jesus didn’t, just as my oldest son didn’t actually run through the house yelling at the top of his lungs with scissors in hand. However, we Christians have taken this passage to believe that he is criticizing kosher eating:


The point of this passage, according to Boteach, does not reveal a rebel; instead it shows Jesus as a learned scholar quoting the Talmud.

The author states:

There it is written, “As the seas throes up its debris upon the shores, so the wicked have filthiness upon their mouths.47” With this statement both Jesus and the rabbis before him were emphasizing lashon nekiah, or “clean language.” There are many laws in Judaism that govern what we can and cannot say…

Boteach argues that Jesus NEVER ate un-kosher food.

Come to think of it — he’s right. We know Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples. If in fact Jesus shunned dietary laws, that would have made headlines with Matthew, Mark and Luke.

So what are we to conclude? As Christians, even though we have freedom from dietary laws, should we recklessly eat anything we want?  Or should we as followers of Christ actually imitate what he modeled before us?