Acts 5:1
But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
V.

(1, 2) A certain man named Ananias.—The name meets us again as belonging to the high priest in Acts 23:2, and was the Greek form of the Hebrew Hananiah. It had the same significance as John, or Johanan, “The Lord be gracious.” “Sapphira,” is either connected with the “sapphire,” as a precious stone, or from a Hebrew word signifying “beautiful” or “pleasant.” The whole history must be read in connection with the act of Barnabas. He, it seemed, had gained praise and power by his self-sacrifice. Ananias thought that he could get at the same result more cheaply. The act shows a strange mingling of discordant elements. Zeal and faith of some sort had led him to profess himself a believer. Ambition was strong enough to win a partial victory over avarice; avarice was strong enough to triumph over truth. The impulse to sell came from the Spirit of God; it was counteracted by the spirit of evil, and the resulting sin was therefore worse than that of one who lived altogether in the lower, commoner forms of covetousness. It was an attempt to serve God and mammon; to gain the reputation of a saint, without the reality of holiness. The sin of Ananias is, in some aspects, like that of Gehazi (2Kings 5:20-27), but it was against greater light and intensified by a more profound hypocrisy, and it was therefore visited by a more terrible chastisement. We may well trace in the earnestness with which St. James warns men against the peril of the “double mind”—i.e., the heart divided between the world and God (James 1:8; James 4:8)—the impression made on him by such a history as this.

Acts 5:1-2. But a certain man named Ananias — A professor of the gospel, but certainly not a true believer, for all that truly believed were of one heart and of one soul, Acts 4:32. Probably he was not yet baptized, but intended now to offer himself for baptism; with Sapphira his wife — Who concurred with him; sold a possession — So the word κτημα, here used, properly signifies: what sort of a possession it was, we are not informed: for the word χωριον, (used Acts 5:8, and rendered land,) does not necessarily mean so, but simply, a place, of any kind, and might be a house or houses. He pretended, it seems, to imitate the zeal and liberality of Barnabas, chap. Acts 4:37; and kept back — Greek, ενοσφισατο, fraudulently secreted, or purloined, part of the price — While he brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet — Publicly, as if it had been the whole, perhaps saying it was so. It has been supposed by many, that Ananias and Sapphira had consecrated their estate to God by vow, and that they were guilty of the sin of sacrilege. But this is not probable; 1st, Because in all the sales of lands or houses, mentioned in the preceding chapters and here, there is not the least intimation of any such vow. 2d, Peter neither accuses him nor his wife of any such crime, but only of tempting, that is, distrusting and making trial of the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, and attempting to deceive him by an artifice. 3d, The apostle acknowledges (Acts 5:3) that the property was his, and at his disposal, before it was sold, and the whole price of it afterward, which could not have been the case, if he had before consecrated it to religious uses. But yet they were guilty of a double fraud; 1st, In presenting this part of the price to the apostles, as if it had been the whole, when, indeed, it was not. 2d, In tacitly signifying hereby that they had now the same right to be relieved from the common stock which others had, as having nothing of their own, when, indeed, they had money which they had kept back.5:1-11 The sin of Ananias and Sapphira was, that they were ambitious of being thought eminent disciples, when they were not true disciples. Hypocrites may deny themselves, may forego their worldly advantage in one instance, with a prospect of finding their account in something else. They were covetous of the wealth of the world, and distrustful of God and his providence. They thought they might serve both God and mammon. They thought to deceive the apostles. The Spirit of God in Peter discerned the principle of unbelief reigning in the heart of Ananias. But whatever Satan might suggest, he could not have filled the heart of Ananias with this wickedness had he not been consenting. The falsehood was an attempt to deceive the Spirit of truth, who so manifestly spoke and acted by the apostles. The crime of Ananias was not his retaining part of the price of the land; he might have kept it all, had he pleased; but his endeavouring to impose upon the apostles with an awful lie, from a desire to make a vain show, joined with covetousness. But if we think to put a cheat upon God, we shall put a fatal cheat upon our own souls. How sad to see those relations who should quicken one another to that which is good, hardening one another in that which is evil! And this punishment was in reality mercy to vast numbers. It would cause strict self-examination, prayer, and dread of hypocrisy, covetousness, and vain-glory, and it should still do so. It would prevent the increase of false professors. Let us learn hence how hateful falsehood is to the God of truth, and not only shun a direct lie, but all advantages from the use of doubtful expressions, and double meaning in our speech.But a certain man - In the previous chapter the historian had given an account of the eminent liberality and sincerity of the mass of early Christians, in being willing to give up their property to provide for the poor, and had mentioned the case of Barnabas as worthy of special attention. In this chapter he proceeds to mention a case, quite as striking, of insincerity, and hypocrisy, and of the just judgment of God on those who were guilty of it. The case is a remarkable instance of the nature of "hypocrisy," and goes to illustrate the art and cunning of the enemy of souls in attempting to corrupt the church, and to pervert the religion of the gospel. Hypocrisy consists in an attempt to "imitate" the people of God, or to assume the "appearance" of religion, in whatever form it may be manifested. In this case religion had been manifested by great self-denial and benevolence. The hypocrisy of Ananias consisted in "attempting" to imitate this in appearance, and to impose in this way on the early Christians and on God.

