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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Acts 5

 

 

Verses 1-11

Acts 5:1-11. Ananias and Sapphira.—Barnabas' unworthy counterpart is Ananias, who, in league with his wife, was unwilling to part with all his property, but anxious to appear to have done so. Their crime was that they tried to deceive the Church and God by keeping back part of what was dedicated and belonged to God, and so insulting and wronging the Church. Peter feels the attack as directed against the Spirit, therefore a monstrous one which could only proceed from Satan, the first liar. No compulsion, he says, was applied to anyone to part with his property, nor, when it was sold, with the price of it; this shows the statements of Acts 2:45; Acts 4:32 to be exaggerated; but to pretend to dedicate a property to the community and to keep back part of the price, that was to lie to God who dwelt in the community. The death of Ananias takes place forthwith, whether from a violent convulsion of feeling, or in consequence of a deliberate exercise of the power spoken of by Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:5, we need not decide. The inviolability of the Church is thus placed beyond question (Acts 2:43). Not only its members felt it but all who heard of the occurrence. No customary rites, no elaborate mourning were bestowed on Ananias; his family was not summoned. The younger men (not here the description of an office but a plain statement of fact) disposed of his body as quickly and simply as possible. The second act of this judgment required that Sapphira should not know her husband's fate. The young men have scarcely returned from their dreadful errand; when they come in they find the wife also dead, and do the same to her as to her husband. The impression produced on the Church and on those outside is again dwelt on.


Verses 12-16

Acts 5:12-16. Apostolic Signs and Cures.—In the AV Acts 5:12 b - Acts 5:14 are rightly bracketed; the verses are an editorial addition. Acts 5:12 a connects with Acts 5:15. In Acts 2:43 we read that many wonders and signs were wrought by the apostles, but only two have been placed before us in detail. The statement is here repeated and introduces a picture of the healing activity, especially of Peter, touches in which remind us of the Gospels (Mark 2:1-4; Mark 6:54-56; cf. also the balancing statement about Paul, Acts 19:11 f.). In Acts 5:12 b - Acts 5:14 the Church has given up meeting in private houses and makes Solomon's Porch its headquarters. The two views of the Church as inviolable and feared, and as attractive and making many converts, stand side by side, as in Acts 2:43-47. It is among the Jews that the healing ministry is carried on which rouses such enthusiasm. Matthew 5:13-16 gives the teaching of Christ on which the Jewish mission proceeds.


Verses 17-42

Acts 5:17-42. A Hostile Encounter with the Jewish Authorities.—This account closely resembles that in ch. 4; the imprisonment is at the hands of the same men, extends over one night, and Peter's two declarations (Acts 4:19, Acts 5:29) are very similar. In spite of a few added touches, Gamaliel and his historical reminiscences, we cannot but feel the paucity of materials that were at the author's disposal for this part of his history. As in Acts 4, the attack comes from the Sadducees. If so the motive could only be political. The Resurrection is not mentioned to explain their action; they were filled with jealousy. They could not wish the new sect to become important; a real Messiah would be the end of their power. Here, as in Acts 4, no ground is given for the arrest. Not only Peter and John are arrested but the apostles generally. The opening of the prison (Acts 5:19) occurs again twice in Ac. (Acts 12, 16); here it is told very shortly. "The words of this life" (Acts 5:20) is a phrase for which it is difficult to find a parallel in NT. It means the message of Jesus' Resurrection and the new life descending on the world from Him. The gates of the Temple were locked at night; only at daybreak could the angel's order be obeyed. The high priest and those with him (Acts 5:17) call a meeting in the morning of "the Sanhedrin and all the eldership." In OT "the elders of the people" is a common phrase; our writer may be thinking of the Roman Senate. In Jewish practice of Gospel times the elders are a part of the Sanhedrin, and the phrase, making them separate from it, shows imperfect knowledge of Jewish affairs. The story of the empty prison, the perplexed judges, the captain of the Temple, the high priests (plural, cf. Acts 4:1*, Acts 4:6), the message that the men who had been imprisoned are preaching in the Temple, is admirably told. The rearrested apostles have to be brought with courtesy, on account of the people (Acts 4:21); the priestly party was prepared to act differently. The high priest appeals to the prohibition (Acts 4:18) of any teaching based on "this name," which he will not pronounce. The apostles have disregarded it entirely, expressly declaring the leaders of the people to be chargeable with the blood of "this man." The passage in which the leaders formally undertook before Pilate for themselves and their children the responsibility for the blood of Jesus, is not in Lk. but in Mt. (Matthew 27:25), but the guilt has been repeatedly charged to them in Ac., and they have shown marked aversion to the "name." Peter's reply (Acts 5:29-32) is a repetition of his former one (Acts 4:19), and he goes on, though the circumstances call for less, to repeat his favourite statement as to the Resurrection of Christ in spite of all the Jews did to Him. It is the "God of our fathers" (Acts 3:13) who raised up Jesus, ill-treated by the Jews, who by His right hand exalted Him as a Prince and a Saviour; in Acts 4:12* this word is used in a wide sense of deliverance from physical or any other ills. All His mission is for Israel, that repentance may be granted to Israel and forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38, Acts 3:19, Luke 24:47). The whole picture is within Judaism. Of these matters the apostles are witnesses and the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4, Acts 4:31, etc.) which all those have who obey God.

Acts 5:33. cut to the heart: lit. "sawn asunder," of a painful mental shock.—they were minded to slay them: they had no power legally to do so; in the case of Stephen it is done in passion.

Acts 5:34-42. Intervention of Gamaliel.—In Lk. there are various instances of friendly feeling towards Jesus on the part of Pharisees, not given in the other gospels. Of this Gamaliel (Acts 22:3*) not much is known. He is an open-minded man, and his authority is readily acknowledged. Again (Acts 5:34) we have the exclusion of the apostles from the meeting, and the report of the proceedings after they were excluded (cf. Acts 4:15-17). Gamaliel counsels caution, and appeals to history, at least what here appears as such. Theudas (Acts 5:36) figured as a prophet in the procuratorship of Cuspius Fadus (A.D. 44) and could not be used as an instance by Gamaliel speaking some years earlier. The details agree with those given by Josephus (Ant. xx. 5). There might be other insurrectionaries of the same name, but probably our author here makes a mistake. The revolt of Judas of Galilee (Acts 5:37) took place in the days of the enrolment or census under Quirinius, A.D. 7 (Josephus, Ant. XVIII. i. 1-6; XX. Acts 5:2; Wars, II. viii. 1). The party of Zealots (pp. 609f. Mark 3:18*) originated from this revolt [this is the usual view, but Lake argues (Harvard Theological Review, Jan. Acts 19:17) that the party did not originate till shortly before the Fall of Jerusalem.—A. S. P.]; but no corroboration can be found of Gamaliel's statement as to the fate of Judas. His practical conclusion is the same as that in Acts 4:15-19, but is based on another reason than the fear of the people. His policy is that of "wait and see" piously expressed. The apostles are beaten and forbidden as before to speak in the name of Jesus, but released. They find the beatitude on the persecuted (Matthew 5:10) fulfilled in their case; the Name is a power for which they can never do too much, to suffer for which they count great honour. The meetings go on as before, both in the Temple and at home (as Acts 2:42; Acts 2:46); they preach the Messiah, namely Jesus.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Acts 5:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/acts-5.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, December 12th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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