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Healing the centurion's servant in Matthew 8:5–13.

Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, “Truly this was the Son of God. - Matthew 27:54

Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Roman cohort. - Acts 10:1

Is there a special theme about the centurions?

  • There was also the Captain of the Guard Stratopedarches in Acts 28:16 and the Chief Captain in Acts 22:24 and the centurion, to whom Paul spoke, Acts 22:25 who had bought his freedom 'with a great sum'. – Nigel J Sep 24 at 13:01
  • Acts is not a Gospel, nor believed to be written by the same author as Matthew. Which specific Gospel are you asking about? Matthew I presume? – Dan Sep 24 at 13:32
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    @Dan The question says 'gospel' not 'gospels'. My own assumption is that the OP is looking generally at the early church and the inauguration of the gospel, itself, and its documentation in all 27 books. – Nigel J Sep 24 at 14:02
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    @NigelJ if that’s the case, then this question doesn’t start from and seek to understand a specific text, and needs a little focus (minor edit should help—if you think you understand the OP’s intent, go for it). – Dan Sep 24 at 14:18
  • @Dan I don't follow your meaning at all. The OP asks why there is attention drawn to Centurions in the days of Jesus Christ and his Apostles. It is a valid question. Why was it ever mentioned ? Why not just say 'Roman soldier' or even just 'Roman' or why not say 'gentile' or why say anything at all ? There is always a reason for every single word in scripture. Nothing is haphazard. Nothing is without significance. These are the words inspired of the Holy Spirit of God. I have voted up the question. I believe it belongs here. – Nigel J Sep 24 at 14:25
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Why are centurions featured so frequently in the New Testament?

There are several reasons for this, that make sense historically speaking.

A centurion was a Roman officer and often had important social status and held powerful positions in society. Generally speaking a centurion commanded about either 30, 60,100 or even more men within a Roman Legion, depending on circumstances.

A centurion's symbol of office was the vine staff, with which they disciplined even Roman citizens, who were otherwise legally protected from corporal punishment by the Porcian Laws. Centurions also served in the Roman navy. After the 107 BC Marian reforms of Gaius Marius, centurions were professional officers. In Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, the Byzantine army's centurions were also known by the name kentarch (Greek: κένταρχος, translit. kentarchos).

In the Roman infantry, the centurions commanded a centuria or "century". During the Mid Republic these centuries were grouped in pairs to make up a maniple, each century consisting on 30 - 60 men. After the Marian reforms a century typically composed of around 80 men, with six such centuries forming a legionary cohort. Later, generals and emperors further manipulated these numbers with double and half-strength units. Julius Caesar, for instance, made the first cohort of 5 double strength centuries.

Centurions received a much higher rate of pay than the average legionary. Veteran legionaries often worked as tenants of their former centurions.

Unlike legionaries, the Roman Centurions carried their swords on their left side as a sign of distinction and carried the pugio (dagger) on the right, as the sidearm.

Centurions often had important social status and held powerful positions in society. They seem to have received their status according to their rank. On retirement, they could be eligible for employment as lictors. - Centurion

Thus we can see why Roman centurions were mentioned often in the New Testament.

It was a Roman centurion who confessed that Jesus was the Son of God at the Crucifixion, as he was in the forefront of the execution of Jesus!

Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God. - Matt 27: 52

It was also to the centurion of Jesus’ crucifixion that Pilate asked information about the actual death of Jesus.

…43Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent Council member who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God, boldly went to Pilate to ask for the body of Jesus. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that Jesus was already dead, so he summoned the centurion to ask if this was so. 45When Pilate had confirmed it with the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph.… - Mark 15: 44

Seeing that Roman centurions were men of importance within the Roman Army, it is not surprising that that they the could have great influence in helping spread the Gospel.

The Faith of the Centurion

5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

7 Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.

Let us not forget the encounter of the Centurion Cornelius with St. Peter.

Cornelius Calls for Peter

10 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. 2 He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. 3 One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”

4 Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked.

The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. 5 Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. 6 He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”

7 When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. 8 He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa.

Thanks to a centurion, St. Paul’s life was spared at Malta!

The Shipwreck

…42The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners so none of them could swim to freedom. 43But the centurion, wanting to spare Paul’s life, thwarted their plan. He commanded those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. 44The rest were to follow on planks and various parts of the ship. In this way everyone was brought safely to land.…

Obviously Roman Centurions were men of great influence!

A historical reenactor in Roman centurion costume. Note the transverse crest on the Galea (helmet). It was worn to indicate the wearer's rank in regimental 'triumph' and honorific parades. Its purpose was purely symbolic. It was not part of the standard battle-dress of Roman soldiers in the field.

A historical reenactor in Roman centurion costume. Note the transverse crest on the Galea (helmet). It was worn to indicate the wearer's rank in regimental 'triumph' and honorific parades. Its purpose was purely symbolic. It was not part of the standard battle-dress of Roman soldiers in the field.

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  • I had forgotten there were so many of them ! (+1) – Nigel J Sep 24 at 17:40
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Time and place. The gospels were written during the 1st century AD when Judea was a Roman province, under the rule of the ancient Roman empire, and the people were subjects of Caesar. The centurions were the Roman soldiers stationed in the various Roman provinces. At that time Judea was part of the province of Syria. Judea was occupied territory.

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