Who Was Cornelius?


I have been so excited all week to write this blog. I know the story of Acts 10 just as well as I know the story of Harry Potter. I love this story. However, the only real reason I love this story is because it is about a guy who just happens to have my last name. I have always had a lot of questions about Cornelius.

Who was Cornelius? Why was he significant? Did Cornelius already believe in Yahweh? Is this the only account we have of Cornelius?

Who was Cornelius?

Cornelius was a centurion (10:1). A centurion, according to www.britannica.com,  “was the commander of a centuria, which was the smallest unit of a Roman legion.” Cornelius probably commanded around 100 men. A centurion is equivalent to an army captain. Cornelius lived in Caesarea (10:1). At the time, Caesarea was a” mainly Gentile city” and the “residence of the Roman Proconsul” (www.biblegateway.com). Cornelius was “a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God,” (Acts 10:2). 

Why was Cornelius significant?

Cornelius was “a devout man” and a Gentile. At noon, Cornelius had a” vision of an angel of God” (Acts 10:3). Cornelius was frightened (4). He did as the angel instructed him to do so. He sent for Peter who was on the outskirts of Joppa. Joppa  to Caesarea is about a 3 to 4 day round-trip journey. Peter came and preached to Cornelius and his household. This would have included his family, servants, and the servants’ families. According to the Christian church, Cornelius was the first Gentile Christian. This means that Cornelius and his household became completely devoted to Yahweh without converting to Judaism.

Cornelius sent servants to find Peter and bring him back.

Cornelius sent servants to find Peter and bring him back.

Did Cornelius already believe in Yahweh?

The short answer is yes. According to the characteristics that are listed in verses 1 and 2, Cornelius was a moral man who feared Yahweh. Peter came after Cornelius’ vision and his own to signify that Yahweh did not consider Gentiles unclean.

Is this the first account of Cornelius in the Bible?

This is the first and only account in the Bible that specifically mentions Cornelius. However, in Luke 7, there is mention of a Roman centurion who was stationed in  Capernaum at the time of Jesus’ early ministry.  Caesarea is about 45 miles away from Capernaum. Cornelius could have very well lived in and over saw this area at some point in his career.  This centurion had a servant who was very ill. The centurion sent for Jesus to heal his servant. As a Roman, this would have shown great faith in Jesus. Not only did this centurion send for Jesus to heal his servant, but he also built a synagogue for the Jewish people.  “When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” (Luke 7:9). Personally, I think that this centurion may have been Cornelius a few years before his conversion. I think that since the centurion from Luke was faithful to Jesus, the writer of Acts would want to include a “reward”.


This blog was very interesting for me to write. I learned a lot about a man I kind of knew. I also made connections I had never made before.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s