Kefa Goes to Cornelius
In my last post, we learned that Kefa was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean. In this post, we learn that Kefa Goes to Cornelius.
23b The next day, he (Kefa) got up and went with them, accompanied by some of the brothers from Yafo; 24, and he arrived at Caesarea the day after that. Cornelius was expecting them—he had already called together his relatives and close friends. 25 As Kefa entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell prostrate at his feet. 26 But Kefa pulled him to his feet and said, “Stand up! I myself am just a man.”
Fell prostrate at his feet to welcome him, also to honor him as God’s messenger, but not to “worship” him (as some English versions have it). As a God-fearer, Cornelius would have known better. However, Kefa’s response, Stand up! I myself am just a man, shows that Kefa misread what Cornelius did as an act of idolatry to be expected from a pagan. This had to be a very awkward moment for both of them.
27 As he talked with him, Kefa went inside and found many people gathered. 28 He said to them, “You are well aware that for a man who is a Jew to have a close association with someone who belongs to another people, or to come and visit him, is something that just isn’t done. But God has shown me not to call any person common or unclean; 29 so when I was summoned, I came without raising any questions. Tell me, then, why did you send for me?” ~ Acts 10:23b-29 (CJB) (Emphasis added).
You are well aware that for a man who is a Jew to have a close association with someone who belongs to another people or to come and visit him is something that just isn’t done. Before examining whether Jews did, in fact, keep themselves aloof from Gentiles, take note of Kefa’s careful word choices. He uses the Greek word “allophulos,” which means “someone who belongs to another tribe,” used only here in the New Testament. Also, the Greek word “athemitos,” used only twice in the New Testament, does not mean “unlawful, forbidden, against Jewish law,” as found in other English versions, but rather “taboo, out of the question, not considered right, against standard practice, contrary to cultural norms.”
Kefa Now Understands the Meaning of His Vision
But God has shown me not to call any person common or unclean. If Jewish law made Gentile products and practices unclean, it would have been only human, all too human, for people to have extended the description, unclean, to Gentiles themselves. Such attitudes would have been not so much taught as caught, absorbed from the whole milieu, and these attitudes’ influence would have quickly become pervasive. This is why it took direct intervention from God to shake Kefa loose from them.
As I explained in my last post, this verse proves that the meaning of Kefa’s vision had nothing to do with abolishing kashrut’s laws. With this statement and its expansion in vv. 34–35 Kefa puts his dealings with Cornelius and his friends on a new footing: a barrier that both sides might have thought insuperable, that would have made true spiritual communion impossible, is removed altogether.
In my next post, we will continue to examine Kefa’s encounter with Cornelius in First Gentile Believers ~ Part 5 where Cornelius Shares His Vision with Kefa.