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

 

How many pigs were on Noah’s ark? Genesis 6 – 8

So how many pigs were there?  If you said “two”, then you were….  right!  There were two.  One male.  One female.  Now to the next question.

How many sheep were on the ark?  There were two of every animal, right?  Wrong.

Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate…” Genesis 7:2 (ESV)

Okay, ignoring that there is a bit of uncertainty in the Hebrew as to whether the number is 7 pairs or 7 total, the point is that there was a category of animal known as ‘clean’!  Long before Yehovah (the LORD) gave the ‘Law’ through Moses, there was a distinction between ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ animals.  And, it seems, that Noah knew the distinction even before this as God does not need to explain it to him (in my opinion).

You may say, “So what?  Just a bit further on God says, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you.” Genesis 9:3 (ESV).  Doesn’t this show that we can eat anything?”  Many people take it to mean just that, but I wonder.

First off, God also said that “As I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.” Genesis 9:3 (ESV)  And yet there are many poisonous plants that should not be eaten (or not eaten raw).  There has always been exceptions to what can be eaten.  In the garden of Eden, the exception was the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Today, just about any animal can be eaten (and are eaten).   But does that mean that we, as followers of Yehovah (the LORD) through Yeshua (Jesus), are to eat anything?

To me, the issue between clean and unclean animals is just another test.  Will we, or will we not, follow what God wants?   Will we (well, Adam and Eve) or will we not eat from the forbidden tree (in the garden of Eden) even though it is good to eat?  The question is the same today, will we or will we not eat only those things God has called clean?

So, instead of just accepting the doctrine that says ‘Christians can eat whatever they want; Jesus nullified the dietary laws,’ check it out for yourself.  If you have questions, send them in (see the ‘questions‘ page) and I (or a guest author) will address them soon.

To me, following God’s dietary law is an opportunity to honor Him everyday, and serve Him with all parts of my body.

Shalom!   – Yosef

The ‘Questions‘ page is new.  Check it out!

 

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

 

 

 

Christianity and “The Law”

Christians have a variety of responses to the “Law of God.”  Almost all of which come down to saying that the Law, either in its entirety or parts of it, do not apply to Christians.  But what exactly is being rejected.

These past weeks, according to the Jewish scripture reading schedule, the first chapters in the book of Leviticus have been read.  These chapters deal with the sacrificial system and various other laws.  These chapters, though, are what most Christians think of as “The Law”, and so are most often ignored, including by those returning to the “Hebrew Roots of their Faith.”  Is there anything in these chapters worth looking at?

These chapters reveal a great deal about God’s character and how he wants us to live.  But you need to look closely.   In these chapters we see several principles come to light.  One is the idea of “Holiness.”   The definition of “holy” is “set apart”.  It does not mean what we typically envision, which is something with some sort of mystical power or some specially pious person.  It means something set apart for service to God.