1. The early church in Jerusalem, 1:1-5:42

xiii] Ananias and Sapphira


Luke, having recounted the story of the generosity of Barnabas in selling a property and donating the proceeds to the Christian fellowship, tells another story of generosity, but one that goes terribly wrong. Ananias and Sapphira, in similar fashion, sell their property, but only pretend to donate all the proceeds to the Christian fellowship - they secretly retain some of the proceeds for themselves. Peter exposes their lie, pointing out to them that the property, as well as the proceeds from its sale, was all theirs; the Christian fellowship had no claim on it. Yet, in lying to their brothers and sisters they lied to the Holy Spirit. Both Ananias, and then Sapphira, in turn face the shame of their actions and drop dead. "The whole church, and all who heard about this, were terrified", Barclay.


The holiness of God cannot be trifled with, particularly when it comes to his holy temple, the community of believers.


i] Context: See 4:1-22.


ii] Background: The movement of the gospel from Jerusalem to Rome, 1:1-11; The theological structure of the gospel message; 3:11-26; Prophecy in the New Testament and Signs and Wonders in Acts, 4:23-31


iii] Structure: Ananias and Sapphira:

Setting, v1-2;

Ananias and his duplicity, v3-6;

Sapphira, the collaborator, v7-11.


iv] Interpretation:

Luke continues his description of life in the Jerusalem church with an incident that contrasts with the integrity of Barnabas, a church member who sells a property and gives the proceeds to the church. Ananias and Sapphira do the same, but only pretend to give the full proceeds of the sale - their generosity is tainted by deceit. So, not only is this church tested by darkness without (the action of the Sanhedrin), but also darkness within, cf., Lk.22:31-32.

Peterson D. makes the point that the story further explains the supernatural ministry of the Holy Spirit within the life of the early church, a ministry which prompts awe among the population of Jerusalem, 2:43. Ecstatic prophecy is ushering in the new age of the kingdom, and this with the outpouring of its promised blessings and cursings - miraculous healings along with divine judgment.

The story certainly has something to say about integrity within the Christian fellowship, although again, the lesson provides a general principle rather than a specific promise. If the Lord intended striking dead every member of a congregation who is less than open and honest with their brothers and sisters, then every church in the world would be empty! So, in general terms, "this narrative warns against anything that hinders the expression of unity, love and holiness in the fellowship created by the Spirit", Peterson D. The warning is reinforced by making the point that actions which disrespect the Christian fellowship inevitably involve the disrespect of God. "Luke is teaching about respect for God through one's actions", Bock; "You have lied to the Holy Spirit / to God", 5:3, 4.

It is the raw infringement of the Holy Spirit that explains what seems like an unreasonable punishment for a minor offence. Ananias and Sapphira found themselves in an extraordinary moment in time, a moment of covenant fulfilment when the Holiness of God overshadows His people. This is a moment when "the spiritual realm has an almost tangible presence of raw, uncontainable energy, and where infringement of the holy can have devastating results", Dunn. Of course, this has Old Testament precedence, particularly with respect to the temple, cf., 2Chron.7:1-3. In the New Israel, God's dwelling-place is with his people, the community of believers (the two or three gathered together). So, in this moment of covenant fulfilment, the numinous is made tangible.

The narrative also has something to say about the use of one's resources - the stuff of time, talent and tinkle. There is a sense where the narrative exegetes the generosity of Barnabas. We are only told that Barnabas sells a field and donates the proceeds, not that he sold all his possessions and donated the proceeds. But just in case we didn't get the message, Luke draws out Peter's words to Ananias and Sapphira, reinforcing the fact that the property belongs to them, just as the proceeds belong to them, and what they did with it all, is their business, not the business of the Christian fellowship. Integrity surmounts generosity, Matt.6:3.

It is possible that there are allusions to the story of Achan, Josh.7:1, 19-26, and possibly Abijah, 1Kings 14:1-18). Of course, allusions to an Old Testament story do not necessarily mean that the original narrative serves as the creative foundation for a later story of fiction. Fitzmyer covers the many questions raised as to the historicity of the events recorded. Yet in the end, the narrative sits within the context of the miraculous realisation of the kingdom of God, and so, we either believe, or don't believe, in miracles.


v] Homiletics: Shot and their cloths burnt

[Map] Uncle Bert, or more properly Albert Ellis, was a first world war veteran. He was a man of many sayings. There was one he would often repeat from the trenches of Flanders, originally directed at the officer class: "They ought to be shot and their cloths burnt" - or to put it another way, every evidence of their existence should be removed. I might say, he also had the view that wars can be easily settled by putting all politicians in the middle of a stadium, giving them a gun, and letting them shoot it out.

