Acts 10:6 – Simon, the Tanner

By Wayne Jackson

On account of the death of a Christian woman whose name was Dorcas, Peter had been summoned from the town of Lydda over to Joppa — a distance of some eleven miles (cf. Acts 9:38 — note that distance in your margin). After the apostle raised the benevolent saint from the dead, he remained in Joppa for many days. Doubtless the miracle generated considerable interest and afforded Peter the opportunity of teaching the gospel.

It is of some curiosity that Luke, the writer, mentions three times that the apostle lodged with one Simon, a tanner (Acts 9:43; 10:6,32). This is the only time the occupation of “tanner” is mentioned in the Bible. Here is the significance: A tanner was constantly dealing with dead animals. This occupation was thus regarded with aversion by the Jews because it necessitated more or less ceremonial contamination, especially in the case of unclean animals (Hastings, Bible Dictionary, IV, 677).

Now here is an important point. The fact that Peter was willing to dwell with a tanner reveals that he, unlike many other Jews, was already altering his views with reference to Old Testament ceremonial laws. He was therefore the ideal person through whom to convey the gospel to the Gentiles. Make a note to this effect.

Too, the fact that Simon’s house was said to be “by the seaside” is an indication of the accuracy of the text. First, tanning skins produced a foul smell, hence, tanneries were outside the city by the sea (Thompson, The Land and the Book, 520).

But there is another point, as even Hugh Schonfield, a hostile critic of the Bible, has observed. This is a “factual detail, because tanners used sea water in the process of converting hides into leather” (The Bible Was Right, 98).

Underline “seaside” (10:6), and enter a marginal comment reflecting the precision of the biblical text. The Bible gives every evidence of credibility.

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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.