With Sapphira his wife - With her concurrence or consent. It was a matter of "agreement" between them, Acts 5:2, Acts 5:9.

Sold a possession - The word used here κτῆμα ktēma does not indicate whether this was "land" or some other property. In Acts 5:3, however, we learn that it was "land" that was sold; and the word here translated "possession" is translated in the Syriac, Arabic, and the Latin Vulgate as "land." The pretence for which this was sold was doubtless to have the appearance of religion. That it was "sold" could be easily known by the Christian society, but it might not be so easily known for "how much" it was sold. Hence, the attempt to impose on the apostles. It is clear that they were not under obligation to sell their property. But, "having" sold it for the purposes of religion, it became their duty, if they professed to devote the avails of it to God, to do it entirely, and without any reservation.

CHAPTER 5

Ac 5:1-11. Ananias and Sapphira.

"The first trace of a shade upon the bright form of the young Church. Probably among the new Christians a kind of holy rivalry had sprung up, every one eager to place his means at the disposal of the apostles" [Olshausen]. Thus might the new-born zeal of some outrun their abiding principle, while others might be tempted to seek credit for a liberality which was not in their character.Acts 5:1-11 Ananias and Sapphira, profanely tempting the Holy

Ghost with a lie, at Peter’s rebuke fall down dead,

Acts 5:12-16 The apostles work many miracles, to the great increase

of the faith.

Acts 5:17-28 They are all imprisoned, but released by an angel, and

sent to preach openly in the temple: being brought

before the council,

Acts 5:29-32 they support their witness with great freedom.

Acts 5:33-40 The council are restrained from killing them by the

advice of Gamaliel, but beat and dismiss them with a

charge not to speak in the name of Jesus.

Acts 5:41-42 They rejoice in their sufferings, and cease not to

preach Christ both in public and private.

A dreadful instance of God’s indignation against hypocrisy and sacrilege, which we have an infallible testimony of; which is the more remarkable, because such sins escape punishment from men, either as not known, or not disliked; yet the damnation of such as are guilty of them slumbereth not, 2 Peter 2:3, it being the glory of God to search out matters further than men can, or list to do.

A possession; an estate, house, or farm.

But a certain man named Ananias,.... A name common among the Jews, the same with Hananiah, Jeremiah 28:1 it signifies not the humility of the Lord, or the affliction of the Lord, or the answer of the Lord, as say some, as if it was derived from but the grace of the Lord, or the Lord's gracious one, coming from there is no dependence on names; though this man's name signified one that was in the grace and favour of God; he was not so, but a graceless person, as appears by what follows. It is very likely he was a minister of the word, since the account of him follows upon that of Barnabas, and is opposed to it; it may be he was one of the hundred and twenty, on whom the Holy Ghost fell on the day of Pentecost; and yet, though he had great gifts, had no grace. This shows there are hypocrites among men of the greatest names and characters, and in the purest churches; this first and pure church, which, in the preceding chapter, has such large encomiums, was not free from them:

with Sapphira his wife; whether this is the same name with "Shiphrah", Exodus 1:15 or "Zipporah", Exodus 2:21 both which are by the Septuagint called "Sephora", or whether another, and may signify "beautiful", is not very material. Jerom (c) says, in the Syriac language this name signifies "beautiful"; though he first gives other explanations of it, as "narrantem, literatam, sive librariam", as though it was derived from the Hebrew word The precious stone called sapphire seems to come from the same root as this, and to be so called because of its beautiful azure colour. The name "Sappho", which was the name of a famous poetess, the inventress of a kind of verse called "Sapphic" verse, is said to be the diminutive of this name "Sapphira". Drusius observes, it may be read "Tzephira"; which comes near to "Zipporah", and among other things signifies a "she goat"; and it was usual to give women names taken from such creatures. So "Rachel", a "sheep", and "Tabitha", or "Dorcas", a "doe". But whatever her name or person were, her actions were disagreeable:

sold a possession; which was their own. So the Arabic and Syriac versions read, "their own field", or "farm"; find the Ethiopic version, "their own vineyard": it might be his wife's dowry or jointure, and so her consent was necessary; or they might be jointly concerned in this sale, to show not only their concord and harmony among themselves; but that they agreed in their devotion and religious actions, and that being both filled with zeal for God, and love to the brethren, sold their estate to support the common cause.