I foolishly used Bert's saying on one occasion. I put it on a note attached to the church gate as a warning to those who kept leaving it open. In an age of political correctness, tongue-in-cheek sayings get easily swamped in the need for offence. I paid a price for my foolishness - I was cancelled by the ladies of the children's guild!

The treatment of Ananias and Sapphira seems a little unfair. They were a generous couple, although not as generous as they pretended to be, and for that they were struck dead, and, in line with Bert's saying, they were disposed of without recognition or mourning - "shot and their cloths burnt." They thought they could connive together to deceive God's people, the apple of God's eye, and not bring upon themselves divine repercussions. Like the people of Israel during the Exodus, they put God to the test. Anyway, when Ananias dropped dead, the young men of the congregation wrapped him up in a shroud, and buried him without ceremony, and when Sapphira dropped dead, they did the same thing with here. Ananias and Sapphira got much the same treatment as Nadab and Abihu, two sons of Aaron, who infringed the holiness of God, and as a consequence, were consumed by fire, unceremoniously dragged outside the camp with the instructions that they should not be mourned (Leviticus chapter 10) - "shot and their cloths burnt."

Now thankfully, because God is a merciful and loving God, rarely is an affront to his person, his holiness, automatically dealt with like this, because if it were, we would all be little piles of ashes. So, the story of Ananias and Sapphira, like Nadab and Abihu, is a story that warns us about the unimaginable holiness of God. We learn from our reading today that divine holiness is not ethereal, somewhere out in the universal ether, but it enshrouds our world, and in particular, the church - the two or three gathered with Jesus. Remember what Peter said, "You have not lied to man, but to God."

I want you, today, to recognise the significance of the two or three gathered together with Jesus in this place, and how this gathering is shrouded with the divine holiness of God.

Text - 5:1

Ananias and Sapphira, v1-11: i] Setting, v1-2. Luke introduces the narrative by explaining how two members of the community of believers collude together in a feigned act of unqualified generosity.

de "now" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.

onomati (a atoV) dat. "named [Ananias]" - [a certain man] by name [ananias]. The dative is adverbial, reference / respect; "with respect to his name, Ananias."

sun + dat. "together with" - with [sapphira the wife of him, sold property]. Expressing association / accompaniment.


suneiduihV (sunoida) gen. perf. part. "with [the wife's] full knowledge" - [the wife and = also] having known = colluded, connived. The genitive participle with its genitive subject, "the wife", forms a genitive absolute construction. Given that it is not at the beginning of the sentence, it is probably used by Luke to form a parenthetical statement; "But a man name Ananias - his wife, Sapphira, conniving in this with him - sold a piece of land, secretly kept part of the price for himself, and ...", Peterson.

apo + gen. "[part] of [the money]" - [and he stole (mid. "appropriated for himself") some] from = of [the price]. Here serving in place of a partitive genitive.

enegkaV (ferw) aor. part. "brought" - having carried = brought [a certain part]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, "and then brought the rest to the apostles and made an offering of it", Peterson.

para + acc. "[put it] at" - [he placed it] beside = at [the feet of the apostles]. Spatial.


II] Ananias and his duplicity, v3-6; The inauguration of the kingdom will face testing by the powers of darkness, and Ananias and Sapphira have failed the test, cf., Lk.22:31. Yet, in the presence of the divine, the deceit of darkness is unable to remain hidden from the eye of the prophet. Peter says that Ananias, in succumbing to temptation, yeusasqai, "has, as a result, lied to" the Holy Spirit. The verb will sometimes take a dative of the person lied to / against, as in v4, "You have not lied to / against men, but to / against God." Both "men" and "God" take a dative. In this verse, "Holy Spirit" is accusative. The verb can also mean "to falsify", and so the sense here is possibly "Satan has filled your heart with the result that you have falsified the work of the Holy Spirit." The show of Spirit-inspired generosity performed by Ananias and Sapphira is a sham, cf., Johnson.

