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...YHVH was making a point - not a menu
(bronze sculpture by C. Malcolm Powers)
Kosher Dietary Instructions
Part Two: Peter's Vision

by haRold Smith
a citizen of the Commonwealth
(Ephesians 2:19)

"And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Hebrew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but YHVH has shown me that I should not call any PERSON common or unclean."
Acts 10:28

"So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, 'You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them'." Acts 11:2-3

How many times have you heard that Peter's vision on the rooftop was YHVH's sign that we no longer have to follow kosher requirements? Apparently, interpreters who suggest that the vision was about food haven't bothered to read what Peter himself says about his vision. In Acts 10:28-35 (click on highlighted words to view scripture) This chapter tells us that Peter has a daytime vision in which a huge sheet full of unclean animals is lowered from above him and a voice says, "Rise, Peter; kill and eat." However, without hesitation Peter replies, "Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean" (verse 14). The Voice then responds, "What YHVH has cleansed you must not call common" (verse 15). To be understood correctly, we must first establish the background upon which this passage is viewed and ask, "what is the subject of Acts 10?" It is evident from a thorough reading of the chapter that it is entirely devoted to aspects of Cornelius, a Roman centurion, who righteously feared YHVH (verse 1). It is apparent that Peter himself does not at first understand what his vision meant (verse 17); he certainly does not jump to the conclusion that all meats are now clean. While he is pondering his vision, a delegation from Cornelius arrives and requests that he travel with them to Caesarea to speak to the centurion. Obviously, YHVH was orchestrating this whole affair when He tells the apostle to go with the men, "for I have sent them" (verse 20). Now, if unclean meats had been approved, would Peter have not understood this from what he had learned from living with Yeshua for over three years. If anyone knew that the instructions regarding clean and unclean meats had been abolished by Yeshua's death, it would have been Peter. But at this point, a decade later, he is operating under no such notion. Peter's reply to the Voice, which he identifies as YHVH's, is quite confident, even vehement: "Not so, Lord!" This was a command that the apostle knew went against everything he knew about YHVH's law. Even though the Voice repeats the command twice more (verse 16), Peter never changes his mind! Peter summarizes the lesson of his vision that he received in Joppa on the rooftop of the house of Simeon, the Tanner: "But in EVERY NATION he that fears Him [YHVH], and works righteousness, is accepted with Him." Clearly the vision seen by Peter was to show him in a very graphic and profound way that righteous Gentiles (considered unclean by rabbinic ordinances) were permitted into YHVH's covenant in spite of those ordinances that have previously prohibited them. Nowhere in this passage are YHVH's clean food pronouncements discussed or repealed. Peter himself says that he would never eat anything that conflicts with the clean food statutes and the reason for his initial confusion over the vision was because Peter understood the Father knew this about him. After Peter goes to the home of Cornelius and realizes that YHVH has ushered in righteous Gentiles because of the same indwelling of YHVH's Spirit into these men - only then is he given the understanding of what the vision meant. Interestingly, up to this point, nowhere in this encounter has the subject of Yeshua been raised. It is only after Peter came into contact with the people at Cornelius' house that the realization the vision YHVH gave him was not about changing food requirements but was about people and, only then, did he begin to speak to them about Yeshua as the Messiah to the house of Israel.

The subsequent accusation Peter faced in the beginning of Acts 11 was not over whether he broke the dietary regulations of Torah, but that certain men under rabbinic law had come to him complaining that he fellowshipped with the uncircumcised at Cornelius' house. You can read "Gentiles" for this Greek term akrobystian because the clear implication is that Hebrews and Hebrew proselytes were circumcised and Gentiles were not - and, of course, Cornelius fits that description. According to the interpretation of these circumcised men, no respectable Hebrew would ever share table fellowship with the uncircumcised. That was like eating with the devil. Pagans (read, "uncircumcised") were not to be included in close fellowship. Now, if Peter thought that his vision was about food, he would never have used his experience at Cornelius' house as a teaching opportunity about what YHVH was doing with people. But that is exactly what he does. In order to justify his table fellowship with uncircumcised men, he explains the vision on the rooftop. Peter himself realized his vision was about people, namely non-ethnic Hebrews who kept YHVH's Words, and not about food - not when it occurred, but certainly after his encounter with the righteous Cornelius. Everything that Peter relates to these objectors in the next ten verses is an explanation about the connection between the vision and the uncircumcised. There is not a single word about rejection of the Torah dietary regulations. The vision of unclean animals was merely an illustration YHVH used to help Peter understand that salvation was open to those previously held at arm's length. Furthermore, after Peter's explanation, the text tells us that these objectors "...ceased their argument and glorified YHVH because YHVH granted favor to the Gentiles". In other words, they accepted Peter's explanation of the vision. It was never about food. It was about people.

"Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that YHVH created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by YHVH is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of YHVH and prayer." 1Timothy 4:1-5

clean or unclean
...clean or unclean?
This is another passage that seems to state that all flesh can now be eaten - especially verse 4: "For every creature of YHVH is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving." The flaw with most people's understanding of this verse is that they fail to read what it and the surrounding verses really say. They lift verse 4 out of its context, not bothering to include relevant details from adjacent verses. Too often, the legalistic tradition of men cloaked in religion and handed down as "Truth" is easier to accept than the hard work it takes to dig in under the surface of what has become accepted doctrine to find the true meaning of these words in scripture. Since the tradition of men is the ONLY thing Yeshua ever pointed to that could render YHVH's Word of "none effect", if we are to be sure we are walking in His Word of Truth, we need to be very careful about what we embrace as Truth (Mark 7:13, see Who's Word Is It?). Words mean things and it is in the context of how those words are used that their meanings are defined. This chapter begins with a prophetic warning from Paul against false teachers and their teachings "in latter times." Their doctrines would be those of demons and one of them commands their followers "to abstain from foods which YHVH created to be received with thanksgiving..." (verse 3). Many stop right there, but the rest of the verse is vital to properly understanding what is being conveyed: " those who believe and know the truth." These pesky details change the tenor of what the apostle is saying.

Notice that the subject of this passage is about foods or meats in general, not necessarily unclean meats. This must be read into the passage. If we consider only the word "foods," it is just as likely that Paul means that these false teachers would preach against eating beef as against eating pork or shellfish. However, the rest of the verse modifies the term. What "foods" did YHVH create to be received (eaten) with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth? The list appears in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14! YHVH has never given any other list of creatures that are divinely certified as "food." Verses 4-5 must be taken together, as they are one thought. Paul is telling Timothy not to worry about such prohibitions because YHVH created every creature as "good" (Genesis 1:21, 24-25, 31) and he should accept what he is offered to eat with thanksgiving. Does this mean that we should not refuse skunk, badger, bear, tiger, snakes, slugs, snails, vultures, rats, horses, eel, and oysters as long as we give thanks for it? Of course not! Again, this is not the end of the story. Verse 5 adds important, modifying elements to what this means: "...for it is sanctified by the word of YHVH and prayer." The Greek word translated as the English "sanctify" is hagiazo and means "to set apart for a specific use or purpose." The apostle is saying that certain "creatures" are sanctified or set apart as human food. By what means are they "set apart"? - by YHVH's Words. YHVH reveals these "sanctified" meats to us in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. Paul adds prayer to the setting apart of these foods we are about to eat as approved and even enhanced by YHVH - but in no way does it make unclean meat clean. Besides, scripture gives us no authority to make such a request of YHVH. In summary, Paul is reiterating that 1) YHVH has set certain foods apart for His people to eat; and 2) we should not be fooled by false teachers who claim either that anything and everything is good to eat or that certain scripturally approved foods should not be eaten.

"One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats... One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to YHVH, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to YHVH... I know and am persuaded in the Yeshua haMashiach that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean." Romans 14:1-14

Romans 14 may be the most difficult passage of all we have inspected because of the way it is translated in the King James Version and in most other translations. To understand the Hebrew perspective that all of scripture was written in first means that we have to toss out everything we thought we knew about YHVH, everything we have been taught about Him, everything the world says He Is and read the words on the page just for what they say and mean (see the article Arrows of Famine for explanation). One of the fundamental rules of exegesis is that the text may not be interpreted in a way that violates its plain meaning. Whatever the text says in its ordinary, surface meaning cannot be ignored, subverted or rearranged in subsequent analysis. As in the other difficult scriptures, we find the subject is not clean and unclean foods but eating meat versus vegetarianism (verse 2). The chapter begins with an admonition to not pass judgment on others for eating meat or for eating only vegetables (verse 3). The questions confronting Paul were not that YHVH's people were suggesting that somehow unclean animals had now been made clean, but 1) the belief of some that no meat, even meat that had been created to be eaten with thanksgiving, should be eaten at all. The apostle points out that it would be wrong for the vegetarians to eat meat if they had doubts about it, as it would defile their consciences saying in verse 23, "For whatever is not of faith is sin."