(c) De Nominibus Hebraicis, fol. 106. C.

But {1} a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,

(1) Luke shows by contrary examples how great a sin hypocrisy is, especially in those who under a false pretence and cloak of zeal seem to shine and be of great importance in the Church.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 5:1-10. Ananias (חֲנַנְיָה, God pities; Jeremiah 28:1; Daniel 1:6; LXX. Tob 5:12[163]) and Sapphira, however, acted quite otherwise. They attempted in deceitful hypocrisy to abuse the community of goods, which, nevertheless, was simply permissive (Acts 5:4). For by the sale of the piece of land and the bringing of the money, they in fact declared the whole sum to be a gift of brotherly love to the common stock; but they aimed only at securing for themselves the semblance of holy loving zeal by a portion of the price, and had selfishly embezzled the remainder for themselves. They wished to serve two masters, but to appear to serve only one. With justice, Augustine designates the act as sacrilegium (“quod Deum in pollicitatione fefellerit”) and fraus.

The sudden death of both is to be regarded as a result directly effected through the will of the apostle, by means of the miraculous power imparted to him;
and not as a natural stroke of paralysis, independent of Peter, though taking place by divine arrangement (so Ammon, Stolz, Heinrichs, and others). For, apart from the supposition, in this case necessary, of a similar susceptibility in husband and wife for such an impression of sudden terror, the whole narrative is opposed to it; especially Acts 5:9, the words of which Peter could only have uttered with the utmost presumption, if he had not the consciousness that his own will was here active. If we should take Acts 5:9 to be a mere threat, to which Peter found himself induced by an inference from the fate of Ananias, this would be merely an unwarranted alteration of the simple meaning of the words, and would not diminish the presumptuousness of a threat so expressed. Nearly allied to this natural explanation is the view mingling the divine and the natural, and taking half from each, given by Neander (the holy earnestness of the apostolic words worked so powerfully on the terrified conscience), and by Olshausen (the word of Peter pierced like a sword the alarmed Ananias, and thus his death was the marvel arranged by a higher disposing power). But this view is directly opposed to the contents and the design of the whole representation. According to Baur, nothing remains historical in the whole narrative except that Ananias and his wife had, by their covetousness, made their names so hated, “that people believed that they could see only a divine judgment in their death, in whatever way it occurred;” all the rest is to be explained from the design of representing the πνεῦμα ἅγιον as the divine principle working in the apostles. Comp. Zeller, who, however, despairs of any more exact ascertainment of the state of the case. Baumgarten, as also Lange (comp. Ewald), agrees in the main with Neander; whilst de Wette is content with sceptical questions, although recognising the miraculous element so far as the narrative is concerned. Catholics have used this history in favour of the two swords of the Pope.

The severity of the punishment
, with which Porphyry reproached Peter (Jerome, Epp. 8), is justified by the consideration, that here was presented the first open venture of deliberate wickedness, as audacious as it was hypocritical, against the principle of holiness ruling in the church, and particularly in the apostles; and the dignity of that principle, hitherto unoffended, at once required its full satisfaction by the infliction of death upon the violators, by which “awe-inspiring act of divine church-discipline” (Thiersch, Kirche im apost. Zeitalt. p. 46), at the same time, the authority of the apostles, placed in jeopardy, was publicly guaranteed in its inviolableness (“ut poena duorum hominum sit doctrina multorum,” Jerome).

ἐνοσφίσ.] he put aside for himself, purloined. Titus 2:10; 2Ma 4:32; Joshua 7:1; Xen. Cyr. iv. 2. 42; Pind. Nem. vi. 106; Valck. p. 395 f.

ἈΠῸ Τ. ΤΙΜῆς] sc. τι. See Fritzsche, Conject. p. 36; Buttm. neut. Gr. p. 139 [E. T. 159]. Comp. Athen. vi. p. 234 A: νοσφ. ἐκ τοῦ χρήματος.

