Fausset's Bible Dictionary 
Centurion of the Italian band or cohort at Caesarea (Acts 10); "devout and one that feared God with all his house": he ordered not merely himself but all his family in God's ways. Compare Genesis 18:19; Joshua 24:15. He had made the most of his spiritual opportunities; for coming to the Holy Land a heathen, when he knew of the true God there he became a true proselyte. Now "whosoever hath to him shall be given" ( Matthew 13:12; Isaiah 64:5; Micah 2:7; John 7:17). So, "giving much alms to the people," which showed the self sacrificing sincerity of his religion, and "praying to God always," he was vouchsafed a further revelation, namely, the gospel, through Peter's instrumentality.
A vision to Cornelius desiring him to send to Joppa for Peter, and a vision to Peter on the morrow, just as Cornelius' messengers, two household servants and "a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually" (for he followed David's rule, Psalms 101:6), were drawing nigh the city, instructing him to regard as clean those whom "God had cleansed," though heretofore ceremonially "unclean," and desiring him to go with Cornelius' messengers "doubting nothing," prepared the way. Whatever uncertainty there might be of the miraculous nature of either vision by itself, there can be none of the two mutually supporting each other. While Peter preached Jesus to them the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard. This left no doubt as to the propriety of baptizing these Gentile proselytes of the gate with Christian baptism.
Thus Peter showed in act what Jesus meant by His promise, "I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever (ceremonies) thou shalt bind (declare obligatory), etc., loose (declare not so), etc., shall be bound ... loosed." The question which perplexed the early church was not whether Gentiles might, become Christians (for that was plainly declared Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47), but whether they could be admitted without circumcision. Cornelius' case decided this ( Acts 11:17; Acts 10:28; Acts 10:34-35).
Cornelius already "knew" by hearsay of Jesus' preaching ( Acts 10:36-37); but now the faith was authoritatively declared to and accepted by him. An undesigned coincidence (a mark of truth) is to be observed in comparing "four days ago," Acts 10:30, with Acts 10:9; Acts 10:23-24, front which it incidentally comes out that four days in all intervened between Cornelius' vision and Peter's arrival, two days in going to Joppa and two in returning, just as Cornelius states. Cornelius, representing Roman nationality and force, was peculiarly fitted to be the first Gentile convert, the firstfruits of the harvest that followed.
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary 
In the Roman regiment based in Caesarea was an officer named Cornelius who worshipped the God of Israel. He was one of the people known as God-fearers, who attended synagogue services, kept certain Jewish laws, prayed to God and gave money to the needy. God saw that Cornelius was seeking a better understanding of him, so sent Peter to tell him of Jesus Christ and lead him to complete salvation ( Acts 10:1-8).
Peter told Cornelius of what Jesus Christ had done for the world through his life, death and resurrection. All who repented of their sins and believed in Jesus would receive forgiveness, regardless of their nationality ( Acts 10:34-43). Not only did Cornelius and his friends believe, but they received the Holy Spirit as Jewish believers had previously ( Acts 10:44-48; cf. Acts 2:1-4). This was a significant event in the life of the early church, because it showed that God accepted Gentiles as he accepted Jews and gave his blessings to both without distinction ( Acts 11:16-18).
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary 
A Roman centurion, stationed at Caesarea in Palestine, supposed to have been of a distinguished family in Rome. He was "the first gentile convert;" and the story of his reception of the gospel shows how God broke down the partition-wall between Jews and Gentiles. When first mentioned, Acts 10:1 , he had evidently been led by the Holy Spirit to renounce idolatry, to worship the true God, and to lead, in the midst of profligacy, a devout and beneficent life; he was prepared to receive the Savior, and God did not fail to reveal Him. Cornelius was miraculously directed to send for Peter, who was also miraculously prepared to attend the summons. He went from Joppa to Caesarea, thirty-five miles, preached the gospel to Cornelius and his friends, and saw with wonder the miraculous gifts of the Spirit poured upon them all. Providence thus explained his recent vision in the trance; he nobly discarded his Jewish prejudices, and at once began his great work as apostle to the Gentiles by receiving into the church of Christ those whom Christ had so manifestly accepted, Acts 10:11 .
Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible 
CORNELIUS . A ‘proselyte of the gate’ or ‘devout man’ ( Acts 10:1 , see art. Acts of the Apostles, Â§ 6 ), whose baptism was a step forward towards admitting the Gentiles into the Church. He was a Roman centurion of the Italic cohort (see art. Band). An inscription recently discovered near Vienna shows that an Italic cohort was stationed in Syria c [Note: circa, about.] . a.d. 69, and this makes St. Luke’s statement (once said to be an anachronism) quite probable. If the presence of such an officer in CÃ¦sarea was not possible during the semi-independent rule of Agrippa (a.d. 41 44), we must date the episode before that; but we cannot assert such an impossibility.
A. J. Maclean.
People's Dictionary of the Bible 
Cornelius ( Kor-Nç'Li-Ŭs, Eng. Kôr-Nçl'Yŭs ). A Roman centurion of the Italian cohort stationed in Cæsarea, Acts 10:1, etc., a man full of good works and almsdeeds. With his household he was baptized by Peter, and thus Cornelius became the first-fruits of the Gentile world to Christ.
Smith's Bible Dictionary 
Corne'lius. (Of A Horn). A Roman centurion, of the Italian cohort, stationed in Caesarea, Acts 10:1, etc., a man full of good works and alms-deeds. With his household, he was baptized by St. Peter, and thus, Cornelius became the firstfruits of the Gentile world to Christ .
Morrish Bible Dictionary 
A devout centurion of Caesarea, to whom God spoke in a vision, and to whom He sent Peter, who preached the gospel to him and to those he had invited. It led to their salvation; they received the Holy Spirit, and were baptised. Acts 10:1-31 . Peter was thus opening the door of the kingdom to the Gentiles.
Easton's Bible Dictionary 
Acts 10 Acts 10:1,44-48Centurion
Holman Bible Dictionary 
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature 
( Κορνήλιος , Lat. Cornelius ). The centurion of this name, whose history occurs in Acts 10, most probably belonged to the Cornelii, a noble and distinguished family at Rome. He is reckoned by Julian the Apostate as one of the few persons of distinction who embraced Christianity. His station in society will appear upon considering that the Roman soldiers were divided into legions, each legion into ten cohorts, each cohort into three bands, and each band into two centuries or hundreds; and that Cornelius was a commander of one of these centuries ( Ἐκατοντάρχης ) belonging to the Italic band, so called from its consisting chiefly of Italian soldiers, formed out of one of the six cohorts granted to the procurators of Judaea, five of which cohorts were stationed at Cesarea, the usual residence of the procurators (Jahn, Biblische Archaologie , 2:215, Wien, 1824). (See Centurion).
The religious position of Cornelius before his interview with Peter has been the subject of much debate. On the one side it is contended that he was what is called a proselyte of the gate, or a Gentile, who, having renounced idolatry and worshipping the true God, submitted to the seven (supposed) precepts of Noah, frequented the synagogue, and offered sacrifices by the hands of the priests, but. not having received circumcision, was not reckoned among the Jews. In support of this opinion it is pleaded that Cornelius is Φοβούμενος Τὸν Θεόν (a man fearing God), Acts 10:2, the usual appellation, it is alleged, for a proselyte of the gate, as in chap. Acts 13:16; Acts 13:26, and elsewhere; that he prayed at the usual Jewish hours of prayer ( Acts 10:30); that he read the Old Testament, because Peter refers him to the prophets (x. 43); and that he gave much alms to the Jewish people ( Acts 10:2; Acts 10:22). On the other side it is answered that the phrases Φοβούμενοι Τὸν Θεόν , and the similar phrases Εὐλαβεῖς and Εὐσεβεῖς , are used respecting any persons imbued with reverence towards God ( Acts 10:35; Luke 1:50; Luke 2:25; Colossians 3:22; Revelation 11:18); that he is styled by Peter Ἀλλόφυλος (a man of another race or nation), with whom it was unLawful for a Jew to associate, whereas the law Allowed to foreigners a perpetual residence among the Jews, provided they would renounce idolatry and abstain from blood ( Leviticus 17:10-11; Leviticus 17:13), and even commanded the Jews to love them ( Leviticus 19:33-34); that they mingled with the