Eating Lizards . . . Acts 10 & 11

lizardIt would be interesting to conduct a major George Barna style survey and determine how many people in the Christian pews of America think that the point of Peter’s sheet vision in Acts 10 and 11 is about God reversing his commandment to Israel not to eat unclean animals.

Some have called this story the first example of a “pig in the blanket” (sorry, a little humor there).

I am reading Kenton Sparks’ God’s Word in Human Words because I will be reviewing it in the Spring issue of Kesher ( It was on page 205 that I found this quote (by a scholar, mind you, not a layperson):

While it is certainly true, for instance, that both God and the author of Deuteronomy once forbade the eating of reptiles (Deut 14:8), it is equally true that God is no longer saying this, or at least he is not saying it in the same way (Acts 11:4-10). Historically speaking, the church has never had much trouble admitting that God has sometimes said one thing and then another.

This quote is very revealing and should give pause to a lot of people who have certain assumptions about the Peter and the sheet from heaven story. Sparks is trying to prove that the Bible has many contradictions and that our view of the Bible’s authority must change to compensate.

I doubt if most people who believe that Peter was given permission to eat lizards would share Sparks’ skeptical view of the Bible (he believes the Bible is our authority, but he has to radically adjust what that means from traditional understandings).

In case you don’t know the story, Acts 10 and 11 is about Peter coming to Cornelius, a God-fearing non-Jew who attended synagogue, kept at least some of the Torah, and whose gifts to charity and to the synagogue caused God to hear his prayers (note Acts 10:4 which says that acts of kindness cause prayers to ascend to God — just didn’t want you to think I made it up).

Now Peter, at that time, was unwilling to enter the home of a Gentile. So God did an Ezekiel on him, giving him a vision to teach and persuade him.

What did Peter see in the vision?

Here again, many people imagine something that is not in the text. Many people have an image in their mind of a sheet or screen coming down from heaven (IMAX?) with a banquet laid out: suckling pig, bacon and eggs, ham and macaroni, lobster tail and shrimp cocktail, oysters on the half shell and clam chowder, etc.

Actually, he saw on the sheet “all kinds of four-legged creatures and crawling creatures of the earth and birds” (10:12).

Mmmm, lizards, roaches, rats, and crows. Anyone hungry?

What lesson did Peter derive from this vision? Was it about God saying: “I made a mistake earlier, when I forbade eating tasty reptiles. And pork, oh pork, I am so sorry I made you guys abstain. I am the God of the Universe, but I do make mistakes.”?

Well, no, Peter seemed to get the message. It was a lesson that Peter should not call unclean what God has made clean (10:15). What did God make clean? Lizards? No, Gentiles.

This is not to say that Gentiles were ever called unclean by God anywhere in Torah or prophets. Far from it, Israel was supposed to be the priestly people to the Gentiles. All men and women from all nations were always supposed to hear from Israel about God.

It was in the customs of the time, aggravated by turmoil between Jews and Romans, that Gentiles were excluded and often regarded as a source of uncleanness (note John 19 and the chief priests afraid to defile themselves in Pilate’s hall).

God was not saying, “I changed my mind. Gentiles used to be unclean, but now I have made them clean.” Neither was it God saying, “I changed my mind about bacon. It’s good.”

It was about God teaching Peter a lesson. Peter, who said he had never eaten anything unclean, needed to learn that Gentiles are not unclean. It is sad that Peter needed to learn this lesson, but he did. Ever since Yeshua had told him to go to the nations with the message, he had not been doing it.

Sometimes God has to go to extraordinary measures to get even his top servants to learn something new.

That brings me back to Kenton Sparks, professor of Biblical Studies at Eastern University. His use of the Acts 11 example is one of numerous cases in which he quickly assumes errors and contradictions in the Bible.

But do well-meaning people who want to read Acts 10 and 11 as overturning a commandment of God want to join this skeptical bandwagon? Is the law which God gave and which he repeatedly told us was perfect and beautiful (read Psalm 19 and 119, if not the Torah itself) something bad, a mistake God made which he needs to correct in the New Testament?

Of course not. Sparks should know better. He should engage the text on a more critical level. Shame on him for using this example so prominently (at the beginning of his case for a new way of understanding the Bible’s authority).

Peter, being a Jew, did not go on to start a revolution of Jewish pork-eating (or lizard-eating). Nor did Paul. Note that in Acts 21:17-26, Paul affirmed that he never violated a Torah custom or even a Jewish tradition. It is very hard to read Acts 21 assuming that Paul and the other Jewish apostles were having lizard banquets.

But Peter and Paul did support the idea that non-Jews are not bound by the sign commandments of Torah (Acts 15).

So, Christians are right, according to Acts, to find eating pork permissible (and lizards, but who wants to?). But it is not because, as many assume, that God changed his mind. Gentiles were never bound by dietary law (Deut 14:21).


About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
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56 Responses to Eating Lizards . . . Acts 10 & 11

  1. judahgabriel says:

    We have talked to a number of Christians in person who tell us we have no need to continue to abstain from unclean foods because “God told Peter he made all things clean”. I can appreciate this post in that sense.

    >> “So God did an Ezekiel on him…”


    >> Gentiles were never bound by dietary law (Deut 14:21).

    Messiah changed gentiles’ relationship to the covenant, to Israel, to God. (Ephesians 2).

  2. Judah:

    Thanks. I wonder if we could succinctly and calmly discuss your last statement.

    I think the way you are interpreting Ephesians 2 contradicts Acts 15 and Galatians.

    Can you in a few brief sentences explain how you understand the decision in Acts 15 that non-Jews in Messiah are not bound to the whole Torah? How about a quick understanding of Galatians 5:3 and the idea that circumcision/conversion would obligate a non-Jew to the whole Torah (which kind of assumes they are not now bound to the whole Torah)?

    I am not trying to start an argument and I promise I will be very nice (to you, if others pipe in, they do so at their own risk).


    • judahgabriel says:

      Sure. Calmly. :-)

      Acts 15 is a compromise, approved by the Holy Spirit, that gentiles must not keep all of the Torah to be saved, given that Moses is preached in the synagogues every sabbath.

      Today, Messiah’s followers do not hear Moses preached in the synagogues every sabbath. Instead, Moses is disregard, relegated for an old dispensation, or worse.

      Derek, would you at least agree that Messiah changed the gentile relationship to Israel?

  3. Judah:

    First, your question. I do think something changed with regard to Gentiles and their relation to God and Israel. Rather than try to answer here, I will make it my Friday blog topic. My answer might surprise you and might turn out to be something you’ve not heard before. Just be sure you harmonize Ephesians 2’s commonwealth analogy with Romans 11’s olive tree analogy. But there is more as well. Thanks for spurring me to think it through.

    Second, as this is a calm discussion between friends, let me take it slow with one observation and question about your response. You said Acts 15 is a compromise. I am looking for who the parties would be that compromised (Pharisees and apostles?) and in what sense the apostles gave one inch of ground. I am not trying to be cute, but where is the compromise? What did the Pharisees get on their side?

    I’ll just ask that for now rather than spouting off all my opinions about the meaning of the chapter.

    • judahgabriel says:


      The battle was not Pharisees vs. apostles. The apostles were the judges in the matter, not the defendants.

      It was a compromise: on one side, the Pharisees no longer could insist on circumcision to be saved. On the other side, gentiles no longer could eat anything they wanted, nor have sex anytime with anyone.

      The Holy Spirit approved of gentiles observing Torah-based dietary laws.

  4. intracoastalbob says:

    Good blog about the lizards and the Gentiles…I agree!

  5. Judah:

    Okay, good. I was afraid you were going to say the compromise was that the Pharisees would have to accept Gentile ignorance of Torah for a while but would then later be able to enforce Torah after the Gentiles had learned more.

    So, thus far, we see no indication in Acts 15 from your interpretation that Gentiles would become mandated to keep Torah fully. Is that right? If so, we agree. But I think you have more to say.

    • judahgabriel says:


      Living God’s commandments is a righteous path for all God’s people. I’m confident of this position and, to some degree, I suspect you concur.

      I have no desire to say, “Jews must do X, but gentiles may only do Y”. It wasn’t the purpose of Acts 15. It serves only to fracture an already-fractured movement. It denigrates Messiah’s non-Jewish followers as mere “God-fearers”, rather than first-class citizens of the commonwealth of Israel.

