Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 31 October 2018; Revised 27 July 2020
Scripture Text: The Scripture text used in this commentary is prepared by Blaine Robison and based on the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The essentially literal translation seeks to reflect the Jewish character of the author and writing. See my web article The Jewish New Testament. Scripture quotations may be taken from different versions. Click here for abbreviations of Bible versions. Quotations marked with the initials "BR" indicate the translation of the commentary author.
Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited may be found at the end of the chapter commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. Important Jewish sources include the following:
● DSS: Citations marked as "DSS" are from the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of Jewish manuscripts of Scripture and sectarian documents found in the Qumran caves. Most of the Qumran MSS belong to the last three centuries BC and the first century AD. Online DSS Bible.
● LXX: The abbreviation "LXX" ("70") stands for the Septuagint, the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, which was in use among Jews by the mid-2nd century B.C. Online.
● Josephus: Citations for Josephus, the first century Jewish historian (Yosef ben Matityahu), are from The Works of Flavius Josephus (c. 75–99 A.D.) trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
● MT: The Masoretic Text is the authoritative Hebrew text of the Tanakh for Rabbinic Judaism. Work on developing a uniform Hebrew Bible began in the 2nd century under Rabbi Akiva, but completed by Jewish scholars known as the Masoretes between the 7th and 10th centuries A.D. The oldest extant manuscripts date from around the 9th century. Online.
● Talmud: Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. The Jerusalem Talmud, identified with "TJ," may be found here. Click here for Talmud abbreviations.
● Targums: The targums are early Aramaic translations of the Hebrew text with commentary: Targum Jerusalem (1st c. AD), Targum Neofiti (1st c. AD), Targum Onkelos (c. 35–120 AD) and Targum Jonathan (2nd c. AD). See an index of targum texts here.
Syntax: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009), and the meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB." See the Greek Guide for the meaning of grammar abbreviations and pronunciation of Greek words. Parsing data for Greek words is from Anthony J. Fisher, Greek New Testament. The numbering system of the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible is identified with "SH" (Strong's Hebrew number) and "SG" (Strong's Greek number). Strong's Online.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms ADONAI (for 'LORD' when quoting a Tanakh source), Yeshua (Jesus), Messiah (Christ), Tanakh (Old Testament), and Besekh (New Testament).
See the article Witnesses of the Good News for background information on Acts. For a suggested timeline of Acts see the dating chart of George Edmundson. All dates given for the narrative of Acts are estimates.
In Chapter Ten Luke recounts the calling of Peter by special visionary revelation to present the good news of Yeshua in Caesarea to Cornelius, a God-fearing Roman centurion, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Cornelius and his household. In this chapter the message of salvation is taken for the first time to uncircumcised Gentiles. As a watershed event the body of Messiah will be forever changed.
The Vision of Cornelius, 10:1-8
The Vision of Peter, 10:9-16
Arrival of Messengers, 10:17-23
Meeting of Peter and Cornelius, 10:24-33
The Message of Peter, 10:34-43
Manifestation of the Holy Spirit, 10:44-48
c. A.D. 38/39
Rome: Caesar Caligula (AD 37-41)
Prefect of Judaea: Marullus (AD 37-41)
Jewish High Priest: Theophilus, son of Annas (AD 37-41)
The Vision of Cornelius, 10:1-8
1 Now a certain man in Caesarea, Cornelius by name, a centurion from a cohort called the Italian,
Now: Grk. de, conj., used to indicate (1) a contrast to a preceding statement or thought, "but;" (2) a transition in presentation of subject matter, "now, then;" or (3) a connecting particle to continue a thought, "and, also," sometimes with emphasis, "indeed," "moreover" (Thayer). The second meaning applies here. The conjunction continues the narrative from the previous chapter. a certain: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun; a certain one, someone, anyone, anything. In context the pronoun alludes to someone noteworthy. man: Grk. anēr, an adult man without regard to marital status. In the LXX anēr renders several Heb. words, primarily Heb. ish (SH-376), man (Gen 2:23) (DNTT 2:562). The identification of "a certain man" parallels a similar designation in the previous chapter of Ananias (9:10), Aeneas (9:33) and Tabitha (9:36). They all shared the identity as disciples. Likewise, this man shares the identity of a group.
in: Grk. en, prep., generally used to mark position, lit. "in" or "within." Caesarea: Grk. Kaisareia, a prominent coastal city located 23 miles south of Mt. Carmel. Originally called Strato's Tower the Hasmonean ruler Alexander Jannaeus brought it under Jewish control in 96 BC, but Pompey brought it under Roman rule in 63 BC. The city was home to a thriving Jewish community. Because of the lack of natural harbor Herod the Great undertook in 22 BC to build a fine port facility and support it by a new city. Great statues of Augustus and Roma were erected at the entrance. An inner harbor appears to have been dug into the land where mooring berths and vaulted warehouses were constructed.
Herod changed the name of the city to Caesarea in honor of Caesar Augustus (Josephus, Ant. XIV, 4:4; XV, 8:5). Josephus described the construction of the harbor and accompanying city in grandiose detail (Ant. XIV, 4:4; XV, 9:6). Caesarea was Hellenistic in design and style and in addition to the many buildings a platform was raised near the harbor upon which a temple was built for Caesar with a Colossus of Caesar. After the death of Herod the city became the capital of the province of Judaea and served as the official home of the procurators. The city is mentioned in the book of Acts 15 times as the location of apostolic visits and significant events.
Liberman makes the claim that Caesarea was a city "in which strict Jewish people would never set foot if at all preventable" (142). Certainly Yeshua never went into the city. However, there was a significant population of Jews in the city and Philip had settled there (Acts 8:40; 21:8). Levine shares an interesting anecdote from the Jerusalem Talmud concerning Jews in Caesarea,
"Rabbi Levi the son of Hitta came to Caesarea and heard voices reciting the Shema in Greek. He wanted to stop them. R. Yosi learned of this and became angry. He said [to R. Levi]: "Am I to understand that he who does not know how to read in Hebrew should not read it at all? Rather, he should fulfill his obligations by reading in any language he knows." (TJ Sotah 7.1.21b)
Cornelius: Grk. Kornēlios. All that is known of this man is found in this narrative. Longenecker notes that the name Cornelius was common in the Roman world from 82 B.C. onwards, when Cornelius Sulla liberated ten thousand slaves, all of whom took their patron's name as they established themselves in Roman society. Thus, Cornelius introduced here was likely a descendant of one of the freedmen of Cornelius Sulla's day. According to church tradition Cornelius eventually became a bishop over a believing community, although there is not agreement on the location. by name: Grk. onoma is used in its central sense of identifying someone with a proper name. In Hebrew literature "name" also carries the extended sense of qualities, powers, attributes or reputation.
a centurion: Grk. hekatontarchēs (from hekaton, "a hundred," and archō, to rule), commander of a century (Latin centuria), consisting of 80 fighting men (Latin milites) and 20 military servants (Latin calones). A centurion had administrative duties with respect to the soldiers, but more importantly he served as a tactical leader in combat. Two previous centurions are noteworthy in the Synoptic Narratives. First, Yeshua healed the servant of a God-fearing and generous centurion in Capernaum. The centurion asserted his confidence that Yeshua could heal his servant from a distance for which Yeshua declared he had not encountered such great faith in Israel (Luke 7:9). Second, a centurion witnessed the death of Yeshua on Golgotha and declared "Certainly this man was innocent: (Luke 23:47).
from: Grk. ek, prep. used to denote exit or separation from something with which there has been a close association, lit. "out of, from within" (Thayer). Marshall suggests that Cornelius was retired from military service, perhaps because of the mention of relatives being present in his house (verse 24 below), but it's not likely that a retired centurion would have active duty soldiers attending him (verse 7 below).
a cohort: Grk. speira, a military tactical unit, the tenth part of a legion. The term translates the Latin cohors (English "cohort") (LSJ). A cohort consisted of six centuries totaling at least 480 fighting men not counting officers and military servants. A number of Bible versions translate the term as "regiment" (AMP, EHV, GNB, GW, ISV, Moffat, NOG, NIV, NKJV, NLT, Phillips, TLB, WEB, Weymouth), but these translators were probably never in the Army. The strength of the Roman cohort was comparable to a modern combat battalion. For more information on ancient Roman military organization see the articles at UNRV and Roman-Army Index.
called: Grk. kaleō, pres. pass. part., to identify by name or give a term to; call. the Italian: Grk. Italikos, inhabitant of Italy, Italian. The term occurs only here in the Besekh. Italy is the name given to the country between the two seas (Tyrrhenian and Adriatic) and from the foot of the Alps to the Sicilian Straits. See the map of Italy here. Its name derives from being formed in Italy, but the cohort would have included many provincials recruited locally. Provincials who joined the Roman army would be granted citizenship after they completed their term of service. Bruce says that there were no legionary troops in Judea in the period AD 6–66, but he notes inscriptional evidence for the presence in Syria (c. A.D. 69) of the auxiliary Cohors II Miliaria Italica Civium Romanorum ("second Italian cohort of Roman citizens").
The Roman governor of Judea only commanded auxiliary forces and Bruce assumes such was the Italian Cohort. While Cornelius had been assigned to the Italian Cohort, Luke does not say that this cohort was present in Caesarea. There was certainly a body of soldiers stationed in the city (Ant. XIX, 9:2), because it was the capital of the Roman province of Judaea and the port and water supply were strategic assets to be protected. In addition, the Roman army preserved the peace between the diverse ethnic groups that made up the city. Cornelius could have been assigned to the headquarters of the Roman governor or commanded a unit that provided security.
2 devout and fearing God with all his household, doing many alms for the Jewish people and praying to God regularly.
devout: Grk. eusebēs, adj., one who shows due reverence; devout, godly. and: Grk. kai, conj. that marks a connection or addition. Kai has three basic uses: (1) continuative – and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive – certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea (DM 250f). The first use applies here. Kai is used in the LXX to translate the vav (ו) character added to words for conjunctive effect. fearing: Grk. phobeomai, pres. mid. part., to fear. The verb has two basic meanings that are opposite: (1) to be in a state of apprehension, fearful and (2) to have special respect or reverence for, i.e., deep respect. The second meaning applies here.
God: Grk. theos, God or god, which must be determined from the context. In the LXX theos primarily renders the generic designations of God, El and Elohim (over 2500 times), but also YHVH (300 times) (DNTT 2:67-70). Given the plural nature of Elohim the full triunity of God must be represented in theos. The only God in existence is the God who created the heavens and the earth out of nothing (Gen 1:1) and who chose Israel out of all the nations on the earth for a covenantal relationship (Ex 19:5; Isa 44:6; 45:5-6; 46:9). In the Besekh theos is used overwhelmingly for the God of Israel. The God of Israel is the only God there is. The deities of all other religions and cults are the product of Satan-inspired imagination.
In the first century many Gentiles expressed a deep interest in learning about Judaism, which is remarkable considering that Jews were regarded everywhere with disfavor and Judaism was sneered at as a barbaric superstition (Schurer 2:291f, 312). Wherever there was a Jewish synagogue there was also a devoted body of Gentiles attached to it (Ibid. 308, 312). The "God-fearer" was a Gentile who attached himself to Judaism but chose not to become a proselyte by circumcision and public immersion. The God-fearer loved the Jewish people, believed in and prayed to the God of Israel, attended synagogue worship, kept at least the moral code and other Jewish traditions in varying degrees, and gave aid in various forms to the Jews.
Pacifists may view the description of "devout Centurion" as an oxymoron, but there is no contradiction in serving in the military and being a faithful follower of the God of Israel. Yochanan the Immerser was willing to immerse Roman soldiers and acknowledge their devotion to God. He instructed them to refrain from false accusations against people and extorting money, but to be content with their wages (Luke 3:14). Yeshua was impressed by the faith of a Centurion who requested healing for his servant (Matt 8:10). See my web article The Error of Pacifism.
with: Grk. sun, prep. used to denote association or close identification. all: Grk. pas, adj., comprehensive in scope, but without statistical emphasis; all, every. his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun, which may be used to (1) distinguish a person from or contrast it with another, or to give him emphatic prominence; himself, herself (2) express the force of a simple personal pronoun of the third person; he, him, she, her, them, it, or (3) with the article function as an adjective of identity; the same. The second meaning applies here and implies a personal connection.
household: Grk. oikos, a structure for habitation; house, home and by extension the household of that dwelling. The term implies a fixed residence. In the LXX oikos translates Heb. bayit (SH-1004) with the same range of meaning, but also descendants. Longenecker says that "household" includes the immediate family of Cornelius and both household and military servants. Luke declares that all the members of the household were pious and shared the following virtues with Cornelius. The household servants could have included Hellenized Jews, but probably not strict traditional Jews (verse 28 below).
doing: Grk. poieō, pres. part., a verb of physical action that may refer to (1) producing something material; make, construct, produce, create; or (2) to be active in bringing about a state of condition; do, act, perform, work. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX poieō renders chiefly Heb. asah (SH-6213), accomplish, do, make, work (first in Gen 1:7), and used of a wide range of human and divine activity. Considering the object of this verb that follows, many versions translate the present participle with past tense "gave." However, Luke is not describing an activity that Cornelius used to do, but a current practice of generosity.
many: pl. of Grk. polus, adj., extensive in scope, here indicating a high quantity or a high degree. alms: pl. of Grk. eleēmosunē, merciful disposition, regard for the needs of others; benevolence, kindness, charity, specifically gifts of alms. In the LXX eleēmosunē renders two important Hebrew words: (1) Heb. chesed (SH-2617), goodness, favor, kindness, covenant loyalty, first in Genesis 47:29; and (2) Heb. tsedaqah (SH-6666), righteousness, first in Deuteronomy 6:25. Mercy in the form of charity is righteousness because it conforms to the standards of Torah. Caring for the poor is strongly advocated in the Tanakh (Deut 15:7, 11; Prov 14:21; 21:13; Isa 58:6-7; Dan 4:27), as well as other Jewish literature.
Among Jews almsgiving was considered the best good work a person could do. In fact, there was a rabbinic saying: "Greater is he who gives alms than he who offers all sacrifices" (Barclay 1:136). Almsgiving is the epitome of loving your neighbor and in so doing loving your God. Almsgiving generally involved monetary donations. Synagogues maintained collection boxes for such charitable funds, which the leaders would distribute to the poor. Even loaning money without interest or helping a poor man find employment was considered a form of almsgiving. Roman soldiers were not known for their care and generosity toward the poor, but embracing the God of Israel motivated Cornelius toward charity.
and: Grk. kai. praying: Grk. proseuchomai, pres. mid. part., to petition deity for some personal desire. In the LXX proseuchomai renders Heb. palal (SH-6419), to intervene, mediate, intercede or pray. The verb refers to earnestly petitioning God for His help with respect to an urgent need. to God: the God of Israel. regularly: Grk. dia pantos, lit. "throughout all." The expression does not denote the modern "practice the presence of God" advocated by Brother Lawrence (Nicholas Herman, 1614-1691) by which a person is constantly praying regardless of one's activity. Cornelius probably prayed at the times Jews regularly prayed coincidental to the times of the daily prayer services at the Temple in Jerusalem (see the next verse and verse 30 below). Cornelius may even have attended the prayer services at a local synagogue, as much as his work schedule would permit.
Like Ruth this God-fearing Gentile had manifested the two essentials of having a relationship with God: (1) "Your people shall be my people;" and (2) "Your God shall be my God" (Ruth 1:16). Christianity historically rejected any association with Jews. Cornelius understood that salvation for Gentiles occurs by recognizing that the only God in existence is the God of Israel and being joined to those who worship Him (cf. Ps 98:2-3; Isa 45:17, 22; 49:6; Rom 11:17, 24, 26; Gal 3:7-9, 14, 29; Eph 2:11-22). Cornelius is also an example of how Gentile followers of Yeshua should connect to the Jewish people and to Israel.
3 saw clearly in a vision, approximately around the ninth hour of the day, an angel of God having come to him and having said to him, "Cornelius!"
saw: Grk. horaō, aor., to perceive physically with the eye, or in a fig. sense to experience something or to have extraordinary mental or inward perception. The verb denotes a personal experience. clearly: Grk. phanerōs, adv., in a state or condition openly viewable; clearly, openly, manifestly. in: Grk. en, prep. a vision: Grk. horama, something that is seen by virtue of a transcendent or revelatory experience; vision. The term refers to a pictographic image seen with the eyes, not a mental insight. The term occurs 12 times in the Besekh, only one of which is not in Acts.
In the LXX horama translates six different Hebrew words that mean "vision," generally in regard to divine revelatory experiences of important persons: the patriarchs (Gen 15:1; 46:2), Moses (Ex 3:3) and prophets (Isa 21:1-2; Dan 2:19; 7:13). This term is used of only two non-Israelites in the Tanakh: Eliphaz, who had a vision of a demonic spirit (Job 4:13), and Nebuchadnezzar, who had a vision of a heavenly watcher (Dan 4:13). Cornelius is noteworthy as the first Gentile since Pentecost to receive a vision from God. In his Pentecost sermons Peter quoted the prophecy of Joel that promised the Spirit would be poured out on all flesh (Jews and Gentiles) and young men (under 40) receiving visions (Acts 2:17).
approximately: Grk. hosei, adv. may indicate (1) a comparison; as it were, like; or (2) a number or measure; about, approximately, nearly. The second meaning applies here. around: Grk. peri, prep. with an orientational aspect that may (1) denote having to do a cause or subject; in behalf of, about, concerning; or (2) denote being near place or time; about, around, near. The second meaning applies here. Luke's imprecise time description affirms the shortcoming of ancient timekeeping and that the time of Cornelius praying was not a legalistic conformity. the ninth: Grk. enatos, adj., the ordinal number ninth. A number of modern versions translate the adj. as "three o'clock," which is inaccurate. The ninth hour, measured from sunrise, is an hour, not a minute.
hour: Grk. hōra may mean (1) a short space of time, the twelfth part of a day; hour; (2) fig. for a period of time in the day; or (3) fig. for a point of time as occasion for action or for an event; time. The first usage applies here. of the day: Grk. hēmera may refer to (1) the daylight hours from sunrise to sunset, (2) the civil or legal day that included the night, (3) an appointed day for a special purpose or (4) a longer or imprecise period, such as a timeframe for accomplishing something or a time of life or activity (BAG). The first meaning applies here. The Greeks and Romans erected sundials in cities for telling time, but their accuracy obviously depended on the weather and the season. The twelve hours marked on the ancient sundial were not equal, with hours shorter in the winter and longer in the summer. A sundial with hours of equal time length was not invented until 1371.
As explained in Acts 3:1 the ninth hour corresponded to the Jewish hour of prayer. Prayer services were customarily held three times a day (cf. Ps 55:17; Dan 6:10): the third hour (about 9:00-10:00 am), the sixth hour (noon-1:00 pm) and the ninth hour (3:00-4:00 pm). According to one Talmudic source (Berachot 26b) the three prayer services were instituted after the fall of the First Temple to replace the sacrifices. The three services are called Shacharit ("morning"), Minchah ("afternoon") and Ma'ariv ("evening"). In Jerusalem the time was determined from an improvised sundial on a Temple stairway (cf. 2Kgs 20:9-11; Isa 38:8).
an angel: Grk. angelos, 'one sent,' a messenger, whether human or heavenly (BAG). In the LXX angelos renders Heb. malak, which means messenger, representative, courier or angel (DNTT 1:101f). The decision to translate malak or angelos as angel or messenger (i.e., human) relies primarily on the context. The term is used here to mean a heavenly messenger. See my web article The Host of Heaven. of God: See the previous verse. having come: Grk. eiserchomai, aor. part., to go or enter into a geographical area, manufactured structure or other place defined in the context. to: Grk. pros, prep., lit. "near or facing" and conveys motion toward (DM 110); to, toward, with. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun.
and: Grk. kai, conj. having said: Grk. legō, aor. part., to make a statement or utterance using words, whether mentally, orally or in writing. The focus of the verb may be declarative, interrogative or imperative; answer, ask, declare, say, speak, tell, and told. In the LXX legō renders Heb. amar (SH-559), to utter, say, show, command or think. The Greek verb "say" also functions here as quotation marks for the text following since ancient writings did not contain punctuation. to him: Grk. autos. Cornelius: Grk. Kornēlie, voc. case, the case of direct address. The angel probably spoke to Cornelius in Greek or possibly Latin.
4 And having looked intently at him and having become afraid, he said, "What is it, sir?" And he said to him, "Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial offering before God.
And: Grk. de, conj. having looked intently: Grk. atenizō, aor. part., look intently; to observe with great interest and a fastened or fixed gaze (HELPS). Metaphorically the verb means to fix the mind on something. at him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The pronoun underscores the fact that in Scripture angels always have masculine descriptions, contrary to art and media, which sometimes depicts them as female. and: Grk. kai, conj. having become: Grk. ginomai, aor. part., to transition from one state or condition to another; which may be expressed in one of three ways: (1) come into being birth or natural process; be born or produced; (2) exist through application of will or effort by a person; be made, be performed; or (3) undergo a state of existence, change or development; come to be, become, take place, happen, occur, arise, be, appear, come, arrive. The third meaning applies here.
afraid: Grk. emphobos, in a state of fear; frightened, terrified. he said: Grk. legō, aor. See the previous verse. Cornelius was not so afraid that he could not speak. What: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun indicating interest in establishing something definite; who, which, what, why. is it: Grk. eimi, pres., to be, a function word used primarily to declare a state of existence, whether in the past ('was, were'), present ('are, is') or future ('will be'), often to unite a subject and predicate (BAG). sir: Grk. kurios may mean either (1) one in control through possession, and therefore owner or master; or (2) one esteemed for authority or high status, thus lord or master. In the LXX kurios occurs over 9,000 times and is used primarily to replace the sacred name of God, YHVH. Kurios also occurs a number of times to identify men of higher rank to whom respect is owed (DNTT 2:511). Kurios was used as a respectful greeting in Jewish culture, equivalent to "sir."
And: Grk. de. he said: Grk. legō, aor. The angel speaks now to Cornelius. to him: Grk. autos. Your: Grk. su, pronoun of the second person. prayers: pl. of Grk. proseuchē, a general word for prayer in the apostolic writings, appearing in contexts of worship, personal requests and intercession for others. In the LXX proseuchē renders Heb. tephillah (SH-8605, occurring numerous times in the Psalms) a derivative of the verb palal (SH-6419), lit. means "to intervene or to interpose" (DNTT 2:863). Prayer by its very nature pleads the Judge of the universe to intervene in man's behalf. The plural form of the Greek noun and the presence of the definite article may hint at the multiple times of daily prayer and the repetitive nature of prayer he offered. His dominant prayer was for assurance of salvation (see verse 31 below and 11:14).
and: Grk. kai. alms: Grk. eleēmosunē. See verse 2 above. These two acts spoke of the generous spirit of Cornelius who was willing to sacrifice his time and resources for the God of Israel and His people. have ascended: Grk. anabainō, aor., to proceed in a direction that is up, go up. In the LXX anabainō renders Heb. alah (SH-5927), ascend, climb, go up (first in Gen 2:6). The verb occurs frequently in Exodus of Moses ascending the mountain to meet with God and intercede for the people (Ex 19:3, 20, 24; 24:1, 9, 12-13, 15, 18; 32:30; 34:1-2). The verb likely has an intercessory or mediatorial function in this context. as: Grk. eis, prep. with the root meaning of "within" focuses on entrance, frequently in relation to direction and limit; as far as, into, to, toward (DM 103). Here the preposition denotes the end by which a thing is completed, i.e. the result or effect (Thayer).
a memorial offering: Grk. mnēmosunon may mean (1) memory as a mental faculty; (2) memory of someone or (3) memorial offering (BAG). The noun occurs only three times in the Besekh, the other two times in reference to the anointing of the feet of Yeshua by Miriam, sister of Lazarus, by which her generosity will be remembered (Matt 26:13; Mark 14:9). In the LXX mnēmosunon renders derivatives of Heb. zakar (SH-2142, "remember") and is used in two ways. First the noun is used with the sense of a memorial that provokes remembrance: (a) Heb. zeker (SH-2143), by which the name of ADONAI is remembered (Ex 3:15) and by which the name of a people is remembered for being blotted out (Ex 17:14; Deut 25:19); and (b) Heb. zikkaron (SH-2146), a repeated observance by which people are reminded of some historic act or event (Ex 12:14; 13:9; 17:14; 28:12; Lev 23:24).
