Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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ACTS - Chapter 10

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Acts 10

Supplemental Commentary:

I.  THE CHURCH IN PALESTINE AND SYRIA  2, 1 -- 12, 25 (continued)

3.  Spread of the Church to the Gentiles  10, 1 -- 11, 30

The importance of the conversion of Cornelius can hardly be exaggerated.  Only by understanding that here by special divine intervention the door was opened for the admission of the Gentiles into the Church without circumcision or the Law can we rightly estimate the subsequent development of the Christian community.  Beyond all doubt Cornelius and his household were Gentiles and without circumcision, and their conversion marked a radical departure from the previous policy of preaching only to the Jews.  St. Peter explicitly recalled what an abominable thing it was for a Jew to enter the house of a Gentile and explained his conduct by referring to the revelation given him in his recent vision (10, 28).  He asserted that from God's favor to Cornelius he had learned that Gentiles who feared God and practised virtue were acceptable to God (10, 34 f).  His companions were astonished that the grace of the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the Gentiles also (10, 45).  When St. Peter returned to Jerusalem, he had to meet the criticism of those who had heard of the baptism of Cornelius.  He had to explain how clearly God had manifested His will regarding the Gentiles, and it was only then that they submitted and praised God, acknowledging that the way to eternal life had been thrown open by God Himself to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews (11, 1-18).

10, 1-33:  Cornelius:  The Visions.  The Roman procurators for Judea and Samaria had their headquarters at Caesarea.  The cohort was probably composed of a thousand volunteer Roman citizens, a hundred of whom, called a "century," were under the command of Cornelius.  The cohort may have been stationed at Caesarea, or Cornelius may have been detached for special work.

10, 34-43:  Peter's Discourse.  As in his earlier discourses, St. Peter dwells upon Christ's death and resurrection, the testimony of the Apostles, and the fulfillment of the prophecies, but he gives more space here to our Lord's ministry and to the experiences of the Apostles after the Resurrection.

10, 44-48:  The Baptism.  Like St. Paul (1 Cor. 1, 14-17), St. Peter seems to have been accustomed to leaving the actual baptism to his assistants.  By staying with them St. Peter gave further practical proof that he considered the old Jewish restrictions as ended.


Confraternity Bible:

Cornelius: the Visions  1 Now there was in Caesarea a man named Cornelius, a centurion of the cohort called Italian; 2 he was devout and God-fearing, as was all his household, giving much alms to the people and praying to God continually.  3 About the ninth hour of the day he saw distinctly in a vision an angel of God come in to him and say to him, "Cornelius."  4 And he, gazing at him in terror, said, "What is it, Lord?"  And he said to him, "Thy prayers and thy alms have gone up and been remembered in the sight of God.  5 And now send men to Joppa and fetch one Simon, surnamed Peter; 6 he is lodging with Simon, a tanner, who has a house by the seaside."  7 When the angel who was speaking to him had departed, he called two of his servants, and a God-fearing soldier from among his personal attendants, 8 and after telling them the whole story sent them to Joppa.

9 Now the next day, while they were still on their journey and were just drawing near to the city, Peter went up to the roof to pray, about the sixth hour; 10 but he got very hungry, and wanted something to eat.  But while they were getting it ready, he fell into an ecstasy, 11 and saw heaven standing open and a certain vessel coming down like a great sheet, let down by the four corners from heaven to the earth; 12 and in it were all the four-footed beasts and creeping things of the earth, and birds of the air.  13 And there came a voice to him, "Arise, Peter, kill and eat."  14 But Peter said, "Far be it from me, Lord, for never did I eat anything common or unclean."  15* And there came a voice a second time to him, "What God has cleansed, do not thou call common."  16 Now this happened three times, and straightway the vessel was taken up to heaven.

17 Now while Peter was still wondering as to what the vision he had had might mean, behold, the men sent by Cornelius stood at the door, inquiring for Simon's house; 18 and they called out to ask whether Simon, surnamed Peter, was staying there.  19 But while Peter was pondering over the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Behold, three men are looking for thee.  20 Arise, therefore, go down and depart with them without any hesitation, for I have sent them."  21 So Peter went down to the men and said, "Behold, I am the man you are asking for; what is the reason for your coming?"  22 And they said, "Cornelius, a centurion, a just and God-fearing man, to whom the whole nation of the Jews bear witness, has been directed by a holy angel to fetch thee to his house and to hear words from thee."  23 So he invited them in and entertained them.

Peter Meets Cornelius  24 And the next day he arose and started off with them, and certain of the brethren from Joppa accompanying him.  The following day he reached Caesarea.  Now Cornelius was waiting for them, having invited in his relatives and his intimate friends.  25 And as Peter entered, Cornelius met him and, falling at his feet, made obeisance to him.  26 But Peter raised him up, saying, "Get up, I myself also am a man."  27 And as he talked with him, he went in and found many assembled, 28 and he said to them, "You know it is not permissible for a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; but God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean; 29 therefore I came without hesitation when I was sent for.  I ask, therefore, why you have sent for me."

30 And Cornelius said, "Three days ago, at this very hour, I was praying in my house at the ninth hour, and behold, a man stood before me in shining garments, and said, 31 'Cornelius, thy prayer has been heard and thy alms have been remembered in the sight of God.  32 Send therefore to Joppa and call Simon, surnamed Peter; he is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.'  33 Immediately therefore I sent to thee, and thou hast very kindly come.  Now, therefore, we are all present in thy sight to hear whatever has been commanded thee by the Lord."

Peter's Discourse  34 But Peter began, and said, "Now I really understand that God is not a respecter of persons,35  but in every nation he who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.  36 He sent his word to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (who is Lord of all).  37 You know what took place throughout Judea; for he began in Galilee after the baptism preached by John: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and he went about doing good and healing all who were in the power of the devil; for God was with him.  39 And we are witnesses of all that he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem; and yet they killed him, hanging him on a tree.  40 But God raised him on the third day and caused him to be plainly seen, not by all the people, 41 but by witnesses designated beforehand by God, that is, by us, who ate and drank with him after he had risen from the dead.  42 And he charged us to preach to the people and to testify that he it is who has been appointed by God to be judge of the living and of the dead.  43 To him all the prophets bear witness, that through his name all who believe in him may receive forgiveness of sins."

The Baptism  44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came upon all who were listening to his message.  45 And the faithful of the circumcision, who had come with Peter, were amazed, because on the Gentiles also the grace of the Holy Spirit had been poured forth; 46 for they heard them speaking in tongues and magnifying God.  47 Then Peter answered, "Can anyone refuse the water to baptize these, seeing that they have received the Holy Spirit just as we did?"  48 And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.  Then they besought him to stay on there a few days.
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15: The distinction made by the Mosaic Law between clean and unclean food is no longer to hold good.