Introduction to 1 Kefa

In my last post, we completed our study of Kefa through the Gospels, Book of Acts, and Galatians. We started this journey back on May 24, 2020. It’s now time to begin to explore his writings to the saints throughout Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). Before digging into his writings, I thought it might be beneficial to explore the background material that I have in my library.

Authorship

Although some commentators question Kefa’s authorship, others have argued forcefully for it; the situation presupposed in the letter fits Kefa’s lifetime. The tradition of Kefa’s martyrdom in Rome is virtually unanimous. By the late first century I Clement accepted the letter’s authenticity, and excavations indicate a second-century memorial in Rome to Kefa’s martyrdom. Given this tradition of his martyrdom in Rome, the likelihood that letters he wrote would be preserved, and the fact that most letters were either authentic or written long after the purported author’s death, the burden of proof is on those who wish to deny that Kefa wrote the letter. [1]

So strong is the evidence for the use of this epistle in the early Messianic communities that some scholars have regarded it as proved and maintained that it was considered to be canonical as early as this word had a meaning. [2]

Several early Messianic communities leaders – Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria – accepted 1 Kefa as authentic. Furthermore, there are examples of the early Messianic communities rejecting the practice of writing under an apostolic pseudonym as a forgery. They likely would have dismissed the letter if they had believed it to be falsely attributed to Kefa. In light of this, the book should be accepted as the Kefa’s work. [3]

The opening verse of the epistle claims it was written by Kefa, who was clearly the leader among Yeshua’s emissaries. The gospel writers emphasize this fact by placing his name at the head of each list of emissaries (see Mt 10; Mk 3; Lk 6; Ac 1), and including more information about him in the 4 gospels than any person other than Yeshua. Andrew, Kefa’s brother, brought him to Yeshua (see Jn 1:40–42). Kefa was married, and his wife apparently accompanied him in his ministry (see Mk 1:29–31; 1Co 9:5). [4]

Date

Another indication of probable dating is the teaching of 1 Kefa with regard to the government (see 1 Kefa 2:13–17). The approach is so conciliatory that it would better fit the period up to 64 CE than a later period. It seems difficult to imagine any writer urging submission to the infamous Nero after the commencement of his notorious blood-bath of 64 CE. [5] Most commentators date the writing as between 62 – 64 CE.

Background and Audience

It is widely agreed that Babylon (see 5:13) is a cryptic name for Rome, as in some Jewish works and undoubtedly in the book of Revelation. The situation of persecution described here fits Rome, and it would be appropriate for Kefa to send advance warning of that situation to Believers in Asia Minor, the stronghold of emperor worship. An audience in Asia Minor might consist mainly of Messianic Jews, but Kefa’s audience probably includes Gentile Believers. [6]

A fire devastated Rome in 64 CE but suspiciously left unscathed the estates of Nero and his friend Tigellinus. Like any good politician, Nero needed a scapegoat for his ills, and what appeared to be a new religion, understood as a fanatical form of Judaism begun by a crucified teacher three and a half decades before, filled the need perfectly. Romans viewed Believers, like Jews, as antisocial. [7]

Purpose

His letters are clearly designed for a specific group of Believers although scattered over a wide area. The keynote of the letter is hope and Kefa wishes to exhort these Believers to live in accordance with the hope they have received through Yeshua. He gives practical guidance to assist in their human relationships and particularly exhorts them to endure suffering in a joyful manner for Yeshua’s sake. His main purpose is, therefore, exhortative, but not infrequently he introduces theological considerations. [8]

Kefa loved to lead, but he had to go through a lot of brokenness to learn how. He thus wrote this book to Messianic communities to encourage them to persevere in spite of their own suffering, trials, and persecution. Kefa wanted Believers to know that new birth in Yeshua gives hope that will aid perseverance in spite of what we go through. Kefa blends doctrinal truth about our salvation with practical truth about how it is to be lived out in our various life situations – including in the relationship between husbands and wives. [9]

Believers are constantly exposed to a world system energized by HaSatan and his demons. Their effort is to discredit the Messianic communities and to destroy its credibility and integrity. One way these spirits work is by finding Believers whose lives are not consistent with the Word of God, and then parading them before the un-Believers to show what a sham the Messianic communities are. Believers, however, must stand against the enemy and silence the critics by the power of holy lives.

In this epistle, Kefa is rather effusive in reciting two categories of truth. The first category is positive and includes a long list of blessings bestowed on Believers. As he speaks about the identity of Believers and what it means to know Yeshua, Kefa mentions one privilege and blessing after another. Interwoven into this list of privileges is the catalog of suffering. Believers, though most greatly privileged, should also know that the world will treat them unjustly. Their citizenship is in heaven and they are strangers in a hostile, Satanic world. Thus the Believers’ life can be summed up as a call to victory and glory through the path of suffering. So, the basic question that Kefa answers in this epistle is: How are Believers to deal with animosity? The answer features practical truths and focuses on Yeshua as the model of one who maintained a triumphant attitude in the midst of hostility. [10]

In my next post, we will begin to unpack 1 Kefa.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (1 Peter).

[2]  New Testament Introduction by Donald Guthrie. This a very in-depth commentary.

[3] The Tony Evans Bible Commentary.

[4] The Macarthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible.

[5] The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (1 Peter).

 [6] Ibid.

 [7] Ibid.

 [8] New Testament Introduction.

 [9] The Tony Evans Bible Commentary.

[10]The Macarthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible.

Rabbi Sha’ul Mentions Kefa to the Galatians

In my last post, we learned about Herod Agrippa I’s Persecution of the Saints, including Kefa. In this post, we learn that Rabbi Sha’ul Mentions Kefa to the Galatians.

15 But when God, who picked me (Sha’ul) out before I was born and called me by His grace, chose 16 to reveal His Son to me so that I might announce Him to the Gentiles, I did not consult anyone; 17 and I did not go up to Yerushalayim to see those who were emissaries before me. Instead, I immediately went off to Arabia and afterwards returned to Dammesek. 18 Not until three years later did I go up to Yerushalayim to make Kefa’s acquaintance, and I stayed with him for two weeks, 19 but I did not see any of the other emissaries except Ya’akov the Lord’s brother. ~ Galatians 1:1519 (CJB).

2 Then after fourteen years I again went up to Yerushalayim, this time with Bar- abba; and I took with me Titus. – 6 Moreover, those who were the acknowledged leaders – what they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by outward appearances – these leaders added nothing to me. On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the Good News for the Uncircumcised, just as Kefa had been for the Circumcised; since the One working in Kefa to make him an emissary to the Circumcised had worked in me to make me an emissary to the Gentiles. So, having perceived what grace had been given to me, Ya’akov, Kefa and Yochanan, the acknowledged pillars of the community, extended to me and Bar-Nabba the right hand of fellowship; so that we might go to the Gentiles, and they to the Circumcised. 10 Their only request was that we should remember the poor – which very thing I have spared no pains to do. ~ Galatians 2:1,6-10. (CJB)

Sha’ul Rebukes Kefa

11 Furthermore, when Kefa came to Antioch, I opposed him publicly because he was clearly in the wrong. 12 For prior to the arrival of certain people from [the community headed by] Ya’akov, he had been eating with the Gentile Believers; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, because he was afraid of the Faction who favored circumcising Gentile believers. 13 And the other Jewish Believers became hypocrites along with him so that even Bar-Nabba was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not walking a straight path, keeping in line with the truth of the Good News, I said to Kefa, right in front of everyone, “If you, who are a Jew, live like a Goy and not like a Jew, why are you forcing the Goyim to live like Jews?  ~ Galatians 2:11-14. (CJB)

Sha’ul’s confrontation with Kefa in Antioch illustrates dramatically that Sha’ul ranked equally with the other emissaries, indeed with Kefa the leading emissary.

Before Ya’akov’s community had come, Kefa had been eating with the Gentile Believers. It is unlikely that Sha’ul aired his rebuke before un-Believers. This is important, for it is not to be thought that Kefa had abandoned Jewish tradition and now ignored keeping kosher. His loyalty to kashrut had been such that nothing treif had touched his lips before seeing Cornelius.

When they came, he (Kefa) withdrew and separated himself because he was afraid of the Faction. Why? What did the leading emissary have to be afraid of? Even though his explanation of Cornelius’ conversion satisfied those of the Circumcision Faction the issue had grown more troublesome.

Sha’ul’s rebuke of Kefa serves as one of the most dynamic statements in the Brit Hadashah on the absolute and unwavering necessity of the doctrine of justification by grace through faith. Kefa’s apparent repentance acknowledged Sha’ul’s apostolic authority and his own submission to the truth.[1]

In my next post, we will begin to unpack Kefa’s letters to the Messianic Community.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible.

