Luke does not record the same incident in the way Mark and Matthew recorded it. He records, instead, a similar incident in chapter 11, in which the dispute begins about clean or unclean hands, and ends with Jesus pronouncing His famous woes upon the Pharisees for being hypocrites. The cause of the dispute is so similar to the cause of the dispute we have already looked at in Mark and Matthew, that we ought to examine this one too.
“And as He spoke, a certain Pharisee asked Him to dine with him. So He went in and sat down to eat. When the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that He had not first washed before dinner.” Luk 11:37-38
The dispute, again, is over clean or unclean HANDS, not clean or unclean FOODS.
“Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness. Foolish ones! Did not He who made the outside make the inside also? But rather give alms of such things as you have; then indeed all things are clean to you.” Luk 11:39-41
The comment is here attributed to Jesus that all things are now clean, and this verse is sometimes used to prove the dietary laws have passed away. The phrase, “give alms of such things as you have,” is in Greek, didōmi eleēmosynē eneimi. It means, “to give mercy or charity out of the inward being.” The mercy or charity is sometimes expressed in giving alms to the poor, but alms is not the primary meaning of the word eleemosyne. Now the next word is interesting: eneimi. This is the only time in the entire Greek New Testament that this word is used. It means, “to be in the soul, or what is within the soul,” i.e., the heart or inner man.
Just reading the straight Greek, Jesus seems to be saying to give or have mercy from the heart. As He has said many other places in the Gospels when calling the Pharisees on the carpet, that it is love or mercy from the heart that is the core issue of the Law or obedience to God, not despising others because they have not kept every nit picky tradition of the elders.
Why on earth did they translate that phrase to say, “give alms of such things as you have?” I have no idea, it makes no sense to me.
Now Jesus does say, that if love or mercy is coming out from the heart, then all things will be clean. It does say that in the Greek. But we have to remember that the topic of discussion is clean or unclean HANDS, not clean or unclean FOODS. Taken together with the other Scriptures, and not out of context, He seems to be saying that if love is coming out of the heart, then the man is sanctified or clean. Well, doesn’t that sound like another way of saying this that is recorded in Matthew 15:
“So Jesus said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” Mat 15:16-20
In Luke, we are understanding Jesus as saying that if mercy is coming out of the heart, then the man is clean. In Matthew, Jesus is saying that if evil is coming out of the heart, then the man is defiled. He is in essence teaching the exact same principle, which has nothing to do with food.
I believe that this passage in Luke cannot be used as a Scriptural basis for maintaining that Jesus pronounced everything that has been created as clean to eat.
The other point to ponder is this: we learned that the purpose of obeying Torah was not to benefit God, it is to benefit us. Those who obey the commandments will have blessings that pertain to this life (Deu 28:1-14), and that includes health for the physical body. If pigs were unhealthy for humans to consume in 100 bc, how did the resurrection of Jesus change the nature of the pig so that they are now healthy for humans to consume in 100 ad and beyond?
A proper understanding of Scripture harmonizes its parts so that it flows logically and consistently, and undergirds its parts to make a coherent whole.
These passages in Mar 7, Mat 15, and Luk 11 are the three places in the Gospels that can possibly be construed to mean that Jesus declared all foods clean – our conclusion is that Jesus did not in fact declare all foods clean in these three places. Next we will look at Acts and the Apostolic Scriptures.