Acts 5 - Help me Understand

Just so you understand where I am currently. I am just now reading the bible for the first time since I was a child. So far my roommate and I have gotten through the Gospels (WHY is there only one account of the naked man during the arrest? … no, nevermind, I’ll ask that later) and we are into Acts now. We are starting RCIA in the fall and in the meantime we don’t really have anyone we can ask about these things. That is, I have non-Catholic friends but I’m not sure I’d trust their interpretation (no offence to non-Catholics, it’s just that the Protestants I know really have NO clue about Church history and I do believe scripture is best understood when looked at through history).

This particular chapter opens with an account of Annanias and Sapphira. I’m wondering if someone can help me understand this better.

At this point the followers of the disciples are living communally. Certain members are feeling compelled to sell all they own and use it so that all members of their community are physically cared for (given food, clothing, etc). Annanias and Sapphira decide to sell their land but instead of giving everything to the community they decide to keep a small sum for themselves. Perhaps feeling pressured because his brethren have given EVERYTHING Annanias lies about how much the land sold for.

In response God strikes him dead after a brief admonishment from the disciple (Paul? - sorry, recounting from memory here). Sapphira comes in not knowing what’s just happened and when she too lies about how much the land was sold for God strikes her dead as well.

What is going ON here??? People lie everyday without God striking them dead so I can only assume they are being killed not JUST for the lie but because they did not give everything to the community.

Why does this only seem to happen once (keep in mind I have now read from Matthew to Acts 13 and not beyond) and why does it not happen anymore (I don’t know about you but I haven’t seen anyone sell everything they own and give it to the Church lately)? What is the lesson to be learned here?

Any help would be most appreciated because right now all I’m seeing is that we must give everything we have to the church and we must do so honestly or be struck down! :eek:

It was Peter that Ananias and Sapphira told this to. Verses 3-4 reads, ‘But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”’ (RSV) Ananias was killed because he lied to the Holy Spirit. The same is true for Sapphira (see verse 9). The result can be seen in verse 11 (“And great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all who heard of these things.” RSV).

Ananias and Sapphira were not killed because they didn’t give everything, but because they gave a part, but CLAIMED it was everything. That sort of thing doesn’t happen today because we don’t have apostles like Peter around anymore (and I’m sure that people were very careful not to lie around Peter or any of the other apostles once this was reported among the believers).

One of my old textbooks supposed that the man was Mark himself. The other gospel writers either wouldn’t have known about this (Matthew and Luke) or didn’t care (John) since there was kind of a lot going on then.

Re: naked running man

It may also be a case that… well, there are some stories your friends don’t want to tell about you, but which you may decide you need to tell about yourself. Since Mark was very close to Peter and got a lot of his Gospel from Peter’s point of view, he must have heard Peter again and again admitting the most embarrassing remarks and actions, the many times he found himself being rebuked by Jesus, and even his betrayal of his Master. So Mark admitting that he’d traded modesty for flight was probably emulating Peter’s brutal honesty.

From the Geo. Haydock commentary footnotes:
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)

I think you will find the Haydock footnotes very helpful as you study Scripture. Here is the link to its home page.

A couple other recommendations, because of their extensive commentary and fidelity to Catholic teaching, are “The Navarre Bible” and “Ignatius Study Bible”. I don’t think their text is available online tho.

was that in our senior year textbook?

Nita - Thank you. :slight_smile:

I don’t really understand how it was lying to the Holy Spirit (Peter is not the Holy Spirit - but I suppose he was guided by and full of the Spirit?), but it does make sense that such deception could not be encouraged in the new Church.

To the others RE: The Naked Man

Thank you! Haha. I have to tell you for whatever reason that particular verse really tickled our (my roommate and I) funny bone the first time we stumbled upon it. We just couldn’t figure out WHY it was included at all! It didn’t seem to have any relevance. BUT if the naked man was Mark himself… well, then it kind of makes sense.

I was thinking junior year New Testament, not completely sure.

maybe donnelly glossed over it cause i cant remember for some reason but i know baier talked about it

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit