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Here's an interesting master thesis about the conversion of Cornelius, mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. I found the conclusion predictable, but it's certainly worth a look.

Quote:...it cannot be said that the conversion narrative of a Roman
centurion must have been Luke’s invention without historical reliability or that such a
conversion would have been impossible in the context of the time. Further, it seems
likely that the conversion of a Roman officer, estimated to have been in AD 39, was
not seen as a threat to Roman authority and it would not have been totally impossible
for Cornelius to follow this minority Jewish religion.
Why just judge it from the abstract only ? 8)


http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/2859/ :mrgreen:

Hope I got time to read it.

Greez

Simplex
Quote:Why just judge it from the abstract only ? 8)

http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/2859/
I believed people would recognize the link at the bottom of the page. But a direct link might have been useful too.
....... I've learned to cope with the fallacies of my eyes, Jona, one way or the other ... :roll:
(What you're eyes don't get you, your fingers will :mrgreen: )
Thanks for that website, anyway.

Greez

Simplex
Surely there's a difficulty is assuming that Cornelius was actually converted? He doesn't seem to have become a Jew (he's referred to as a gentile throughout), and his baptism at the end would only be comprehensible to a Christian. His piety (being 'god fearing' and so on) is seen entirely from a Christian perspective.

It might be worth wondering what Cornelius himself could have made of the whole thing. His angelic vision 'while praying' reminds me of several other divine apparitions known in Roman history - Aurelian's vision at Emesa, or Constantine's of Apollo. His reverence of Peter suggests that he may have seen him as one of the many holy men, wonderworkers and mystagogues who seemed to proliferate across the Greek east - a figure later typified by Apollonius of Tyana, perhaps.

It may be, then, that Cornelius saw the event as part of the wider tapestry of mystical experience, rather than an actual conversion to a still-inchoate religion. In that sense, his belief in Peter's holiness would in no way compromise his loyalty to Rome or the Emperor.
Quote:Surely there's a difficulty is assuming that Cornelius was actually converted? He doesn't seem to have become a Jew (he's referred to as a gentile throughout), and his baptism at the end would only be comprehensible to a Christian.
I don't think so; baptism was introduced to Judaism prior to Jesus. John the Baptist is the obvious example, and he was considered to be Jewish. The Essenes had comparable rituals with bathing. I think that Cornelius would have considered conversion to Christianity and Judaism the same; and sympathizing with the one may, in his view, have been sympathizing to the other.

Cf. Josephus' writing about Jesus and James (debate): they are presented as Jews, even though Jesus was the leader of a sect/faction/party/heresy that was called Christians. To Josephus, conversion to Christianity must have been something like conversion to Judaism.

Quote:His angelic vision 'while praying' reminds me of several other divine apparitions known in Roman history - Aurelian's vision at Emesa, or Constantine's of Apollo. His reverence of Peter suggests that he may have seen him as one of the many holy men, wonderworkers and mystagogues who seemed to proliferate across the Greek east - a figure later typified by Apollonius of Tyana, perhaps.

It may be, then, that Cornelius saw the event as part of the wider tapestry of mystical experience, rather than an actual conversion to a still-inchoate religion. In that sense, his belief in Peter's holiness would in no way compromise his loyalty to Rome or the Emperor.
You may be very right. Paul and Barnabas are also compared to 'divine men'.
The description of Acts 10:34-43 is one of the various plain messages that were preached in the Book of Acts. It is not an affirmation of any spiritual allegiance other than to Jesus of Nazareth.

The description of 10:44-48 makes a clear and unmistakeable reference to other genuine conversions to Christianity, including the first occurrence of the Holy Spirit "baptism", unless it is somehow assumed that the believers in the upper room in Acts 2 were becoming Jews. This argument doesn't hold up to even casual scrutiny, in my opinion, simply because these people were already Jewish. Peter's statement (10:47, 48)that they had been converted in the same way seems clear enough:

"Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?" And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.

Tunc respondit Petrus numquid aquam quis prohibere potest ut non baptizentur hii qui Spiritum Sanctum acceperunt sicut et noset iussit eos in nomine Iesu Christi baptizari tunc rogaverunt eum ut maneret aliquot diebus

μήτι τὸ ὕδωρ δύναται κωλῦσαί τις τοῦ μὴ βαπτισθῆναι τούτους οἵτινες τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον ἔλαβον ὡς καὶ ἡμεῖς προσέταξεν δὲ αὐτοὺς ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ βαπτισθῆναι τότε ἠρώτησαν αὐτὸν ἐπιμεῖναι ἡμέρας τινάς


Baptism in the name of Jesus Christ is not a Jewish tradition. (If you don't believe that, try it at the synagogue next Shabbat :wink: ) Various washings and immersions were/are practiced in Judaism and other religions, of course, not just Christianity. But baptism in the "name of Jesus Christ" is distinctly Christian by definition. I conclude that Cornelius' conversion was genuine, and that the texts above clearly support that view. How well he fared in the Roman army following that event, I don't know. All seemed well enough while Christianity was considered another sect of Judaism, but once Christianity was separated as being a different belief, trouble began for Christians in the Empire, both soldier and civilian. Perhaps Cornelius lived to see that, perhaps not.
All good points. Nevertheless, I still think that our view of these events is necessarily coloured by the subsequent growth of Christianity (which in AD39 was not, I think, a religion as such) and the church - which was why they were recorded, of course. It's still worth trying to imagine the view through the other end of the telescope, so to speak, and to see what happened as the people involved might have appreciated it.

