Ananias and Sapphira ( Acts 5:1-11 )

Story summary:
Church started to grow, believers shared their possesions with each other, and so a couple decided to sell part of their land and donate the money to the Christian community, however, they lied how much they received from it and stated they gave it all to the church when in truth, they kept part of it to themselves. It was done to get praise from other people, and Peter the Apostle saw through their deceit and accused first Anabias, then Sapphire of lying to Holy Spirit, which caused their instant death.

While this story has it’s merits, and for sure shows how important it is to not go for praise but be a humble servant of God, I can’t accept it as authentic. The same as with Job, I understand the lesson from the book, but I can’t accept that God really let his children die while later giving him more children as a remedy. And that’s okay, Job is quite obviously a theological argument in form of a story, this chapter though, claims itself to be a genuine story ( telling history of early christianity and all ) and because of that, I have to see this story as a way to show Peter authority, or importance of keeping true to Holy Spirit, not really what happened. Just as two different genealogies of Jesus were created to show Jesus’s uniqueness.

Wait a second, isn’t that cherry picking? If I just say this story is fiction, then I can just tell every story that I don’t like to be a fiction and the one I accept as real. And this is a fair point. But there are reasons to doubt this story other than “I just don’t like it”. Jesus was really a forgiving person, once and once again he showed mercy to people that others thought of as deserving of death and promoted that fellow believers should instead help one another and strengthten each other’s faith instead of condemning.

Peter could’ve just rebuke them or/and exorcize the demon out of Anabias if it caused the problem. Instead he just killed a fellow Christian even though all of us make mistakes, even more, Peter himself rejected Jesus in spite of his promises ( and yes, he saw his mistake, but if he could’ve repent then why he took this opportunity from Anabias and Sapphire ), and Jesus didn’t just slain him after he was resurrected right there and then, so it just seems to be out of character for Peter and out of character for God to follow through with Peter’s judgement.

Yes, there is Matthew 12:31 “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven unto men”.
But I see it as rather sin that refuses forgiveness, if you undermine the mission of Jesus and say for example that his death did nothing and won’t save you, then obviously you flatly reject the forgiveness making it impossible to achieve relationship with God, making it a mortal sin. I didn’t for once see it as something that you need to be killed immediately after doing.

Those are my thoughts about it, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

So, what God lacks in competence He makes up for in pragmatism. A bit of assassination here, drown the world there. No atonement theory works and none are therefore necessary. All that is necessary for all to be well for all is for the incarnation to be real. As there is no demonstration of divine intelligence we can’t know that, but one thing’s for sure either way, the dark stuff is all us.

Hum. This story has always bothered me as well, but when you look at it, it was not Peter who killed them, though he did prophesy Sapphira’s death, but rather it could be seen as their fear after being confronted having been the culprit. It sort of reminds me of the poor guy who reached up to steady the ark and fell over dead, though he was actually trying to do the right thing with good intentions.

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I see no reason not to take those stories as true. Christ died on the cross because our enslavement to sin means that change (like salvation) requires “the shedding of blood.” What? A magical power of human sacrifice? No. This isn’t about magic or some requirement handed down from God, not any more than saying soldiers died for our freedom means freedom requires an allotted number of soldiers to be killed. It is just the nature of our self-destructive habits that we don’t change except on the brink of death and destruction.

I very much believe in a parent-child relationship between God and man, BUT there are clearly some big differences with regards to knowledge and responsibility. God’s responsibility is greater and more grim than a surgeon with a patient on an operating table. God is the author of evolution and Noah’s flood. God is dealing with the direction of the whole future of mankind. So despite it being a parent-child relationship this isn’t quite the example of how human parents are to raise their own children. Not only are we dealing with a far smaller family but we just don’t have the knowledge and ability to handle the same scale of responsibilities.

Consider for example the difference between parent, babysitter, and teacher. The same actions are not appropriate for all of these because of these same sort of differences in knowledge and responsibility.

I heard that the book of Job is best thought of as a play. Otherwise it’s too bizarre. It has good lessons about human suffering.

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Yeah, what I said above was not meant to apply to Job.

NOT because it is so unbelievable. Quite the contrary, it is all too believable - a story I have little doubt has played out many many many times (at least when it comes to what happens to Job).

No, it is the contrived nature of the text. Where far from being the focus of the book, the story is more of a introductory context for a long philosophical-theological debate and discussion.

Also like Isaiah, I think it highly likely that Job was written in the attempt to make sense of the Israelites experiences in the Babylonian captivity. And thus in some sense, Job is all the people of Israel.

But in regards to the understanding of why a loving God could have all this happen to Israel, my explanation above still applies.

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What’s the profitable inspiration for us by that murderous breath of God Phil?

I specifically said it was not Peter, but also not God except in the sense that he sustains all and allowed it, but rather they died due to their own fear and shock. If talking about the ark, perhaps a little different as written to emphasize its holiness. Perhaps.

Spoken like a true liberal Evangelical Phil : ) And for the first time, I could see that they died of natural heart attacks or massive strokes. And Peter naturally, and not for the only time, assumed God assassinated them.

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I don’t find it believable. God and Satan having a friendly chat in heaven? Satan asking for permission to sicken, torture, and kill people, and God granting it? I think it’s a teaching story.

Yeah… that part isn’t very believable. I agree.

  1. I don’t think God has to prove anything.
  2. I don’t think God needs to make any deals with angels or devils. He did make a deal with Abraham, so I suppose He will make deals with His children when He considers it instructive. But for the most part, I don’t think we can expect God to make deals with us either. I suspect the devil is more the deal maker than God is.

i agree. We have the German legend of Dr. Faust, who makes a deal with the devil and comes to regret it. The legend inspired some significant works–a play and several operas. And probably more stuff.

the key difference is that in God you can be given eternal life and physical death is no barrier to him as it brings you into his presence if you chose be with him.

