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Bible Commentaries

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures
Acts 5

 

 

Verses 1-11

The Witness of the Power of the Church: The Judgment Upon Ananias and Sapphira - In Acts 5:1-11 we have the account of Ananias and Sapphira lying to Peter and being judged by the apostle.

Acts 5:2Comments - Why would Ananias and Sapphira hold back part of this offering? There is a system of corruption that works in a similar way within the churches in Africa. When offerings are collected or funds received, a corrupt person will hold back a portion of this money and represent the remaining balance as the whole. In this way, a person is able to secretly look like an honest person and gain a position within the church, while becoming wealthy by embezzling funds. This person attempts to gain a position within the church so that he can embezzle more funds. The fact is that this person has a wicked heart. Evidently, Ananias and Sapphira were playing this game of corruption within the early church.

Acts 5:3Comments - Peter's words to Ananias seem to be the gift of the word of knowledge in operation because he had no natural way of knowing what Ananias and Sapphira had done in secret.

Acts 5:4Scripture References- Note related verses:

Proverbs 19:5, "A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall not escape."

Proverbs 19:9, "A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall perish."

Revelation 21:8, "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death."

Revelation 22:15, "For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie."

Acts 5:5Comments - Acts 5:5 reveals that Peter neither spoke divine judgment upon Ananias neither does it say that God killed him. Although this action took place under the Old Covenant, the new covenant is one of grace coupled with chastisement for God's children. However, when Peter confronts Sapphira his wife, Peter foretells of her death as well.


Verses 12-16

The Witness of the Miracles of the Church: The Church Performs Many Signs and Wonders - In Acts 5:12-16 we have the testimony of the miracles of the early Church as it performs many signs and wonders. Note how the early Church knew their authority in Christ and were not afraid to face persecution and punishment for the sake of the Gospel. In Acts 4:23-31 the believers had prayed for God to perform mighty signs and wonders in the midst of opposition. As they continued to preach the Word of God, the unbelievers were afraid of them because of the mighty signs and wonders that were performed by their hands ( Acts 5:12-16).

Ananias and Sapphira dared to join the early Church without an understanding of obedience to the Gospel. At their death, no other people from the general population dared to attempt to join the mighty group ( Acts 5:13). It may have seemed popular to join such a congregation that could work signs and wonders, but they realized that it came with a heavy price of obedience. Yet, having stated that many people feared to join the church, the next verse states that many people were genuine converted and joined the church ( Acts 5:14). The judgment of Ananias and Sapphira had the effect of judging the church of sin.


Verses 17-42

The Witness of the Persecution of the Church - In Acts 5:17-42 we have the record of the first persecution against the early Church.

Acts 5:17Scripture Reference - Note:

Psalm 2:1-3, "Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us."

Acts 5:28 — "and intend to bring this man"s blood upon us" - Comments- That Isaiah , Jesus' blood. The priests were referring to Jesus' death as if His blood was not upon them, which means that they denied being responsible for His death on the Cross. In some deceitful way, they probably shifted the blame to the Roman soldiers.

Acts 5:30Comments- Peter makes a descriptive accusation towards the Sanhedrin, having been an eyewitness of the sufferings of Christ. Since he was also an eyewitness of Jesus' resurrection, Peter is bold to declare his faith in Christ, where he once denied his association with Him the night of his Master's trial.

Acts 5:31 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.

Acts 5:31Word Study on "prince" - Strong says the Greek word ἀρχηγός (G 747) means, "a chief leader." BDAG says it means, "a leader, ruler, prince," and can refer to an "originator, founder, one who begins." Koester notes that it is a compound word consisting of ἀρχή (first) and ἄγω (to lead), denoting a both leader or a founder, with the translation "pioneer" reflecting both aspects of this word. Koester says the word ἀρχηγός is used in the LXX for those who led the children of Israel in the wilderness ( Numbers 10:4; Numbers 13:2-3) and into battle ( Judges 5:15; Judges 9:44; Judges 11:6; Judges 11:11, 1 Chronicles 5:24; 1 Chronicles 8:28; 1 Chronicles 26:26, 2 Chronicles 23:14, Nehemiah 2:9, Judith 14:2). 133] This Greek word is used four times in the New Testament ( Acts 3:15; Acts 5:31, Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 12:2). Luke calls Jesus Christ the " ἀρχηγός of life" ( Acts 3:15), and " ἀρχηγός and Saviour" ( Acts 5:31). The author of Hebrews will use the analogy of Jesus Christ and Moses, who led the children of Israel in the wilderness ( Hebrews 3:1-6). Jesus will later be called the author and finisher of our faith ( Acts 12:2).

133] Craig R. Koester, Hebrews , in The Anchor Bible, eds. William Foxwell Albright and David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 2001), 228.

Acts 3:15, "And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses."

Acts 5:31, "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."

Hebrews 2:10, "For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings."

Hebrews 12:2, "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."

Acts 5:32 And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.

Acts 5:32Comments- The apostles preached and bore witness of the Lord Jesus Christ. When Peter says in Acts 5:32 that "the Holy Ghost" is also bearing witness, he was referring to the signs and miracles that the Holy Spirit wrought among them to confirm the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The apostles were working together with the Holy Spirit is testifying of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Note:

Mark 16:20, "And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen."

Hebrews 2:3-4, "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?"

Acts 5:33 When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them.

Acts 5:33Comments- Peter made it clear that Jesus was the only way. See Acts 4:12, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."

Acts 5:34 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;

Acts 5:34Word Study on "a doctor of the law" - Strong says the Greek word "nomodidaskalos" ( νομοδιδά σκαλος) (G 3547) means, "an expounder of the (Jewish) law, a Rabbi." The Enhanced Strong says it is used 3times in the New Testament, being translated in the KJV as, "doctor of the law 2, teacher of the law 1."

Comments- In Luke 5:17 this word is equivalent to "scribes" as this word is substituted for "doctors of the law" within this same passage of Scripture. The other two places where this word is used are:

Luke 5:17, "And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them."

1 Timothy 1:7, "Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm."

Acts 5:36 — "For before these days rose up Theudas" - Comments- The name "Theudas" could have been a contraction of the Greek name Theodorus, Theodosus, Theodotus, or Theodosius, as Demas is perhaps a contraction of the name Demetrius. Adam Clarke and John Gill believe this Greek name is equivalent to the Hebrew ( תודה) "Thuda," or "Thoda," and it is found as "Thaddaeus" in the New Testament ( Matthew 10:3, Mark 3:18). 134] The suggestion by some that this name could be the Greek equivalent to several Hebrew names lacks strong evidence to support this view. 135]

134] Adam Clarke, The Acts of the Apostles, in Adam Clarke"s Commentary, Electronic Database (Seattle, WA: Hendrickson Publishers Inc, 1996), in P.C. Study Bible, v 31 [CD-ROM] (Seattle, WA: Biblesoft Inc, 1993-2000), notes on Acts 5:36; John Gill, Acts , in John Gill's Expositor, in e-Sword, v 777 [CD-ROM] (Franklin, Tennessee: e-Sword, 2000-2005), comments on Acts 5:36.

135] A. C. Headlam, "Theudas," in A Dictionary of the Bible Dealing With its Language, Literature and Contents Including the Biblical Theology, vol 4, ed. James Hastings (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1911), 750.

Acts 5:36Comments- Eusebius (A.D 260 to 340), in his Church History, quotes Josephus in referring to the insurrection of Theudas. Note:

" Luke , in the Acts , introduces Gamaliel as saying, at the consultation which was held concerning the apostles, that at the time referred to, ‘rose up Theudas boasting himself to be somebody; who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered.' Let us therefore add the account of Josephus concerning this man. He records in the work mentioned just above, the following circumstances: ‘While Fadus was procurator of Judea a certain impostor called Theudas persuaded a very great multitude to take their possessions and follow him to the river Jordan. For he said that he was a prophet, and that the river should be divided at his command, and afford them an easy passage. And with these words he deceived many. But Fadus did not permit them to enjoy their folly, but sent a troop of horsemen against them, who fell upon them unexpectedly and slew many of them and took many others alive, while they took Theudas himself captive, and cut off his head and carried it to Jerusalem.' Besides this he also makes mention of the famine, which took place in the reign of Claudius, in the following words." (Ecclesiastical History 2111-3)

Josephus dates the insurrection of Theudas during the rule of Fadus as procurator of Judea (A.D 44or 45).

