Acts 4:34 in the NIV says:

that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales

While NRSV, ESV, KJV, LEB say something like "as many as were owners of lands", e.g ESV:

There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold

Which interpretation is more accurate? The difference is important because selling land 'from time to time' implies individuals continued to own land, whereas the second interpretation implies they did not.

1 Answer 1


The operative phrase in Acts 4:34 (as highlighted by the OP) is:

ὅσοι γὰρ κτήτορες χωρίων ἢ οἰκιῶν ὑπῆρχον = or as many as were owners of lands or houses were selling [them] (my translation)

Note that the word πωλοῦντες = "were selling" involves on-going, repeated action as per Ellicott's remarks:

Sold them, and brought the prices.—Both words imply continuous and repeated action. It is possible that besides the strong impulse of love, they were impressed, by their Lord’s warnings of wars and coming troubles, with the instability of earthly possessions.

Note that this means that those who had property did not all sell their property as once - it was sold gradually to supply a steady flow of funds for the church.

Thus, the ESV, NRSV are correct but the NIV is also correct - it was an on-going steady, repeated process. Barnes is more specific:

As many as ... - The word used here is employed in a large, indefinite sense; but it would be improper to press it so as to suppose that every individual that became a Christian sold at once all his property. The sense doubtless is, that this was done "when it was necessary:" they parted with whatever property was needful to supply the needs of their poor brethren.

Indeed, if everyone had sold their properties all at once, then the church would have been embarrassed with too much money too quickly. Thus, I still prefer the NIV translation as conveying the force of the Greek.,

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