I consider the book of Job an astonishing work, and I would suggest that we begin to understand it if we critically look at the introduction. By this I mean, in the Bible, when reference is made to God, we have information on that, eg Isaiah provides a vision of God, as Ezeikil 1:1, and other examples. God interacts with Abraham directly, and we can consider many other books. Yet with Job, we have a commentary beginning with Job’s wealth and conduct, followed by a commentary on God and the Sons of God. This strikes me as relevant, especially as we continue to read.

I am making a suggestion, and I think that one notion may be that the book is as much about our faulty understanding of God (theology) as about our sufferings.

When is the offer made?

Ananias and Sapphira is a somewhat uncomfortable story. The point of course is not that they withheld part of the money but that they lied about doing it. Here’s a response by Stand to Reason.

I view Job as wisdom literature looking at the problem of “Why do bad things happen to good people”. So I think it is inspired but not a literal historical account.

Regarding blasphemy against the Holy Spirit I offer this explanation from Mike Winger. I think this is similar to

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Yeah - and it was quite a contrast of reactions afterward too! David was angered about what happened to Uzzah, while Peter isn’t said to have questioned God on it, but even places himself “on God’s side” as an executor of seeing that justice is completed against all involved. Isn’t that quite a reversal of the usual trajectories we see between testaments! As a reaction, David delays about having the ark anywhere near himself …(well … if that’s the way you’re going to be, God!)

Both stories strike me (so-to-speak) as being cautionary tales. We aren’t to mess around lightly with this stuff. They also might remind one of some of the more apocrophal tales that were rejected as non-canonical - the sort that people later make up about their heros. One of those has Jesus as a young boy cursing some of his playmates (in some way that didn’t end well for them of course) because of something they did or said. Had the story of Annanias and Sapphira not been bundled in with an otherwise respectable author’s work (Luke!), I wonder if it would have suffered the same fate.

But if we do accept actual historicity of this one, there are still other things to remember about how to understand the inspiration of various biblical authors. Some will soften the violence of the old testament by noting that the Israelites didn’t actually wipe out nearly so many of the original occupants of the land nearly so completely as the text boasts they did. Nor do you brag that your hero, when he pulled a couple pillars down killed seventeen men, injured five more, and the remaining people got out. No. No. You declare that your man, when he pulled a couple pillars down, killed hundreds … thousands even - in what must have been a mind-numbingly big house!

That’s how you brag. None of this “Saul killed his dozens” and “David killed even a few more dozens”. Uh uh. That would demonstrate a total lack of understanding of the art form of trash talk well done. Saul killed his thousands, David his tens of thousands. Now we’re talking something worthy of a cheering squad. Only a few moderns tying themselves in knots over fact-checking concerns so that they can check off an ‘inerrancy’ box will lose any sleep worring about insisting people back then must think like impartial journalists are expected to think today.

But in reality, they apparently didn’t think like we do in a lot of ways. And probably nor did their descendents in Peter’s time who were well-versed in these histories. So in the end - yes - it’s still a disturbing story; even if it ends up telling you as much or more about Peter and company than it does about God. It could have been their (and/or Luke’s) interpretive gloss over what went down and why. And we obviously haven’t drawn from that any brutal interrogation tactics to train our ushers with in church’s today. We see a larger narrative illuminated by Paul - but more importantly: Jesus. And we treat each story, including this one, underneath those lights. That there are serious consequences for lying to the spirit or making yourself appear better than you are seems a safe enough moral to draw from it. Lord, have mercy on me! Probably on all of us.

By the way, I wonder what Peter & co. ever did with the offering that Annanias and Sapphira placed at his feet? I’m sure it was something good.

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Interesting question. I sometimes have the fantasy of winning the billion dollar lottery, and then in my musing wondering how it would go with my church when I gave a big donation…Would they want to be know as the church built with lotto winnings?

I would not put Job and the case of Ananias & Sapphira together. They have so many differences.

Job seems to be an ancient story with elements that suggest it is teaching rather than a report. At that time, there seemed to be a common belief that if something bad happened to you, that was a sign that you had done something bad. Doing what is correct lead to a blessing, also an economical blessing. The story of Job attacks strongly against this kind of beliefs.

Acts is written as a report of what happened. A report with a theological purpose, so it is selective: some things are mentioned and others not. The case of Ananias & Sapphira seemed to tell an important message as it has been included. It may not be the favorite story of a modern liberal Christian but I believe it is a report of something that happened.

What is told leaves many details open. What happened before the fatal encounters? Did it reveal a pattern of deception rather than a single error?
My interpretation is that the fatal encounters must have been an endpoint of a long development, including wrong attitude, many wrong steps and an intention to gain a respected status among the followers, for their own benefit. If A & S had not been stopped, they may have gained a strong position among the followers, a position that would be founded on lies and deception.

It should be noted that the judgement was not done by Peter, although he was speaking. It was a judgement by the Holy Spirit. That was a critical moment in the history of the future church as there was only a small group of followers and the future depended on what happened in that group. The followers needed to have respect towards God and stay in the truth. What happened to A & S was a strong message that probably had an impact on the attitudes and behavior of the followers.

We can compare the case of A & S to what happened in Samaria (Acts 8:9-24). There was a man called Simon and he also tried to use money to get a respected position. Peter was there and used strong words but Simon did not die. He was given a possibility to repent. This tells that what happened to A & S was not a rule.

The knots we tie ourselves in to justify God the Murderer.