Understanding Peter’s Vision

In Acts 10 and 11 we see a very interesting story unfold regarding the welcoming of the first Gentiles into the ekklesia.  We are at a bit of a loss, however, to understand just exactly what was being communicated to Peter by God on this topic.

Peter’s vision is specifically about food:

Acts 10: The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. 10 Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance 11 and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 13 And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.”

14 But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.”

15 And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” 16 This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again.

At length, however, we do not find Peter discussing food with anyone, but rather defending his visit to the house of the Gentile Cornelius.  Here it is:

Acts 11: And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, saying, “You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!

But Peter explained it to them in order from the beginning, saying: “I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object descending like a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came to me. …10 Now this was done three times, and all were drawn up again into heaven. 11 At that very moment, three men stood before the house where I was, having been sent to me from Caesarea. 12 Then the Spirit told me to go with them, doubting nothing.

In fact, we even see Peter referring to the Law of Moses here:

Acts 10: 28 Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.

And here’s our problem:  If Peter was right and it was indeed unlawful for a Jewish man to keep company with a Gentile, where is it written in the Law of Moses?  I have searched the “Old Testament” and find no such passage.  Could it be that we do not have the entire Law of Moses included in the books of the Bible?

Further, God’s words are a little awkward in the vision of Peter since he refers to having done something that we do not have explicitly stated in the record anywhere:

Acts 10:15 And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.”

Just when did God cleanse the foods involved in the vision (or, depending on how you interpret the vision, when did he cleanse the Gentiles)?  We have no Bible passage that explicitly states such an event.

I do not intent to get much deeper into this topic at present than simply to point out that this is yet another example of the Bible being an incomplete record of what all was said and done.


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