Haydock Catholic Bible Commentary
Act 5:1 is believed by many of the Fathers, that the resolution which the faithful made of selling their property, and laying the price at the feet of the apostles, implied a vow of reserving nothing for themselves, but giving all to the community; and that the crime of Ananias and Saphira consisted in the violation of this vow; on which account they regarded them as sacrilegious, and plunderers of sacred things. See St. Basil, Serm. i. de instit. Monac.; St. Cyprian, lib. i. ad Quir. &c. ---For, without this supposition, we cannot, as Menochius justly remarks, account for the sudden and severe punishment inflicted on the offending parties.
By fraud kept part. Ananias, and his wife Saphira, had make a promise or vow, to put into the common stock the price of what they had to sell. When they had sold the field, they resolved by mutual consent to keep for their private use part of the money, and to bring in the rest, as if they had received no more. The whole price being promised, and by that means consecrated to God, St. Augustine calls it a sacrilegious fraud, and St. John Chrysostom, a theft of what was already made sacred to God. (Witham)
Defraudavit, Greek: enosphisato. Intervertit aliquid de pretio. St. Augustine, serm. xxvii. de verbis apostoli. Sacrilegii damnatur, & fraudis. See. St. John Chrysostom, hom xii. in Acta.
Why hath Satan tempted thy heart? The present Greek copies, filled thy heart. (Witham)
Tentavit. In all Greek copies at present, Greek: eplerosen. But St. Epiphanius, Hær. lix. p. 500. reads Greek: epeirasen.
Did it not remain to thee? That is, no one forced thee to make such a promise. --- And being sold, was it not in thy power, and at thy free disposal, before such a promise? but promises and vows must be kept. Thou hast not lied to men, but to God, by lying to the Holy Ghost. (Witham) --- Thou hast not lied to men, only and principally, but to God also; for he had also lied to Peter, and the other apostles. (Menochius) --- "If it displeased God," says St. Augustine, "to withdraw part of the money they had vowed to God, how is he angry, when chastity is vowed and not performed! ... let not such persons think to be condemned to corporal death, but to everlasting fire." (Serm. x. de diversis.) --- St. Gregory, on t his same subject, says: "Ananias had vowed money to God, which afterwards, overcome by diabolical persuasion, he withdrew; but with what death he was punished, thou knowest. See, then, what judgment thou art to expect, for withdrawing, not money, but thyself, from Almighty God." (lib. i. ep. 33.)
Ananias ... fell down and gave up the ghost. St. Augustine says, this severe judgment was to strike a terror of such dissembling fraudulent dealings into the new Church. It was also to shew that St. Peter, and the apostles, had the gift of prophecy. (Witham) --- Origen thinks his death was occasioned by the sudden fright and shame, with which he was seized. Pliny relates a similar accident in the sudden death of Diodorus Dialecticus, lib. vii. cap. 53. --- Menochius and Cornelius a Lapide think, that God struck him interiorly, as Peter spoke. ... There are likewise different opinions among the Fathers, respecting the salvation of Ananias and Saphira. Some are of opinion, that as their fault was great, they died, and perished in their sin. but the ideas we are fond to cherish of the infinite mercy of God, would rather incline us to say, with St. Augustine, "I can believe that God spared them after this life, for his mercy is great. ... They were stricken with the scourge of death, that they might not be subject to eternal punishment." (St. Augustine, Serm. cxlviii. olim. 10. et in Parmen.) --- St. Benedict also, in the 57th chapter of his rule, insinuates, that their death was only corporal. (Haydock) --- It is not unreasonable, that the first violators of laws, should be punished with severity. It was thus that the Almighty treated Adam, the adorers of the golden calf, the first who broke the sabbath-day, &c. to prevent the effects of bad example. (Calmet)
See St. Augustine, lib. iii. cont. Parmen. chap. i. p. 56. tom. 9. nov. Ed.