      There, I had more to say, and now I’ve said it. :-)

  6. Judah:

    Yes, living God’s commandments is a righteous path for all God’s people. But would you discourage a friend from marrying a widow? A priest may not marry a widow in Torah. Should that commandment be mandated to everyone? Not all commandments are for everyone.

    You say you are not comfortable saying, “Gentiles may only do Y.” I don’t say that and neither does Acts 15. It does not say, “Gentiles are forbidden to be circumcised under any circumstances.”

    So, if this is as far as you are willing to take it, then maybe we don’t disagree about Acts 15. If you do not think that somehow 15:21 is a back door leaving open a Torah mandate for Gentiles, then we are good.

    So, the change in Gentile position toward Israel and God that you spoke of at the beginning is not an equation with Israel or a mandate to keep Torah? You were only saying that Gentiles, being brought near, might want to keep Torah freely and not under obligation?

    That would be a good thing and we would agree. But let me know if there is still more.

  7. judahgabriel says:


    What you’re saying is essentially the same argument FFOZ has made: the difference between Israelite- and foreigner-specific commandments is no different than, say, commandment differences for male and female, or for priests and laypeople, and so on.

    That view does not properly account for Yeshua’s great act: he changed gentile relationship to the Torah. He changed gentile relationship to Israel. He changed gentile relationship to God.

    If gentiles are changed into servants of the God of Israel through Messiah, and become first-class citizens of Israel, they cannot be equated as nothing more than the gentiles mentioned in the Torah. It’s denigrating and ignorant of Messiah’s work in them.

  8. Judah:

    So, then you are saying that in Messiah, non-Jews become equivalent to Jews with relation to Torah.

    Thus, we need to go back to Acts 15.

    How does Acts 15 support the idea that non-Jews in Messiah are under the same obligation to Torah as Jews? Acts 15 is not denigrating to non-Jews, so we must understand the chapter differently.

    On Friday (not tomorrow, because Thursday is podcast day), I will write about the change in status for Gentiles in Messiah.

  9. judahgabriel says:

    Acts 15 is not denigrating to gentiles in Messiah.

    This new theology being espoused, however, is. Instead of viewing gentiles as first-class, equal citizens of Israel as made possible by Yeshua’s great act, it instead treats gentiles as something less than a Jew, a second-class citizen of Israel, with the same obligations to Torah as those gentiles of old, who were either promiscuous, idolatrous goyim, or God-fearing converts to Judaism.

    I know that there are good intentions behind this theology, intentions that do not mean to create such division, but it is the witnessed end result.

  10. “This new theology being espoused, however, is. Instead of viewing gentiles as first-class, equal citizens of Israel as made possible by Yeshua’s great act, it instead treats gentiles as something less than a Jew, a second-class citizen of Israel,”

    Gentiles are not being slighted or spiritually abused as second class citizens by the Jews. Stop repeating that, Judah, it’s not going to make it true! You are promoting animosity between the nations, and resentment of Jews by Gentiles (which is not new and never leads to anything good, historically speaking). Equality before G-d does not imply “sameness” – EACH of us is given a different set of gifts and responsibilities – it’s throughout the scriptures. I think your idea of “equality” is quite different from that of G-d’s.

    Let me illustrate from a small personal example. When I go to shul to daven,I do not feel slighted or as a second class citizen just because a Cohen and a Levite get to do aliyas or other honors befitting their tribal status before I (a simple Jew) get to do them. I am truly happy for THEM and glad to play my part should it come along – I do not resent anything, but rejoice in G-d-given order. I thank G-d that he has preserved for us Kohanim and Leviim. There’s no envy and resentment of their role in Israel.

    Gentiles are NOT Israel – nowhere does the scripture say that. Everywhere scriptures refer to Israel, they are talking about the Jewish people. Therefore, non-Jews can’t be first or third class of something they are not. Nonetheless, they are first-class citizens of the Kingdom of G-d. While clearly remaining as “nations” and retaining their G-d given identity and calling, Gentiles are SHARING in the spiritual blessings promised to Israel and they are, along with the Jews, subjects of the Davidic Kingdom of G-d (a.k.a. the Commonwealth of Israel) and of ONE King (Yeshua ben David). Everything else is out of envy and covetousness and must stop.

  11. Dan Benzvi says:


    Compare Deut. 14:21 with Lev. 17:15. How do you account for the seeming discrepancy?

