By far the most important event on the Apostle Peter’s missionary journey was the conversion of Cornelius. Cornelius was a Roman army officer, stationed in Caesarea. This city had been rebuilt by Herod [an Edomite] and was named in honor of Caesar Augustus. It was the chief port of Palestine and the official Roman capital of the provinces of Judea and Samaria. There the Roman governor had his headquarters.
He was in Jerusalem, usually, only during the feasts. The Italian Cohort, made up largely of freedmen, was probably a special detachment of troops, to be used by the governor to put down disorders that might arise among the Judeans.
Cornelius, weary of Roman paganism, had been worshipping the God of Israel, but was missing something. Verse two describes him as “devout”, a “God-fearer”, a “giver of alms”, and “prayerful” to Almighty God. In fact, his “whole house feared God.” Who was this special man? What race was he? What was unusual about this situation?