2. The gospel spreads into Palestine, 6:1-12:25

ix] Peter's inclusive vision of the Way


Cornelius, a Gentile centurion and God-fearer, receives a vision in answer to his prayers. He is to seek out a man named Peter staying with a certain person named Simon in the town of Joppa. In response to the vision, Cornelius sends two of his servants and a trusted officer. About noon the next day, Peter is at prayer when he receives a vision of unclean animals lowered before him, along with a divine command to kill and eat. Peter responds by saying that he has never eaten profane foods, but an angelic voice responds, "What God has made clean, you must not call profane." This happens three times.


iGod plays no favourites, 10:34-35.

iRighteousness is apart from the law


i] Context: See 6:1-7. We now come to a major turning point in Acts where the gospel begins to break out of its Jewish / Palestinian frame. This section consists of two major parts: The conversion of Cornelius and his family, 10:1-48; Paul's report of the conversion to the church in Jerusalem, 11:1-18.

Gaventa offers an eight part structure in two parts for this major section:

The Visions:

The Lord directs Cornelius to seek out Peter, 10:1-8;

Peter's vision, 10:9-16;

Peter meets with Cornelius' delegation, v17-23a;

Peter's meeting with Cornelius, v23b-29;

The Speeches:

Cornelius addresses Peter, v30-33;

Peter preaches to Cornelius and friends, 10:34-43;

The Holy Spirit came upon them, 10:44-48;

Confirmation by the Jerusalem church, 11:1-18.


ii] Background:

iThe movement of the gospel from Jerusalem to Rome, 1:1-11;


iii] Structure: Peter's inclusive vision of the Way:

The Lord directs Cornelius to seek out Peter, v1-8;

Peter's vision, v9-16.


iv] Interpretation:

The size and placement of 10:1-11:18 indicates its importance for Luke. It is, as Dunn puts it, "the second major insertion into the history of Hellenist Christian expansion which had begun with chapter 8." Luke's account serves to authenticate the extension of the gospel from Jew to Gentile. As with the conversion of Saul, both Cornelius and Peter are party to divine visions and apostolic confirmation by the church in Jerusalem. And significantly, with Cornelius and his family, "the Holy Spirit descended upon them, just as it did upon us (the disciples) at first", 11:14.

The first two elements of the account, v1-16, are a precursor to the main event. Two angelic visions set the stage for the pivotal elements of the narrative, namely, the proclamation of the gospel to a Gentile and his family, their reception of the gospel along with the infilling of the Spirit and baptism, and the confirmation of God's will in the matter by the leaders of the Christian church in Jerusalem. Luke's intention is simple, he sets out to establish that God has not only intended all along that Gentiles should be included as full members of the kingdom, but that he has initiated that inclusion. So, Luke records "the process of human decision-making as the church tries to catch up to God's initiative", Johnson.


From Law to Grace: In narrating the extension of the gospel from Jew to Gentile, Luke exposes the more significant theological shift of law to grace. Not only does Peter, and the church in Jerusalem, have to accept that God has always intended Gentile membership in the kingdom, with full participation in the covenant promises, but also that holiness (sanctified status) in the sight of God is ultimately not related to a person's righteousness under God's law (here in the terms of defilement due to birth, association, non-kosher foods, ie., being a Gentile).

Matters of outward defilement in the Law of Moses point to a righteousness that cannot be done, a righteousness given as a gift of God's grace, through faith, a faith like Abraham's. In fulfilment of the covenant / inauguration of the kingdom in Christ, the purity regulations of Israel's cult are fulfilled with an inward purity given as a gift of grace through faith. So, Levitical purity-laws no longer apply.

"Luke demonstrates that the conversion of the first Gentile required the conversion of the church as well. Indeed, in Luke's account, Peter and company undergo a change that is more wrenching by far than the change experienced by Cornelius", Gaventa, Overtures to Biblical Theology, 20, p109, Fortress, 1986. To share a meal with a man like Cornelius, and through baptism, include him as a full member of the Way, Peter is going to have to radically adjust his understanding, not just of defilement, but of God's law as a whole.

The issue of defilement in Mark 7:14-23 is very interesting, when compared with Peter's natural reluctance to associate with an unclean Gentile like Cornelius - only a powerful vision will overcome his prejudice. Jesus makes it very clear that externals do not make a person unclean, but rather, it is the internal machinations of the heart, "evil devisings which issue in degraded acts and vices", Taylor. Defilement resides in our very being, and it is only by an act of divine grace, apart from law-obedience, that can make a person clean / holy.

