F.F. Bruce suggests that Peter "was scandalized by the unholy mixture of clean animals with unclean" (206 n. 18), but offers no evidence that such a combination was considered unholy.
Ben Witherington III supplies the lack, drawing on a 1983 AUSS article by Colin House, which in turn appears to rely on F.F. Bruce (see p. 147). Witherington puts the argument this way:
"Peter assumed that because of the considerable presence of unclean animals and the possible problem of contamination, there was nothing fit to eat in the sheet" (Witherington, Acts, 350).No evidence? No problem:
"It may be true that no known ruling specified that clean animals were automatically made unclean by mere contact with unclean ones, but it stands to reason that this was often assumed to be the case in early Judaism. It was after all assumed in early Judaism that a person incurred uncleanness by mere contact with an unclean person, and it would be natural to assume the same with animals" (Witherington, Acts, 350 n. 95).There are at least a couple issues here:
- Arguments about early Jewish belief should never rest on what "stands to reason" or what is "natural."
- This particular argument represents a failure of imagination: Think of all the Jewish shepherds trying to keep their pure sheep from weasels, mice, lizards of various kinds, and all creatures that swarm upon the earth (cf. Lev 11).