Friday, July 13, 2012

Peter Enns, "The Most Important Chapter in the Entire Bible"

Enns:
Don’t you hate blog posts that start like this, with such an exaggerated claim? So do I.
Oh well.

I could have said this post will make you rich and famous, but I’m holding back. Still, there is one chapter, in the New Testament, that I think is majorly huge–without it Christianity as we know does not exist. And here’s the chapter. Ready?

Acts 10.

Bet you didn’t see that coming. Bet you thought I was going to pick something about Jesus’ birth, crucifixion, or resurrection. But I didn’t, did I?

Without Acts 10, you don’t go to church on Sunday, have summer youth missions trips, hymnals, cathedrals, Vacation Bible School, or Contemporary Christian Music. Heck, since so much of western culture reflects nearly 2000 years of Christian influence (and dominance, for ill and good), you could say that without Acts 10, the west as we know it doesn’t exist.

How is t[h]at? Before Acts 10, followers of Jesus were almost exclusively (maybe entirely) Jewish. From Acts 10 on, Gentiles come pouring in as equal members. So, it’s a big deal.

In Acts 10, the Apostle Peter has a vision of a large sheet being lowered from heaven by its four corners. On that sheet were all sorts of animals considered unclean in Judaism. A voice told Peter to “kill and eat.” Even though Peter was hungry, he said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.” Peter was a good Jew who stuck to ancient Jewish law about not eating “unclean” animals.

Peter was also a bit clueless at first about what this vision meant, but he would quickly understand that the ritually unclean animals in the vision symbolized Gentiles. At a time when maintaining ritual purity was a major concern (to distance Judaism from Roman culture), a vision like this was bound to signal a major transition.

No wonder Peter was confused. Why, after all, would God cancel out a law that God himself had commanded the ancient Israelites to keep?
For myself, I don't disagree. I think Peter's realization of the spreading and influence of the resurrection of the crucified God indeed provides a massive paradigm shift. Let's not forget, Peter is concerned about Jewish identify. For the option of salvation to be offered to a gentile, gifted by the Holy Spirit, must've been a massive shock.

Let's not forget, Paul took Peter down a notch in Galatians 2, having "opposed him to his face" and that in spite of this, Peter called all of Paul's letter's "scripture"  in 2 Peter 3 (which I've heard may not have been written by Peter; will investigate). Either way, Peter calling Paul's letters "scripture" seems quite invigorating, considering Paul's letters likely included Galatians.

It seems that Paul gets all the credit for spreading the Gospel to the Gentiles, but Peter's conformation of Cornelius strikes me as something Paul would've loved.

For the rest, click HERE.

--Nick

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