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You Are What You Eat: Acts 10

Original Publication Date
December 16, 2018
Updated
Oct 4, 2022 3:24 AM
Tags
Food and DietActsPeterDiscipleship
Bible References
Acts 10
Status
Done
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Table of Contents
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This page was originally posted on my Blogger version of the blog on December 16, 2018 The content below has a few minor tweaks for clarity, and additional references, and some updated information.

Kill and Eat?

12 Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. 14 But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. 15 And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.

Introduction

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.

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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. (

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References and Footnotes

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

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