    Also, since God speaks to Israel (Deut, 30:19 “Choose..”; Deut. 28 “if”) in same inclusive language as to the Gentiles (Zech. 14:18 “if”)Who is FFOZ to decide that it is “divine invitation” for the Gentiles, but only “divine mandate” for the Jews?

  12. judahgabriel says:

    For all interested readers, I point you to Tim Hegg’s scholarly 68-page work that thoroughly addresses the “Divine Invitation” theology: An Assessment of the Divine Invitation Theology (PDF).

    It touches on several of the topics raised in this post and in these comments.

  13. Just so no one is confused. I am not FFOZ. I do not completely agree with the Divine Invitation theology as expressed in Messiah Journal 102. I am probably less inclined than FFOZ to “invite” Gentiles to Torah. So I would be light years away from Tim Hegg and the paper Judah has linked.

  14. Dan Benzvi:

    Thank you for raising some excellent points.

    Regarding Zechariah 14, this occurs in the context of 14:1-4, which is God rescuing Jerusalem from Armageddon (the Age to Come). Yes, in the Age to Come Gentiles will keep Sukkot. We are not yet in that age. Our age is governed by Torah and the apostles (and Acts 15 and Galatians tell us the current role of Gentiles and Torah).

    Regarding Leviticus 17:15, this is a question that comes up in several places in Torah where the law changes within Torah. Leviticus is the law in the wilderness. Some things change in Deuteronomy as the second generation is about to enter the land and Israel will become spread out from the sanctuary. Critical scholars would say Lev 17 is P and Deuteronomy 14 is D. I know you won’t subscribe to that. But how would Lev 17 help your argument? Only by ignoring Deut 14:21.

  15. Dan Benzvi says:


    You did not answer my question. How do you reconcile God speaking the same language to Jews and Gentiles alike? I think, here is where the whole “doctrine” of “divine invitation is falling apart.

    The seeming discrepency between Deut 14, and Lev. 17 is easily explained if one moves away from rabbinic understanding.
    Lev. 17:15 begins with “any person”-וכל נפש -and further adds “whether native or alien”-באזרח ובגר-,showing that in this text the Torah was considered universal for all within the community of Israel.
    In contrast, the Deut. passage allows torn meat to be given to the “alien who is within you gates”- לגר אשר בשעריך-, presumably because the alien (in this case) is allowed to eat what is unclean. but here the Ger who is “in your gates” must denote a “visitor” not on the same level as the Ger in Lev. 17:5. The added phrase “or sell it to a foreigner” further clarifies the Ger in this cintext to be one who is not a covenant member and has not accepted upon himself the rule of Torah.

  16. Dan Benzvi:

    I did answer your question. I said that in Zechariah 14 the context is a future age when the nations will enter an agreement with God like Israel’s and it will include much if not all of Torah. But that does not address the apostolic requirements of non-Jews in Messiah in our age. The apostles addressed that in Acts 15 and other places like Galatians.

    Your explanation of Leviticus 17 and Deuteronomy 14 has a few problems. It is a theory worth proposing and checking, but when I check it, I find it lacking. Deut 14:21 does not equate the sojourner/alien with the foreigner, as you suggest. It differentiates them. To the sojourner the meat found dead must be given. To the foreigner it can be sold. The sojourner in Lev 17:15 must purify himself/herself after eating because he/she is sojourning in the land, which must be kept pure. It is possible also, as I said earlier, that there was a change in Torah from the wilderness (Leviticus) to the land (Deuteronomy). It would not be the only example.

  17. sidefall says:

    Derek, I was also thinking that it might be interesting to survey churchgoers (and christian leaders) to ask how many believe that the sabbath moved from Saturday to Sunday approximately 2,000 years ago.

    I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this subject and related topics including worshiping on a Sunday.

  18. Dan Benzvi says:


    The irony here is that in your article you chastise Sparks for the same thing you are doing here. Do you really believe that God changes? Do you think He changes His words like you change your socks? Your answer here is not at all credible. Isaiah 56:3-8 flies in the face of your assertion. So is Num. 15:16.

