Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Common or unclean

I suspect that verse 28 is the key to understanding Luke’s use of “common or unclean.”

In Acts 10:28, Peter said to Cornelius and friends, "You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit any one of another nation; but God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.”

Earlier, Peter said I have never eaten anything common or unclean. Something that comes into contact with something unclean, by association, becomes unclean. My guess is that the word “common” is making reference to this rule of unclean by association. Peter has a problem with the word “never” but he is illustrating the rule in that he sees all these animals associating together in his vision and now he says he can not eat any of them apparently because the good “clean” animals have associated with the unclean.

Yet prior to the vision, Peter has been associating and residing for a long time with Simon the tanner who is a member of an occupation Judaism considered unclean. Lev. 11:39-40 pronounces unclean anyone who touches the carcass of even a clean animal. A Jewish tanner would always be unclean. If Peter has resided with Simon the tanner for a long time, Peter by his behavior has displayed, experienced and practiced what I call theology in transition. Peter needed to realize that the rules no longer apply to contact with Gentiles.

Verse 28 is about associating with Gentiles yet the vision is about unclean food. Thus verse 28 becomes a “sentence sermon” for the message that the passage is trying to convey.

Although Paul proclaimed himself to be a strict Pharisee, he was nonetheless a tentmaker by trade and a person who daily touched the carcass. Consequently Paul was also a candidate for a conversion experience just as was Peter. Theology does change to meet social needs.

Copyrighted 2006


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