Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. XI:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
A Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles: Homily XXII on Acts x. 1-4.
Acts X. 1-4
“There was a certain man in Cæsarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway. He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius. And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.”
This man is not a Jew, nor of those under the Law, but he had already forestalled our manner of life. 522 Observe, thus far, two persons, both of high rank, receiving the faith, the eunuch at Gaza and this man; and the pains taken on behalf of these men. But do not imagine that this was because of their high rank: God forbid! it was because of their piety. For that the Scripture mentions their dignified stations, is to show the greatness of their piety; since it is more wonderful when a person being in a position of wealth and power is such as these were. What makes the praise of the former is, his undertaking so long a journey, and this when there was no (festival) season to require it, 523 and his reading on his road, and while riding in his chariot, and his beseeching Philip, and numberless other points: and the great praise of the latter is, that he makes alms and prayers, and is a just man, holding such a command. The reason why the writer describes the man so fully, is, that none may say that the Scripture history relates falsehoods: “Cornelius,” he says, “a centurion of the band called the Italian band.” (Acts 10.1.) A “band,” σπεἵρα, is what we now call a “numerous.” 524 “A devout man,” he says, “and one that feared God with all his house” (Acts 10.2): that you may not imagine that it is because of his high station that these things are done.—When Paul was to be brought over, there is no angel, but the Lord Himself: and He does not send him to some great one, but to a very ordinary person: 525 but here, on the contrary, He brings the chief Apostle (to these Gentiles), not sends them to him: herein condescending to their weakness, and knowing how such persons need to be treated. As indeed on many occasions we find Christ Himself hasting (to such), as being more infirm. Or (it may be) because (Cornelius) was not able himself to leave his home. But here again is a high commendation of alms, just as was there given by means of Tabitha. “A devout man,” it says, “and one that feared God with all his house.” Let us hear this, whoever of us neglect them of our own house, whereas this man was careful of his soldiers also. “And that gave alms,” it says, “to all the people.” Both his doctrines and his life were right. “He saw in a vision evidently, about the ninth hour of the day, an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius.” (Acts 10.3.) Why does he see the angel? This also was in order to the full assurance of Peter, or rather, not of him, but of the others, the weaker ones. “At the ninth hour,” when he was released from his cares and was at quiet, when he was engaged in prayers and compunction. “And when he looked on him, he was afraid.” (Acts 10.4.) Observe how what the angel speaks he does not speak immediately, but first rouses and elevates his mind. At the sight, there was fear, but a fear in moderation, just so far as served to fix his attention. Then also the words relieved him of his fear. The fear roused him: the praise mitigated what was unpleasant in the fear. “Thy prayers,” saith he, “and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter.” (Acts 10.5.) Lest they should come to a different person, he designates the man not only by his surname, but by the place. “And the same,” saith he, “is lodging with one Simon a tanner, who hath his house by the seaside.” (Acts 10.6.) Do you mark how the Apostles, for love of solitude and quiet, affected the retired quarters of the cities? “With one Simon a tanner:” how then if it chanced that there was another? Behold, there is another token, his dwelling by the seaside. All three tokens could not possibly coincide (elsewhere). He does not tell him for what purpose, that he may not take off the intense desire, but he leaves him to an eager and longing expectation of what he shall hear. “And 526 when the Angel which spake unto Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually; and when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa.” (Acts 10:7, 8.) Do you see, that it is not without purpose that the writer says this? (it shows) that those also “who waited on him continually” were such as he. “And when he had declared the whole matter unto them:” observe the unassuming character of the man: for he does not say, Call Peter to me: but, in order also to induce him to come, he declared the whole matter:—this was so ordered by Providence;—for he did not choose to use the authority of his rank to fetch Peter to him; therefore “he declared the matter;” such was the moderation of the man: and yet no great notion was to be formed of one lodging with a tanner. “And on the morrow, as they journeyed, and drew nigh to the city” (Acts 10.9.)—observe how the Spirit connects the times: no sooner than this, and no later, He Causes this to take place—“Peter about the sixth hour went up upon the housetop to pray:” that is, privately and quietly, as in an upper chamber. “And he became very hungry, and would have eaten; but while they made ready, there fell upon him a trance.” (Acts 10.10.) What means this expression, 527 ἔκστασις, “trance?” Rather, there was presented to him a kind of spiritual view (θεωρία): the soul, so to say, was caused to be out of the body (ἐξέστη). “And saw heaven opened, and, knit at the four corners, a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet, and let down to the earth: wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.” (Acts 10.11-16.) What is this? It is a symbol of the whole world. The 528 man was uncircumcised: and —for he had nothing in common with the Jews—they would all accuse him as a transgressor: “thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them: (Acts 11.3)” this 529 was a thing altogether offensive to them: observe then what is providentially managed. He himself also says, “I have never eaten:” not being himself afraid—far be the thought from us—but it is so contrived by the Spirit, in order that he may have it to say in answer to those accusing him, that he did object: for it was altogether necessary for them to observe the Law. He was in the act of being sent to the Gentiles: therefore that these also may not accuse him, see how many things are contrived (by the Providence of God). For, that it may not seem to be a mere fancy, “this was done thrice. I 530 said,” saith he, “Not so, Lord, for I have never eaten aught common or unclean.—And the voice came unto him, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.” (Acts 11:8, Acts 10:14.) It seems indeed to be spoken to him, but the whole is meant for the Jews. For if the teacher is rebuked, much more these. 