Jews in the synagogue ( Acts 14:1) and in private life ( Luke 7:3); that, had Cornelius been a proselyte of the gate, his conversion to Christianity would not have occasioned so much surprise to the Jewish Christians ( Acts 10:45), nor would "they that were of the circumcision" have contended with Peter so much on his account ( Acts 11:2); that he is expressly classed among the Gentiles by James ( Acts 15:14), and by Peter himself, when claiming the honor of having first preached to the Gentiles ( Acts 15:7); that the remark of the opposing party at Jerusalem, when convinced, "then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life," would have been inapplicable upon the very principles of those who assert that Cornelius was a proselyte, since they argue from the traditions of modern Jews, the most eminent of whom, Maimonides, admits a sincere proselyte to be in a state of salvation. The other arguments, derived from the observance of the Jewish hours of prayer by Cornelius, and his acquaintance with the Old Testament, are all resolvable into a view of his religious position, which will shortly be stated. The strongest objection against the supposition that Cornelius was a proselyte of the gate arises from the very reasonable doubt whether any such distinction existed in the time of the apostles (see Tomline, Elements of Theology, 1:266 sq.). Dr. Lardner has remarked that the notion of two sorts of proselytes is not to be found in any Christian writer before the fourteenth century (Works, 6:522). See also Jennings's Jewish Antiquities (bk. 1, ch. 3). The arguments on the other side are ably stated by Townsend (Chrolnolog. N. Test. note in loc.). (See Proselyte).
On the whole, the position' of Cornelius with regard to religion appears to have been in that class of persons described by bishop Tomline, consisting of Gentiles who had so far benefited by their contact with the Jewish people as to have become convinced that theirs was the true religion, who consequently worshipped the true God, were acquainted with the Scriptures of the Old Testament, most probably in the Greek translation, and observed several Jewish customs, as, for instance, their hours of prayer, or anything else that did not involve an act of special profession. This class of persons seems referred to in Acts 13:16, where they are plainly distinguished from the Jews, though certainly mingled with them. To the same class is to be referred Candace's treasurer ( Acts 8:27, etc.); and in earlier times the midwives of Egypt ( Exodus 1:17), Rahab ( Joshua 6:25), Ruth, Araunah the Jebusite ( 2 Samuel 24:18, etc.), the persons mentioned 1 Kings 8:41-43, Naaman ( 2 Kings 5:16-17). See also Josephus, Antiq. 14:7, 2, and his account of Alexander the Great going into the Temple, and offering sacrifice to God according to the direction of the high-priest (ibid. 11:8, 5); of Antiochus the Great (ibid. 12:3, 3, 4), and of Ptolemy Philadelphus (ibid. 12:2, 1, etc.). Under the influence of these facts and arguments, we regard Cornelius as having been selected of God to become the first-fruit of the Gentiles. His character appears suited, as much as possible, to abate the prejudices of the Jewish ‘ converts against what appeared to them so great an innovation. It is well observed by Theophylact that Cornelius, though neither a Jew nor a Christian, lived the life of a good Christian. He was Εὐσεβής , influenced by spontaneous reverence to God. He practically obeyed the restraints of religion, for he feared God, and this latter part of the description is extended to all his family or household ( 2 Kings 5:2). He was liberal in alms to the Jewish people, which showed his respect for them; and he "prayed to God always," at all the hours of prayer observed by the Jewish nation. Such piety, obedience, faith, and charity prepared him for superior attainments and benefits, and secured to him their bestowment ( Psalms 25:9; Psalms 1, 23; Matthew 13:12; Luke 8:15; John 7:17). His position in command at Caesarea doubtless brought him into contact with intelligent Jews, from whom he learned the truths respecting the Messiah, and he seems to have been prepared by a personal knowledge of the external facts of Christianity to welcome the message of Peter as of divine authority.
The remarkable circumstances under which the benefits of the Gospel were conferred upon him are too plainly and forcibly related in Acts 10 to require much comment (see Paley, Evidences, prop. 2, ch. 2; Niemeyer, Charakt. 1:650 sq.; Neander, Planting and Training, p. 69 sq.). While in prayer at the ninth hour of the day, he beheld, in waking vision, an angel of God, who declared that "his prayers and alms had come up for a memorial before God," and directed him to send to Joppa for Peter, who was then abiding "at the house of one Simon, a tanner." Cornelius sent accordingly; and when his messenger had nearly reached that place, Peter was prepared by the symbolical revelations of a noonday ecstasy or trance, to un derstand that nothing which God had cleansed was to be regarded as common or unclean. — Kitto, s.v. This event took place about September, A.D. 32 (see Meth. Quart. Review, 1850, p. 499-501). "On his arriving at the house of Cornelius, and while lie was explaining to them the vision which he had seen in reference to this mission, the Holy Ghost fell on the:Gentiles present, and thus anticipated the reply to the question, which might still have proved a difficult one for the apostle, whether they were to be baptized as Gentiles into the Christian Church. They were so baptized, and thus Cornelius became the first-fruit of the Gentile world to Christ, publicly recognized as such; Tradition has been busy with his life and acts. According to Jerome (adv. Jovin. 1, p. 301), he built a Christian church at Caesarea; but later tradition makes him bishop of Scamandios (Scamandria?), and ascribes to him the working of a great miracle (Menolog. Graec. 1, 129)."
There are monographs on the history of Cornelius in German by Linder (Basel, 1830), Krummacher (Brem. 1829, transl. Edinburgh, 1839), in Latin by Basil (Opp. 108), in English by Evans (Script. Biog. 3, 309); also in Latin, on his character by Fecht (Rost. 1701), Feuerlin (Altorf. 1736); on Peter's vision, by Deysing (Marb. 1710), Engestrom (Lund. 1741); on the effusion of the Spirit, by Goetze (Lubec. 1712); on his baptism, by the same (ib. 1713); on his prayers, by Michaelis (in the Bibl. Bremn. v. 679 sq.); on Peter's sermon, in English, by Taylor (London, 1659). See also Krummacher, Life of Cornelius (Edinb. 1839, 12mo); Jour. Sac. Lit. April, 1864.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia 
kor - nē´li - us ( Κορνήλιος , Kornḗlios , "of a horn"): The story of Cornelius is given in Acts 10:1 through 11:18.
1. His Family and Station
The name is Roman and belonged to distinguished families in the imperial city, such as the Scipios and Sulla. Thus he was probably an Italian of Roman blood. Julian the Apostate reckons him as one of the few persons of distinction who became a Christian. He was evidently a man of importance in Caesarea and well known to the Jews ( Acts 10:22 ). He was a centurion in the Italian cohort. To understand this we must note that the Roman army was divided into two broad divisions, the legions and the auxiliary forces. See Army , Roman .
Legions were never permanently quartered in Palestine until the great war which ended in the destruction of Jerusalem, 70 ad. From the year 6 ad, when Palestine was made into province of the second rank, until 66 ad, it was garrisoned by auxiliary troops recruited amongst the Samaritans and Syrian Greeks. The headquarters were naturally at Caesarea, the residence of the procurator. But it would not have been prudent for a garrison in Palestine to be composed wholly of troops locally recruited. Therefore the Roman government mingled with the garrison 600 soldiers, free Italian volunteers. With this cohort Cornelius was connected as centurion.
2. His Character
He is described as devout and God-fearing, i.e. at least, one of those men so numerous in that effete age of decadent heathenism who, discontented with polytheism, yearned for a better faith, embraced, therefore, the monotheism of the Jews, read the Scriptures, and practiced more or less of the Jewish rites. He was well reported of by the Jews, and his religion showed itself in prayer at the regular hours, and in alms to the people (of Israel). Even Jewish bigotry was dumb in presence of so noble a man. Moreover, he seems to have made his house a sort of church, for his kinsfolk and friends were in sympathy with him, and among the soldiers who closely attended him were some devout ones ( Acts 10:1 , Acts 10:27 ).
