Does Peter’s Vision prove we can eat anything? The difference between “common” & “unclean”

Peter’s Vision is often cited as proof to say we are free to eat anything we please. Many believe that God showed Peter that the previous Food Laws were no more as he was able to eat anything from thereon. There seems to be many issues with this theory, which we previously looked at in detail in this study.

The vision was clearly about “calling Gentiles Common or Unclean” as Peter himself proclaims:

Acts 10:28 And he 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 how is it that “Peter’s Vision” is used to teach God changed unclean food to clean? The problem is in the poor understanding of what is considered “common”(some translations say impure). The word “common”(Koinos-Common/Defiled) is vastly different from “unclean”(Akarthatos-Impure/Unclean).  The word Common is not from God’s Law but the Law of the Pharisees – also known as the Traditions of the Elders or the Oral Law. We see this clearly in the following verse:

Mark 7:2 And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled(Koinos), that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault.

The Pharisees were finding fault with the disciples for eating with defiled/common hands. In God’s Law He had specified the state of purity/Cleanness and impurity/uncleanness. There was nothing in between. The state which is called common/defiled was a Pharisaic manufacturing which said a clean thing which is next to an unclean thing becomes defiled where it is not clean nor unclean but in between. This was what is known as “common”. This was why it was deemed unlawful(as per the religious authority in the 1st Century) for a Jew to keep company with a Gentile. The understanding and doctrine of the day was that a Jew who is in a state of cleanliness would fall to a common state even if he/she ate with a gentile who were deemed unclean.

Coming back to the vision, let’s read it again to see what exactly God told Peter:

Acts 10:15 And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.

In the great sheet of Peter’s Vision, all the clean and unclean animals were mixed and together in one place. The clean were now in a state of being “Common” as per Peter’s understanding. There were only two categories of animals in the sheet according to God – “Clean” and “Unclean”. The Clean could be eaten.

When God told Peter to “Kill and Eat”. His response was “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean“. According to Peter the two categories were “Common” and “Unclean”. And both categories could not be eaten.

God says not to call things that He has cleansed “Common”. Which means He deems what man calls “common”, as “Clean”. God does not say anything to Peter about Unclean animals. God speaks to Peter about the clean animals who Peter thought were Common because of the Unclean animals in the same great sheet in his vision. Those who were deemed common (in Peter’s mind), God considered as Clean. Not that the unclean animals suddenly became clean animals.

The vision, if carefully dissected is very clear. God considers “Clean” what Peter calls “Common”. NOT that the “Unclean” were made “Clean”

So even if on argues that the Vision was about Food, God did not change His Word, but taught Peter what he had been taught was a fallacy. There was nothing called “Common”. Peter clearly understood the vision when he came to Cornelius’ house, as God had shown the man-made Pharisaic Law of “A Jew should not keep company with a Gentile” was removed from his mind.

Conclusion
In Peter’s Vision, God called what Peter considered “common” as “clean”. The voice never said that I have made the unclean, clean to you. God said “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.” So if you believe God told Peter that the Food Laws He had instituted were no more, I implore you to study the text a bit more in-depth, before you make your decision. If God deems it Clean we can eat it. If He deems it unclean, we cannot. Simple as that.

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12 thoughts on “Does Peter’s Vision prove we can eat anything? The difference between “common” & “unclean”

  1. Oldku

    This was a very good explanation. It is accurate and clear. Modern day christians feel the dietary laws no longer apply. But that would not be inaccurate. There is great danger in taking just a few verses to determine what the message is. I always recommend reading the entire chapter to seek the truth. Anyone can support perspectives with a verse here and there. But that perspective is often not going to be the truth and the light we desperately need. There are still unclean foods we all should not be eating.

