Acts v.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. It 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.

Ver. 2. By fraud kept part.[1] Ananias, and his wife Saphira, had made 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. Chrysostom, a theft of what was already made sacred to God. (Witham)

Ver. 3. Why hath Satan tempted thy heart?[2] The present Greek copies, filled thy heart. (Witham)

Ver. 4. 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 this 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.)

Ver. 5. Ananias … fell down and gave up the ghost. St. Augustine says,[3] 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)

Ver. 7. Not knowing. Because no one durst tell her; so much did they honour, fear, and obey St. Peter. (St. Chrysostom, hom. xii.) — She came in; Peter did not call her, but waited, to afford her an opportunity of repenting. (Œcumenius)

Ver. 8. Yea, for so much. That is, for the same sum as Ananias mentioned. This the wife said, not knowing what had before happened to her husband. (Witham)

Ver. 12. Solomon’s porch. This was outside of 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)

Ver. 13. 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)

Ver. 15. 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 the grace of him, now being permanent and remaining?” (Serm. xxxix. de sanctis.)

Ver. 26. Then went the magistrate;[4] 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)

Ver. 28. 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)

Ver. 29. Peter 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 witnesses of his resurrection, &c. (Witham)

Ver. 33. They were cut to the heart;[5] exasperated to fury and madness, and were for killing them. (Witham)

Ver. 34. Gamaliel. He that had been St. Paul’s master, according to St. Chrysostom, advised them to forbear, and do nothing rashly. [Ver. 38.] Meddle not with these men; literally, go from them.[6] 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. 39. Time, 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.

Ver. 41. Rejoicing. The joy of the apostles on the present occasion, is one of the greatest of 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)


[1] Ver. 2. Defraudavit, enosphisato. Intervertit aliquid de pretio. St. Augustine, serm. xxvii. de verbis apostoli. Sacrilegii damnatur, & fraudis. See St. Chrysostom, hom xii. in Acta.

[2] Ver. 3. Tentavit. In all Greek copies at present, eplerosen. But St. Epiphanius, Hær. lix. p. 500. reads epeirasen.

[3] Ver. 5. See St. Augustine, lib. iii. cont. Parmen. chap. i. p. 56. tom. 9. nov. Ed.

[4] Ver. 26. Magistratus, o strategos.

[5] Ver. 33. Dissecabantur. dieprionto; which Arias Montanus translates furebant.

[6] Ver. 34. [Ver. 38.] Discedite ab istis. apostete.

Bible Text & Cross-references:

The judgment of God upon Ananias and Saphira. The apostles are cast into prison.

1 But *a certain man, named Ananias, with Saphira, his wife, sold a field,

2 And by fraud kept part of the price of the field, his wife being privy thereto, and bringing a certain part of it, laid it at the feet of the apostles.

3 But Peter said: Ananias, why hath Satan tempted thy heart, that thou shouldst lie to the Holy Ghost, and by fraud keep part of the price of the field?

4 Whilst it remained, did it not remain to thee? and when it was sold, was it not in thy power? Why hast thou conceived this thing in thy heart? Thou hast not lied to men, but to God.

5 And Ananias hearing these words, fell down, and gave up the ghost. And great fear came upon all that heard it.

6 And the young men, rising up, removed him, and carrying him out, buried him.

7 And it came to pass, about the space of three hours after, that his wife also not knowing what had happened, came in.

8 And Peter said to her: Tell me, woman, whether you sold the field for so much? And she said: Yea, for so much.

9 And Peter said unto her: Why have you agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? Behold the feet of those, who have buried thy husband, are at the door, and they shall carry thee out.

10 Immediately she fell down before his feet, and gave up the ghost. And the young men coming in, found her dead; and carried her out, and buried her by her husband.

11 And there came great fear upon the whole church, and upon all that heard these things.

12 And by the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were wrought among the people. And they were all, with one accord, in Solomon’s porch.

13 But of the rest, no one durst join himself to them: but the people magnified them.

14 And the multitude of men and women, that believed in the Lord, was more increased,

15 Insomuch, that they brought out the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that when Peter came, his shadow, at the least, might overshadow any of them, and they might be delivered from their infirmities.

16 And there came also together, to Jerusalem, a multitude out of the neighbouring cities, bringing sick persons, and such as were troubled with unclean spirits: who were all healed.

17 Then the high priest, rising up, and all that were with him, (which is the heresy of the Sadducees) were filled with indignation.

18 And they laid hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison.

19 But an Angel of the Lord, by night opening the doors of the prison, and leading them out, said:

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

21 They having heard this, entered early in the morning into the temple, and taught. Now the high priest coming, and they that were with him, called together the council, and all the ancients of the children of Israel; and sent to the prison to have them brought.

22 But when the officers came, and having opened the prison, found them not, returning back, they told,

23 Saying; The prison indeed we found shut with all diligence, and the keepers standing before the doors: but opening it, we found no man within.

24 Now, when the magistrate of the temple, and the chief priests, heard these words, they were in doubt concerning them what this would come to.

25 But a man coming, told them: Behold, the men whom you put in prison, are standing in the temple, and teaching the people.

26 Then went the magistrate with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest they should be stoned.

27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them,

28 Saying; Commanding, we commanded you, that you should not teach in this name: and behold, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and you have a mind to bring the blood of this man upon us.

29 But Peter answering, and the apostles, said: We ought to obey God rather than men.

30 The God of our fathers hath raised up Jesus, whom you put to death, hanging him upon a tree.

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

32 And we are witnesses of these things, and the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to all that obey him.

33 When they had heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they thought to put them to death.

34 But one in the council rising up, a Pharisee, by name Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, respected by all the people, commanded the men to be put forth a little while.

35 And he said to them; Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves, what you are about to do with these men.

36 For before these days rose up Theodas, affirming himself to be some body, whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined; who was slain: and all who believed him, were dispersed, and brought to nothing.

37 After this man rose up Judas, of Galilee, in the days of the enrolling, and drew away the people after him: he also perished: and all who adhered to him, were dispersed.

38 And now, therefore, I say to you, refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel, or this work be of men, it will come to nothing:

39 But if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it, lest perhaps you be found even to fight against God. And they agreed with him.

40 And calling in the apostles, after they had scourged them, they charged them not to speak at all in the name of Jesus, and they dismissed them.

41 And they indeed went from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were accounted worthy to suffer reproach for the name of Jesus.

42 And they ceased not every day in the temple, and from house to house, to teach and preach Christ Jesus.



1: about the year A.D. 33.