Acts of Cornelius

Acta Corneliī

Standard abbreviation: Acts Corn.

Other titles: none

Clavis numbers: BHG 370yz, 371be

Category: Apocryphal Acts

Related literature: Acts 10:1–11:18

Compiled by Tony Burke, York University (

Citing this resource (using Chicago Manual of Style): Burke, Tony. “Acts of Cornelius.” e-Clavis: Christian Apocrypha. Accessed DAY MONTH YEAR.

Posted June, 2016.


The Acts of Cornelius narrates the exploits of the well-known centurion of the Italian Cohort and god-fearer of Acts 10:1–11:18. The story begins with a retelling of Cornelius’s conversion and baptism by Peter. After the death of Stephen (as told in Acts 11:19), the apostles flee Jerusalem and Cornelius is then selected by lot to evangelize Skepsis, “a city subjected to idols.” The city is ruled by Demetrius, a worshipper of Apollo and Zeus and a persecutor of Christians. When Cornelius arrives, Demetrius demands he sacrifice to the gods. Cornelius is brought to the shrine of Zeus, where he prays to God to destroy the idols, and it collapses. Demetrius learns that his wife and son are trapped in the rubble; so he brings Cornelius to free them from their tomb. Again he prays and the ground opens, freeing the victims. The entire city become believers and Cornelius remains in the city to teach and to baptize. When Cornelius dies, his body is placed in a coffin near the destroyed shrine of Zeus. Over time the coffin is hidden by foliage and Cornelius’s resting place is lost to memory until a certain Silvanus, bishop of Troas, visits the area and has a dream in which Cornelius reveals to him the location of his coffin and commands Silvanus to build him a sanctuary. Once the sanctuary is built (thanks in part to a wealthy benefactor named Eugenius), Silvanus leads the congregation in a procession to the sanctuary; the coffin follows the supplicants into the shrine “as if alive” and comes to rest beside the altar. Time passes again, until Philostorgius, the bishop of Skepsis, commissions a painter named Encratius to decorate the shrine with an image of Cornelius. Unfortunately, Encratius does not know what Cornelius looked like. Nevertheless, he gets to work but falls from the ladder to his death; but Cornelius appears and heals the painter, thus providing an opportunity for Encratius to see Cornelius’s features and complete his task. Acts Corn. exists also in a shorter form, which essentially tells the same story except for an epilogue in which the painting and the hand of Cornelius are transferred from Skepsis to Cornelius’s home in Caesarea Palaestina.

Named historical figures and characters: Aeneas, Apollo, Barbarus, Barbatos, Cornelius the Centurion, Daniel (prophet), David (king), Demetrius (of Skepsis), Demetrius (son of Demetrius), Dorcas (Tabitha), Encratius, Eugenius, Eunomius (presbyter) Evanthia (of Skepsis), John (deacon), Julian (secretary), Pamphilus (metropolitan), Peter (apostle), Philostorgius (bishop), Silvanus (bishop), Simon the tanner, Stephen (martyr), Telephon, Timothy, Zeus.

Geographical locations: Abydos, Antioch, Caesarea Palaestina, Cyprus, Jerusalem, Joppa, Lydda, Pheonicia, Skepsis, Troas.


Entry for Cornelius in the Upper Egypt Coptic Synaxarium published by the St. George Coptic Orthodox Church in Chicago.


3.1 Manuscripts and Editions

3.1.1 Ethiopic

EMML 1824, fol. 64r–75v (early 15th cent.)—follows closely the form of the text in Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, gr. 1489; translated from Arabic.

3.1.2 Greek

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, gr. 1489,  fols. 96v–105v (11th cent.; BHG 371); one of numerous manuscripts of Symeon Metaphrastes’ menologia; translated into Latin in Jacques Paul Migne’s Patrologia Graeca (114:1293-1312).

London, British Library, Add. 11870, fols. 108r–117r (11th cent.)

Mount Athos, Pantokratoros 53, fols. 209v–215v (12th cent.; initially designated a separate recension as BHG 370y, but once it was discovered that it simply lacks the first three chapters, the designation was changed to BHG 371b)

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Coislin 286, fols. 185r–186r (14th cent.; BHG 371e)—an excerpt of the text, covering only chaps. 1–4:2 though with many omissions.

Mount Athos, Philotheou 8, fols. 57–59 (11th cent.; BHG 370z), published in Halkin, “Un abrégé inédit”—an epitome that concludes with an additional story recounting the exhumation of Cornelius’s hand.

Bolland, Jean et al., eds. Acta Sanctorum, Februarius. Vol. 1 (=Acta Sanctorum vol. 4). Antwerp: P. Jacobs, 1658; 3rd. ed. Paris: V. Palmé, 1863. (Latin translation of Bibliothèque nationale de France, gr. 1489).

Halkin, François. “Un abrégé inédit de la vie ancienne et disparue de Corneille le Centurion.” Rivista di Studi Bizantini e Neoellenici, N.S. 1 (1964): 31-39. (Editio princeps of the Acts Corn. epitome.)

Migne, Jacques Paul. Patrologiae cursus completus: Series graeca. Vol. 114. Paris: Cerf, 1861. (Editio princeps of the text from Paris, gr. 1489 with Latin translation, cols. 1293-1312.)

3.1.3 Synaxaria

Budge, Ernest A. W. The Book of the Saints of the Ethiopian Church: A Translation of the Ethiopic Synaxarium: Made from the Manuscripts Oriental 660 and 661 in the British Museum. 4 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1928 (vol. 1, pp. 157–58).

Makarios of Simonos Petra. The Synaxarion: The Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church. 7 vols. Trans. Christopher Hookway. Ormylia, Greece: Holy Convent of the Annunciation of Our Lady, 1998 (vol. 1, pp. 94–96).

Wüstenfeld, Ferdinand. Synaxarium das ist heiligen-kalender der Coptischen Christen. 2 vols. Gotha: Friedrich Andreas Perthes, 1879 (vol. 1, p. 134).

3.2 Modern Translations

3.2.1 English

Burke, Tony and Witold Witakoski. “Acts of Cornelius the Centurion.” Pages 337-61 in New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures. Vol. 1. Edited by Tony Burke and Brent Landau. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2016 (introduction with two translations: the longer Greek text with variants from the Ethiopic in the notes, and the epitome),

3.3 General Works

Halkin, François. “Une passion inédite de Corneille le centurion? (BHG3 370y).” AnBoll 81 (1963): 28–30.

Orbiso, T. Garcia de. “Cornelio il Centurione, santo.” Bibliotheca Sanctorum 4 (1964): 189–92.

Ramsay,  William M. “Cornelius and the Italic Cohort.” Expositor V/4 (1896): 194–201.

Rosenbaum, Hans-Udo. “Kornelios.” Page 517 in vol. 4 of Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon. 33 vols. Edited by Friedrich Wilhelm Bautz and Traugott Bautz. Hamm-Herzberg-Nordhausen: Bautz, 1975–2012.