Peter’s Arrival and Cornelius’ Explanation
The next day he went with them, accompanied by some of the brothers from Joppa. They arrived in Caesarea the following day. Cornelius was waiting for them and had called together his relatives and close friends. As Peter entered his home, Cornelius fell at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter pulled him up and said, “Stand up! I’m a human being just like you!” they talked together and went inside, where many others were assembled. Peter told them, “You know it is against our laws for a Jewish man to enter a Gentile home like this or to associate with you. But God has shown me that I should no longer think of anyone as impure or unclean. So I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. Now tell me why you sent for me.” Cornelius replied, “Four days ago I was praying in my house about this same time, three o’clock in the afternoon. Suddenly, a man in dazzling clothes was standing in front of me. He told me, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your gifts to the poor have been noticed by God! Now send messengers to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He is staying in the home of Simon, a tanner who lives near the seashore.‘ So I sent for you at once, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here, waiting before God to hear the message the Lord has given you.”Acts 10:23-33
Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favouritism. In every nation He accepts those who fear Him and do what is right. This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee, after John began preaching his message of baptism. And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. And we apostles are witnesses of all He did throughout Judea and in Jerusalem. They put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross, but God raised Him to life on the third day. Then God allowed Him to appear, not to the general public, but to us whom God had chosen in advance to be His witnesses. We were those who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead. And He ordered us to preach everywhere and to testify that Jesus is the One appointed by God to be the Judge of all—the living and the dead. He is the One all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in Him will have their sins forgiven through His name.”Acts 10:34-43
- Why was it that so many others suddenly joined them?
- Why did Peter not go to Cornelius alone and the two men meet? I don’t see why lots of others have to join in.
- Cornelius was waiting for them and had called together his relatives and close friends. This all seems so formal Ian. Like they are proposing for marriage where all the witnesses of the families have to gather and represent each side of the contract. Is that a hint of what is going on here?
Two Gems readers have felt that Peter took along other witnesses to strengthen his argument or case. But that is unlikely because the issue is not something they personally witnessed. The changes which were implemented at this time were brought about by what both Cornelius and Peter saw in vision form. The other people who go with Peter on the journey to Caesarea or associate themselves with the meeting in Cornelius’ house were not party to the respective visions and so there was no inherent value in their witness. Clearly Cornelius had sent his three emissaries, two servants and a soldier. I think the two servants are primarily messengers and the soldier was likely to protect them on the journey and to protect Peter on the way back. The question as to why a group went to Caesarea with Peter is a moot point. We are told Peter was accompanied by some of the brothers from Joppa and we are told all the brothers with Peter were circumcised (10:45) and were believers. That means they are either Jewish believers or perhaps there were some Gentiles who had attached themselves to the believing community and had been circumcised. Why was it that they went along? Well one reason is that in the Middle East and the East people do things in groups and especially if they were travelling at night, despite the fact there was a soldier with them. People don’t do things alone in the East (Middle or otherwise). But yes I too suspect there is something more to the account that Luke gave us. It is almost like Luke was emphasising the formal nature of what happened. It remind me also of the wedding process where close family and friends on both sides follow along first in the proposal and then at subsequent stages. Is Luke telling us something about the importance of what was happening here so that there were witnesses on both sides, Jew and Gentiles? I am not sure but something important is included in this account. It can’t be a purely legal witness because the witnesses as such are not reliable from a legal viewpoint of what Peter or Cornelius saw as I have said above. But when an event is recorded with who was present at the meeting it adds weight to the importance of the gathering. It is that which Luke appears to intend here by recording the events as he did.
