Acts 10:28
And he said to them, You know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come to one of another nation; but God has showed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(28) Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing.—St. Peter speaks from the standpoint of traditional Pharisaism rather than from that of the Law itself; but the feeling was widely diffused, and showed itself in forms more or less rigorous wherever Jews and heathens came in contact with each other. The strict Jew would not enter a Gentile’s house, nor sit on the same couch, nor eat or drink out of the same vessel. (Comp. Note on Mark 7:3-4.) The very dust of a heathen city was defiling. The Hindoo feeling of caste, shrinking from contact with those of a lower grade, driven to madness and mutiny by “greased cartridges,” presents the nearest modern analogue.

God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.—The Apostle had, we find, at last learnt the lesson which the vision had taught him, in all the fulness of its meaning. Humanity as such had been redeemed by the Incarnation and Ascension, and was no longer common or unclean, even in the most outcast heathen. God was willing to receive all men. Sin alone was that which separated men from Him. Impurity was thought of as a moral, not a physical taint, and men were taught to see even in the sinner the potentialities of a higher life. He, too, had been redeemed, and might be justified and sanctified, and to him therefore honour and reverence were due as to one in whom the image of God was not utterly effaced, and might be restored to brightness. It is interesting, in this connection, to note the “Honour all men” of 1Peter 2:17. It is obvious that the pride of class, resting on mere differences of culture, and showing itself in acts and words of contempt, is, from one point of view, even less excusable than that which at least imagined that it rested on a religious basis, while from another, it is less inveterate, and therefore more easily curable.

Acts 10:28-29. And he said, Ye know how it is an unlawful thing, &c. — A thing not allowed by the Jews; for a man that is a Jew — A native Jew, as I am; to keep company with, or come unto one of another nation — A stranger, and an uncircumcised Gentile. This was not made unlawful by the law of God, but by the precepts of their wise men, which they looked upon to be no less obliging. They did not indeed forbid them to converse with Gentiles, in the way of traffic or worldly business, but to eat with them. With such scorn did the Jews look upon the Gentiles, who in their turn held them in equal contempt, as appears by many passages in the Latin poets. But now, saith Peter, God hath showed me — By a remarkable vision; that I should not call any man common or unclean — Peter thought it necessary to inform them how he came to change his mind in this matter, lest, being thought to have used lightness, his word should have the less authority. Therefore — Having received direction from God; came I unto you without gainsaying — Or delay; as soon as I was sent for — Ready to preach the same gospel to you that I preached to the Jews. I ask, therefore, for what intent ye have sent for me — Although Peter in a great measure knew this already, he puts Cornelius on telling the story, both that his friends, and all that were present, might be informed, and Cornelius himself be more impressed by the narration; the repetition of which, even as we read it, gives a new dignity and spirit to Peter’s succeeding discourse.10:19-33 When we see our call clear to any service, we should not be perplexed with doubts and scruples arising from prejudices or former ideas. Cornelius had called together his friends, to partake with him of the heavenly wisdom he expected from Peter. We should not covet to eat our spiritual morsels alone. It ought to be both given and taken as kindness and respect to our kindred and friends, to invite them to join us in religious exercises. Cornelius declared the direction God gave him to send for Peter. We are right in our aims in attending a gospel ministry, when we do it with regard to the Divine appointment requiring us to make use of that ordinance. How seldom ministers are called to speak to such companies, however small, in which it may be said that they are all present in the sight of God, to hear all things that are commanded of God! But these were ready to hear what Peter was commanded of God to say.It is an unlawful thing - This was not explicitly enjoined by Moses, but it seemed to be implied in his institutions, and was, at any rate, the common understanding of the Jews. The design was to keep them a separate people. To do this, Moses forbade alliances by contract, or marriage, with the surrounding nations, which were idolatrous. See Leviticus 18:24-30; Deuteronomy 7:3-12; compare Ezra 9:11-12. This command the Jews perverted, and explained it as referring to contact of all kinds, even to the exercise of friendly offices and commercial transactions. Compare John 4:9.

Of another nation - Greek: another tribe. It refers here to all who were not Jews.

God hath showed me - Compare Acts 15:8-9. He had showed him by the vision, Acts 10:11-12.

Any man common or unclean - See the notes on Acts 10:14. That no man was to be regarded as excluded from the opportunity of salvation, or was to be despised and abhorred. The gospel was to be preached to all; the barrier between Jews and Gentiles was broken down, and all were to be regarded as capable of being saved.