dia tiv "how is it that" - [but/and peter said, ananias] because of why = why [satan filled the heart of you]. Causal construction introducing a interrogative clause.

yeusasqai (yeudomai) aor. inf. "that [you] lied to" - [you] to lie to / falsify [the holy spirit, and to steal = reserve, appropriate]. As with "to steal", the infinitive is adverbial, probably consecutive, expressing result, "with the result that you ...." The accusative subject of the infinitive is se, "you". Technically, the two infinitives align, but the sense is better expressed when the second infinitive is treated as instrumental, expressing means; "Why have you allowed Satan to take control of you, such that (with the result that) you falsify the work of the Holy Spirit by retaining part of the price you received from the sale of the land?", so Barclay.

apo + gen. "some of [the money]" - some from = of [the price]. Possibly just expressing separation, "away from", or used instead of a partitive genitive with "some" assumed.

tou cwriou (on) gen. "you received for the land" - of the field. The genitive is adjectival, verbal, subjective, or descriptive, idiomatic, "the price which was generated by the sale of the field", as NIV. Kellum suggests it is partitive.


The problem for Ananias and Sapphira is not the ownership of property; communal sharing within the brotherhood is voluntary. Their problem is that they lied to God.

ouci "didn't" - is it not a fact that. Introducing an interrogative clause where the question assumes a positive answer.

menon (menw) pres. part. "it belong" - remaining. As with "having been sold", the participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal; "Is it not a fact that when the land was yours (remaining to you), it remained your own, and when you sold it .....?"

soi dat. pro. "to you" - [it was remaining] to you. As with the dative adjective sh/, "to yours"", it is fronted for emphasis and serves as a dative of possession.

en + dat. "-" - [and having been sold, it was] in [the authority to yours]. Local, expressing a state or condition; "Was it not at your disposal after it was sold?", Cassirer.

tiv oJti "what made [you think]" - what became that [you placed this action in the heart of you]? The interrogative tiv, "what?", with an epexegetic oJti, along with the assumed verb "to become", gegonen, gives the sense "How comes it that .....?", Zerwick; "Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart?", ESV.

alla "but [to God]" - [you did not lie to men] but [to god]. Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction; "not ......, but ....." The datives "to men" and "to God" may be classified as datives of direct object after the verb yeudomai, which will sometimes take a dative when the sense is "to lie to / against", as here, or simply as a dative of interest, disadvantage.


When Ananias hears Peter's words, he drops dead (exeyuxen, "expires", cf., Judg.4:21). Luke makes the point that a foboV megaV, "great reverential fear", comes upon all who hear the account of what has happened. In a sense, Ananias touched the Ark of the Covenant, and all who hear of the consequence, freeze.

akouwn (akouw) pres. part. "when [Ananias] heard" - [but/and ananias] hearing [these words]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV.

peswn (piptw) aor. part. "he fell down" - having fallen down [he died, expired]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to die"; "As soon as Ananias heard this he dropped dead", CEV.

touV akouontaV (akouw) pres. part. "[all] who heard what had happened" - [and there came fear great upon all] the ones listening. If the adjective "all" is treated as a substantive, "everyone", then the participle would be classified as adjectival, attributive, limiting "everyone"; "Everyone who was listening was terrified", Barclay.


Younger men in the congregation take Ananias out for burial, although possibly preparation for burial; it is unusual to bury someone without family involvement. None-the-less, as Bock notes, Luke's description probably reflects the treatment of someone "struck down 'by the hands of heaven'" - ie., a person not worthy of being mourned, cf., Lev.10:1-7. It is unclear why Luke chooses the word newteroi, "young men." It is possible that he is alluding again to the story of Achan where the neaniskoi take out the family of Rahab from the city of Jericho, although the allusion is rather tenuous, cf., Josh.6:23.

anastanteV (anisthmi) aor. part. "came forward, [wrapped]" - [but/and, the young men] having risen up [wrapped up him]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to wrap up." The action "to wrap up" implies "with a shroud for burial."

exenegkanteV (ekferw) aor. part. "carried him out" - [and] having carried out [they buried him]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to bury", "carried out and buried."


iii] Sapphira, the collaborator, v7-11. Sadly, Sapphira continues with the charade and suffers the consequences.