Not knowing. Because no one durst tell her; so much did they honour, fear, and obey St. Peter. (St. John Chrysostom, hom. xii.) --- She came in; Peter did not call her, but waited, to afford her an opportunity of repenting. (Œcumenius)
Yea, for so much. That is, for the same sum as Ananias mentioned. This the wife said, not knowing what had happened to her husband. (Witham)
Solomon's porch. This was outside the temple, open to all, Jews and Gentiles, pure and impure. They assembled here, because it was a large place, where they could speak to many assembled. Had it been within the temple, the priests would have interrupted them, and not have wanted pretexts to silence them. (Calmet)
Of the rest, no one durst join himself to them. That is, none of those that did not believe: yet the people praised them, and the number of the faithful increased. (Witham)
On ... couches, meaner beds for the poorer sort. --- That Peter's shadow, &c. Thus was partly fulfilled what Christ had foretold, (John xiv. 12.) that his disciples should do even greater miracles than he had done. (Witham) --- St. Ambrose compares with these miracles wrought by St. Peter's shadow, those which the linen cloths, that had touched the relics of the holy martyrs, also wrought. (Epis. liv.) Si inanis quædam species vacuæ imaginis habere potuit in se vim salutis, quanto plus de corpore meruerunt attrahere salubritatis sacris impressa membris vincula passionis? If the empty appearance of an unsubstantial shadow possessed the power of giving health, how much more efficacy must the chains of the martyrs have drawn from the holy members, which they bound? --- In appendice operum. (St. Augustine, serm. cciii.) --- St Augustine, speaking of the miracle performed by the saints now reigning in heaven, says: "If the shadow of Peter's body could afford help, how much more now the fulness of his power? And if then a certain little wind of him, passing by, did profit them that humbly asked, how much more grace of him, not being permanent and remaining!" (Serm. xxxix. de sanctis.)
Then went the magistrate; which by the Greek was a military officer. But he did not bind them like prisoners, for fear of a tumult, but desired them to go along with them to the sanhedrim. (Witham) --- Without violence. They persuaded them to appear willingly before the sanhedrim, thinking, perhaps moreover, that they could not bind them, whom the walls of the prison could not confine. The apostles here, and on all other occasions, shew the most astonishing examples of patience, constancy, and obedience to the laws of the country. (Menochius) --- O Jews! who do you shut your eyes against the light? why so blindly mad? You say the apostles took Christ from the tomb. Tell me, then, who stole the apostles from under your locks and bolts? Who conveyed them from your prison through the midst of your guards, without alarming them? Shall the evidence of the miracle serve only to make you the less open to conviction? (Ven. Bede; Denis the Carthusian)
Magistratus, Greek: o strategos.
Commanding, we commanded you. That is, charged you severely. --- You have a mind to bring the blood of this man upon us. You will make us pass for guilty of the murder of the Messias. (Witham)
Act 5:29 answered boldly, We ought to obey God, rather than men. And withal adds, that God had raised from death Jesus, the Prince and Saviour of mankind, by whose merits all might find repentance, and forgiveness of their sins; that they were witness of his resurrection, &c. (Witham)
They were cut to the heart; exasperated to fury and madness, and were for killing them. (Witham)
Dissecabantur. Greek: dieprionto; which Arias Montanus translates furebant.
Gamaliel. He that had been St. Paul's master, according to St. John Chrysostom, advised them to forbear, and do nothing rashly. [Ver. 38.] Meddle not with these men; literally, go from them. For, saith he, if this be the work of men only, it will soon fall to nothing; but if it be from God, you cannot hinder it, and you will only make yourselves guilty, by resisting the designs of God. They consented to him, so far as not to put them to death; but they made them be scourged, which they rejoiced at; and they dismissed them with reiterated threats. (Witham) --- Gamaliel was the master of St. Paul, Barnabas, Stephen, and others, and favoured the Christians. St. Clement and Ven. Bede think he was then a Christian, but concealed his conversion at the instigation of the apostles, that he might have an opportunity of defending Christ in the council. He afterwards professed his faith publicly, and was canonized with is son Abibas. See Baronius, 3d of Aug. (Tirinus)
[Ver. 38.] Discedite ab istis. Greek: apostete.
Act 5:39 , and the evident success of Christ's Church, prove it to be of God. No violence of the Jews, no persecution of heathen princes, no attempts of domestic adversaries, heretics, schismatics, or evil livers, have been able to prevail against it. Men of superior abilities have made violent attacks against it; their memory, and that of their disciples, has either been buried and forgotten, or liveth only in malediction and infamy. Let, then no Catholic be dispirited, because modern heresies continue; Arian and other heresies have continued much longer, have been more powerfully supported by temporal power, and yet have come to nothing. The Catholic religion was the first, and it will be the last religion.
Rejoicing. The joy of the apostles on the present occasion, is one of the greatest miracles. Only the yoke of Jesus could make this sweet. But so the faithful servants of God have always found it. In tribulation, they abounded in inward peace and joy, which made them insensible of their exterior sufferings. (Haydock)