    Lev. 17 and Deut. 14;

    You did not understand my post. I did not equate, I showed a distinction, read it again. The LXX translators also apparently recognized this distinction. In Deut14:21 they translate “alien who is within your gates” with the word “paroikos, while Levit. 17:15 employs “peroselutos” to translate Ger. “paroikos” was a more general term, and “proselutos” was a word that (for the LXX translators) had taken the meaning of “convert,” denoting one who had become a part of the clan through conversion.

    The rabbis were concerned with the designation “ger toshav,” for the fear that this might construe a non-Jew who was given covenant privileges without converting. They therefore introduced a new term, found only in the later rabbinic literature (not in the Tanach or the Mishnah), namely, “Ger Tzadik”, to designate a convert. in contrast, “Ger sheker,” (also not found in the Tanach), was an “insincere proselyte” (from impure motives).

  19. Sidefall:

    I see no problem with the Christian custom of worshipping on Sunday. I do not think this practice is normative biblically. I feel the usual scriptures proffered to suggest that Sunday worship is a New Testament ordinance are weak at best.

    Since I do not feel the Sabbath commandment is a mandate to non-Jews in Messiah, I do not think Sabbath worship for Christians is a requirement. Neither is it a bad thing if Christian groups choose to worship on the Sabbath as long as they do not imply that they are replacing Israel.

    Sidefall, what issues do you see in Saturday vs. Sunday for Christians? I need to think through this area more.

  20. Dan Benzvi:

    I am not saying that God changes. I am saying that when the situation changes, the law adapts as necessary. This is really not a matter for dispute as the Torah has several examples.

    Exod 20:24 legislates an earthen altar. Exod 38 legislates a bronze altar and Deut 12 says only at the sanctuary can any sacrifices be made. What changed? Before the tabernacle was built, Israel could use earthen altars. After, only the bronze altar.

    Lev 17:3-4 says all meat must be slaughtered near the sanctuary and the blood brought to the altar. Deut 12:15 says meat may be slaughtered away from the sanctuary in the towns. What changed? The people moved from camping around the sanctuary in the wilderness (Leviticus) into the land (Deuteronomy).

    I think you may not have understood my point. Do you understand now and agree that the commandments sometimes change because the situation calls for a change? Otherwise, how do you explain earthen vs. bronze altars and sanctuary vs. in-town slaughtering?

    • Dan Benzvi says:


      All this would have been nice and dandy if you can show us, where does Gos say that Zech. 14 is a distance prophecy, but until then Gentiles can pick and choose? Gentiles are invited to partake in Torah but they can choose not to murder, but yes to steal?

      • Zech 14 begins with vss. 1-4 which describe an event, an event which will happen at the beginning of the age to come. Context.

        As far as us starting a discussion about how non-Jews can be subject to some parts of Torah, such as not stealing, and not others, such as circumcision, this is a larger discussion than this thread can support. I will say plenty more about non-Jews and Torah and have written on the subject many times (including in my book called Paul Didn’t Eat Pork).

        But you must then agree with me that non-Jews can eat unclean meat and it is not a sin, a la Deut 14:21, because you seem to have stopped discussing that verse now.

  21. Dan Benzvi:

    Regardless whether the sojourner in Deut 14:21 is a temporary alien or a permanent resident, the fact that Israelites can give unclean meat to non-Jews and sell it to foreigners is indication that God does not regard eating unclean meat a sin for non-Jews. So our debate about the exact categories does not change the question at hand.

    • judahgabriel says:

      Gentiles in Messiah are no longer foreigners to the covenant.

    • Dan Benzvi says:

      Sorry Derek, you are not getting off that easy.

      like FFOZ your argument can only stand if you blur the distinction. The text speaks of Non-Jews who are not in the covenant.

      1) It is clear that the word Ger is used throughout the Tanach to designate various classes of foreigners within Israel. Yet, its primary meaning is simply “one who does not enjoy citizenship through birth in the clan.” This is seen by the fact that the word is used to characterize Israel while in Egypt. The basic meaning of the word in the Tanach is therefore sociological, not theological.

      I will come back with more, got to run.

  22. OK, Judah – if they are within Israel’s covenant, would you agree that different laws within that covenant apply to different individuals – even WITHIN Israel? Acts 15 seems to have established WHICH of these laws apply to Gentiles.

    Let’s take circumcision. It is major part of BOTH Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants and must be observed by Jews or converts to Judaism, and Yeshua himself observed it, lest the law be broken.