531 The earth then, this is what the linen sheet denotes, and the wild beasts in it, are they of the Gentiles, and the command, “Kill and eat,” denotes that he must go to them also; and that this thing is thrice done, denotes baptism. “What God hath cleansed,” saith it, “call not thou common.” Great daring! Wherefore 532 did he object? That none may say that God was proving him, as in the case of Abraham, this is why he says, “Not so, Lord,” etc. not gainsaying—just as to Philip also He said, “How many loaves have ye?” Not to learn, but tempting, or “proving him.” 533 And yet it was the same (Lord) that had discoursed above (in the Law) concerning things clean and unclean. But in that sheet were also “all the four-footed beasts of the earth:” the clean with the unclean. And 534 for all this, he knew not what it meant. “Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made enquiry for Simons house, and stood before the gate, and called, and asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there. But while Peter,” it says, “doubted in himself” (Acts 10:17, 18), the men come at the right moment to solve his doubt: just as (the Lord) suffered Joseph first to be perturbed in mind, and then sends the Angel: for the soul with ease accepts the solution, when it has first been in perplexity. His perplexity neither lasts long (when it did occur), nor (did it occur) before this, but just at the moment when they “asked whether he were lodging there. While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee. Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.” (supra, p. 142, and 145, note 7; Acts 10:19, 20.) And this again is a plea for Peter in answer to the disciples, that he did doubt, and was instructed to doubt nothing. “For I,” saith He, “have sent them.” Great is the authority of the Spirit! What God doth, this the Spirit is said to do. Not so the Angel, but having first said, “Thy prayers and thine alms have ascended, for a memorial before God,” to show that he is sent from thence, then he adds, “And now send men,” etc.: the Spirit not so, but, “For I have sent them. Then Peter went down to the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius; and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the cause wherefore ye are come? And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee.” (Acts 10:21, 22.) They speak his praises, so as to persuade him that an Angel has in fact appeared unto him. “Then called he them in,” 535 (b) that they may suffer no harm, “and lodged them:” thenceforth he without scruple takes his meals with them. “And on the morrow Peter went away with them, and certain brethren from Cæsarea accompanied him. And the morrow after, they entered into Cæsarea.” (Acts 10:23, 24.) The man was a person of note, and it was in a city of note that he then was.
(a) But let us look over again what has been said. “There was a certain man in Cæsarea,” etc. (Recapitulation, Acts 10:1, 2.) Observe with whom the beginning of the Gentiles is made—with “a devout man,” and one proved to be worthy by his works. For if, though the case be so, they are still offended, if this had not been the case, what would not have been the consequence! But 536 mark the greatness of the assurance. (c) To this end 537 all is done (in the way it is done), and the affair takes its beginning from Judea. (d) “He saw in a vision, evidently,” etc. (Acts 10.3). It was not in his sleep that the Angel appeared to him, but while he was awake, in the daytime, “about the ninth hour. He 538 saw an Angel of God coming in unto him, and saying unto him, Cornelius. And when he looked on him, he was afraid.” So occupied was he with himself. Implying, that it was in consequence of the Angels calling him by a voice that he saw him; as, had he not called him, he would not have seen him: so taken up was he with the act in which he was engaged. 539 But the Angel says to him, “Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God, and now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, who is called Peter.” (Acts 10.5.) So far, he signified that the sending for him would be for good consequences, but in what way good, he did not intimate. 540 So, neither does Peter relate the whole matter, but everywhere, the narratives are in part only, for the purpose of making the hearers apply their minds to what is said. “Send and call for Simon:” in like manner the Angel only calls Philip. “And 541 as they went on their journey, and drew nigh to the city” (Acts 10.9): in order that Peter should not be in perplexity too long. “Peter went up upon the housetop,” etc. Observe, that not even his hunger forced him to have recourse to the sheet. “Rise, Peter,” saith the Voice, “kill and eat.” (Acts 10.13.) Probably he was on his knees when he saw the vision.—To me 542 it seems that this also denotes the Gospel (or, “the Preaching”). That the thing taking place was of God (the circumstances made evident, namely), both that he sees it (descending) from above, and that he is in a trance; and, that the voice comes from thence, and the thrice confessing that the creatures there were unclean, and its coming from thence, and being drawn back thither (all this), is a mighty token of the cleanness (imparted to them).—But why is this done? For 543 the sake of those thereafter, to whom he is about to relate it. For to himself it had been said, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles.” (Matt. x. 5.) * * For if Paul needed both (to give) circumcision, and (to offer) sacrifice, much more (was some assurance needed) then, in the beginning of the Preaching, while they were as yet weaker. (Acts xvi. 3; xxi. 16.)—Observe 544 too how he did not at once receive them. For, it says, they “called, and asked, whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodging there.” (Acts 10.18.) As it was a mean looking house, they asked below, they inquired 545 of the neighbors. “And while Peter thought, the Spirit said unto him, Arise, get thee down, and go, nothing doubting, for I have sent them.” (Acts 10:19, 20.) And he does not say, For to this end did the vision appear unto thee; but, “I have sent them. Then Peter went down” (Acts 10.21)—this is the way the Spirit must be obeyed, without demanding reasons. For it is sufficient for all assurance to be told by Him, This do, this believe: nothing more (is needed)—“Then Peter went down, and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: 546 what is the cause wherefore ye are come?” He saw a soldier, saw a man: 547 it was not that he was afraid, on the contrary, having first confessed that he was the person whom they sought, then he asks for the cause (of their coming); that it may not be supposed that the reason of his asking the cause, was, that he wished to hide himself: (he asks it) in order, that if it be immediately urgent, he may also go forth with them, but if not, may receive them as guests. “And 548 they said, etc. into his house.” (Acts 10.22.) This he had ordered them. Do not think he has done this out of contempt: not as of contempt has he sent, but so he was ordered. “And Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his kinsmen and near friends.” (Acts 10.24.) It was right that his kinsmen and friends should be gathered to him. But being there present, 549 they would have heard from him (what had happened).
See how great the virtue of alms, both in the former discourse, and here! There, it delivered from death temporal; here, from death eternal; and opened the gates of heaven. Such are the pains taken for the bringing of Cornelius to the faith, that both an angel is sent, and the Spirit works, and the chief of the Apostles is fetched to him, and such a vision is shown, and, in short, nothing is left undone. How many centurions were there not besides, and tribunes, and kings, and none of them obtained what this man did! Hear, all ye that are in military commands, all ye that stand beside kings. “A just man,” it says, “fearing God; devout” (Acts 10:2, 22); and what is more 550 than all, with all his house. Not as we (who): that our servants may be afraid of us, do everything. but not that they may be devout. And 551 over the domestics too, so * *. Not so this man; but he was “one that feared God with all his house” (Acts 10.2), for he was as the common father of those with him, and of all the others (under his command.) But observe what (the soldier) says himself. For, fearing * *, he adds this also: “well reported of by all the nation.” For what if he was uncircumcised? Nay, but those give him a good report. Nothing like alms: great is the virtue of this practice, when the alms is poured forth from pure stores; for it is like a fountain discharging mud, when it issues from unjust stores, but when from just gains, it is as a limpid and pure stream in a paradise, sweet to the sight, sweet to the touch, both light and cool, when given in the noon-day heat. Such is alms. Beside this fountain, not poplars and pines, nor cypresses, but other plants than these, and far better, of goodly stature: friendship with God, praise with men, glory to Godward, good-will from all; blotting out of sins, great boldness, contempt of wealth. This is the fountain by which the plant of love is nourished: for nothing is so wont to nourish love, as the being merciful: it makes its branches to lift themselves on high. This fountain is better than that in Paradise (Gen. ii. 10); a fountain, not dividing into four heads, but reaching unto Heaven itself: this gives birth to that river “which springeth up into eternal life” (John iv. 14): on this let Death light, and like a spark it is extinguished by the fountain: such, wherever it drops, are the mighty blessings it causes. This quenches, even as a spark, the river of fire: this so strangles that worm, as naught else can do. (Mark ix. 44.) He that has this, shall not gnash his teeth. Of the water of this, let there be dropped upon the chains, and it dissolves them: let it but touch the firebrands, 552 it quenches all.—A fountain does not give out streams for a while and anon run dry,—else must it be no more a fountain,—but ever gushes: so let our fountain give out more copiously of the streams of mercy (in alms). This cheers him that receives: this is alms, to give out not only a copious, but a perennial, stream. If thou wouldest that God rain down His mercy upon thee as from fountains, have thou also a fountain. And 553 yet there is no comparison (between Gods fountain and thine): for if thou open the mouths of this fountain, such are the mouths of Gods Fountain as to surpass every abyss. God does but seek to get an opportunity on our part, and pours forth from His storehouses His blessings. When He expends, when He lavishes, then is He rich, then is He affluent. Large is the mouth of that fountain: pure and limpid its water. If thou stop not up the fountain here, neither wilt thou stop up that fountain.—Let no unfruitful tree stand beside it, that it may not waste its spray. Hast thou wealth? Plant not poplars there: for such is luxury: it consumes much, and shows nothing for it in itself, but spoils the fruit. Plant not a pine-tree—such is wantonness in apparel, beautiful only to the sight, and useful for nothing—nor yet a fir-tree, nor any other of such trees as consume indeed, but are in no sort useful. Set it thick with young shoots: plant all that is fruitful, in the hands of the poor, all that thou wilt. Nothing richer than this ground. Though small the reach of the hand, yet the tree it plants starts up to heaven and stands firm. This it is to plant. For that which is planted on the earth will perish, though not now, at any rate a hundred years hence. Thou plantest many trees, of which thou shalt not enjoy the fruit, but ere thou canst enjoy it, death comes upon thee. This tree will give thee its fruit then, when thou art dead.—If thou plant, plant not in the maw of gluttony, that the fruit end not in the draught-house: but plant thou in the pinched belly, that the fruit may start up to heaven. Refresh the straightened soul of the poor, lest thou pinch thine own roomy soul.—See you not, that the plants which are over-much watered at the root decay, but grow when watered in moderation? Thus also drench not thou thine own belly, that the root of the tree decay not: water that which is thirsty, that it may bear fruit. If thou water in moderation, the sun will not wither them, but if in excess, then it withers them: such is the nature of the sun. In all things, excess is bad; wherefore let us cut it off, that we also may obtain the things we ask for.—Fountains, it is said, rise on the most elevated spots. Let us be elevated in soul, and our alms will flow with a rapid stream: the elevated soul cannot but be merciful, and the merciful cannot but be elevated. For he that despises wealth, is higher than the root of evils.—Fountains are oftenest found in solitary places: let us withdraw our soul from the crowd, and alms will gush out with us. Fountains, the more they are cleaned, the more copiously they flow: so with us, the more we spend, the more all good grows.—He that has a fountain, has nothing to fear: then neither let us be afraid. For indeed this fountain is serviceable to us for drink, for irrigation, for building, for everything. Nothing better than this draught: it is not possible for this to inebriate. Better to possess such a fountain, than to have fountains running with gold. Better than all gold-bearing soil is the soul which bears this gold. For it advances us, not into these earthly palaces, but into those above. The gold becomes an ornament to the Church of God. Of this gold is wrought “the sword of the Spirit” (Eph. vi. 17), the sword by which the dragon is beheaded. From this fountain come the precious stones which are on the Kings head. Then let us not neglect so great wealth, but contribute our alms with largeness, that we may be found worthy of the mercy of God, by the grace and tender compassion of His only begotten Son, with Whom to the Father and Holy Ghost together be glory, dominion, honor, now and ever, world without end. Amen.
