Acts xi.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 2. Disputed against him.St. Epiphanius makes Cerinthus, who was the next heresiarch to Simon Magus, the author of this dispute. He likewise says it was he, who excited the Jews against St. Paul, (Acts xxi.) and that the first Council of Jerusalem was convened to condemn him. (St. Epiphanius, hæres. 28. chap. ii)

Ver. 3. And didst eat with them. The Jews looked upon it as a thing altogether abominable, for them to eat with uncircumcised Gentiles; but St. Peter satisfied them, or silenced them by a plain and sincere recital of his vision, and of what happened at the house of Cornelius. (Witham)

Ver. 18. They held their peace, and glorified God, that the gate of salvation was also opened to the Gentiles. (Witham)

Ver. 20. Some of them, at Antioch, spoke also to the Grecians:[1] by which many understand, to the Gentiles, though in most Greek copies we read, to the Hellenists. (Witham)

Ver. 24. Multitude was added, as before, (chap. x.) a few were added to the visible Church. Ever since Christ’s ascension, this Church has been notoriously seen. Of her ministers, their preaching has been open, their sacraments visible, their discipline visible, their persecutions visible, their wonderful increase visible, and their manifestly divine protection visible, and known to all the world. Whilst all that have separated themselves by schism from this venerable body, have fallen into discredit, and most into complete oblivion. The Catholic Church was the first, and it will be the last.

Ver. 25. To seek Saul, who had retired for a while, to his native city, Tarsus. These two remained at Antioch about a year, during which time they reaped a plentiful harvest.

Ver. 26. At Antioch the disciples were first named Christians, when St. Paul and St. Barnabas were preaching there. Before that, they were called the disciples of Jesus, and sometimes Nazarenes, (see Acts xxiv. 5.) or perhaps Galileans. This honourable name of Christians, distinguished them from Gentiles and Jews, and from all heretical sects, who generally had some name from the authors of such sects, as Simonites, Cerinthians, Nicolaits, &c. Of which see St. Epiphanius. The faithful had also after some time the name of Catholics, being taught in the apostles’ creed to believe in the Catholic Church. And St. Augustine, in several places, takes notice, that no heretics could ever get themselves called by this name; nor can they to this present. See St. Augustine, de util. credendi. chap. viii.; de vera relig. chap. vii.; cont. epis. fundam. chap. iv. Whosoever is of the true faith of Christ, may justly say, Christian is my name, Catholic my surname: a greater honour, and a greater advantage, than to be of any royal family. (Witham) — The faithful disciples, believers, &c. as before they were called, now received the name of Christians. It is not certain whether they took the name themselves, or it was given them out of disrespect, by the pagans. Galileans was a term of reproach likewise given to the Christians. St. Peter, in his first epistle, uses the appellation of Christians; but it does not appear that St. Paul ever did in any of his writings. (Calmet, Tirinus, &c.) — The name of Christian should be common to all the faithful, and all other new names of sectaries abhorred. “If you hear,” says St. Jerome, any where such as are said to be of Christ, “not to have their name from Christ, but from some other, as Marcionites, Valentinians, (as now also Lutherans, Calvinists, &c. &c. &c. &c.) know that they belong not to the Church of Christ, but to the synagogue of Antichrist.” St. Pacianus, in his letter to Sympronian, says, when heresies had arisen, and endeavoured by diverse names to tear the dove of the Lord and Queen in pieces, the faithful required their surname: hence they who before were called Christians, are now surnamed also Catholics. Christian is my name and Catholic my surname. By this term Catholic, the apostles, in their creed, have distinguished the one true visible Church from all and every other congregation, sect, or party. This mark is so self-evident, that St. Augustine hesitates not to say: “In the lap of the Church the very name Catholic keepeth me.” (Cont. ep. fund. chap. iv.) — Again, in his book on the utility of believing, he says: “if after these troubles of mind you still are tossed and vexed, and wish for peace, follow the way of Catholic discipline, which from Christ himself, by the apostles, hath proceeded even unto us, and shall proceed form hence to the latest posterity.” (1 Timothy iii. 15.)