What we have here is a momentous first step in what was to follow. Read on and you will see that what took place here was the subject of an investigation by the Apostles and disciples / believers when Peter got back to Jerusalem. We are told at the beginning of Chapter 11 that news of what happened went far and wide throughout the region and Peter was called to account for what he did in Jerusalem. Witnesses therefore were important but at this stage in the witness it is like it is an intimate family witness. The way it is written makes me think of two families coming together, like a wedding as two of you picked up on. I thought it was interesting that Indonesians picked up on that, not Westerners. I suspect we are being told about the merging of two families Jew and Gentile but I have nothing more to go on than that. I simply put forth my thought at this stage for you to chew on. I am not saying “witness” is not important in this passage, it is. It fits with the Acts 1:8 motif and it is important here on of the Jew – Gentile boundary. There is clearly an importance of the witness related to all the disciples have witnessed, there is something happening between “the families” and there is the witness of God and Holy Spirit as well. I am just saying I don’t think the witness element extends to witnesses for Peter and Cornelius in the sense of what they saw as one person suggested.
Thanks too for the next question:
- Why all the repetitions of “you know”? How was Cornelius expected to know?
You know it is against our laws for a Jewish man to enter a Gentile home like this or to associate with you.Acta 10:10:28
You know what happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee, after John began preaching his message of baptism. And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.Acts 10:37-38
Peter said “you know..”, does this mean Peter knew that Cornelius already know about Jesus before Peter came, or is this just an expression people usually say before telling something, e.g. “you know.. yesterday I watched the solar eclipse and it was amazing!”
The series of “you know” are operating at a level above a mere quirk of speech or idiolect in a person’s way of saying things. They are flagging something at a higher level. Again I may be missing something at a higher level and will let it percolate for a while. That while could be days, weeks, months or even years. There are times that I sit on a thought for a long while mulling it over as I circle back to read the part of Scripture again in my macro reading. It seems to me at this stage that these “you know” comments are indicative of widespread knowledge that has been gossiped everywhere if not personally observed. It is not as though this is knowledge that everyone knows Cornelius and his household have been taught or can be assumed to know because of the education process. He has not attend rabbinic school, he has not experienced his own Bar Mitzvah. He is not privy to a certain body of knowledge that all know he has received by virtue of achieving a certain level in education. Rather this “knowledge” or “knowing” is by virtue of some other form of general knowledge. It appears as though it is knowledge that has been spread by virtue of living in Palestine at the time. All knew that Jewish laws prevent a Jew from entering a Gentile home or associating with Gentiles too closely. That is knowledge which can be gained by simply observing life around you and experiencing encounters with Jews if you are a Gentile. The second reference to “you know” is knowledge that all in and around Jerusalem knew by virtue of being there. I go back to the comments of the two on the road to Emmaus:
Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.” “What things?” Jesus asked. “The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said.Luke 24:18-19
Everyone knew this. It was a matter of common knowledge because everyone was talking about it. I am sure it was gossiped around Jerusalem, in the region of Judea and even up to Galilee in the north. In short all over Palestine. So Peter could say to Cornelius and his household “you know”.
The last “you know” is a little different. As to the awareness of where the source was for these events that were going on. Certainly not everyone in the land of Palestine would have agreed that the source of these happenings was God’s anointing on Jesus of Nazareth and that that same anointing was on His disciples. The High Priest and the members of the Sanhedrin would not have witnessed to that fact. Whether they knew it or not but didn’t not want to confess it is another matter. The Jewish believers back in Jerusalem would have borne witness to that fact. Those who had encountered healing and the Holy Spirit beyond Jerusalem, to Judaea even Samaria would have acknowledge the fact. But now we are talking about a Gentile household at Caesarea. To what degree could they be expected to “know”?
Is that not the point of all of this? Isn’t Luke continuing his theme or motif of ever increasing circles of witness to the fact of the resurrection and the associated Presence and power of God resident in His people, his witnesses? That certainly is the major thrust of this story which is also linked to all that has gone before. The extension of witness to the end of the earth continues. But with this story the witness and the gospel is crossing a significant divide.
Ponder these things a while longer as you consider these questions I have been asked and as we read together the passage before us. Go back and read the Cornelius story again in the light of these things.
Do you know that the Bible is actually God in written form? God can’t be separated from His word. If you want to touch God today pick up your Bible.Anon
If you can catch a glimpse of how much confidence God wants you to have, you will never again shrink back into an inferiority complex.Lavonia Grabau
You my dear reader are a witness or a potential witness to the God activity which is going on all around you every day.Ian Vail
I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell.Walt Whitman