"One person esteems one day over another while another judges every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes that day does so to the Lord. The one who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and the one who abstains, abstains to the Lord, and he gives thanks to God. " -Romans 14:5-6 (TLV)
Recently, being unable to refute my answers to their Anti-Christmas rhetoric, logical fallacies and misinterpretations, one such Anti-Christmas proponent attacked my use of Romans 14:5-6, saying that the context concerned fasting and not observances in general.
Here’s why this objection is a lie, born of illogic, a contextual fallacy, and just plain error!
Scriptural context is determined by examining surrounding text, identifying qualifying terms, and looking at the meta-narrative (notwithstanding the essential need for the Holy Spirit).
Fasting is not mentioned in Romans 14. Deciding to refrain from eating certain foods is, and eating only vegetables is, but the context denotes a general principle regarding disputations over practices that have arisen from foolish arguments and false teaching present in the community of faith as a result of being hyper-gracious toward “weak” (immature) believers.
Here are some excerpts from Romans 14 that in and of themselves refute the false teaching that says “Romans 14 is about fasting”.
IMPORTANT: Let me be clear, the modern “Daniel fast” (vegetables only) nonsense perpetuated by modern evangelicals is not based on first century Jewish practice but on modern revisionist misinterpretation of the book of Daniel. First century Jews had no such fast.
14:1 Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of disputes about opinions.
The theme here is the strength of a person's faith. We are told to accept “weak” that is, immature believers but we are not to allow them to influence the community through disputes about opinions over non-core doctrine.
2 One person has faith to eat anything, but the weak eats only vegetables.
Here we see that the disputes are not over fasting (as is foolishly suggested by people desperate to prove an untenable position), but over foods sacrificed to idols (meat) and those who have the faith to eat them, knowing that idols are nothing, and those that superstitiously think that by eating them (meat) they will become demon possessed or otherwise. Thus, they eat only vegetables. This is supported by Paul’s teaching elsewhere (1 Corinthians 8).
So we see that the issue is the eating or not eating of meat (sacrificed to idols). The text says “One person has faith to eat anything, but the weak eats only vegetables.” In short, some eat meat and vegetables and some eat only vegetables (just in case the meat purchased in the market has been sacrificed to idols), both eat, so not remotely to do with fasting.
Later, when we read “one eats unto the Lord and the other abstains unto the Lord” it is to be understood in the context of verse 2. As referring to eating or abstaining from meat (sacrificed to idols or not) and not to eating or abstaining from food in general.
3 Don’t let the one who eats disparage the one who does not eat, and don’t let the one who does not eat judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge another’s servant? Before his own master he stands or falls. Yes, he shall stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
In short, don’t waste time arguing over eating or not eating all foods. God is Judge. Again, the context relies on the previous verse and relates to eating meat and vegetables or only eating vegetables.
Note that the mature believer is not to mock the ignorance of the immature and that the immature believer is the one admonished not to pass judgement. In other words it is the immature (weak) believer who is in error and more often guilty of presumptive judgement against the mature (stronger) believer. This is self-evident in many pseudo learned arguments regarding theology.
Therefore, the following verse is a general principle regarding different types of observances as they pertain to arguments over whether a believer should or should not practice them, and not a reference to fast days, which have not been alluded to at all in this chapter up to this point.
5 One person esteems one day over another while another judges every day alike.
“Every day alike” denotes all days. There is no recorded practice within first century Judaism or the growing Messiah following community regarding fasts that covered the whole of the year. Therefore, “all days” must by nature of the context denote the numerous observances of sacred days practiced within Judaism and the growing body of believers at the time. There were many “sacred days” observed, both Biblically commanded and otherwise, the only explicit Biblically (Torah) commanded fast being Yom Kippur. It is likely then given that this letter is written to Roman believers, that the days in question were morally neutral extra-biblical observances. In keeping with concerns of the nature of foods, as mentioned in verse 2. The present verses regard morally neutral food consumption and not fasting.
Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.
Double mindedness regarding conscience is challenged.
6 The one who observes that day does so to the Lord.
What day? Any or “all days” (v.5). Again, fasting is not even inferred or remotely applicable.
The one who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and the one who abstains, abstains to the Lord, and he gives thanks to God.
Eats what? Verse 2 tells us “all forms of food meat and vegetables”. Abstains from what? Verse 2 tells us from meat, “eats only vegetables”. So is this about fasting? No!
7 For none of us lives for himself, and none dies for himself. 8 For if we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9 For this reason Messiah died and lived again, so that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.
The remainder of the chapter concerns passing judgement that is reserved for God. It is not as some foolishly suggest, saying that we should not judge at all, Yeshua commands us to “make a right judgement”.
The point being that not once in Romans 14 does Rav Shaul (Paul the Apostle) refer to or insinuate, infer or otherwise, that fasting is the issue.
© 2020 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.