You Are What You Eat: Acts 10

In Acts 10, Peter has a dream about eating unclean food. Some people use this to justify eating unclean meat, but in the Bible a dream is rarely what it seems. In every case where God gives people a vision, the vision is interpreted elsewhere in the text. Similarly, Peter's vision is explained later in the chapter. As it turns out, Peter was actually being told to accept Gentiles, not to consume unclean meats.
Kill and Eat?
12Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. 13And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. 14But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. 15And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.Acts 10:12-16 KJV

Introduction

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Acts 10:9-18 details a vision Peter is given from God. In this vision, Peter sees animals of all types, and a voice commands him to kill these animals to eat. When Peter receives these instructions, he protests. Peter says he has never eaten anything unclean, implying that he isn't about to start eating unclean animals now. Since God is the one commanding Peter to "rise and kill," many people take this as proof that we can eat unclean animals. However, if we really look at the passage, that isn't what's happening here.

The Punchline

After Peter experiences his vision, he has to think on it (Acts 10:19)—it isn't clear to him that God is giving him permission to eat unclean flesh! Eventually, Peter tells us what he has determined his dream means. In Acts 10:28 and Acts 11:5-18, it is explained that God gave this vision to Peter to prepare him for the inclusion of Gentiles in the movement. This makes sense because if you read prior to Peter's vision, you'll see that we are told about a Gentile, named Cornelius, who is sent by God to Peter. Cornelius receives his instructions in a vision as well. Prior to the dream's revelation, the Jews did not associate with Gentiles; Peter likely would not have received Cornelius without God revealing this message.

Other Examples of Beasts in Visions

If you remember back in Genesis, Joseph was an expert at interpreting dreams. Many of the dreams he interpreted weren't literal translations. The objects and animals in the seen in the dreams were usually metaphors or symbols for a larger picture. In Daniel 7, Daniel recounts a vision he was given from God that also includes beasts. These same beasts are repeated in the vision given to John and recorded in Revelation. If you compare Peter's dream with the visions given in Daniel and Revelation, you will notice continuity of symbolism in beasts or animals representing nations.

Moral of the Vision

Up until this point, the gospel was reserved for the Jews. The Jews didn't associate with Gentiles and essentially looked upon them the same way they looked at unclean animals such as pigs. Although God never told them to treat other people with such disdain (they weren't to yolk themselves with pagans, but strangers could be converted, at which point they became part of Israel), the Jews developed this tradition anyway. The development of unbiblical traditions was one of the main problems Jesus had with the Pharisees. He was constantly trying to get them back on target with God's word and to abandon man made traditions. Despite following Jesus during His ministry, Peter would have been raised in the Jews' tradition and been wary of Gentiles. So, when God sent Cornelius to Peter, He had to also send Peter a message to inform Peter that he should receive Cornelius with open arms. In the Old Testament, prophets like Isaiah talk about the time when the Gospel would be preached to the Gentiles, this is the beginning of the fulfillment of those prophecies.

Up Next: 1 Timothy 4:1-7

In the next post we'll look at 1 Timothy 4:1-7, another popular passage in the "can we eat unclean foods" debate.

References

  1. Jeffery Spitzer. "The Non-Jew in Jewish Law". My Jewish Learning; visited December 2018

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Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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