Second, the noun is used to mean a memorial offering (Heb. azkarah, SH-234) and BAG says that is the meaning intended here (527). The memorial offering was a portion of the cereal or grain offering prescribed in the Torah to accompany the burnt offering and the sin offering (Lev 2:2, 9, 16; 5:12; cf. Sirach 35:6; 38:11; 45:16). The memorial portion of the grain offering was burnt on the altar, "an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to ADONAI." The Hebrew term for grain offering is minchah (SH-4503). In Genesis minchah is used of the offerings of Abel and Cain (Gen 4:3-5), and then the presentation of a gift by which the giver seeks to ingratiate himself by means of the gift (Gen 32:13, 18-21; 33:10; 43:11, 15, 25-26).
Then in the Sinai legislation minchah took on the specific meaning of the grain offering (Ex 29:41; 30:9; 40:29). The most natural time to bring grain offerings was during the harvest festivals (Lev 2:14). When the worshipper brought the offering of first fruits of the ground (Deut 26:1-10) he acknowledged God's covenant mercies and fulfillment of covenant promises, and declared that he had faithfully kept the law of the firstfruits. Thus, he was loyal to the Lord of the covenant and his offering was in effect a tribute to God (Wenham 70). So, God regarded the prayers and almsgiving of Cornelius as equivalent to the memorial portion of the Israelite grain offering. In keeping with this interpretation several versions translate the noun as "memorial offering" (AMP, CEB, CSB, EHV, LEB, NABRE, NIV, TLV) and a few other versions simply have "offering" (NIRV, NLT, TPT). Moffat has "sacrifice."
before: Grk. emprosthen expresses position that is in front or ahead; before, in front of. God: the God of Israel. See verse 2 above. The angel affirmed to Cornelius that his prayers and almsgiving had ascended as a "soothing aroma" to God. These sacrifices met with His approval. The phrase "before God" may hint at Psalm 20:3, "May He remember [Heb. zakar] all your grain offerings [Heb. minchah] and accept your burnt offering [Heb. olah]" (BR). The angel's description is very much like the vision John saw in heaven of the prayers of the holy ones kept in bowls and then poured out to ascend before God like a fragrant incense offering (Rev 5:8; 8:3-4; cf. Ps 140:2; Luke 1:10).
5 And now send men to Joppa and summon Simon, one who is called Peter.
And: Grk. kai, conj. now: Grk. nun, adv. of time in the present, 'now' or more emphatically 'right now.' send: Grk. pempō, aor. imp., to dispatch someone as an agent, usually to convey a message or complete a task; send. men: pl. of Grk. anēr. See verse 1 above. The plural indicates at least two. This might seem an unnecessary instruction, because Cornelius would not have sent women. The angel simply transmitted the message he was given. Moreover, Cornelius would not have been able to go himself.
to Joppa: Grk. Ioppē, a transliteration of Heb. Yafo ("beauty"), a coastal town of Judea about 35 miles south of Caesarea. Located some thirty-five miles northwest of Jerusalem, the city was subject to the Jews from the time of the Maccabees. Originally a Canaanite city, Joppa held a key position on the ancient trade route of the Via Maris that connected Egypt in the south and Syria in the north. See the road map here. Joppa also had the only natural harbor between Egypt and Tyre and was a major port of entry for maritime shipping. Her harbor made her a valuable prize and as a result Joppa was sacked and rebuilt over the centuries many times. After Alexander the Great conquered the world the city passed from the Greeks to the Seleucids, then to the Hasmoneans and finally to the Romans who gave it to Herod the Great. At this time the city was under Roman administration.
and: Grk. kai. summon: Grk. metapempō, aor. mid. imp., dispatch for someone's presence; send after, send for, summon. The verb occurs nine times in the Besekh, all in Acts. Simon: Grk. Simōn, a transliteration of the Hebrew name Shimôn ("Shee-mown"), meaning "he has heard." There are nine men in the Besekh with the name "Simōn," but this spelling does not occur in the LXX at all. In the Tanakh the Heb. name Shimôn appears for the first time as the second son of Jacob and Leah (Gen 29:33) and then the tribe descended from him (Num 1:22-23). His name is translated in the LXX as Sumeōn and in English "Simeon." Since the apostle is known in heaven by his Hebrew name, it may be that Hebrew is the language spoken in heaven. After all, Hebrew is the only language by which God speaks in the Tanakh.
one: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. See verse 1 above. who: Grk. hos, relative pronoun used to give significance to the mention of a person, thing, or piece of information that precedes; who, which, what, that. is called: Grk. epikaleō, pres. mid., may mean (1) to give a name or nickname to; call, name; or (2) call upon for help, aid or intercession; invoke, appeal to, call upon for oneself. The first meaning applies here. The verb hints at the fact that the name was given to the apostle by Yeshua (John 1:42).
Peter: Grk. Petros, the translation of the Hebrew name Kêfa ("rock"), a name given to him by Yeshua (John 1:42). Peter, formerly the owner of a fishing business, was appointed an apostle early in Yeshua's ministry (Luke 6:13) and became the chief leader of the apostles. For a summary of Peter's life and ministry see my article Simon Peter: Fisherman-Apostle. Even though Peter's birth name was Simon, the clarification was necessary since Peter's host also had the name of Simon. Liberman comments that the angel could have shared the good news of salvation with Cornelius (cf. Rev 14:6), but God's plan was to use a human messenger (143). Connecting Cornelius with the apostle was going to transform both.
6 He is lodging with a certain Simon, a tanner, whose house is beside the sea."
He: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun signifying a person or thing set forth in narrative that precedes or follows it; this, this one. is lodging: Grk. xenizō, pres., be hospitable to, entertain a guest, thus to stay with or lodge. The verb indicates that Peter was staying with someone accustomed to providing a motel service (cf. Heb 13:2). with: Grk. para, with the root meaning of beside (DM 108), conveys association between persons, things, or circumstances, which may denote (1) a point of origin, from; or (2) a close association or proximity, with, beside, in the presence of. The second usage applies here. a certain: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. See verse 1 above. Simon: See the previous verse. a tanner: Grk. burseus, from bursa, 'skin stripped off, hide' late word for a verb meaning 'work something until it is soft,' a tanner.
Tanning was widespread in the ancient world. Early Israelite families tanned their own hides. With the growth of cities leather craftsmen arose. Tanning animal skins was an involved process requiring considerable skill. The hides were soaked until all fat, blood and hair was removed. After the leather was tanned, it was used for many purposes, including tents (Ex 26:14), personal articles (Lev 13:48; 2Kgs 1:8; Matt 3:4), and sandals (Ezek 16:10) (NIBD 780). Marshall and Rienecker assume that Simon's occupation made him unclean and that Peter staying with him signaled his freedom from Pharisaic scruples. The narrative of this chapter rebuts that assumption.
There is no evidence, either in the Torah or the Talmud, that tanning hides made the worker unclean in any ritual sense. The Torah regulation restricts contact with the carcass of a dead unclean animal (Lev 11:8). The leather products used by Israelites were made from the skins of clean animals. In Torah legislation a carcass is an animal that has died naturally, not one that was slaughtered. In any event, uncleanness contracted from contact with any carcass was removed by washing (Lev 11:25, 39-40). It was not a permanent condition. The Talmud includes the tanner in a list of occupations considered of low status or dignity because of the nature of the work, including goldsmiths, barbers and launderers (Kiddushin 82a).
One rabbi said, "The world cannot exist without a perfume-maker and without a tanner - happy is he whose craft is that of a perfume-maker, and woe to him who is a tanner by trade" (Kidd. 82b; Baba Bathra 16b). In addition, a woman could divorce her tanner husband if she found his occupation objectionable (Ketubot 7:6). Because of the bad smell associated with the dressing of animal skins Jewish law required that tanning yards be kept at least 50 cubits (25 yards) from a town. The distance was measured from the last hut at the extremity of the town. Also, the tanning yard could only be placed on the east side of the town (Bava Bathra 2:10). The location was due to the fact that prevailing winds blew west to east, and the wind would keep the odor away from the town.
Stern says that Simon stank all the time because of his profession (256), but Luke does not comment on his personal hygiene. It's hardly likely that people would lodge with Simon if he or his house reeked of foul odor. Simon probably owned the tanning business and the degree of his personal involvement remains unknown. whose: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. house: Grk. oikia may mean either (1) a habitable structure, house; or (2) fig. a group within a house, household or family. The first meaning applies here. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 4 above. beside: Grk. para. the sea: Grk. thalassa is used of both oceanic and inland bodies of water, whether salt or fresh. In the English language "sea" normally refers to a body of salt water and "lake" to a body of fresh water, although local convention can override this rule.
Thalassa simply refers to a body of water deep enough and wide enough to require a boat to cross it. In the LXX thalassa renders Heb. yam (SH-3220), "sea," which has the same range of meaning (Gen 1:10; 14:3; Num 34:11). The phrase "beside the sea" is a point of direction to save time in finding Simon's house. Simon's house was on the west side of the city, a good distance from his tanning business. The location may have been prime real estate. The statement may also suggest an affinity between the two men, since Peter was a fisherman by trade.
According to Peter's subsequent report to the congregation leaders in Jerusalem the angel also told Cornelius that Peter would "speak words in which you will be saved and all of your household" (Acts 11:14).
7 So when the angel who spoke to him had departed, he summoned two of the household servants and a devout soldier of those attending him,
So: Grk. de, conj. when: Grk. hōs, adv. with the primary function of connecting narrative components, used here as a particle of time; as, when, since. the angel: See verse 3 above. who: Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. spoke to: Grk. laleō, pres. part., to make an oral statement and to exercise the faculty of speech; say, speak, talk about, utter. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. had departed: Grk. aperchomai, aor., to be in movement from a position with or without mention of a destination; to go away, depart or leave. he summoned: Grk. phōneō, aor., may mean either (1) to utter a sound designed to attracted attention, cry out or proclaim with emphasis; (2) call to oneself; summon, call for, or invite; or (3) to identify in personal address. The second meaning applies here.
two: Grk. duo, the cardinal number two. of the household servants: pl. of Grk. oiketēs, slave who lives in a house serving under the authority of the householder (Sirach 4:30; 6:11); house servant. HELPS says the term denotes working for a family with affection and devotion. In the LXX oiketēs renders Heb. ebed (SH-5650), servant, particularly servant in a household, first in Genesis 9:5. Many versions modify the noun with "his," but the Greek text does not have this pronoun. While the house belonged to Cornelius (verse 30 below), we should not assume that these servants were slaves of Cornelius. The Roman army could have appropriated the house for Cornelius and the owner provided the servants to take care of it.
Some commentators assume that these servant-messengers were Gentile God-fearers (Bruce 208; Liberman 148; Stern 258), but their identity is left unstated. More likely is that they were Jewish members of the household, since they were being sent to summon a Jew. Moreover, the vocabulary used by the messengers when they met Peter (verse 22) suits Jews better. A parallel situation is that when Yeshua was summoned to heal the servant of a Centurion, Jewish leaders declared that the Centurion was worthy of Yeshua's help (Luke 7:5)
and: Grk. kai, conj. a devout: Grk. eusebēs. See verse 2 above. soldier: Grk. stratiōtēs, soldier in the military sense. The Greek term is broad in scope and included ranks below Centurion. This soldier was probably selected as a bodyguard for the two household servants, and was someone Cornelius could trust to carry out the mission. Like Cornelius, this soldier was a "God-fearer." of those: pl. of Grk. ho. attending: Grk. proskartereō, pres. part., attend to with continuing resoluteness, used of carrying out religious obligation, persist in, tend to, persevere, be devoted. him: Grk. autos. Luke implies that Cornelius was well regarded by the household and military servants.
8 and having explained everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.
and: Grk. kai, conj. having explained: Grk. exēgeomai, aor. mid. part., explain, interpret, tell, report, describe (BAG). everything: pl. of Grk. pas, adj., lit. "all things." to them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. For Cornelius to recount the conversation with the angel in full to the two servants and the soldier rather than simply give an order may seem extraordinary. Such sharing apparently was based on their shared devotion to the God of Israel. Serving as messengers the men needed context to explain the request of Cornelius to Peter.
he sent: Grk. apostellō, aor., to cause to move from one position to another, but often to send as an authoritative personal representative. Originally in Greek culture apostellō was used of sending an envoy to represent a king or a personal representative with legal powers. In the LXX apostellō translated Heb. shalach ("to stretch out or to send"), often in contexts of commissioning and empowering a messenger (DNTT 1:128). them: pl. of Grk. autos. to: Grk. eis, prep. The preposition emphasizes entering and moving through the city to find the house of Simon by the seashore. Joppa: See verse 5 above.
The Vision of Peter, 10:9-16
9 And the next day, as they were traveling and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour.
And: Grk. de, conj. the next day: Grk. epaurion, lit. 'on the morrow,' the next or following day. This is Day 2 of the narrative. The messengers must have spent the previous night somewhere while en route to Joppa. as they: pl. of Grk. ekeinos, demonstrative pronoun typically used to refer to a noun (person or thing) immediately preceding in the Greek text; that, that one there. were traveling: Grk. hodoiporeō (from hodoiporos, "a traveler"), pres. part., proceed to a destination; be on the way, journey, travel. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. and: Grk. kai, conj. approaching: Grk. engizō, pres. part., come or draw near, approach. the city: Grk. ho polis, a population center whose size or number of inhabitants could range broadly, a city or town, a reference to Joppa. The opening clause describes a providential coincidence.
Peter went up: Grk. anabainō, aor. See verse 4 above. The verb hints at performing a priestly function. on: Grk. epi, prep., with the root meaning of "upon," used primarily as a marker of position or location; and in composition may be translated 'at, by, near, on, upon, or over.' the housetop: Grk. ho dōma, the roof as a level structure over a house. The flat roofs of ancient houses, accessed by means of an outside staircase, served as places for sleeping (1Sam 9:26), mourning (Isa 15:3) or prayer (Dan 6:10). HELPS notes that flat housetops were ideal on hot summer nights for sleeping and passing on information "from one housetop to another." to pray: Grk. proseuchomai, aor. inf. See verse 2 above.
about: Grk. peri, prep. See verse 3 above. the sixth: Grk. hektos, adj., sixth, the ordinal number from hex, six. hour: Grk. hōra. See verse 3 above. Some versions have "about noon" but as the ninth hour in verse 3 above, the sixth hour is an hour, not a minute. So the prayer time occurred after the sun reached the zenith in the sky. The time corresponds to the afternoon time of prayer (Minchah) at the temple and implies that Peter observed the customary daily times of prayer. When away from Jerusalem a Jew prays facing Jerusalem. No posture is mentioned, but among Jews prayer is usually conducted while standing (cf. Matt 6:5; Mark 11:25).
But: Grk. de, conj. he became: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse 4 above. hungry: Grk. prospeinos, adj., to experience physical hunger, lit. "taste." The term occurs only here in the Besekh. Perhaps Peter's stomach started to growl. Bruce notes that this term is found elsewhere only in a writing by Demosthenes Philalethes, a first century eye doctor. One scholar speculates that Luke may have been a pupil of his. Rather, use of the term simply illustrates Luke's broad literary knowledge. and: Grk. kai, conj. was desiring: Grk. thelō, impf., to have a desire for something or have a purpose for something; will, wish, desire. to eat: Grk. geuomai, aor. mid. inf., partake of something by mouth, whether liquid or solid, and in this case the latter. Peter's hunger may have provided a convenient starting point for divine revelation.
and: Grk. de, conj. as they were making preparations: Grk. paraskeuazō, impf., 3p-pl., to prepare or to be ready. The third person plural likely refers to the wife of Simon the tanner and an assisting servant. Perhaps Peter could smell meat cooking. a trance: Grk. ekstasis, from the verb existēmi, may mean (1) the state of being in utter amazement, shock and wonder; or (2) a throwing of the mind out of its normal state into a heightened consciousness. The second meaning applies here. The great majority Bible versions translate the noun with "trance." Some versions translate the noun as "vision" (CEV, GNB, NCV, NIRV) or "dream" (NLV, WE), but the word for "vision" is horama (verse 3 above and 17 below) and the word for "dream" is enupnion (Acts 2:17). Paul will later use ekstasis to describe the state in which he received a revelation from the Lord while in the temple (Acts 22:17).
In the LXX ekstasis occurs 24 times and translates ten different Hebrew words (ABP), representing a range of human experience and emotion (cf. Philo, Who is the Heir of Divine Things, LI-LIII). The noun is never used in the specific sense of ecstasy (DNTT 1:527). The first two occurrences of ekstasis translate Heb. tardemah (SH-8639, deep sleep, usually by supernatural agency), in Genesis 2:21 for the induced coma to remove flesh from Adam's side and in Genesis 15:12 for a deep sleep God induced on Abraham in which he was given a revelation of the future sojourn of his descendants among Gentiles. Peter's experience may be comparable to that of Abraham and the CEV applies the LXX usage with "he fell sound asleep."
came: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. upon: Grk. epi, prep. See the previous verse. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. See verse 2 above. Many versions translate the verb-preposition as "fell into," which may be a dramatic description, but it is also inaccurate and nonsensical. First, the verb for "to fall" is piptō, which is not in this verse. Second, one does not "fall" into a trance. A trance is induced. Peter didn't volunteer for it or conjure it in his own mind. God put him into that state. However, Peter was not in a cataleptic state, or in a hypnotic condition, which would imply his own ability to function was suspended. Instead the experience was one in which he was cut off from surrounding stimuli so that he could receive a revelation from God. Perhaps Peter's experience could be likened to the TV show "Twilight Zone," which the narrator described as "a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind."
11 and he saw heaven opening, and a certain vessel, like a great sheet with four corners being let down upon the earth,
and: Grk. kai, conj. he saw: Grk. theōreō, pres., may mean (1) pay attention to; look at, observe, watch, behold; (2) conclude on the basis of personal experience; consider, infer, see; or (3) have awareness in depth; perceive, experience. The first meaning has primary application here. The present tense is used to give vividness to a past event. heaven: Grk. ho ouranos is used in Scripture to refer to three different cosmological locations (Ps 148:1-4): (1) the atmosphere above the ground; (2) interstellar space; and (3) the transcendent dwelling-place of God and the angels. In the LXX ouranos translates the Heb. plural noun shamayim (SH-8064, lit. "the heavens") with the same range of meaning (DNTT 2:191).
In Scripture ouranos is always "up" as a direction from the surface of the earth. Some versions opt for the first location and render the noun as "sky." Luke probably intends that while Peter saw the vision descending from above his position on the roof, the definite article ho identifies the third heaven as the point of origin. A few versions render the singular noun as "heavens" (ESV, Phillips, TLV), no doubt because of the plurality of the Hebrew word. opening: Grk. anoigō, pres. part., to open, often used of doors to make a room accessible. There are a few other mentions of heaven opening followed by a divine revelation (Ezek 1:1; Matt 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:21; John 1:51; Rev 4:1; 15:5; 19:11).
and: Grk. kai. a certain: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. See verse 1 above. vessel: Grk. skeuos, something serviceable in carrying out a function. The term is used variously of (1) a human body, (2) a household or Temple container for holding a liquid, and (3) a ship. A number of versions have "object," but the noun refers to something functioning as a container. like: Grk. hōs, adv. See verse 7 above. The adverb is used here in a comparative sense; just like, similar to. a great: Grk. megas, adj., large or great in extent, used here of an extension in space in all directions. sheet: Grk. othonē, linen cloth, whether a sheet or a sail. The great majority of versions have "sheet," but NEB has "sheet of sailcloth." The sheet was enormous in size. with four: Grk. tessares (for Heb. arba, SH-702), adj., the cardinal number four.
corners: pl. of Grk. archē with the basic meaning of beginning, i.e., the initial starting point (HELPS). In the LXX archē renders Heb. reshit ("beginning," first in Gen 1:1) and rosh ("head, ruler" first in Gen 2:10) (DNTT 1:164f). Thayer says the term can also mean "the extremity of a thing," and LSJ similarly includes the meaning of "end, corner, of a bandage, rope, sheet, etc." and cites several classical Greek writings with this usage. In this context the noun means an extremity, a starting point at the edge for measuring the four-sided sheet. Most versions consider the dative case of "four corners" to have an instrumental meaning and insert the preposition "by" to convey that interpretation. However, considering the Greek word order the dative case is probably only meant as descriptive of the sheet. The Wycliffe Bible (1395) does translate the phrase as "with four corners."
being let down: Grk. kathiēmi, pres. pass. part., to let down, cause to descend or to make lower. upon: Grk. epi, prep. the earth: Grk. gē can mean (1) soil (as in receiving seed), (2) the ground, (3) land as contrasted with the sea, or (4) the earth in contrast to heaven. The fourth meaning is intended here. The LXX uses gē more than 2,000 times and translates the Heb. word erets (SH-776), which has the same range of meaning (DNTT 1:517; BDB 75). Some versions translate the noun as "ground" (CJB, GW, ISV, MSG, NOG, NASB, NRSV, TLB), but this obscures the contrast being made between heaven and earth. In addition, the great size of the sheet having four corners, with its diversity of contents described in the next verse, probably corresponds to the four corners of the earth with its diverse population and hints at a revelation given to Isaiah.
"And He will lift up a standard for the nations and assemble the banished ones of Israel, and will gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners [Heb. kanaph] of the earth" (Isa 11:12 NASB).
The mention of four corners in Scripture may correspond to a modern discovery that the earth does indeed have four corners or protuberances. The earth is not a perfect sphere, but is slightly flattened at the poles, making the earth what scientists call an oblate spheroid. These four protuberances disrupt the normal curvilinear shape of the earth and have been located as follows, in terms of latitude and longitude: (1) 55° N, 10° W (near Ireland), (2) 50° S, 48° E (near South Africa), (3) 15° N, 140° E (near the Philippines), (4) 18° S, 80° W (near Peru). (W.H. Guier and R.R. Newton, "The Earth’s Gravity Field-Doppler Tracking of Five Satellites," Journal of Geophysical Research, 1965, quoted in BBMS 248).
As a word picture the four corners of the earth indicates the four directions of the compass and the limits of the horizon that encompasses all the nations. God revealed to Isaiah that He would send the Righteous Branch, the root of Jesse or Messiah (11:1-5), and that the righteous one would be "lifted up" as the standard for the nations (11:12) who will seek the root of Jesse (11:10; cf. Luke 2:32; Acts 11:18). Then God gave John the apostle a comparable vision. Following the vision of the angels at the four corners of the earth (Rev 7:1) John witnessed the sealing of the servants of the Lord from the twelve tribes of Israel (7:4-8) and then the multitude from all nations of the earth standing before the throne (7:9).