    Reply
  2. Muan Guite (Muan)

    Is the word “Common” and “Clean” different in the text? If so, please explain for clearer understanding.
    Also, does that mean, as per your above explanation, eating unclean animals like Pig (which are eaten vastly all across the globe than any other meat) is to go against the Bible? For gentiles like me, who is not a Jewish by birth, an uncircumcised, do you think that, I should align my way of eating to the Jewish way?
    Please explain too the meaning of the scripture, when gentiles who were the first converts, were allowed to eat what they’ve been eating, except blood. Why the early disciples allowed the gentiles to eat freely, not changing their customs.
    Lastly, I do not think that Christianity is the religion of Food, as we have here in my country India. I think Christianity is the religion of the soul, deeper in spirituality than any of the main religion that exists today, it is the religion that focus on cleansing of heart, not the cleansing of the body. Whatever, we eat, goes inside the stomach and goes out as feaces.

    Reply
    1. rameshdesilva Post author

      Dear Muan,
      The Greek word for clean is Katharos…. the direct opposite of the word Unclean – Akathartos.
      While it is true that the Law was given to the children of Israel, it applies to everyone who joins themselves to God’s people and His Covenant. We cannot pick and choose what we obey and what we do not.
      On Acts 15 please read the following study:
      https://biblethingsinbibleways.wordpress.com/2013/12/22/gentiles-have-to-obey-only-4-commandments-misunderstandings-regarding-acts-15/
      God called unclean foods as per Him, such as Pork to be Abomination… It is very unlikely that He would suddenly change His mind and say that it is now OK to eat what He called Abomination.
      Christianity as we see it did not exist in the first century. There were several denominations such as Pharisees, Sadducees, in the first century… among them were a new sect which was called “The Way” as we see in Acts – the believers who believed Yeshua of Nazareth was the Messiah.
      https://biblethingsinbibleways.wordpress.com/2013/11/21/sect-of-the-way-the-nazarenes-christians-names-given-to-the-early-church/
      While it is true that we are to look at the inner aspects of our life much closely, it is not right to say that we have to disregard the outer aspects. The verse you quote from Mark & Matthew where our Lord talks about the food going into the draught, has also been completely misunderstood. Please read:
      https://biblethingsinbibleways.wordpress.com/2013/05/12/did-christ-declare-all-foods-clean-misunderstandings-regarding-mark-719/

      Please read as much as possible and look at the text in context. May you be a blessing to everyone around you!

      Reply
      1. queen4rmjudah

        How do you say that the law was given to the children of Israel and then say it applies to people who “join themselves”. The Children of Israel were chosen and one can’t simply “join” outside of the heritage nor the covenant. For example, I can’t be born black and one day just decide I’m going to “join” Irish heritage and call myself Irish. I could, but I’d look stupid and it still wouldn’t make me Irish. Yahawah’s people are chosen and doesn’t constitute being a club or gym membership that anyone can “join”. It doesn’t work like that.

      2. rameshdesilva Post author

        Isa 56:6,7 Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.

        Rom 11:17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;

        Eph 2:12,13 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

        Both the Mosaic Covenant and the New Covenant mentioned in Jeremiah were made with Israel. No Gentiles are mentioned. If we want to partake of the Covenant we need to be joined to His People. Isaiah is very clear in saying this.

        In the Mosaic Covenant all the strangers who came down from Egypt with the children of Israel had to abide by God’s Law.
        Lev 24:22 Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country: for I am the LORD your God.

        Being born into the Children of Israel doesn’t make you part of God’s people. Only obedience to Him can make you a son or daughter of the creator. This is what Paul meant when he said….
        Rom 2:28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
        Rom 2:29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

        Be a blessing to everyone around you!

      3. michaelajfarril

        Hi Ramesh,

        I can see what Muan is saying and I would like to add to his comments.

        I read your analysis of the vision of Peter with interest and was curious as to how you separated the animals on the sheets as koinon, that is, “common”, and athartikos, that is, “unclean”. Your argument was quite interesting and seems to go quite against what I and many Christians see as to what the entire story is trying to say. But I am happy for you to show me where I may not be reading the text as I should.

        Whereas it has been generally accepted for many years that this story shows that the Levitical dietary laws have now been revoked, you seem to be saying that this vision is not saying this at all. What you appear to be saying if I understand it correctly is that when Peter saw the vision of all the animals mixed together, the clean animals, clean in accordance with Leviticus 11, with the unclean animals, that the clean animals, by touching the unclean animals had become “common”. I’m guessing then that this makes the clean animals after being in touch with the unclean animals inedible for followers of the Levitical dietary laws.

