Acts 5
Vincent's Word Studies
But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,
And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet.
Kept back (ἐνοσφίσατο)

Only here, Acts 5:3, and Titus 2:10, where it is rendered purloining. From νόσφι, aloof, apart. The verb means to set apart for one's self; hence to appropriate wrongfully.

But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?
To lie to (ψεύσασθαι)

Rather, to deceive. The design of Satan was to deceive the Holy Ghost. To lie to would require a different case in the noun, which occults in Acts 5:4, where the same verb is properly rendered lie (unto God). Satan fills the heart to deceive. The result of the attempt is merely to lie.

Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.
Whiles it remained, was it not thine own (οὐχὶ μένον? σοὶ ἔμενε)

A play on the words. Lit., remaining, did it not remain to thee? Rev., very happily, whiles it remained, did it not remain thine own?

Conceived (ἔθου)

Lit., put or fixed. Wherefore didst thou fix this deed in thy heart? - i.e., resolve upon it.

And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.
Gave up the ghost (ἐξέψυξε)

Used by Luke only. A rare word, occurring in the Septuagint, and in medical writers. See Ezekiel 21:7, "Every spirit shall faint." See, also, on failing, Luke 21:26.

And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.
Wound him up (συνέστειλαν)

Better, as Rev., wrapped him round. The verb means to draw together, or draw in; hence used for shortening sail, reducing expenses, lowering or humbling a person. In 1 Corinthians 7:29, it occurs in the phrase, "the time is short (συνεσταλμένος, Rev., properly, shortened);" i.e., drawn together, contracted. In the sense of wrapping up it is found in Aristophanes, of wrapping cloaks or garments about one; also of tucking up the garments about the loins, as a preparation for service. In the sense of shrouding for burial, it occurs in Euripides ("Troades," 382): "They were not shrouded (συνεπεστάλησαν) by the hands of a wife." In medical language, of bandaging a limb; of the contraction of tumors, and of organs of the body, etc. Some, however, as Meyer, refer the word here to the pressing together of the dead man's limbs.

And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.
And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.

"The woman, whose entrance into the assembly of the saints was like a speech" (Bengel).

For so much (τοσούτου)

Perhaps pointing to the money still lying at his feet.

Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.
Ye have agreed together (συνεφωνήθη ὑμῖν)

The verb is passive. Lit., was it agreed by you. The figure in the word is that of concord of sounds. Your souls were attuned to each other respecting this deceit. See on music, Luke 15:25.

To tempt (πειράσαι)

To put it to the proof whether the Holy Spirit, ruling in the apostles, could be deceived. See on Acts 5:3.

The feet

Graphic. The steps of the young men returning from the burial are heard at the door.

Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.
And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.
And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch.
Were wrought (ἐγένετο)

The best texts read ἐγίνετο the imperfect, were being wrought from time to time.


The whole body of believers.

And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them.
The rest

Unbelievers, deterred by the fate of Ananias from uniting themselves to the church under false pretences.

Join himself (κολλᾶσθαι)

See on Luke 15:15; and Luke 10:11. In all but two instances (Romans 12:9; 1 Corinthians 6:17), the word implies a forced, unnatural, or unexpected union. Thus Philip would not, without a special command, have "joined himself" to the chariot of the Ethiopian prince (Acts 8:29). Saul's attempt to join himself to the apostles was regarded by them with suspicion (Acts 9:26); and the fact that certain persons "clave to" Paul in Athens is expressly contrasted with the attitude of the citizens at large. The sense of an unnatural union comes out clearly in 1 Corinthians 6:16.

And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.)
Were added (προσετίθεντο)

Imperfect: kept being added.

Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.
Couches (κραββάτων)

See on Mark 2:4.

The shadow of Peter passing by

But the proper rendering is, as Peter passed by, his shadow might, etc.

There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one.
Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation,
And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison.
In the common prison (ἐν τηρήσει δημοσίᾳ)

Incorrect. Τήρησις is not used in the sense of prison, but is an abstract term meaning ward or keeping, as in Acts 4:3. There is no article, moreover. Note, too, that another word is used for the prison in the next verse (τῆς φυλακῆς). Rev., therefore, correctly, in public ward.

But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said,
By night (διὰ τῆς νυκτὸς)

More correctly, during the night: διά, in the course of. Compare Acts 16:9.

Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life.

Compare Acts 2:14; and see on Luke 18:11; and Luke 19:8.

Of this life

The eternal life which Christ revealed. It is a peculiar use of the phrase, which is commonly employed in contrast with the life to come, as 1 Corinthians 15:19. Compare John 6:63, John 6:68. Not equivalent to these words of life.

And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught. But the high priest came, and they that were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought.
Early in the morning (ὑπὸ τὸν ὄρθρον)

Ὑπό, beneath, is often used in the sense of just about, or near. Ὄρθρον, is from ὄρνυμι, to cause to arise: the dawn. See on Luke 24:1. Render as Rev., about daybreak.

Taught (ἐδίδασκον)

Imperfect: began teaching.

The council (συνέδριον)

The Sanhedrim.