    Gen 17:14 “Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

    Uncircumcised = broken G-d’s covenant! Do saved Gentiles sin by not undergoing circumcision? If they DO NOT – it would make one clear example where Gentiles are exempt from at least one of G-d’s Torah requirement or at least different from the Jews in that regard, won’t it?

    Paul wrote that in 1 Cor 7:18: “Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised.”

    Clearly, Paul here differentiates between requirements for Gentiles and Jews (and the above is not the only place where he does so) and acknowledges the obvious differences. G-d seems to have given non-Jews exceptions from at least SOME of the requirements he has given to Jews – and circumcision is just one such example.

  23. Judah:

    You assert that non-Jews in Messiah are no longer foreigners to the Sinai Covenant. Can you find support for this in the New Testament? Please let me know.

    Also, are you confusing the Abrahamic Covenant with the Sinai Covenant?

    Tomorrow, I will blog about what Messiah changed in terms of non-Jewish position with regard to Israel and God.

      • 1 Cor 7:19 is a bit self-defeating for the One Law argument you are trying to make, Dan. It comes right after Paul telling non-Jews who are in Messiah not to seek circumcision (seeking it for the wrong reason, I might add). But at any rate it does not say that non-Jews have joined the covenant made with Israel by God at Sinai. That is something One Law simply assumes.

    • judahgabriel says:


      I assert gentiles are not foreigners to the covenant with Israel.

      You asked for NT support:

      “Remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)— remember that at that time you were separate from Messiah, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Messiah Yeshua you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Messiah.”

  24. Dan Benzvi says:

    Not self-defeating at all. The emphsize of the verse is doing Torah, for both. Is Torah part of the covenant?

    Matt. 29:19-20; Does Matt. 5:17-20 something Yeshua commanded the Disciples? is not this part of the covenant?

  25. Dan Benzvi says:

    The meaning of Ger must be determined by the wider context in which it is used. its basic meaning of “non-citizen,” “newcomer,” “of foreign extraction” is always extant, but other factors, evident in some contexts, may indicate that Ger has joined himself to Israel and is therefore a member of the covenant God made with Israel. But the word itself does not demand this. In the Tanach, the word Ger simply denotes the social class of “foreigner.”

  26. Dan Benzvi says:

    Hey Gene,

    Unlike you, at least I understand the rules of the game. You quoted Gen. 17:14 which says: “…that person shall be cut off from his people…” well, how can one be cut off from his people if he is not first belong to a people? Get it?

    Joshua was required to circumcise all uncircumcised males before they entered the land, before that they where not members of the Israelite covenant community? Abraham’s household was the first covenant community, but the community had members not of his immediate family (slaves, strangers) weren’t they members before they got circumcised? Get it? aren’t you happy I play this game?



    • “well, how can one be cut off from his people if he is not first belong to a people? Get it?”

      Dan… you do know how to play the game, but you want to play “just one more” round to win your money back. Keep trying to get a better hand. Saved Gentiles DO now belong to the community of G-d (Ekklesia) – to the people of G-d. Why try to wiggle out of explaining WHY do Jews and Gentiles have a different standard when it come to law of circumcision? Just explain it to us. If Gentiles have joined the people of Israel in every way and are now defacto Israelites (as you claim) – ALL laws should apply to them. But if ALL the laws do not apply equally to Gentiles and some laws (like circumcision) are indeed strictly for the Jewish people while the Gentiles are specifically told not observe them, your One Law argument falls apart. Many former prominent proponents of One Law understood that already – I hope that someday you will too. We are here to help.


  27. Dan Benzvi says:

    Where did I say that “Gentiles have a different standard when it come to law of circumcision?”

    All I was showing is that circumcision is not a means to GET IN the covenant, like you are trying to get everyone believe. For this exact purpose were the Gentiles told not to be circumcised. So, I guess is back to practice for you Gene….

    • “All I was showing is that circumcision is not a means to GET IN the covenant”

      No, of course not – it’s simply a SIGN of the covenant made LONG PRIOR to circumcision (Genesis 17:11). Whoever told you that it was EVER the “means”?