Herod Agrippa I’s Persecution of the Saints

In my last post, we learned that Kefa Returns to Yerushalayim to Brief the other Emissaries. In this post, we learn about Herod Agrippa I’s Persecution of the Saints, including Kefa.

It was around this time that King Herod began arresting and persecuting certain members of the Messianic community;

I wanted to pause for a moment to share some background on this King Herod. There are several such Kings in Isra’el’s history. Luke calls this ruler Herod, which is a dynastic name Agrippa I never used. Agrippa was born about 10 BCE to Aristopulus (son of Herod the Great) and Berenice. He grew up and was educated in Rome. As a result of his desire to live extravagantly and procure political favor, Agrippa spent most of his early adult life borrowing money and running from creditors. His financial situation even caused him to contemplate suicide.

Agrippa was a threat to the Messianic Community and its leadership: He attacked the community members and had Ya’akov, Yochanan’s brother, executed. When he learned that his actions were pleasing to the Jews, he had Kefa arrested during the feast of Unleavened Bread. While Kefa was in prison, an angel appeared and led him to freedom, causing Kefa to say that the Lord sent His angel to rescue me from Herod’s power. The next morning, when the guards discovered the empty cell and could not find Kefa, Agrippa order their execution. [1]

and he had Ya‘akov, Yochanan’s brother, put to death by the sword. When Herod saw how much this pleased the Judeans, he went on to arrest Kefa as well. It was during the Days of Matzah, so when Herod seized him, he threw him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each, with the intention of bringing him to public trial after Pesach. So Kefa was being held under watch in prison, but intense prayer was being made to God on his behalf by the Messianic community.

David Stern has this to share regarding verse 5:

Five-point teaching on prayer: Prayer must be (1) intense, not casual; (2) ongoing (was being made); (3) to God – in genuine contact with the living God, not with empty repetition and not in unbelief; (4) specific, not vague (on his behalf); and (5) communal (by the Messianic community) – the Believer is not called to an isolated life; even his private prayers should be not self-centered but reflective of his membership in the Body of the Messiah. [2]

The night before Herod was going to bring him to trial, Kefa was sleeping between two soldiers. He was bound with two chains, and guards were at the door, keeping watch over the prison. Suddenly, an angel of Adonai stood there, and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Kefa’s side and woke him. “Hurry! Get up!” he said, and the chains fell off his hands. The angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals,” and he did. “Throw on your robe,” he said, “and follow me!” Going out, Kefa followed him but did not realize that what was happening through the angel was real—he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 Having passed a first guard and a second, they arrived at the iron gate leading to the city. This opened to them by itself, and they made their exit. They went down the length of one street, and suddenly the angel left him. 11 Then Kefa came to himself and said, “Now I know for sure that the Lord sent his angel to rescue me from Herod’s power and from everything the Judean people were hoping for.”

12 Realizing what had happened, he went to the house of Miryam, the mother of Yochanan (surnamed Mark), where many people had gathered to pray.

The house of Miryam. Believers met in each other‘s homes for prayer, worship, and fellowship, which arose from their mutual trust in Yeshua (see Acts 2:46, 8:3). Brit Hadashah-based prayer groups, home Bible studies, and house congregations reflect this emphasis today. Within Judaism, the chavurah (friendship-group) movement similarly fosters awareness of one another.

13 He knocked at the outside door, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer. 14 She recognized Kefa’s voice and was so happy that she ran back in without opening the door and announced that Kefa was standing outside. 15 “You’re out of your mind!” they said to her. But she insisted it was true. So they said, “It is his angel.” 16 Meanwhile, Kefa kept knocking; and when they opened the door and saw him, they were amazed. 17 Motioning to them with his hand to be quiet, he told them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison and said, “Tell all this to Ya‘akov and the brothers.” Then he left and went elsewhere.

“You’re out of your mind!” they said to her. Our God is real, and He answers prayers. Many of us can grasp this concept intellectually, but sometimes, we find it hard to believe when the evidence knocks at the door.

This Ya’akov is called the brother of Yeshua in Matthew and Mark. He was not a Believer during the Messiah’s earthly ministry. He came to faith later and became the leader of the Messianic Jews of Yerushalayim. Tradition considers him the author of the Brit Hadashah book of Ya’akov. Kefa had already turned over leadership in Yerushalayim to Ya’akov and was himself establishing congregations elsewhere.

