Eat Catfish

QUESTION: “A friend of mine recently told me that it was wrong to eat certain meats (like catfish) because God considers them unclean. Some passages in the Bible seem to say this, and yet others appear to teach differently. Which is right?”
ANSWER: Your friend has an idea that is held by many people today. Let me encourage you to study this question with him in light of the following:
1. Under the Old Testament, God’s people were forbidden to eat certain kinds of fish and animals. “And you may eat every animal with cloven hooves, having the hoof split into two parts, and that chews the cud, among the animals. Nevertheless, of those that chew the cud or have cloven hooves, you shall not eat, such as these: the camel, the hare, the rock hyrax; for they chew the cud but do not have cloven hooves; they are unclean for you. Also the swine is unclean for you, because it has cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud…And whatever does not have fins and scales you shall not eat; it is unclean for you” (Deuteronomy 14:6-8,10; cf. Leviticus 11).
2. We are not under the authority of the Old Testament. It was fulfilled (Matthew 5:17), abolished, and then nailed to the cross of Christ. “Having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace” (Ephesians 2:15; cf. Colosians 2:14). “But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter” (Romans 7:6; cf. Hebrews 11:6-13).
3. Therefore, since we are under a new covenant, the New Testament of Christ (Hebrews 9:16,17), these regulations are no longer binding on us today. In fact, the Bible says that to command others to abstain from certain foods is a doctrine of demons, and thus a departure from the faith. “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith…forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth” (1 Timothy 4:1a,3).
We should enjoy and appreciate all of the food that God has provided for us…including catfish. “For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4,5; cf. Acts 10:15).

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Mike Benson

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One thought on “Eat Catfish

  1. I generally like what ForthRight have to say, but I have a few problems with this, starting with canning the “Old Testament”.
    The Bereans were praised for checking Scripture, but what Scripture? The New Testament hadn’t even been written out yet, let alone made canon.
    Christ did indeed render law obsolete — Moses’ law, not God’s law. In Matthew 5, as cited, He explicitly says that he hasn’t come to destroy, but to fulfil (pleroo, matches “magnify” from Isaiah 42:21).
    The next verse says that not the smallest item will pass from the law until all (pas) has happened (ginomai); the term “law” here is “nomos” which is fairly generic, but the context addresses God’s law, which He read Himself, as distinct from Moses’ laws, including the ordinances.
    The edict in 1Timothy is evidently addressing gnosticism, speaking to all kinds of food (broma) not in terms of clean/unclean flesh.
    Reading too much into that leads to “knowing good & evil” or making judgements in the absence of clear instruction from the first-born of many brothers.
    The results of that approach are kind of obvious, but since we live in a fallen world, starting with a fallen nature, it’s something we need to expect & to work around.

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