Acts 10:12

ESV In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air.
NIV It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds.
NASB and on it were all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the sky.
CSB In it were all the four-footed animals and reptiles of the earth, and the birds of the sky.
NLT In the sheet were all sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds.
KJV Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.

What does Acts 10:12 mean?

Peter is on a rooftop in Joppa, praying. He's hungry and is waiting on food (Acts 10:9–10), but he has fallen into a trance. The skies open and a sheet falls to the earth. On the sheet are animals. A voice tells him to kill and eat the animals (Acts 10:13). Peter may be a Jesus-follower, but he is also a devout Jew. He's not going to eat animals forbidden by the Mosaic law without a major realignment of his understanding.

It seems that some of the animals fit the qualifications of Deuteronomy 14 as food fit to eat, but some are birds of prey and reptiles, which do not (Acts 11:6). According to the Mosaic law, Jews are not allowed to eat camel, rabbit, pig, carrion birds, and winged insects (Deuteronomy 14:7–19). God declared these animals "unclean" for His people.

It's important to clearly understand what the term "unclean" means: it does not mean "evil." It doesn't even mean sinful. Regarding physical conditions, it means "irregular;" as a general term it means something not fit to be used to worship God. God gave the metaphor of cleanness and uncleanness to show His people how to live set apart from the pagan nations around them.

Jesus had already taught that what is on the inside of a person—their heart and devotion to God—are far more important than any clean/unclean status. Regarding food, He taught that "unclean" food doesn't defile people because it enters the stomach and is expelled. What makes people defiled is when something unclean resides in their heart, like evil thoughts that lead to sin (Mark 7:14–23). It's not the literal, physical touch of certain foods that's a problem, it's when someone knows God has told them not to eat it and they do so, anyway (Matthew 15:10–11).

In Mark's account of Jesus' teaching, he added the parenthetical note, "Thus he declared all foods clean" (Mark 7:19). That note comes from hindsight: at this point, Peter is just learning what Jesus meant. The purpose of the vision is not primarily about food, it's about associating with Gentiles.
What is the Gospel?
Download the app: