Peter and the Floating Pig

Most Christians have heard the story (in Acts chapter 10) about Peter having a vision of a large sheet being lowered from heaven; it being full of all sorts of animals and birds; and he being told to ‘rise and eat.’  And most Christians have heard that the vision was given to show Peter that he could eat anything, including pork.  And that is the end of the discussion.

But is that what the vision is really about?  Let’s look at the whole story.  (By the way, the vision itself is in Acts 10:9-16).

First, note that the story of Peter’s vision is given in the middle of the story about the Roman centurion Cornelius, and his vision.   In Biblical literature, this is a clue that the two stories have something to do with one another.

Next, take a look at Peter’s initial reaction to the vision.  Peter exclaimed, “By no means, Lord: for I have never eaten anything this is common or unclean.” Acts 10:14 (ESV).   Apparently, Peter was either never told he could eat anything, or he never understood that he had been told.

And what was Peter’s immediate reaction after the vision was over.  It’s written, “Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision … might mean.” Acts 10:17 (ESV).  In other words, he wasn’t immediately thinking that the vision had anything to do with food.

The Biblical narrative then relates that the servants sent by Cornelius are at the door.  This is another hint that the two stories are interrelated.

Then Peter, in talking with Cornelius and the people with him, states,

“You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.”  Acts 10:28 (ESV)

When did God show Peter this?  The whole context of the story points to Peter’s vision.  Add to that the realization that the ‘law’ Peter is referring to is not one of God’s laws!

Lastly, take a look at Acts 11:1-18.  The other apostles and brothers in Christ had heard what had happened, that Peter had visited with, and even eaten with, Gentiles, and they asked Peter about it.  Peter then related the vision he had seen.

And what happens next?  Acts 11:18 states,

“When they heard these things they fell silent.  And they glorified God, saying, ‘Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.’ “

Not one of them thought the vision had anything to do with calling unclean animals now fit to be eaten.  It didn’t even occur to them that the vision had anything to do with food!

So why did God use all manner of unclean animals to show Peter that no person is to be called unclean?  I don’t know. Why does God so often compare people to sheep, or even sheep and goats?

Perhaps it is a subtle reminder that He is the one that has created all things, and He is the one who dictates which things are to be considered clean and which are to be considered unclean.

It is also a strong reminder to not put words in God’s mouth.   God said clearly,

“You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it…” Deuteronomy 4:2 (ESV)

God gave Peter a very graphic reminder through this vision.   God never called gentiles (as a whole group) unclean!

Shalom.  – Yosef

 

Headlines: Scallop wars! and Deuteronomy 19

A recent headline on the BBC news site (from 29.August.2018) read, “Scallop war: French and British boats clash in Channel.”  Two things may come to mind when reading this.  First, what are scallops?  And second, why does this matter?

Scallops are a type of clam, and many claim they are delicious and healthy.  (Personally, I don’t see how the delicious and healthy claim can be true.)

Does this matter?  Well, yes, on a couple different levels.

The French basically chased the Brits out of a prime scallop fishing ground, claiming that the Brits were decimating the scallop fields.  Such economic crises have started wars.  But that is not my point.

Legally, the Brits weren’t doing anything wrong.  Not according to agreements between France and Britain that pertained to scallop harvesting.  Yet the French were upset, likely due to their decreasing harvests.  So, does the Bible give us, as followers of Yeshua (Jesus), any guidance about how to deal with this situation?

Actually, yes, God does have some instruction.

In the later chapters of the book of Deuteronomy we find this injunction:

“You shall not move your neighbor’s landmark” Deuteronomy 19:14 (ESV).

This may not be a case of moving a physical boundary, but the issue was over when in time that the Brits would be allowed to harvest.  A time boundary.

Yes, God wants us to respect our neighbor’s possessions.  The 10 statements (10 commandments) also covers this: ‘Do not covet’.  And the well known injunction, ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ also covers this.

