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.

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.


4 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.

  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.

    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:
      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.
      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:

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

  3. Pingback: Does Peter’s Vision prove we can eat anything? The difference between “common” & “unclean” | ORACIÓN Y ESPIRITUALIDAD

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