        One of the difficulties of this view is that there doesn’t appear to be anything in the Bible that I am aware of that makes a separation between unclean and common. That you will need to show me.

        But is there really such a clear distinction between something that is koinon or “common” and akatharton, that is, “unclean”?

        First of all, if there is a distinction between common and clean, is there a difference between a common person and an unclean one? For as it says in the verse you quote from Acts 10:28, Peter, a Jew, says that “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”. That God showed Peter that he should not call any man common or unclean refers back to the earlier part of the verse that Jews cannot keep company with people of other nations, these other people being “any man common or unclean”. To me, there is no distinction between a “common” and an “unclean” person. After all, Gentiles are being mentioned here as “common and unclean” and it didn’t matter if they were common but not unclean or unclean and not common, Jews weren’t to associate with them.

        This interchangeable use of “common” and “unclean”, at least how I see it, comes out in Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 14. In this chapter, Paul divides Christians into two groups: those who eat all things and those “who are weak” who eat only vegetables. As an aside and beyond the topic a little bit here is that Paul only talks about people who are omnivorous and those who are vegetarian which I find somewhat strange because as far as I am aware there are no dietary restrictions in the Mosaic Law against eating meat, only certain meats. However, Paul makes no distinction between clean and unclean animals but says that everything is now edible. But further, he makes no distinction between foods that are koinon (common) or akatharton (unclean) and in fact uses these two words interchangeably. In Romans 14:14 Paul argues that “there is nothing common (koinon) of itself: but to him that esteemeth anything to be common (koinon), to him it is common (koinon)”. As an aside, what is curious about this verse is that what makes anything common is not something inherent in that thing but a person’s view of it, so that two people could be viewing the one thing and this thing only becomes common in the mind of the person who views it as common as the other person may have the opposite view even though it is the same animal. Paul then later says in Romans 14:20 “all things are pure” the word “pure” being in the Greek kathara, that is, “clean” the opposite of the word akatharton, unclean, as used in Vision of Peter. Hence Paul appears to use the words “common” and “clean” interchangeably in his argument. And notice how Paul says quite emphatically that “all things are pure” and this is in the chapter where Paul is trying to argue that we shouldn’t judge each other on what we eat and drink, and there is absolutely nothing in this chapter nor in any of Paul’s letters where Paul continues to maintain Levitical dietary laws.

        Again, this goes together with Paul’s letter to Timothy that “every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused…for it is sanctified by the word of God” (I Timothy 4:4, 5). The words “every creature” is in Greek pan ktisma, that is, “all creation”, and those animals that were unclean according to the Mosaic Law are part of the creation of God according to Genesis. And notice how Paul further says that all creation “is sanctified”, that is, made holy, which is cognate with being made clean. If Paul ever confirmed that we must still restrict our eating in accordance with the Mosaic Law, these verses wouldn’t make any sense.

        So, turning back to the Vision of Peter, while I appreciate that you are trying to say that in this story God was not saying that Peter could now eat the unclean animals, but what he was trying to say was that the Gentiles were no longer common and unclean and Jews could now associate with them, in light of what Paul writes in his letters, I’m sure many Christians on the contrary see that there is a direct connection with the cleansing of the former unclean animals and the acceptance of the Gentiles into the newly formed Christian fold. Jews according to the Mosaic Law had to be a separate people and one way they showed their difference was through their diet. “We Jews are different” so they could say, “because we don’t eat this but you Gentiles eat this, so we are different”. However, under the new covenant, many Christians see that this story of the Vision of Peter is actually showing the direct connection between the cleansing of the animals and the cleansing of the Gentiles, that now there is no difference between Jew and Gentile which means there is no longer any separation between the types of animals everyone can eat. This Vision of Peter also therefore tells us the precise moment when the cleansing of the unclean animals took place. Otherwise, if we only had Paul’s letters to rely on, it could remain a troublesome mystery as to why Paul says all creation is now cleansed and when this cleansing occurred.