"Now it came to pass, while Fadus was procurator of Judea, that a certain magician, whose name was Theudas, persuaded a great part of the people to take their effects with them, and follow him to the river Jordan; for he told them he was a prophet, and that he would, by his own command, divide the river, and afford them an easy passage over it; and many were deluded by his words. However, Fadus did not permit them to make any advantage of his wild attempt, but sent a troop of horsemen out against them; who, falling upon them unexpectedly, slew many of them, and took many of them alive. They also took Theudas alive, and cut off his head, and carried it to Jerusalem. This was what befell the Jews in the time of Cuspius Fadus's government." (Antiquities 2016)

Acts 5:37 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.

Acts 5:37Comments- Eusebius (A.D 260 to 340), in his Church History, quotes Josephus in referring to this event as taking place during the time of Cyrenius, which scholars believe to be about A.D 6. (Ecclesiastical History 153-6) According to Luke 2:1-2, Cyrenius was the governor of Syria at that time.

Luke 2:1-2, "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)"

Note the quote from Eusebius:

"Flavius Josephus, the most celebrated of Hebrew historians, also mentions this census, which was taken during Cyrenius' term of office. In the same connection he gives an account of the uprising of the Galileans, which took place at that time, of which also Luke , among our writers, has made mention in the Acts , in the following words: ‘After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away a multitude after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed.' The above-mentioned author, in the eighteenth book of his Antiquities, in agreement with these words, adds the following, which we quote exactly: ‘Cyrenius, a member of the senate, one who had held other offices and had passed through them all to the consulship, a man also of great dignity in other respects, came to Syria with a small retinue, being sent by C"sar to be a judge of the nation and to make an assessment of their property.' And after a little he says: ‘But Judas, a Gaulonite, from a city called Gamala, taking with him Sadduchus, a Pharisee, urged the people to revolt, both of them saying that the taxation meant nothing else than downright slavery, and exhorting the nation to defend their liberty.' And in the second book of his History of the Jewish War, he writes as follows concerning the same man: ‘At this time a certain Galilean, whose name was Judas, persuaded his countrymen to revolt, declaring that they were cowards if they submitted to pay tribute to the Romans , and if they endured, besides God, masters who were mortal.' These things are recorded by Josephus." (Ecclesiastical History 153-6, see also Josephus, Antiquities 181)

In this same passage of Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus then explains that there were three major sects of the Jews, the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Essenes. A fourth group that arose for a short period of time was led by this man named Judas.

"But of the fourth sect of Jewish philosophy, Judas the Galilean was the author. These men agree in all other things with the Pharisaic notions; but they have an inviolable attachment to liberty, and say that God is to be their only Ruler and Lord. They also do not value dying any kinds of death, nor indeed do they heed the deaths of their relations and friends, nor can any such fear make them call any man lord. And since this immovable resolution of theirs is well known to a great many, I shall speak no further about that matter; nor am I afraid that any thing I have said of them should be disbelieved, but rather fear, that what I have said is beneath the resolution they show when they undergo pain. And it was in Gessius Florus"s time that the nation began to grow mad with this distemper, who was our procurator, and who occasioned the Jews to go wild with it by the abuse of his authority, and to make them revolt from the Romans. And these are the sects of Jewish philosophy." (Antiquities 1816)

Josephus made numerous references to a man named Judas.

