Understanding Kefa’s Vision (Acts 10)

Understanding Kefa’s Vision
James Scott Trimm

Kefa’s vision in Acts 10 is often cited to “prove” that the laws concerning which animals are kosher to eat as food, have been abrogated. However this is not the true understanding of this vision.

In Acts 10 we read:

10 And he was hungry and wanted to eat: and while they were preparing for him, an amazement came over him.
11 And he saw heaven being opened, and a kind of garment being held by four corners, and it was like a great linen cloth, and it was descending from heaven to the earth:
12 And there were in it, all four-footed animals, and creeping things of the earth, and birds of heaven.
13 And a voice came to him that said: Shim’on, arise: kill and eat.
14 And Shim’on said, Never, my Adon, because I have never eaten anything that is defiled and unclean.
15 And again a second time, a voice came to him: That which Eloah has cleansed, do not regard as defiled.
16 Now this happened three times, and the garment was taken up to heaven.
17 And while Shim’on wondered in his nefesh, what the vision that he had seen was, those men who had been sent from Cornelius arrived, and asked concerning the house in which Shim’on lodged: and they came and stood at the gate of the courtyard.
(Acts 10:10-17 HRV)

The meaning of this vision is revealed in then next chapter:

5 While I was praying in Yafo, I saw in a vision one garment, which resembled a linen cloth that came down. And it was held by four corners, and it was descending from heaven, and came all the way towards me.
6 And I looked at it, and saw that there were in it, four-footed animals, and creeping things of the earth, and also birds of the heaven.
7 And I heard a voice that said to me: Shim’on, arise: kill and eat.
8 And I said, Never, my Adon: because there has not entered to my mouth, that which is unclean and defiled.
9 And again a voice said to me from heaven: That which Eloah has cleansed, do not [count] defiled.
10 This happened three times, and all the things were taken up to heaven.
11 And immediately, three men, who were sent to me from Cornelius of Caesarea, came and stood at the gate of the courtyard, in which I lodged.
12 And the Spirit said to me: Go with them without doubt. And these six brothers also came with me, and we entered the house of the man.
(Acts 11:5-12 HRV)

In Acts 10:12 the types of animals are described as follows:

And there were in it, all four-footed animals,
and creeping things of the earth,
and birds of heaven.
(Acts 10:12)

This description does not specify that the animals are unclean animals. Some four footed animals (cows, for example) are kosher, while others (pigs, for example) are not. Some birds are kosher, while others are not. This collection of animals does not seem to have any connection to the koshrut.

In Acts 11:5-12 we are told that these animals represent the three Gentiles who came to see Kefa. This vision probably draws from the so-called “Animal Apocalypse” in 1Enoch 85-90 in which such animals are used to represent various gentile nations.

In Acts 10:13 Kefa hears a voice which says “arise, kill and eat” (We are not told that this voice was the voice of Elohim). Kefa was not being instructed to arise kill and eat the animals mentioned in verse 12. First of all they was not real, it was only a vision. Secondly we know from Acts 11:5-12 that the Animals represented Gentiles. Kefa was not being told to kill and eat the Gentiles!

Instead Kefa was being instructed to greet these gentiles as guests by following the custom of arising, killing an animal and eating with them as honored guests (see for example Gen. 18:1-8 when Avraham greeted three men as guests). Kefa was being told in this vision to greet these three gentiles with hospitality, just as Avraham had greeted his three guests in Genesis 18.

Kefa’s vision in Acts 10 has nothing whatsoever to do with the Kosher laws of the Torah, which is for all generations, forever.

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