King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Acts 5

The death of Ananias and Sapphira. (1-11) The power which accompanied the preaching of the gospel. (12-16) The apostles imprisoned, but set free by an angel. (17-25) The apostles testify to Christ before the council. (26-33) The advice of Gamaliel, The council let the apostles go. (34-42)

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The death of Ananias and Sapphira

1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,

2 And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?

4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.

5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.

6 And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.

7 And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.

8 And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.

9 Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.

10 Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.

11 And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.

The power which accompanied the preaching of the gospel

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

13 And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them.

14 And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.)

15 Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.

16 There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one.

The apostles imprisoned, but set free by an angel

17 Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation,

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

19 But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said,

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

21 And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught. But the high priest came, and they that were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought.

22 But when the officers came, and found them not in the prison, they returned and told,

23 Saying, The prison truly found we shut with all safety, and the keepers standing without before the doors: but when we had opened, we found no man within.

24 Now when the high priest and the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these things, they doubted of them whereunto this would grow.

25 Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people.

The apostles testify to Christ before the council

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

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

28 Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.

29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.

30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.

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

32 And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.

33 When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them.

The advice of Gamaliel, The council let the apostles go

34 Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space;

35 And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men.

36 For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought.

37 After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed.

38 And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought:

39 But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.

40 And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

41 And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.

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

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible 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 S. Basil, Serm. i. de instit. Monac. S. 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, S. Aug. calls it a sacrilegious fraud, and S. Chrys. a theft of what was already made sacred to God. Wi.

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

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. Wi. — 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 S. Augustin, “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. — S. Gregory, on t his 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.” l. i. ep. 33.

Ver. 5. Ananias . . . fell down and gave up the ghost. S. Aug. 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 S. Peter, and the apostles, had the gift of prophecy. Wi. — 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 S. Augustin, “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.” S. Aug. Serm. cxlviii. olim. 10. et in Parmen. — S. Benedict also, in the 57th chapter of his rule, insinuates, that their death was only corporal. A. — 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 S. Peter. S. Chrys. 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. Wi.

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. Wi.

Ver. 15. On . . . couches, meaner beds for the poorer sort. — That Peter’s shadow, &c. Thus was partly fulfilled what Christ had foretold, (Jo. xiv. 12.) that his disciples should do even greater miracles than he had done. Wi. — S. Ambrose compares with these miracles wrought by S. 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. S. Aug. serm. cciii. — St Augustin, 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. Wi. — 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. D. Carthus.

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. Wi.

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. Wi.

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

Ver. 34. Gamaliel. He that had been S. Paul’s master, according to S. Chrys. advised them to forbear, and do nothing rashly. Meddle not with these men; lit. 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. Wi. — Gamaliel was the master of S. Paul, Barnabas, Stephen, and others, and favoured the Christians. S. 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. A.

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[1] V. 2. Defraudavit, enosphisato. Intervertit aliquid de pretio. S. Aug. serm. xxvii. de verbis apostoli. Sacrilegii damnatur, & fraudis. See S. Chrys. hom xii. in Acta.

[2] V. 3. Tentavit. In all Greek copies at present, eplerosen. But S. Epiphan. Hær. lix. p. 500. reads epeirasen.

[3] V. 5. See S. Aug. l. iii. cont. Parmen. c. i. p. 56. tom. 9. nov. Ed.

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

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

[6] V. 34. Discedite ab istis. apostete.