The conversion of Cornelius marks an important step in the progress of the gospel. Hitherto Christianity had been confined to Jews, Hellenists, and that mixed people—the Samaritans (unless, as is improbable, the Ethiopian chamberlain formed an exception). Now a beginning was made of receiving the Gentiles, and in connection with that apostle to whom Christ had committed a certain leadership and privilege of opening the doors to the Kingdom (ch. Acts xv. 7). The narrative is one of the important notices in the N.T. concerning the gradual realization of Christs command to make disciples of all nations, and shows, so far as it relates to Peter, with how great difficulty the most enlightened of the early Christians conceived of Christianity becoming free from the forms of Judaism. Cornelius was doubtless a Roman who had become dissatisfied with the idolatrous religion of his people and who had been attracted by the influences of the Jewish religion to the worship of the true God. There is no evidence, however, that he was a proselyte to the Jewish religion. He could not have failed to hear of Jesus and his disciples. Probably Philip, the deacon, was at this time residing in Cæsarea and Peter had been preaching and working miracles in the neighboring towns. It is not unlikely that the vision which he had, appealed to thoughts and convictions concerning the gospel which had been growing stronger in his own mind. To the vision of Cornelius, that of Peter forms the complement. They symbolize the great facts that while God in his providence was preparing his apostles for the larger truth of Christianity for the world, he was also preparing the Gentile world for the reception of the gospel. It is noticeable that the three centurions who appear in the N.T. are favorably mentioned. (Matt. 8:10, Matt. 28:54, Acts 10:1, 2).—G.B.S.i:523
καὶ τὸ, μηδὲ καιροῦ καλοῦντος. As above xix. p. 120, note 2, Chrys. remarks, that there was no festival which required the presence of the eunuch at Jerusalem. Probably he was led to this by the circumstance, that the incident of the eunuch occurs after the Martyrdom of St. Stephen and the Conversion of St. Paul, i.e. according to the Church Calendar, between the 26th of December and the 25th of January.i:524
“Σπεῖρα and cohors in Polyb. differ. The Greeks call the cohort λόχος, it contained about five hundred men. Polyb. vi. καὶ μὲν μέρος ἕκαστον ἐκάλεσε καὶ τάγμα καὶ σπεῖραν καὶ σημεῖον. Casaubon: Ac singulas partes appellant ordinem, manipulum, signum.” Downe ap. Sav.i:525
ἀλλὰ πρὸς εὐτελῆ. The innovator (E. Edd.) having made Chrys. say above, Hom. xx. §1, that Ananias was a man of note, here alters the text to: “But the Lord Himself appears: neither does He send him to some one of the Twelve, but to Ananias.” Below καὶ οὐκ αὐτοὺς πέμπει πρὸς αὐτὸν: meaning, it seems, Cornelius and his hour. The same hand substitutes (for explanation of the plural, αὐτῶν τῇ ἀσθενεί& 139·), “as He did Philip to the eunuch, condescending to their infirmity.” And in the following sentence; “Since Christ Himself is often seen going to them that are ill, and in their own persons unable to come to Him.”i:526
The clause οὗτος λαλήσει σοι τί σε δεῖ ποιεῖν is not recognized by Chrys., nor by the leading authorities. See infra, p. 145, note 6.i:527
τί ἐστιν ἔκστασις. Because the word also, and more commonly, means the being beside ones self, amazed, or stupefied by excess of grief, Chrys. explains that it denotes the being rapt out of the bodily consciousness: it was not that Peter was out of his mind, but his soul out of the body. (St. Augustin, Serm. 266, §6, “orantis mens alienata est; sed ab infimis ad superua; non ut deviaret, sed ut videret.”) Comp. Exp. in Psa. 115. t. v. p. 312, D. “In Gen. ii. 21. the ἔκστασις which fell upon Adam denotes a kind of insensibility, for ἔκστ. means τὸ ἔξω ἑαυτοῦ γενέσθαι: and in Acts x. 10 it denotes κάρον τινα καὶ τὸ ἔξω αἰσθήσεως γενέσθαι: and everywhere ἔκστασις implies this. It comes, either by the act of God: or because the excess of calamity causes a kind of stupor, κάρος. For calamity likewise is wont to occasion ἔκστ. and κάρος.” Didymus (or some other author) in the Catena: “They that have chosen to be disciples of frantic women, I mean, they of Phrygia (the Montanists), affirm that the Prophets, when possessed by the Holy Ghost, were not in a condition to be strictly cognizant of their own thoughts, being borne away from themselves at the instant of prophesying. And they think to confirm their error by this Scripture, which says, that Peter ἐξεστακέναι. But let these silly ones, these indeed frantic persons, know that this is a word of many significations. It denotes the amazement of wonder: and the being wrapt above sensible objects, led on to spiritual things: and the being beside ones self (παρακόπτειν)—which is not be said either of Peter, or of the Prophets. Nay Peter, in his trance, was strictly cognizant, so as to report what he had seen and heard, and to be sensible of what the things shown were symbolical. The same is to be said of all the Prophets—that their consciousness kept pace with the things presented to their view.” Comp. on this subject, S. Epiphan. adv. Hæres. Montan. 