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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
Acts 10

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

1. St Luke now brings to our notice the circumstances which attended the first preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles. The Apostles, though informed by Christ’s commission that they were to ‘teach all nations,’ yet tarried the Lord’s leisure, and waited till the Spirit, who was their constant guide, shewed them a door opened for such extension of their labours. The first Gentile converts seem to have been living in some sort of communion with the Jews of Cæsarea, for Cornelius, the representative figure among them, was ‘of good report among all that nation,’ but yet from the complaints of the brethren at Jerusalem, when they heard what Peter had done, we can see that Cornelius was one of the ‘sinners of the Gentiles.’ ‘Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised and didst eat with them’ expresses the shock which the strict observers of the Law experienced in this new development of the Church; and even Peter himself, though chosen to inaugurate the preaching to the Gentiles, was not always proof against the scruples and remonstrances of his brethren of the Circumcision (Galatians 2:12).

ἀνὴρ δέ τις. The substantive verb is omitted by the best authorities. The rendering would therefore be, Now a certain manwhich gave much almssaw in a vision.

Cæsarea is the same place which is mentioned Acts 8:40, and was usually the residence of the Roman Procurator (see Acts 23:23-26, Acts 25:1-4). The soldiers over whom Cornelius was centurion were the necessary troops to support the state and authority of the Roman representative, who at this time was Herod Agrippa, whom Claudius had made king over Judæa and Samaria.

ὀνόματι Κορνήλιος, by name Cornelius. The name shews he was a Roman, and perhaps he may have been of the famous Cornelian Gens. But there were also many plebeians of this name, for Sulla (Appian B. C. I. 100) bestowed the Roman franchise on 10,000 slaves and called them after his own name, ‘Cornelii.’

ἑκατοντάρχης, a centurion. We find also the Latin word κεντυρίων in N.T. (Mark 15:39; Mark 15:44-45). The centurion’s was not a distinguished office. He was commander of the sixth part of a cohort, i.e. of half a maniple. The name must have been given to such officer when his command was over a hundred men. The Roman legion in these times was divided into ten cohorts, and each cohort into three maniples, so that the nominal strength of the legion would be 6000 men.

ἐκ σπείρης, of the band, i.e. the cohort. See Polyb. XI. 23. 1 λτοῦτο δὲ καλεῖται σύνταγμα τῶν πεζῶν παρὰ Ῥωμαίοις κοόρτις. Such a troop was stationed in Jerusalem at the time of the Crucifixion (Matthew 27:27). σπεῖρα is found in the LXX. used of Jewish troops (Judith 14:11; 2 Maccabees 8:23; 2 Maccabees 12:20; 2 Maccabees 12:22).

τῆς καλουμένης Ἰταλικῆς, called the Italian band. The name at first would be given to it from the country in which it was raised, but no doubt it would afterwards be recruited from other parts, and yet still retain its original title. Tacitus (Hist. I. 59 &c.) mentions an Italian legion. A centurion of a similar band, which was styled ‘Augustan,’ is mentioned (Acts 27:1) below.


Verses 1-8

Acts 10:1-8. CORNELIUS IS DIVINELY WARNED TO SEND FOR PETER


Verse 2

2. εὐσεβής, a devout man, i.e. he was a worshipper of the true God, but had not joined himself to the Jews in the observance of the Law. The language of St Peter in Acts 10:28 shews us that he was not a proselyte. It is noteworthy that wherever in the N.T. we find mention made of Roman centurions they appear to have been good men, Matthew 8:5; Luke 7:2; Luke 23:47.

σὺν παντὶ τῷ οἴκῳ αὐτοῦ, with all his house. The earnestness of his devotion to God is evidenced by the character of his household. (Cf. Abraham’s character, Genesis 18:19.) If his family be here meant, he had instructed them in the worship of God, and had provided that those who attended on him should also be of the same character. The soldier, whom he sends to Peter, is called εὐσεβής likewise. Chrysostom says here ἀκούσωμεν ὅσοι τῶν οἰκείων ἀμελοῦμεν.

τῷ λαῷ, to the people. This must mean the Jewish people among whom he was stationed. So of the centurion mentioned Luke 7:5 it is said by the Jews ‘He loveth our nation and hath built us a synagogue.’

δεόμενος τοῦ θεοῦ διαπαντός, praying to God always. This devotional habit of the centurion is manifested through the whole narrative. See especially Acts 10:30.


Verse 3

3. εἶδεν ἐν ὁράματι φανερῶς, he saw in a vision openly, i.e. he was not in a trance, as we read afterwards concerning Peter, but was employed in prayer when the angel appeared. See below Acts 10:30.

ὡσεὶ περὶ ὥραν ἐνάτην, about the ninth hour. The ὡσεὶ makes the point of time less definite. Cornelius was observing the Jewish hour of prayer, and at some time during his devotions the vision was seen by him.

ἄγγελον τοῦ θεοῦ, an angel of God, called in Acts 10:30 ἀνὴρ ἐν ἐσθῆτι λαμπρᾷ.