egeneto de "-" - but/and there was. Transitional; for Luke, this verb, often with de or kai, and sometimes followed by a temporal en, serves to indicate narrative transition / a paragraph marker. It can be used at the beginning of a narrative, or to indicate transition within a narrative, or even the climax of a narrative.

wJV "about" - [an interval] as = about. When this particle is used with numbers it expresses approximation, as NIV.

wJrwn (a) gen. "[three] hours" - [three] hours. The genitive is adjectival, descriptive, idiomatic / temporal, limiting "interval"; "an interval of about three hours."

eiduia (oida) perf. part. "[not] knowing" - [and the wife of him entered, not] having known. The participle is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of her entry; "came in not knowing ...."; "quite unaware of what had happened", Barclay.

to gegonoV (ginomai) perf. part. "what had happened" - the thing having happened. The participle serves as a substantive, accusative object of the participle "having known."


moi dat. pro. "[tell] me" - [but/and, having answered, peter said toward her, say] to me. Dative of indirect object. The aorist verb apekriqh, "having answered", "is often used, not in the sense of answered, but simply spoke, said, though Peter's words could not unreasonably be taken as a response to Sapphira's arrival", Barrett.

ei "-" - if [you got back = sold]. Here the conjunction takes on an interrogative function, introducing a direct or indirect question; a direct question according to Zerwick.

tosoutou gen. pro. "the price you and Ananias got for [the land]" - [the land] of so much. The pronoun serves as a substantive, the genitive being adjectival, descriptive, idiomatic / of price; "Tell me, were you given this price for your field?", Peterson.

hJ de "she [said]" - but/and the [she said, yes, of so much]. Transitional construction, de + the feminine article, indicating a change in subject from Peter to Sapphira.


oJ de "-" - but/and the [peter said toward her]. Transitional, indicating a change in subject from Sapphira to Peter. Note again Luke's use of proV in the place of a dative of indirect object, here with the assumed verb "to say."

tiv oJti "How" - because why. A causal construction introducing an interrogative clause.

uJmin dat. pro. "[could] you [conspire]" - [was it agreed upon] to = by / in = among you. Instrumental dative expressing agency, or local, expressing space; "Why did you collude together ......?"

peirasai (peirazw) aor. inf. "to test" - to tempt, put to the test [the spirit of the lord]? Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what they agreed / conspired to do, namely "to put the Lord to the test." The expression putting the Lord to the test alludes to Israel's disobedience during their Exodus wilderness journey, a disobedience which, because of their standing as children of God, they believed they could get away with, and this without any repercussions , Ex.17:2, 7; 20:20, Deut.33:8. "Why did you think that you could connive together to deceive God's people and not bring upon yourself divine repercussions?"

twn qayantwn (qaptw) gen. aor. part. "[the feet] of the men who buried" - [behold, the feet] of the ones having buried [the man = husband of you are upon the door and they will carry out you]. The participle serves as a substantive, the genitive being adjectival, possessive.


It is possible that Luke is making a point of Sapphira falling at the feet of Peter to indicate his authority, an authority indirectly challenged by the couple.

paracrhma adv. "at that moment" - [but/and] immediately [she fell toward the feet of him and died]. Temporal adverb.

eiselqonteV (eisercomai) aor. part. "then [the young men] come in" - [but/and the young men] having entered. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV; "When the young men came in", ESV.

nekran adj. "dead" - [they found her] dead. Accusative complement of the direct object "her" standing in a double accusative construction and asserting a fact about the object; "they found her lieing there dead"

exenegkanteV (ekferw) aor. part "carried her out" - [and] having carried out, [they buried here toward = with the husband of her.] Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to bury."


In this verse we have the first use in Luke / Acts of the word ekklhsia, "congregation, assembly, church", used to identify the assembly of believers. Luke tells us that foboV, "fear, awe", gripped the whole church, and not just the church, but everyone who heard about the death of Ananias and Sapphira; "They knew that God was not to be trifled with", Peterson.

touV akouontaV (akouw) pres. part. "[all] who heard about" - [and it became a great fear upon the whole church, and upon all] the ones hearing [these things]. The participle serves as a substantive, although if the adjective pantaV, "all", is treated as a substantive, "everyone", then the articular participle would be classified as an attributive adjective limiting "everyone"; "everyone who heard about these things."


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