Acts 10 and Pork: Fantasy vs. Reality

I love living in between two worlds (Judaism and Christianity, in case you didn’t know what I meant). It means sometimes having to submit to questions about my identity (Why Jesus? Why Judaism?).

One scenario which plays itself out repeatedly is the following: 1. I speak in an evangelical church, 2. I go out to lunch with some of the people, 3. the absence of pork in my diet is noted, and 4. someone brings up Acts 10 and wonders why I don’t realize that the dietary laws of the Torah are now obsolete.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not complaining. I enjoy the opportunity to challenge the status-quo from time to time. I also don’t mind saying the same things over and over again. After all, one of the messages I deliver in churches I have given about 600 times! I’m used to repeating myself.

So it is not as though I expect this article to be my last word on the subject. I won’t print it in a brochure and hand it to the next person who asks me about dietary law. But I do hope it will answer the questions for many who have them. Acts 10 is simply not what many people think it is. There is a fantasy version and the real version of Acts 10.

Let’s start with the fantasy version: Peter was enjoying a Hebrew National kosher beef frank one day and talking with all his Jewish friends. Suddenly the Spirit came over Peter and he saw a vision. Cascading down from the Israeli sky was a giant silk sheet of white. Peter was drawn to look more closely. Inside the sheet there were many fancy platters, like a buffet table at a Hilton Hotel. On the platters there were scrambled eggs and waffles and hashbrown potatoes. But what really drew his attention were platters with honey-cured ham, crisp Hormel bacon, a suckling pig with an apple in its mouth, lobster, shrimp cocktail, and oysters on the half shell. Peter had secretly fantasized about eating such fare. With great joy he heard God say, “Peter, eat.” It was God. It was God telling Peter that Leviticus 11 was being repealed by heaven. Peter’s Jewish heart was kvelling. At long last he was freed from the burden that had weighed on him for decades. He could be just like everybody else.

It’s a nice fantasy. It’s what people want to believe. It makes for a nice theology (we’re all the same now). People frequently tell me, “There is now neither Jew nor Greek.” They love Galatians 3:28. They neglect the next part: neither male nor female. Sometimes I ask in order to introduce reality, “By your logic, then, I assume you have no problem with same-sex marriage?”

Let’s talk about the reality: Peter’s vision had nothing to do with eating. Peter didn’t eat anything and God wasn’t actually talking about food at all. God did not say, “I am repealing my Torah.”

Check Acts 10. Read the text carefully. See if what I am about to say is true. Peter saw a great sheet coming down from heaven and inside it were . . . animals of all kinds (not a breakfast buffet). The text specifies that this included birds and reptiles. Yes, sparrows, crows, pigeons, turtles, coral snakes, geckos, and many animals were inside — hardly a tasty vision.

When God told Peter to kill and eat anything he liked from the vision, Peter refused. Why? Because, contrary to many readings of the apostles, they were Jews and remained Jews and kept the Torah. Then God makes his point, “What I have made clean, do not call common.”

What does he mean? Is God making pork clean? How about geckos (eat up if you like)? No, God is talking about something else. This is that. We call it symbolism. What do the unclean animals in the vision symbolize? Gentiles. How do we know that? That is the context of the whole story. It is about Peter taking the good news of Messiah to Cornelius and his family, Gentiles who attend synagogue and want to know about Yeshua. Later, Peter relates the vision and says the vision taught him something. It did not teach him to break the Torah and renounce his Jewish identity. It taught him that men of all nations are acceptable to God.

Now understand this: God is not really doing something new. Check the prophets and psalms. God always accepted Gentiles. It is simply that Peter and others did not understand this. They thought Yeshua was just for Jews and converts. God is not repealing anything. He always wanted Gentiles to draw near (check Numbers 15:14-15). The anti-Gentile sentiment of Judaism was from the Second Temple period and was not from God. God never commanded a “Court of the Gentiles,” for instance, but allowed Gentiles to draw near. Peter simply needed education, not a reversal of the Torah.

So, the next time you are tempted to use Acts 10 as your rationale for saying the law is obsolete, remember Peter didn’t see honey-cured ham. He saw geckos and coral snakes. There was nothing new in the vision — just education for an apostle blinded by the Judaism of his day.