There was also Judas, the son of that Ezekias who had been head of the robbers; which Ezekias was a very strong Prayer of Manasseh , and had with great difficulty been caught by Herod. This Judas, having gotten together a multitude of men of a profligate character about Sepphoris in Galilee, made an assault upon the palace [there,] and seized upon all the weapons that were laid up in it, and with them armed every one of those that were with him, and carried away what money was left there; and he became terrible to all men, by tearing and rending those that came near him; and all this in order to raise himself, and out of an ambitious desire of the royal dignity; and he hoped to obtain that as the reward not of his virtuous skill in war, but of his extravagance in doing injuries. (Antiquities 17105)

"And besides this, the sons of Judas of Galilee were now slain; I mean of that Judas who caused the people to revolt, when Cyrenius came to take an account of the estates of the Jews, as we have showed in a foregoing book." (Antiquities 2052)

As Eusebius says above, Josephus again refers to Judas in his War of the Jews.

"In Sepphoris also, a city of Galilee, there was one Judas (the son of that arch-robber Hezekias, who formerly overran the country, and had been subdued by king Herod); this man got no small multitude together, and brake open the place where the royal armor was laid up, and armed those about him, and attacked those that were so earnest to gain the dominion." (Wars 241)

"And now Archelaus"s part of Judea was reduced into a province, and Coponius, one of the equestrian order among the Romans , was sent as a procurator, having the power of [life and] death put into his hands by Caesar. Under his administration it was that a certain Galilean, whose name was Judas, prevailed with his countrymen to revolt, and said they were cowards if they would endure to pay a tax to the Romans and would after God submit to mortal men as their lords. This man was a teacher of a peculiar sect of his own, and was not at all like the rest of those their leaders." (Wars 281)

"In the mean time, one Manahem, the son of Judas, that was called the Galilean, (who was a very cunning sophister, and had formerly reproached the Jews under Cyrenius, that after God they were subject to the Romans ,) took some of the men of note with him, and retired to Masada, where he broke open king Herod"s armory, and gave arms not only to his own people, but to other robbers also." (Wars 2178)

"The others readily complied with their petition, sent to them Gorion, the son of Nicodemus, and Ananias, the son of Sadduk, and Judas, the son of Jonathan, that they might give them the security Of their right hands, and of their oaths; after which Metilius brought down his soldiers; which soldiers, while they were in arms, were not meddled with by any of the seditious, nor was there any appearance of treachery; but as soon as, according to the articles of capitulation, they had all laid down their shields and their swords, and were under no further suspicion of any harm, but were going away, Eleazar"s men attacked them after a violent manner, and encompassed them round, and slew them, while they neither defended themselves, nor entreated for mercy, but only cried out upon the breach of their articles of capitulation and their oaths. And thus were all these men barbarously murdered, excepting Metilius; for when he entreated for mercy, and promised that he would turn Jew, and be circumcised, they saved him alive, but none else." (Wars 21710)

Acts 5:36-37Comments- Historians find a problem with Luke's statements in these two verses when they read Josephus, who says that the revolt of Judas took place under Cyrenius (about A.D 6) (Antiquities 1811), while the insurrection of Theudas took place under Fadus, the procurator of Judea (about A.D 45), during the reign of the emperor Claudius, (reigned A.D 41to 54) (Antiquities 2051). Historians are further confused when modern scholarship dates this speech by Gamaliel at A.D 34to 37.

Numerous explanations have been given in an attempt to resolve this apparent discrepancy of dates. However, it is important to note that Luke , who wrote much earlier than Josephus, was not able to use this Jewish historian as a source, since The Wars of the Jews was published in A.D 77-78 and The Antiquities of the Jews was published about A.D 94. Luke's sources are not indicated in the book of Acts. 136]

136] "Flavius Josephus," F. L. Cross, and E. A. Livingstone, eds, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, revised (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983), 759.