12 in which there were all the quadrupeds and creeping things of the earth and birds of the air.
in: Grk. en, prep. which: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 5 above. there were: Grk. huparchō, impf., to function or be in a state as determined by circumstance; to be or exist. The sheet contained a wide variety of animals of many species. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. the quadrupeds: pl. of Grk. tetrapous, animals or creatures having four feet. In the LXX tetrapous renders Heb. behemah (SH-929), beast, animal or livestock (first in Gen 1:24). This category would include terrestrial mammals. There are a vast number and variety of animals with four legs.
and: Grk. kai, conj. creeping things: pl. of Grk. herpeton (from herpō, "move slowly"), a crawling or creeping creature, generally translated as "reptiles." In the LXX herpeton translates Heb. remes (SH-7431), creeping thing, denoting the manner of locomotion (first in Gen 1:24). The Heb. term includes some marine animals (Lev 11:46; Ps 104:25). A "creeping thing" may also be without legs (e.g., snake) or have many legs (e.g., centipede). of the earth: Grk. gē. See the previous verse. The reference to "earth" applies to both the quadrupeds and creeping things.
and: Grk. kai, conj. birds: pl. of Grk. peteinon, a warm-blooded animal with feathers and wings; a bird, whether clean or unclean. of the air: Grk. ho ouranos. See the previous verse. The first heaven or atmosphere is intended here. The phrase "birds of the air" refer to birds that can fly. There are over 20 types of bird that do not fly, including the emus, ostriches and penguins. Birds capable of flight can soar up to altitudes of 25,000 feet, at which point they are above two-thirds of the atoms of the atmosphere.
These categories of animal description do not conform to modern taxonomy. Animals are generally classified in Scripture according to their kind (Gen 1:21), their means of locomotion (wings, feet, belly), specific physical characteristics (having breath or blood, Gen 7:15; 9:4) or their habitat (air, land or water). Animals were also designated as clean or unclean (Gen 7:2). The distinction between clean and unclean in the primeval age is probably that the clean animals could be domesticated and thus were suitable for sacrificial offerings. Some commentators deduce from the conclusion of the narrative that the vision of animals coming from heaven represents Jews and Gentiles being together (Clarke, Gill, Gloag).
13 And a voice came to him, "Arise, Peter, kill and eat!"
And: Grk. kai, conj. a voice: Grk. phōnē can mean (1) an auditory impression, sound, noise defined in the context; (2) the faculty of producing speech, voice; or (3) a system of communication, language (1Cor 14:10; 2Pet 2:16). The word often is used in the Besekh of articulated sound from a human mouth. In the LXX phōnē generally renders Heb. qôl (sound, voice, BDB 876), the first usage of which is God's voice (Gen 3:8), and second the human voice (Gen 3:17), and these usages occur frequently in the Tanakh with various kinds of expression (DNTT 3:113). Of interest is that the speaker does not identify himself, but since the sheet of animals came from heaven, then the voice must have also.
came: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse 4 above. to him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Arise: Grk. anistēmi, aor. part., to rise, stand up or get up and in its ordinary use refers to the physical motion of transition from a sitting or prone position or simply standing. In the LXX anistēmi renders Heb. qum (SH-6965), to arise, stand up, or stand, first in Genesis 4:8. The verb implies that Peter had been kneeling for his prayer time. Many versions translate the verb with "Get up," which seems too peremptory. Noteworthy is the fact that the verb is not in the imperative mood, the normal mood for command.
However, the verb is clearly being used for exhortation. Scholars have long been puzzled over the usage of the participle in hortatory instructions concerning rules of social behavior within the community of faith and in families (in Romans, Ephesians, Colossians and 1Peter). Davies says that non-biblical Jewish writings used the participle in exactly the same manner, and thus the use of the participle as imperative probably reflects Jewish sources (130f). Stern concurs in this information (428). With the use of the participle the voice was appealing to the conscience rather than commanding the will.
Peter: voc. case. The direct address form of "Peter" occurs only three times in the apostolic narratives, the first by Yeshua (Luke 22:34). kill: Grk. thuō, aor. imp., may mean (1) to conduct ritual sacrifice, especially in the context of festivals (Luke 22:7); (2) to slaughter for food (Luke 15:23); or (3) to kill for the sake of destruction (John 10:10). The second meaning is probably intended here. The unqualified nature of the verb implies that Peter could have his choice. Adam Clarke believed the first meaning is in view. In the LXX thuō renders the Heb. zabach (SH-2076), to slaughter for sacrifice (Gen 31:54; Ex 3:18; Lev 17:5; Num 22:40; Deut 12:15). Clarke's reasoning is worthy of consideration:
"The Jews and Gentiles are certainly represented by the clean and unclean animals in this large vessel: these, by the ministry of the Gospel, were to be offered up a spiritual sacrifice to God. Peter was to be a prime instrument in this work; he was to offer them to God, and rejoice in the work of his hands. The spirit of the heavenly direction seems to be this: "The middle wall of partition is now to be pulled down; the Jews and Gentiles are called to become one flock, under one shepherd and bishop of souls. Thou, Peter, shalt open the door of faith to the Gentiles, and be also the minister of the circumcision. Rise up; already a blessed sacrifice is prepared: go and offer it to God; and let thy soul feed on the fruits of his mercy and goodness, in thus showing his gracious design of saving both Jews and Gentiles by Christ crucified."
and: Grk. kai. eat: Grk. phagō, aor. imp., to take in one's mouth, to partake of food. We should note what the voice did not say. He did not say, "kill, cook and eat." He also did not say, "kill unclean animals and eat." The instruction is open-ended allowing Peter a choice. Peter's personal experience with killing animals is unknown, but we may assume it included killing fish (he was a fisherman) and killing a lamb for Passover. Ordinarily he would not have prepared his own meals, so if he had meat with a meal his wife or a servant obtained it from a market. Only one other time in Scripture did God tell someone to "arise" and "eat." The angel of ADONAI told Elijah to eat before a long journey (1Kgs 19:5, 7), at the end of which he received a revelation (1Kgs 19:15-18).
Peter may have seen animals he was forbidden to eat mixed with animals he was allowed to eat. The implied permission to eat of the forbidden would be a violation of Torah commands. However, judging from the limited categories of animals shown to Peter (previous verse), his reaction to the instruction (the next verse) and the following heavenly declaration (verse 15), all the animals in the vision could have been forbidden and in the end represented only Gentiles.
This is not the first time that God required one of His servants to engage in scandalous behavior. Samson asked his parents to arrange a marriage for him with the daughter of the Philistines, but they did not know that the Lord had prompted the action (Jdg 14:1-4). God required Hosea to marry a harlot as a spiritual lesson (Hos 1:2). God required Isaiah to go around naked for three years as a sign of Assyria's conquering Egypt and Cush (Isa 20:2). In Peter's case he could not physically carry out the instruction, because the animals in the vision were not real. However, the command to "eat" may hint at Peter's later table fellowship with Gentiles (cf. verse 48 below; Gal 2:12).
But: Grk. de, conj. Peter said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 3 above. By no means: Grk. mēdamōs, adv. (from mēde, "but not," and hamos, "anyone"), by no means, not at all. In the LXX mēdamōs renders Heb. chalilah (SH-2486), an interjection meaning "far be it" (first in Gen 18:25). The negative adverb is not a flat refusal, but an expression of horror that such an action would even be contemplated. Abraham used the same expression to object to killing the righteous along with the wicked in Sodom (Gen 18:25). The expression is used in eleven other situations of Bible characters objecting to doing something considered to be wrong: Job (Job 27:5), Joseph's brothers (Gen 44:7), tribes east of the Jordan (Josh 22:9), Israelite leaders (Josh 24:16), Samuel (1Sam 12:23), Israelites to King Saul (1Sam 14:45), Jonathan (1Sam 20:2, 9), Ahimelech (1Sam 22:15), David (1Sam 24:6; 26:11; 2Sam 23:17), Joab (2Sam 20:20), and Naboth (1Kgs 21:3).
Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 4 above. Peter assumed the voice came from Yeshua and addressed him accordingly. Kurios is the principal title by which disciples addressed or referred to Yeshua during his earthly ministry, over twice as many times as any other title. Peter would know the sound of Yeshua's voice (John 10:27). Whatever the actual animals in the sheet may have been Peter concluded that he was being told to eat animals no Jew would eat. Yet surely Yeshua would not ask him to do something that was contrary to Torah and contrary to his own practice. So Peter’s objection is not a flat refusal but more like a pleading, "I can't believe you would say this. Far be it for me to violate your own law!"
because: Grk. hoti, conj. that serves as a link between two sets of data, whether (1) defining a demonstrative pronoun; that; (2) introducing a subordinate clause as complementary of a preceding verb; (3) introducing a direct quotation and functioning as quotation marks; or (4) indicating causality with an inferential aspect; for, because, inasmuch as. The fourth usage applies here. never: Grk. oudepote, neg. adv. denying absolutely and objectively; never. have I eaten: Grk. phagō, aor. See the previous verse. anything: Grk. pas, adj. See verse 2 above. Peter issues a categorical denial.
common: Grk. koinos, adj., may mean either (1) shared collectively, communal; or (2) belonging to what is everyday, ordinary; or (3) contrary to special religious practice or perspective, common. The third meaning applies here. In Hebrew culture the term referred to customs which, although "common" to the world, were forbidden to the pious Israelite (DNTT 1:639). Koinos occurs only a few times in the LXX, and generally with a non-religious meaning: something good (Heb. tov, Prov 15:23), and something shared (Heb. cheber, Prov 21:9; 25:24). The term was used in other Jewish literature for "common men" (Josephus, Ant. XII, 2:14; Letter of Aristeas 315). The Maccabean writer uses koinos of animals unauthorized for sacrifice and food considered levitically profane by the Torah (1Macc 1:47, 62).
The Hebrew term used in the Tanakh to mean "commonness" is chôl (SH-2455), first in Leviticus 10:10. Chôl in a concrete sense was opposite of holy (suitable for sacrifice), but not necessarily evil (BDB 323). The LXX renders chôl with Grk. bebēlos (SG-952, improper, secular, unauthorized), a synonym of koinos (Thayer). The category of "common" included both the clean (suitable for eating) and the unclean (unsuitable for eating and sacrifice). Wenham says, "It is perhaps because 'common' is a category between the two extremes of holiness and uncleanness that it is mentioned only once" (19). Wenham then illustrated the distinctions between the Leviticus categories with this chart:
In the sacrificial system the rules were specific as to the animals that could be offered at the altar. Clean animals not designated suitable for sacrifice (e.g., deer, fish, insects) were considered "common." Some versions translate koinos here as "impure" (NIV, NLT) or "unholy" (NASB, TLV), which is a moral characterization. An animal does not have a sinful nature. The majority of versions have "common" (e.g., ESV, HCSB, KJV, NKJV, RSV, WEB, YLT).
and: Grk. kai, conj. See verse 2 above. The great majority of versions render the conjunction with "or," but the regular conjunction meaning "or" as an alternative (Grk. ē) is not in this verse. A few versions have "and" (ASV, DLNT, DRA, LEB, NASB, NLT, REV, Weymouth). The conjunction is important because an animal might be common, but not classified unfit for an Israelite to eat. When Peter said that he had never eaten anything "common," he did not mean that he had never eaten "clean-common" animals, such as fish or chicken. The conjunction ties "common" to the next category.
unclean: Grk. akathartos, adj., unclean or impure, used generally in a religious sense of isolating one from contact with God. In the LXX akathartos renders Heb. tamê (SH 2931), defiled or opposite of clean (first in Lev 5:2)) (DNTT 3:103). The book of Leviticus identifies several categories of uncleanness, including childbirth, skin disease, mildew, genital discharges, touching a corpse and unfit food sources. The status of uncleanness in most cases was temporary and could be ended by ritual washing. Instructions on acceptable and prohibited animal sources of food are given in chapter eleven. It's important to note that God's taxonomy is based on physical characteristics and does not necessarily coincide with man's classification of animals.
It's important to understand the history of divine instruction concerning food. In the antediluvian age people apparently subsisted on a vegetarian diet, because after the global deluge, God instructed Noah and his descendants to include meat in their diet (Gen 9:1-4). All people on the earth now are descendants of Noah's family. The one caveat given to Noah was that meat was not to be eaten with its "life," i.e., blood (Gen 9:4). This restriction will be confirmed later by the apostles as a standard of conduct for followers of Yeshua (Acts 15:20, 29). We may safely say that Christians who reject apostolic authority are sinning when they engage in this prohibited behavior.
At Sinai God changed the rules for His chosen people and defined animals to be either suitable or unsuitable as sources of food. In addition, God applied the rule of the Noahic covenant that no authorized meat could be eaten with its blood (Lev 17:14; Deut 12:23). The Torah regulation emphasizes eleven times that the diet rules applied "to you," that is "Israel" (Lev 11:4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 20, 23, 29). Gentiles are free to follow the Torah diet rules, but God does not require it. In Leviticus 11 animals are divided into five categories: (1) land mammals, (2) marine animals, (3) birds, (4) insects and (5) creeping things (Lev 11:2-42; Deut 14:3-21). Within those categories specific characteristics separated the suitable from the unsuitable for eating.
Of land mammals only animals that have a divided hoof AND chew the cud are acceptable for eating (Lev 11:3). Possessing one characteristic without the other is not good enough. This description identifies herbivores whose diet consists of grazing on grasses and other plants. All other land animals (carnivores and omnivores) are prohibited. Examples of clean herbivores would be all cattle, sheep, goats, deer, bison, moose, antelope, gazelles, caribou and giraffes. Of marine animals Israelites were only to eat animals with fins and scales (Lev 11:9). By this strict definition popular crustaceans (lobster, crab and shrimp), sea mammals (whale, porpoise, walrus) and animals with toxic characteristics (shark, stingray, catfish, eel) or off limits.
Of birds Israelites could eat seed or insect eating birds, but not carrion-eaters (Lev 11:13-18). The instruction lists 20 specific birds prohibited for eating. So, the acceptable birds would be those comparable to the herbivore land animals. Of insects Israelites were not to eat the winged insects that walk on all fours, but winged insects that have jointed legs with which to jump are acceptable. The instruction lists the locust, the cricket and the grasshopper as examples of the clean insects (Lev 11:20-23). Of creeping things (i.e., reptiles) Israelites are forbidden to eat eight specific animals, ranging in size from the mouse to a crocodile (Lev 11:29-30). Included in this prohibited category are animals that crawl on the belly or have many feet (Lev 11:42).
Bible scholars have suggested four basic reasons to explain God's rationale for the food laws (Wenham 166): (1) Cultic. The unclean animals are either those used in pagan ceremonies or those associated with particular non-Israelite deities, such as those worshipped in Egypt (Lev 18:3). (2) Hygiene. Unclean creatures are unfit to eat because they are carriers of disease. Some eat their own feces. (3) Environmental. Some animals are more useful as beasts of burden than as a source of food (e.g., camel) or consumes a quantity of food that is disproportional to its value as a food source. (4) Holiness. The only statement God makes that approaches being a reason for a strict diet is the desire for Israel to be a holy nation able to distinguish between the clean and unclean (Lev 20:25-26). This principle is likely related to the expectation that Israelites refrain from eating an animal with its "life," which is a characteristic of almost all unclean animals.
There is no indication in the Torah that contact with a living unclean animal resulted in uncleanness for the person, thus no ceremony was prescribed for cleansing. These animals were simply not to be eaten. However, contact with the carcass of an unclean animal did result in uncleanness and required a sin offering (Lev 5:2-3). The Torah does specify that the punishment for eating fats found inside certain domesticated animals or animal blood is being cut off from Israel (Lev 3:16-17; 7:22-26). Otherwise, the Torah does not impose a punishment for consuming non-kosher animals or animals not slaughtered properly. However, the Talmud records the ruling of Jewish Sages that since most negative commands warranted flogging, or 39 lashes, then eating non-kosher food falls into this category (Hullin 102).
Peter did not refrain from eating non-kosher food for fear of punishment from the local synagogue, but because he was an observant Jew who lived according to the standards of Torah, just like his Master. Peter did not eat pork and he was not about to start now.
Additional Note: The Future of Unclean Animals
Among all the animals identified in the Torah as unclean, the pig (Heb. chazir, SH-2386) is the supreme symbol of uncleanness to the Jew (Shapira 9). The pig not only symbolizes something that is unkosher and unclean to eat, but something foreign and threatening to the Jew. In the Jewish mind the idea that God could take the form of a man is considered the ultimate uncleanness and in Rabbinic Judaism anyone who adopted this premise was no better than a pig. Yet, the Sages and leading teachers of Rabbinic Judaism developed the idea that in the age of Messiah the pig will return to Israel and be kosher again (Shapira 12). Gruber quotes a relevant rabbinic midrash:
"There are those who say that every animal that is unclean in this age, the Holy One, blessed be He, will make it clean in the time to come." (Midrash Psalm 146:4; quoted in MW-Notes 194).
Shapira cites an important Medieval Jewish scholar Rabbi Bachaye Ben Asher who stated in his commentary on the Torah that the pig will be kosher again in the future to the Jewish people (15). In addition, the Midrash Shocher Tov ("a seeker of good," a medieval collection of midrashim) supports this interpretation of the psalm by declaring that during the Messianic age there will be a foundational change in our relationship to the Torah, as all things will become pure. Shocher Tov interprets the declaration of Psalm 146:7 that ADONAI sets prisoners free to have the practical meaning that during the Messianic Age, God will transform all things that are forbidden for consumption, to be "kosher" and "clean" again. The implication is that the Jews and the pig have been "imprisoned" in the strict food laws of the Torah. The Midrash applies a similar interpretation to the promise of Zechariah 13:1 that a fountain will be opened in Jerusalem for sin and impurity.
The reversal of the status of unclean animals in the age to come is declared in Isaiah:
"And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the young goat, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little boy will lead them. 7 Also the cow and the bear will graze, Their young will lie down together, And the lion will eat straw like the ox." (Isa 11:6-7 NASB)
"The wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox" (Isa 65:25) This is a prophecy of the new earth.
However, we should not assume that mankind will consume meat in the age to come, even though Yeshua ate fish after his resurrection to demonstrate his physical reality (Luke 24:42-43). In the millennium glorified bodies may not need food and water.
15 And a voice came to him again out of heaven a second time, "What God has cleansed, you shall not consider common."
And: Grk. kai, conj. a voice: Grk. phōnē. See verse 13 above. came to: Grk. pros, prep. See verse 3 above. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. again: Grk. palin, adv., with focus on a repetitive occurrence; once more, again. out of heaven: Grk. ek, prep. used to denote exit or separation from something with which there has been a close association, lit. "out of, from within" (Thayer). Most persons translate the preposition as "for," but the word is used here to indicate a point of origin. a second time: Grk. deuteros, second, in the second place, for the second time. What: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 5 above. God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 2 above.
has cleansed: Grk. katharizō, aor., to clean or cleanse, and is used of (1) physical removal of stains and dirt (Matt 23:25); (2) physical healing of skin disease that enabled communal restoration (Matt 8:2-3; 10:8; 11:5; Luke 17:14-17); and (3) removal of the guilt or defilement of sin (2Cor 7:1; Eph 5:26; Heb 9:22; 1Jn 1:7). The aorist tense is probably intended as a dramatic aorist, which depicts a present reality with the certitude of a past event. In the LXX katharizō has wide application and is normally associated with removal of uncleanness that will enable a person to have contact with God and/or other people. The verb renders Heb. taher (SH-2891), to cleanse or purify, which may depict either process or result, as well as Heb. kaphar (SH-2722), make atonement (DNTT 3:104). Relevant to Luke's narrative is that katharizō occurs in various LXX passages concerning atonement of sins (Ex 30:10; Lev 14:19; 16:30; Ps 51:2; Jer 33:8; Ezek 37:23).
you: Grk. su, pronoun of the second person. shall not: Grk. mē, adv., a particle of qualified negation, not. It differs from the other standard negative particle, oú, in that oú is objective, dealing only with facts, while mē is subjective, involving will and thought (DM 265). consider common: Grk. koinoō, pres. imp., to defile by treating what is sacred as common or ordinary (HELPS). The verb first occurs in the controversy between Yeshua and Pharisees over eating with unwashed hands (Matt 15:11; Mark 7:15). The religious elite considered that such eating defiled a person in a moral sense, and in their culture deserved severe punishment. Yeshua rebutted this thinking and retorted that sin is what truly defiles a person (Matt 15:18-19; Mark 7:23).
Christian commentators typically interpret the vision and instruction given to Peter as validating the belief that Yeshua canceled Torah food restrictions (Mark 7:19; e.g., Bruce, Gill, Longenecker, and Marshall). Christian scholars ignore the fact that the controversy between Yeshua and the Pharisees was actually over eating with unwashed hands, not diet (Mark 7:5). If Yeshua had dared to say "all the animals declared unclean in the Torah I am now declaring clean" the Pharisees would have immediately stoned him and no one would have objected. Moreover, Yeshua had said the he did not come to abolish Torah (Matt 5:17), so the Christian interpretation has made Yeshua out to be a liar.
In addition, there is no evidence in the Besekh that Jewish followers of Yeshua abandoned compliance with Torah food regulations or that the apostles encouraged such abandonment. It's unclear why Christians perpetuate this false narrative about Yeshua. Maybe it's because they love pork and shrimp and are conflicted because Yeshua never ate forbidden food. (If he had he would have been rightly considered a sinner.) Liberman aptly points out that these same advocates of "no food laws" don't insist that we eat lions, eagles, vultures, owls, bats, weasels, mice, lizards, crocodiles, chameleons, snakes, etc. (145). See my web article Did Yeshua Cancel Torah Food Laws? (The short answer is no.)
As far as the instruction to Peter is concerned Yeshua would not have used the word "cleansed" in reference to having canceled Torah food restrictions. He would have been much more straightforward as he was with the woman of Samaria when he said that the day was coming when worship would no longer be done in Jerusalem (John 4:21). Yeshua's declaration to Peter alludes to some cleansing in the past that would have application for the future. Considering where the narrative is headed the mention of "cleansing" must hint of some historical event (or more than one event) concerning Gentiles, especially in the sense of providing spiritual cleansing or atonement.
For example, God declared that Jacob would become a company of nations (Gen 35:11), a commonwealth united by atonement (Eph 2:12-13). Rahab the Canaanite and Ruth the Moabite were welcomed into Israel with its provision for atonement and God then included them in the Messianic line (Matt 1:5). In the time of Elisha there were many people suffering from skin disease, but the only one cleansed (healed) was Naaman the Syrian who also received pardon from the God of Israel (2Kgs 5:10-19; Luke 4:27). Later God sent Peter's ancestor Jonah to Nineveh to enable their receiving God's mercy (Jon 1:2; 4:11).
Then God declared through Isaiah that Israel was to be a light to the nations (Isa 42:6; Luke 2:32). Both King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (Dan 4:1-3, 34-37) and King Cyrus of Persia (2Chr 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1) had revelations from the God of Israel and worshipped Him. In Acts the first cleansing was spiritual in nature of people receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 15:9) and that group included Gentile proselytes (Acts 2:10). In Peter's Pentecost sermon he quoted from Joel to prophesy that the Holy Spirit would fall upon all mankind, which includes Gentiles (Acts 2:17). The phrase "what God has cleansed" then has the practical meaning of "what God has deemed worthy of spiritual cleansing" (cf. Acts 13:46-49).
