Followers of Yeshua keeping Torah: What’s the pork?

Nothing in Messianic disputes over Torah observance animates more than the pig, as is evident in the discussion in progress at the Messianic Jewish RoshPinaProject on the article “Pigs become kosher when death and evil are defeated – but should Messianic Jews eat pork?”

Here is the beginning of the article (in italics):

For Messianic Jews living in the light of Yeshua’s victory on the cross, we are living in a new reality. It is not unJewish to divide time into a period in which pigs are treif [impure], and another period in which pigs are kosher.

In Wolfson’s Open Secret (2009, p.165), he discusses the messianic Torah:

One of the most striking ways that the hypernomian [hyper legalism] ideal is expressed is in terms of the altered status of the pig in the messianic future. The presumed etymological basis for this contention, the explanation of the name hazir [pig] as the impure animal that will revert in the future (atid lahazor) to being pure, is found a variety of medieval sources, some of which transmit it as a dictum from the formative rabbinic period.

Drawing out the implications of this motif, Shneur Zalman [1st Chabad Rebbe] commented: “As the rabbis, blessed be their memory, said with regard to the pig that in the future it will revert and be purified, that is, in the future-to-come, death will be forever destroyed, and then the essence of the Infinite will be revealed, and the pig will be capable of ascending.”

With the obliteration of the force of evil in the eschaton, expressed in the language of the permanent annihilation of death (based on Isaiah 25:8), the pig will itself be transformed from an impure to a holy being.

The discussion, predictably and understandably, expanded to include the validity of the Torah laws in general, of which the Ten Commandments, although central, are only ten of the 613 laws. The beef of many Messianic Jews is that other Messianic Jews (and Christians) ride rough shod over the ceremonial laws. For one thing they eat pork; they even, sometimes, dream about hamburgers. Which reminds me of another dream with pork on the menu; or rather on a sheet.

Acts 10

At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”

Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked.

The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”

When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa.

Peter’s Vision

About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”

Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”

The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.”

Then three men sent by Cornelius came to Peter’s house and requested he accompany them to Cornelius. The next day Peter did so.

While talking with him (Cornelius), Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?”

Cornelius tells Peter of his vision (as in verses 1- 7 above).

Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.”

Peter then tells them of Jesus, the prophesied Messiah, and of what he did and of his suffering and death, and that “everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues[b] and praising God. Then Peter said, “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

Two observations: The first to do with ritual purity: God pronounces all foods and the goyim “clean,” and thus the laws on these matters are done away with. Must I say this three times to many Messianic Jews as God said three times to Peter: “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” Alas, expect to be shouted down with a salvo of “not one jot not one tittle.” These Messianic Jews will say that when God said “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean,” He couldn’t have included pork or He couldn’t have been referring to food. If not food, what’s with that sheet: beddy byes?

The second observation, which follows from the first, is that Gentiles converts (Cornelius here) do not have to follow the ceremonial laws of Torah. (Much of these laws were to be done away with when sacrifices ceased four decades later after the destruction of the second temple, and with it lots of jots and oodles of tittles). What about Jewish followers of Jesus, did they still have to keep kosher, keep the (ceremonial) law? If you say yes, isn’t three times enough? “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

What, asks Lewis Johnson, was the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees? Why, it was the righteousness of punctilious observance of the outward commands of the Mosaic Law. Furthermore, they had loaded the law down with numberless human traditions, and they obeyed them, too. They were the religious leaders of their day. They were the people who were looked up to by the people of God as the reverends of their day. Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall by no means, the Lord Jesus says, using again that strong way of expressing a prohibition, you shall by no means enter into the kingdom of heaven. How, then, shall we get into heaven? Why we get into heaven the same way that the vilest sinner gets into heaven: by pure grace, that’s how. We get into heaven by imputed righteousness that is given us when we acknowledge that we cannot have any righteousness of ourselves that exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. It’s then that God, revealing the righteousness that comes through Christ, brings us to the knowledge of himself. “So when we get to heaven and knock on—they’re not pearly gates, incidentally, this is a figure of speech—when we knock on the pearly gates, and St. Peter opens them we say, “Stand aside, Peter, this is my place.” Why? I have the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Well, enter Lewis. You have it, truly.”

That is what you need. The righteousness of God through Christ, only that righteousness shall attain for us entrance into heaven. Human righteousness cannot save. How may we attain it? The Lord Jesus doesn’t say definitely here, but he implies it when he says, “I have come to fulfil the law.” That’s what he did. He died, and made it possible for a righteousness to be available for those who would believe.”

Let us look closer at the context of “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:17).

To return to scoff (Brit. food), how can Jesus say, on the one hand, that he has not come to destroy the kosher laws, and on the other, that he has come to fulfil them?