3. His Admission into the Christian Church
The story of his conversion and admission into the Christian church is told with some minuteness in Acts 10. Nothing further is known of Cornelius, though one tradition asserts that he founded the church in Caesarea, and another legend that he became the bishop of Scamandros.
4. Significance of the Incident
The exact importance of the incident depends upon the position of Cornelius before it occurred. Certainly he was not a proselyte of the sanctuary, circumcised, under the law, a member of the Jewish communion. This is abundantly evident from Acts 10:28 , Acts 10:34 , Acts 10:45; Acts 11:3 , Acts 11:18; Acts 15:7 , Acts 15:14 . But was he not an inferior form of proselyte, later called "proselytes of the gate"? This question has been much debated and is still under discussion. Ramsay ( St. Paul the Traveler , 43) says that the expression, "God-fearing," applied to him, is always used in Acts with reference to this kind of proselytes. Such were bound to observe certain regulations of purity, probably those, this author thinks, mentioned in Acts 15:29 , and which stand in close relation to the principles laid down in Lev 17 through 18 for the conduct of strangers dwelling among Israel. Renan, on the other hand, denies that Cornelius was a proselyte at all, but simply a devout Gentile who adopted some of the Jewish ideas and religious customs which did not involve a special profession. The importance of the whole transaction to the development of the church seems to depend on the circumstance that Cornelius was probably not a proselyte at all. Thus we regard Cornelius as literally the first-fruits of the Gentiles. The step here taken by Peter was therefore one of tremendous importance to the whole development of the church. The significance of the incident consists exactly in this, that under Divine direction, the first Gentile , not at all belonging to the old theocracy, becomes a Spirit-filled Christian, entering through the front door of the Christian church without first going through the narrow gate of Judaism. The incident settled forever the great, fundamental question as to the relations of Jew and Gentile in the church. The difficulties in the way of the complete triumph of Peter's view of the equality of Jews and Gentiles in the Kingdom of Christ were enormous. It would have been indeed little short of miraculous if the multitude of Christian Pharisees had not raised the question again and again. Did they not dog Paul's steps after the Council? Certainly Ramsay is wrong in saying that the case of Cornelius was passed over or condoned as exceptional, for it was used as a precedent by both Peter and James ( Acts 15:7 , Acts 15:14 ).
As for Peter's subsequent conduct at Antioch, no one who knows Peter need be surprised at it. The very accusation that Paul hurled at him was that for the moment he was carried into inconsistency with his principles ( hupókrisis ). Of course, this incident of Cornelius was only the first step in a long development; but the principle was forever settled. The rest in due time and proper order was sure to follow. By this tremendous innovation it was settled that Christianity was to be freed from the swaddling bands of Judaism and that the Christian church was not to be an appendix to the synagogue. The noble character of Cornelius was just fitted to abate, as far as possible, the prejudices of the Jewish Christians against what must have seemed to them a dangerous, if not awful, innovation.
Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature 
The centurion of this name, whose history occurs in Acts 10, most probably belonged to the Cornelii a noble and distinguished family at Rome. He is reckoned by Julian the Apostate as one of the few persons of distinction who embraced Christianity. His station in society will appear upon considering that the Roman soldiers were divided into legions, each legion into ten cohorts, each cohort into three bands, and each band into two centuries or hundreds; and that Cornelius was a commander of one of these centuries, belonging to the Italic band; so called from its consisting chiefly of Italian soldiers, formed out of one of the six cohorts granted to the procurators of Judea, five of which cohorts were stationed at Caesarea, the usual residence of the procurators. The religious position of Cornelius, before his interview with Peter, has been the subject of much debate. It is contended by some that he was what is called a proselyte of the gate, or a Gentile, who, having renounced idolatry and worshipping the true God, frequented the synagogue, and offered sacrifices by the hands of the priests; but, not having received circumcision, was not reckoned among the Jews. But, on the whole, it is more probable that he belonged to the class of pious Gentiles who had so far benefited by their contact with the Jewish people as to have become convinced that theirs was the true religion, who consequently worshipped the true God, were acquainted with the Scriptures of the Old Testament, most probably in the Greek translation, and observed several Jewish customs, as, for instance, their hours of prayer, or anything else that did not involve an act of special profession. This class of persons seems referred to in , where they are plainly distinguished from the Jews, though certainly mingled with them. To the same class is to be referred Candace's treasurer (, etc.): and in earlier times, the midwives of Egypt , Rahab , Ruth, Araunah the Jebusite (, etc.), the persons mentioned , Naaman . We regard Cornelius, therefore, as having been selected of God to become the firstfruits of the Gentiles. His character appears suited, as much as possible, to abate the prejudices of the Jewish converts against what appeared to them so great an innovation. It is well observed by Theophylact, that Cornelius, though neither a Jew nor a Christian, lived the life of a good Christian. He was influenced by spontaneous reverence to God. He practically obeyed the restraints of religion, for he feared God, and this latter part of the description is extended to all his family or household . He was liberal in alms to the Jewish people, which showed his respect for them; and he 'prayed to God always,' at all the hours of prayer observed by the Jewish nation. Such piety, obedience, faith, and charity, prepared him for superior attainments and benefits, and secured to him their bestowment (;;;; ).