From there, Paul moves on to 2) address verses 5&6: "One man esteems one day above another; and another esteems every day alike..." Christians use this verse to proclaim that we must not get caught up in days. So, the reasoning goes, if one person seeks to keep Saturday in alignment with the Old Testament, then that is OK - just do not condemn others who keep Sunday. But, that reasoning is only in complete alignment with Christian religious culture - not with scripture nor with history. To properly understand this passage, one must be aware of the debates that took place between the two major rabbinic schools of thought in the 1st century Hebraic world - Beyt Hillel and Beyt Shammai (Beyt is Hebrew for "house of"). It was a rabbinic custom that everyone should fast at least 2 days every week. (Note - this is not commanded in Torah but it was a custom of the rabbis, of whom Paul was one, of the house of Hillel). One group taught that it had to be two specific days, the other that it could be any two days and that each individual was free to choose which two days on which they would fast. Literally, one esteemed one day as better than another (for fasting), while another esteems all days alike. How do we know that this verse is about fasting? From the rest of verse six that most neglect to mention: "The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to YHVH, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to YHVH." The context of the entire passage shows that eating or not eating and observance of specific days is clearly linked - Paul is talking here about the rabbinic custom of fasting and the dispute as to whether or not it had to be on any specific days or could be any day of the week. He is not advocating scraping the fourth commandment of YHVH or saying that what has been declared unclean food by YHVH is now made clean.

Verse 14 is another proof text used by Christians to conclude that all meat is now fine to eat: "...there is nothing unclean of itself..." This is another verse that has been poorly translated to conform to preconceived agendas. The problem is with the English word translated "unclean," which does not appear in the Greek text. To mean "unclean," Paul would have used the Greek word, akarthatos; but instead, the text reads koinos, which means "common, ordinary, defiled, or profane (as opposed to holy or consecrated)." Since Peter uses both "common" and "unclean" to describe meats in Acts 10:14, there is obviously a distinct difference between the terms. We know that the Bible defines "unclean" meat in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 - but when is meat considered "common"? The only circumstance in which clean meats are considered common or defiled is when a clean animal dies naturally or is torn by beasts (Leviticus 22:8) or when the blood has not been properly drained from the meat (Leviticus 17:13-14). Such animal flesh was called "common" because it could be given to strangers or aliens if they wished to eat it (Deuteronomy 14:21). Similarly, in Acts 15:20, the apostles forbade those Gentiles coming into the Hebrew faith to eat the meat of a strangled animal or meat that had not been drained of blood.

Finally, if Peter says that his vision had nothing to do with food and if the detractors that were accusing him accept this explanation as the truth - then why do we continue to claim that this vision sets aside food regulations? There are only two possible explanations for this deliberate misreading of the text. First, theological predispositions are applied to the text regardless of what it actually says - following the approach of the early church fathers that rejected the Torah (containing the dietary instructions) in order to drive a wedge between Christianity and anything Hebraic. Or secondly, we have heard these doctrines for so long that we no longer question them - nor do we care to question them because we really just don't want to change what we eat or how we behave. Just As Yeshua became echad with YHVH by manifesting His Name, so are those who are called to follow in His Example to do the same. The Body of Yeshua is now the Temple in which the Name of YHVH abides. To be a member of the Body of Yeshua, of which He is the Head, is to be in a behavioral covenant relationship with YHVH's Spirit in this earthly realm. To BE Yeshua is to bear witness to the Truth of the Words of YHVH by living those Words. YHVH has changed His residency. He has a new abode - but His Words remain the same.
Kosher Dietary Instructions Series
Part One - Clean or Unclean
Part Two - Peter's Vision

"You shall be holy to me, for I, YHVH, am holy and have separated you from the peoples that you should be mine." Leviticus 20:26
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