Clean and Unclean Animals

Clean and unclean animals in the Bible

Clean and Unclean Animals
Acts 10:6-11 Simon the Tanner

Acts 10:12-15 Clean and Unclean Animals

Acts 10:16-23 Peter's Vision
ACTS 10:12-15  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.”

What is wrong with Peter's response to God in Acts 10:14?
Saying "Not so, Lord!" (Acts 10:14) to a direct command from God is never a good idea.

What is Peter's protest?
Apparently, he saw in the sheet some of the animals that God had forbidden as food in Deuteronomy 14:3-20: "3 You shall not eat any detestable thing. 4 These are the animals which you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, 5 the deer, the gazelle, the roe deer, the wild goat, the mountain goat, the antelope, and the mountain sheep. 6 And you may eat every animal with cloven hooves, having the hoof split into two parts, and that chews the cud, among the animals. 7 Nevertheless, of those that chew the cud or have cloven hooves, you shall not eat, such as these: the camel, the hare, and the rock hyrax; for they chew the cud but do not have cloven hooves; they are unclean for you. 8 Also the swine is unclean for you, because it has cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud; you shall not eat their flesh or touch their dead carcasses. 9 These you may eat of all that are in the waters: you may eat all that have fins and scales. 10 And whatever does not have fins and scales you shall not eat; it is unclean for you. 11 All clean birds you may eat. 12 But these you shall not eat: the eagle, the vulture, the buzzard, 13 the red kite, the falcon, and the kite after their kinds; 14 every raven after its kind; 15 the ostrich, the short-eared owl, the sea gull, and the hawk after their kinds; 16 the little owl, the screech owl, the white owl, 17 the jackdaw, the carrion vulture, the fisher owl, 18 the stork, the heron after its kind, and the hoopoe and the bat. 19 Also every creeping thing that flies is unclean for you; they shall not be eaten. 20 You may eat all clean birds."

What common traits distinguish the "clean" animals, fish and birds that God allowed, from the "unclean" ones that He disallowed as food?
The animals, fish and birds that God allowed as food are lower in the food chain; they are herbivores or those that feed on fresh non-plants (e.g., scaled fish and some birds). Those that God forbade as food are higher up the food chain and can eat their prey after they died (e.g., eagle and hawk) or are scavengers that only eat the dead and decomposing (e.g., vultures and lobsters).

What about the "hare" (Deuteronomy 14:7), which is a herbivore?
The hare is a herbivore but its diet is rich in cellulose, which is hard to digest. The hare resolves this by passing two types of feces: hard droppings, which it leaves, and soft, black droppings, which it immediately eats again for a second chance at digesting the cellulose. So the hare eats its own feces, much like the swine. When God says something is "unclean" (Deuteronomy 14:7), it is.

Then why is God telling Peter to now eat everything?
There are at least two reasons. First, God told Peter, "God has cleansed" (Acts 10:15) them, so God did something to cleanse the unclean animals and make them fine for consumption. Second, the dietary law had become one of the main cultural barriers between Jews and gentiles, which God was about to use Peter to tear down.

Is it certain that the aforementioned animals can now be eaten?
Jesus said, "There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!” When He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable. So He said to them, “Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?” (Mark 7:15-19) The only things forbidden are blood and food used in idol worship: "But concerning the gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality" (Acts 21:25).

What are examples of "things offered to idols" (Acts 21:25)?
All items that bear the Halal label.