The remarkable circumstances under which these benefits were conferred upon him are too plainly and forcibly related in Acts 10 to require much comment. While in prayer, at the ninth hour of the day, he beheld, in waking vision, an angel of God, who declared that 'his prayers and alms had come up for a memorial before God,' and directed him to send to Joppa for Peter, who was then abiding 'at the house of one Simon, a tanner.' Cornelius sent accordingly; and when his messenger had nearly reached that place, Peter was prepared by the symbolical revelations of a noonday ecstasy, or trance, to understand that nothing which God had cleansed was to be regarded as common or unclean.
It is well remarked by Paley, that the circumstances of the two visions are such as to take them entirely out of the case of momentary miracles, or of such as may be accounted for by a false perception. 'The vision might be a dream; the message could not. Either communication taken separately might be a delusion; the concurrence of the two was impossible to happen without a supernatural cause.' (Evidences, prop. 1 chap. 2). The inquiries of the messengers from Cornelius suggested to Peter the application of his vision, and he readily accompanied them to Joppa, attended by six Jewish brethren, and hesitated not to enter the house of one whom he, as a Jew, would regard as unclean. The Apostle waived the too fervent reverence of Cornelius, which, although usual in the East, was rendered by Romans only to their gods; and mutual explanations then took place between him and the centurion. After this the Apostle proceeded to address Cornelius and his assembled friends, and expressed his conviction that the Gentiles were no longer to be called unclean, and stated the leading evidence and chief doctrines of the Gospel. While he was discoursing, the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, contrary to the order hitherto observed of being preceded by baptism and imposition of hands, fell on his Gentile auditors. Of this fact Peter and his companions were convinced, for they heard them speak with tongues, foreign and before unknown to them, and which Peter and his companions knew to be such by the aid of their own miraculous gifts, and, under divine impulse, glorify God as the author of the Gospel. The Jewish brethren who accompanied Peter were astonished upon perceiving, by these indubitable indications, that the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the Gentiles, as upon themselves at the beginning . Peter, already prepared by his vision for the event, and remembering that baptism was by the command of Jesus, associated with these miraculous endowments, said, 'Can any man forbid water that these should be baptized, who have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?' and yet, agreeably to the apostolic rule of committing the administration of baptism to others, and, considering that the consent of the Jewish brethren would be more explicit if they performed the duty, he ordered them to baptize Cornelius and his friends, his household, whose acceptance as members of the Christian church had been so abundantly testified.
- Cornelius from Fausset's Bible Dictionary
- Cornelius from Bridgeway Bible Dictionary
- Cornelius from American Tract Society Bible Dictionary
- Cornelius from Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible
- Cornelius from People's Dictionary of the Bible
- Cornelius from Smith's Bible Dictionary
- Cornelius from Morrish Bible Dictionary
- Cornelius from Easton's Bible Dictionary
- Cornelius from Holman Bible Dictionary
- Cornelius from Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
- Cornelius from International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
- Cornelius from Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature