Eat What is Set Before You

Did Yeshua tell his disciples to eat anything set before them—even if it wasn't kosher?

A basic meal (Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash)

Rabbi Yeshua warned his disciples not to refuse the food set before them. He told them, “Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you” (Luke 10:8). Does this mean that Yeshua wanted His disciples to abandon the Torah’s dietary laws and Jewish standards?

No, on the contrary, the statement is meant to direct the disciples to accept the hospitality of local hosts as they go out on a mission: “Carry no money belt, no bag … stay in [your host’s] house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages” (Luke 10:4-7).

Neither Yeshua nor the disciples had any concern that the food set before them might be unclean foods forbidden by the Torah. The Master had already limited the disciples’ mission to Jewish towns, villages, and homes. He expressly told them to avoid Gentiles and Samaritans. Therefore, His instructions about eating assumed a Jewish context.

At the same time, there may be an implied concern over the status of the food. After all, why would the Master need to tell His disciples to eat the food set before them in Jewish homes? In late Second Temple Judaism, various sects of Judaism had differing standards regarding dietary laws. For example, some pious Jews attempted to eat their meals while in a state of Levitical purity, a standard which assumed those who prepared the meals had also done so in a ritually pure state. The Pharisees were also scrupulous regarding tithing, refusing to eat any produce of the land unless they knew that it had already been tithed. Stringencies like these went above and beyond the letter of the Torah, and they prevented the Pharisees from accepting the hospitality of non-Pharisees. In addition, two schools of the Pharisees (Hillel and Shammai) disagreed about the extent of meat and dairy separation they needed to practice, adding further complications to table fellowship.

The Master told His disciples to eat the food their hosts placed before them. They were not to raise questions about whether or not it had been properly tithed or whether or not it had been prepared by ritually clean hands, nor were they to concern themselves about which standard of meat and dairy separation their host family practiced. Needless to say, however, while in Jewish homes, the disciples could assume a baseline standard of Jewish food laws. They did not need to fear being served unclean animals, improperly slaughtered meats, or meats served with milks or cheeses. Instead, the disciples could assume that, in an Jewish home, they would receive a Jewish meal. Perhaps this explains why church tradition says that, in later years, as the apostles took the message out to the nations, many of them adopted a vegetarian diet.

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