Peter is like all of us; sometimes it takes a long time for the penny to drop. As Paul tells us in Galatians 2:11-16, he has to confront Peter over the very issue of defilement when he withdrew fellowship from the unclean Gentile brethren in Antioch (probably over a pork spareribs barbecue with sweet and sour saurce!!). Of course, Peter was responding to the instructions promulgated by the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) which provided minimum requirements for Gentile believers in fellowship with Jews, eg., not eating food offered to idols, still containing blood, strangled, ...... Consideration for the weaker brother is the issue behind the instructions, but for Paul, they are a guide, and must not be treated as a rule that encourages a return to law-obedience for sanctification (ie., to restrain the sin of defilement), a rule which, in that case, inevitably destroyed fellowship rather than enhanced it - a bit like inclusion policies today that inevitably exclude people!


Sources: Little can be said on this subject, given the range of opinions from a historical source tradition preserved within the church in Jerusalem (Marshall, Fitzmyer, ...) to a creative idealising of an early Gentile convert (Hengel, ...). In fact, Dunn thinks that the first breakthrough of the gospel into the Gentile world is likely to have taken place in Antioch, but to authenticate this move, Luke has focused on Peter, a leading and respected representative of the twelve.

Text - 10:1

Peter's inclusive vision of the Way, 10:1-16. i] The Lord directs Cornelius to seek out Peter, v1-8. The narrative begins with Cornelius, a Centurion in the Italian cohort (possibly one of six Centurions in the local unit, so Barrett), living in Caesarea, the capital of Judea and official seat of the Roman procurator (a mainly Gentile town); he is a God-fearer, a Gentile associated with the local synagogue, but not a full member, possibly retired and now a prominent Roman citizen. He is possibly Cornelius Sulla, a military leader who, it was noted in the first century, freed thousands of slaves, so Longenecker. Luke tells us that he headed a family unit (inclusive of slaves / servants), regularly gave alms, and that he was a man of prayer. In a vision, Cornelius is instructed to seek out Peter.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.

onomati (a atoV) dat. "named [Cornelius]" - [a certain man in caesarea] by name [cornelius]. The dative is adverbial, expressing reference / respect; "with respect to his name, Cornelius."

ek + gen. "[a centurion] in" - [a centurion, commander] from. Expressing source / origin, or serving as a partitive genitive, "a centurion of ..."

thV kaloumenhV (kalew) gen. pres. mid. part. "what was known as" - [cohort, military unit] being called. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "cohort"; "the military unit which is called ..." "A captain in the Roman army regiment called 'The Italian Regiment", TEV.

italikhV (oV hV) gen. "Italian" - italian. Genitive complement of the genitive object "cohort" standing in a double genitive construction and asserting a fact about the object.


When Luke says that Cornelius and his family were foboumenoV ton qenon, "fearing God", he is probably (but not necessarily) referring to a class of Gentiles who, although not converted proselytes (circumcised and law-compliant), were still associated with the local synagogue, but without official status. The existence of an actual class of synagogue attenders known as God-fearers remains conjectural. Anyway, at least we can say that this Gentile was a man who, along with his extended family, respected God, and practised prayer and almsgiving.

foboumenoV (fobew) pres. mid. part. "[God-]fearing" - [devout and] fearing [god]. Although without an article, it seems likely that the participle serves as a substantive and that along with "devout", stands in apposition to "a certain man", v1; "A certain man ....... devout and fearing God." "He was a devout man who, with his whole household, revered the true God, performed many a compassionate deed on behalf of the Jewish people, and was constantly offering prayer to God", Cassirer.

sun + dat. "-" - with [all the house of him]. Expressing association / accompaniment. The word oikoV, "house", is used here of "household", a term which is used to cover Cornelius and his kinsmen, friends, and slaves / servants. Although reflecting a Hellenistic notion of extended family, Luke is primarily reflecting Biblical precedence, household inclusion that extends to the stranger within the gates. See Salvation by households, 10:44-48.

poiwn (poiew) pres. part. "he gave [generously]" - doing [much alms]. Again, although without an article, it seems likely that both participles "doing" and "praying" serve as substantives standing in apposition to "a certain man", v1.

tw/ law/ (oV) dat. "to those in need" - to the people. Dative of interest, advantage.

tou qeou (oV) gen. "to God" - [and praying to] god. Genitive of direct object after the participle "praying to."

dia + gen. "regularly" - through [all]. Adverbial use of the preposition, temporal, taking the sense "always."