2. ὅσα γὰρ οὶ προφῆται εἰρήκασι μετὰ συνέσεως παρακολουθοῦντες ἐφθέγγοντο. Euseb. H. E. v. 17. relates that Miltiades wrote a treatise περὶ τοῦ μὴ δεῖν προφήτην ἐν ἐκστάσει λαλεῖν. See also S. Heironym, Præf, in Esai. “Neque vero ut Montanus cum insanis fœminis somniat, prophetæ in ecstasi locuti sunt, ut nescirent quid loquerentur, et cum alios erudirent, ipsi ignorarent quid dicerent.” Id. Prœm. in Nahum. Præf. in Abac. and, on the difference between the heathen μάντις and the divinely inspired Prophet, St. Chrysost. Hom. xxix. in 1 Cor. p. 259, C. τοῦτο γὰρ μάντεως ἴδιον, τὸ ἐξεστηκέναι κ. τ. λ. and Expos. in Psa. xliv. p. 161. C.—The clause τέσσαρσιν ἀρχαῖς δεδεμένον, before σκεῦος τί, (A. B. C ) agrees with the Lat. of S. Hilar. p. 750, “exquatuor principiis ligatum vas quoddam,” etc.i:528
St. Chrysostoms exposition, as we gather it from this and the following Homily, seems to be in substance as follows: St. Peter was not ignorant of nor averse to, the counsel of God in respect of the free admission of the Gentiles. He did not need instruction on this point for himself, and the vision was not so much intended for his instruction or assurance, as for reproof to the Jewish believers who were not yet enlightened in this mystery. (Even the token which was given in the descent of the Holy Ghost on Cornelius before baptism, was for them, not for him.) He needed but a command to act upon it without hesitation. But because this would certainly be regarded as a flagrant offence by the weaker brethren, for their sakes this symbolical lesson is given: and the circumstances are so contrived (οἰκονομεῖται) as to silence their objections. It is so ordered, that the matter of accusation is put by them in this form, “Thou didst go in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.” Had they said, “Thou didst baptize such,” St. Peter could not have alleged that he did it reluctantly: but to the charge of unclean eating he had his answer: “I did object; I said, not so, Lord, for nothing common or unclean,” etc. This carried with it his exculpation from the whole matter of offence: for they would apply it thus—“he baptized these Gentiles, but not without objecting to the command; not until his reluctance was overruled,” though in fact St. Peter had no such reluctance.i:529
Τοῦτο πάνυ αὐτοῖς προσίστατο (B. and Sav. marg. παρίστατο) Erasm. Et hoc illis valde frequens erat. Ben. Et illis admodum cordi erat. But Hom. xxiv. 2. ἵνα μὴ προστῇ (προσστῇ) αὐτοῖς, Ben. remarks that προσίστασθαι in the sense “offendere” is frequent in St. Chrysostom. It properly applies to food against which the stomach rises: “to raise the gorge, to be nauseous, disgusting, offensive.” See Field Annotat. in Hom. ad Matt. p. 319. B.—Τοῦτο, i.e. the going in to men uncircumcised, and eating with them. Comp. Hom. li. in Matt. p. 317. (Am. ed.) “Such was the strict observance in respect of meats, that, even after the Resurrection, Peter said, Not so, Lord, etc. For though he said this for the sake of others, and so as to leave himself a justification against those who should accuse him, and that he may show that he did object, (ὅτι καὶ ἀντεῖπον), and for all this, the point was not conceded to him, still it shows how much was made of this matter.”i:530
Here besides the clause, “this was done thrice,” something is wanting: e.g. “And observe how Peter relates the matter, and justifies himself,” viz. in Acts 11.8, “I said,” saith he, “Not so, Lord, for nothing common or unclean hath ever entered my mouth.” Here for εἶπον, B. has εἶπεν, which is adopted by the modern text, in which the whole passage is refashioned thus: “Since then they would all accuse him as a transgressor, and this was altogether offensive to them, of necessity it is managed (οἰκον.) that he says, “I never ate:” not being himself afraid, God forbid! but, as I said, being managed (οἰκονομούμενος) by the Spirit, that he may have a justification to those accusing him, namely, that he did object: for they made a great point of keeping the Law. He was sent to the Gentiles: therefore, that these also may not have to accuse him, as I said before, these things are contrived, or also, that it may not seem to be a fancy, he said, Not so, Lord,” etc.i:531
