Did Peter’s Vision in Acts 10 Pertain to Men or the Menu? -- By: Chris A. Miller

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 159:635 (Jul 2002)
Article: Did Peter’s Vision in Acts 10 Pertain to Men or the Menu?
Author: Chris A. Miller


Did Peter’s Vision in Acts 10
Pertain to Men or the Menu?

Chris A. Miller

Chris A. Miller is Chairman of the Department of Biblical Education, Cedarville University, Cedarville, Ohio.

The Cornelius episode (Acts 10:1–11:18) plays a pivotal role in the expansion of the gospel from Jerusalem to “the remotest part of the earth” (1:8), and most interpreters agree that the door to the Gentile mission was opened in this episode. What is not often considered, however, is the place of Israel in this new development.1 Many would say that Gentiles are allowed entrance to God’s people only because the barrier of the Law (as symbolized by food laws) was first abolished. This interpretation is often supported externally by reading the vision in light of later epistles or even earlier pronouncements of purity by Jesus and internally by the alleged meaning of Peter’s vision itself. Others argue that the Jewish (Torah-observant) messianic movement did not first drop its nationalistic identity in the Law but instead moved simply to embrace Gentiles.2 Does the story of Cornelius teach that Peter first abandoned his observance of the Law, which

enabled him to reach out to Gentiles, or did the Jewish (Torah-observant) Peter simply carry the gospel to Gentiles?

This question goes to the heart of the meaning of Peter’s vision. Are both of these seemingly distinct ideas—the abrogation of the Law, and God’s acceptance of Gentiles as equal citizens in His household—found in the same vision? Humphrey has argued that a “collision of modes of expression” often happens in the vision genre and that visions “tend toward polyvalence.”3 If this is true, then how can one be sure how varied the meaning(s) of a vision may be? While many call on Mark or Paul to explain the vision, Luke must be heard first. This article outlines the meaning of Peter’s vision and the implications it has for the message of Acts4 by noting the interpretation offered by Luke, especially in light of his literary development and rhetorical strategy.

Preliminary Considerations

Before focusing on Peter’s vision two areas need clarification: the relationship of Peter’s host, Simon, to the Law and the relationship of Peter’s other host, Cornelius, to the Law.

The Significance Of Simon The Tanner
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