Cornelius receives an angelic visitor.

wJsei peri "about" - about around. Idiomatic construction expressing approximation, "just about", although there is no textual evidence to support this.

thV hJmeraV (a) gen. "-" - [ninth hour] of the day. The genitive is adjectival, partitive. This is an established time for prayer and aligns with the evening sacrifice at the Temple in Jerusalem. "About three o'clock one afternoon he saw perfectly clearly in a dream an angel of God", Phillips.

en + dat. "-" - in [a vision, he saw openly]. Probably instrumental, "by means of a vision", but Culy also suggests local, context / circumstance, "in the context of a vision." The adverb fanerwV, "openly, plainly, manifestly", makes the point that "there was no possibility of mistake on Cornelius' part", Barrett.

tou qeou (oV) gen. "of God" - [an angel] of god. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, expressing a dependent status, but possibly source / origin.

eiselqonta (eisercomai) aor. part. "who came [to him]" - having come [toward him and having said]. This participle, along with "having said", serves as the accusative complement of the direct object "angel", standing in a double accusative construction and asserting a fact about the object.

autw/ dat. pro. "-" - to him, [cornelius]. Dative of indirect object.


Cornelius is fully focused on the angel, awestruck ("afraid") - a theophany always prompts reverential fear. The angel announces that "God has taken note of the genuineness of his faith, expressed in prayers and charitable gifts, and is about to lead him to enjoy the benefits of the messianic salvation promised in Scripture to believing Jews and Gentiles", Peterson D.

oJ de "Cornelius" - but/and he. Transitional, indicating a change in subject from the angel to Cornelius.

atenisaV (atenizw) aor. part. "stared at" - having looked intently at. This participle, along with "having become [afraid]", is attendant on the verb "to say"; "He fixed his eyes on him and overwhelmed with awe / fear he said."

autw/ dat. pro. "him" - him, [and having become afraid he said]. Dative of direct object after the verb "to look intently at." The adjective, emfoboV, "frightened, terrified, very much afraid", serves as the nominative predicate of the participle "becoming", "he became afraid."

tiv "what [is it]" - what [is it, lord]. Interrogative pronoun serving as the subject of the verb to-be and introducing a direct question.

autw/ dat. pro. "-" - [but/and he said] to him. Dative of indirect object.

sou gen. pro. "your [prayers]" - [the prayers] of you [and the alms] of you [went up]. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, identifying the possession of a derivative characteristic; "the prayers ... alms pertaining to you." Classified by Culy as verbal, subjective, "the prayers ..... alms offered by you."

eiV "as [a memorial offering]" - into [a memorial, remembrance before god]. Probably adverbial here, expressing purpose; "for the purpose of a memorial." The noun mnhmosunon, "memorial", alludes to Israel's sacrificial cult, such that the prayers and alms given by Cornelius are viewed by God, and probably also by Cornelius, as an act of devotion to God. Such a sacrifice is a "remembrance, a memorial", in the sense that the devotee remembers God and God remembers the devotee. As Peterson D observes above, the acts of prayer and alms are but the fruit of faith, and it is the faith, not the deeds, that God will remember on the day of salvation.


PetroV (oV) nom. "[who is called] Peter" - [and now, send men to joppa and send for a certain simon who] peter [is named]. The proper name "Peter" stands as the nominative complement of the pronoun o}V, "who", nominative subject of the verb "to call", standing in a double nominative construction and asserting a fact about the subject; see Culy. "Send men to Joppa to get Simon, the one everyone calls Peter", Peterson.


para + dat. "with [Simon]" - [this one is being entertained as a guest] beside = with [a certain simon]. Spatial, "beside, close to."

bursei (euV ou) dat. "the tanner" - a tanner. Dative in apposition to "Simon." The Pharisees viewed the tanning profession as unclean, so Peter is not all that kosher. Obviously, some of Jesus' teachings on defilement have sunk in.

w| dat. pro. "whose [house]" - to whom [is a house beside the sea]. Dative of possession.


