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If Nothing External Defiles, What About Alcohol?

It has been stated by some Bible students that since Jesus said, “There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him” (Mark 7:15), it is safe to conclude that alcohol does not defile a man, surmising that Jesus permits drinking alcohol in this text.  Is that what Jesus is teaching? 

Every verse must always be kept in its context.  The context of Mark 7 has to do with the manmade traditions of the Pharisees, who condemned Jesus’ disciples for eating “bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands” (7:2).  The Pharisees accused the disciples of not walking “according to the tradition of the elders,” when they “eat bread with unwashed hands” (7:5).  The context is about ceremonial uncleanness from not washing hands.

Jesus openly condemned the Pharisees for holding to their “tradition” and “rejecting…the word of God” (7:8, 9, 13).  The context has everything to do with their elevation of their own teachings above the teachings of God, particularly in the matter of washings and their doctrine of uncleanness (7:4).

So, does Jesus open the door in Mark 7:15 to drink alcohol, when He stated that “nothing that enters a man from outside…can defile him”?  In the context (and that is key), Jesus is talking about the food that they were eating.  Look at the continuation of His teaching in verses 18-19, and read Mark’s conclusion: “Thereby He declared all foods clean.”  Were there certain foods that were ceremonially clean and unclean for the Jews?  Yes.  Jesus is dealing with that in this context.  Note especially how Jesus Himself concludes His comments: “…to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man” (Matt. 15:20).  Eating meats “from the marketplace” (Mark 7:4) with unwashed hands is what Jesus said He was talking about when He said, “There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him.”  To conclude that Jesus authorized drinking alcohol in this passage is wishful thinking at best and negligent hermeneutics at worst.

But, carry this out to its full conclusion.  If Jesus is permitting drinking alcohol, then Jesus is permitting ANYTHING that enters a man from outside.  Thus, Jesus, of necessity, cannot condemn drunkenness, for that originated from the outside.  Jesus cannot condemn any hard drugs, like crack cocaine.  And, if “nothing that enters from outside” includes everything, then Jesus cannot condemn any sexual relations of any kind outside of marriage. 

To make such an irrational argument with Mark 7:15 has Jesus to say more than He actually says and to say more than any rational Bible student is willing to make Jesus say.  Every verse MUST be interpreted faithfully within its immediate context and the full Biblical context.