Verse 4

4. ὁ δὲ ἀτενίσας, and when he had fastened his eyes on him. The dazzling brightness of the vision would first rivet the centurion’s gaze, and the terror would come afterwards when he realized that he was in the presence of an angel. Cf. Manoah’s alarm from a similar cause. Judges 13:21-22.

ἔμφοβος. When found in classical Greek, which is rare, this word has the sense of ‘terrible.’ It occurs twice in the LXX. with the meaning ‘afraid’ as here. Cf. Sirach 19:24 and 1 Maccabees 13:2, εἶδεν τὸν λαὸν ὅτι ἐστὶν ἔντρομος καὶ ἔμφοβος.

τί ἐστιν, κύριε; what is it, Lord? His words express his readiness to do whatever he may be bidden.

αἱ προσευχαί σου καὶ αἱ ἐλεημοσύναι σου ἀνέβησαν, thy prayers and thine alms have gone up. ἀναβαίνω is used Ezekiel 8:11 of the rising up of the cloud of incense, and this is the figure here. Cf. Revelation 8:3-4, also Revelation 5:8, ‘vials full of odours which are the prayers of saints.’ See too Psalms 141:2.

εἰς μνημόσυνον ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ θεοῦ, for a memorial before God. They have been such that God remembers them and is now about to answer them. The portion of the meal-offering which the priest was commanded to burn upon the altar to be an offering of a sweet savour unto the Lord (Leviticus 2:2) was called a μνημόσυνον, and the allusion is to offerings of this kind. Cf. the words of the angel (Tobit 12:12), ‘I did bring the remembrance (μνημόσυνον) of your prayers before the Holy One.’


Verse 5

5. Σίμωνά τινα with ABC. Vulg. ‘Simonem quemdam.’


Verse 6

6. The words omitted from the text in this verse (see notes on readings) are an adaptation of Acts 11:14, where St Peter is giving an account of his visit to Cornelius, and are another example of the desire naturally prevalent to make the narrative complete in the early chapters by adding on the margin any particulars which can be gathered from the subsequent narrative. Put at first as marginal illustrations and expansions, they found in early times their way into the text through the agency of copyists.


Verse 7

7. ὡς δὲ ἀπῆλθεν κ.τ.λ., and when he was departed. The reality (see φανερῶς in Acts 10:3) of the angelic presence is strongly marked by this language, which speaks of his going away just as if he had been any human visitor.

τῶν προσκαρτερούντων αὐτῷ, of those that attended on him. So of the judges in the History of Susanna (Acts 10:7), οὗτοι προσεκαρτέρουν ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ Ἰωακείμ, ‘These kept much at Joachim’s house,’ where ‘keep’ is in the sense still common in the Universities and elsewhere, of ‘live,’ ‘abide,’ ‘dwell.’ So here the soldier was attached to the personal service of Cornelius. Compare that other centurion’s retinue (Luke 7:8) where the master says to one ‘Go,’ and his order is at once obeyed.


Verse 8

8. ἐξηγησάμενος ἅπαντα αὐτοῖς, when he had declared all things unto them. The confidence which Cornelius placed in those who attended on him is shewn by this open communication with them at once on the subject of his vision. They had known all his former hopes and prayers, and so were fit persons to be made sharers in what seemed to be the answer.


Verse 9

9. ἀνέβη Πέτρος ἐπὶ τὸ δῶμα, went up upon the housetop. With the flat roofs of houses, to which access could be obtained from outside without passing through the rooms of the building, the housetop formed a convenient place for retirement. It was the place chosen by Samuel (1 Samuel 9:25-26) for his conference with Saul before he anointed him king. Cp. also 2 Samuel 11:2.

προσεύξασθαι, to pray. We find that the housetop was used as a place for religious observances (Jeremiah 19:13; Jeremiah 32:29; Zephaniah 1:5). These are instances of worship paid to false gods; and we find a similar example of altars on the top of the roofs of a part of the Jewish temple (2 Kings 23:12) LXX., τὰ θυσιαστήρια τὰ ἐπὶ τοῦ δώματος τοῦ ὑπερῴου Ἄχαζ, but in Nehemiah (Acts 8:16) at the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles we read καὶ ἐποίησαν ἑαυτοῖς σκηνὰς ἀνὴρ ἐπὶ τοῦ δώματος αὐτοῦ. So that these places were not used only for purposes of idolatrous worship, though in the O.T. they are noticed most frequently in that connexion.

περὶ ὥραν ἕκτην, about the sixth hour, i.e. midday, and the second of the Jewish stated hours of prayer. We see from Acts 10:23-24 that the journey from Joppa to Caesarea occupied more than one day, so that the vision of Cornelius took place on the day before the trance of St Peter, and the messengers had time almost to accomplish their journey before the Apostle, by his vision, was prepared to receive them. The distance between the two places was 30 Roman miles.


Verses 9-16

9–16. PETER IS PREPARED BY A VISION FOR THE COMING OF CORNELIUS’ MESSENGERS


Verse 10

10. πρόσπεινος, very hungry. The word is found nowhere else.