The promise of cleansing was for all nations, because "God so loved the world" (John 3:16) and Yeshua was the Savior of the whole world (John 4:42; 6:33, 51). So Peter is strongly admonished to be cautious in determining what should be avoided. As the narrative continues Peter comes to understand that the divine directive had nothing to do with food and everything to do with people. The heavenly declaration meant "What God has made atonement for you shall not call unworthy of God's mercy."
16 Now this happened three times, and immediately the vessel was taken up into heaven.
Now: Grk. de, conj. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. See verse 6 above. The pronoun refers to the vision of the sheet containing animals and accompanying message. happened: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse 4 above. three times: Grk. tris, thrice or three times. The number refers to the total number of times the visionary revelation occurred. Among Jews the number three represented perfect completion. Three witnesses proved the truth of a matter beyond doubt (Deut 17:6; 19:15; Matt 18:16; 1Jn 5:7-8). For Peter the three-fold revelation was complete and nothing more needed to be added.
Clarke suggests that repetition was important to make a deep impression on the mind of Peter. Yet, there may have been another purpose. It was a subtle reminder of when Peter had denied Yeshua three times (Luke 22:34, 61) and then was restored by Yeshua asking him three times to affirm his love for Yeshua (John 21:15-17). For Peter to love Yeshua meant feeding and shepherding his sheep, including the "other sheep" that would be joined to the flock of Israel (John 10:16).
and: Grk. kai, conj. immediately: Grk. eutheōs, adv., immediately, forthwith, or right away. The adverb is a dramatic device that energizes the narrative, often shifting the reader's attention to another scene. the vessel: Grk. skeuos. See verse 11 above. was taken up: Grk. analambanō, aor. pass., may mean (1) to cause movement in an upward direction; (2) to lift up in order to take along; or (3) to take someone with. The second meaning applies here. into: Grk. eis, prep. heaven: Grk. ouranos. See verse 11 above.
Gill suggests that the act of the vessel being received back into heaven symbolizes the names of Jews and Gentiles in the great assembly of God being written in heaven, and that they will all together be gathered and taken up to heaven to be forever with the Lord. While the "taking up" might have an eschatological meaning, the actual taking up or "rapture" will only serve to meet Yeshua in the air coming from heaven with all the holy ones. Eternity will not be spent in heaven but upon the new earth. See my web article The Rapture Debate.
Arrival of Messengers, 10:17-23
17 Now as Peter was perplexed in himself as to what the vision that he had seen might be, behold, the men having been sent from Cornelius, having inquired for the house of Simon, stood at the gate;
Now: Grk. de, conj. as: Grk. hōs, adv. See verse 7 above. Peter was perplexed: Grk. diaporeō, impf., to experience difficulty in dealing with information, thus to be perplexed or at a loss. A few versions translate the verb as "doubted' or "doubting" (BRG, DRA, JUB, KJV, NABRE), but there is no indication that Peter did not believe or trust the revelation. in: Grk. en, prep. himself: Grk. heautou, reflexive pronoun of the third person to denote that the agent and the person acted on are the same. Peter did not immediately share his vision experience with anyone. as to: Grk. an, disjunctive particle that nuances a verb with contingency or generalization; would, ever, might, in that case, anyhow. HELPS says the particle indicates what could occur under certain conditions, and the context determines the limits of those conditions. The particle is often not translated.
what: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. See verse 1 above. the vision: Grk. horama. See verse 3 above. Receiving a vision is a significant event in Scripture. In biblical times God spoke to the patriarchs and prophets of Israel in visions and dreams, as the ADONAI declared, "Listen to what I say: when there is a prophet among you, I, ADONAI, make myself known to him in a vision, I speak with him in a dream. (Num 12:6 CJB). A number of Bible characters received such revelatory messages from God, either while asleep or in an induced state: Abraham (Gen 15:1, 12), Jacob (Gen 28:12; 31:10f; 46:2), Joseph (Gen 37:5-10), Samuel (1Sam 3:15), Solomon (1Kgs 3:5), and Daniel (Dan 2:19; 7:1, 13). Peter was probably aware that the vision had included him in a select company.
that: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 5 above. he had seen: Grk. horaō, aor. See verse 3 above. The verb refers to what Peter saw while in the trance. might be: Grk. eimi, pres. opt. See verse 4 above. After Peter came out of the trance he wondered what the vision really meant. The divine instruction presented a real conundrum. Taken literalistically the command to "kill and eat" was both impossible and impractical. Being a loyal disciple he was ready to obey his Lord, but the intent of the instruction made no sense. Peter was rightly cautious about taking action based on a vision (cf. Gal 1:8; Col 2:18).
behold: Grk. idou, aor. imp., demonstrative interjection (derived from eidon, "to see"), that arouses the attention of hearers or readers. The Greek verb, like its corresponding Heb. word hinneh (SH-2009, e.g., Gen 1:29), serves to enliven divine monologues and narratives, particularly as a call to closer consideration and contemplation of something, to introduce something new or to emphasize the size or importance of something; (you) see, look, behold (BAG). the men: pl. of Grk. anēr. See verse 1 above. having been sent: Grk. apostellō, perf. pass. part. See verse 8 above. from: Grk. hupo, prep., lit. "under," may be used to indicate (1) an agent or cause, by, from; or (2) a position that is relatively lower; below, under. The first meaning applies here. Cornelius: See verse 1 above.
having inquired for: Grk. dierōtaō, aor. part., to find by making inquiry. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. the house: Grk. oikia. See verse 6 above. of Simon: the tanner. See verse 5 above. No doubt there was more than one house beside the sea, so the messengers knocked on some doors to find the right house. stood: Grk. ephistēmi, aor., may mean (1) to come or stand near in a non-threatening mode; or (2) come or stand near in a discomfiting or threatening mode. The first meaning applies here. at: Grk. epi, prep. See verse 9 above. the gate: Grk. pulōn an entrance to the forecourt of a building. HELPS says the term denotes 'the passage which led from the street through the front part of the house to the inner court,' closed by a heavy gate at the street. The mention of the gate indicates that the house of Simon the tanner was large.
18 and having called out, they were inquiring "if Simon, the one called Peter, is lodged here."
and: Grk. kai, conj. having called out: Grk. phōneō, aor. part. See verse 7 above. Since the gate was some distance from the house entranced, the Jewish messengers called out loudly to get the attention of someone in the house. they were inquiring: Grk. punthanomai, impf., may mean (1) to inquire, ask; or (2) to learn as a result of inquiry. The first meaning applies here. What follows is a direct quotation, no doubt directed to a household servant or the mistress of the house who answered their summons. Simon the tanner was probably at his work place.
if: Grk. ei, a contingency marker, generally used to introduce a circumstance assumed to be valid for the sake of argument. The conjunction serves as shorthand for "we were wondering if…" Simon: See verse 5 above. the one: Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. called: Grk. epikaleō, aor. See verse 5 above. Peter: See verse 5 above. The messengers knew there were two men named Simon at this house. is lodged: Grk. xenizō, pres. See verse 6 above. here: Grk. enthade, a position relatively near the speaker; lit. 'here.' The fact that the messengers used the Hebrew name of Simon supports the thesis of Jewish identity for the messengers. Gentile messengers would have simply asked, "Is there someone here called Peter?"
19 And Peter pondering about the vision, the Spirit said, "Behold, three men are seeking you.
And: Grk. de, conj. Peter pondering: Grk. enthumeomai, pres. mid. part., meditate upon, reflect upon, ponder. about: Grk. peri, prep. See verse 3 above. the vision: Grk. horama. See verse 3 above. the Spirit: Grk. pneuma, wind, breath or spirit, used generally for the human spirit and transcendent beings (Matt 8:16; Heb 1:14). Here pneuma refers here to the Holy Spirit. said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 3 above. The fact of the Spirit speaking contrasts with the angel who spoke to Cornelius and the unnamed voice that spoke to Peter, whom he assumed to be Yeshua. The voice of the Spirit is primarily reported as the source of inspiration for the Hebrew prophets (2Sam 23:2; Isa 59:12; Acts 1:16; 4:25; 25:28; 2Pet 1:21). The book of Acts also records several times the Spirit inspiring the communication of certain individuals (2:4; 4:8; 6:10; 11:15, 17; 13:9-10).
As here Scripture records occasions when the Holy Spirit spoke directly to individuals: Ezekiel (Ezek 3:24; 11:5), Philip (Acts 8:29), Antioch elders (Acts 13:2), Agabus (Acts 11:28; 21:11) and Paul (Acts 16:6-7; 20:23). In Revelation the Spirit has a message for each of the seven congregations (Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). The biblical narrative raises the question of how these individuals knew that it was the Holy Spirit speaking. How does the Spirit communicate? The certainty of knowledge would have been derived in both the manner and content of the communication. The Spirit may not employ an audible voice, such as Philip would have heard from the angel in verse 26 above. For the Holy Spirit, having taken up residence in a person (John 14:17), the basic method is communicating to the person's spirit (Rom 8:16; 9:1). In other words, the person may hear an inner voice in his mind that he knows is not his own thoughts.
There are three tests that may be applied to any perceived message from the Spirit. First, a message from the Spirit will be consistent with God's will revealed in Scripture (John 16:13). Second, a message from the Spirit can be confirmed by its acceptance by other believers (Acts 13:1-3; 15:28; 20:23). Ask yourself: "if I were to announce my message from the Spirit in the congregation how would people react?" Third, a message from the Holy Spirit has the purpose of fulfilling a spiritual goal or advancing the work of God's kingdom.
Behold: Grk. idou, aor. imp. See verse 17 above. three: Grk. treis, adj., the cardinal number three. men: pl. of Grk. anēr. See verse 1 above. The mention of "three" again represents the fact that the two messengers and soldier could provide a united testimony of the request from Cornelius. The three men were the two Jewish messengers and their Roman bodyguard, but the Spirit did not specify their ethnicity. The three men were very different but they had a common purpose. are seeking: Grk. zēteō, pres. part., may mean (1) be on the search for in order to find someone or something one has difficulty in locating; (2) search for ways to satisfy an interest; (3) have an interest in; or (4) press for. The first meaning applies here. you: Grk. su, pronoun of the second person.
20 But arise, go down and go with them doubting nothing, because I have sent them."
But: Grk. alla, conj., adversative particle used adverbially to convey a different viewpoint for consideration; but, on the other hand. arise: Grk. anistēmi, aor. part. See verse 13 above. The participle has a hortatory function here. The Spirit gives Peter the same command previously given by the voice of the vision. go down: Grk. katabainō, aor. imp., to proceed in a direction that is down; go down, come down, descend. and: Grk. kai, conj. go: Grk. poreuomai, pres. mid. imp., to move from one area to another; depart, go, journey, make one's way, transport, travel. In the LXX poreuomai renders mainly Heb. halak (SH-1980), to go, come, walk, first occurring in Genesis 3:14 (DNTT 3:946). The verb often has the literal sense of going, journeying or traveling (e.g., Gen 12:4), but narrative in the Besekh seldom mentions the physical act of walking.
with: Grk. sun, prep. See verse 2 above. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. doubting: Grk. diakrinō, pres. mid. part., may mean (1) to distinguish between categories; (2) to evaluate as part of decision-making; (3) to dispute or contend with; or (4) to weigh matters intellectually, leading to wavering or hesitation. The fourth meaning primarily applies here, although there could be a nuance of the other meanings. nothing: Grk. mēdeis, adj. (from mē, "not" and heis, "one"), not even one, nothing. The exhortation "doubting nothing" functions as an ominous warning. Peter was not to doubt the message from Cornelius nor the instruction of the Spirit. It is a dangerous thing to grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30).
because: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 14 above. I: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. Some versions insert "Myself," a redundancy, to emphasize that the Spirit and not the Father or the Son, gave the instruction. have sent: Grk. apostellō, perf. See verse 8 above. them: pl. of Grk. autos. The Spirit implies that the angelic visitation was at His direction and He declares categorically that the two Jewish messengers do not act for Cornelius. They act for the Holy Spirit. "Do not even think about messing with them!" And, because they serve the will of the Spirit, they should be shown every hospitality (cf. Heb. 13:2).
21 So Peter having gone down to the men said, "Behold, I am whom you seek; what is the reason on account of which you are here?"
So: Grk. de, conj. Peter having gone down: Grk. katabainō, aor. part. See the previous verse. Peter descended the outside stairway. to: Grk. pros, prep. See verse 3 above. The preposition denotes meeting face-to-face. the men: pl. of Grk. anēr. See verse 1 above. The stairway was apparently close to the front entrance of the house. said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 3 above. Behold: Grk. idou, aor. imp. See verse 17 above. Bible versions are divided between translating the interjection literally or with "here." I: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. am: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 4 above. whom: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 5 above. you seek: Grk. zēteō, pres., 2p-pl. See verse 19 above. what: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun. See verse 4 above. The Spirit did not prohibit Peter from asking a question.
is the reason: Grk. ho aitia, the basis for something; reason or cause. on account of: Grk. dia, prep., used as a prefix to a statement, which may express (1) instrumentality; through, by means of; or (2) causality; on account of, because of. The second usage applies here. Most versions translate the preposition with "for." which: Grk. hos. you are here: Grk. pareimi, pres., 2p-pl., to be present, to be here. The verb may have the sense of the perfect tense "have come." In Greek literature the verb is used to mean to be by or near one, to be present so as to help, stand by (LSJ). In the LXX pareimi translates Heb. qarob, (SH-7138), "near, at hand" (e.g., Deut 32:35), and indicates the proximity of someone.
22 And they said, "Cornelius, a centurion, a righteous man, and one fearing God, also being well spoken of by all the nation of the Judeans, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear words from you."
And: Grk. de, conj. they said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 3 above. The content of the declaration that follows indicates the Jewishness of the messengers. Cornelius, a centurion: See verse 1 above. The description continues with what Peter might consider to be extraordinary claims, but which were intended to motivate his cooperation. a righteous: Grk. dikaios, adj., being in accord with God's standards expressed in Torah for acceptable behavior; upright or just, such as. In the LXX dikaios renders Heb. tsaddiq (SH-6682), 'just or righteous' (BDB 843). In Scripture a just man is one who is blameless or innocent of wrongdoing, one who follows the ethical demands of Torah. The adjective substitutes for "devout" in verse 2 above, and amounts to high praise.
man: Grk. anēr. See verse 1 above. The Jewish messengers have included Cornelius is in a class of persons deemed righteous before God: Noah (Gen 6:9), Job (Job 9:20; Ezek 14:14), Ish‑bosheth (2Sam 4:11), Daniel (Ezek 14:14), Zechariah and Elizabeth (Luke 1:6), Joseph of Nazareth (Matt 1:19), Joseph of Arimathea (Luke 23:50), Lot (2Pet 2:7-8) and Yeshua (Matt 27:19; Acts 3:14; Jas 5:6). There were, of course, many thousands in Bible history who lived faithfully by God's commandments, such as the patriarchs and the prophets, along with faithful Hebrews and Israelites in every age, both those named in Scripture and those unnamed. Yet, for all his righteousness, something was lacking.
and: Grk. kai, conj. fearing God: See verse 2 above. also: Grk. te, conj. used to connect an idea closely to another in a manner that is tighter than with kai; also, both. being well spoken of: Grk. martureō, pres. mid. part., to attest or testify to a fact or truth; here with the focus on rendering approval. Such endorsement was not easily extended by Jews to Gentiles. by: Grk. hupo, pres. See verse 17 above. all: Grk. holos, adj., signifier of a person or thing understood as a complete unit and not necessarily every individual part; all, whole, entire. The messengers probably included themselves in "all," and they had knowledge of the widespread popularity of Cornelius.
the nation: Grk. ethnos, humans belonging to a people group as defined by language and culture; nation, people. In the LXX ethnos generally renders Heb. goy (SH-1471; pl. goyim), "community, nation, people," first in Genesis 10:5 (BDB 156; DNTT 2:790). In the Besekh ethnos may refer to any people distinguished by language and culture (Matt 24:7; Acts 10:35; Rev 5:9), including Israel (Luke 23:2; Acts 24:2, 10; 28:19; 1Cor 10:18; Php 3:5). Some versions translate the noun as "people" (NIV, TLV), but the majority have "nation." The term does not have a political meaning in this context.
of Judeans: pl. of Grk. Ioudaios, genitive case; Jew, Jewish, Jewess or Judean (BAG). Danker notes that the term may be used as an adjective (Judean, Jewish) or a noun (Jew, Judean). Normally Ioudaios denotes traditional Torah-observant Jews. See my note on the term in the previous chapter (9:22). Bible versions are divided between translating the plural noun as "Jews" or "Jewish." The use of the adjective "all" seems to indicate a territorial perspective and not every individual Jew in the world. The claim is certainly hyperbolic and there is no evidence that Peter had previously heard of Cornelius. The messengers might have meant "all the Jewish people in Caesarea." However, the almsgiving of Cornelius could have impacted many Jews in the region of Judea beyond Caesarea.
was directed: Grk. chrēmatizō, aor. pass., to impart a divine command, instruction or message. by: Grk. hupo. a holy: Grk. hagios, adj., set apart for dedication to the interests or expectations of deity. The term is used of sacred things, places, people, angels and God. In the LXX hagios translates Heb. qadôsh (SH-6918), which means separate, sacred, holy. angel: Grk. angelos. See verse 3 above. Angels are referred to as "holy" only a few times in Scripture (Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26; Rev 14:10). Cornelius belongs to another unique group of people in Scripture, those who had received a visitation from an angel (not counting the Angel of ADONAI): Abraham (Gen 18:1, 22), Lot (Gen 19:1), Jacob (Gen 28:12; 31:11; 32:1), Elijah (1Kgs 19:5), Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 4:13), Daniel (Dan 6:22; 9:21), Joseph of Nazareth (Matt 1:20), Zechariah (Luke 1:11), Miriam of Nazareth (Luke 1:26), shepherds of Bethlehem (Luke 2:8-9), and Yeshua (Mark 1:13).
to send for: Grk. metapempō, aor. mid. inf., to formally dispatch for someone's presence; send for, summon. The verb occurs nine times in the Besekh, all in Acts. you: Grk. su, pronoun of the second person. to come to: Grk. eis, prep. The preposition emphasizes entrance. his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. household: Grk. oikos. See verse 2 above. The phrase could also be "into his house" (KJV), which hints at the ethical dilemma to come. and: Grk. kai. to hear: Grk. akouō, aor. inf., to hear, with the focus on willingness to listen or to heed the substance of what is said. In the LXX akouō consistently stands for Heb. shama, which not only means to apprehend, but also to accept and to act upon what has been apprehended (DNTT 2:173).
words: pl. of Grk. rhēma, a communication consisting of words, often with the implication of importance or special significance. In Greek literature rhēma referred to a statement, discourse or explanation. In the LXX rhēma renders Heb. dabar (SH-1697), word, whether a discourse, counsel, or utterance of a sentence. The plural form of the noun alludes to the many words that would make up the single complete message (verses 34-43 below). from: Grk. para, prep. See verse 6 above. you: Grk. su. The phrase "words from you" hints at Peter's subsequent report to the congregation leaders in Jerusalem in which he recounted the promise of the angel to Cornelius, that Peter would "speak words to you in which you will be saved and all of your household" (Acts 11:14).
The words of Peter would be words of eternal life (John 6:58). The messengers may not have been told of this specific promise (cf. verse 8 above), because Peter later indicates his ignorance of what Cornelius desired to hear (verse 29 below).
23 Therefore having invited them he provided lodging. And the next day having arisen he went out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa accompanied him.
Therefore: Grk. oun, an inferential conj., which is used here to indicate a conclusion connected with data immediately preceding, 'so, therefore, consequently, then.' having invited: Grk. eiskaleō, aor. part., invite in as a guest. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. The subject of the verb is left unstated, but Simon the tanner must have been involved in this decision, being the homeowner. them: pl. Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The pronoun refers to the two messengers from Cornelius and their Roman bodyguard. There was no restriction for a Jew to give hospitality to a Gentile. he provided lodging: Grk. xenizō, aor. See verse 6 above. In this case making sleeping arrangements may have been nothing more than a pallet in a common room. And: Grk. de, conj. the next day: Grk. epaurion, adv. See verse 9 above. This is Day 3 of the narrative.
having arisen: Grk. anistēmi, aor. part. See verse 13 above. Arising probably included the activities of attending to bodily needs. he went out: Grk. exerchomai, aor., to move away from a place or position, to go or come out. The verb is appropriate for departing a location. with: Grk. sun, prep. them: pl. of Grk. autos. and: Grk. kai. some: pl. of Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. of the brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos, lit. "of the same womb," and in secular Greek meant a male sibling; brother. In the apostolic narratives adelphos primarily refers to blood siblings or fellow Israelites. In the LXX adelphos renders Heb. ach (SH-251), a male sibling (Gen 4:2; 20:5), a male relative of the same tribe (Gen 13:8; Num 16:10) or the people of Israel (Ex 2:11; 4:18). The plural noun refers here to Jewish members of the Messianic congregation.
from: Grk. apo, prep. used to indicate separation, here denoting point of origin; from. Joppa: See verse 5 above. We first meet members of the congregation of Joppa in the narrative of the healing of Tabitha (Acts 9:38, 41). They probably learned of the visit of the messengers from Cornelius the previous day. accompanied: Grk. sunerchomai, aor., 3p-pl., to come together as a collection of persons. him: Grk. autos. Peter later reported that six brothers went with him to Caesarea (11:12). The reason for these men going with Peter is not immediately explained. He had no need of their company. He had traveled alone in ministry before and he had the instruction of the Holy Spirit to go with the messengers. The later narrative of Luke indicates that these brothers did not have a supportive motive for going with Peter. They were self-appointed religious police to scrutinize Peter's conduct.
Meeting of Peter and Cornelius, 10:24-33
24 And the next day he entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius was expecting them, having called together his relatives and close friends.
And: Grk. de, conj. the next day: Grk. epaurion. See verse 9 above. This is Day 4 of the narrative. The group spent the previous night somewhere while en route (Bruce). he entered: Grk. eiserchomai, aor. See verse 3 above. into: Grk. eis, prep. Caesarea: See verse 1 above. And: Grk. de, conj. Cornelius: See verse 1 above. was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 4 above. expecting: Grk. prosdokaō, pres. part., be on alert for; expect, wait for, look for. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. It's not clear whether Cornelius estimated when his messengers should return with Peter or the information was divinely communicated. having called together: Grk. sugkaleō, aor. mid. part., to call together, to assemble. As a unit commander Cornelius was accustomed to assembling his men for important matters. This was the most important meeting he had ever convened in his life.
his: Grk. autos. relatives: masc. pl. of Grk. ho sungenēs, adj., connected by lineage, relative; either (1) a near relation by blood or marriage (1Macc 10:89; Mark 6:4); or (2) shared tribal or national ancestry (Rom 9:3; 16:7, 11, 21). The first meaning is intended here, but the familial connection is not explained. The term does not include "brothers" (cf. Luke 21:16). In the LXX the term is used of an aunt (Heb. dodah, uncle's wife or father's sister, Lev 18:14; 20:20), clan members (Heb. mishpachah, Lev 25:45; Josh 21:25), and a male kinsman (Heb. ga'al, 1Kgs 16:11). There is no mention of Cornelius having a wife and children. The relatives could have come from Italy for a variety of reasons. The plural adjective is masculine, suggesting at least two men. The narrative implies they were also God-fearers.
and: Grk. kai, conj. close: pl. of Grk. ho anagkaios, adj., necessary, whether physically or relationally, here emphasizing personal bonds; close, intimate. friends: pl. of Grk. philos, in a close relationship with another, as opposed to a casual acquaintanceship; friend. The adjective and noun are both masculine, so male friends are intended. The "close friends," at least two, could have been other God-fearers from the synagogue he attended. They would be men that Cornelius believed would have an interest in Peter's message. According to verse 45 below the friends, like the relatives, were Gentiles.
Cornelius had his relatives and friends standing by to hear Peter's message whenever he should arrive. Since he had been promised that Peter would explain how to have assurance of salvation, Cornelius rightfully wanted such an important message shared with those closest to him. In any event, the military principle of "hurry up and wait" seems to be at work here. It's not hard to imagine Cornelius pacing the floor wondering when the group from Joppa would arrive.
25 Then as Peter came to enter, Cornelius, having met him and having fallen upon the feet, paid homage.
Then: Grk. de, conj. as: Grk. hōs, adv. See verse 7 above. The adverb is used here to express result. Peter: See verse 5 above. came: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse 4 above. to enter: Grk. eiserchomai, aor. inf. See verse 3 above. The entry refers to passing through the gate into the courtyard. Cornelius: See verse 1 above. having met: Grk. sunantaō, aor. part., come upon so as to be face to face with someone at some point without suggestion of previous agreement on location; encounter, meet with. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. and having fallen: Grk. piptō, aor. part., to drop from a relatively high position to a lower position; fall, fall down. The CJB has "prostrate," but the narrative is not describing Cornelius casting himself face down on the floor.
upon: Grk. epi, prep. See verse 9 above. Bible versions render the preposition with "at" to denote proximity to the feet of Peter. the feet: pl. of Grk. pous, the body part that is used for walking or running; the foot. There is no possessive pronoun "his" preceding "feet" as in the majority of versions. I believe the phrase "fell upon the feet" refers to his own feet and idiomatically means that Cornelius knelt on one knee. paid homage: Grk. proskuneō, aor., may mean either (1) to recognize another's prestige by offering special honor, ordinarily through a gesture of kneeling or prostration; do obeisance to, pay homage to, bow down; or (2) to demonstrate honor and adoration to transcendent beings or deity, ordinarily in a religious sense; worship. The first meaning applies here, contrary to most versions assuming the second meaning.
In the LXX proskuneō primarily translates Heb. shachah (SH-7812), to bend down, which is used both of bowing down before men and of worship toward deity (Gen 18:2; 22:5; BDB 1005) (DNTT 2:876). Some versions reject the "worship" interpretation and have "paid homage" (Darby, DLNT, NABRE), "bowed down" (GNB, MW, REV) "fell prostrate" (CJB) or "paid reverence" (NIV, OJB). Cornelius would do this by inclining or bowing his head. The translation of "worshipped" apparently is based on the assumption that Cornelius suddenly engaged in an idolatrous act, abandoning his character traits listed in verse 2 and 22 above. This interpretation couldn't be more wrong. CORNELIUS WAS A GOD-FEARER! He did not worship Peter.
Rather the verb indicates he treated Peter as someone of superior rank. Cornelius did what he would have done if a Legion commander had come to his house. How much more did Peter deserve such respect being a special emissary of God, and in reality, of the King of Israel.
26 But Peter raised him, saying, "Stand up; I myself am also a man."
But: Grk. de, conj. Peter raised: Grk. egeirō, aor., to rise or raise, is used with a variety of meanings: (1) to arouse from sleep, to awake; (2) to arouse from the sleep of death, to recall the dead to life; (3) to cause to rise or raise, from a seat, bed or lower position; or (4) to raise up, produce, cause to appear, such as appear before the public or a judge, or erect a building. The third meaning applies here. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. saying: Grk. legō, pres. part. See verse 3 above. Stand up: Grk. anistēmi, aor. imp. See verse 13 above. I: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. myself: Grk. autos. am: Gr. eimi, pres. See verse 4 above.
also: Grk. kai, conj. a man: Grk. anthrōpos, human being, man or mankind. In the LXX anthrōpos first renders Heb. adam (SH-444), man, mankind (Gen 1:26). Thus, Peter emphasizes that he is a son of Adam just as Cornelius. Stern assumes that Peter misread what Cornelius did as an act of idolatry to be expected from a pagan. Except that Cornelius was not a pagan. On the contrary, Peter understood perfectly what Cornelius was doing and then insisted he was not someone that important to receive homage. This statement reveals the humility of Peter, even though he was the preeminent apostle.
27 And talking with him he entered, and he found many having come together.
And: Grk. kai, conj. talking with: Grk. sunomileō, pres. part., to hold a conversation with someone; talk with. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The initial conversation could have been quite mundane, but the next verse implies that Peter was offering a caveat about his coming to a Gentile household. he entered: Grk. eiserchomai, aor. See verse 3 above. Cornelius and Peter passed from the courtyard into the house with Peter's brethren from Joppa following.
and: Grk. kai. he found: Grk. heuriskō, pres., may mean (1) to come upon a person or thing by seeking; (2) to discover by inquiry, thought, examination, scrutiny, observation, or hearing; or (3) to find for oneself, to acquire, get, obtain, or procure. The second meaning applies here. many: pl. of Grk. polus, adj. See verse 2 above. having come together: Grk. sunerchomai, perf. part., to come together as a collection of persons. Cornelius apparently led Peter to a common room where his relatives and friends had assembled. Seeing all the people probably surprised Peter since he had come to meet with Cornelius.
Also: Grk. te, conj. he was saying: Grk. phēmi, impf., convey one's thinking through verbal communication. HELPS says the verb means to bring to light by asserting one point of view over another; to speak comparatively; say, declare. to: Grk. pros, prep. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. You: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. Some versions insert the redundant "yourselves" to emphasize the plurality of the pronoun. The plural pronoun takes in the entire crowd of relatives, close friends, and the household servants. know: Grk. epistamai, pres. mid., take a position required for something; (1) grasp mentally; understand; or (2) acquire information; know. The second meaning applies here. Peter declares that what he is about to say was common knowledge to his audience.
how: Grk. hōs, adv. See verse 7 above. The adverb functions here to add an explanatory extension of the previous verb. unacceptable: Grk. athemitos, adj., not acceptable based on the prevailing custom, ordinary practice or cultural norm; forbidden, prohibited, unacceptable. Many versions have "unlawful," which is misleading. Peter alludes to a Pharisaic tradition, not a commandment of Torah. it is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 4 above. for a traditional Jewish: Grk. Ioudaios, adj. See verse 22 above. man: Grk. anēr. See verse 1 above. to keep company with: Grk. kollaō, pres. mid. inf., may mean to (1) adhere to, stick to, attach to; or (2) join closely with, or keep company with. The second meaning applies here. or: Grk. ē, conj. involving options and is used as (1) a marker of an alternative, "or;" or (2) a marker indicating comparison; than, rather than. The first meaning applies here.
to approach: Grk. proserchomai, pres. mid. inf., to approach from a point to a person or place; come, go to, approach. a foreigner: Grk. allophulos (from allos, "another" and phulon, "tribe"), of another tribe or people group; foreigner. The term occurs only here in the Besekh. In the LXX allophulos renders Heb. Pelishti (SH-6430), Philistines, first in Judges 3:3 and throughout the Neviim portion of the Tanakh, 234 times, plus one time in the Ketuvim (Ps 56:1). In later Jewish literature the term took on a more general meaning of someone not an Israelite, someone belonging to a neighboring nation (Philo, Embassy to Gaius, XXX.200). Josephus in his writings at the end of the first century used the term in the same sense as Philo (Ant. I, 21:1; Wars V, 5:2). The latter mention in Wars paraphrases the warning sign in the temple forbidding Gentiles to trespass into the inner courts.
Stern suggests that Peter was deliberate in not using "ethnē ("Gentile"), which might be taken as a slur coming from a Jew. However, ethnē was generally used in Greek for foreigners (BAG 217) and is used in the Besekh without any pejorative connotation (e.g., Matt 4:15; Luke 2:32; Acts 26:23; Rom 3:29; 15:10). Also, we should remember that Peter probably spoke in Hebrew and this is Luke's translation. Luke probably intended allophulos as Philo used it and not as it was used in the LXX. He could have used xenos ("foreigner"), which renders Heb. nokri (SH-5237), foreigner, stranger (e.g., Ruth 2:10; Ps 69:8; Eccl 6:2; Lam 5:2). So the choice of the Greek term is intended to reflect Peter's intent, "Jews are not supposed to keep company with people who are different."
After all, it was one thing for a Jew to offer hospitality to a Gentile (the Roman soldier in verse 23 above), but quite another for a Jew to accept Gentile hospitality (Marshall). The roots of this rule lay in the Torah prohibition against making any covenant with, including marriage, or showing any favor toward the pagan peoples of Canaan (Deut 7:1-3; cf. Josh 23:12; Ezra 9:1-2). Moreover, "foreigners" were uncircumcised and thus no foreigner was to share in the fellowship of prescribed festivals (Ex 12:43). The great danger from a religious point of view was syncretism, so the only Gentile a traditional Jew would share table fellowship with was a proselyte.
God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel, the God of the Jews. See verse 2 above. has shown: Grk. deiknumi, aor., may mean to show (1) so as to be observed by another, point out, make known; or (2) or so as to be understood by another, explain, demonstrate. The second usage applies here. to me: Grk. kamoi, personal pronoun, lit. "and me." Peter alludes to his conclusion deduced from the visionary experience and the Spirit's instruction to go with the messengers. not: Grk. mēdeis, adj. (from mē, "not" and heis, "one"), not even one, nothing, none. to call: Grk. legō, pres. inf. See verse 3 above. Here the verb means to call by a name. a man: Grk. anthrōpos. See verse 26 above. The noun could have the broader meaning of "human being" here.
common: Grk. koinos, adj. See verse 14 above. or: Gr. ē. unclean: Grk. akathartos, adj. See verse 14 above. At this time traditional Jews believed that entering the house of a Gentile would make them unclean. The Mishnah specifies that "the dwelling-places of heathens are unclean" (Oholoth 18:7; Tohoroth 7:3). The main problem, of course, was the lack of scruples in food matters (Bruce). Gentiles did not wash their hands before eating (cf. Mark 7:3-4). They ate meat from unclean animals and any meat might have been sacrificed to a pagan deity and would contain blood. A Jew could not expect to be served kosher food in a Gentile household.
Most of the Mishnah tractate Avodah Zarah ("Idol Worship") is devoted to limiting the contacts Jews may have with Gentiles (= idolaters). Most Gentiles were also regarded as "unclean" because they were presumed to engage in idolatry and prohibited sexual behavior, such as adultery, bestiality or prostitution (Deut 23:18; Avodah Zarah 2:1; 22b). Stern notes that according to chapter 2 of Avodah Zarah,
"Jews may not remain alone with Gentiles, leave cattle at their inns, assist them in childbirth, suckle their children, do business with them when they are traveling to idolatrous festivals, drink their milk or vinegar or wine, or eat their bread or oil or pickled vegetables or their cooked food."
At issue here are the traditions that Pharisees claimed to have originated with Moses and regarded as equivalent in authority as the written Torah (Luke 6:2-9; 13:10; Acts 15:1). While Yeshua endorsed and kept traditions acceptable to Pharisees (such as prayer, cf. Matt 23:2-3), he constantly emphasized the written Scriptures as the supreme authority over oral tradition (e.g., Matt 21:13; 22:29; Mark 7:6). Yeshua particularly objected to using a tradition to enable disobedience of core commandments (Matt 15:1-6; 23:14). Moreover, he taught that loving one's neighbor also included loving one's enemies (Matt 5:44). The real revelation to Peter is that not all traditions correctly apply the Torah and may in fact defeat Torah values. The categories of "unclean" in the Torah do not include human ethnicity.
Conversely, Peter does not say that Torah commandments regarding uncleanness had been canceled. There are still practices Jews must observe that do not apply to Gentiles. As Stern notes, this verse proves that the meaning of Peter's vision had nothing to do with abrogating the food laws for Jews. The Torah limits Jews to kosher food (Leviticus 11), slaughtered according to Torah (Deuteronomy 12:21), on which the tithe has been paid (Leviticus 22:15). Christians who think Messianic Jews should eat a ham sandwich to prove their faith need an attitude adjustment.
Another lesson Christians should consider is their choice of food should they wish to invite a Jew (including a Messianic Jew) to their house for a meal or to a restaurant. Paul gives the apostolic rule to avoid giving offense to Jews (1Cor 10:32). Serving non-kosher food to a Jew or eating non-kosher food in front of a Jew is highly insensitive and a sign of arrogance. Yeshua expects that Gentile disciples show respect to his Jewish brethren.
29 Wherefore, indeed, having been summoned, I came without objecting. Therefore I ask for what matter you summoned me."
Wherefore: Grk. dio (from dia, "through," and hos, "which"), inferential conj., therefore, for this reason, on account of which, wherefore. Peter indicates that the revelation described in the previous verse came before he departed Joppa. indeed: Grk. kai, conj., used here intensively. having been summoned: Grk. metapempō, aor. part. See verse 5 above. I came: Grk. erchomai, aor., 'to come or arrive' with focus on a position from which action or movement takes place. without objecting: Grk anantirrētōs, adv., without objecting, without contradiction, without hesitation, i.e., promptly. The word occurs only here in the Besekh. Peter had a willingness to respond to any instruction clearly communicated from the Lord. He may have been perplexed about the message of the vision (verse 17), but he had no hesitation in obeying the Spirit when He said, "Go with them" (verse 20).
Therefore: Grk. oun, conj. See verse 23 above. I ask: Grk. punthanomai, pres. mid. See verse 18 above. for what: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. matter: Grk. logos, vocalized expression, word, discourse, statement, message or speech. In the LXX logos stands principally for Heb. dabar, which has a range of meaning, including "speech, word, report, command, advice, counsel, thing, matter" (Gen 29:13; BDB 182) (DNTT 3:1087). you summoned: Grk. metapempō, aor. me: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. Peter knew Cornelius was expecting to hear "words" (verse 22 above), but the Spirit and the messengers had apparently given no indication as to what subject Peter was to address.
30 And Cornelius was saying, "Four days ago until this hour, I was praying during the ninth hour in my house; and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing,
And: Grk. kai, conj. Cornelius was saying: Grk. phēmi, impf. See verse 28 above. Four: Grk. tetartos, adj., fourth, the fourth part of a whole. days: pl. of Grk. hēmera. See verse 3 above. ago: Grk. apo, prep., lit. "from four days." until: Grk. mechri, adv. expressing a limit, here temporal; as far as, until, even to. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. hour: Grk. hōra. See verse 3 above. Cornelius is counting days forward from the time of the angel's appearance (Metzger 330). He may have said this in a state of awe. His life was about to undergo a major change and it was incredible that it took place in such a short amount of time. He also recognizes the providential nature of the timing of Peter's arrival as occurring in the same hour as when the angel appeared. I was praying: Grk. proseuchomai, pres. mid. part. See verse 2 above.
the ninth hour: Grk. ennatos, adj., i.e., the Jewish minchah (CJB, TLV). See verse 3 above. in: Grk. en, prep. my: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. house: Grk. oikos. See verse 2 above. The mention of "my house" could mean that Cornelius owned the house or merely that he occupied the house. Roman soldiers were generally billeted within towns and his headquarters likely appropriated the house for his use. In modern vernacular people will refer to housing they rent as "my house." and: Grk. kai. behold: Grk. idou, aor. imp. See verse 17 above. a man: Grk. anēr. See verse 1 above. Cornelius does not use the word "angel," but gives a factual statement of his experience. He could tell this was no ordinary man. In Scripture angels have masculine descriptions (Jdg 13:6; Dan 9:21; Mark 16:5; Luke 24:4), contrary to art and media, which sometimes depicts them as female.
stood: Grk. histēmi, aor., may mean (1) cause to be in a place or position; (2) to be in an upright position; (3) to set or place in a balance; (4) fig. to stand ready, to be of a steadfast mind. The second meaning applies here. before: Grk. enōpion, prep. from a word meaning "facing" with the basic idea of being 'in sight of' or 'in the presence of.' me: Grk. egō. Cornelius meant that one moment the "man" was not there and the next moment he was present. in: Grk. en. bright: Grk. lampros, adj., bright and shining, often used to refer to high quality clothing. The word is used here of a brilliant and glistening whiteness. clothing: Grk. esthēs, clothing, raiment, apparel, robe. Bright white clothing is the apparel of those who dwell in heaven, angels and God's people (Luke 24:4; Acts 1:10; Rev 3:5; 4:4; 7:9, 13; 15:6; 19:8, 14).
31 and he said, 'Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God.
Cornelius repeats the substance of the message of the angel in verse 4 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. he said: Grk. phēmi, pres. See verse 28 above. Cornelius: voc. case. See verse 1 above. your: Grk. su, pronoun of the second person. prayer: Grk. proseuchē. See verse 4 above. The singular form of the noun points to a specific prayer, a desire for assurance of salvation. has been heard: Grk. eisakouō, aor. pass., pay attention to something expressed orally; hear, listen to. and: Grk. kai. your: Grk. su. alms: pl. of Grk. eleēmosunē. See verse 2 above. The plural form emphasizes a variety of charitable assistance to Jewish people.
have been remembered: Grk. mimnēskomai, aor. pass., to call something to mind that one has noted or thought about in the past; recollect, remember. In the LXX mimnēskomai generally renders Heb. zakar (SH-2142) with the same meaning (DNTT 3:232). before: Grk. enōpion, prep. See the previous verse. God: See verse 2 above. For the omniscient God to "remember" something denotes paying close attention and taking positive action that benefits someone (cf. Gen 8:1; 19:29; 30:22; Ex 2:24). In particular, prayer and almsgiving done properly merit reward (Matt 6:3-6).
32 Therefore send to Joppa and invite Simon, who is called Peter, to come to you; he lodges in the house of Simon, the tanner by the sea.'
This verse repeats the substance of the instruction of the angel with only a slight change in vocabulary. The following sentence repeats information in verse 5 above. Therefore: Grk. oun, conj. See verse 22 above. send: Grk. pempō, aor. mid. to: Grk. eis, prep. Joppa and: Grk. kai, conj. summon: Grk. metakaleō, aor. mid. imp., call from one place to another; call for, send for, summon. Simon: verse 5 above. This verb is substituted for metapempō, with no essential change in meaning. who: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. is called: Grk. epikaleō, pres. pass. Peter: The name was given to Cornelius to distinguish him from his host.
The following sentence repeats information in verse 6 above. He: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun, lit. "this one." lodges: Grk. xenizō, pres. mid. in: Grk. en, prep. the house: Grk. oikia. of Simon, the tanner: Grk. burseus. by: Grk. para, prep. the sea: Grk. thalassa. Thus, Cornelius demonstrates that his invitation did not happen on a whim nor was it based on any prior knowledge of Peter and his host in Joppa.
33 So I sent to you at once, and you also did well having come. Now, then, we all are present before God to hear all the things you have been commanded by the Lord."
So: Grk. oun, conj. I sent: Grk. pempō, aor. See verse 5 above. to: Grk. pros, prep. you: Grk. su, pronoun of the second person. at once: Grk. exautēs, adv., at once, immediately, without delay. As a soldier Cornelius understood that orders were meant to be quickly obeyed (cf. Matt 8:9), so he obeyed the command of the angel without delay. and: Grk. kai, conj. you: Grk. su. also: Grk. te, conj. did: Grk. poieō, aor. See verse 2 above. well: Grk. kalōs, adv., in an effective manner, often with the focus on meeting expectations; well, effectively, accurately, correctly, appropriately. The adverb serves to compliment Peter's responsiveness. having come: Grk paraginomai, aor. mid. part., to make one's way so as to be present; come, arrive, be present.
Now: Grk. nun, adv. See verse 5 above. then: Grk. oun. we: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 2 above. are present: Grk. pareimi, pres. See verse 21 above. before: Grk. enōpion. See verse 30 above. God: See verse 2 above. to hear: Grk. akouō, aor. inf. See verse 22 above. all: pl. of Grk. pas. the things: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a relative pronoun. you: Grk. su. have been commanded: Grk. prostassō, perf. pass. part., to give an authoritative directive, to enjoin, order or prescribe. by: Grk. hupo, prep., i.e., "under the authority of." the Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 4 above. Cornelius had used the title to address the angel and he may have meant the angel here, or he could have meant the God of Israel, as kurios is used of Him in the LXX. In his direct manner Cornelius means "I know you've been given a message. So please give it."
34 Then having opened his mouth, Peter said: "upon a truth I comprehend that God is not one to show partiality,
Then: Grk. de, conj. having opened: Grk. anoigō, aor. part. See verse 11 above. his mouth: Grk. stoma, (for Heb. peh, mouth) the bodily organ used for speaking, tasting, eating and drinking; mouth. The phrase "having opened his mouth" may seem like an unnecessary statement but it is a Hebrew idiomatic expression used to introduce an important message (cf. Job 3:1; Prov 24:7; Matt 5:2). Peter: See verse 5 above. said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 3 above. It's very likely that Peter spoke in Hebrew, considering his vocabulary, and another translated his words into Greek. This would help account for his later surprise (verse 45 below). Perhaps Luke was an eye-witness to this extraordinary event.
upon: Grk. epi, prep. See verse 9 above. a truth: Grk. alētheia, that which is really so, and may refer to (1) dependability in thought and deed, (2) truth as opposed to what is false, or (3) reality as opposed to mere appearance (BAG). In the LXX alētheia regularly translates the Heb. emet (SH-571), "firmness, faithfulness, truth" (BDB 54; DNTT 3:877). Peter alludes to the combined message of Yeshua (verse 15 above) and the Spirit (verses 19-20 above). I comprehend: Grk. katalambanō, pres. mid., to take over (1) in a physical sense to grasp; seize, secure; or (2) in a sense of mental grasping; perceive, comprehend. The second meaning applies here.
that: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 14 above. Peter then alludes to Deuteronomy 10:17 (cf. 2Chr 19:7). God: See verse 2 above. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 4 above. not: Grk. ou, adv., a particle used in an unqualified denial or negation; not. one to show partiality: Grk. prosōpolēmptēs (from prosōpon, "face," and lambanō, "receive"), one who shows favoritism or partiality, a respecter of persons. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. A related noun prosōpolēmpsia (respect of persons) appears four times (Rom 2:11; Eph 6:9; Col 3:25; Jas 2:1). According to BAG these two nouns are based on the prosōpon lambanein of the LXX (Mal 1:8), which is modeled on the Hebrew concept of impartiality required by Torah jurisprudence (Ex 23:3; Lev 19:15; Deut 1:17; 10:17). Of interest is that these terms are not found in any earlier Greek or Jewish literature, so they must have been coined by one of the apostles to represent the Torah principle.
Gilbert comments that God's quality of judging impartially, regardless of status or wealth (Deut 10:17; Sirach 35:12-13) now extends to ethnic distinctions between Jews and Gentiles (220). God intended that the knowledge of Him was to be shared with the world. He did not intend Israel to hoard this knowledge. Peter had come to understand that the tradition of the Pharisees to avoid houses of Gentiles violated this core principle of impartiality.
