Simon The Tanner
A tanner is someone who processes animal hides into finished leather. Tanning gets its name from the use of tannin, or tannic acid, a widely-available natural substance in plants (i.e. oak bark is especially rich in tannin) that during the processing displaces water and strengthens the bonds of the fibers in the rawhide to transform it into leather ("sun tanning" by humans is similar only in that it eventually leaves skin dry and "leathery"). The most famous tanner of Bible History was a man named Simon, who had another man named Simon, more commonly known as Peter, as an occasional house guest.
Simon the tanner was a believer who lived in Joppa (shown in the photograph, see also Bible Places), an ancient city on the Mediterranean Sea coast that was made famous centuries before as the port from which Jonah departed (Jonah 1:3). Today, it's a part of one of modern Israel's largest cities, Tel Aviv. Peter stayed there with Simon after the miracle of raising Tabitha, or Dorcas, from the dead:
"So Peter rose and went with them. And when he had come, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping, and showing tunics and other garments which Dorcas made while she was with them. But Peter put them all outside and knelt down and prayed; then turning to the body he said, "Tabitha, rise." And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. And he gave her his hand and lifted her up. Then calling the saints and widows he presented her alive. And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. And he stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner." (Acts 9:39-43 RSV)
It was while he was staying at Simon the tanner's house (Acts 10:5-6) that God gave Peter a vision of "unclean" animals:
"Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour [i.e. noon, as reckoned from 12 hours of daylight]. And he became hungry and desired something to eat; but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance and saw the heaven opened, and something descending, like a great sheet, let down by four corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him, "Rise, Peter; kill and eat."
"But Peter said, "No, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean."
"And the voice came to him again a second time, "What God has cleansed, you must not call common."
"This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven." (Acts 10:9-16 RSV)
It was made known to Peter however that the vision was not about the Clean and Unclean Israelite dietary laws, but about people. God accepts anyone who repents and obeys Him, as Peter explained to a large crowd a few days later:
"And as he talked with him, he went in and found many persons gathered; and he said to them, "You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit any one of another nation; but God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean." (Acts 10:27-28 RSV)
"Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears Him and does what is right [i.e. obeys God's Law] is acceptable to Him. You know the word which He sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace by Jesus Christ, He is Lord of all, the word which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism which John [see John The Baptist] preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth [see also Nazarene] with the Holy Spirit and with power; how He went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him."
"And we are witnesses to all that He did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put Him to death by hanging Him on a tree [see Stauros]; but God raised Him on the third day and made Him manifest; not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that He is the one ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets bear witness that every one who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His Name."
"While Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God."
"Then Peter declared, "Can any one forbid water for baptizing [see Baptism] these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ." (Acts 10:34-48 RSV)
Fact Finder: Is it true that "there is neither Jew [i.e. Israelite] nor Greek [i.e. Gentile], there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female" when it comes to who God will accept, if they truly have faith by obeying Him?
See also Faith and Works