“Was any man called circumcised? He is not to become uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in uncircumcision? He is not to be circumcised.” (1 Cor. 7:17-19)
Paul demonstrated this principal by not compelling Titus (a Greek) to be circumcised (Gal. 2:3). However, he supported circumcision of Timothy because he was Jewish (the son of a Jewish mother and a Greek father). Paul did so in anticipation that his rule regarding circumcision would be rightly challenged by the local Jewish community, since his co-worker Timothy was in fact Jewish, but was not circumcised (Acts 16:3).
Sometime later Paul wrote to Timothy:
“…some will fall away from the faith… forbidding marriage, abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude, for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.” (1 Tim. 4:1-4)
The traditional interpretation is that Paul was instructing Timothy to oppose the Torah’s division of things into “clean” and “unclean.” It assumes that Torah’s unclean foods were meant in the above text. However, such a reading is problematic for the two following reasons:
First, such an interpretation ignores the fact that “the entire creation is good because God declared it so” is a universally upheld Jewish idea (Gen.1:25). Second, just because God’s creation is good, it does not follow that all of it can be used for food by Israelites (Lev. 11:13). In fact, Paul specifically states that anything can be eaten only if two specific conditions are met: God has sanctified it by His Word, and the worshiper has sanctified it by his/her prayer (1 Tim. 4:4).
Paul instructed Timothy to remember, especially after his circumcision, that he must honor the God of Israel in every detail of his life as a Christ-following Jew, including the way he ate.
Did Paul tell Timothy to eat unclean? No, in fact he told him the exact opposite!
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