Another response from followers of Yeshua (Jesus) should be one of, “Yuch! Who wants to eat scallops!”.  Okay, so that is a bit exaggerated, but God does tell us to only eat things from the seas that have fins and scales.  Scallops have neither, so should be left alone to do the job in the sea that God created them to do.

Inevitably, when the topic of restricting what one eats comes up, people will point to Peter’s vision (in the book of Acts, chapter 10) and say, “see, we can eat whatever we want.”

Two quick comments about that.  First, note that this vision occurred years after Yeshua (Jesus) was raised from the dead.  If Yeshua had called all things clean during his ministry, and this vision was restating that point, then I find it interesting that those words of Yeshua had been completely missed by Peter (and the rest of the apostles) for years.  If this is something new that God is telling us through Peter, I’m a bit skeptical for I don’t see God giving commands through one person’s visions anywhere else in the Bible.  (One person’s visions dictating doctrine reminds me of how both Mormonism and Islam started).  If I’m wrong, let me know.  Doesn’t mean He can’t; just that I’m skeptical about it.  And besides, neither Peter nor the Jerusalem church’s elders thought the vision pertained to food (read further in the book of Acts).

So, though God gave ‘all things for food’, we are called to walk in a holy manner (set apart manner).  Let them eat their scallops.  We won’t.  And if it comes to a labor dispute, before joining in, remember that God does not want us to “move our neighbor’s boundary” or covet anything of our neighbors.  This doesn’t apply just to physical things.

Be holy as He is holy.

  • Yosef

If Pigs Could Be Clean – Deuteronomy 14

In Deuteronomy 14 we are given a list of animals that God says we can eat and some general rules with which we can determine ourselves if an animal can be eaten.  This list gives rise to the ‘kosher’ food industry, but really the section is about clean and unclean animals.  Kosher takes in much more then that and isn’t the topic of this post.

In the passage, pigs are singled out as one of the animals that meet half the requirements needed to be clean (and therefore eatable).  And throughout history, eating pork has been one of the activities used as a measurement to show that one is not Jewish.  (Another is not keeping the Sabbath, but that is for a different post.)  And, judging by most Christian breakfasts or pot-lucks, I wonder if that isn’t still true today.  I digress.  Here are a couple comments on the topic of whether or not Christians should pay attention to the ‘kosher’ laws.  This is not meant as a counter argument against all the reasons Christianity has for eating pork.  Just a couple things to think about.

  • The idea of clean and unclean animals predates the giving of the ‘Law’.  Noah took on two of each animal and 7 (pairs) of each clean animal.  See Genesis 7:1-3.
  • In defense of eating anything, people like to point out that God gave ‘all things’ for food.  And this is true.  However, near the end of the ‘clean animals’ (kosher) lists (Deut. 14 and Leviticus 11), God makes the comments that we are to be holy for He is holy, and that the list is for us to learn to distinguish between clean and unclean.
  • Peter also tells us to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16).  One way of being holy is to only eat ‘clean’ animals.
  • Learning to distinguish between clean and unclean is training for leaning to distinguish between Godly and ungodly.

I realize that the whole issue of eating clean seems an anathema to Christians as Christians are ‘under grace, not under law.’  Well, that saying will be discussed later as it is a greatly misunderstood statement.  Mostly, though, I will just point out that neither Yeshua (Jesus) nor the apostles, nor anyone in the early Jerusalem church, ate pork or taught that it could be eaten.

However, before even discussing the ‘kosher’ laws with Christians, the question, “do you eat blood?” should be asked.  And when it is asked, a reply such as, “I’m not under the law!” is inevitably given.

There is a much ignored verse in the book of Acts.  In Acts 15 there is the account of the ‘Jerusalem council.’  The results of that council is a letter written and agreed upon by all apostles, elders (of the Jerusalem church) and Paul.  It is address to all Gentile churches.  Part of that letter states:

“…but [we] should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.”  (ESV) Acts 15:20

So, before even wondering about clean / unclean, one needs to learn what is meant by not eating meat from a strangled animal and refraining from blood.

  • Yosef