[163] It may, however, be the Hebrew name עֲנַנְיָה (Nehemiah 3:23, LXX.), i.e. God covers.—The name Σαπφείρη is apparently the Aramaic שפירא, formosa. Derived from the Greek σάπφειρος, sapphire, it would have probably been Σαπφειρίνη.Acts 5:1. Ἀνὴρ δέ τις: in striking contrast to the unreserved self-sacrifice of Barnabas, St. Luke places the selfishness and hypocrisy of Ananias and Sapphira. It is in itself no small proof of the truth of the narrative, that the writer should not hesitate to introduce this episode side by side with his picture of the still unbroken love and fellowship of the Church. He makes no apology for the facts, but narrates them simply and without comment.—Ἀνανίας—written in W.H[168] (so Blass) ., prob. Hebrew חֲנַנְיָה = Hananiah=to whom Jehovah has been gracious (the Hebrew name of Shadrach, Daniel 1:6, LXX, Jeremiah 28:1, Tob 5:12, (Song of the Three Children, ver. 66) (Lumby, but see also Wendt, note, in loco).—Σαπφείρῃ, so also W.H[169], either from σάπφειρος (σάμφ., so here Σαμφ., [170]*, Blass), a sapphire, or from the Aramaic שַׁפִּירָא, beautiful. The latter derivation is adopted by Blass (Grammatik des N. G., p. 8), and Winer-Schmiedel, p. 76. It is declined like σπεῖρα, μάχαιρα, Acts 10:1; Acts 12:2, etc., in N.T., and so makes dative , Winer-Schmiedel, pp. 80, 93, and Blass, u. s.κτῆμα = χωρίον, Acts 5:3 : but may mean property of any kind. It is used in the singular several times in the LXX, as a possession, heritage, etc., Job 20:29, Proverbs 12:27; Proverbs 31:16, Wis 8:5, Ecclus. 36:30, 51:21, etc.

[168] Westcott and Hort’s The New Testament in Greek: Critical Text and Notes.

[169] Westcott and Hort’s The New Testament in Greek: Critical Text and Notes.

[170] Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.1. But a certain man] It is not by way of contrast that the story of Ananias is put side by side with that of Barnabas, therefore much stress is not to be laid on the word But. Acts 5:36 of the last chapter begins, in the original, with the same conjunction, and it is often employed in narratives where only a simple connection of clauses is intended. Thus, Acts 8:1-3, the same conjunction occurs four times over without any adversative sense.

named Ananias] The name was common. See Acts 9:10-17; Acts 23:2; Acts 24:1. It is the same as Hananiah, Jeremiah 28:1; Daniel 1:6-7, &c., where it is the Hebrew name of Shadrach. which is spelt Ananias in the “Benedicite,” and that form of the name is found Tob 5:12. It signifies “one to whom Jehovah has been gracious.”

with Sapphira his wife] A name probably derived from the name of the precious stone sapphire, which word is found both in Hebrew and Greek.

sold a possession] The word may signify either lands, or buildings, or any kind of property. It is the word used of the young man who went away sorrowful from Jesus “for he had great possessions,” Matthew 19:22; Mark 10:22. The LXX. use it of vineyards (Hosea 2:15).

Acts 5:1-11. Account of Ananias and Sapphira

The narrative with which this chapter commences is one which none but a veracious narrator would have inserted where it stands. The last chapter concludes with a description of the unity of heart and soul which prevailed among the brethren, and expressly notices that all were filled with the Holy Ghost. But as among the twelve Apostles there was a Judas, so into the infant Church there had intruded two at least whose professions were not sincere, and who were unworthy of the gifts of grace which, with the rest, they had received. The offence of Ananias and Sapphira shewed contempt for God, vanity and ambition in the offenders, and utter disregard of the corruption which they were bringing into the society. Such sin, committed in despite of the light which they possessed, called for a special mark of Divine indignation, and to those who, likewise filled with the Spirit, knew all that had been done and why it was done, there is no shock produced by the terrible doom of the sinners, nor any language employed in the narration but the simplest and plainest. A late-compiled story would have enlarged and spoken apologetically on the reasons for such a judgment, and would not have presented us with a bare recital of facts without comment.Acts 5:1. Ἀνανίας σὺν Σαπφείρῃ, Ananias with Sapphira) Names expressing grace and beauty, but attached to persons whose principles were bad.Verse 1. - Ananias (Ἀνανίας) In Nehemiah 3:23 the Hebrew name ענַנְיָה (God covers or protects) is thus rendered in the LXX. But the name occurs nowhere else. The very common name הֲנַנְיָה Hananiah (God is gracious), is also rendered in the LXX. Ananias (Ἀνανίας), and is doubtless the name meant here and in Acts 9:10; Acts 23:2, etc. Sapphira does not occur elsewhere. It is either derived from the Aramean שַׁפָירָה, beautiful, or from the Hebrew סַפִיר, a sapphire. A possession (see Acts 2:45). The kind of possession is not specified by the word itself, which applies to houses, fields, jewels, and wealth generally; but the nature of the property is shown by the word χωρίον, applied to it in vers. 3 and 8, which means especially" a parcel of ground" (John 4:5), "a field" (Acts 1:18, 19).
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