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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
Acts 10

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-48


Peter and the Gentiles

1-48. Conversion of Cornelius. The baptism of Cornelius was an event of farreaching importance, and is, therefore, described by St. Luke in great detail. If it was not the first actual baptism of a Gentile (see Acts 8:38), it was, at any rate, the first such baptism which was publicly acknowledged. The historical character of the incident has been called in question because St. Peter in Galatians is represented as opposing St. Paul on the Gentile question (Galatians 2:11.). But, (1) Galatians represents Peter as in complete agreement with Paul on all essential points (Galatians 2:6, Galatians 2:12); and (2) the Jewish prejudices of Peter are fully recognised in the narrative in Acts. Indeed, it required a thrice-repeated vision to remove them (Acts 10:9.)

1. Cæsarea] built by Herod the Great on the site of an insignificant town called Strato's Tower, and renamed Caesarea Augusta in honour of his patron Augustus. There was a theatre, an amphitheatre, a royal palace, and a temple containing images of Augustus and of Rome. The majority of the inhabitants were Greek, but Jews enjoyed equal rights. At this time Cæsarea was the capital of the Roman province, and the residence of the governor.

Cornelius, a centurion] A legion consisted of about 6,000 men, and was divided into ten cohorts, each commanded by a tribune (or chiliarch, see Acts 21:31). A cohort was divided into six centuries, each commanded by a centurion. Centurions were men who had risen from the ranks, and were therefore, as a rule, men of capacity and good character: cp. Luke 7:5.

The Italian band] rather, 'cohort.' In the smaller provinces legions were not stationed, and therefore St. Luke is doubtless right in saying that there was only a cohort of Roman soldiers at Cæsarea. The men were recruited in Italy, and were probably Roman citizens.

2. One that feared God] i.e. a believer in the one true God, but not a circumcised proselyte. The baptism of Cornelius would not have been an innovation if he had been circumcised: see Acts 6:5. Cornelius was diligent in the three recognised religious duties of prayer, fasting (Acts 10:30), and almsdeeds; he kept the Jewish hours of prayer (Acts 10:3).

3. Ninth hour] i.e. 3 p.m.

4. A memorial] Acts of genuine piety cause God to remember us for good. Cornelius, by using well the grace already vouchsafed him, was thought worthy to receive greater grace.

8. To Joppa] A distance of about 40 m.

9. The sixth hour] see on Acts 3:1. The flat housetop of Oriental houses is used for prayer, meditation, recreation, and sleeping (2 Kings 23:12)

Nehemiah 8:16; 1 Samuel 9:25-26; (RV) 2 Samuel 11:2.

10. Trance] Trance, ecstasy, or waking vision, is only one of the modes of divine revelation, and that by no means the most frequent or most important. For examples see Isaiah 6; Daniel 7, 8, Daniel 9:21; 2 Corinthians 12:2; Revelation 1:10. Visions play a somewhat important part in the history of Acts (Acts 9:10; Acts 16:9; Acts 18:9; Acts 22:17 : cp. Acts 27:23; Acts 2:17).

16. Thrice] the vision was repeated to confirm and establish the lesson taught by it (Genesis 41:32).

The question of the distinction of meats was important, because, so long as it was observed, the Church (like the Jews) was cut off from all real social intercourse with Gentiles, who placed 'unclean' food on their tables. A special revelation was accordingly made to the chief of the Apostles announcing that the distinction of meats was abrogated, and that henceforth Jew and Gentile were to associate and eat together, on terms of equality (Acts 10:28). Jesus had already laid down this principle (Mark 7:19 RV), but St. Peter had not understood it.

28. An unlawful thing] cp. John 4:9; John 18:28; Acts 11:3; Galatians 2:12, Galatians 2:14.

30. Four days, etc.] RV 'Four days ago, until this hour, I was keeping the ninth hour of prayer in my house.' The reference to fasting, omitted by the RV, has considerable ancient attestation.

36-38. The construction is confused, reflecting St. Peter's deep emotion. Adopting the reading of the RM, we may freely translate thus: 'He sent the word unto the children of Israel, preaching peace (for all mankind) through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all men). Te know the things that were done throughout the whole of Judæa, beginning from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached, (even the deeds of) Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Ghost and with power, who went about doing good,' etc.

41. Eat and drink] see on Acts 1:4.

42. Quick] i.e. living: see 2 Timothy 4:1; 1 Peter 4:5 cp. Romans 14:9.

43. All the prophets] cp. Acts 3:24; Acts 26:22.

44. As a rule, the Holy Spirit was given after baptism, with the laying on of the Apostles' hands (Acts 2:38; Acts 8:17; Acts 19:6). In this particular case the Holy Spirit was given before baptism, as a miraculous assurance that the Gentiles were not to be excluded from the gift of the Holy Spirit, but were to be baptised.

46. Speak with tongues] see on Acts 2:4;

47. Water] the water, viz. of Baptism.

48. In the name of the Lord] RV 'in the name of Jesus Christ': see on Matthew 28:19

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Acts 10:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/acts-10.html. 1909.

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