See this post for the introduction to these posts on The Acts of The Apostles.
- V1 – 11: Ananias and Sapphira
- V12 – 16: Continuing healings and growth of the early church
- V17 – 42: Apostles arrested again
- Luke is addressing “Theophilus” (1:1)
- Angel of the Lord
- “Someone” (reporting to the council)
- High Priest
- Peter and the apostles (probably Peter, but the attribution implies that possibly others spoke as well)
- Holy Spirit
- the young men (members of the church)
- the whole church
- “all who heard of these things” (about Ananias and Sapphira)
- the people (of Jerusalem and surrounding towns)
- the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits
- the Sadducees
- the council – the Senate of the people of Israel
- Prison Guards
- Captain of the Temple
- chief priests
- our fathers
- Theudas and a number of men
- Judas the Galilean and his followers
- I’ve seen some casual commentators use the phrase “Peter struck down Ananias”, but that’s just clearly wrong – Peter talks with Ananias, then Ananias dies.
- Worth noting that the sin of Ananias and Sapphira was in lying about how much they were donating – Peter makes it clear (V4) that they could have donated nothing, or only donated part of it, and it would have been fine. The problem was in trying to get credit for donating the whole thing when that’s not what they were doing. (More on this in the next section.)
- Note that people were trying to at least have Peter’s shadow touch them, then note that it doesn’t say whether that worked or not. It seems like most of the healings in Luke and Acts involve touch.
- V29 – 32: we get a mini-version of the Petrine-format speech (explanation why Peter is talking, connect that to Jesus who you killed, Jesus is the Annointed One, and the only way to be saved). We’ve had a nice run of these speeches, with one in every chapter between from 2 to 5, and we will get one more of them in chapter 10.
- Gamaliel is mentioned in the Talmud as an important rabbi. In Acts 22:3 Paul states that he studied under him (Paul never makes this claim in any of his own writings, however.)
- When the leaders agree with Gamaliel to not oppose the disciples, they bring them in and beat them, then let them go. Clearly Gamaliel was cooler-headed than these other folks – he suggests letting them go, but the other guys just have to at least get a beating in there first.
- V36 – 37: there are some chronology problems here – Theudas’ revolt was in 44 – 46 AD, and Judas the Galilean’s revolt was in 6 AD (and that’s about when Luke has Gamaliel date Judas by saying “in the days of the census”). So saying that Theudas was prior to Judas seems to be wrong; also, the narrative of Luke doesn’t seem to have burned through fourteen or fifteen years after Christ yet, and lots of other chronology starts breaking down if Acts 5 is taking place after Theudas’ revolt. So I tend to think that Luke is reporting Gamaliel’s speech as it was described to him long after the fact – Luke’s reporters are garbling Gamaliel’s speech. There’s no reason to assume that these are the exact words that Gamaliel himself spoke on the occasion. Remember that ancient ideas about how historians give quotes don’t necessarily conform to our ideas about this sort of thing.
- As I said in my notes on Acts 1, I see interesting parallels between the New Testament book of Acts, and the Old Testament book of Joshua. The story of Ananias and Sapphira seems to parallel the story of Achan found in Joshua 7, but with some key differences. In both cases the whole community is threatened by someone’s selfishness. Achan’s theft lead to Israel’s defeat in battle. Ananias and Sapphira’s deception was worse than that – it threatened to undermine the sense of community that the fledgling church was developing. They wanted it both ways – they wanted credit within the church for generosity and sacrifice, and they wanted to retain wealth outside the church. But the most interesting difference between these two stories is in how they are resolved. In Achan’s case, he and his family are stoned and/or burned to death. The punishment is delivered by the community, and only after the community had suffered as a result of his sin. Ananias and Sapphira, on the other hand, died, but not at the hand of any member of the community, and before their sin could really cause harm to the community.
- The second half of the chapter is another piece showing how those in power were in opposition to the church. The leaders barely blink when anything miraculous is done, such as the apostle’s prison escape (similar to how they really didn’t care about the man being healed in Acts 3). They are far more interested in preserving their own power than they are in seeing if God is moving. HOWEVER, there is a notable exception to this in Gamaliel – what a fantastic model of reserve and wisdom. We would all do well to think about his advice before we decide to tear into some movement we don’t understand or approve of. Too many theological debates are far more about preserving boundaries than they are about seeking truth. Maybe, just maybe, that group you are mad at and denouncing is actually doing God’s work. Don’t oppose them! And if they aren’t doing God’s work, well, nothing they do will last, so don’t worry too much about that, either. I’m not suggesting that we don’t have debates and discussions – I just want them to be about seeking truth, not about preserving power.