      OK, now that we got your straw-man requirements of entry into the covenant out of the way, let’s see if the law of circumcision still applies differently to a Jew or Gentile and whether a Jew or Gentile sins by refusing circumcision. I’ll make it really easy for you. Simply answer “yes” or “no” to the following two simple questions:

      1. Is it a SIN today for a Jewish male to refuse to get circumsized? YES | NO
      2. Is it a SIN today for a G-d fearing Gentile male to refuse to get circumsized? YES | NO

      Just a simple YES or NO answers please. Thanks.

  28. “I will agree to your silly yes or no game as soon as you show me where does the Torah mandates circumcision for an adult male, can you?”

    G-d commanded Abraham to be circumcised as very much an adult – there’s your mandate right there! All the ADULT male Israelites who were born while Israel wondered through the desert for 40 years and who failed to get circumcised as babies on eight day were circumcised as ADULTS in obedience to the covenant (Joshua 5).

    If you need any more proof of circumcision mandated for uncircumcised Jewish adults, the scriptures are quite clear:

    “ANY uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.” ANY MALE – no age difference stated, other than the earliest time circumcision can be administered – do you need any more evidence for adult circumcision? Stop the silly word games.

    OK, now answer my previous “YES” or “NO” questions:

    1. Is it a SIN today for a Jewish male to refuse to get circumsized? YES | NO
    2. Is it a SIN today for a G-d fearing Gentile male to refuse to get circumsized? YES | NO

  29. Dan Benzvi says:

    “He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generation, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant.” kind of defeats you effort at taking the verse out of context, no? You see, you cannot have it both ways, either the command is for an 8 days old, or the command is also for a slave and a foreigner, no?

    Now, read Lev.12:3 and tell me where is the command to circumcise an adult male? No cigar my friend……

    And, yes, AFTER one is a covenant member he needs to be circumcised as a sign of the covenant. Acts 15 deals with Gentiles who were compeled to be circumcised BEFORE they become covenant members. There is no mandate in the Torah for a ritual of a proselyte, or is it?

    • I take it you just can’t answer my YES or NO questions. Sad, but telling.

      In your steadfast One Law silliness, Dan, you would have us believe that it was a standard and in fact required practice among “converted” Gentiles in the early “church” to get circumcised after coming to faith? That flat out contradicts history, Acts 15 and what Paul is writing in numerous places. I think you’ve been reading Tim Hegg or the early FFOZ writings a bit too much.

      1 Cor 7:18: “Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised.”

      When Paul says “called”, that person, Jew or Gentile, is already “saved’ and part of the “covenant”, right? We are not talking about unbelievers here, right – but those who were already “called”!

      “And, yes, AFTER one is a covenant member he needs to be circumcised as a sign of the covenant.”

      “…needs to be circumcised?” Where can I find such a command for Gentiles? How does that square with “Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised.”? Can you imagine Paul telling Jews to NOT get circumcised (as he was falsely accused of doing)?

      “Acts 15 deals with Gentiles who were compeled to be circumcised BEFORE they become covenant members. ”

      Did the apostles write the Acts 15 letter to some unbelievers or those who were already partaking in Israel’s spiritual blessings? Clearly, the letter was addressed to BELIEVERS who were made to doubt their salvation because they would not submit to circumcision or observance of Mosaic Law. When these Gentile believers received the letter, they REJOICED!

  30. peterygwendyta says:

    I have been following this sort of debate now on and off for about 3 years and it keeps going round in circles. I not have much to add that would benefit this debate apart from one question which I have asked quite often but very rarely has anyone attempted to answer. Even If I am convinced that gentiles in the early church where expected and did follow Torah as part of faith I have always been confused by people like Polycarp, Clement and Ignatius etc. These where all men who where trained and followed some of the Apostles. It is know that Polycarp was a disciple of John but yet they no where mention the need to follow Torah etc.I am not saying that we do need or don’t need to follow Torah but why would a disciple of John not teach Torah observance if this is what John had taught. I hope I make sence.

    • judahgabriel says:

      Many of the early gentile church fathers were anti-Semitic, anti-Judaism – breaking from the Jewish stance of the apostles.

      Ignatius, for example, wrote in letter to the Magnesians, written around the year of Paul’s death in 98 CE,

      Let us therefore no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner, nor rejoice in days of idleness; for “he that does not work shall not eat.”