35 but in every nation the one fearing Him and working righteousness is accepted by Him.
but: Grk. alla, conj. See verse 20 above. in: Grk. en, prep. every: Grk. pas, adj. See verse 2 above. nation: Grk. ethnos. See verse 22 above. the one fearing: Grk. ho phobeomai, pres. mid. part. See verse 2 above. Him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun, referring back to the mention of God in the previous verse. The messengers had told Peter that Cornelius was a God-fearer (verse 22 above). This character trait derives from the knowledge that all must eventually appear before the God of Israel and be judged by Him. In the present this "fear" is a positive motivator to live according to God's standards (Prov 8:13), which were known from the beginning (Gen 26:5). The Jewish Sages identified the minimum standards (based on Gen 9:1-8) as practicing justice and abstaining from blasphemy, idolatry, immorality, murder, robbery and eating flesh cut from a living animal (Sanhedrin 56a; 74a).
and: Grk. kai, conj. working: Grk. ergazomai, pres. mid. part., to work, be at work, do, carry out, either with (1) the focus on effort itself in the course of activity, or (2) the result of effort. Both of these meanings can have application here. righteousness: Grk. dikaiosunē, a state that is in accord with standards for acceptable or anticipated behavior, uprightness, righteousness, justice. In the LXX dikaiosunē normally renders Heb. tzedaqah (SH-6666), first used in Genesis 15:6 of Abraham's faithfulness being considered as righteousness. The noun is often used to describe the character of God (Ps 5:8; 35:24; Isa 5:16; 42:21; Jer 9:24), as well as the Davidic king, the Messiah (Ps 72:1; Jer 23:5) (DNTT 3:354).
In the Tanakh the concept of tzedaqah refers to right or ethical character and behavior that is in keeping with the covenantal relationship with God. So, righteousness is more relational than legal. The term also carries the sense of salvation (deliverance) and judgment (justice). Righteousness primarily has human relationships as its focus and therefore righteousness strengthens the community. So "working righteousness" is not just abstaining from harmful behavior, but doing good for others. In other words, Peter declares that God welcomes all who do right by their neighbors, just as Cornelius was doing by his Jewish neighbors.
is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 4 above. accepted: Grk. dektos may mean (1) acceptable, as of a time when acceptance takes place; or (2) accepted as of receiving a welcome. In the LXX dektos generally renders Heb. ratsōn, goodwill, favor or acceptable (BDB 953). In the Torah ratsōn is used to refer to the acceptability of the one making a sacrificial offering, namely a priest (Ex 28:38) or the offering itself (an animal without defect or the "first fruits" of harvest) that would make the person's offering acceptable to God (Lev 1:3; 19:5; 22:19, 21; 29; 23:11).
by Him: Grk. autos. Peter swerved into the truth revealed by the angel that the prayers and almsgiving of Cornelius had been accepted by God as a memorial offering. It is important to note that Scripture does not speak of people "accepting" God or Yeshua. People may believe in Yeshua or not believe, but it is God who chooses to accept us (cf. Rom 14:18; 15:7, 16). Peter's conclusion alludes to the provision of the Old Covenant for the Court of the Nations at the temple in which foreigners could offer petitions to the God of Israel (cf. 1Kgs 8:41-43; Isa 56:7; Mark 11:17). Stern says that the Judaism of the rabbis has a comparable teaching that among the nations there are righteous people "who have a share in the world to come" (citing Tosefta Sanhedrin 13:2).
The Tosefta ("supplement") indicates that first century Sages were divided on this matter with some insisting that heathens and their children had no share in the world to come (based on Malachi 4:1 and Psalm 9:17). Other Sages asserted there would be some in the world to come because of the Scripture, "ADONAI preserves the simple" (Ps 116:6) and the ones judged are those who "forget God" (Ps 9:17). The Pharisees generally affirmed the principle of Daniel 12:2 that at the time of the judgment some people would receive everlasting life and others everlasting contempt. In making this judgment God would apply the same standard to Jew and Gentile.
"But the heretics and renegades and traitors and Epicureans, and those who denied the Law, or separated themselves from the ways of the congregation, or denied the resurrection of the dead, and all who sinned and caused the many to sin, like Jeroboam and Ahab, and who set their dead in the land of the living, and stretched out their hands against the Temple, Gehenna is shut up after them, and they are condemned in it for ever." (Tosefta Sanhedrin 13:4)
Some Pharisees believed that God would resurrect a third of those sent to Gehenna and they would afterward serve God, based on Zechariah 13:2 and 1Samuel 2:6. (See Herbert Danby's translation of the Tosefta, pp. 122-124). This belief in a kind of purgatory has no foundation in Scripture. God's judgment after death is final (cf. Luke 16:19-23; Heb 9:27; Rev 20:11-15), because the New Covenant was inaugurated by the atoning death of Yeshua. Peter's declaration means that since Cornelius "worked righteousness" by acts of trust and repentance he was accepted by God and therefore received salvation.
36 The word that He sent to the sons of Israel, proclaiming the good news of peace through Yeshua the Messiah, this one is Lord of all.
The word: Grk. logos. See verse 28 above. that: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 5 above. He sent: Grk. apostellō, aor. See verse 8 above. The subject is God. to the sons: pl. of Grk. huios, a male offspring or descendant, whether by direct birth or by more remote ancestry. In the LXX huios renders Heb. ben (SH-1121, "son," "son of"), which is used in three distinctive ways: (1) to identify direct paternity; (2) to mean not the actual father but a more distant ancestor; or (3) to mean in a broader sense of having the characteristics of.
of Israel: Grk. Israēl, a transliteration of the Heb. Yisrael, which means "God prevails" (BDB 975). The name first appears in Genesis 32:28 where the heavenly being with whom Jacob struggled said, "From now on, you will no longer be called Ya'akov, but Isra'el; because you have shown your strength to both God and men and have prevailed" (CJB). The announcement, occurring before Jacob's reconciliation with his brother Esau, was prophetic because not until three chapters later do we read that the name change was made permanent (Gen 35:9-12). The phrase "sons of Israel" emphasizes covenant identity over sectarian parties that defined first century Judaism.
proclaiming the good news: Grk. euangelizō, pres. mid. part. (from eú, "good, well" and angellō, "announce, herald"), to announce the good message, and is used to mean (1) pass on information that provides good news to the recipient, and (2) spread good news of God's beneficial concern, specifically of a proclamation with focus on God's saving action in connection with Yeshua. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX euangelizō stands for Heb. basar, to publish or bring news or a report, whether good or bad (DNTT 2:108-109).
of peace: Grk. eirēnē, peace, which may refer to either (1) a state of harmony as a result from cessation of hostilities, whether in political or personal relationships; or (2) a state of well-being, a characteristic of the Messianic age and divine favor. In the LXX eirēnē renders Heb. shalom (SH-7965), completeness, soundness, welfare, or peace (BDB 1022). In Jewish culture shalom is never peace in the negative sense, the absence of conflict, but the possession of everything that makes for man's highest good. The biblical word "peace" is primarily relational in scope and does not necessarily depict an emotional state. The "good news of peace" is the promise of having peace with God (cf. Rom 5:1).
through: Grk. dia, prep. See verse 21 above. Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous, a transliteration of the Hebrew name Yeshua ("Jesus" in Christian Bibles). Yeshua is a contraction of the Hebrew name Y’hoshua ("Joshua"), which means "YHVH [the LORD] is salvation" (BDB 221). The meaning of his name is explained to Joseph by an angel of the Lord, "You shall call his name Yeshua, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matt 1:21). By virtue of His incarnation and Jewish mother, Yeshua must still be a Jew. The English rendering of "Jesus" originated with the Mace New Testament in 1729. For more information on the meaning of his name and his titles, see my article Who is Yeshua?
the Messiah: Grk. Christos (from chriō, to anoint), the expected fulfiller of the hopes of Israel for an end-time deliverer, the Messiah. In Greek culture christos had no religious connotation at all and described someone smeared with whitewash, cosmetics or paint (DNTT 2:334). Jewish translators of the LXX chose Christos to render Heb. Mashiach (SH-4899), Anointed One, and in so doing infused new meaning into the Greek word. Mashiach is used in the Tanakh for the Messiah (Ps 2:2; Dan 9:25-26) and this usage defined the term among Jews in the first century. Thus, "Messiah" has special meaning as the hope of Israel, whereas the word "Christ" used by Christians has an alien and even negative meaning to Jews (Stern 1-2). For a discussion of Jewish hope and expectation of the Messiah see my article The Messiah.
The focus of the verb "proclaiming the good news" from its first use in the nativity narratives (Luke 1:19; 2:10-11), next in the message of Yochanan the Immerser (Luke 3:18), and then by Yeshua who proclaimed the good news to the poor (Matt 11:5; Luke 4:18) was the arrival of the Kingdom of God in the person of Yeshua (Mark 1:1). The verb occurs 15 times in Acts (5:42; 8:4, 12, 25, 35, 40; 10:36; 11:20; 13:32; 14:7, 15, 21; 15:35; 16:10; 17:18), always in reference to proclaiming Yeshua as the Messiah of Israel.
this one: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. See verse 6 above. The pronoun is masculine so many versions translate the pronoun with "he." is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 4 above. Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 4 above. of all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 2 above. Yeshua is not only King of Israel (John 1:49). but Lord over all peoples of the earth (cf. Josh 3:13; Mic 4:13; Zech 6:5; Rom 10:12).
37 You know the report having taken place throughout all of Judea, having begun from Galilee, after the immersion which Yochanan proclaimed,
You: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. The pronoun likely addresses the crowd, which included Jews. know: Grk. oida, perf., to have seen or perceived, hence to know. The verb is used for experiential knowledge. In the LXX oida occurs frequently to render Heb. yada (SH-3045), to know, (e.g., Gen 3:5; 4:1), which in most occasions refers to a personal knowledge, primarily by experience but also by learning (DNTT 2:395). Peter implies that people in the crowd had specific knowledge of what he was about to say. the report: Grk. rhēma. See verse 22 above. Peter omits a narrative of the nativity of Yeshua and begins as does Mark in his biographical work. Indeed, Peter's summary of Yeshua's life and ministry also serves as a condensation of Mark.
having taken place: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. part. See verse 4 above. throughout: Grk. kata, prep., the root meaning is "down," but with the adjective and noun following being in the genitive case the meaning is "throughout" (Thayer). all: Grk. holos, adj. See verse 22 above. of Judaea: Grk. Ioudaia (for Heb. Y'hudah), transliterates the Latin provincial name of Iudaea. The territorial name of Ioudaia had two uses. First, Ioudaia referred to the historic territory of Judea that lay between Samaria on the north and Idumea on the south (Matt 2:1; 3:5; 4:25; 24:16; Mark 3:7; 13:14; Luke 2:4; John 4:3, 47, 54; Acts 1:8; 8:1; 9:31). See the map.
Second, Ioudaia referred to the Roman province of Judaea, which comprised Samaria, Judea and Idumea with its capital at Caesarea (Luke 1:5; 23:5; Acts 10:37; 11:1, 29). See the map. Peter probably had the second meaning in mind (especially considering the point of view of Cornelius), since Yeshua's ministry ranged over the entire land from Caesarea Philippi to Jerusalem. In addition, the Prefect of Judaea had authority over the tetrarchies of Antipas and Philip while they existed. By this time those territories were totally under the control of the Roman Prefect.
having begun: Grk. archomai (from archō, to commence, to rule), aor. part., used here to denote the staring point. from: Grk. apo, prep. See verse 23 above. Galilee: Grk. Galilaia, from the Heb. Galil, lit. "circle" or "region." Galilee was the northern part of Israel above the hill country of Ephraim and of Judah and encompassed the areas originally given to the tribes of Naphtali, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, and Dan. To Jews in the first century the Galil included territory on the east side of the Jordan and around the lake ("Galilee," JE). (See the map here.) Peter alludes to the beginning of the public ministry of Yeshua in Galilee where Peter received his appointment as apostle. However, Peter passes over the fact that he had first encountered Yeshua a year earlier in the vicinity of Bethany of Judea (John 1:28, 35-42).
after: Grk. meta, prep. The preposition alludes to a chronological sequence of events. the immersion: Grk. baptisma (from baptizō, to submerge or immerse), ceremonial washing; plunging, dipping, or immersing. Unlike the verb baptizō the noun baptisma does not occur in the LXX or other Jewish sources before the apostolic writings. The corresponding Hebrew noun, coined by the Sages, is tevilah (derived from taval), "complete immersion for purification" (cf. Num 31:23-24). In my view the translation of "immersion" rather than "baptism" is to be preferred as best representing Jewish and apostolic practice. See the Additional Note after verse 48 below.
Ritual washings, as prescribed in Leviticus, occurred on a variety of occasions, including (1) restoring the right to join in worship after a period of illness, menstruation or contact with a dead body (Niddah 29b; 30a); and (2) preparing for Temple ceremonies, including priests and Levites engaged in leading or conducting rituals, as well as pilgrims who came to Jerusalem for the annual feasts (Sanh. 39a; Yoma 88a). In the first century there were many ritual pools that surrounded the Temple area for purification. Excavations of the southern wall of the Temple area have uncovered dozens of mikva'ot. (See pictures at BibleWalks.com.) The Talmud tractate Tohoroth ("Cleansings”) explains the ritual procedures.
which: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. Yochanan: Grk. Iōannēs attempts to transliterate the Heb. Yōchanan ("John" in Christian Bibles) and means "the Lord is gracious," an apt description of the one who would prepare the way of the Messiah (Stern 15). The Greek name ends with a sigma as customary for masculine names. The Mace New Testament (1729) was the first to use the spelling of "John." I use "Yochanan" to distinguish the Immerser from John the apostle. Yochanan was the son of Zechariah, the priest, and Elizabeth, and was a cousin (degree unknown) of Yeshua, born in Hebron just six months before Yeshua (cf. Luke 1:26, 36, 56-57). See my nativity commentary on Luke 1.
The apostolic narratives do not say where Yochanan spent his time from his youth in Hebron to when he appeared as the Immerser. Some scholars believe he spent time with the Essenes before commencing his ministry as Messiah's forerunner ("the word of God came to Yochanan in the wilderness," Luke 3:2), but Scripture and Jewish literature make no mention of any association with the Essenes. Yochanan's public ministry began in the Autumn of AD 26. (See my commentary on John 1:6). Peter's brother Andrew had been a disciple of Yochanan, so Peter had a personal knowledge of Messiah's forerunner (John 1:35, 40).
proclaimed: Grk. kērussō, aor., to make a public announcement in the manner of a herald, to proclaim. Peter alludes to the prophetic teaching of Yochanan that was the hallmark of his ministry (Luke 3:15-17; John 1:19-29, 34-35; 3:28) and the basis for his immersion of repentance. The conduct of Yochanan's ministry introduced a new paradigm and was contrary to what the son of a priest would normally practice. None of the ritual washings signified repentance of sin as Yochanan attached to immersion. In Yochanan's ministry the immersion followed confession of sins for divine mercy, and marked readiness for the coming Kingdom of God and the beginning of a life purified and empowered by the Holy Spirit to produce fruits of repentance (cf. Matt 3:2, 8, 11; Mark 1:4-5; Luke 3:3, 8-16; John 1:6-7).
As a priest Yochanan could have conducted his immersion ministry at a Temple mikveh, but instead he had people come to the Jordan River to immerse themselves in a public demonstration (Matt 3:6; John 1:28). For Yochanan the Jordan served as the most "kosher" mikveh with its continuous flow of fresh water, the most practical from the standpoint of handling large crowds and perhaps the most spiritual for its symbolic value.
38 "Yeshua, the one from Nazareth, how God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and power, who went about doing good and healing all those being oppressed by the devil, because God was with Him.
Yeshua: See verse 36 above. the one: Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. Bible versions leave the article untranslated. from: Grk. apo, prep. Nazareth: Grk. Nazaret, which transliterates the Heb. Natzeret ("watchtower"), the name of a town in Galilee. Nazareth was located about seventy miles northeast of Jerusalem in lower Galilee about halfway between the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean Sea. It lay in the hill country north of the Plain of Esdraelon. The hills formed a natural basin with three sides, but open toward the south. The city was on the slopes of the basin, facing east and southeast. A Roman road from Capernaum westward to the coast passed near Nazareth, over which Roman legions frequently traveled.
The small town does not appear in the Tanakh at all and only came to prominence because of its association with Yeshua. The naming convention of identifying persons by place of origin distinguished them from other persons with the same name. "Yeshua" was not an uncommon name, so this Yeshua is often identified with his hometown (Matt 2:23; 21:11; 26:71; Mark 1:24; 10:47; 14:67; 16:6; Luke 4:34; 18:37; 24:19; John 1:45-46; 18:5, 7; 19:19; Acts 2:22; 3:6; 4:10; 6:14; 22:8; 26:9). Yeshua was also known as "the Galilean" (Matt 26:69).
how: Grk. hōs, adv. See verse 7 above. The adverb functions here to add an explanatory extension to the narrative. God: the God of Israel. See verse 2 above. anointed: Grk. chriō, aor., to anoint in order to consecrate for special service. Israelite kings were crowned and priests were ordained in a ceremony of anointing with olive oil, which invested them with the authority of their positions. Yeshua was not physically anointed as part of his commissioning for ministry, although he was anointed with nard in preparation for his death (Mark. 14:3-8; John 12:3), so in that sense he was physically anointed for his final and greatest ministry. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun.
with the: There is no definite article in the Greek text. Holy: Grk. hagios, adj., set apart for dedication to the interests or expectations of deity. The term is used of sacred things, places, people, angels and God. In the LXX hagios translates Heb. qadôsh (SH-6918), which means separate, sacred, holy. Qadosh is first used of God in Leviticus 11:44. Spirit: Grk. pneuma (for Heb. ruach), wind, breath or spirit; here referring to the Holy Spirit. Pneuma is used for the human spirit and transcendent beings (Matt 8:16; Heb 1:14), particularly the Spirit as God's self-expression (Gen 1:2; Mark 1:10).
In Scripture "holy" is only used as an adjective of "spirit" to refer to the Holy Spirit, a name or face of God. "Holy Spirit" is not the title of a separate being, because God is Spirit (pneuma ho theos, John 4:24), just as God is the Word (John 1:1). The specific name "Holy Spirit" occurs only three times in the Tanakh (Ps 51:11; Isa 63:10, 11) given as Ruach Qodesh. The Holy Spirit is identified by three other forms in the Tanakh (Ruach Elohim, Gen 1:2; Ruach YHVH, Jdg 3:10; and Ruach Adonai YHVH, Isa 61:1). The Hebrew forms never appear with the definite article. Yeshua was anointed with the Spirit in accordance with Isaiah 61:1 after his immersion and before facing his wilderness test (Matt 3:16).
and: Grk. kai, conj. power: Grk. dunamis (from dunamai, "having ability"), the quality or state of inherent power or power residing in a thing or person by virtue of its nature. The verb may mean either (1) the ability to function effectively; power, might; or (2) express the exhibition of a singular capability. The noun is used here specifically of the power to do wondrous things or perform miracles. Peter makes an important clarification about the incarnation. Yeshua, the Son from heaven, had reduced himself in order to be fully human (Php 2:7) and thereby imposed significant limitations on his physical abilities. The Holy Spirit enhanced Yeshua's divine ability to perform signs and wonders.
who: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. went about: Grk. dierchomai, aor., (from dia, "through," and erchomai, "to come or go"), aor., to go through, go about. doing good: Grk. euergeteō, pres. part., to do good, perform kind service. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. and: Grk. kai. healing: Grk. iaomai, pres. mid. part., to effect a physical cure, but occasionally used fig. for emotional or spiritual healing. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a relative pronoun. being oppressed: Grk. katadunasteuō, pres. mid. part., to oppress. The verb conveys the idea of denying someone the higher position or blessing they should enjoy, to treat harshly, or to overpower someone. The oppression was usually manifested by physical harm and emotional torment to the victim, such as paralysis, blindness, deafness, loss of speech, seizures, melancholy, insanity, etc. (cf. Matt 17:15-18; Mark 1:26; 5:1-15; Luke 11:14).
by: Grk. hupo, prep. the devil: Grk. diabolos, adj., slanderer, false accuser. Diabolos occurs 21 times in the LXX to translate the Heb. word satan, "adversary," mostly of the angelic adversary (13 times in Job alone), but also a wicked human opponent (e.g. 1Kgs 11:14, 23, 25). Diabolos occurs 38 times in the Besekh, primarily in reference to Satan (DNTT 3:468f). Scripture presents this super-human person as real, and not a literary fiction. The term is also used of human adversaries, such as Judas (John 6:70), Elymas the magician (Acts 13:10) and slanderers (1Tim 3:11; 2Tim 3:3; Titus 2:3).
The devil (aka "Satan") was created by God in the beginning with all the other angels. Scripture gives no information about the creation of angels, although they must have been created very early in the creation week. Precisely when and how Satan became evil remains a mystery. Hints as to his origin are found in two passages directed initially to the kings of Tyre (Ezek 28:11-17) and Babylon (Isa 14:12-15). These passages indicate that Satan was not created to be an adversary or a deceiver. His sin was pride and in his arrogance he believed he could overthrow God and reign over creation.
In the Tanakh Satan appears most frequently in the book of Job. God's repeated emphasis in Job on His creation of the space-time-matter universe hints that Satan may have come to consciousness in the waters that were formed on the second day. The creation scientist Dr. Henry Morris suggests that "Even though they [the angels] had later observed God create the earth, stars, and living beings [Job 38:4-7], they had not seen him create the universe itself. Thus, Satan may have persuaded himself that God, like the angels, must have simply 'evolved' somehow, out of the eternal primordial chaos" (The Remarkable Record of Job, Baker Book House, 1988; p. 52). Thus, Satan inspired the original evolutionary mythology and its modern "scientific" incarnation that pervades human institutions.
In the Besekh we learn that from the beginning the devil was a liar (in relation to Chavvah, Eve) and a murderer (in relation to Abel) (John 8:44). Satan is the chief opponent of Yeshua and the good news (Mark 4:15), a tempter (Mark 1:13), the ruler of this world (John 12:31; 1Jn 5:19), and the head of a demonic empire (Mark 3:23-26). Satan is the accuser of the brethren (Rev 12:10), going about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1Pet 5:8). The devil is wholly committed to the destruction of all that is good and holy. The phrase oppressed by the devil alludes to the many mentions in the apostolic narratives of people who were afflicted by demons and unclean spirits, who are part of Satan's regime. The devil bears ultimate blame for their torment.
The demon's control over a person is emphasized in various stories by Yeshua's command to "come out" (Mark 1:25; 5:8) or the description of "casting out" (Mark 1:34). The sheer number of such occurrences indicate an invasion of unclean spirits instigated by the devil and coincidental with the incarnation of Messiah. The demonic activity was unprecedented in Israelite history. The Tanakh contains only a few accounts of spirit activity (Job 4:12-18; Jdg 9:23-24; 1Sam 16:14-16, 23; 18:10; 19:9; 1Kgs 22:21-24; 2Chr 18:21-22). All the people Yeshua freed from the power of the devil were victims and random targets, not practitioners of the occult. For the symptoms of extreme demon affliction see my commentary on Mark 5:1-13).
because: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 14 above. God was: Grk. eimi, aor. See verse 4 above. with: Grk. meta, prep. him: Grk. autos. Stern notes that this verse mentions Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The record of the apostolic narratives is that Yeshua overcame the devil in his wilderness testing (Matt 4:10), as well Satan's efforts to derail his atoning ministry (Luke 22:31; John 13:2, 27), and in the lives of people by freeing them from demonic oppression (Mark 1:34).
39 "And we are witnesses of all things that he did both in the region of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom also they killed having hung on a cross.
And: Grk. kai, conj. we: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. Peter does not clarify the plural "we," but apparently the brothers who accompanied him from Joppa had previous personal knowledge of Yeshua. are witnesses: pl. of Grk. martus, one who attests the fact or truth of something, often used in a legal context of who testifies before a legal proceeding regarding first hand knowledge (cf. Matt 18:16; Acts 7:5). of all things: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. that: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. he did: Grk. poieō, aor. See verse 2 above. Peter implies that the six brothers who accompanied him from Joppa were also personal witnesses of the ministry of Yeshua. Since he does not identify them as apostles, then they could have been among the many unnamed disciples who followed Yeshua (John 4:1; 6:66) or even among the seventy Yeshua chose (Luke 10:1).
both: Grk. te, conj. See verse 22 above. in: Grk. en, prep. the region: Grk. chōra may refer to (1) a stretch of territory as contrasted with owned property or open country contrasted with city, region, area; or (2) an area under a proprietor, landed property or fields. The first meaning applies here. Some versions have "countryside" which emphasizes the rural area (CJB, HNV, NEB, NJB, OJB, TLV). However, the term chōra refers to an area that includes towns and villages surrounding the metropolis (Thayer). Many versions have "country." of the Jews: pl. of Grk. Ioudaios. See verse 22 above. Some versions translate the plural noun as singular with "Judean" (CSB, CJB, HCSB, MW, Phillips, TLV) or "Judea" (CEB, HNV, NCV, NET, NLT, NRSV). Peter alludes to the Jewish focus of Yeshua's ministry (Matt 10:6; 15:24), the fact that Yeshua did not enter any Hellenistic city (cf. Matt 10:5), and his ministry included areas outside of Judea.
and: Grk. kai. in: Grk. en. Jerusalem: Grk. Ierousalēm, a transliteration of Heb. Yerushalaim ("the dwelling of peace"). The city is situated some 2500 feet above sea level and eighteen miles west of the northern end of the Dead Sea, is renowned as the capital of all Israel. Jerusalem was the center of Jewish religion with its beautiful temple and jurisprudence with the presence of the Jewish supreme court. More importantly, Jerusalem is the city God favors above all other cities of the earth and the focus of His covenantal faithfulness (Ps 135:21; 147:2; Ezek 5:5; Zech 2:8). The city figured prominently in Messianic expectation (Isa 59:20; 62:11; Zech 9:9). Jerusalem is the "city of the great king" (Matt 5:35). It was the city in which Yeshua spent considerable time and where he concluded his ministry before his death.
whom: Grk. hos. also: Grk. kai. they killed: Grk. anaireō, aor., 3p-pl., remove by causing death; take away the life of, make an end of, murder, kill. Some versions have "people killed" (GW, NOG, VOICE). The third person plural form probably alludes to the Judean authorities of whom Peter had charged with the death of Yeshua four times previously (Acts 2:23; 3:15; 4:10; 5:30), as well as Pilate and the Roman soldiers acting on his orders, of which Cornelius probably knew. On those prior occasions Peter used two other verbs for putting Yeshua to death: (1) in 3:15, he used apokteinō, to kill; (2) and in 5:30, he used diacheirizō, to lay violent hands on; slay, kill.
having hung: Grk. kremannumi, aor. part., to hang, hang up or suspend. The verb occurs seven times in the Besekh, four of which pertain to execution (Luke 23:39; Acts 5:30; Gal 3:13). Hanging was one of the four approved methods of capital punishment among the Jews (Sanh. 7:1). In 2:23 Peter used the verb prospēgnumi, "nail to a cross," and in 4:10 he used stauroō, "crucify." on: Grk. epi, prep. a cross: Grk. xulon, a product of a fibrous plant, a growing tree, but also anything made of wood; including (1) firewood, timber for building, (2) a wooden furnishing, table or a bench, (3) a weapon, such as a club or a staff; (4) an instrument of punishment, such as stocks, a wooden collar, a gallows or a stake on which a criminal was impaled, a gibbet or the cross-bar of a crucifixion stake (LSJ). The fourth meaning applies here.
In the LXX xulon translates Heb. ets (SH-6086), tree, first in Genesis 1:11. Speaking in Hebrew Peter would have said ets, probably an allusion to Deuteronomy 21:22–23,
"And if a man has committed a sin deserving of death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his corpse shall not pass the night on the tree, but surely you shall bury him that day, for he who is hanged is accursed of God, and so that you not defile the land, which ADONAI your God is giving you as an inheritance." (BR).
The Hebrew word ets is used of botanical trees from which individuals were hung as punishment (Gen 40:22; Josh 8:29; 10:26; 2Sam 21:6-9), as well as a gallows on which someone was hung (Esth 2:23; 7:9-10; 9:25). The LXX renders ets in those passages with xulon. Death was by strangulation. Xulon occurs 20 times in the Besekh, five of which refer to the implement of Yeshua's execution, three times by Peter (Acts 5:30; 10:39; 1Pet 2:24) and twice by Paul (Acts 13:29; Gal 3:13). The usual word for "cross" is stauros (Luke 23:26), so the use of xulon is probably meant to emphasize that Yeshua bore the curse as a sin offering for mankind.
Many versions translate xulon here with "cross," but more have "tree," which can be misleading. Peter obviously did not mean a botanical tree, for which there is another Greek word (dendron). The CJB has "stake." Indeed, Stern uniformly uses "stake" or "execution-stake" in place of "cross" in his Complete Jewish Bible. He explained his translation decision by saying that for centuries Jews were put to death under the sign of the cross by persons claiming to be followers of the Jewish Messiah. Therefore the cross symbolizes persecution of Jews. He says, "As a Messianic Jew, still feeling the pain on behalf of my people, I do not have it in me to represent my New Testament faith by a cross" (41).
Stern's rationale for "stake" is understandable from a Jewish point of view, but we must interpret not just what Peter said, but what he meant, considering the fact that he was addressing a Roman soldier and Roman soldiers carried out the crucifixion of Yeshua. Moreover, for the apostles the execution of Yeshua on a Roman cross came to represent the power of God for salvation (1Cor 1:18) and reconciliation between God and man (Eph 2:16). The cross of Messiah accomplished atonement (Col 2:14; 1Pet 2:24).
40 "This one God resurrected on the third day and granted him to become visible,
This one: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun; i.e., Yeshua. God: Grk. ho theos, the God of Israel. See verse 2 above. Peter had previously said that the "God of our fathers" (Acts 5:30), but he simplified the term for his Gentile audience. resurrected: Grk. egeirō, aor. See verse 26 above. The verb is used here in the sense of restoring to life from death. Peter used this verb for the resurrection of Yeshua on three prior occasions (Acts 3:15; 4:10; 5:30). Peter makes the point, as he had before, that Yeshua did not resurrect himself (cf. Acts 2:24, 32; 3:15, 26; 4:10). The common translation of "raised up" may be misleading. Peter did not imply that Yeshua was raised up from Hades as declared in the Apostles' Creed. (For this claim see my article Is the Apostles' Creed Apostolic?) Yeshua went directly to heaven upon his death (Luke 23:43, 46).
To say "raised up" is appropriate to describe people in Scripture previously brought back to life after death (cf. Heb 11:43-44), such as the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:14-15), and Lazarus (John 11:43-44). There were some key differences between their experience of being "raised" and the resurrection of Yeshua: (1) none of them were brought back from Paradise; (2) none of those people received an incorruptible body. They were still liable to physical weakness, suffering, pain or disease; and (3) all of those people eventually died again. I prefer "resurrected" in reference to Yeshua to emphasize the transformation of his dead body into an immortal body with his spirit returned from Paradise as first fruits of our future resurrection (1Cor 15:20-23).
on: Grk. epi, prep. the third: Grk. ho tritos, ordinal number (from treis, "three"), third in a sequence. day: Grk. hēmera. See verse 3 above. Yeshua himself had predicted that he would be resurrected on the third day (Matt 16:21; 17:23; 20:19). By Jewish reckoning part of a day counted as a whole. After all, the first mention of "day" in the Bible is for a period of light (Gen 1:5). The manner of counting days inclusively is mentioned in Hosea where it says, "after two days He will revive us, on the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His presence" (Hos 6:1-3 CJB). Then Yeshua mentioned the third day in a sequence when he said, "today and tomorrow, and the third day I reach my goal." (Luke 13:32). Noteworthy is the fact that Isaac and Jonah were delivered from death on the third day (Gen 22:1-5; Jon 1:13-17; 2:10).
Yeshua obviously did not spend 72 hours in a tomb. The third day is not actually counted from the time of crucifixion on Friday. Yeshua stated the timeline as beginning with "being delivered into the hands of the chief priests" (Mark 9:31). The "third day" of Yeshua's resurrection was the first day of the week (Sunday), which began at sundown the previous evening. The apostolic narratives indicate that at least by the fourth watch (3—6 a.m.) Yeshua's body was given life by the Father and he disappeared from the tomb (Mark 16:2; John 20:1). So counting backwards, the second day of the sequence began Friday evening after his burial and the first day began Thursday evening during the last supper which Judas departed to complete his betrayal of Yeshua to the chief priests (John 13:21-30).
and: Grk. kai, conj. granted: Grk. didōmi, aor., generally to give something to someone, often with the focus on generosity. Here the verb has the meaning of allow, grant or permit (Mounce). In the LXX didōmi generally renders Heb. natan (SH-5414, first in Gen 1:29), to give, put or set, with the same range of meaning (DNTT 2:41). him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. to become: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. inf. See verse 4 above. visible: Grk. emphanēs, readily perceptible, obvious to the sight, visible. This testimony emphasizes that the resurrected Yeshua was not a ghost (cf. Luke 24:36-40; John 20:24-29). This gracious act of the Father was for the sake of the followers of Yeshua.
41 not to all the people, but to witnesses having been chosen beforehand by God, to us who ate with and drank with him after resurrecting him from death.
not: Grk. ou, adv. to all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 2 above. the people: Grk. laos, a group of humans, understood geographically or ethnically, and often in the apostolic narratives people groups associated with the God of Israel. Here and elsewhere in Scripture laos is viewed in contrast with the ruling class. The term corresponds to the Heb. am-ha'aretz, "people of the land," i.e., the people of Israel. but: Grk. alla, conj. See verse 20 above. to witnesses: pl. of Grk. martus. See verse 39 above. having been chosen beforehand: Grk. procheirotoneō (from pro, "before" and xeironteneō, "stretch out the hand"), aor. part., to choose or appoint beforehand. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh.
by: Grk. hupo, prep., under the authority of. God: the God of Israel. See verse 2 above. to us: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. Peter probably does not include any of the brothers who accompanied him from Joppa in "us." With the following qualification he at the very least alludes to the Eleven apostles, plus a few others. who: pl. of Grk. hostis, relative pronoun used as a generalizing reference to the subject of a verb, 'anyone,' or 'whoever.' ate with: Grk. sunesthiō, aor., 1p-pl., to share a meal with, to eat with. and: Grk. kai, conj. drank with: Grk. sumpinō, aor., 1p-pl., to drink with, especially in the context of a meal. Wine was a customary drink at Jewish meals. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun; a reference to Yeshua.
after: Grk. meta, prep. resurrecting: Grk. anistēmi, aor. inf. See verse 13 above. This verb is often used of restoration to life from death (Matt 12:41; Mark 9:9-10; 12:23, 25; Luke 16:31; 24:46; John 6:40; 20:9; Acts 13:34; 17:3, 31; Eph 5:14). The verb signifies that the dead body of Yeshua was transformed into an immortal body with his spirit returned from heaven and enabled to assume an erect position so that he could leave the tomb. him: Grk. autos. from: Grk. ek, prep. death: Grk. nekros may be used as (1) a noun, corpse or (2) adj., without life in the physical sense, being dead. The term, of course, applies to Yeshua's body not his spirit. The common translation of "raising him from the dead" may be misleading.
Peter does not mean "from a place," implying that Yeshua was raised from Hades as declared in the Apostles' Creed. (For this unbiblical claim see my article Is the Apostles' Creed Apostolic?) When Yeshua died on the cross his spirit went to Paradise (Matt 27:50; Luke 23:43, 46; John 19:30; cf. Ps 16:10). Peter means "death" as a state of Yeshua's body in the tomb. Several versions render nekros here as "death" (CEV, ERV, GNB, ICB, NMB, WE). Unlike previously resurrected people who had to die again, Yeshua was given victory over death so that he could never die again. Peter makes the point, which is uniformly and consistently declared in the Besekh, that God resurrected Yeshua from the state of being dead (Acts 2:32; Rom 4:24-25; 1Cor 6:14; 2Cor 4:14; Gal 1:1; Eph 1:20; Col 2:12; 1Th 1:10; 2Tim 2:8; 1Pet 1:21).
Bruce says that Luke is the only writer to mention Yeshua eating with his disciples after his resurrection (Luke 24:30, 41-43), but John records a meal that Yeshua shared with his disciples in Galilee (John 21:12-13). During the forty days a considerable number of people saw the risen Messiah (cf. 1Cor 15:6), but it is unknown how many shared a meal with him.
Additional Note: The Evidence of a Few
An objection by Pinchas Lapide, an Orthodox Jewish scholar, to accepting Yeshua as Messiah based on his resurrection is that he was not seen by all the Jewish people, but only by relatively few witnesses (Stern 260). In contrast, Lapide points out that the entire nation of Israel saw God descend on Mount Sinai (Ex 19:11) and consequently said, "We will do and we will hear" (Ex 24:7). Lapide overlooks the fact that those Israelites did not manifest true faith, since they turned away from God to idolatry. Their profession of obedience did not produce it. Yeshua makes this point in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.
The rich man in Hades implores father Abraham to send someone to his five brothers to warn them about the place of torment. Abraham replied that the brothers have Moses and the Prophets, so they should heed Scripture. But the rich man said, "but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!" Abraham then replied, "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead" (Luke 16:27-29). Stern comments that God's choice to reveal the risen Yeshua to only a small number does not excuse disbelief, because the evidence is sufficiently weighty to convince a reasonable and open-minded person. Any claim that the resurrection of Yeshua was a fabrication (Matt 27:62-65) or a delusion is implicitly denied.
See my web article The Mystery of the Resurrection.
42 "And he directed us to proclaim to the people, and to earnestly testify that this is the One having been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead.
And: Grk. kai, conj. he directed: Grk. parangellō, aor., to give authoritative direction; order, instruct, direct. In the Besekh the verb is used of a wide variety of instructions, often practical or ethical. In the LXX parangellō renders Heb. shama (SH-8085), to hear, and meaning to cause to hear, assemble, proclaim, or summon (DNTT 1:340). It is used of the authoritative proclamations of leaders, generals and kings (Josh 6:7; Jdg 4:10; 1Sam 10:17; 15:4; 23:8; 1Kgs 15:22; 2Chr 36:22; 1Macc 5:58; 2Macc 13:10). us: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. The pronoun refers back to the previous verse and the ones who ate and drank with Yeshua between his resurrection and ascension. to proclaim: Grk. kērussō, aor. inf. See verse 37 above. to the people: Grk. laos. See the previous verse.
and: Grk. kai. to earnestly testify: Grk. diamarturomai (from dia, "thoroughly" and marturomai, "witness, testify"), aor. inf., an emphatic declaration establishing the importance of what is stated, giving full, clear testimony. The middle voice emphasizes witnessing done with a high level of strong personal interest motivating it (HELPS). In the LXX diamarturomai occurs 30 times and renders mainly Heb. ha-êd (SH-5749), repeat, bear witness, testify or warn, used especially of Moses testifying to or warning Israel regarding God's instruction (Ex 19:21, 23; 21:29; Deut 4:26; 8:19; 30:19; 31:28) and later of the admonishment of the prophets (Neh 9:26, 29-30, 34).
that: Grk. hoti, conj. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. See verse 6 above. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 4 above. the One: Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. having been appointed: Grk. horizō, perf. pass. part., establish a boundary or framework through deliberate decision for an event, activity or thing; determine, appoint, ordain. by: Grk. hupo, prep. God: the God of Israel. See verse 2 above. as Judge: Grk. kritēs, judge, generally in reference to an official office of one presiding over a court. The term here refers to Yeshua, to whom the Father has delegated the authority to judge (John 5:22, 30; Rom 2:16; 2Cor 5:10; 2Tim 4:1).
of living: Grk. zaō, pres. part., be in the state of being alive; living. and: Grk. kai. dead: Grk. nekros. See the previous verse. The phrase "living and dead" is a Hebraic idiomatic expression that occurs several times in Scripture (Num 16:48; Ruth 2:20; Rom 14:9; 2Tim 4:1; 1Pet 4:5), which encompasses the entirety of the human population since creation. Peter had already said that Yeshua is Lord of all (verse 36 above), and now he declares that Yeshua will be the judge at the last day (Matt 25:31; John 12:48; 2Cor 5:10), of those alive at his coming and those resurrected from death (cf. 1Th 4:15; 1Cor 15:51). Peter will later apply this idiomatic expression in his letter to those who are spiritually alive and those spiritually dead (1Pet 4:6).
To this one: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. the prophets: pl. of Heb. prophētēs, one who is gifted with the ability for interpretation or revelation transcending normal insight or awareness, i.e., a prophet. In ancient Greek culture the word-group always had a religious meaning and referred to one who predicts or tells beforehand (DNTT 3:76). In the LXX prophētēs renders Heb. nabi (SH-5030), spokesman, speaker, or prophet; first in Genesis 20:7. In Scripture a prophet is one who spoke on God's behalf, whether in foretelling or forth-telling. The Hebrew prophets were a diverse group with different personalities, vocations and manner of ministry, but they all spoke for God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2Pet 1:21). The literary works of the prophets in the Tanakh are authoritative Scripture (Matt 5:17-19; Luke 24:44-45; 2Tim 3:16-17).
testify: Grk. martureō, pres., 3p-pl. See verse 22 above. The present tense emphasizes the continuing inspiration and authority of the prophets. The phrase "all the prophets testify" is not intended to distinguish a specific portion of the Tanakh as Jews organized the Hebrew Bible into Torah, Prophets and Writings, but simply point to those men to whom God revealed Messianic prophecy, including the patriarchs, Moses and David. The prophets spoke with a single voice. In other words, there is no contradiction between the various prophets on the subject of the Messiah.
that through: Grk. dia, prep. His: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. name: Grk. onoma. See verse 1 above. everyone: Grk. pas. trusting: Grk. pisteuō, pres. part. (derived from pistis, trust, faithfulness), to have confidence in the reliability or trustworthiness of some thing or someone. In the Besekh the verb often has the sense of a personal trust in God's power and His nearness to help. In the LXX pisteuō renders Heb. aman (SH-539), to be reliable, to stand firm, trust, believe, be faithful, first used in Genesis 15:6 where it describes Abraham's response to God. in: Grk. eis, prep., lit. "into." him: Grk. autos. The prepositional phrase "into him" emphasizes entrance into a relationship.
receives: Grk. lambanō, aor. inf. The verb marks the transit of something from a position to another person who is the agent with the latter being also the receptor; to take or receive. forgiveness: Grk. aphesis, a 'letting go,' a term frequently used of canceled penal liabilities or indebtedness. Thus by extension aphesis means forgiveness (of) or release (from). In the LXX aphesis occurs about 50 times, 22 of which occur in Leviticus 25 and 27 for Heb. yobel (SH-3104), designation of the 50th year on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). In the fiftieth year all lands were to be restored to the original owners, and men were to return to their families and clans. The latter provision included giving Hebrew slaves their freedom.
Next aphesis occurs for Heb. shemittah (SH-8059), a letting drop, a remitting, used in reference to the cancellation of loans in the year of jubilee (Deut 15:1-9). The law established the principle that since God shows mercy to His people on Yom Kippur by releasing them from the judgment of sin, they were expected to show the same mercy on others at the same time. The requirements of the Jubilee year are a graphic illustration of the freedom that comes from forgiveness. Only once does aphesis appear without Hebrew equivalent and that referring to the release of the scapegoat into the wilderness to complete the atonement on Yom Kippur for the people (LXX Lev 16:26). The scapegoat figuratively carried all the transgressions of the people away from them, an acted out parable of cleansing (Lev 16:30).
of sins: pl. of Grk. hamartia, which may refer to (1) a behavioral action, a misdeed that creates liability, every departure from the way of righteousness; (2) the result of sinning or the condition of being sinful; or (3) an invasive evil power. Hamartia is the dominant word for sin in the Besekh. While in Greek culture hamartia could mean an ordinary mistake resulting from ignorance, Scripture usage has a more serious focus. In the LXX hamartia translates a range of Hebrew words for guilt and sin, particularly Heb. chata (SH-2398), miss, go wrong, lapse, sin (Gen 20:6; 39:9) and avon (SH-5771), iniquity, guilt, punishment for iniquity (Gen 15:16). Throughout Scripture sin as a behavior is a violation of God's written commandments (Rom 3:20; 5:13; 7:7).
The degree of intentionality is not a factor in defining sinful behavior, only whether the express requirements or prohibitions of Torah commandments have been violated. Indeed, the Torah recognizes that a transgression could be unintentional (Heb. shegagah, SH-7684), sin of error or inadvertence (Lev 4:1-3, 27-28; 5:18; Num 15:22-29). Nevertheless, atonement was still required. In Scripture hamartia does not include the imperfections of "falling short of the glory" (Rom 3:23). In the immediate context Peter makes it clear that salvation is personal as well as national and forgiveness wipes away all past sins from God's record of offenses.
The prophets do affirm that God is willing to extend forgiveness. Peter could have any number of passages in mind.
"Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a costly cornerstone, a firm foundation; whoever trusts will not flee in haste" (Isa 28:16 TLV). The LXX translates "flee in haste" with a verb that means "be put to shame." Peter quotes this verse in his first letter (1Pet 2:6).
"And it shall come to pass that whoever, anyone, calls on the name of ADONAI will be saved" (Joel 2:32 BR). Peter quoted this passage in his Pentecost sermon (Acts 2:21).
Isaiah 53 begins with "who has believed (i.e., trusted) our report" and then describes the suffering servant who will bear the sins of the many and his sacrifice will be the ground for the Father's forgiveness. Peter quotes from Isaiah 53 in his first letter (1Pet 2:22, 24).
We also read in the book of Jonah how the Ninevites "believed in the God of Israel" and received mercy (Jon 3:5, 10). We should note that from the point of view of the prophets the "trusting" must be manifested by confession and repentance in order to secure God's forgiveness (cf. Ex 34:7; 1Kgs 8:35-36; 2Chr 7:14; Ps 86:5; Jer 31:34; 36:3; Ezek 18:21-23; Rom 10:9-13).
