The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Acts 11:1-18

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 1, 2017


Peter’s arrival at Jerusalem (1–2). His defence of his conduct in admitting Gentiles into the Church, which he grounds on the vision vouchsafed to him at Joppe, which he describes (3–14). The external effusion of the gifts of the Holy Ghost. After which all held their peace and acquiesced (14–19). The spread of religion consequent on the preaching and miracles of the disciples (19–21). The prediction of a great famine by Agabus. The charitable resolve to send relief, which was actually forwarded through Barnabas and Saul, to the distressed Christians of Judea (19–30).

1 And the apostles and brethren, who were in Judea, heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God.

The rumour regarding the admission of Cornelius and his household into the church was circulated far and wide throughout Judæa. Likely, the Apostles were at this time scattered throughout the different parts of the country.

2 And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him,

“They that were of the circumcision.” Such among them as were over zealous about the Mosaic rite of circumcision and its necessity “contended,” disputed with him, as to the propriety of his conduct, and reproached him,

3 Saying: Why didst thou go in to men uncircumcised and didst eat with them?

“Saying: why didst thou?” &c. In the Greek it is in the assertive, not interrogative form. They held it to be unlawful to hold converse and take food with uncircumcised Gentiles, erroneously fancying the Law of Moses, as they understood it, on these points to be still in vigour. The gifts of the Holy Ghost abundantly poured out on them, put the propriety of receiving the Gentiles into the Church beyond dispute. This they don’t explicitly upbraid him with; they do so implicitly.

4 But Peter began and declared to them the matter in order, saying:

Peter justifies the admission of the Gentiles into the Church, and explains in detail each occurrence in connexion with it so far as he himself was concerned. “In order,” in the order in which it took place.

Note: since in verses 5-16 St Peter basically retells the account narrated in the previous chapter, Fr. MacEvilly sends us to his comments from that chapter. I’ve provided a link to that commentary after verse 16.

5 I was in the city of Joppe praying: and I saw in an ecstasy of mind a vision, a certain vessel descending, as it were a great sheet let down from heaven by four corners. And it came even unto me.
6 Into which looking, I considered and saw fourfooted creatures of the earth and beasts and creeping things and fowls of the air.
7 And I heard also a voice saying to me: Arise, Peter. Kill and eat.
8 And I said: Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath ever entered into my mouth.
9 And the voice answered again from heaven: What God hath made clean, do not thou call common.
10 And this was done three times. And all were taken up again into heaven.
11 And behold, immediately there were three men come to the house wherein I was, sent to me from Caesarea.
12 And the Spirit said to me that I should go with them, nothing doubting. And these six brethren went with me also: and we entered into the man’s house.
13 And he told us how he had seen an angel in his house, standing and saying to him: Send to Joppe and call hither Simon, who is surnamed Peter,
14 Who shall speak to thee words whereby thou shalt be saved, and all thy house.
15 And when I had begun to speak, the Holy Ghost fell upon them, as upon us also in the beginning.
16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how that he said: John indeed baptized with water but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Acts 10.

17 If then God gave them the same grace as to us also who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ: who was I, that could withstand God?

If, then, God bestowed the same spirit on the uncircumcized believing Gentiles, as on us, requiring no other condition save to believe, thus establishing a perfect equality, “Who was I, to withstand God,” by refusing to baptize them, to obstruct His gracious designs and holy will clearly manifested in their regard, and refuse to admit into His Church by Baptism those on whom He Himself conferred the exalted Baptism of the Spirit?

18 Having heard these things, they held their peace and glorified God, saying: God then hath also to the Gentiles given repentance, unto life.

“They held their peace.” They had no more to say, on seeing the clear manifestations of God’s will, but humbly acquiesced in, and conformed, to His holy will.

“Unto life” so as to attain salvation.


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