Cornelius is mentioned as being very pious, and 'praying to God', even before his meeting with Peter. So which god was he praying to? Not the Jewish god, as he was a gentile. Presumably not the Christian God either, or the importance of Peter's intervention would be lost. Could Acts have glossed the centurion's devotion to some diety of the more traditional pantheon, or some ancestor of the neo-Platonic 'supreme being'?

Alternatively, could Cornelius have been praying to the God of the Samaritans? There were Samaritan auxiliaries in the Roman army, serving in Judea (Cohors Sebastanorum), and clearly these men saw no contradiction between their monotheism and military service to the Roman state. Cornelius was centurion of the 'Italian cohort', but may himself have been a Samaritan.

The third possibility, as I said above, is that Cornelius understood the nascent Christianity to be a mystery cult of some sort, something like the later Mithraism. Baptism by water might have seemed quite similar to various cultic initiation rituals.
I'm no expert in the field, but the Samaritans and the Judeans prayed to the same God, they just did it in different places, and slightly different ways. Reading the text in Acts 10, Peter says that "God has heard your prayers" (paraphrase) so it would not be unrealistic to suppose that the same God was involved, would it? To think otherwise would mean that the various deities communicate with each other...not a good argument, imho.

On what basis would we say that Cornelius was "not praying to the Jewish God"? Why not? There were Jewish people all over the Empire, not just in Israel/Judea/Samaria. Peter came to clarify what the Christian message was, in obedience to the vision he had himself, and confirmed that he was there in answer to Cornelius' prayers, right?

The text itself seems clear enough. Why complicate it with something that is not included in the writing? While Christianity in that day was considered to be one of the several sects in Judaism, not much later it was the Christians themselves who made it clear to the authorities that they were not simply 'other Jews' as it were, and once the Emperor had that in mind, the Christians were no longer included in the exemptions that were afforded the Jewish people (not having to pay homage to Roman gods, for example).

It is possible, of course, that Cornelius was a Syrian, Samaritan, a German, a Spaniard, a North African, or any other ethnicity. But he has a Latin name, and is said to be from the Italian Cohort. To me, Occam's Razor says he would most likely be an Italian, and probably a Roman citizen. Or at least an Italian non-citizen auxiliary who has a Roman name. During his stay in Judea, he would have been acquainted with the Jews who were early Christians, one would easily suppose, since he was doing the things that these people were supposed to be doing.

The gift of the Holy Spirit mentioned here and elsewhere in the Bible is not given to Romans who worshiped the pantheon of Roman gods. It is given to Christians, both of Jewish and Gentile backgrounds. In each of the several mentions of this event in the Bible, that view is confirmed.
Quote:Baptism in the name of Jesus Christ is not a Jewish tradition. ... But baptism in the "name of Jesus Christ" is distinctly Christian by definition.
A good point, but I think it raises a question: what does "Christianity" mean in AD 39? Was it a Jewish sect, or was it a new religion?

Many historians would argue for the latter; the "parting of ways" is placed during the years of Paul, after the crisis of 70, and even during the Bar Kochba revolt. That Jesus broke with his own faith is still a possibility, though; at least one of the criterions in the Quest for the Historical Jesus is prejudiced (the criterion of Jewish context).

On the other hand, the arguments based on expressions like "New Covenant" can no longer be used to prove that the parting of ways was Jesus' intention. I think that research has reached a cul-de-sac, which means - in my view - that believers and scholars can respectfully disagree.

But perhaps the question is an altogether different one. The point is what Cornelius thought about the religion he was converting to, and I think that - no matter what Christianity was at that moment - most Romans would have argued that it was a type of Judaism.

Quote:Cornelius is mentioned as being very pious, and 'praying to God', even before his meeting with Peter. So which god was he praying to? Not the Jewish god, as he was a gentile.
I don't know. The Magical Papyri, the Historia Augusta (Severus Alexander 29), and the Acts of the Councils of Elvira all show that pagan faith was compatible with Judaism. There is an intriguing cuneiform tablet, dated to 325 BC (or something like that), in which a man named Baruch pays for the restoration of a pagan shrine. From the period of the gospels, I do not immediately know a source, but generally speaking, I would say that I think that the either/or-division is too modern.

I am always reminded by the children of Bombay, about whom I once read something: on Muslim holidays, they were Muslims; when the sweeties and cookies were available in the Hindu shrines, the suddenly venerated Krishna or Vishnu. Orthodoxy, and either/or-divisions, seem Christian inventions to me.
The Pharisees knew all along that the two were radically different in nature. It took the Romans a little while longer to make that connection, mostly because they were not really looking. When there were riots in Rome between the Christians and the Jews, the Romans responded by beginning a persecution of the Christians, and expelling the Jews from the city. But as you say, that was later than 39.

I believe, BTW, that Paul was executed under Nero's rule, though I can't remember the reference to that. That would be before the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in 70.

Those children you mention, were true believers in none of the religions mentioned. They were simply being opportunistic. Probably they didn't understand the beliefs involved. And who doesn't like candy?

But back on topic, compare Judaism (I know it is not a monolithic bloc today or then) in 39 with Judaism today. There would be significant differences, not the least of which is that they still had a Temple to bring sacrifices, and thereby could keep the Law. Today, without the Temple, can there really be true Orthodoxy?

Christianity, now and then, has many different subsets. The fact that the Pauline Epistles are very different in topic shows there were already people in his day who had departed from the original teachings. We can't know what Cornelius really thought he was converting to, so to speak, but I believe it's safe to say he knew. Peter's sermon did not occur in vacuo, it seems clear enough that he was praying to the same God Peter prayed to, and for that matter, the other believing Christians and Jews of that day. The English versions of the Bible capitalize the word God in that context, meaning they are referring to the Judeo-Christian God, not a Roman god. I don't know about other languages: haven't checked them.
Nice reply, no comments.