Vincent's Word Studies
There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,
See on Luke 7:2.
See on Mark 15:16.
Probably because consisting of Roman soldiers, and not of natives of the country.
A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.
See on godliness, 2 Peter 1:3.
See on prayers, Luke 5:33.
"Unheard by all but angel ears
The good Cornelius knelt alone,
Nor dream'd his prayers and tears
Would help a world undone.
"The while upon his terrac'd roof
The lov'd apostle to his Lord,
In silent thought aloof
For heavenly vision soared."
Keble, Christian Year.
He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius.
See on Acts 7:31.
Better, clearly or distinctly, as opposed to a fancy.
And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.
When he looked (ἀτενίσας)
And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter:
He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.
Showing that the strictness of the Jewish law was losing its hold on Peter; since the tanner's occupation was regarded as unclean by strict Jews, and the tanners were commanded to dwell apart. "If a tanner married without mentioning his trade, his wife was permitted to get a divorce. The law of levirate marriage might be set aside if the brother-in-law of the childless widow was a tanner. A tanner's yard must be at least fifty cubits from any town" (Farrar, "Life and Work of St. Paul").
By the seaside
Outside the walls, both for proximity to the business, and because of the ceremonial requirement referred to above. Mr. William C. Prime, describing a visit to Joppa, says: "I was walking along the sea-beach, looking for shells, and at about a fourth of a mile from the city, to the southward, I found two tanneries directly on the seaside. I observed that the rocks in front of them were covered with the water a few inches deep, and that they soaked their hides on these rocks, and also submitted them to some process in the water which I did not stop to understand" ("Tent-life in the Holy Land").
Of them that waited on him continually (προσκαρτερούν των αὐτῷ)
See on Acts 1:14.
And when the angel which spake unto Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually;
And when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa.
Better, as Rev., rehearsed. See on Luke 24:35.
On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour:
Those messengers, the servants and the soldier. The pronoun has a more specific reference than the English they.
And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance,
Very hungry (πρόσπεινος)
Only here in New Testament.
Would have eaten (ἤθελε γεύσασθαι)
He fell into a trance (ἐπέπεσεν ἐπ' αὐτὸν ἔκστασις)
Lit., an ecstasy fell upon him. The best texts, however, read ἐγένετο, came upon him, or happened to him. See on astonishment, Mark 5:42. Luke alone employs the word in this sense of ecstasy or trance.
And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth:
Rev., better, and more literally, beholdeth. See on Luke 10:18. The present tense is graphically introduced into the narrative.
The best texts omit.
Only here and Acts 11:5. Originally fine linen; later, sail-cloth or a sail. Dr. J. Rawson Lumby suggests that the word, "applied to loose, bellying sails of ships," may indicate that the form of vessel which appeared to Peter "recalled an image most familiar to his previous life - the wind-stretched canvas of the craft on the Lake of Galilee" ("Expositor," iii., 272).
If this is retained, we must render bound, or attached; but the best texts omit, together with the following and. Render, as Rev., let down by four corners. Compare Acts 11:5.
Lit., beginnings; the extremity or corner, marking a beginning of the sheet. "We are to imagine the vessel, looking like a colossal four-cornered linen cloth letting itself down, while the corners attached to heaven to support the whole." The word is used in this sense by Herodotus, describing the sacrifices of the Scythians. The victim's forefeet are bound with a cord, "and the person who is about to offer, taking his station behind the victim, pulls the end (ἀρχὴν)of the rope, and thereby throws the animal down" (iv., 60). The suggestion of ropes holding the corners of the sheet (Alford, and, cautiously, Farrar) is unwarranted by the usage of the word. It was the technical expression in medical language for the ends of bandages. The word for sheet in this passage was also the technical term for a bandage, as was the kindred word ὀθόνιον, used of the linen bandages in which the Lord's body was swathed. See Luke 24:12; John 19:40; John 20:5, John 20:6, John 20:7. Mr. Hobart says: "We have thus in this passage a technical medical phrase - the ends of a bandage - used for the ends of a sheet, which hardly any one except a medical man would think of employing" ("Medical Language of St. Luke").
Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
All manner of four-footed beasts (πάντα τὰ τετράποδα)
Lit., all the four-footed beasts. Without exception, clean and unclean. Not, of very many kinds.
The best texts omit.
And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.
But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.
Not so (μηδαμῶς)
Stronger: by no means. "With that simple and audacious self-confidence which in his (Peter's) character was so singularly mingled with fits of timidity and depression, he boldly corrects the voice which orders him, and reminds the divine Interlocutor that he must, so to speak, have made an oversight" (Farrar, "Life and Works of Paul"). Compare Matthew 16:22.
And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
Call not thou common (σὺ μὴ κοίνου)
The thought goes deeper than merely styling "common." Lit., do not thou defile. Do not profane it by regarding and calling it common. Rev., "make not thou common."
This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.
Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon's house, and stood before the gate,
See on Luke 9:7.
On reflection, as compared with his ecstatic state.
Had made inquiry (διερωτήσαντες)
"Having inquired out;" having asked their way through (διά) streets and houses, until they found the dwelling of the tanner, who was an obscure man, and not easily found.
