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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Acts 5

 

 

Verses 1-42


The Apostles Again Imprisoned

1-16. The sin of Ananias and Sapphira was not keeping back part of the price, which they had a perfect right to do (Acts 5:4), but pretending that the money which they offered to the Apostles was the whole price of the possession sold, which was not the case. Their motive was vanity and ambition. They wished to have a greater reputation for liberality than they were entitled to.

1. Ananias] i.e. 'Jehovah hath been gracious.'

Sapphira] If the word is Greek it means 'sapphire'; if Aramaic, 'beautiful.'

3. The death of Ananias and Sapphira is to be regarded as an act of God, not of Peter, like the blinding of Elymas (Acts 13:9). Peter acts, not on his own authority, but under the direct inspiration of the Holy Ghost, who informs him of the secret sin, and authorises him to execute the divine vengeance. Similarly St. Paul is inspired to pronounce sentence against Elymas.

4. Was it not thine own?] Clear proof that the apostolic communism was voluntary. Unto God] Ananias had lied unto men, but the sin against man was so insignificant, compared with the sin against God, that St. Peter rhetorically calls it no sin at all. 6. Wound him up] others render, 'composed his limbs.'

The truth of the narrative of Ananias and Sapphira is guaranteed by its painful character. No historian would have gone out of his way to invent it. The punishment of death seems severe, but it must be remembered that our Lord's most severe denunciations were against hypocrisy. To brand religious hypocrisy for all time as infamous, seems to be the object of this miracle. It is not necessary to suppose that Ananias and Sapphira were eternally lost. After this terrible punishment, they may have been forgiven.

12. In Solomon's porch] see Acts 3:11. Solomon's portico was practically abandoned to the Christians, who made it their place of daily assembly, the Apostles teaching and working miracles there.

13. Of the rest] i.e. of the non-Christians.

15. The shadow] With this should be compared the faith of the Corinthians in the efficacy of the cloths that had touched St. Paul's body (Acts 19:12). Something of superstition probably mingled with this faith, but true faith predominated, and God accepted it.

17-42. Second imprisonment of Peter and John. Speech of Gamaliel.

17. The Sadducees] see on Matthew 3:7; Acts 4:1.

20. Words of this life] i.e. the new life in God which the Death, Resurrection and Ascension of our Lord had made possible for man.

28. To bring this man's blood upon us] viz. by causing the people to rise up and avenge the murder of Jesus by slaying us.

29-32. Peter's speech is practically an epitome of previous speeches; see Acts 4:19; Acts 3:13, Acts 3:15; Acts 2:33, Acts 2:36; Acts 3:15; Acts 3:26; Acts 2:4.

33. Were cut] lit. 'were sawn asunder.' Took counsel] RV 'were minded.'

34. Gamaliel] St. Paul's teacher (Acts 22:3), grandson of Hillel and son of Rabbi Simeon, was by far the most influential rabbi of the time. He was the first of the seven teachers who received the title Rabban (higher than Rab or Rabbi). Gamaliel's moderation on this occasion is to be explained, (1) by his hostility to the Sadducees, whom he would not allow to win a decisive triumph over a sect which had much in common with the Pharisees; (2) by the favourable impression which the Apostles' preaching and miracles had made upon him. He was not a convert, but thought that something was to be said for the new teaching. Subsequent developments, particularly the preaching of Stephen, probably alienated him, as it did the other Pharisees.

36. Theudas] The mention of this name is the greatest historical difficulty in the Acts. Gamaliel's speech was delivered 36 a.d. or earlier, but the insurrection of Theudas, according to Josephus, did not take place till some 10 years later (about 46 a.d.): see 'Antiq.' xx. 5, 1. Perhaps St. Luke alludes to an early Theudas, of whom we know nothing.

37. Judas of Galilee] raised an important rebellion in the days of the taxing, or 'enrolment' by Quirinius (6, 7 a.d.).

40. Beaten them] Probably with 'forty stripes save one,' a penalty inflicted upon St. Paul five times (2 Corinthians 11:24). They were punished for disobedience: see Acts 4:18.

42. In every house] RV 'at home,' i.e. in the private Christian assemblies, held in 'the upper room' or elsewhere.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Acts 5:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/acts-5.html. 1909.

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