Then Kefa left and went elsewhere. This is the last reference in the Book of Acts to Kefa’s ministry.

1When daylight came, there was no small commotion among the soldiers over what had become of Kefa. 19 Herod had a thorough search made for him, but they failed to find him, so he cross-examined the guards and ordered them put to death. ~ Acts 12:1-19a

In my next post, we learn that Kefa that Rabbi Sha’ul mentions Kefa in his letter to the Galatians.

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[1] Lexham Bible Dictionary.

[2] Jewish New Testament Commentary.

First Gentile Believers ~ Part 7

Kefa Returns to Yerushalayim to Brief the other Emissaries

In my last post, we learned that Cornelius, His Family, and Guests Are Baptized. In this post, we learn that Kefa Returns to Yerushalayim to Brief the other Emissaries.

The emissaries and the brothers throughout Y’hudah heard that the Goyim had received the word of God; but when Kefa went up to Yerushalayim, the members of the Circumcision Faction criticized him, saying, “You went into the homes of uncircumcised men and even ate with them!” (In case you missed it, we learned about the Circumcision Faction in my last post.)

In reply, Kefa began explaining in detail what had actually happened: “I was in the city of Yafo, praying; and in a trance, I had a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being lowered by its four corners from heaven, and it came down to me. I looked inside and saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, crawling creatures, and wild birds. Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Kefa, slaughter and eat!’ I said, ‘No, sir! Absolutely not! Nothing unclean or treif has ever entered my mouth!’ But the voice spoke again from heaven: ‘Stop treating as unclean what God has made clean.’ 10 This happened three times, and then everything was pulled back up into heaven.

Nothing unclean or treif has ever entered my mouth! (see Acts 10:12–14). Kefa’s hearers, the strict Circumcision Faction, “zealots for the Torah (see Acts 21:20), are no more Torah-observant than Kefa himself. God chose Kefa as His instrument to bring Yeshua to the Gentiles precisely because he was an observant Jew; in this way, all would know that God’s hand was in it. Had a less Torah-observant Jew seen the vision, it would have been no less of God, but observant Jews might have dismissed him as self-serving.

11 “At that very moment, three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea arrived at the house where I was staying; 12 and the Spirit told me to have no misgivings about going back with them. These six brothers also came with me, and we went into the man’s house. 13 He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Yafo and bring back Shim’ on, known as Kefa. 14 He has a message for you which will enable you and your whole household to be saved.’ 15 “But I had hardly begun speaking when the Ruach HaKodesh fell on them, just as on us at the beginning! 16 And I remembered that the Lord had said, ‘Yochanan used to immerse people in the water, but you will be immersed in the Ruach HaKodesh.’ 17 Therefore, if God gave them the same gift as he gave us after we had come to put our trust in the Lord Yeshua the Messiah, who was I to stand in God’s way?” 18 On hearing these things, they stopped objecting and began to praise God, saying, “This means that God has enabled the Goyim as well to do t’shuvah (repentance) and have life!” ~ Acts 11:1-18

The observant Jews in the Messianic Community were amazed that Gentiles could become part of God’s people, part of the Messiah’s Body, without first becoming Jews. To oppose something that so clearly had a divine stamp of approval on it would oppose God. Kefa’s explanation caused the other Jewish Believers to give God glory for granting repentance resulting in life even to the Gentiles.

Today, the situation is precisely the opposite: many Gentile Believers are amazed at the movement of Messianic Jews that claims Jews can accept the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua, without taking on the lifestyle of Gentiles. The more things change, the more they stay the same!

In my next post, we learn that Kefa gets caught up in Herod Agrippa I’s Persecution of the Saints.

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First Gentile Believers ~ Part 6

Cornelius, His Family, and Guests Are Baptized

In my last post, we learned that Cornelius Shares His Vision with Kefa, and Kefa Preached the Gospel. In this post, we learn that Cornelius, His Family, and Guests Are Baptized.