28. Ye know it is … unlawful … for … a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation, &c.—There was no express prohibition to this effect, and to a Certain extent intercourse was certainly kept up. (See the Gospel history, towards the end). But intimate social fellowship was not practiced, as being adverse to the spirit of the law. God himself did erect a partition wall betwixt his people and other nations, Jews and Gentiles; hence by God’s own command the Jews might not have any familiar converse with the Gentiles, especially they might not marry with them. The Jews themselves had made this partition wall much larger, and they held it unlawful to eat with any of the Gentiles, or to go so much as into their houses; hence that objection made upon this occasion against St. Peter, Acts 11:3.

Unclean; no man is now unclean by any ceremonial uncleanness, because he is not circumcised, or because he is not sprinkled with the blood of bulls, Hebrews 9:13; yet sin hath defiled the whole mass of mankind, and they are equally by nature morally unclean. And he said unto them,.... The whole company that were met together, who were chiefly, if not altogether Gentiles:

ye know that it is an unlawful thing; what is forbidden by the law of Moses, Deuteronomy 7:2 and by the traditions of the elders, which carry the matter further than the law did, and made it very criminal:

for a man that is a Jew, to keep company with, or come unto one of another nation; besides entering into covenants and marriages with them, which were forbidden by the law, though they allowed of trade and commerce with the Gentiles, yet not any familiar conversation with them; it was prohibited to eat and drink any sort of liquor with them in their houses (h), nor might they walk with them in the streets, or on the road; says Maimonides (i),

"it is forbidden a Jew to unite himself to Gentiles, because they are suspected of shedding blood, and he may not join himself with them in the way; if he meets a Gentile in the way, he causes him to turn to the right hand; if they ascend by an ascent, or descend by a descent, the Israelite may not be below, and the Gentile above: but the Israelite must be above, and the Gentile below, lest he should fall upon him and kill him; and he may not go even with (or along side by him) lest he break his skull.''

It is said (k) of some Rabbins, that they saw a certain man coming;

"says R. Chiyah, let us be gone, perhaps this man is an idolatrous Gentile, or one of the people of the earth, and it is forbidden to join with him in the way.''

They looked upon the houses of Gentiles unclean, and therefore would not enter into them: See Gill on John 18:28.

yea they say (l), that:

"the court of a stranger (or Gentile) is as the habitation of a beast.''

Such an aversion was there in that people to all civil society with Gentiles: and so Apoltonius says of them (m), that

"they not only departed from the Romans, but from all men, living a separate life from others; nor did they communicate at table with others; neither in things sacred, nor in any ceremonies;''

and this was well known to Jews and Gentiles:

but God hath showed me; partly by the vision he had seen, and partly by discourse with the men that came from Cornelius to him; and by comparing the vision and their message to him together, he saw that he was not obliged to abide by the customs and laws of the Jews: but was showed, as he says,

that I should not call any man common or unclean; that is, in a ceremonial sense; for otherwise, all by nature are morally unclean; and none are pure, but such who are washed in the blood of Christ, and are justified by his righteousness, and sanctified by his Spirit: he saw there was now no difference between Jew and Gentile; that the one was not clean because of his circumcision, nor the other unclean on account of his uncircumcision, or to be avoided for that reason; that the Gospel was to be preached to all; and that every believer of whatsoever nation, was acceptable to God, and ought to be regarded by his ministers and people.

continued...

And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 10:28. ἀθέμιτον: only once again in N.T., and significantly in 1 Peter 4:3, but cf. for a similar sense to its use here 2Ma 6:5; 2Ma 7:1. On the extent to which this feeling was carried see Edersheim, Jewish Social Life, pp. 26–28; Taylor’s Sayings of the Jewish Fathers, pp. 15, 26, 137 (second edition); Weber, Jüdische Theologie, p. 68; so too Jos., c. Apion, ii., 28, 29, 36; Juvenal, xiv., 103; Tacitus, Hist., v., 5.—κολλᾶσθαι, see on Acts 5:13 and Lightfoot, Hor. Heb., in loco.—προσέρχεσθαι: objected to by Zeller and Over-beck, because we know of instances where Jews went without scruple into the houses of Gentiles (cf. Jos., Ant., xx., 2, 3); but here the whole context plainly shows what kind of intercourse was intended (see also Wetstein). Hilgenfeld too regards the notice as un-historical, but an answer may be found to his objections in the references above and in Feine, pp. 202, 204, although his language seems inconsistent with that on p. 205.—ἀλλοφύλῳ: in the LXX and Apocrypha, so in Philo and Josephus as here; nowhere else in N.T. but here with a certain delicate touch, avoiding the use of the word “heathen”; in Acts 11:3 no such delicacy of feeling.—καὶ: not “but,” A.V., but as in R.V., “and yet,” i.e., in spite of all these prohibitions and usages.—ὁ Θ.: emphatic, preceding ἔδειξε (Weiss). How fully Peter afterwards lived and preached this truth his First Epistle shows, cf. 1 Peter 2:17.28. Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing, &c.] It is said expressly by Maimonides, Hilechoth Rozeakh, &c. xii. 7, “It is forbidden to a Jew to be alone with heathens, because they are suspected of (lightly) shedding blood, nor must he associate with them on the road.” And in the Midrash Rabbah on Leviticus, cap. 20 (ad fin.), there is an interesting example of the sort of ceremonial defilement which association with the heathen might bring about, “It happened that Shimeon the son of Kimkhith (who was high-priest) went out to speak with the King of the Arabians, and there came a fleck of spittle from the King’s mouth upon the priest’s garment and so he was unclean; and his brother Judah went in and served instead of him in the high-priest’s office. That day their mother saw two of her sons high-priests.” The Apostle speaks of the prohibition as a thing well known to those who heard him, and the action of the messengers of Cornelius in standing outside the house of Simon and calling out some one to question in the open air shews that they were aware of the dislike of the Jews to associate with Gentiles. We have evidence that this dislike was well known wherever the Jews resided from the words of Juvenal (xiv. 103), “Non monstrare vias eadem nisi sacra colenti.” So Tacitus (Hist. Acts 10:5), “separati epulis, discreti cubilibus.”

to keep company] Lit. “to join himself.” The word is the same as in the command to Philip (Acts 8:29), “Go near and join thyself to this chariot;” and signifies intimate intercourse. The ordinary dealings of life must constantly have forced Jews to be in the company of Gentiles, but it was to be avoided if possible.

but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean] The Spirit’s command “Go with them doubting nothing, for I have sent them” has taught Peter how he is to interpret the figure shewn to him in his vision.Acts 10:28. Ὑμεῖς) ye yourselves. He addresses all in his own name, not also in the name of those accompanying him.—προσέρχεσθαι, to come unto) an act which is even less than κολλᾶσθαι, to join one’s self with.—ἀλλοφύλῳ, one of an alien nation) Euphemism [for Gentile].—καὶ) for ἀλλὰ, and for but.—ἐμοὶ, to me) This word is emphatic.—[ὁ Θεὸς, GOD) Peter might suppose the knowledge of the true GOD as existing on the part of Cornelius: Acts 10:34; Acts 10:36.—V. g.]—ἔδειξε, hath showed) The word is employed in the strict sense: Acts 10:11. He speaks sparingly as to his own hesitation, and as to the secret vision which he had seen.—ἄνθρωπον, no one that is a man) This is elegantly put last: it involves an Ætiology [the reason assigned], and intensifies the universality of the language.Verse 28. - Ye yourselves for ye, A.V.; to join himself for to keep company, A.V.; and yet unto me hath God showed for but God hath showed me, A.V. Ye yourselves know. It was notorious among the Romans that the Jews kept themselves aloof from other people. Hence the accusation against them, in common with Christians, of being haters of the human race. Tacitus says of them that they hated all people, except their own countrymen, as their enemies, and refused to eat or intermarry with them ("Separati epulis discreti cubilibus;" 'Hist.,' 5:5). The word ἀλλόφυλος, one of another nation, occurs only here in the New Testament, but is common in the LXX. often as a synonym for "Philistines" (see Judges 3:3, etc.). This rather refutes Meyer's remark that "the designation (of Gentiles) here is tenderly forbearing." An unlawful thing (ἀθέμιτον)

The word is peculiar to Peter, being used only here and 1 Peter 4:3. See note there. It emphasizes the violation of established order, being from the same root as τίθημι, to lay down or establish. The Jews professed to ground this prohibition on the law of Moses; but there is no direct command in the Mosaic law forbidding Jews to associate with those of other nations. But Peter's statement is general, referring to the general practice of the Jews to separate themselves in common life from uncircumcised persons. Juvenal says that the Jews were taught by Moses "not to show the way except to one who practises the same rites, and to guide the circumcised alone to the well which they seek" (Sat., xiv., 104, 105). Tacitus also says of the Jews that "among themselves they are inflexibly faithful, and ready with charitable aid, but hate all others as enemies. They keep separate from all strangers in eating, sleeping, and matrimonial connections" ("Histories," v., 5).

Of another nation (ἀλλοφύλῳ)

Only here in New Testament. Used of the Philistines, 1 Samuel 13:3-5 (Sept.).

Me

Emphatic, by contrast with ye. "Ye know," etc., "but God hath showed me."

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