Cornelius sends two of his servants to seek out Peter, along with a fellow officer from his staff who shares his religious values (ie., eusebh, "devout, religious"), someone who can properly represent him to Peter.

wJV "when" - [but/and] when [the angel departed]. Here a temporal use of the conjunction rather than serving as a comparative.

oJ lalwn (lalew) pres. part. "who spoke" - the one speaking. The NIV takes the participle as adjectival, attributive, limiting "angel"; "when the angel who had been speaking to him had left", Cassirer.

autw/ dat. pro. "to him" - to him. Dative of indirect object.

fwnhsaV (fwnew) aor. part. "[Cornelius] called" - having called. The participle is probably intended as adverbial, temporal in relation to "when the angel .... departed"; it was at that moment, that Cornelius arranged for the sending of his servants - he immediately acted on the Lord's command.

twn oiketwn (oV) gen. "of his servants" - two [of the = his servants]. The genitive is adjectival, partitive. Presumably household servants / slaves who were used for security purposes.

twn proskarterountwn (proskarterew) gen. pres. part. "who was one of [his] attendants" - [and a devout soldier] of the ones being close at hand to [him]. This verb is used of serving in a close personal relationship*, most likely a trusted fellow officer, or military aid, sharing similar values to Cornelius. The participle could be classified as adjectival, attributive, but given that the genitive is adjectival, relational, we are best to classify it as a substantive standing in apposition to "soldier". The dative personal pronoun autw/, "him", serves as a dative of direct object after the proV prefix participle "being close at hand to." "He called two of his menservants and a religiously minded soldier who belonged to his personal retinue", Moffatt.


exhghsamenoV (exhgeomai) aor. part. "he told them [..... and sent them]" - [and] having explained [everything to them, he sent them into joppa]. The participle may be taken as attendant on the verb "to send", as NIV, Barclay, ....., but it is often treated as adverbial, temporal; "after explaining everything to them he sent them off to Joppa."


ii] Peter's vision, v9-16: With the delegation on its way, Luke swings the narrative onto Peter. It is twelve noon, and although hungry, he heads up onto the roof for a time of prayer, presumably for privacy, so Marshall. There is some debate as to whether noon is a recognised time of prayer for Jews - Peterson D argues in favour, Longenecker against. Also, Peter's hunger is an unusual point to raise, given that midday is not normally a meal-time in first century culture (probably the reason for the variant "the ninth hour", ie., 3pm.). None-the-less, Peter is hungry, and at prayer when, like Cornelius, he receives a divine revelation. Luke calls Cornelius' vision a oJrama, and Peter's vision a ekstasiV. Both are visions, but unlike Cornelius, Peter has fallen into a stupor (a hypo??). In the vision he sees a representative group of animals, "all the quadrupeds and reptiles of the earth and birds of heaven", Johnson. All these animals, "are not differentiated according to their cleanliness or uncleanliness as designated by the Mosaic Law", Waters.

While with his disciples, Jesus had pointed to the radical fulfilment of the Law of Moses in the coming of the kingdom. In his death, resurrection and ascension to reign, a kingdom at hand becomes a kingdom come / realised. Distinctions between clean and unclean animals, Jew and Gentile, are divinely abolished in the cleansing of the seat of defilement, namely, a person's corrupted heart, soul, being, .... "The vision of the sheep provides divine warrant for Peter to enter into Cornelius' home and to enjoy unbroken fellowship with Gentiles with a clear conscience", Waters.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.

peri + acc. "about [noon]" - about [the sixth hour]. Here expressing approximation.

th/ dat. "the following day" - the [tomorrow]. The article serves as a nominalizer turning the adverb "tomorrow" into a substantive; "the next day."

oJdoiporountwn (oJdoiporew) gen. pres. part. "as [they] were on their journey" - [these ones] travelling [and coming near to]. The genitive participle, with its genitive subject "these ones" (variant autwn, "they"), along with the genitive participle "drawing near to", forms a genitive absolute construction, probably temporal; "while they were on their journey and approaching the city."

th/ polei (iV ewV) dat. "the city" - the city. Dative of direct object after the verb "to draw near to."

proseuxasqai (prosercoma) aor. inf. "to pray" - [peter went up upon the roof] to pray. The infinitive is adverbial, final, expressing purpose; "in order to prayer."