Peters vision fitly represents the divine lesson concerning the destination of the gospel and the manner of its progress. None of the apostles doubted that Christianity was for the Gentiles: the great question was, whether it was to be preached to them through the medium of Judaism. Should it still be held within Jewish forms? Should circumcision and observance of the Mosaic law be required? This was a great practical question in the days of transition from Judaism to Christianity. Later Paul became the champion of the idea that it was to be cut loose from the Jewish system. Peter and James came but slowly to this idea. The destruction of Jerusalem and the fall of the Jewish state brought the question to a decisive settlement. Apart from this, however, the Pauline type of teaching on this point constantly gained ground and influence. The vision of Peter takes its place in the gradual development of the idea that Christianity was free from the law—an idea on which he seems after this to have held a somewhat uncertain and vacillating position, so that Paul “resisted him to the face” for his declining to eat with the Gentiles at Antioch on account of the presence of certain delegates from Jerusalem—a practice in which he had, before their coming, engaged (Gal. 2:11, 12). It is not strange that perplexing questions arose concerning the relations of the new system to the old at this time. The general line of procedure was settled by the apostolic conference at Jerusalem (Acts 15:0, Gal. 1:0, Gal. 2:0.) and was substantially determined by the apostle Paul. While as matter of fact, the Church has always followed the lead of Paul in this matter, the most diverse views still prevail among Christians as to the relation, theoretically considered, of Christianity to Judaism and the Old Testament Scriptures.—G.B.S.i:532
St. Chrys. seems here to be controverting a different exposition. He will not allow that the vision was meant for instruction to St. Peter, as if he were in ignorance up to this time of the counsel of God concerning the Gentiles. Let it not be said, that like as God did tempt Abraham, so He was putting Peter to the proof whether he would obey the call to the Gentiles, as if Peter understood the vision in that sense. Had he so understood the command, “Kill and eat,” he would not have objected; for he could not be either ignorant or unwilling. But he did not so understand it, and his objection was solely to the matter of eating. And as he needed not the lesson (it was intended for others): so neither did God need to learn his willingness. When God tempts, or proves, it is not to learn something that He did not know before; as, when Christ said to Philip, “Whence shall we buy bread that these may eat? this He said tempting, or, proving him, for He Himself knew what He would do.” He put that question to Philip that he might the more admire the greatness of the miracle which he was about to work. (see note 2.) But nothing of the kind can be said here: the case is not parallel: the command to baptize the Gentiles would not surprise Peter: he expected no less from the beginning.—His objection, then, was to the thing itself, the command, “kill and eat.” And no wonder, for the same Lord had in the Law strictly commanded to distinguish between clean and unclean, while there in the sheet were animals of all sorts indiscriminately.i:533
Hom.xlii. in Ev. Joann. §2. “What meaneth, Tempting, or, proving him? was He ignorant what would be said by him? This cannot be said, …We may learn the meaning from the Old Testament. For there also it is said, After these things God did tempt Abraham, etc. He did not say this in order to learn by the proof whether he would obey or not—how should it be so? for He knoweth all things before they come into existence: but on both occasions it is spoken after the manner of men. As, when it is said, He searcheth the hearts of men, it indicates the search, not of ignorance, but of perfect knowledge; so when it is said, He tempted, tried, or proved, it means no other than that He perfectly knew.—Or, it may mean, that He made the person more approved: as Abraham there, so Philip by this question, leading him into the sure knowledge of the sign:” i.e. bringing more home to his mind the greatness of the miracle, by leading him in the first place to estimate the utter inadequacy of the means.i:534
Either this refers to the clause, “This was done thrice,” etc., which should be inserted; or, the connection may be—This very circumstance of the clean and unclean being together in the sheet (as in the Ark), might have led him to an apprehension of the thing symbolized, viz., that he was not commanded to “kill and eat” the unclean with the clean (by the same Lord who of old had commanded a distinction of meats), but that the time was come to baptize all nations without respect of persons. But, obvious as it may seem, St. Peter was still ignorant what it meant: as the Writer adds, And while Peter was at a loss to know what the vision should mean, etc.—In E. (Edd.) the whole passage from “that this is thrice done, denotes baptism,” is refashioned thus: “Not so, Lord, for I have never eaten aught common or unclean. And why, it may be asked, did he object? That none may say that God was tempting him, as in the case of Abraham, when he was ordered to offer up his son as a sacrifice: as in the case of Philip, when he was asked by Christ, How many loaves have ye? not that he may learn, did He so ask, but proving him. And yet in the Law Moses had distinctly enjoined concerning clean and unclean, both of land and sea; and yet for all this he knew not.”i:535
The letters a, b, c, d, denote the order of the parts in the old text. But C. has the formula of recapitulation, both in the beginning of (a), and again in (d), before the verse, “And the Angel said,” etc.: E. D. F. Edd. retain it only in the latter place.i:536