Only God has the authority to talk like this. Jesus is talking as if he were God. But let us consider Jesus as a man. This man claims that he has fulfilled the law. But only a sinless person can fulfil the law; therefore, Jesus is claiming here to be sinless. There is more; Jesus is claiming to show how God’s revelation in the Torah (Tanach – Pentateuch, Writings, Prophets) has found it ultimate fulfilment in him – Emmanuel, “God with us.” His astounding claim is that Moses and the prophets prepared the way for God’s ultimate Prophet, High Priest and King in the one man Jesus the Messiah (Christ).

[6] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, [7] but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. [8] And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:6-8).

It is the Son of God who came to accomplish the law and the prophets on the cross; “It is finished.” But there’s more. He came to “perfectly satisfy the demands of the law by dying under the judgment of the law. His obedience to the law is the expression of that which is necessary for our forgiveness of sins” (Lewis Johnson) All have gone astray. He took on himself the judgment we deserved. He became our substitute.

The word “fulfil” pleroō means more than accomplish, it means to fill up. Jesus didn’t add more content so much as different content, new content, new meaning, and that is what Jesus probably means by “I have come to fulfil not to destroy the law.” So, regarding pork, we don’t have to wait for “the obliteration of the force of evil in the eschaton, expressed in the language of the permanent annihilation of death (based on Isaiah 25:8)” for the scatalogical pig to “be transformed from an impure to a holy being.” (Wolfson’s Open Secret above).

One of the earliest Christians, Theophilect said that ‘the Lord Jesus filled up Moses and the prophets as a painter fills the sketch of a picture that he has made.’ So the Lord Jesus came in order to fill in the portrait that Moses and the prophets had painted” (Lewis Johnson).

The Apostle Paul describes the Mosaic ceremonial law as a shadow.

[13] And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, [14] by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. [15] He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. [16] Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. [17] These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. (Colossians 2:13-17).

The ceremonial law were holy shadows of a reality to come. The book of Hebrews describes the fulfilment of the sacrifices in Christ. The shadow was made flesh. All the sacrificial jots and tittles were fulfilled in the broken body on the tree. To return to the painting metaphor, Jesus painted the shadow red, and in so doing filled “it is written” with new blood in total fulfilment of the scriptures.

Is it not simple fact, says Ian calvert, that within the beginnings of this Jewish ‘branch’ we see a group who had simply grasped the entire truth that the Law as given in stone
(the qualities and holiness of Gd) had been met in the flesh not flesh that historically had been proven inadequate but flesh that had been tested yet was found ‘without sin’ in this man we see , that in being judged and punished, a person, (the only person) who has lived completely and in his death fulfilled the requirements of the Law, not that the Law is absolved (heaven forbid it) but by walking in him we are able to walk within the Law as Hashem has allways intended.”

David Cook elaborates: “The Moshiach (Messiah) said,

17″Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come

to abolish but to fulfil. 18″For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19″Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20″For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17).

How can a person’s righteousness, continues David Cook, surpass the scribes and Pharisees? Moses writes in the Torah, “Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6). Saint Paul explains;
1What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3For what does the Scripture say? “ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.” (David Cook’s emphasis) 4Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness. (Romans 4:1-5). So we see that Abraham was not justified by keeping the Law given by Moses (the Law given 400 years later) but Abram was justified by faith, and so are those who believe in and receive Y’shua the Moshiach promised to Abraham.

4 thoughts on “Followers of Yeshua keeping Torah: What’s the pork?

    • Maria, I always like it when someone says they like me, oops, I mean, what I write. And I love it when they go the extra mile by saying it in words.

      Regarding the bits you don’t like, perhaps one of them is “imputed righteous,” which Rome rejects.

  1. Excellent post. 100% agreement in the imputed righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ. However as a personal preference, generally I choose to not eat pork products. My thinking has very little to do with religious observance (and I hope this response will not give “ideas” to these folks who insist on keeping Kosher). In some medical cases surgeons use pig parts to transplant into humans those tissues that have failed (such as heart valves I think). Some have said that the pig is the most similar tissue-wise to humans. If we could ask a cannibal what human flesh tastes like, he may say “pork.” We as humans are pig-like (in my thinking). So it sort of grosses me out a bit when thinking about pork. Healthwise too, personally, rich pork products just weigh me down.

    • Have you seen the little piggies
      Crawling in the dirt
      And for all the little piggies
      Life is getting worse
      Always having dirt to play around in.

      Have you seen the bigger piggies
      In their starched white shirts
      You will find the bigger piggies
      Stirring up the dirt
      Always have clean shirts to play around in.

      In their sties with all their backing
      They don’t care what goes on around
      In their eyes there’s something lacking
      What they need’s a damn good whacking.

      Everywhere there’s lots of piggies
      Living piggy lives
      You can see them out for dinner
      With their piggy wives
      Clutching forks and knives to eat their bacon.

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