Were Old Testament Food Laws Done Away in Acts 10?
Acts 10 is About The Baptism of Uncircumcised Gentiles - Not Clean & Unclean Meats
To imply though that the "eat the meat in the sheet" vision gave any part of the first century church (Jewish or Gentile) license to eat unclean meats is difficult to digest, if you'll forgive the metaphor. And interestingly "metaphor" is what this passage is really about - if we take a bit of time to read it carefully.
In fact, it doesn't seem to have been at all clear to Peter what the vision meant, which is why Acts 10:19 shows that he was wracking his brain, when he was told by God that three men were looking for him.
¶ While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee.
Was Peter Really Being Instructed to Eat Unclean Meats?
And no wonder. He was certainly pondering if the vision was meant literally because he knew that the dietary laws, had been revealed by God long before Moses (at the time of Noah Genesis 7:2-3) and then reiterated within the Torah (in Leviticus 11). And despite this being many years after Christ's sacrifice, we learn from that Peter had still never eaten anything unclean.
But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.
Moreover, the "Not so, Lord" quite clearly suggests that he wasn't particularly inclined to start either. Interestingly that's entirely consistent with Christ's own view of the law (and Paul's too actually).
Where's the Ham Sandwich ?
Interestingly, having received an apparent command to eat unclean animals, the men knocking on the door of Simon the Tanner's house didn't present Peter with a ham sandwich to eat. Had they done so, Peter would have been in no doubt whatsoever, about what he had to do. But that isn't what's recorded in our Bibles....is it?
Instead it rapidly became clear that the men had been sent by a gentile, a man whom the pharisee's traditions of the time (known as the Oral Torah) deemed to be unclean and as a consequence, with whom devout Jews wouldn't normally eat (Galatians 2:)
No Bacon Sandwiches Either ?
The three men stayed with Peter and Simon the Tanner overnight, and journeyed the 30 miles or so to Cesarea the next day. During that time the meaning of the vision had become clearer to Peter and the first thing he said to Cornelius was not:
"I'm gagging for a bacon sandwich"
And he (Peter) said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any MAN common or unclean.
So, despite Peter having had more than enough oopportunity to do so, he isn't recorded as having broken God's dietry laws. Had he done so, there wouldn't be a debate. We'd all be eating bacon sandwiches. In fact, isn't it interesting the nowhere in the Greek Scriptures is it recorded that anyone ate unclean food as a result of this vision.
On the Contrary!
Peter was instead reminded that the written Torah reigns supreme over the sometimes misleading religious traditions of the time. That's because written Torah insists that gentiles (often referred to as "strangers") be treated no differently from Israelites, particularly because at one time the Israelites were strangers themselves in Egypt.
But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
In due course Peter would need to be reminded of this by Paul in Antioch (Galatians 2).
So God was telling Peter to ignore the more widely practised religious traditions of his day and practise what the written Torah actually commands...
Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
We'd do well to reflect on this lesson in the way that Peter did.
The Absence of Controversy (Other Than Gentile Circumcision)
Moreover, when we understand just how much of the so called "New Testament" (Greek Scriptures) are taken up with explaining the controversy caused by this baptism of non-circumcised gentiles (in Galatians, Romans 2, 3, & 4; Acts 15, Acts 21 to Acts 24: etc.) we see that the discussion about this one law in Exodus 12:48 created massive controversy for the fledglinig church.
Arguably then, if other aspects of the written Torah, like the food laws, had been overturned by God, as some would have us believe, then why aren't the Greek Scriptures more than twice as thick as they actually are, with the controversy and debate about those changes?
Are we seriously expected to believe that having been enslaved by the Babylonians for not respecting God's written Torah, then having made various "additions and traditions" to it known as the Oral Torah, which developed into the pervading culture of Pharisaic legalism, and ultimately was codified into the Mishnah and commented on in the Talmuds, that first century Jewish Christians were prepared to just ditch the first five books of the God's law without it creating any significant doctrinal controversy?
We're sticking to turkey bacon thanks.
Next: Acts 15 - The Debate About Gentile Non-Circumcision at the Jerusalem Conference
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© www.gentiles-and-circumcision.info Jan 2006.
Why do many christian theologians believe even after the crucifixion that Paul kept Nazirite vows and offered sacrifices at the temple, so is the written Torah law really "done away" in Galatians?