Manifestation of the Holy Spirit, 10:44-48
44 Peter still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit rushed upon all those hearing the message.
Peter: See verse 5 above. still: Grk. eti, adv. used to either express (1) continuance of an action or circumstance, still; or (2) express addition; yet; here the former. speaking: Grk. laleō, pres. part. See verse 7 above. these: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. words: pl. of Grk. rhēma. See verse 22 above. The phrase "these words" refers to the content of verses 34-43. Luke does not mean that there was more to Peter's sermon than was recorded. the Holy Spirit: See verse 38 above. rushed: Grk. epipiptō (derived from epi, "upon," and piptō, "fall or cast"), aor., come upon with sudden movement; fall upon, rush or press upon. The verb is used literally of a close physical embrace (Luke 15:20; Acts 20:10, 37). Metaphorically the verb means to seize or to take possession of (Thayer).
The majority of versions translate the verb as "fell," but some have "came" (EHV, GW, MSG, NEB, NJB, NIRV, NIV, NLV, WE), which seems to deprive the verb of its dramatic intent. Some versions give the impression of the Spirit falling from a height (e.g., "came down," CSB, ERV, GNB, HCSB, ICB, NCV), but the Holy Spirit is omnipresent (Gen 6:3; Ps 139:7-10; Isa 63:11; Jer 23:23-24; Hag 2:5). The translation of "rushed" connects the experience of those receiving the Holy Spirit on this occasion with those on Pentecost, based on Peter's analysis in the next verse. The CEV captures the sense with "took control." In the LXX epipiptō occurs first in Genesis 14:15 to translate a Hebrew construction that depicts Abraham and his company falling upon the enemy armies that had attacked Sodom where Lot lived.
The verb epipiptō is also used to translate Heb. naphal (SH-5307), to fall or lie, which depicts being overwhelmed, first of Abraham being overwhelmed by a deep sleep just prior to receiving a visionary revelation (Gen 15:12). The Hebrew verb is used to describe the Spirit coming upon Ezekiel (Ezek 11:5). The verb epipiptō is used previously in Acts of the visitation of the Holy Spirit upon the Samaritans (Acts 8:16-17). upon: Grk. epi, prep. The preposition might seem like a redundancy considering the etymology of the verb, but epi emphasizes contact building on the verbal idea and naturally looks to the effects of such contact (HELPS). The verbal phrase "rushed upon" would be comparable to verbs used previously to describe an extraordinary experience with the Holy Spirit: "come upon" (Acts 1:8), "immerse" (Acts 1:5), "filled" (Acts 2:4; 4:8) and "received" (Acts 2:38; 8:17).
all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a relative pronoun. hearing: Grk. akouō, pres. part. See verse 22 above. the message: Grk. logos. See verse 29 above. None of those gathered in the house of Cornelius were exempted from receipt of the Holy Spirit. Their hearts were as one. All of them responded to the exhortation of Peter with acceptance of its truthfulness and relevance to their spiritual need. They met the condition Peter expressed in his Pentecost that sincere repentance qualifies a person for receiving the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). The description also implies that those who came with Peter received a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit.
45 and the believers from the Circumcision, as many as accompanied Peter, were amazed, that even upon the Gentiles the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out.
and: Grk. kai, conj. the believers: pl. of Grk. pistos, adj., may mean (1) characterized by constancy and therefore worthy of trust; or (2) believing or trusting with commitment. Both meanings can have application here, but the second would be primary. from: Grk. ek, prep., lit. "out of." See verse 1 above. the Circumcision: Grk. peritomē, the surgical removal of male foreskin. In the LXX peritomē occurs only two times: in Genesis 17:13 without Heb. equivalent regarding the circumcision of males in Abraham's household, and in Exodus 4:25 to render Heb. mulah, circumcision, regarding the circumcision of Moses' firstborn son. The requirement of circumcision was included as an important element of the covenant with Israel (Lev 12:3).
Many versions translate the noun with the adjective "circumcised" (AMP, CEB, CSB, EHV, GW, ISV, NABRE, NASB, NET, NIV, NRSV, NTE, RSV, TLV), which is misleading since traditional Jews and Messianic Jews were all circumcised. Other versions make the same mistake translating the noun with the adjective "Jewish" (ERV, EXB, GNB, ICB, NCV, NEB, NIRV, NJB, NLT, NLV, TPT). In this context the noun "the Circumcision" as denoted by the preposition "from," refers to a Messianic faction whose members were Pharisees, as Luke explains later (Acts 15:1, 5). Paul also uses the term with this meaning (Rom 4:12; 15:8; Gal 2:12; Col 3:11; 4:11; Titus 1:10).
Stern observes that this faction would have consisted of saved Jews who, in their former life as non-Messianic Jews, considered "God-fearers" (as Cornelius) to be fence-straddlers that ought to convert to Judaism. Faith in Yeshua would not have made them change their opinion, because the possibility that Gentiles could be members of the Messianic Community without becoming Jews had never arisen. The theology of the Circumcision faction affirmed these four principles:
(1) Yeshua is the Messiah and King of Israel;
(2) There is no salvation outside Israel (Gen 35:11; Isa 42:6; Sanhedrin 11:1);
(3) Israelite and Gentile are subject to one law (Ex 12:48); and
(4) Ritual circumcision (Brit Milah) is the sign of the covenant people (Gen 17:11).
Therefore, a Gentile believer must become a full proselyte to receive the benefit of salvation. Becoming a proselyte required immersion and Brit Milah (Yeb. 22a; 46a). It's important to note that in the Besekh "circumcision" refers to the religious ritual attributed to Moses (Acts 15:1), not just the surgery. See my article The Circumcision Controversy.
as many as: Grk. hosos, correlative pronoun signifying maximum inclusion; how much, how great, how many. The majority of versions translate the pronoun simply with "who," but a few versions render it literally with "as many as" (KJV, NKJV, WEB, YLT). accompanied: Grk. sunerchomai, aor. See verse 23 above. Peter: See verse 5 above. Luke emphasizes that each of the six brethren who accompanied Peter from Joppa had the following reaction, because they were members of the Circumcision Party. were amazed: Grk. existēmi, aor., 3p-pl., expresses the idea of causing or undergoing a psychological change outside normal expectation. In this context the verb means to make a profound impression on by astonishing, to be amazed. We should note that Peter was not amazed based on his revelation. Moreover on Pentecost he had quoted the prophecy of Joel that God would pour out His Spirit on all flesh (Acts 2:17).
that: Grk. hoti, conj. even: Grk. kai. upon: Grk. epi, prep. the Gentiles: Grk. ta ethnē (from ethnos). See verse 22 above. While ethnos is used in Scripture to include Israelite or Jewish people, the specific construction ta ethnē, like ha-goyim in the Tanakh, is used to mean Gentiles, whether those not worshipping the true God (Matt 6:32; Acts 4:25; 22:21; 1Cor 1:23; Gal 2:9; Rev 11:18; 14:8), or those fearing the God of Israel as Cornelius (Acts 13:48; 15:7; Rom 2:14). The Circumcision Party was shaken by the realization that God would actually share His Spirit with uncircumcised Gentiles. They apparently did not consider that the Spirit was with people in the primeval era before circumcision was mandated (cf. Gen 4:26; 5:24; 6:3, 9).
the gift: Grk. dōrea, gift or bounty with the focus on liberality. BAG identifies dōrea as a loanword in rabbinic literature. The word occurs frequently in late Jewish literature, but in the canonical books always in the adverbial form dōrean (gift, gratis, without payment) and corresponds in meaning to the Heb. term chinnam, "for nothing without payment, or without recompense," (Gen 29:15; Ex 21:2, 11; Num 11:5, 2Sam 24:24; Jer 22:13) (DNTT 2:41). A "gift" is the opposite of wages, since it cannot be earned. We should note that "gift" is singular. of the Holy Spirit: See verse 38 above. The "gift of the Holy Spirit" is the Holy Spirit, not one of the many gifts found in the lists of Paul (Rom 12; 1Cor 12).
had been poured out: Grk. ekcheō, perf. pass., cause to come out in a stream, pour out. The verb has a variety of literal applications, but is used here metaphorically of the Holy Spirit. In the LXX ekcheō normally renders Heb. shaphak (SH-8210), an equally general word for pour, used in the physical sense of things, first in relation to shedding blood in murder (Gen 9:6; 37:22), second of discharging semen (Gen 38:9), third of pouring out water (Ex 4:9; 30:18), and fourth in relation to purification rites, particularly occasions of pouring out blood of sacrifices at the base of the altar (Ex 29:12; Lev 4:7).
The verb may allude to Yeshua's declaration on the last day of Sukkot, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink! The one believing in me, just as the Scripture said, from within him will flow rivers of living water" (John 7:37-38 BR). By "living water" Yeshua meant the Holy Spirit, whom believers were to receive (John 7:39). Peter will later explain that the Holy Spirit was poured out to accomplish purification of the heart (Acts 15:8-9).
46 For they were hearing them speaking languages and exalting God. Then Peter answered,
For: Grk. gar, conj., a contraction of ge ("yet") and ara ("then"), and in a broad sense means "certainly it follows that; for." The conjunction has four uses: (1) explanatory, (2) expressive of astonishment, (3) causal and, (4) inferential. The first use is intended here. they were hearing: Grk. akouō, impf., 3p-pl. See verse 22 above. The verb refers to members of the Circumcision Party. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The pronoun refers to Cornelius and his gathered friends and relatives. speaking: Grk. laleō, pres. part. See verse 7 above. The verb combined with the previous verse implies Spirit-inspired speech such as occurred on Pentecost (Acts 2:4-6).
languages: pl. of Grk. glōssa normally refers either to the anatomical organ of the tongue or a distinctive language system. The term is used here of a distinctive language system of a people group (cf. Isa 45:23; 66:18; Dan 3:4; Jdth 3:8; Acts 2:4, 11; Php 2:11; Rev 5:9; 7:9; 10:11; 11:9; 13:7; 14:6; 17:15). In the LXX glōssa primarily translates Heb. lashōn (SH-3956), the organ of the tongue and human language, first occurring in Genesis 10:5 for the languages of different nations (DNTT 3:1078f). Glōssa also translates Heb. saphah (SH-8193), lip, speech or language, first occurring in Genesis 11:7 of the one language of the earth. Many versions have the misleading translation of "tongues" (e.g., CJB, ESV, KJV, NASB, NEB, NIV, NKJV, RSV, TLV), but others versions have "languages" (CEB, CEV, EHV, ERV, GW, HCSB, HNV, ICB, ISV, MSG, MW, NOG, NCV, NIRV, TPT, WEB, WE).
The phrase may seem unnecessary since no one can speak without using a language. However, the implication is that the Spirit enabled these Gentiles to speak in languages they did not normally use, probably Aramaic and Hebrew. We should note that Luke is NOT describing glossolalia, which is practiced in some modern congregations. Glossolalia is broken speech experienced in religious ecstasy, consisting of continuous repetition of "words" with no discernible structure or grammar and not intelligible to bystanders. Glossolalia is generally practiced in a manner that disobeys the commands of Yeshua (Matt 6:7) and the apostle Paul (1Cor 14:27-28). See my web article Speaking in Tongues.
and: Grk. kai, conj. exalting: Grk. megalunō, pres. part., may mean (1) enlarge, either in size or amount; or (2) cause to gain recognition, aggrandize, celebrate, glorify, magnify. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX megalunō renders Heb. gadal (SH-1431), become great, and is used of boasting about or declaring the greatness of God (2Sam 7:22, 26; Ps 35:27; 40:17; 69:30; 70:4; 92:5; 104:1). God: See verse 2 above. The verb implies comprehension of what was heard, thus the "languages" were not "unknown" or foreign to the group from Joppa. The speech exalting God is comparable to the content of the speech on Pentecost that glorified "the mighty deeds of God" (Acts 2:11). The description may also hint at a fulfillment of prophecies that the Messianic ruler from Bethlehem will be magnified to the ends of the earth (Mic 5:4) and the name of ADONAI will be magnified beyond the border of Israel (Mal 1:5).
Then: Grk. tote, temporal adv. that focuses on a time or circumstance that is closely associated with what precedes in the narrative; at that time, then, thereupon. Peter: See verse 5 above. answered: Grk. apokrinomai, aor., to answer or reply to someone, whether to a question, request, exhortation, command, etc. (BAG). In the LXX apokrinomai renders Heb. anah (SH-6030), to answer or respond to something said in conversation (Gen 18:27); to respond to an occasion and speak in view of circumstances (Dan 2:15) or to respond as a witness in a legal proceeding (1Sam 12:3) (BDB 772). The verb may imply that someone in the group from Joppa asked Peter a question or they were discussing a question among themselves, which is hinted at in Peter's response in the next verse.
47 "Can this be? Is anyone able to forbid these the water, not to immerse whoever received the Holy Spirit just as also we?"
Can this be: Grk. mēti, interrogative particle used in questions containing a strong component of considering any answer other than the negative quite incredulous. Is anyone: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. able: Grk. dunamai, pres. mid. See verse 38 above. to forbid: Grk. kōluō, aor. inf., to stop someone from doing something; forbid, hinder, prevent. these: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. the water: Grk. hudōr, water as a physical element, here referring to a body of water, probably a stream. not: Grk. mē, adv. See verse 15 above. to immerse: Grk. baptizō, aor. pass. inf., to dip, soak, or immerse into a liquid. See the note on immersion in verse 37 above. In the LXX baptizō translates Heb. taval (SH-2881), to dip, immerse, but only in 2Kings 5:14 (re: Naaman). Baptizō also occurs in Sirach 34:25; and Judith 12:7. These three passages report incidents of self-immersion in water (DNTT 1:144). Christian versions translate the verb as "baptize."
whoever: pl. of Grk. hostis, relative pronoun. See verse 41 above. received: Grk. lambanō, aor. See verse 43 above. the Holy Spirit: See verse 38 above. just as: Grk. hōs, adv. See verse 11 above. also: Grk. kai, conj. we: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. Peter's response is a friendly rebuke and he goes on to say that the Gentiles had the same experience as the disciples on the day of Pentecost, although there was no miraculous wind or fire present. Two points of similarity can be noted. First, Cornelius and company were divinely empowered to speak in languages they normally did not use, which means the languages could be understood (Acts 2:6-8). Second, the Spirit purified their hearts (Acts 15:8-9).
Stern comments that had Peter and his fellow Jews not personally seen the Gentiles having the same experience of the Holy Spirit as they had on Pentecost, they would not have immersed them. "It took a supernatural act of God to dislodge their resistance to bringing Gentiles into the Body of the Messiah, accomplished and symbolized by immersion. Cornelius and his friends were the first full Gentiles to enter the Messianic Community without becoming Jews first." However, I don't believe this is the best conclusion to draw from Peter's rhetorical question.
Unlike his brethren from Joppa Peter had the commission directly from Yeshua to make disciples of all nations and immerse them (Matt 28:19). Moreover, he had the revelation from Yeshua and the Spirit concerning the inclusion of the Gentiles. These brothers of the Circumcision sect might have discussed whether the filling of the Holy Spirit negated the importance of water immersion, but more likely is that according to their theology the Gentiles would have to be circumcised before they could be immersed. So, they were prepared to forbid these Gentiles from immersing until they had satisfied the covenantal requirement. Yet they failed to consider that Yeshua had given no instruction about circumcision of Gentiles.
48 So he commanded them to be immersed in the name of Yeshua the Messiah. Then they asked him to stay for some days.
So: Grk. de, conj. he commanded: Grk. prostassō, aor., to give an authoritative directive; command, enjoin, order or prescribe. Bible versions are divided between translating the verb as "commanded" and "ordered." A few versions have "directed." The point of the verb is to illustrate Peter exercising his apostolic authority. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. to be immersed: Grk. baptizō, aor. pass. inf. See the previous verse and the Additional Note below. in: Grk. en, prep. the name: Grk. onoma. See verse 1 above. of Yeshua the Messiah: See verse 36 above. Mentioning the name of Yeshua does not refer to a ceremonial declaration as occurs in Christian baptism. The phrase "in the name" could mean "by the authority of."
Peter had declared the salvation procedure in his Pentecost sermon, first repent, second be immersed and then after forgiveness the penitent will receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). For Cornelius and his friends God had made receiving the Holy Spirit as the second step. Based on both the example and teaching of Yeshua, water immersion is an important step of discipleship. Peter will later give special emphasis to the importance of water immersion in his first letter (1Pet 3:21). Peter's command alludes to the fact that immersion is required by Yeshua by virtue of the Great Commission, so it will be done. He will not permit any dispute over the issue.
Then: Grk. tote, adv. See verse 46 above. they asked: Grk. erōtaō, aor., can mean (1) to ask with the focus on querying for information; or (2) to ask in the sense of making a request, frequently with the effort to soften the tone for what might sound peremptory. The second meaning applies here. him: Grk. autos. to stay: Grk. epimenō, aor. inf., may mean (1) persist in a local position; remain, stay; or (2) continue a state or activity; continued, persist. The second meaning applies here. for some: pl. of Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. days: pl. of Grk. hēmera. See verse 3 above. The time reference is probably an understatement as Peter would likely want to stay long enough to fulfill an important requirement of the Great Commission, that of "making disciples." Unlike narratives that record numbers of Jews who believed in Yeshua as Savior, Messiah and Lord, no narrative gives numbers of Gentile followers.
Additional Note: Immersion in the Apostolic Era
My translation of "immersed" and "immersion" is intended to reflect the singular practice of Jews and disciples of Yeshua in the first century. The deficiency of "baptized" and "baptism" in Christian Bible versions is that the Christian reader automatically interprets the terms according to the doctrine and practice of his/her church. In Christianity baptism is regarded as a sacrament, which historically has been defined as a sacred rite to confer grace, although in modern times many Evangelicals view the rite as signifying grace previously received. Neither Yeshua nor the apostles ever described the immersion of penitents as a "sacrament," even though it has a righteous goal (cf. Matt 3:15; Mark 1:4; Acts 22:16; Rom 6:3-5; 1Pet 3:21).
The Christian practice of baptism since the church fathers may be by sprinkling, pouring or immersion. A member of the clergy must conduct the baptismal ceremony and either pours or sprinkles water on the candidate or physically assists the candidate under the water. Also, since the second century the Christian practice of baptism pronounces the words "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" in the baptismal ritual (Didache, Chapter 7). We should note that the supposed ritual words found in Matthew 28:19 never appear thereafter in the apostolic writings. Given the global scope of the Great Commission the literal translation "into (Grk. eis) the name of" would represent entering a relationship with the triune God of Israel, submitting to His authority, and renouncing the idolatry of this world.
In Acts new believers are immersed simply "in/into the name of Yeshua," which signifies both the basis for immersion (obedience to the Great Commission), and the entry into a new life as a disciple of Yeshua (Acts 2:38; 8:12, 16; 10:48; 19:4; cf. Rom 6:3). The apostles, being Jews, followed Jewish practice, which itself was based on Torah instruction. Four important elements characterized Jewish immersion.
● Immersion was conducted in a constructed pool or natural body of water deep enough that by squatting one was fully submerged. (The later allowance of the Didache for three pourings recognized that a pool or "living water" might not always be available.)
● Immersion was self-immersion, as in the story of Naaman. No one touched the one immersing and no one needed to assist the penitent under the water for it to be valid. Typically an apostle and/or other servants of Yeshua were present as witnesses to the immersion.
● Immersion was gender-specific. That is, men were not present when women immersed and vice versa for the sake of modesty. Moreover, no Jewish man would put his hands on a woman who was not his wife.
● Immersion was not performed by individuals under bar/bat mitzvah age when a boy or girl became fully accountable to the Torah. In the apostolic narratives only those who repented, i.e. adults, immersed themselves.
These four elements are still followed in Judaism. For more information on the practice of immersion in the apostolic era see Ron Moseley, The Jewish Background of Christian Baptism.
ABP: The Apostolic Bible Polyglot. ed. Charles Van der Pool. Apostolic Press, 2006. An interlinear of the Septuagint with English translation. Online.
Ant.: Flavius Josephus (c. 37–100 A.D.), Antiquities of the Jews (Latin Antiquitates Judaicae). trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
BAG: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
Barclay: William Barclay, Daily Bible Studies. Rev. ed. 16 vols. The Westminster Press, 1976.
BBMS: Henry Morris, Biblical Basis for Modern Science. Baker Book House, 1984.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981.
Bruce: F.F. Bruce, The Book of Acts. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1954.
Clarke: Adam Clarke (1762–1832), Commentary on the Holy Bible. 6 vols. J. Emory and B. Waugh, 1831. Online.
Danker: Frederick William Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. The University of Chicago Press, 2009.
DM: H.E. Dana & Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. The Macmillan Co., 1955.
Danby: Tractate Sanhedrin: Mishnah And Tosefta. Trans. Herbert Danby. The Macmillan Company, 1919. Digital Copy, 2004.
Davies: W.D. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism: Some Rabbinic Elements in Pauline Theology. rev. ed. Harper Torchbooks, 1967.
DNTT: Colin Brown, ed., Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 Vols. Zondervan Pub. House, 1975.
Gill: John Gill (1697-1771), Exposition of the Entire Bible. Online.
Gloag: Paton James Gloag (1823-1906), A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on The Acts of the Apostles, T&T Clark, 1870. Online.
GNT: The Greek New Testament, eds. Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Bruce M. Metzger, & Allen Wiegren. American Bible Society, 1966. [NA25]
HELPS: Gleason L. Archer and Gary Hill, eds., The Discovery Bible New Testament: HELPS Word Studies. Moody Press, 1987, 2011. (Online at BibleHub.com)
Jastrow: Marcus Jastrow, Dictionary of Targumim, Talmud and Midrashic Literature. G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1903, 1926. Online.
JE: Jewish Encyclopedia, Funk and Wagnalls, 1906. 12 vols., gen. ed. Isidore Singer. Website HTML, 2002-2011. Online.
Levine: Lee I. Levine, The Jewish Community at Caesarea in Late Antiquity in Robert Lindley Vann, ed., "Caesarea Papers," Journal of Roman Archaeology, Supplementary Series, no. 5 (1992); presented by Bernard D. Cooperman, The Jew and the City: History 286/Jewish Studies 275/Study Questions. University of Maryland, 2009. Online.
Liberman: Joel Liberman, The Acts of the Emissaries: Practical Sermons on the Spirit-filled Birth & Explosive Grown of Messianic Judaism. Tree of Life, Inc., 2014.
Longenecker: Richard N. Longenecker, Acts. Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 9. Software version 2.6. Zondervan Corp., 1989-1999.
LSJ: Henry George Liddell (1811-1898) and Robert Scott (1811-1887), A Greek-English Lexicon. rev. ed. Sir Henry Stuart Jones. Clarendon Press, 1940. Online.
Marshall: I. Howard Marshall, Acts. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. InterVarsity Press, 1980.
Metzger: Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. 2nd ed. United Bible Societies, 1994.
Moseley: Ron Moseley, Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church. Lederer Books, 1996.
Mounce: William D. Mounce, Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament. 2011. Online.
MW-Notes: Daniel Gruber, The Messianic Writings. Elijah Publishing, 2011. Annotations by the author.
OCB: The Oxford Companion to the Bible. ed. Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan. Oxford University Press, 1993.
Rienecker: Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament. 2 Vol. Zondervan Pub. House, 1980.
Schurer: Emil Schurer, A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ. 4 vols. trans. Peter Christie. T&T Clark, 1885. Online.
Shapira: Rabbi Itzhak Shapira, The Return of the Kosher Pig: The Divine Messiah in Jewish Thought. Lederer Books, 2013.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
Thayer: Joseph Henry Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Harper Brothers, 1889.
Wenham: G.J. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1979.
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