King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Acts 11

Peter’s defence. (1-18) The success of the gospel at Antioch. (19-24) The disciples named Christians, Relief sent to Judea. (25-30)

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Peter’s defence

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

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

3 Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.

4 But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them, saying,

5 I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A certain vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came even to me:

6 Upon the which when I had fastened mine eyes, I considered, and saw fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.

7 And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat.

8 But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth.

9 But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.

10 And this was done three times: and all were drawn up again into heaven.

11 And, behold, immediately there were three men already come unto the house where I was, sent from Caesarea unto me.

12 And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man’s house:

13 And he shewed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter;

14 Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.

15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.

16 Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.

17 Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?

18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.

The success of the gospel at Antioch

19 Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.

20 And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the LORD Jesus.

21 And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.

22 Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch.

23 Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.

24 For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord.

The disciples named Christians, Relief sent to Judea

25 Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul:

26 And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

27 And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch.

28 And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar.

29 Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea:

30 Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 2. Disputed against him. S. 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 S. Paul, (Acts xxi.) and that the first Council of Jerusalem was convened to condemn him. S. Epiph. hæres. 28. c. 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 S. Peter satisfied them, or silenced them by a plain and sincere recital of his vision, and of what happened at the house of Cornelius. Wi.

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

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. Wi.

Ver. 24. Multitude was added, as before, (c. 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 S. Paul and S. 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 S. 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 S. Augustin, in several places, takes notice, that no heretics could ever get themselves called by this name; nor can they to this present. See S. Aug. de util. credendi. c. viii. de vera relig. c. vii. cont. epis. fundam. c. 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. Wi. — 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. S. Peter, in his first epistle, uses the appellation of Christians; but it does not appear that S. 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 S. Jer. 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.” S. 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 S. Augustin hesitates not to say: “In the lap of the Church the very name Catholic keepeth me.” Cont. ep. fund. c. 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 from hence to the latest posterity.” 1 Tim. 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. De Dion. Carth. — 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! S. Chrys. 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. Wi. — 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. S. Paul, (1 Tim. v. 1. 17. 19.) S. 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.

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[1] V. 20. Ad Græcos, pros tous ellenistas, and in some MSS. ellenas.

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