᾽Αλλ᾽ ὅρα πόση ἀσφάλεια, i.e. how it is made infallibly certain, that it was the purpose of God to admit the Gentiles without circumcision. It might indeed be inserted in (b), after συνδιαιτᾶται: “he has no scruples—but mark the greatness of the assurance he has received.” In the modern text, the connection is, “He called them in, and lodged them. See what security: (Θέα πόση ἀσφάλεια) in order that they should take no harm, he calls them in, and thenceforth without scruple,” etc. i.e. “how sure he feels that he is doing right in receiving them: with what assuredness of mind he does this.” But Sav. “See what security for them, in order that they should take no harm.”i:537
Διὰ τοῦτο πάντα γίνεται, A. B. C. N. Cat. But Edd. Διό καὶ ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ πάντα ὁμοῦ οἰκονομεῖται: “wherefore both in his person at once all the circumstances are providentially ordered, and” etc.i:538
Here after the clause, οὕτως ἑαυτῷ προσεῖχεν (meaning, as afterwards explained, that he did not notice the Angel until he spoke), A. B. C. have, Λέγει δὲ ὁ ἄγγελος κ. τ. λ. Edd. ᾽Αλλ᾽ ἴδωμεν ἄνωθεν τὰ εἰρημένα. Καὶ εἶπεν ὁ ἄγγελος κ. τ. λ.i:539
The old text: “And thy prayers, saith he. So far,” etc. Edd. “And send for Simon, who is called Peter. So far, etc.”i:540
The text is defective here. He seems to be commenting upon the variations of the different narratives: viz. the writer himself Acts 10.6. mentions only the command to send for Peter. (p. 142, note 4.) The messengers Acts 10.22 add, “And to hear words of thee.” Cornelius, Acts 10.32, “who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee.” St. Peter Acts 11.14, “who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.” “On the other hand,” he says, “neither does Peter, though he is more full on this point, relate all that the Angel said, but gives only the substance.” See the comment on Acts 11.14.i:541
The modern text, omitting this clause, and the comment, inserts the rest of the verse, “Peter went up,” etc.: and has below, But that Peter may not be in perplexity too long, he hears a voice saying, “Rise, Peter, kill and eat.” But the meaning is, The Spirit caused the vision to take place when they were near the city, that Peter might not be too long in doubt: as above, on the same clause, “Observe how the Spirit connects the times,” etc.i:542
᾽Εμοὶ δοκεῖ καὶ (om. A. B.) τὸ (om. Cat.) κήρυγμα τοῦτο εἷναι (om. Cat.) ῞Οτι θεῖον ἦν τὸ γινόμενον τό τε ἄνωθεν ἰδεῖν, τό τε ἐν ἐκστάσει γενέσθαι. (Here δηλοῖ, δείκνυσιν, or the like, must be supplied. Œcumen. Δείκνυται δὲ ὅτι θεῖον κ. τ. λ. In the modern text the wording is slightly altered, but the sense is the same. In the latter part, for ὅτι ἀκαθαρτὰ ἦν ἐκεῖ, Œcumen. has ἐκεῖνα: the modern text substitutes καὶ τὸ τρὶς τοῦτο γενέσθαι, καὶ τὸ οὐρανὸν ἀνεωχθῆναι, καὶ τὸ ἐκεῖθεν κ. τ. λ. and at the end, τοῦ θεῖον εἶναι τὸ πρᾶγμα for καθαρότητος.—Above, he had said that the sheet was a symbol of the world; now he adds, that the command “Kill and eat” denotes the Gospel, to be preached universally: that the descent of the sheet from heaven, and the circumstance of Peters being in a spiritual trance, shows that the thing was of God—not a φαντασία. Again: that it is all done thrice, denotes baptism: thrice the Voice says, Kill and eat: thrice Peter confesses that the creatures are unclean: thrice it is declared that God hath cleansed them: nay, thrice these unclean creatures are let down from heaven, and drawn up thither again: a mighty proof that they are now clean, and of the Kingdom of Heaven.i:543
It was remarked above, that St. Chrysostoms exposition proceeds upon the assumption, that St. Peter did not need the instruction for himself. Here the reporter has not fully expressed his meaning: which should be to this effect. “Since it had been said at the outset to Peter and the other Apostles, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, though after the Resurrection they were commanded to baptize all nations, it is no marvel that the less enlightened brethren needed some strong assurance on this behalf. And if at a later time, we find Paul, to conciliate the Jewish believers, causing Timothy to be circumcised and himself offering sacrifice, much more was some condescension to their infirmity needed now.”—Didymus in the Catena puts the question, “How was it that Peter needed a revelation in the matter of Cornelius, when the Lord after his Resurrection had expressly ordered to baptize all the nations? or how came it that the Apostles in Jerusalem, having heard of the affair of Cornelius, disputed with Peter?” To which he answers: “Peter did undoubtedly need the revelation; for he knew not that the distinction of circumcision and uncircumcision was to cease: knew not for certain that the Lord meant the Gentiles to be baptized apart from the visible worship under the Law, until the Lord manifested this mystery to him, convincing him both by the emblem of the sheet, and by the faith and grace of the Holy Spirit given to the Gentiles, that in Christ Jesus there is no distinction of Jew and Greek: of which thing because the Apostles at Jerusalem were ignorant, therefore they contended with Peter, until they also learnt the hidden riches of Gods mercy over all mankind.” St. Cyril, Alex., also, c. Julian. (ibid.) explains, that “Peter was fain to dwell in the Jewish customs, and, in a manner, was loath to go on to the better, because he was overawed by the types: therefore he is corrected by this vision.”i:544