44 Kefa was still saying these things when the Ruach HaKodesh fell on all who were hearing the message. 45 All the believers from the Circumcision faction who had accompanied Kefa were amazed that the gift of the Ruach HaKodesh was also being poured out 46 on the Goyim, for they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Kefa’s response was, 47 “Is anyone prepared to prohibit these people from being immersed in water? After all, they have received the Ruach HaKodesh, just as we did.” 48 And he ordered that they be immersed in the name of Yeshua, the Messiah. Then they asked Kefa to stay on with them for a few days. ~ Acts 10:44-48 (CJB)

Had Kefa and company not seen for themselves that the Ruach HaKodesh came on these non-Jews precisely as, on themselves, they would not have immersed them with the manifestation of speaking in other languages. As with Kefa (vv. 9–29), it took a supernatural act of God to dislodge their resistance to bringing Gentiles into the Body of the Messiah, accomplished and symbolized by immersion. Cornelius, his family, and his friends were the first Gentiles to enter the Messianic Community without becoming Jews first.

This was highly reminiscent of the Ethiopian eunuch’s request for baptism (Acts 8:36). As with the eunuch, there was now no barrier, no way anyone could hinder the baptism of these Gentiles and their full inclusion into the Messianic Community.

Verse 45 presents an interesting phrase that may have snuck by us, the believers from the Circumcision faction, or, more literally, “the believers from the Circumcision,” which could mean not a faction but all Jewish believers. Which is it? In his commentary on this passage, David Stern has this to say:

In Acts 15:5, 21:20; Galatians 2:12; and Titus 1:10, “the Circumcision Faction” refers to a subgroup of Messianic Jews, namely, those who insisted that Gentiles could not join the Messianic Community merely by trusting in God and His Messiah Yeshua; they had to become Jewish proselytes. This faction would have consisted of saved Jews who, in their former life as non-Messianic Jews, considered God-fearers fence-straddlers that ought to convert to Judaism. Faith in Yeshua would not have made them change their opinion because the possibility that Gentiles could be members of the Messianic Community without becoming Jews had never arisen.

But at Romans 4:9, 4:12, 15:8; Galatians 2:7–9 and Ephesians 2:11, “the Circumcision” is used merely to distinguish Jews from Gentiles.

Whether it means all Messianic Jews or the faction that wanted Gentile Believers to convert to Judaism is elucidated by what it was that bothered them. It is not reasonable to suppose that all Messianic Jews, or even a significant majority of them, would have both experienced amazement at God’s giving the Ruach HaKodesh to Gentiles (this verse) and criticized Kefa for entering Gentiles’ homes and eating with them (Acts 11:2–3). Only Jews (Messianic or non-Messianic) concerned with Gentiles would have had such reactions. Therefore, my rendering of the Circumcision faction. [1]

In my next post, we follow Kefa Back to Yerushalayim to Brief the other Emissaries.

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[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary.

First Gentile Believers ~ Part 5

Cornelius Shares His Vision with Kefa

In my last post, we learned that Kefa Went to Cornelius. In this post, we learn that Cornelius Shares His Vision with Kefa, and Kefa Preaches the Gospel.

30 Cornelius answered, “Three days ago around this time, I was at minchah prayers [1] in my house, when suddenly a man in shining clothes stood in front of me 31 and said, ‘God has heard your prayer and remembered your acts of charity. 32 Now send to Yafo and ask for Shim ‘on, known as Kefa; he is staying in the house of Shim ‘on, a leather-tanner, by the sea.’ 33 So I sent for you immediately, and you have been kind enough to come. Now all of us are here in the presence of God to hear everything the Lord has ordered you to say.” 34 Then Kefa addressed them: “I now understand that God does not play favorites, 35 but that whoever fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him, no matter what people he belongs to.

God does not play favorites, but … whoever fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him, no matter what people he belongs to. The Judaism of the rabbis has comparable teaching that among the nations, there are righteous people “who have a share in the world to come,” where righteousness for Gentiles is often defined as keeping the seven Noachide laws (see Acts 15:20).

36 “Here is the message that he sent to the sons of Isra’el announcing shalom through Yeshua the Messiah, who is Lord of everything.

Jewish people, in general, would call God “Lord of all.” “Preaching peace” alludes to the concept of Isra’el’s redemption, found in Isaiah 52:7 and similar passages, although even God-fearing Gentiles might miss this allusion.

37 You know what has been going on throughout Y’hudah, starting from the Galil after the immersion that Yochanan proclaimed; 38 how God anointed Yeshua from Natzeret with the Ruach HaKodesh and with power; how Yeshua went about doing good and healing all the people oppressed by the Adversary because God was with Him.

Depending on how much Cornelius knows about Judaism, he may recognize that anyone anointed with the Ruach HaKodesh in his own time would be considered extraordinary by his Jewish contemporaries.

39 “As for us, we are witnesses of everything He did, both in the Judean countryside and in Yerushalayim. They did away with Him by hanging Him on a stake; 40 but God raised Him up on the third day and let Him be seen, 41 not by all the people, but by witnesses God had previously chosen, that is, by us, who ate and drank with Him after He had risen again from the dead. 42 “Then He commanded us to proclaim and attest to the Jewish people that this man has been appointed by God to judge the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets bear witness to Him, that everyone who puts his trust in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.” ~ Acts 10:30-43.

Kefa’s sermon points to these God-fearing Gentiles: Yeshua is sent by God and is still alive. He will be the final judge of all human beings. The Tanakh points to Him. Those who trust in His mercy will be forgiven their sins through His name, that is, because of who He is and what He has done. What an excellent summation of the Gospel Message!

In my next post, we will continue to examine Kefa’s encounter with Cornelius in First Gentile Believers ~ Part 6 where Cornelius, His Family, and Guests Are Baptized.

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[1] Literally, “I was at the ninth hour praying in my house.”

First Gentile Believers ~ Part 4

Kefa Goes to Cornelius

In my last post, we learned that Kefa was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean. In this post, we learn that Kefa Goes to Cornelius.

23b The next day, he (Kefa) got up and went with them, accompanied by some of the brothers from Yafo; 24, and he arrived at Caesarea the day after that. Cornelius was expecting them—he had already called together his relatives and close friends. 25 As Kefa entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell prostrate at his feet. 26 But Kefa pulled him to his feet and said, “Stand up! I myself am just a man.”

Fell prostrate at his feet to welcome him, also to honor him as God’s messenger, but not to “worship” him (as some English versions have it). As a God-fearer, Cornelius would have known better. However, Kefa’s response, Stand up! I myself am just a man, shows that Kefa misread what Cornelius did as an act of idolatry to be expected from a pagan. This had to be a very awkward moment for both of them.

27 As he talked with him, Kefa went inside and found many people gathered. 28 He said to them, “You are well aware that for a man who is a Jew to have a close association with someone who belongs to another people, or to come and visit him, is something that just isn’t done. But God has shown me not to call any person common or unclean; 29 so when I was summoned, I came without raising any questions. Tell me, then, why did you send for me?” ~ Acts 10:23b-29 (CJB) (Emphasis added).

You are well aware that for a man who is a Jew to have a close association with someone who belongs to another people or to come and visit him is something that just isn’t done. Before examining whether Jews did, in fact, keep themselves aloof from Gentiles, take note of Kefa’s careful word choices. He uses the Greek word “allophulos,” which means “someone who belongs to another tribe,” used only here in the New Testament. Also, the Greek word “athemitos,” used only twice in the New Testament, does not mean “unlawful, forbidden, against Jewish law,” as found in other English versions, but rather “taboo, out of the question, not considered right, against standard practice, contrary to cultural norms.”

Kefa Now Understands the Meaning of His Vision

But God has shown me not to call any person common or unclean. If Jewish law made Gentile products and practices unclean, it would have been only human, all too human, for people to have extended the description, unclean, to Gentiles themselves. Such attitudes would have been not so much taught as caught, absorbed from the whole milieu, and these attitudes’ influence would have quickly become pervasive. This is why it took direct intervention from God to shake Kefa loose from them.

As I explained in my last post, this verse proves that the meaning of Kefa’s vision had nothing to do with abolishing kashrut’s laws. With this statement and its expansion in vv. 34–35 Kefa puts his dealings with Cornelius and his friends on a new footing: a barrier that both sides might have thought insuperable, that would have made true spiritual communion impossible, is removed altogether.

In my next post, we will continue to examine Kefa’s encounter with Cornelius in First Gentile Believers ~ Part 5 where Cornelius Shares His Vision with Kefa.

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First Gentile Believers ~ Part 3

In my last post, we began to examine Kefa’s vision as he was napping before lunch. In this post, we will continue to examine the First Gentile Believers’ actual conversion.

17 Now while Kefa was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon’s house, stood at the gate 18 and called out to ask whether Simon who was called Kefa was lodging there. 19 And while Kefa was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. 20 Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them.” 21 And Kefa went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for. What is the reason for your coming?” 22 And they said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.” 23 So he invited them in to be his guests. ~ Acts 10: 17-23a (CJB).

At this point, Kefa was still in the dark about the meaning of his vision. Kefa was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean… Kefa was pondering the vision. We began to explore the vision in my last post, but what else could it possibly mean? Would God, who established His covenant with the Jewish people and gave them an eternal Torah at Mount Sinai, and who is Himself unchangeable (Malachi 3:6), change His Torah to make unclean animals kosher? This is the apparent meaning, and many Christian commentators assert that this is the meaning. But they ignore the explicit statement a few verses later, which at last resolves Kefa’s puzzlement, “God has shown me not to call any person unclean or impure” (10:28). So, the vision is about people and not about food.

Now the Ruach spoke to him directly. With Cornelius, it had been an angel, with Kefa’s vision, a voice from heaven. The Ruach directed Kefa to the three messengers standing at the gate and identified them as men he had sent. Following the Ruach’s direction, Kefa descended the outside staircase that led from the roof to the courtyard below, identified himself, and eagerly inquired why they were seeking him. By now, he had a good notion that they were a key piece in his vision puzzle.

Notice that God works on both sides. He spoke to Cornelius through an angel and to Kefa through a vision. When these three men showed up at Kefa’s gate, it was confirmed that both Cornelius and Kefa had heard God correctly. The messengers informed Kefa that Cornelius wanted to hear what you have to say. Kefa began to see the ramifications of his vision. He was to witness to this centurion [1] whom God had directed to him. That Kefa was beginning to understand is exemplified by his inviting them to spend the evening as guests. Already he was beginning to have fellowship with Gentiles he formerly considered unclean.

P’rushim and other pietists were concerned about impure table fellowship, lodging Gentiles overnight, no matter how exhausted the guests may have been, contradicted strict Jewish piety. Eating with them was forbidden on the principle that they were an evil company. Perhaps Simon, being a tanner, is less concerned with strict rules; although most of his customers were probably Jewish, Yafo was a mixed town, and he was in a profession despised by strict pietists anyway. But Kefa’s vision probably has something to do with the treatment the guests receive.[2]

In my next post, we will continue to examine Kefa’s encounter with Cornelius in First Gentile Believers ~ Part 4.

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[1] I have always wondered if this is the same centurion who executed Yeshua and then declared that Truly this was the Son of God! ~ Matt. 27:54 (ESV).

[2] Bible Background Commentary.

First Gentile Believers ~ Part 2

In my last post, we began to examine the actual conversion of the First Gentile Believers. In this post, we will pause for a moment to examine Kefa’s vision as he was napping before his lunch.

1He began to feel hungry and wanted something to eat; but while they were preparing the meal, he fell into a trance 11 in which he saw heaven opened, and something that looked like a large sheet being lowered to the ground by its four corners. 12 In it were all kinds of four-footed animals, crawling creatures, and wild birds. 13 Then a voice came to him, “Get up, Jewish, slaughter and eat!” 14 But Jewish said, “No, sir! Absolutely not! I have never eaten food that was unclean or treif.” 15 The voice spoke to him a second time: “Stop treating as unclean what God has made clean.” 16 This happened three times, and then the sheet was immediately taken back up into heaven. ~ Acts 10:10 –16 (CJB)

This passage, along with Mark 7:19, deals with Kashrut’s dietary laws in Leviticus 11:1-47.

19 For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and it passes out into the latrine.” (Thus, He declared all foods ritually clean.) ~ Mark 7:19 (CJB). Yeshua is responding to the question raised in Mark 7:15.

The P’rushim and the Torah-teachers asked him, “Why don’t your talmidim live in accordance with the Tradition of the Elders, but instead eat with ritually unclean hands?”

David H. Stern opines on this passage:

Thus, He declared all foods ritually clean, even if the meal participants have not washed their hands. But Yeshua did not, as many suppose, abolish the laws of Kashrut, and thus declare ham kosher! Since the beginning of the chapter, the subject has been ritual purity as taught by the Oral Torah concerning n’tilat-yadayim (ceremonial handwashing) and not Kashrut at all! There is not the slightest hint anywhere that foods in this verse can be anything other than what the Bible allows Jews to eat; in other words, kosher foods. [1]

Going back to Acts 10:12–14, Stern has this to say:

Leviticus 11 specifies that only those four-footed animals that chew the cud and have split hoofs are kosher (“fit”) for Jewish people to eat. No reptiles are allowed, and permitted birds are listed by name. In Kefa’s vision, all kinds of creatures appeared, including those that are non-kosher or treif. [2]

I would highly encourage you to read Leviticus 11:1-47 on your own as it will give you a better understanding of Kashrut’s issue. As we travel through Acts 10, we will run into this issue again as Kefa tries to figure out the meaning of his vision.

