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PETER’S HALAKHIC NIGHTMARE: THE ‘ANIMAL’ VISION OF ACTS 10:9-16 IN JEWISH AND GRAECO-ROMAN PERSPECTIVE

By LEWIS RICHARD JOHN MOXON

Abstract

The purpose of this thesis is to see if better sense can be made of the enigmatic vision of Acts 10:9-16 in which Peter is commanded to eat unclean animals. Although Luke interprets the vision in terms of attitudes to people, a striking problem is why a text apparently asking a Jew to violate the food-laws (and thus Torah as a whole), should feature in a book that does not resolve the Jew–Gentile problem in this way elsewhere. That this was an extraneous abolitionist text that Luke unsuccessfully “softened” is not deemed satisfactory. Peter’s vision is highly unusual, with marked differences from both Cornelius’ angelophany and other NT examples. As a Jewish response to the problem of associating with Gentiles, the account is unique in representing halakhic issues in dream form, but the rather human feel, enigmatic dialogue and oblique application may also suggest Graeco-Roman influences, which if read correctly might help illuminate the vision’s real function.\ud \ud After introductions to the halakha of association and the literary development of dreams in the Mediterranean world, two unusual aspects of the vision are investigated; firstly the connection with Hellenistic anxiety dreams and nightmares, and secondly, with the characteristically enigmatic divine speech of Graeco-Roman religion. These suggest ways in which Luke might want to point to a wider meaning and yet retain the vision’s distressing literal imagery. From a survey of other double dreams, it is concluded that pairing revelations with very different forms and degrees of difficulty is a recognisable pattern and may not imply poor editing . Indeed, that the darker and more enigmatic revelation is received by a character struggling to understand the divine will, is particularly characteristic. This not only explains the transgressive feel of Peter’s vision, but also how the ironic contrast with Cornelius underscores a Lukan apologetic about mission.\ud \ud It is concluded that the difficult even paradoxical questions facing Jewish Christians make a “communal anxiety dream” about contact with Gentiles understandable. The vision does not so much commend the abolition of Torah as expose the illegitimacy of allowing such “nightmares” to impede fellowship with Spirit-filled Gentile followers of Jesus. Part of its rebuke is to plunge the Apostle into a state of aporia until enabled to recognise its meaning in the surprising developments at Cornelius’ house.\ud \ud Besides helping to explain an editorial anomaly, and showing how Luke may be experimenting with more personal and enigmatic forms of “revelation”, this reading may also add plausibility to a consistent “dual-identity” reading of Lukan ecclesiology , as developed by Jervell et al.\u

Topics: Acts 10:9-16, dreams, visions, anxiety dreams, nightmares, Bible, New Testament, Judaism, halakha, Jewish law, Christianity, Graeco-Roman
Year: 2011
OAI identifier: oai:etheses.dur.ac.uk:3288
Provided by: Durham e-Theses

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