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Unclean Meats

Early Church Fathers Quotes on Unclean Meats

Epistle of Barnabas 

Moses then issued three doctrines concerning meats with a spiritual significance; but they received them according to fleshly desire, as if he had merely spoken of [literal] meats. David, however, comprehends the knowledge of the three doctrines, and speaks in like manner: “Blessed is the man who hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly,” even as the fishes [referred to] go in darkness to the depths [of the sea]; “and hath not stood in the way of sinners,” even as those who profess to fear the Lord, but go astray like swine; “and hath not sat in the seat of scorners,” even as those birds that lie in wait for prey. Take a full and firm grasp of this spiritual knowledge – Epistle of Barnabas

Letter to Diognetus 

But as to their scrupulosity concerning meats, and their superstition as respects the Sabbaths, and their boasting about circumcision, and their fancies about fasting and the new moons, which are utterly ridiculous and unworthy of notice,–I do not think that you require to learn anything from me. For, to accept some of those things which have been formed by God for the use of men as properly formed, and to reject others as useless and redundant,–how can this be lawful? And to speak falsely of God, as if He forbade us to do what is good on the Sabbath-days,–how is not this impious? –The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus

Justin Martyr 

“Moreover, you were commanded to abstain from certain kinds of food, in order that you might keep God before your eyes while you ate and drank, seeing that you were prone and very ready to depart from His knowledge, as Moses also affirms: ‘The people ate and drank, and rose up to play.’ And again: ‘Jacob ate, and was satisfied, and waxed fat; and he who was beloved kicked: he waxed fat, he grew thick, he was enlarged, and he forsook God who had made him.’ For it was told you by Moses in the book of Genesis, that God granted to Noah, being a just man, to eat of every animal, but not of flesh with the blood, which is dead.” And as he was ready to say, “as the green herbs,” I anticipated him: “Why do you not receive this statement, ‘as the green herbs,’ in the sense in which it was given by God, to wit, that just as God has granted the herbs for sustenance to man, even so has He given the animals for the diet of flesh? But, you say, a distinction was laid down thereafter to Noah, because we do not eat certain herbs. As you interpret it, the thing is incredible. And first I shall not occupy myself with this, though able to say and to hold that every vegetable is food, and fit to be eaten. But although we discriminate between green herbs, not eating all, we refrain from eating some, not because they are common or unclean, but because they are bitter, or deadly, or thorny. But we lay hands on and take of all herbs which are sweet, very nourishing and good, whether they are marine or land plants. Thus also God by the mouth of Moses commanded you to abstain from unclean and improper and violent animals: when, moreover, though you were eating manna in the desert, and were seeing all those wondrous acts wrought for you by God, you made and worshipped the golden calf. Hence he cries continually, and justly, ‘They are foolish children, in whom is no faith.’ – Dialogue with Trypho

Origen

But neither do the Jews pride themselves upon abstaining from swine’s flesh, as if it were some great thing; but upon their having ascertained the nature of clean and unclean animals, and the cause of the distinction, and of swine being classed among the unclean. And these distinctions were signs of certain things until the advent of Jesus; after whose coming it was said to His disciple, who did not yet comprehend the doctrine concerning these matters, but who said, “Nothing that is common or unclean hath entered into my mouth,” “What God hath cleansed, call not thou common.” It therefore in no way affects either the Jews or us that the Egyptian priests abstain not only from the flesh of swine, but also from that of goats, and sheep, and oxen, and fish. But since it is not that “which entereth into the mouth that defiles a man,” and since “meat does not commend us to God,” we do not set great store on refraining from eating, nor yet are we induced to eat from a gluttonous appetite. – Contra Celsus, Book V

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