ἤθελεν γεύσασθαι, he would have eaten. γεύομαι is not commonly used for taking a meal, but (LXX. Genesis 25:30) the hungry Esau says γεῦσόν με ἀπὸ τοῦ ἑψήματος τοῦ πυροῦ.

παρασκευαζόντων δὲ αὐτῶν, but while they made ready. The persons to whom reference is made in αὐτῶν have been in no way indicated, but the mind readily supplies the οἰκέται to whom the wish for food would be communicated.

ἐγένετο ἐπ' αὐτὸν ἔκστασις, he fell into a trance. The word ἔκστασις is used by the LXX. (Genesis 2:21) of the deep sleep sent upon Adam, and also (Genesis 15:12) of that which came upon Abraham, when it was revealed unto him that his seed should be captives in a strange land, before they entered on the possession of Canaan. In like manner here, the vision was disclosed mentally to St Peter, all things being presented to him as in a dream.

Chrysostom says, τί ἐστιν ἔκστασις; πνευματική, φησί, θεωρία γέγονεν αὐτῷ. τοῦ σώματος, ὡς ἃν εἴπῃ τις, ἐξέστη ἡ ψυχή.


Verse 11

11. καὶ θεωρεῖ τὸν οὐρανὸν ἀνεῳγμένον, and he beholdeth heaven opened. For θεωρέω of the vision of things heavenly, cf. Acts 7:56, Acts 9:7. The opened heaven made it clear to Peter that the teaching of the vision was sent from God.

σκεῦός τι ὡς ὀθόνην μεγάλην, τὲσσαρσιν ἀρχαῖς καθιέμενον ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, a certain vessel as it had been a great sheet let down by four corners upon the earth. The word ἀρχαί is used (LXX. Exodus 28:23; Exodus 39:15) of the extremities of the high-priest’s breastplate to which rings were to be attached for fastening it upon the ephod. What St Peter saw was an extended sheet, the four corners of which were held up as it were by cords let down from the four extremities of the opened sky. The significance of the outstretched sheet, as a figure of the wide world, and the four corners as the directions into which the Gospel was now to be borne forth into all the world has often been dwelt upon.


Verse 12

12. ἐν ὧ ὑπῆρχεν, in which were, i.e. as it seemed in the vision.

πάντα τὰ τετράποδα κ.τ.λ., all manner of fourfooted beasts and creeping things of the earth and fowls of the air. The vision represented the entire animal creation. There were present living creatures typical of each kind, not a multitude of the same sort of birds and beasts.


Verse 13

13. ἀναστὰς Πέτρε θῦσον καὶ φάγε, rise, Peter, kill and eat. He was hungry before he fell into the trance. In the vision there is presented the means of satisfying his hanger. But with this there comes an instruction to disregard the Mosaic distinction about clean and unclean meats. His waking mind is able to interpret this, and he sees that now all nations alike are to be included among God’s people.

On ἀναστάς Chrysostom remarks ἴσως ἐπὶ γόνατα κείμενος εἶδε τὴν ὀπτασίαν. And then he continues ὅτι δὲ καὶ θεῖον ἦν τὸ γινόμενον δῆλον ἔκ τε τοῦ ἄνωθεν ἰδεῖν καταβαῖνον, ἔκ τε τοῦ ἐν ἐκστάσει γενέσθαι. τὸ δὲ καὶ φωνὴν ἐκεῖθεν ἐνεχθῆναι, καὶ τὸ τρὶς τοῦτο γενέσθαι, καὶ τὸν οὐρανὸν ἀνεῳχθῆναι, καὶ τὸ ἐκεῖθεν ἥκειν, καὶ τὸ ἐκεῖ ἀναρπασθῆναι πάλιν μέγα δεῖγμα τοῦ θεῖον εἶναι τὸ πρᾶγμα.


Verse 14

14. μηδαμῶς, κύριε, not so (by no means), Lord. Cf. Ezekiel 4:14, where the prophet being shewn that the children of Israel shall eat defiled bread among the Gentiles, exclaims in words very like St Peter’s, ‘There never came abominable flesh into my mouth.’ For the care with which the devout Jew observed the ceremonial distinction between clean and unclean, see Daniel 1:8-12; 2 Maccabees 6:18.

οὐδέποτεπᾶν. From the usage of the Hebrew, the N.T. writers frequently use οὐ (μὴ) … πᾶς where the classical authors would use οὐδείς and μηδείς. Cf. Matthew 24:22, οὐκ ἂν ἐσώθη πᾶσα σάρξ. So Romans 3:20; Ephesians 4:29, &c. In the LXX. cf. Exodus 20:10 (of the Sabbath-day), οὐ ποιήσεις ἐν αὐτῇ πᾶν ἔργον. Also, with another case than the nominative or accusative, 2 Chronicles 32:15, οὐ μὴ δύνηται ὁ θεὸς παντὸς ἔθνους καὶ βασιλείας τοῦ σῶσαι τὸν λαὸν αὐτοῦ.

