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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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was the son of Nebedaeus, high priest of the Jews. According to Josephus, he succeeded Joseph, the son of Camith, in the forty-seventh year of the Christian aera; and was himself succeeded by Ishmael, the son of Tabaeus, in the year 63. Quadratus, governor of Syria, coming into Judaea, on the rumours which prevailed among the Samaritans and Jews, sent the high priest Ananias to Rome, to vindicate his conduct to the emperor. The high priest justified himself, was acquitted, and returned. St. Paul being apprehended at Jerusalem by the tribune of the Roman troops that guarded the temple, declared to him that he was a citizen of Rome. This obliged the officer to treat him with some regard. As he was ignorant of what the Jews accused him, the next day he convened the priests, and placed St. Paul in the midst of them, that he might justify himself. St. Paul began as follows: "Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day." He had scarcely spoken this, when the high priest, Ananias, commanded those who were near him to smite him on the face. The Apostle immediately replied, "God shall judge thee, thou whited wall; for, sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?" They that stood by said, "Revilest thou God's high priest?" And Paul answered, "I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people." Acts 22:23-24; Acts 23:1-5; by which words many suppose that the Apostle spake in bitter irony; or at least that he considered Ananias as a usurper of the office of the priesthood.

After this, the assembly being divided in opinion, St. Paul was sent by the tribune to Caesarea, that Felix, governor of the province, might take cognizance of the affair. When it was known that the Apostle had arrived at Caesarea, Ananias the high priest, and other Jews, went thither to accuse him; but the affair was adjourned, and St. Paul continued two years in prison in that city, Acts 24.

The Apostle's prediction that God would smite Ananias, was thus accomplished: Albinus, governor of Judaea, being come into that country, Ananias found means to gain him by presents; and Ananias, by reason of this patronage, was considered as the first man of his nation. However, there were in his party some violent persons, who plundered the country, and seized the tithes of the priests; and this they did with impunity, on account of the great credit of Ananias. At the same time, several companies of assassins infested Judaea, and committed great ravages. When any of their companions fell into the hands of the governors of the province, and were about to be executed, they failed not to seize some domestic or relation of the high priest Ananias, that he might procure the liberty of their associates, in exchange for those whom they detained. Having taken Eleazer, one of Ananias's sons, they did not release him till ten of their companions were liberated. By this means their number considerably increased, and the country was exposed to their ravages. At length, Eleazer, the son of Ananias, heading a party of mutineers, seized the temple, and forbade any sacrifices for the emperor. Being joined by the assassins, he pulled down the house of his father Ananias, with his brother, hid him self in the aqueducts belonging to the royal palace, but was soon discovered, and both of them were killed. Thus God smote this whited wall, in the very beginning of the Jewish wars.

2. ANANIAS, one of the first Christians of Jerusalem, who being converted, with his wife Sapphira, sold his estate; (as did the other Christians at Jerusalem, under a temporary regulation that they were to have all things in common;) but privately reserved a part of the purchase money to himself. Having brought the remainder to St. Peter, as the whole price of the inheritance sold, the Apostle, to whom the Holy Ghost had revealed this falsehood, rebuked him severely, as having lied not unto men but unto God, Acts 5. At that instant, Ananias, being struck dead, fell down at the Apostle's feet; and in the course of three hours after, his wife suffered a similar punishment. This happened, A.D. 33, or 34. It is evident, that in this and similar events, the spectators and civil magistrates must have been convinced that some extraordinary power was exerted; for if Peter had himself slain Ananias, he would have been amenable to the laws as a murderer. But, if by forewarning him that he should immediately die, and the prediction came to pass, it is evident that the power which attended this word of Peter was not from Peter, but from God. This was made the more certain by the death of two persons, in the same manner, and under the same circumstances, which could not be attributed to accident.

3. ANANIAS, a disciple of Christ, at Damascus, whom the Lord directed to visit Paul, then lately converted. Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem; and how he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call upon thy name." But the Lord said unto him, "Go thy way, for he is a chosen vessel unto me." Ananias, therefore, went to the house in which God had revealed unto him that Paul was, and putting his hands on him, said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared unto thee in the way, hath sent me that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost," Acts 9:10-12 , &c. We are not informed of any other circumstance of the life of Ananias.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Ananias'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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