      Let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days of the week. Looking forward to this, the prophet declared, “To the end, for the eighth day.”

      Be not deceived with strange doctrines, nor with old fables, which are unprofitable. For if we still live according to the Jewish law, we acknowledge that we have not received grace. For the divinest prophets lived according to Christ Jesus.

      Be not deceived with strange doctrines, nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, and things in which the Jews boast. “Old things are passed away: all things have become new.” For if we live according to the Jewish law, and the circumcision of the flesh, we deny that we have received grace.

      Therefore, having become His disciples, let us learn to live according to the principles of Christianity. For whosoever is called by any other name besides this, is not of God.

      It is absurd to profess Christ Jesus, and to Judaize. For Christianity did not embrace Judaism, but Judaism Christianity.

      It is absurd to speak of Jesus Christ with the tongue, and to cherish in the mind a Judaism which has now come to an end. For where there is Christianity there cannot be Judaism.

  31. peterygwendyta says:

    Fair comment Judah. And I do agree that there was some anti-semetism in the early Church. But could you are someone else please explain to me why men who had been trained, discipled and even lived with some of the apostles whould say such things. As far as I can see there are a few options. Either the apostles didn’t do a very good job of training them, either they didn’t listen to what they where taught or the Apostles started teaching something different. I just don’t get it. You would thing that the best people to learn from would be from people who where there. So why do these men seem to change a lot of the teaching.

    • judahgabriel says:

      Paul did warn that the wolves were among them, “indeed, already here”.

      That said, some physical situations may have influenced the early Church fathers:

      As Christianity grew more powerful than Judaism, it was no difficult matter for these men to persecute the religion that had initially persecuted the apostles.

      And during this time, Judaism was trying to exclude the heretics of the Nazarenes and other believers, even writing curses of heretics into the synagogue liturgy.

      Combine all this with the Temple having been destroyed, Jerusalem sacked, and not much later, after the failure of the Jewish rebellion led by a false messiah, it must have appeared to these Church fathers that God had abandoned the Jews.

      I’m sure Derek has some thoughts on this.

    • Peter:

      I hesitate to say much about the Church Fathers because I think I would need to read some articles about the latest trends in Patristic studies to say anything with confidence.

      About Polycarp we know only what we find in Eusebius and perhaps another source or two.

      Ignatius is anti-Judaic, of that there can be no doubt.

      Assuming that possibly he was actually exposed to the apostle John for a time (it is only considered historically possible, not likely), this does not indicate that John is the source of his theology. He was more a person of his time, thinking about Jewish people and Judaism like the Romans of his time did.

      I make an exception for Augustine, who has some beautiful writings in spite of anti-Judaic and deterministic beliefs, but I can’t be inspired by or admire people like Ignatius or Tertullian.

      Now it is possible that Papias and Polycarp were much more philo-Semitic. It would be worth someone checking what Oskar Skarsaune’s book Jewish Believers in Jesus has to say about ante-Nicene church fathers in relation to Jews. I just don’t have time at the moment.

  32. Or may be the Apostles didn’t actually train or even met those specific individuals at all, but these church fathers (or those who wrote down oral stories ABOUT them many years after these individuals passed on) CLAIMED to have been trained or have personally known the apostles just to get the power and authority. This would explain the antisemitic suppersessionist vitriol common in the early church writings. This would be similar to how today many churches and individuals claim direct apostolic succession.

  33. tnnonline says:

    Second-Third Century Church history is a very complicated period. There was no central authority for the emerging Christian Church. Anti-Semitism, yes, was a factor–but this was not helped by anti-Messianic sentiments of the Synagogue. There were also rampant heresies, particularly about the nature of Yeshua, which actually dominates a great deal of the literature–with most everything else taking a back seat.

    You really do have to learn how to look at each individual of the Fathers on a case-by-case basis. The Christians were an illegal religious sect. The Jews didn’t want them, and they were trying to form their own identity.

    I would recommend that each of you who really wants to learn more get a copy of History of the World Christian Movement by Irvin and Sunquist. It focuses on the broad early Church in both the West and East. It is a good balanced overview.

    I would also caution all of you: Do not assume things about early Church history (or any history) until you have done a bit of examination. Best for us to pause and consider whether we have put enough information on the table.

  34. Pingback: 2010 in review « Messianic Jewish Musings

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