The senate (γερουσίαν)

From γέρων, an old man, like the Latin senatus, from senex, old. Taking on very early an official sense, the notion of age being merged in that of dignity. Thus in Homer γέροντες are the chiefs who form the king's council. Compare the Latin patres, fathers, the title used in addressing the Roman senate. The word in this passage is the name of the Spartan assembly, Gerousia, the assembly of elders, consisting of thirty members, with the two kings. "The well-known term," as Meyer remarks, "is fittingly transferred from the college of the Greek gerontes to that of the Jewish presbyters." They summoned, not only those elders of the people who were likewise members of the Sanhedrim, but the whole council (all the senate) of the representatives of the people.

Prison (δεσμωτήριον)

Still another word for prison. Compare Acts 5:18, Acts 5:19. Rev., prison-house. The different words emphasize different aspects of confinement. Τήρησις is keeping, as the result of guarding. See on Acts 5:18. Φυλακή emphasizes the being put under guard, and δεσμωτήριον the being put in bonds.

But when the officers came, and found them not in the prison, they returned, and told,
Officers (ὑπηρέται)

See on Matthew 5:25.

Saying, The prison truly found we shut with all safety, and the keepers standing without before the doors: but when we had opened, we found no man within.
Now when the high priest and the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these things, they doubted of them whereunto this would grow.
They doubted (διηπόρουν)

See on Luke 9:5. Rev., were much perplexed, giving the force of διά, thoroughly at a loss. Compare Luke 24:4.

Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people.
Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned.
And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them,
Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us.
Did not

The best texts omit οὐ, not, and the question.

We straitly charged

So Rev. (παραγγελίᾳ παρηγγείλαμεν). Lit., we charged you with a charge. See on Luke 22:15, with desire I have desired.

Intend (βούλεσθε)

Or ye want. See on willing, Matthew 1:19.

This man's

The phrase is remarkable as furnishing the first instance of that avoidance of the name of Christ which makes the Talmud, in the very same terms, refer to him most frequently as Peloni equals , "so and so."

Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
We ought (δεῖ)

Stronger, we must.

To obey (πειθαρχεῖν)

Not often used in the New Testament to express obedience, the most common word being ὑπακούω. Sometimes πείθω is used. But this word, in itself, is the only one of the several in use which expresses the conception of obedience exclusively. Ὑπακούνειν is to obey as the result of listening to another: πείθεσθαι is to obey as the result of persuasion. This is the special term for the obedience which one owes to authority (ἀρχή): It occurs four times in the New Testament: Acts 5:29, Acts 5:32; Acts 27:21; Titus 3:1; and in every case, of obedience to established authority, either of God or of magistrates. In Acts 27:21, where it is used of the ship's officers hearkening to Paul's admonition not to loose from Crete, Paul speaks of his admonition as divinely inspired; compare Acts 27:10. In Acts 4:19, Peter and John say hearken (ἀκούειν). That is a mere listening to or considering the proposition made to them. This is a deliberate course of action.

The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.
Ye slew (διεχειρίσασθε)

Only here and Acts 26:21. To slay with one's own hands.


See on Luke 23:31.

Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.

See on Acts 3:15.

Repentance - remission

See on Matthew 3:2; and James 5:15; and Luke 3:3.

And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.

See on Acts 1:22.


See on Acts 5:29.

When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them.
They were cut to the heart (διεπρίοντο)

Only here and Acts 7:54. The verb means, originally, to saw asunder. A strong figure for exasperation.

To slay

See on Luke 23:32.

Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space;
The apostles

The best texts substitute τοὺς ἀνθρώπους, the men.

A little space (βραχύ)

Better as Rev., a little while.

And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men.
For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought.
Joined themselves (προσεκολλήθη)

The best texts read προσεκλίθη, were inclined; i.e., leaned to, or took sides with.

After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed.

Note the word for obeyed (ἐπείθοντο) implying the persuasive power of Theudas' boasting. See on Acts 5:29.

Taxing (ἀπογραφῆς)

See on Luke 2:1, Luke 2:2.

Much people

The best texts omit much.

Were dispersed (διεσκορπίθησαν)

See on Matthew 25:24.

And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought:
Refrain (ἀπόστητε)

Lit., stand off.

Of men (ἐξ ἀνθρώπων)

Out of men, proceeding out of their devices.

It will come to naught (καταλυθήσεται)

Lit., be loosened down. Used of the dilapidation of the temple (Luke 21:6), and of the dissolution of the body under the figure of striking a tent (2 Corinthians 5:1). See on Mark 13:2.

But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.
To fight against God (θεομάχοι)

Lit., to be God- fighters.

And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.
They were counted worthy to suffer shame (κατηξιώθησαν ἀτιμασθῆναι)

This is an instance of what rhetoricians style an oxymoron, from ὀξύς, sharp, and μωρός, foolish; a pointedly foolish saying, which is witty or impressive through sheer contradiction or paradox, as laborious idleness, sublime indifference. In this case the apostles are described as dignified by indignity.

And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.
Vincent's Word Studies, by Marvin R. Vincent [1886].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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