About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Bible, Messianic Jewish, Torah. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Acts 10 and Pork: Fantasy vs. Reality

  1. PB and J says:

    derek

    thanks for the analysis of acts 10. i have long wondered the same thing. i realized a few months ago that the purpose was gentile, not kosher. and that peter didnt go eat pork, but visited cornelius.

    i have started trying to eat kosher as best as i know how. although i dont have too much background in kosher laws.

    anyway, what do you think about gentiles eating kosher?

    peter

  2. Robert Efurd says:

    It is amazing that the Torah laws are ignored or glossed over by the church. Hashem has given his wonderful word on what to eat and how to preserve our health and spiritual happiness. It is amazing to look back in history of the U.S. Before 1880, we were not the most hospitable place for being observant. Many rabbis from the old country were horrified to find the dietary laws were not being followed. Today, we should emulate Yeshua in not only his actions but also how he lived his temporal life- and He did not eat ham!

  3. Excellent article. Thank you. Have you read “Holy Cow: Does God Care What we Eat?” Its reviewed on my blog under book reviews.

  4. Erik Rivas Rosenthal says:

    I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. (Romans 14:14). If am I trying to bring a fellow Jew to know Jesus (Yeshua, Yehoshua, He has a name written on HIS HIMSELF THAT ONLY HE KNOWS Revelation 19:16), then I will of course not eat pork. But when I am alone or with my wife, we eat whatever we please, because whatever is not done out of faith is done in sin. Love is the fulfillment of the law. If you are obsessed with following the letter of the written law, then there is the tendency for pride to sneak in. Me thinks pride is the opposite of love my brother!

    • Erik Rivas Rosenthal says:

      Pride is the most basic part of human nature because all sins flow from pride. Pride is unique because gender is unique. There is male pride, female pride. Then there is national pride, racial pride, linguistic pride, etc. etc. We as individuals deep down inside want to be noticed, stand out, be a cut above, take advantage of a situation or individuals. The Word is absolutely correct: “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” The only one who knows how bad it is the LORD G-D, and that’s why he detests those who are destined to die forever: “where ‘their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.’”

      Isaiah 66:24
      Jeremiah 4:4
      Matthew 3:12
      Matthew 25:41
      Mark 9:49
      Luke 3:17

      I ask myself this question right now: who have I to today or recently of the LORD JESUS THE CHRIST!!!

      祂就是比利害還要厲害! 祂本來就是厲害的定義!!

      • Michael Cho says:

        Amen. I believe the Law is for the good of man. Those dietary laws are indeed good and if you follow them you will reap the benefits of it. But it isn’t a morality issue. Since the law was made for the benefit of man, let’s say there was someone who was in a situation where there was nothing else to eat but pig or something unclean. Should he starve to death because of it? It sort of beats the purpose of those dietary laws.

  5. Portia van Dorp says:

    Genuinely interested. What about 1 Timothy 4:2-4?

  6. Michael Cho says:

    Romans 14 King James Version (KJV)
    14 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.
    2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.
    3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
    4 Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
    5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
    6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.
    7 For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.
    8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.
    9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.
    10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
    11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
    12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
    13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.
    14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
    15 But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.
    16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of:
    17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
    18 For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.
    19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.
    20 For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.
    21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.
    22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.
    23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

    • Michael Cho says:

      To anyone reading this: I don’t want to upset anyone’s conscience. I sort of regret even leaving a comment up on the board about eating pork. To those who do not eat pork due to the dietary laws of God, please keep going strong! God’s law does not change and he put it there for a reason. I thought about it a lot and I’m called to be like Jesus and I’m pretty sure Jesus and even Paul did not eat pork or any “unclean” food. Whatever it takes for me to grow closer to God, I want to do. I don’t want anything to hinder my relationship with God. It’s better safe than sorry. Although I believe there might be spiritual consequences to eating unclean food I still do not believe it is a salvation issue. (It will be if it is hindering your conscience and you decide to go against it.) However, giving up your favorite food shouldn’t be something holding you back from seeking the Lord with all your heart, as we are all called to take our cross and follow Him.

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