I have attached the sermon I gave many years ago on this issue.

Should We Be Kosher

In my next post, we continue to examine the First Gentile Believers’ actual conversion ~ Part 3.

[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary
[2]
Ibid.

First Gentile Believers ~ Part 1

In my last post, we learned about that Jewish Performs More Miracles. In this post, we will begin to examine the actual conversion of the First Gentile Believers. We are going to be spending some time on this topic. So, buckle up and dig as we into God’s Word.

There was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, a Roman army officer in what was called the Italian Regiment. He was a devout man, a “God-fearer,” as was his whole household; he gave generously to help the Jewish poor and prayed regularly to God.

He gave generously to help the Jewish poor. The text does not say “the Jewish poor.” The Greek Laos is frequently a technical term referring to the Jewish people, the people of God, not people in general, hence this rendering.

And prayed regularly to God. Like in the Tanakh (Ruth 1:16), this God-fearing Gentile had accepted the two essentials of true worship:

  • “Your people shall be my people.” Although Cornelius did not officially join the Jewish people, he cared for them as his own.
  • “And your God shall be my God.” He prayed to the God of Isra’el.

 One afternoon around three o’clock, he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius!” Cornelius stared at the angel, terrified. “What is it, sir?” he asked. “Your prayers,” replied the angel, “and your acts of charity have gone up into God’s presence so that he has you on his mind. Now send some men to Yafo to bring back a man named Shim’ on, also called Jewish. He’s staying with Shim ‘on the leather-tanner, who has a house by the sea.” As the angel that had spoken to him went away, Cornelius called two of his household slaves and one of his military aides, who was a Godly man; he explained everything to them and sent them to Yafo. ~ Acts 10:1–8 (CJB)

The next day, about noon, while they were still on their way and approaching the city, Jewish went up onto the roof of the house to pray. 10 He began to feel hungry and wanted something to eat; but while they were preparing the meal, he fell into a trance 11 in which he saw heaven opened, and something that looked like a large sheet being lowered to the ground by its four corners. 12 In it were all kinds of four-footed animals, crawling creatures and wild birds. 13 Then a voice came to him, “Get up, Jewish, slaughter and eat!” 14 But Jewish said, “No, sir! Absolutely not! I have never eaten food that was unclean or treif.

Kefa was in Yafo (9:42), praying on the roof about noon. Hungry and waiting for lunch to be prepared, he fell into a trance. eaten food that was unclean or treif.”

Leviticus 11 specifies that only those four-footed animals that chew the cud and have split hoofs are Kosher or fit for Jewish people to eat. No reptiles are allowed, and permitted birds are listed by name. In Kefa’s vision, all kinds of creatures appeared, including those that are non-Jewish or treif. Treif means “torn” and refers to animals slain by predators and not slaughtered following Jewish practice.

When he heard a voice tell him to eat, he refused. Kefa was a good, faithful Jew who had always obeyed the Jewish food laws. But the voice said, What God has made clean, do not call impure. After seeing two reruns of this message (two or three witnesses are God’s divine confirmation), Kefa woke up.

15 The voice spoke to him a second time: “Stop treating as unclean what God has made clean.” 16 This happened three times, and then the sheet was immediately taken back up into heaven. ~ Acts 10:9–16 (CJB)

Jewish people had preferred death to eating unclean (non-Jewish) food in the time of the Maccabees; thus, Jewish readers would be appalled that God would require anything so disgusting (from the perspective of cultural cuisine) and impious (from an Old Testament perspective). The vision that God can declare anything clean applies especially to the Gentiles Kefa is about to meet.

Kefa had been faithful to the dietary restrictions God had given Isra’el under the old covenant (see Lev 11:1-47). But during his ministry, Jesus had declared all foods clean (Mark 7:19).

In my next post, we continue to examine the First Gentile Believers’ actual conversion ~Part 2. In this next post, I will deal with Kashrut’s issue, as stated in Acts 10:15, Leviticus 11:1:47, and Mark 7:19.

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