Jesus and Food: Continuity vs Discontinuity

There's always been a lot of discussion and debate about how much Jesus and Paul "break" with Judaism. On one end of the spectrum is the evangelical paradigm that Jesus and Paul make a decisive break with a Judaism characterized by legalism and a works-based righteousness. One the other end of the spectrum is the reigning academic consensus that both Jesus and Paul were wholly Jewish.

That's a bit too simplistic, as there are a lot of evangelicals who very much embrace the Jewishness of Jesus. Go to any Christian bookstore and watch the evangelicals buying their shofars. Relatedly, in academic circles there are many who read Paul apocalyptically, emphasizing the radical discontinuity of the Christ event.

So, which is it? Is there continuity or discontinuity between Jesus and Paul with the Old Testament?

Well, it's obviously both. There is evidence for both sides of the debate, which is why it's perennial.

The reason I'm bringing this up is because I was struck again today in my daily Bible reading about Jesus's teaching regarding the kosher food laws. The issue, you'll recall, is Jesus's followers eating with unwashed hands:
Mark 7.1-5, 14-23
Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?”

Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.” When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. He said to them, “Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “It is what comes out of a person that defiles. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” 
I don't think we get just how huge the seemingly small aside--"Thus he declared all foods clean."--would have been to a Jewish audience. In a stroke, Jesus sets aside a significant chunk of the Levitical code. And on what authority?

(To be sure, there's debate about this text. Was Jesus referring to food or to the issue of ritual purification? Was this an original saying of Jesus or a footnote added by a later editor or community? Also, in Acts 10 Peter still seems to be observing the kosher food laws.)

All that to say, in the debates about Jesus "breaking" with the Law in significant ways, let me throw into the mix Jesus' declaration that all foods are clean, which would have been a decisive break with the Torah in relation to the food laws.

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