Easton's Bible Dictionary
A centurion whose history is narrated in Acts 10 . He
was a "devout man," and like the centurion of Capernaum, believed in the God of
Israel. His residence at Caesrea probably brought him into contact with Jews who
communicated to him their expectations regarding the Messiah; and thus he was
prepared to welcome the message Peter brought him. He became the first fruit of
the Gentile world to Christ. He and his family were baptized and admitted into
the Christian church ( Acts 10:1 , 10:44 - 48 ). (See CENTURION
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
of a horn
Smith's Bible Dictionary
(of a horn), A Roman centurion of the Italian cohort
stationed in Caesarea, ( Acts 10:1 ) etc., a man full of good works and alms-deeds.
With his household he was baptized by St. Peter, and thus Cornelius became the
firstfruits of the Gentile world to Christ.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
kor-ne'-li-us (Kornelios, "of a horn"):
The story of Cornelius is given in Acts 10:1 - 11:18.
1. His Family and Station:
The name is Roman and belonged to distinguished families in the imperial city,
such as the Scipios and Sulla. Thus he was probably an Italian of Roman blood.
Julian the Apostate reckons him as one of the few persons of distinction who became
a Christian. He was evidently a man of importance in Caesarea and well known to
the Jews (Acts 10:22). He was a centurion in the Italian cohort. To understand
this we must note that the Roman army was divided into two broad divisions, the
legions and the auxiliary forces. See ARMY, ROMAN.
Legions were never permanently quartered in Palestine until the great war which
ended in the destruction of Jerusalem, 70 AD. From the year 6 AD, when Palestine
was made into province of the second rank, until 66 AD, it was garrisoned by auxiliary
troops recruited amongst the Samaritans and Syrian Greeks. The headquarters were
naturally at Caesarea, the residence of the procurator. But it would not have
been prudent for a garrison in Palestine to be composed wholly of troops locally
recruited. Therefore the Roman government mingled with the garrison 600 soldiers,
free Italian volunteers. With this cohort Cornelius was connected as centurion.
2. His Character:
He is described as devout and God-fearing, i.e. at least,
one of those men so numerous in that effete age of decadent heathenism who, discontented
with polytheism, yearned for a better faith, embraced, therefore, the monotheism
of the Jews, read the Scriptures, and practiced more or less of the Jewish rites.
He was well reported of by the Jews, and his religion showed itself in prayer
at the regular hours, and in alms to the people (of Israel). Even Jewish bigotry
was dumb in presence of so noble a man. Moreover, he seems to have made his house
a sort of church, for his kinsfolk and friends were in sympathy with him, and
among the soldiers who closely attended him were some devout ones (Acts 10:1 ,
3. His Admission into the Christian Church:
The story of his conversion and admission into the Christian church is told with
some minuteness in Acts 10. Nothing further is known of Cornelius, though one
tradition asserts that he founded the church in Caesarea, and another legend that
he became the bishop of Scamandros.
4. Significance of the Incident:
The exact importance of the incident depends upon the
position of Cornelius before it occurred. Certainly he was not a proselyte of
the sanctuary, circumcised, under the law, a member of the Jewish communion. This
is abundantly evident from Acts 10:28 , 34 , 45 ; 11:3 , 18 ; 15:7 , 14. But was
he not an inferior form of proselyte, later called "proselytes of the gate"? This
question has been much debated and is still under discussion. Ramsay (St. Paul
the Traveler, 43) says that the expression, "God-fearing," applied to him, is
always used in Acts with reference to this kind of proselytes. Such were bound
to observe certain regulations of purity, probably those, this author thinks,
mentioned in Acts 15:29, and which stand in close relation to the principles laid
down in Leviticus 17 - 18 for the conduct of strangers dwelling among Israel.
Renan, on the other hand, denies that Cornelius was a proselyte at all, but simply
a devout Gentile who adopted some of the Jewish ideas and religious customs which
did not involve a special profession. The importance of the whole transaction
to the development of the church seems to depend on the circumstance that Cornelius
was probably not a proselyte at all. Thus we regard Cornelius as literally the
first-fruits of the Gentiles. The step here taken by Peter was therefore one of
tremendous importance to the whole development of the church. The significance
of the incident consists exactly in this, that under Divine direction, the first
Gentile, not at all belonging to the old theocracy, becomes a Spirit-filled Christian,
entering through the front door of the Christian church without first going through
the narrow gate of Judaism. The incident settled forever the great, fundamental
question as to the relations of Jew and Gentile in the church. The difficulties
in the way of the complete triumph of Peter's view of the equality of Jews and
Gentiles in the Kingdom of Christ were enormous. It would have been indeed little
short of miraculous if the multitude of Christian Pharisees had not raised the
question again and again. Did they not dog Paul's steps after the Council? Certainly
Ramsay is wrong in saying that the case of Cornelius was passed over or condoned
as exceptional, for it was used as a precedent by both Peter and James (Acts 15:7
As for Peter's subsequent conduct at Antioch, no one who knows Peter need be surprised
at it. The very accusation that Paul hurled at him was that for the moment he
was carried into inconsistency with his principles (hupokrisis). Of course, this
incident of Cornelius was only the first step in a long development; but the principle
was forever settled. The rest in due time and proper order was sure to follow.
By this tremendous innovation it was settled that Christianity was to be freed
from the swaddling bands of Judaism and that the Christian church was not to be
an appendix to the synagogue. The noble character of Cornelius was just fitted
to abate, as far as possible, the prejudices of the Jewish Christians against
what must have seemed to them a dangerous, if not awful, innovation.
G. H. Trever
baptized by peter, bible commentary, bible history, bible reference, bible study, caesrea, centurion, cornelius, define, first fruit, first (gentile) christian, roman