κοινὸν καὶ ἀκάθαρτον, common and unclean. The use of κοινός in the sense of ‘impure’ according to the Mosaic code is, as were all the ordinances about which this language was employed, peculiar to the Jews. But it is easy to trace the steps by which the word came to be used thus. All persons who were not Jews were viewed as the ‘common’ rabble, shut out from God’s covenant (cf. κοινοὶ ἄνθρωποι, Joseph. Ant. J. XII. 2, 14), then whatever practices of these outcasts differed from those of the chosen people were called ‘common’ things, and as these ‘common’ things were those forbidden by the Law, all such prohibited things or actions became known as ‘common.’ Cf. Mark 7:2, where ‘defiled hands’ is the rendering of χεῖρες ἄνιπτοι. κοινός is not used by the LXX. as the rendering of any passage where unclean beasts are spoken of, but appears first in this sense in that version, 1 Maccabees 1:50; 1 Maccabees 1:64 τοῦ μὴ φαγεῖν κοινά.


Verse 15

15. καὶ φωνὴ πάλιν κ.τ.λ., and a voice came again the second time. As there is no verb in the sentence, ἐγένετο, as in 13, must be supplied. ἐκ δευτέρου defines precisely what was not definite with πάλιν only.

ἃ ὁ θεὸς ἐκαθάρισεν σὺ μὴ κοίνου, what God hath cleansed that make not thou common. The heaven-sent voice revokes what had been enjoined from heaven at the giving of the Law. The power which made the restriction can remove it. That it would be removed Christ had intimated (Matthew 15:11), ‘Not that which goeth into the month defileth a man.’ The old dispensation is now to give place to the new, and Peter is taught by the vision that men are not to make such distinctions and separations for themselves. ‘For meat destroy not the work of God’ (Romans 14:20). That the Christian religion was meant to abrogate these ceremonial regulations may be gathered also from Christ’s language (Mark 7:18-19) about that which goeth into a man not defiling him, which He is expressly stated to have spoken, καθαρίζων πάντα τὰ βρώματα, ‘making (or declaring) all meats pure.’


Verse 16

16. τοῦτο δὲ ἐγένετο ἐπὶ τρίς, and this was done three times. The threefold repetition of the vision was meant to leave no doubt in the Apostle’s mind about its nature, and the reception of the whole into heaven again was designed to point out that it was a lesson which God had as directly sent as of old He sent the Law on Sinai. Cf. the repetition of Pharaoh’s dream (Genesis 41:32) and Joseph’s explanation thereof. Peter would also remember when he came out of his trance the thrice-repeated charge given to him by Jesus (John 21:15-17), ‘Feed My sheep.’

ἐπὶ τρίς is not classical and is seldom found. It occurs in Acts 11:10 in the repetition of this history.


Verse 17

17. ὡς δὲ ἐν ἑαυτῷ διηπόρει, now while he was much perplexed in himself. διαπορέω implies ‘to be thoroughly at a loss, and not to know which way to turn.’ It is used (Luke 9:7) of Herod’s perplexity about Christ, when men said that John the Baptist was risen from the dead. Peter, aroused from his trance, was to apply what he had seen and heard, but he knew not how to begin the work.

ἀπὸ τοῦ Κορνηλίου, from Cornelius. There is no great certainty in this verse whether the preposition is ἀπό or ὑπό. It could not in this case make much difference to the sense, but with passive verbs the more common preposition is ὑπό when the action done is with the knowledge of the agent. ἀπό might in some cases (though not here) mean coming from without the direct consciousness of him from whom the persons came.

ἐπέστησαν ἐπὶ τὸν πυλῶνα, stood at the porch. The position of the house had been described to Cornelius (Acts 10:6), and when his messengers found the details true, it must have given them confidence that their errand was to be a successful one.


Verses 17-24

17–24. ARRIVAL OF THE MESSENGERS FROM CORNELIUS. PETER GOES WITH THEM TO CÆSAREA


Verse 18

18. καὶ φωνήσαντες κ.τ.λ., and called, &c., i.e. they attracted by a call the attention of the persons in the house, and brought some one out. These messengers, like Cornelius himself, were most probably Gentiles, but Gentiles of such a sort as to respect Jewish scruples, and so might not feel justified in entering a Jewish house without giving notice of their presence.


Verse 19

19. τοῦ δὲ Πέτρου διενθυμουμένου περὶ τοῦ ὁράματος, now while Peter pondered over the vision. He was turning over his difficulty in his mind, and asking what God would have him learn by this lesson about the abolition of differences in meats. And while he was thus pondering the explanation came.

εἶπεν τὸ πνεῦμα αὐτῷ, the Spirit said to him. Thus the arrival of the messengers was, by an inward admonition of the Spirit, connected with the vision which he had just seen.

τρεῖς, i.e. the two servants and the soldier whom Cornelius had sent (see Acts 10:7).


Verse 20

20. κατάβηθι, get thee down. Peter was still on the housetop.