Ver. 29. Who dwell in Judea. Most of the faithful in Jerusalem, who wished to live perfect lives, had sold their possessions, and placed the price in the hands of the apostles; and many others, who had not voluntarily relinquished their property, had probably lost most of it in the persecutions. Hence arose the particular distress of the brethren in Jerusalem, to relieve which the Gentiles made collections. It was meet, that they who had been made partakers of their spiritual goods, should now in time of need administer to them of their temporal substance. (Denis the Carthusian) — Imitate the alms of these primitive Christians, and make to yourselves provision against another life. Oh how many are now clothed in silks, and abound in pleasures, but are naked and void of every thing, that will bear examination on the day of judgment! (St. Chrysostom, hom. xxvi. in Act.)

Ver. 30. Sending it to the ancients;[2] elders, &c. In this and diverse other places, are not to be understood such as were elder in age, but such as had offices and dignities, and by divine authority, and who with a due subordination were to govern the Church: so that by this word, were signified apostles, bishops, and priests. But of this more hereafter. (Witham) — The ancients or priests, seniors, presbuterous. This is the first place in the New Testament, where priests are mentioned. Some interpreters think, that by this word, ancients, are meant the apostles; but this is not likely. The apostles must at that time have been dispersed over all the world. Others think it was some of the older deacons, who had charge of the alms. We like the opinion of those who think it means priests, subordinate to the apostles, who had the charge of governing the faithful, in their absence. Thus the Christian Church will appear modelled after the form of the synagogue. First, the bishop, who presides, corresponding to the head of the synagogue; the priests, to the ancients, who sat on the right and left of the chief; and the deacons, to the disciples of the Scribes, who studied the law. It must be allowed that many passages occur in Scripture, which it seems necessary to explain of priests of the second rank. St. Paul, (1 Timothy v. 1. 17. 19.) St. James (v. 14) orders the priests to be called to anoint the sick man, which cannot be explained of bishops, as there was only one in each town. It must nevertheless be observed, that this same word ancient, or priest, is often used in Scripture, and primitive writings, to designate a bishop. (Calmet)


[1] Ver. 20. Ad Græcos, pros tous ellenistas, and in some manuscripts ellenas.

[2] Ver. 30. Ad seniores, pros tous presbuterous. This Greek word presbuteros, in our Latin Vulgate is sometimes translated presbyter, sometimes senior, sometimes major natu, and is commonly put to signify bishops, or priests, as shall be seen hereafter.

Bible Text & Cross-references:

Peter defends his having received the Gentiles into the Church. Many are converted at Antioch.

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

2 And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they who were of the circumcision, disputed against him,

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

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

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 to me.

6 Into which looking I considered, and saw four-footed 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 the second time from heaven: What God hath made clean, call not thou 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 Cæsarea.

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 and all thy house shall be saved.

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 he said: *John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.

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

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

19 And they indeed, who had been dispersed, by the persecution that arose on occasion of Stephen, went about as far as Phœnice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, speaking the word to none, but to the Jews only.

20 But some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had entered into Antioch, spoke also to the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus.

21 And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believing, was converted to the Lord.*

22 And the report of these things came to the ears of the church that was at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas as far as Antioch.

23 Who when he was come, and had seen the grace of God, rejoiced: and exhorted them all with purpose of heart to continue in the Lord.

24 For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost, and of faith. And a great multitude was added to the Lord.

25 And Barnabas went to Tarsus, to seek Saul: whom, when he had found, he brought to Antioch.*

26 And they conversed there in the church a whole year: and they taught a great multitude, so that at Antioch the disciples were first named Christians.

27 And in these days there came prophets from Jerusalem to Antioch.

28 And one of them, named Agabus, rising up, signified by the spirit, that there should be a great famine over the whole world, which came to pass under Claudius.

29 And the disciples, every man according to his ability, resolved to send relief to the brethren who dwelt in Judea:

30 Which also they did, sending it to the ancients by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.*



16: Matthew iii. 11.; Mark i. 8.; Luke iii. 16.; John i. 26.; Acts i. 5.; Acts xix. 4.

21: about the year A.D. 41.

25: about the year A.D. 41.

30: about the year A.D. 42.