How to Avoid being Defiled (Mark 7:1-5, 14-23)

A picture of hands being washed

The world is a dirty place for godly people. What should they do to clean themselves and avoid being defiled?

The Pharisees (Separatists) had many solutions. One was to wash their hands before they ate. In their mind, eating food with defiled hands (hands that had not been washed) would cause the defilement to transfer to the food and then the food would transfer the defilement into their body as they ate it. Washing their hands prevented this.

The students of Jesus didn't wash their hands before they ate. It is obvious that Jesus didn't make them either.

If washing your hands does not keep you from being defiled, what does?

This article explores the exchange that Jesus had with the Pharisees about this and the solution that He gave for defilement (Mark 7:1-5, 14-23).

Below is Mark 7:1-5 and 14-23 with my comments interspersed in it. The Bible version is the Breakthrough Version (BV) - the High Definition Bible.

The Problem

1-2 And the Separatists and some of the Old Testament transcribers who came out of Greater Jerusalem were gathered together to Him and saw some of His students that they eat the loaves of bread with shared hands, that is with unwashed hands.

Ray's Comments - The BV says "shared" instead of "defiled". The Greek word is koinos which the KJV translates as common, defiled, unclean, and unholy. It means shared. There are several other Greek words that are related to this word. They all carry with them the idea of sharing. The most popular one is koinonia (fellowship). Koinonia is sharing or a sharing relationship.

How did the apostles' hands get defiled? They had shared them with the outside world. They were shared hands. This is the opposite of sacred. A sacred thing is kept separate from bad. The Pharisees wanted to keep themselves sacred (holy) and so they made sure that they were not shared with defilement. If their hands came in contact with something defiled, they washed them. The next verses tell what else they did to be holy.

Koinos is not always bad. Sometimes it is good (Acts 2:44; 4:32; Titus 1:4; Jude 1:3). If the thing shared is good, it should not be avoided. It should be shared.

The Fake Solution of the Pharisees

3 You see, the Separatists and all the Jewish people do not eat unless they wash the hands with a fist, holding on to the tradition of the older men.

Ray's Comments - What does your Bible have in this verse with "wash their hands"? Oft? Often? Diligently? Carefully? Properly? The Greek word is pugma (fist). The word is in the dative case ("with a fist"). They washed their hands with a fist rubbing it against the other arm up to the elbow.

4 And after coming from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they submerge themselves, and there are many other regulations that they took in to be holding on to: submersions of cups, pots, copper dishes, and cots.

Ray's Comments - The marketplace was where they might come into contact with other people and thus with defilement. So when they came home, they submerged themselves in water. The Greek word here is baptizo (baptize). It means to submerge under water. This is how the Pharisees and Jewish people cleaned themselves ceremonially. They dunked themselves in water, up and down, many times. Around the temple in Jerusalem there were many mikvehs (baptismals) where the people did this to cleanse themselves before they went onto the temple grounds. Many Jews still do this today to ceremonially clean themselves. This is where the Christian practice of baptism comes from.

Most Bibles translate this word baptizo (which is translated as "baptize" in other passages) as "wash" in this passage, but that is wrong because there is a different Greek word for wash (nipto, it is in verse 3) and using "wash" hides what they actually did: they submerged themselves in water. Baptizo is not "to wash", it is "to submerge".

The Greek word baptismos is also in this verse ("submersions of cups", also in verse 8). Other versions have "washing of cups" here even though the Greek word is usually translated as baptism. It should be submersion, immersion, or baptism, not washing. Jews today still dunk pots and utensils obtained from nonJews in water to get rid of the defilement. They don't just wash the pots, they submerge them.

5 And the Separatists and the Old Testament transcribers ask Him, "Why do Your students not traipse around in line with the tradition of the older men, but eat the bread with shared hands?"

The solution of the Pharisees for getting rid of defilement was to submerge in water, but this is a fake solution. It doesn't really get rid of any defilement, just dirt.

Other Fake Solutions

Today, many people have their own fake solutions.

Some denominations and churches have unique practices that they do to make themselves sacred. I will not name them as to not offend anyone.

In an effort to stave off defilement, many Christians hold on to the law in one form or another. But it doesn't work. They still disobey the law that they insist must be obeyed. It may look like it works, but it doesn't. It is fake.

Another way Christians try to avoid defilement is by keeping traditions. A tradition is something that is done because other people do it. Jesus talks about this in the verses that this article skips over (Mark 7:6-13). Many are more comfortable with doing what others are doing or listening to what they say is right than doing what Jesus says to do.

These are all fake solutions. They do not really keep defilement away.

Jesus gives the real solution in the next verses.

The Real Solution

14 And after He called for the crowd again, He was saying to them, "Listen to Me everyone, and understand.

15 There is nothing outside of the person traveling into him that is able to make him shared, but the things traveling out of the person are the things that make the person shared."

16 [[["If someone has ears to be listening, he must listen."]]]

Ray's Comments - Verse 16 is not in the minority/critical Greek manuscripts.

The things that travel into a person, things like dirt, defilement from the outside world, and food, are not able to make a person shared. Instead, it is the things traveling out of a person that makes him shared.

Do you understand this? If not, Jesus explains it in the next section.

The Real Solution - Explained

17 And when He went into a house away from the crowd, his students were asking Him for the illustration.

18 And He says to them, "Are you also clueless like this? Aren't you aware that everything external traveling into the person is not able to make him shared

19 because it is not traveling into his heart, but into the belly? And it travels out into the sewer, cleaning all the food."

20 He was saying, "The thing traveling out of the person, that thing makes the person shared.

21 You see, the considerations, the bad ones, travel out from the inside, from the heart of the people. Sexual sins, thefts, murders,

22 cheatings on spouses, desires for more, evils, deception, indulgent activity, an evil eye, a hurtful comment, pride, distraction:

23 all these evil things travel out from the inside and make the person shared."

The real solution must fix the inside of a person. Defilement coming into a person does not make him defiled. It never even comes in contact with his heart. Avoiding those things accomplishes nothing.

Defilement coming out of a person makes him defiled (shared with evil). If bad things are coming out of him, bad is in him. The bad does not come from God. It comes from the same place that all bad comes from. It makes him shared with evil.

How do you avoid defilement? Clean up the inside. It is easy to say but not so easy to do.

Will you allow yourself to see the bad in you? Will you find out what good should be on the inside? Will you take the constant and continual steps necessary to change the inside? If you will, you can prevent yourself from being defiled. If you won't, whatever you do to avoid being defiled will not work.