E. D. F. Edd. omit this clause, see note x: and A. B. for οὐδὲ…ἐδέξατο have οὐδὲν…ἐδείξατο, which is evidently corrupt. “Neither did he at once receive these Gentiles: not until the Spirit expressly commanded him.”i:545
So Cat. and the mss. except E., which has οὐ τοὺς γείτονας ἠρώτων, and so Œcumen. But the meaning seems to be, that not expecting to find so mean a house, and thinking they might have come wrong, they asked below, in the street, i.e. inquired of the neighbors.i:546
Here Edd. from E. have, “Wherefore did he not receive them immediately, but asks this question?” but D. F. insert it as above, ῞Ορα πῶς οὐκ εὐθέως αὐτοὺς ἐδέξατο, with the addition, ἀλλὰ πυνθάνεται. In the next sentence: A. B. C. Cat. εἶδεν στρατιώτην, εἶδεν ἄνθρωπον· i.e. Saw a soldier, saw him, as he would have seen any common man, without fear. For this, D. F. have εἶδε στρατιώτας ἀνθρώπους. E. Edd. εἶδε στρατιώτας ὄντας τοὺς ἐπιστάντας.—Below, for καὶ ζητήσας A. B. C. Cat. which the other mss. omit, we correct, ὅν ἐζήτησαν.i:547
In the old text, the last words of the citation, Acts 10.22. εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτοῦ. the rest being lost, are joined on to ἵνα ξενίσῃ: Cat. εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτούς. Edd. from E. D. F. “But why do they say, Sends for thee into his house? Because he had given them this order. And perhaps also, by way of apology, they as good as say, Do not find fault (μηδὲν καταγνῷς·) not as of contempt has he sent, etc.” In A. B. C. Cat. μὴ καταφρονήσῃς, for which Sav. marg. has ὡς ἂν εἴποιεν, μὴ καταφρ., is corrupt: perhaps it should be μὴ νομίσῃς, ὅτι κατεφρόνησέ σε· οὐχ ὡς κ. τ. λ.i:548
᾽αλλ᾽ (A. καὶ) ἐκεῖ πάροντος αὐτοῦ ἤκουσαν ἂν (A. ταῦτα ἀκούειν). We read, πάροντες, and conjecture the meaning to be, But they being there present, would have heard from Cornelius an account of all that had happened to him. Edd. from E. D. F. ῞Αλλως δὲ καὶ ἐκεῖ πάροντες μᾶλλον αὐτοῦ ἤκουσαν ἄν. “And besides by being there present they would the more hear him (Peter),” what he had to say.i:549
Here Edd. from E. have, “Wherefore did he not receive them immediately, but asks this question?” but D. F. insert it as above, ῞Ορα πῶς οὐκ εὐθέως αὐτοὺς ἐδέξατο, with the addition, ἀλλὰ πυνθάνεται. In the next sentence: A. B. C. Cat. εἶδεν στρατιώτην, εἶδεν ἄνθρωπον· i.e. Saw a soldier, saw him, as he would have seen any common man, without fear. For this, D. F. have εἶδε στρατιώτας ἀνθρώπους. E. Edd. εἶδε στρατιώτας ὄντας τοὺς ἐπιστάντας.—Below, for καὶ ζητήσας A. B. C. Cat. which the other mss. omit, we correct, ὅν ἐζήτησαν.i:550
The modern text: “and what is greater, that he was such with all his house. So intent was he, and so set upon this, that he not only well ordered his own affairs, but also over his household (ἐπὶ τῆς οἰκετείας) he did the same. For not as we, who,” etc.i:551
A. B. καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς οἰκετείας δὲ οὕτως. ᾽Αλλ᾽ οὗτος οὐχ οὕτως, ἀλλὰ μετὰ τῆς οἰκίας ἁπάσης. & 244·σπερ γὰρ κ. τ. λ. C., καὶ ἐπὶ τ. οἰκ. δὲ οὐκέτι κακῶς, ἀλλὰ δικαίως· ὥσπερ γὰρ κ. τ. λ. Below, the modern text has, “he feared God with all his house, as being the common father, not only of all who were with him, but also of the soldiers under him.” In the next sentence, ῞Ορα δὲ τί φησὶν καὶ αὐτός, the meaning seems to be, “Observe what is said of him by the soldier whom Cornelius sent: A just man, and one that feareth God: and then—for fearing (lest Peter should refuse to come to him, as being a Gentile) he adds this—and well reported of by all the nation of the Jews.” Edd. from E. alone: “But hear also what they say besides: for of necessity that is added, Well reported of by all the nation, that none may say, What, if he was uncircumcised? Even those, saith he, give him a good report. Why then, there is nothing like alms; or rather great is the virtue of this thing, when,” etc.i:552
κἂν εἰς τὰς λαμπάδας (E. Edd., καμίνους) ἅψηται(ἐμπέσῃ, E. D. F. Edd.) In the next sentence, Αὕτη ἡ πηγή κ. τ. λ. the pronoun must be omitted.—E. D. F., Edd., “As therefore the fountain in Paradise (or, in a garden) does not give out streams,” etc.i:553
Καίτοιγε οὐδὲν ἴσον. & 174·Αν γὰρ σὺ ταύτης κ. τ. λ.—Edd., Οὐδὲν ταύτης ἴσον. & 174·Αν σὺ ταύτης κ. τ. λ. “Nothing like this fountain. If then,” etc.—Below, ῞Οταν ἀναλίσκῃ, ὅταν δαπανᾷ, κ. τ. λ. in itself, may perhaps be better referred to the giver of alms: “when (one) expends, when one lavishes (alms),” etc. but in that case the connection is obscure.
Next: Homily XXIII on Acts x. 23, 24.
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