The word Luke uses for "vision", ekastasiV, is used in the LXX of Adam's "deep sleep" in Genesis 2:21, so something like "trance" is obviously intended.

geusasqai (geuomai) aor. inf. "to eat" - [but/and he became hungry and was wanting] to eat. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "to want."

paraskeuazontwn (paraskeuazw) gen. pres. part. "while the meal was being prepared" - [but/and they] making preparations [a vision became / fell upon him]. The genitive participle and its genitive subject autwn, "them", forms a genitive absolute construction, probably temporal, as NIV; "while they were preparing the meal." Note the variant epesen, "fell", rather than egeneto, "became."


The descriptive phrase, "the heavens opened", is used a number of times in the Scriptures as a prelude for a vision, cf., Isa.63:19, 3Mac.6:18, Jn.1:51, Act.7:56, Rev.4:1.

anewgmenon (anoigw) perf. mid. part. "opened" - [and he sees heaven] having been opened. The participle serves as the complement of the direct object "heaven", standing in a double accusative construction and asserting a fact about the object. Note the use of the historic present for the verb "to see"; "rare in Luke", Barrett, and probably used to colour the narrative.

katabainon (katabainw) "-" - [and a certain container = something] coming down [like a large cloth = sheet, having been let down]. This participle, as well as kaqiemenon, "having been let down", serves as the complement of the direct object "container", standing in a double accusative construction and asserting a fact about the object. What Peter sees is wJV, "like" (comparative), "like a huge blanket lowered by ropes on its four corners", Peterson.

arcaiV (h) dat. "by [its four] corners" - in = by [four] beginnings = corners [upon the ground]. The dative is instrumental, expressing means; "by its four corners", ESV.


The list of animals is inclusive of clean animals, as well as unclean, those prescribed in Leviticus, "that may not be eaten", Lev.11:47.

en + dat. "it contained" - in [which]. Local, expressing space.

ta "-" - [existed all] the [four-footed ones]. The article serves as a nominalizer, turning the adjective "four-footed" into a substantive, object of the verb "to exist"; "it contained every kind of four-footed animal", Cassirer.

thV ghV (h) gen. "-" - [and reptiles] of the earth [and birds of the heaven]. The genitive, as for "of the heaven", is adjectival, possessive, identifying the possession of a characteristic quality; "pertaining to the earth .... pertaining to heaven", but possibly ablative, source / origin, "from", so Culy.


The command of "the voice" (an angelic command on behalf of God??) may have cultic overtones; quw, "to sacrifice", rather than "to kill, slay", although Bruce thinks not.

anastaV (anisthmi) aor. part. "get up" - [and a voice came toward him, peter,] having arisen [slay and eat]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to eat."


Peter may not have defiled himself by eating unclean food, but he has defiled himself by associating with a tanner who regularly touches dead bodies. Righteousness by the law forces a reduction of its requirements to enable a semblance of obedience - a life of straining out gnats but swallowing camels, Matt.23:24. Peter is about to learn an important lesson on defilement.

oJ de "-" - but/and the [peter said, by no means, lord]. Transitional, indicating a change in subject from "the voice" to Peter.

oJti "-" - because [i never did eat all things common and unclean]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why Peter is unable to eat the offered food.


"Stop calling something unclean that God has made clean."

ek + gen. "a [second] time" - [and the voice came again] from [a second toward him]. The preposition is adverbial here, temporal, used to form the temporal phrase "a second time."

mh koinou (koinow) pres. imp. "do not call anything impure" - [what god made clean, you] do not make common, unclean, defiled. The negated present imperative possibly expresses a command to cease ongoing activity, "stop making unclean." Note the use of the personal pronoun su, "you", emphatic by position and use.


The revelation is repeated three times, possibly to emphasise its significance, and this against human resistance, so Bock, Fitzmyer. As Johnson notes, it is of interest that on the issue of the Law and defilement, there are three major hurdles to overcome: first there is Peter, the preeminent apostle; second the leaders of the Jerusalem church, 11:1-18; and third, the judaizers / the circumcision party, cf., Galatians 2. There will be two wins, and one loss.

epi "three times" - [but/and this became = happened] upon [three, and immediately the container was taken up into heaven]. The preposition is adverbial here, often used with numbers for counting purposes, so "upon three" = "three times."


Acts Introduction

Exegetical Commentaries


[Pumpkin Cottage]