The Acts of the Apostles Essay
(a) Explore Peter’s contribution to the issue of prejudice and sectarianism. --------------------------------------------------------------
Although many of us may think that the issues of prejudice and sectarianism are new, the Acts of the Apostles shows clearly religious intolerance over two thousand years ago. In this respect, it is comparable and instructive for moral life in the twenty-first century. One of the most influential characters in Acts, who is closely linked to the issues of bigotry, is Peter. However, before I look at his role, two key words must be defined. Firstly, prejudice is defined by the Oxford Concise Dictionary (10th edition) as:
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This promise is for you and your children and all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call. 4
As F. F. Bruce noted, God’s gift of grace had been extended “not only to the people of Jerusalem but to those of distant lands [i.e. Gentiles]” 5. This is the first sign that Peter’s prejudice is being broken down although, I believe that Peter is still not fully sure of the position of Gentiles in the church. Later, one can see much more definite evidence for this when, at the end of Acts 9, Peter stays with Simon the tanner. James D. G. Dunn notes that this is important because tanning made, “its practitioners unacceptable among those who regarded ritual purity as something to be maintained as far as possible” 6. This clearly shows that Peter “was already in a state of mind which would fit him for the further revelation of the next chapter” 7 (R.J. Knowling). For Acts 10 contains perhaps one of the most important turning points in Christian doctrine and also reveals something about how we should treat those outside our own religion.
In Acts 9, the reader sees the conversion of Saul as a result of divine intervention on the road to Damascus; Acts 10 sees the conversion of Cornelius by Peter. These two events