        I am curious to hear what you think about my analysis.

        Love and Shalom

      4. rameshdesilva Post author

        Dear Michael,

        I understand that this goes against the common teaching in Christianity. But the whole misunderstanding stems from a lack of knowledge in what the teachers such as the scribes and Pharisees had added to God’s Law in the 1st Century. I am speaking of the Traditions of the Elders more commonly known as the Oral Law of that day.
        For more on this please read
        https://biblethingsinbibleways.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/who-were-the-pharisees/

        The “Koinos” mentioned in Acts 10 is not part of the Law in Leviticus 11. In fact you cannot find it anywhere in the Torah (5 books of Moses). Not even in the Septuagint. The “Common” separation was part of an addition made by the Pharisees and the religous teachers of the day. We see the Koinos mentioned by the Pharisees in Mark 7:2 when they took issue with the disciples eating with unwashed hands.

        In short, God shows Peter a vision with clean and unclean animals all mixed together. But in Peter’s mind he sees the clean animals as “common” animals which cannot be eaten. So God says not to call what He has cleansed “common”. Common was not part of the Lev 11 dietary laws.

        Now when this pertains to people, I believe a “unclean” person according to the teaching of Pharisees would have been any Gentile. While a devout person such as a proselyte would have been considered “common”.

        The use of Koinos in the NT is minimum and helps us understand the true meaning of “common”. Koinos is seen in Mar_7:2; Act_2:44; Act_4:32; Act_10:14; Act_10:28; Act_11:8; Rom_14:14; Tit_1:4; Heb_10:29; Jud_1:3;
        while Akathartos can be seen in Mat_10:1; Mat_12:43; Mar_1:23; Mar_1:26; Mar_1:27; Mar_3:11; Mar_3:30; Mar_5:2; Mar_5:8; Mar_5:13; Mar_6:7; Mar_7:25; Mar_9:25; Luk_4:33; Luk_4:36; Luk_6:18; Luk_8:29; Luk_9:42; Luk_11:24; Act_5:16; Act_8:7; Act_10:14; Act_10:28; Act_11:8; 1Co_7:14; 2Co_6:17; Eph_5:5; Rev_16:13; Rev_18:2; always translated as Unclean.

        It is very good that you brought up Romans 14:14 as this is a key verse which is mistranslated. Paul is speaking of meat which can be regarded “common” by a Jew (similar to Peter when he saw the vision) and not eating unclean meats. This verse is used in Christian circles to say that if you regard something unclean it is unclean to you, and if you regard something clean you can eat it… no matter what God says in His word. I have a study on Romans 14 which you can read here:
        https://biblethingsinbibleways.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/food-laws-or-fasting-misunderstandings-regarding-romans-14/

        You are right to say that “common” and “clean” are the same, as “common” was a particular view of the Jews of Clean Meat which had come in contact with unclean. God was saying that Clean was clean and could not become “common” while the teaching was that there are three states instead of two – namely clean, unclean AND common.

        I believe Paul kept the whole Law (Torah) and walked accordingly including the dietary laws as per the statement of James “and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law.”(Acts 21:24). Notice that even at that time there was rumours that Paul taught against the keeping of the Law. This is the same charge brought on Paul today. Many say that “He didn’t keep the Law”. I have a few studies on this as well:
        https://biblethingsinbibleways.wordpress.com/2015/08/01/paul-falsely-accused-of-breaking-gods-law/
        https://biblethingsinbibleways.wordpress.com/2013/09/28/paul-the-misunderstood-apostle/

        1Timothy 4:4,5 is another verse which is commonly used to say that the dietary laws are done away. The short answer is what is considered the “Word of God” when Paul writes this letter and if it is what we call the Old Testament, and what does it sanctify as food. Please read:
        https://biblethingsinbibleways.wordpress.com/2016/07/15/unclean-foods-sanctified-by-gods-word-and-prayer-misunderstandings-regarding-1tim-41-5/

        The vision of Peter is assuredly about Gentiles who turn to God not being considered “common” or “unclean”. It is not about all Gentiles. The distinction is in who turns to God to lead a new life free from Sin. The problem is that the vision is used to say that God cleansed the unclean animals rendering the Lev 11 laws obsolete. There is no evidence to signify such a change, even in the explanation Peter gives the council in Acts 11.