Some scholars believe that either Luke or Josephus was mistaken in his chronology. John Gill suggests several explanations to this text. He says that verse 36 is not a quote from Gamaliel, but rather an insert from Luke , who was writing after A.D 45. Gill suggests that the rendering "After this man rose up Judas" could read "Besides this man rose up Judas," or "Before this man rose up Judas." Gill says that some scholars even suggest that the names of Theudas and Judas should be switched in order to improve the chronology of the text by making Judas come before Theudas. 137]

137] John Gill, Acts , in John Gill's Expositor, in e-Sword, v 777 [CD-ROM] (Franklin, Tennessee: e-Sword, 2000-2005), comments on Acts 5:36-37.

Adam Clarke quotes Bishop Pearce as saying that Theudas and Judas were one and the same person. He bases this argument on the fact that in Scripture, Judas (not Iscariot) was also called Thaddaeus and Lebbaeus. 138] Note:

138] Adam Clarke, The Acts of the Apostles, in Adam Clarke"s Commentary, Electronic Database (Seattle, WA: Hendrickson Publishers Inc, 1996), in P.C. Study Bible, v 31 [CD-ROM] (Seattle, WA: Biblesoft Inc, 1993-2000), notes on Acts 5:36-37.

Matthew 10:3, " Philippians , and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus;"

John 14:22, "Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?"

Mark 3:18-19, "And Andrew, and Philippians , and Bartholomew, and Matthew , and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Canaanite, And Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed him: and they went into an house."

This would mean that the text of Acts 5:36-37 refers to two events in the life of one individual.

Perhaps the most common explanation given by scholars for this discrepancy is that the name Theudas was a common name and could have referred to a difference person and a different event that occurred much earlier than A.D 45. This explanation is supported by the fact that Josephus described Judea as a place of much insecurity, with "ten thousand other disorders" and "full of robberies."

"Now at this time there were ten thousand other disorders in Judea, which were like tumults, because a great number put themselves into a warlike posture, either out of hopes of gain to themselves, or out of enmity to the Jews…." (Antiquities 17104)

"And now Judea was full of robberies…" (Antiquities 17108)

This explanation is also supported by the fact that Josephus makes a reference to Judas the son of Hezekias (Wars 241) and another reference to Judas the son of Jonathan (Wars 21710), both being robbers. Judas is also called a Galilean (Wars 2178) as well as a Gaulonite from a city called Gamala (Antiquities 1811). Thus, it is possible that another rebellious Theudas existed.

Horatio Hackett says, "Josephus gives an account of four men named Simon who followed each other within forty years, and of three named Judas within ten years, who were all instigators of rebellion." 139] Origen (A.D 185 to 254), in his work entitled Against Celsus, believed that Theudas lived before the birth of Christ and that this text is perfectly accurate the way Luke records it.

139] Horatio B. Hackett, A Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, in An American Commentary on the New Testament, ed. Alvah Hovey (Philadelphia, PA: American Baptist Publication Society, c 1882), 82.

"But since it is in the spirit of truth that we examine each passage, we shall mention that there was a certain Theudas among the Jews before the birth of Christ, who gave himself out as some great one, after whose death his deluded followers were completely dispersed. And after him, in the days of the census, when Jesus appears to have been born, one Judas, a Galilean, gathered around him many of the Jewish people, saying he was a wise Prayer of Manasseh , and a teacher of certain new doctrines. And when he also had paid the penalty of his rebellion, his doctrine was overturned, having taken hold of very few persons indeed, and these of the very humblest condition." (Against Celsus 157)

Acts 5:42Comments- Acts 5:42 tells us how the apostles applied the two-fold principle of teaching and preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people in Jerusalem. Jesus followed this pattern of ministry wherever he went, as many other verses in the Gospels reveal.

Matthew 9:35, "And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people."

Matthew 11:1, "And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities."

Mark 6:6, "And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching."

These three key words, teaching, preaching and healing, reveal the method that Jesus used when He began to minister to people. He first taught the people God"s word, then He proclaimed how God had sent Him to establish the Kingdom of God in their lives, and thirdly, He was able to heal those who received His words.

 


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These files are copyrighted by the author, Gary Everett. Used by Permission.
No distribution beyond personal use without permission.

Bibliography Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Acts 5:4". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ghe/acts-5.html. 2013.

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