And called, and asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there.
A general summons to any one within, in order to make inquiries.
While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee.
Thought on (διενθυμουμένου)
Was earnestly (διά) pondering.
Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.
Then Peter went down to the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius; and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the cause wherefore ye are come?
And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee.
Was warned (ἐχρηματίσθη)
See on Matthew 2:12.
Then called he them in, and lodged them. And on the morrow Peter went away with them, and certain brethren from Joppa accompanied him.
And the morrow after they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius waited for them, and had called together his kinsmen and near friends.
The word originally means necessary; hence of those who are bound by necessary or natural ties; blood-relations. But as relatives or kinsmen is expressed by συγγενεῖς, this must be taken in the sense of intimate friends, a meaning which it has in later Greek writers.
And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him.
An unfortunate translation, according to modern English usage, but justified by the usage of earlier English, according to which to worship meant simply to honor. Worship is worthship, or honor paid to dignity or worth. This usage survives in the expressions worshipful and your worship. In the marriage-service of the English Church occurs the phrase, "With my body I thee worship." So Wycliffe renders Matthew 19:19, "Worship thy father and thy mother;" and John 12:26, "If any man serve me, my Father shall worship him." Here the meaning is that Cornelius paid reverence by prostrating himself after the usual oriental manner.
But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.
And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together.
And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.
An unlawful thing (ἀθέμιτον)
The word is peculiar to Peter, being used only here and 1 Peter 4:3. See note there. It emphasizes the violation of established order, being from the same root as τίθημι, to lay down or establish. The Jews professed to ground this prohibition on the law of Moses; but there is no direct command in the Mosaic law forbidding Jews to associate with those of other nations. But Peter's statement is general, referring to the general practice of the Jews to separate themselves in common life from uncircumcised persons. Juvenal says that the Jews were taught by Moses "not to show the way except to one who practises the same rites, and to guide the circumcised alone to the well which they seek" (Sat., xiv., 104, 105). Tacitus also says of the Jews that "among themselves they are inflexibly faithful, and ready with charitable aid, but hate all others as enemies. They keep separate from all strangers in eating, sleeping, and matrimonial connections" ("Histories," v., 5).
Of another nation (ἀλλοφύλῳ)
Only here in New Testament. Used of the Philistines, 1 Samuel 13:3-5 (Sept.).
Emphatic, by contrast with ye. "Ye know," etc., "but God hath showed me."
Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me?
With what intent (τίνι λόγω)
More strictly, for what reason.
And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing,
Four days ago (ἀπὸ τετάρτης ἡμέρας)
Lit., from the fourth day; reckoning backward from the day on which he was speaking.
I was fasting, and
The best texts omit.
At the ninth hour I prayed (τὴν ἐννάτην προσευχόμενος)
Lit., praying during the ninth hour. With the omission of I was fasting, and, the rendering is as Rev., Four days ago, until this hour, I was keeping the ninth hour of prayer.
And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God.
Rev., saith. The historical present, giving vividness to the narrative.
Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee.
Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.
Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
See on Acts 4:13.
Respecter of persons (προσωπολήμπτης)
See on respect of persons, James 2:1. Only here in New Testament.
But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)
The word (τὸν λόγον)
That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached;
That word (ῥῆμα)
The contents of the message: the report or history which it proclaimed.
How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.
See on Christ, Matthew 1:1.
Went about (διῆλθεν)
Lit., went through (the country). Compare Acts 8:4.
The and (καὶ) has a particularizing force: doing good, and in particular, healing.
Only here and James 2:6, on which see note.
And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree:
The best texts insert καὶ, also: "whom also they slew;" also having an incressive force. They added this crowning atrocity to other persecutions.
See on Luke 23:31.
Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly;
Shewed him openly (ἔδωκεν αὐτὸν ἐμφανῆ γενέσθαι)
Lit., gave him to become manifest. Compare, for the construction, Acts 2:27.
Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.
Chosen before (προκεχειροτονημένοις)
Only here in New Testament. The simple verb χειροτονέω, to appoint, occurs Acts 14:23; 2 Corinthians 8:19; and originally means to stretch out the hand for the purpose of giving a vote. Hence to elect by show of hands, and generally to appoint. Plato uses the word of the election of leaders of choruses ("Laws," 765). In later ecclesiastical usage it signified ordain, as bishops or deacons.
The compound pronoun marks them more strongly as belonging to the class of eye-witnesses.
And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.
To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.
As in the Lord's prayer: not simply the title, but all that is embraced and expressed by the name: Christ's "entire perfection, as the object revealed to the believer for his apprehension, confession, and worship" (Meyer).
While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.
The Holy Ghost fell
The only example of the bestowment of the Spirit before baptism.
And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.
They of the circumcision
From this point Luke distinguishes Christians into two classes - those of the circumcision and those of the uncircumcision; calling the former, Jews, and the latter Gentiles or Greeks.
See on Acts 2:7.
For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,
Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?
Water (τὸ ὕδωρ)
Note the article: the water; co-ordinating the water with the Spirit (see 1 John 5:8), and designating water as the recognized and customary element of baptism.
And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.