Friday, July 26, 2013

A Theology of Food: Why We Eat: Food Symbolism and Redemptive History (Part 3)

Author's Note: This post is written by Karolina Beveridge, who holds a BA in Liberal Arts from Providence Christian College. She runs her own food health blog.  This is the third section of a five section series. To read the first section, click here. To read the second section click here. The next post will be uploaded Wednesday of next week.


At this time, the theology of food in Scripture will be traced because understanding it will show that its Redemptive history is exhibited when the symbolism and its true meaning is understood.
  
Beginning at creation Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden, and were instructed to eat fruit from any tree except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen 2:7-9, 15, 16). At the Fall, Eve ate of the forbidden fruit despite God’s command, then gave it to Adam who ate as well (Gen. 3:6) (Vamosh, 3). As punishment for the first sin, Eve was told she would bear children in great pain (Gen. 3:16). In contrast, later in Deuteronomy children are portrayed as a sign of God’s blessing, alongside of food; the reward for faithful obedience (Deut. 28:1, 4-5). Yet at the time the bearing of children was promised difficult. God then cursed the ground from which food would grow so that Adam would work it in anguish (Gen 3:17-19, cf. Romans 5:12- 21). Man’s striving for food would only succeed in complete dependence on God’s grace. Further in Redemptive History at the Noahic Covenant, God gave Noah and his sons permission to eat meat saying, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you.” (Gen 9:1-6) This was just after he had anhiliated all the rest of humanity, and was here promising never to do so by way of the flood again.

Another occurrence of food theology happened at the first Passover, when God instructed Moses of the slaughtering and roasting whole of the lamb, and the eating of it in haste (Ex. 12:3, 5, 7, 11). The bread eaten with the lamb could only be the unleavened bread for the entire seven day duration of Passover (Ex. 12:15). If an Israelite ate of leavened bread during this time, they would be cut off from Israel, and they were forbidden to allow any foreigner to eat of it (Ex. 12:19, 43-49)

At Mt. Sinai God gave Moses the Law which included Sabbath, feast, and food laws (Ex. 23). The strict food regulations began here such as not mixing meat with milk (Ex. 23:19) A description of the strict food restrictions is elaborated in Leviticus which is a parallel or continuation to Exodus (Leviticus 11). There were clean and unclean animals because as mentioned earlier, food symbolized the distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles which had been established in the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen 17:1-14). The sacrificial animals, taking their places for the death their sin deserved, was symbolic of their identity (Winner, 113). They could not eat the unclean food, the “Gentiles”, the same way they could not live the life indulgent in sin as a Gentile. In the New Covenant of course, the distinction between Jew and Gentile was made null (Acts 10:9-33). In Acts 10, Peter received the vision of the great sheet with all the variety of animals on it for his taking and eating. Liberty to eat any plants or animals represents the present reality that the people of God are gathered from among all nations across the earth (Acts 10:34-35, 44-48; Winner, 114).

During the Diaspora, the Jews were spread throughout the Middle East and animal sacrifices became impossible since they were torn away from the Temple. The symbolically rich, unleavened bread became the replacement as a type for the sacrificial lamb. In the context, bread historically had far greater eternal and initial meaning sociologically and culturally than it does to Western civilization today (Schmemann, 205; Jung). A plentiful provision of bread relied upon a successful harvest of wheat. It also required time to grind the wheat, and allow for the imagination, practice, to learn by trial and error, form the recipe, knead the dough, let it rise, and at last let it bake. As mentioned above with Song of Solomon, in the Old Testament the wealth of societies was determined by the abundance of food, in the form of harvest, farm lands, water,
rich soil, animals that were well fed, and so.

As will be shown below, in the New Testament, Redemptive history is seen in the institution of the Lord’s Supper. Eschatologically, we still await the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, at the culmination of God’s ultimate plan.

To read the next installment click here.

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