        Christiandom believes that the Old Testament is done away. Which would render the 10 Commands also obsolete, as the 10 commands are the cornerstone of the Mosaic Covenant (Exo 34:28, Deut 4:13). The Law (Torah) was an expansion on these 10 Commands and constituted part and parcel of the Mosaic Covenant. So when we come to the New Covenant, Jeremiah says “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” The New Covenant was the internalizing of God’s Laws, not the abolishment of it. The Mosaic Covenant was given to Israel. But it was also applicable to any gentile who came into Covenant with God(Lev 24:22, Num 15:16). The New Covenant was made with the House of Israel and House of Judah as well. So if a gentile enters into it, shouldn’t he/she abide by it’s rules? This is why James made his famous decision in Acts 15, where he applied the lowest standard of entry to 4 laws from Lev 17&18. Then he said “For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.” in other words they can learn the rest when they attended synagogue.

        In short I believe God does not change His Word and not a Jot or Tittle will pass from it till Heaven and Earth itself passes away. Including the Dietary Laws spoken by the mouth of God.

        Be a blessing to everyone around you

      5. michaelajfarril

        Hi Ramesh,

        Thanks for all that information. It’s going to take me a while to read through all of it before I can comment.

        I have one question, though. What about circumcision? For those believe that the New Testament was inspired by Yahveh, should they be circumcised?

        Love and Shalom

      6. rameshdesilva Post author

        Dear Michael,
        Circumcision was given as a sign of the Abrahamic Covenant and was to be administered to a baby on the 8th day. This was reiterated under the Mosaic Covenant but was a command given to parents. The issue we see in Acts 15 and most of Paul’s Letters (especially Galatians) was that circumcision was seen as the act done to become a child of God. In other words some were saying a gentile could not be saved without circumcision. So many of Paul’s arguments are centered on this theme “justification” through the Law. So, to answer your question… I do not believe circumcision is in any way needed for salvation… just as any other command is not needed for salvation. If our salvation was dependent on what we obeyed then we truly would not need Christ – this is what Paul argues in most of his letters. But after receiving salvation, we put away our old lives and try to live a sinless life (Sin being defined as transgression of the Law). So I believe circumcision is a valid command like all other commands… one which we cannot force on others but that which they need to do willingly in their own time. Sometimes this point of view is seen as legalism, but again we must note that circumcision does not give us salvation, but we enter into circumcision similar to all other commands which we start to adhere after learning from the Scriptures. It would not make sense for me or you to tell anyone to be obedient to God’s Word as it is a matter of heart and not a set of rules that grants us salvation.

        Be a blessing to everyone around you!

      7. michaelajfarril

        Dear Ramesh,

        Thank you for that detailed explanation. In light of your explanation above, could I ask you what is your take on what Paul wrote in I Corinthians 7:18, “Is any man called in uncircumcision? Let him not be circumcised”?

        Love and shalom

      8. rameshdesilva Post author

        Dear Michael,

        on 1Cor7:18-20 I believe Paul is speaking of the state you entered the belief in Yeshua. Circumcision was a hot topic in Paul’s Day, and he was vehemently against it – not the command of Circumcision, but the Judaizing factor, where most Jews believed you could not enter the Kingdom of God without Circumcision. In other words Salvation through Circumcision. All Jewish believers were called in Circumcision(In the Jewish Faith of the day) and all Gentiles were called in uncircumcision. I beleieve Paul is saying that a Gentile does not need to change their ways to a Jew, or Jew to change their ways to a Gentile, but the true calling is to keep God’s Commands. The Commandments of God contain circumcision as well… circumcision done in the right heart… not to belong to a particular crowd or to attain salvation.

        Be a blessing to everyone around you!

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