μηδὲν διακρινόμενος, doubting nothing. The same words are rendered James 1:6 ‘nothing wavering’ (A.V.). There is a difference in the best MSS. between the reading here and in Acts 11:12, where instead of the middle voice we have the active, μηδὲν διακρίναντα. This latter signifies ‘making no distinction,’ i.e. between Jew and Gentile. We must bear in mind that this phrase was used by the Apostle when events had taught him precisely what the vision and the spiritual exhortation meant. The Spirit’s teaching is given little by little as Christ had told His disciples that it should be, ‘He shall guide you (lit., lead you on the way) unto all truth’ (John 16:13). The vision had given no hint of a journey to be taken; now Peter is informed of it, and so too when the end of the journey is reached the ‘nothing wavering’ is shewn to mean ‘putting no distinction between Jews and other men,’ and thus the vision was made intelligible little by little and the perplexity removed.


Verse 21

21. τοὺς ἀπεσταλμένους ἀπὸ τοῦ Κορνηλίου πρὸς αὐτόν omitted with אABDELP, and unrepresented in Vulg.


Verse 22

22. μαρτυρούμενός τε ὑπὸ ὅλου τοῦ ἔθνους, of good report among all the nation, i.e. for the alms-deeds which he did, and on account of his reverence for the true God. They say not only among the people of Cæsarea was the piety of Cornelius known, but among all the Jews.

ἐχρηματίσθη, was divinely warned. This word and the noun derived from it are constantly used of messages from above. Thus we find the verb where we are told of Joseph’s warnings (Matthew 2:12; Matthew 2:22), of Simeon’s divine revelation (Luke 2:26), and of the admonitions sent to Moses (Hebrews 8:5), and to Noah (Hebrews 11:7). For the noun, See 2 Maccabees 2:4, χρηματισμοῦ γενηθέντος αὐτῷ, ‘being warned of God,’ (A.V.).

ἀκοῦσαι ῥήματα παρὰ σοῦ, to hear words of thee, i.e. to receive commandments from thee and learn what God would have him to do (cp. Acts 11:14). By the Jews the Ten Commandments are constantly called “the ten words,” and Moses in recapitulating them (Deuteronomy 5:5) speaks of them as τὰ ῥήματα κυρίου.


Verse 23

23. εἰσκαλεσάμενος οὖν αὐτοὺς ἐξένισεν, then he called them in and lodged them. This was the first step towards laying aside the scruples to which the Jews were so much attached.

τῇ δὲ ἐπαύριον ἀναστὰς ἐξῆλθεν σὺν αὐτοῖς, and on the morrow he arose and went forth with them. They would start in the early part of the day to get through as much of their way as they could on the first day.

καί τινες τῶν ἀδελφῶν κ.τ.λ., and certain of the brethren from Joppa accompanied him. In Acts 11:12 we are told that there were six of them, and in Acts 10:45 of this chapter they are called οἱ ἐκ περιτομῆς πιστοί. So these men were Jewish Christians, and Peter took them for his companions that he might, if need were, afterwards appeal to them for testimony of what had been done, and to explain why he had acted as he did. No doubt they were informed by him of the message which the servants of Cornelius had brought, and the good repute of this devout man would weigh with them and make them ready to go.


Verse 24

24. τῇ δὲ ἐπαύριον κ.τ.λ., and the morrow after they entered into Cæsarea. Their road lay the way along the coast, and as Apollonia was situate about halfway between Joppa and Cæsarea, it is most likely that they passed the night there.

ὁ δὲ Κορνήλιος ἦν προσδοκῶν αὐτούς, and Cornelius was waiting for them. His attitude of preparation shews how convinced the man was of the reality of his vision, and that God was about to give him an answer to his prayers.

τοὺς συγγενεῖς αὐτοῦ καὶ τοὺς ἀναγκαίους φίλους, his kinsmen and near friends. The whole narrative shews that Cornelius must have been a long while stationed at Cæsarea, for his good deeds to have become known to the whole nation. An officer in such a permanent post would be very likely to have his kindred round about him. We can hardly doubt also that they were people of like mind with Cornelius in their faith and worship, and so had naturally been told of the answer which he was expecting, and invited to be present when Peter arrived.


Verse 25

25. ὡς δὲ ἐγένετο τοῦ εἰσελθεῖν τὸν Πέτρον, and as Peter was come in. This is a solitary case in the N.T. of the substantival infinitive in such a construction, and it is very difficult to see an explanation of it. That it could so stand is clear from a parallel sentence in Acta Barnab. Apocryp. 7 ὡς δὲ ἐγένετο τοῦ τελέσαι αὐτοὺς διδάσκοντας. It seems as if the genitive of the infinitive in both these instances were regarded as a genitive absolute would be. So that the sense = ‘when Peter went in’ ‘when they had finished teaching.’ What occurred in Cæsarea was prior to St Peter’s entry into the house. We read of that in Acts 10:27.

προσεκύνησεν, worshipped, i.e. paid him the religious reverence which the supernatural direction of the angel concerning Peter would be likely to prompt. This act of obeisance in the Roman officer marks most strongly his sense that Peter was God’s messenger. Such acts were not usual among Roman soldiers.


Verses 25-33

25–33. ARRIVAL OF PETER. CORNELIUS EXPLAINS WHY HE HAS SENT FOR HIM


Verse 26

26. ὁ δὲ Πέτρος ἤγειρεν αὐτόν, but Peter raised him up. Cf. with the way in which Peter declines such reverence the language of the angel to St John (Revelation 19:10) refusing similar worship. ‘See thou do it not. I am thy fellow-servant.’


Verse 27

27. καὶ συνομιλῶν αὐτῷ εἰσῆλθεν, and as he talked with him he went in. So the previous part of the interview had been without. The action of Cornelius in thus coming forth to meet Peter is in the spirit of that other centurion in the Gospel, who said (Luke 7:6) ‘I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof.’ συνομιλέω (which is a very rare word) indicates the communication made during an interview of some length. The subsequent remarks of St Peter shew us that he had been told many things by Cornelius, which are not specially mentioned, but comprehended under this word ‘talked.’

καὶ εὑρίσκει συνεληλυθότας πολλούς, and finds many that were come together. Cornelius had won many attached friends by his high character, and now of all that God shall communicate to him he wishes them to be sharers with himself.


Verse 28

28. ὑμεῖς ἐπίστασθε, ye know. The pronoun is perhaps meant to be emphatic. Ye, who, though ye be not Jews, have lived in friendship with Jewish people and so know their customs.

ὡς ἀθέμιτόν ἐστιν κ.τ.λ., how that it is an unlawful thing, &c. It is said expressly by Maimonides, Hilechoth Rozeah, &c. Acts 12:7 ‘It is forbidden to a Jew to be alone with heathens, because they are suspected of (lightly) shedding blood, nor must he associate with them on the road.’ And in the Midrash Rabbah on Leviticus, cap. 20 (ad fin.), there is an interesting example of the sort of ceremonial defilement which association with the heathen might bring about, ‘It happened that Shimeon the son of Kimkhith (who was high-priest) went out to speak with the king of the Arabians, and there came a fleck of spittle from the king’s mouth upon the priest’s garment and so he was unclean; and his brother Judah went in and served instead of him in the high-priest’s office. That day their mother saw two of her sons high-priests.’ The Apostle speaks of the prohibition as a thing well known to those who heard him, and the action of the messengers of Cornelius in standing outside the house of Simon and calling out some one to question in the open air shews that they were aware of the dislike of the Jews to associate with Gentiles. We have evidence that this dislike was well known wherever the Jews resided from the words of Juvenal (XIV. 103), ‘Non monstrare vias eadem nisi sacra colenti.’ So Tacitus (Hist. Acts 10:6) ‘separati epulis, discreti cubilibus.’

κολλᾶσθαι, to keep company. Literally ‘to join himself.’ The word is used in the command to Philip (Acts 8:29) ‘Go near and join thyself to this chariot;’ and signifies intimate intercourse. The ordinary dealings of life must constantly have forced Jews to be in the company of Gentiles, but it was to be avoided if possible.

ἀλλοφύλῳ, to one of another nation. In the historical books of the Old Test. (Samuel, Kings, &c.), ἀλλόφυλοι is the constant rendering of the name of the Philistines. This helps us to see what the force of the word would be in a Jew’s mouth when speaking to one of the uncircumcised.

κἀμοὶ ἔδειξεν ὁ θεὸς κ.τ.λ., but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean. The Spirit’s command, ‘Go with them doubting nothing, for I have sent them,’ has taught Peter how he is to interpret the figure shewn to him in his vision.


Verse 29

29. ἀναντιρρήτως, without gainsaying, i.e. I have followed the guidance of the Spirit, though I did not see fully what God would have me do.


Verse 30

30. ἀπὸ τετάρτης ἡμέρας, four days ago. The notion of the phrase is ‘from the fourth day,’ i.e. which will be the ‘fourth if we reckon backwards.

μέχρι ταύτης τῆς ὥρας ἤμην τὴν ἐνάτην προσευχόμενος, until this hour I was observing the ninth hour of prayer. These words shew us that the time of Peter’s arrival at Cæsarea was after the ninth hour of the day. The prayer-service to which Cornelius refers had begun and been continued for a time before the appearance of the angel.

ἀνὴρἐν ἐσθῆτι λαμπρᾷ, a man … in bright clothing. See Acts 1:10 note and above on Acts 10:3 of this chapter.


Verse 32

32. ὃς παραγενόμενος λαλήσει σοι omitted with אAB. Not represented in Vulg.


Verse 33

33. ἀκοῦσαι πάντα τὰ προστεταγμένα σοι ὑπὸ τοῦ κυρίου, to hear all things that are commanded thee of the Lord. Cornelius infers that as he had been instructed to send for Peter, so Peter had God’s command for his conduct and speech. By ‘hear’ the centurion meant also ‘to obey.’ To one so directed from heaven the words of the Apostle would be divine orders. We learn also (Acts 11:14) that the message which Peter would bring had been described to him as one ‘whereby he and all his house might be saved.’ To hear then was to do.


Verse 34

34. ἐπ' ἀληθείας καταλαμβάνομαι κ.τ.λ., of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons. The verb καταλ. implies the grasping of something with the mind which has hitherto not been comprehended, and indicates some degree of strangeness in what is accepted. St Peter is constrained to say, I am now fully convinced, from what I have heard of God’s angel appearing to Cornelius, and from the connexion of that vision with my own, that God is making Himself known to all the workers of righteousness (ἐν παντὶ ἔθνει), whether they be Jews or Gentiles.

προσωπολήμπτης. This word is found nowhere else. A kindred verb occurs James 2:9, and a noun in Romans 2:11; Colossians 3:25; James 2:1. But πρόσωπον λαμβάνειν is not an unfrequent expression in the LXX.; see Leviticus 19:15; Job 13:8; Job 42:8; Sirach 35:13, and a good instance is Malachi 2:9 οὐκ ἐφυλάξασθε τὰς ὁδούς μου ἀλλὰ ἐλαμβάνετε πρόσωπα ἐν νόμῳ, ‘Ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law’ (A.V.).


Verses 34-43

34–43. SPEECH OF PETER TO CORNELIUS AND HIS FRIENDS


Verse 35

35. δεκτὸς αὐτῷ ἐστίν, is accepted with Him, i.e. is acceptable unto Him. God has no longer a chosen people, but calleth all men to repent, and will accept all penitents.


Verse 36

36. τὸν λόγον ὃν ἀπέστειλεν κ.τ.λ. The construction in this verse and in the following is very involved. τὸν λόγον seems, in the intention of the speaker, to have been used first with reference to the language in the previous verse, and to have meant the message there recited, that whoever feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted with Him. And the sentence begins thus: This message which God sent to the children of Israel when He published the good news of peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all). Here the speaker should have introduced a verb like the οἴδατε which presently follows, but instead of doing so, he resumes the τὸν λόγον, by another expression τὸ ῥῆμα, and leaves the first sentence in suspense, continuing thus: That saying ye yourselves know which was published throughout all Judæa. Then he returns in thought to the word εὐαγγελιζόμενος, and makes his speech refer to the same subject, viz. to God who published the good news of peace, beginning (the publication by Jesus Christ) from Galilee after the baptism which John preached. In the next sentence the message and the saying of the previous clause find concrete expression, and are taken up with the name of Him in whom they centred: Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Ghost and with power.


Verse 37

37. ὑμεῖς οἴδατε τὸ γενόμενον ῥῆμα. The ῥῆμα is the teaching about Jesus which went forth when John the Baptist began to preach, and seems to be more restricted in sense than the λόγος which refers to the whole message of salvation through Christ. About the Baptist and his preaching, Peter either assumes Cornelius and his friends to have heard, as so many must have done during Christ’s ministerial life, or he speaks from what he had gathered in his previous conversation with Cornelius. Hence he says, ‘Ye know of the history of Jesus.’

καθ' ὅλης τῆς … See on Acts 9:31.


Verse 38

38. Ἰησοῦν τὸν ἀπὸ Ναζαρέθ, Jesus of Nazareth. In Him was the whole accomplishment of the ῥῆμα and the λόγος. This was the entire scope of what had been preached even from the first: Jesus who had lived as a man in Nazareth, had yet been God’s Anointed Son, the promised Messiah, and shewn to be so by the mighty works which He did.

τοὺς καταδυναστευομένους κ.τ.λ., those that were oppressed of the devil. The verb, not much used in classical Greek, is very common, especially in the active voice, in the LXX. The cure of those oppressed by the devil is perhaps mentioned as shewing that the power of Jesus was to be not only over physical but over moral evil likewise, and this alone is mentioned because in the healing of the greater, the power to cure the less evil is implied.

ὅτι ὁ θεὸς ἦν μετ' αὐτοῦ, for God was with Him. Of which presence the mighty works were the σημεῖα. Cf. Nicodemus’ confession (John 3:2), ‘No man can do these signs that Thou doest except God be with him.’


Verse 39

39. καὶ ἡμεῖς μάρτυρες, and we are witnesses. Because they had seen His mighty works through His whole ministerial life (Luke 24:48).

ὧν ἐποίησεν. For this attraction see note on Acts 1:1.

ὃυ καὶ ἀνεῖλαν κ.τ.λ., whom also they slew, hanging Him on a tree. He does not mention here, before a Gentile audience, who the offenders were; though to the Jews themselves (Acts 2:23) he dwells on the sin, that he may thereby move his hearers on whom the guilt lay. For the expression κρεμάσαντες ἐπὶ ξύλου, see chap. Acts 5:30, note.


Verse 40

40. καὶ ἔδωκεν αὐτὸν ἐμφανῆ γενέσθαι, and gave Him to be made manifest. The literal translation implies more than the A.V. Christ was not openly shewed, but by many proofs it was made clear to those who saw Him that it was the same body which had been wounded on the cross that was alive again, though the resurrection had bestowed on it a character and a glory which had not been observed before.


Verse 41

41. οὐ παντὶ τῷ λαῷ, not to all the people. For they, having rejected Moses and the prophets, who foretold Christ’s coming, and the nature of His kingdom, were not likely, as Jesus Himself had said of some others of like character, to be converted by the rising of any one from the dead.

μάρτυσιν τοῖς προκεχειροτονημένοις ὑπό τοῦ θεοῦ, to witnesses chosen before by God. The article joined with the participle, while the noun has none, gives special prominence to the fact of the previous choice of the Apostles by God, = ‘even those who were,’ &c. Christ Himself (John 17:6) calls them ‘those whom Thou hast given Me.’

ἡμῖν, to us. Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:6-8.

οἵτινες συνεφάγομεν κ.τ.λ. The relative is emphatic. Who (to make our testimony undeniable) did eat and drink with Him after He rose from the dead. See Luke 24:42-43. And in the narrative John 21:12-15 it is to be inferred, especially from the last verse, that Jesus Himself partook of the food which He gave to the rest.


Verse 42

42. καὶ παρήγγειλεν ἡμῖν κηρύξαι τῷ λαῷ, and He commanded us to proclaim to the people. This was among the commandments alluded to Acts 1:2. Compare the charge given by Christ, Matthew 28:19, where the wide commission ‘Go ye, teach all nations,’ is one that anticipated the preaching of the Gospel not only to Cornelius, but to all other Gentiles.

ὅτι αὐτός ἐστιν ὁ ὡρισμένος κ.τ.λ., that it is He which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. Of this the Apostles could testify for they had heard it from Christ’s own lips. Cf. His words to the Jews (John 5:22; John 5:27), ‘For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son,’ ‘and hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.’


Verse 43

43. τούτῳ πάντες οἱ προφῆται μαρτυροῦσιν, to Him give all the prophets witness. Cornelius and his friends could be referred to the prophets, for though not Jews, they were students and followers of Jehovah’s law. The prophetic words to which allusion is specially made are such as Jeremiah 31:34 ‘They shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them.’ Also Joel 2:32 ‘Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered.’ So that under the Law the redemption of the Gentiles was seen afar off.

πάντα τὸν πιστεύοντα, every one that believeth. So that not circumcision but faith was now the key to the Kingdom of Heaven.


Verse 44

44. ἐπὶ πάντας τοὺς ἀκούοντας, on all them which heard. On the nature of this hearing, which made the men fit to receive so great a gift, see above on Acts 10:33.


Verses 44-48

44–48. THE HOLY GHOST IS SENT UPON CORNELIUS AND HIS FRIENDS, AND THEY ARE SUBSEQUENTLY BAPTIZED


Verse 45

45. οἱ ἐκ περιτομῆς, they of the circumcision, i.e. those six Jewish Christians mentioned in Acts 11:12 as companions of St Peter from Joppa.


Verse 46

46. ἤκουον γὰρ αὐτῶν κ.τ.λ., for they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. As to those first called in the Jewish Church, so here to the first called of the Gentiles, God pours forth His gifts of grace. This was the Gentile Pentecost. (See Acts 2:11.)


Verse 47

47. μήτι τὸ ὕδωρ δύναται κωλῦσαί τις τοῦ μὴ βαπτισθῆναι τούτους; can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized? Here is another instance of the genitival infinitive so common in N.T. Greek. But here, as κωλύειν may have a genitive of the thing from which any one is hindered, the construction offers less difficulty. The μὴ before βαπτισθῆναι is an instance of the Greek fondness for doubling negative ideas. Cf. Eur. Phoeniss. 1268 κωλύειν τινὰ μὴ θανεῖν, where the negative only renders emphatic the sense of the verb.

Though the gift of the Spirit has been made so apparent, yet St Peter does not omit the outward sign which Christ had ordained (Matthew 28:19) for the admission of members into His Church.

ὡς καὶ ἡμεῖς, as well as we. And in precisely the same kind of manifestation.


Verse 48

48. προσέταξεν δὲ κ.τ.λ., and he commanded them to be baptized. Peter seems to have refrained from baptizing converts, and we know that St Paul did so, and the latter indicates a reason which may have influenced all the Twelve to appoint others to baptize, lest factions should arise, and men sever the Christian unity by calling themselves by the name of some one of the Apostles. Cp. 1 Corinthians 1:13-16.

ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, in the name of Jesus Christ. The name of Jesus Christ is perhaps specially mentioned with a thought of the danger just alluded to. The converts were to be Christians. But see also Acts 2:38 note.

ἐπιμεῖναι ἡμέρας τινάς, to tarry certain days. It is probable that Peter consented to stay and to become the guest of Cornelius and his friends (see Acts 11:1-3); and thus shewed that he was prepared to act according to the teaching of the vision. We know that afterwards (Galatians 2:11-13) he wavered in his determination, and was rebuked by St Paul for so doing; but even the account of that rebuke shews us that Peter had laid aside his Jewish prejudices in a great degree, and had only acted in the way which was blamed, through the influence of some still strict Jews who had come from Jerusalem to Antioch. St Luke is not to be supposed to be ignorant of that wavering action of St Peter because he does not mention it. For a similar Christian reticence, in a like case, see Acts 13:13 and note there.

 


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on Acts 10:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/acts-10.html. 1896.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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