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In Acts 2:44-45 (KJV) one reads

44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common;

45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.

Does this introduces a communal ownership of property? Was a common pooling of property and possessions obligatory by then?

Or is it only a desire to teach us how we should make use of one's wealth?

Related, to some degree, but not the same: Who were the "all" distributed to in Acts 2?

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A passage that has been misused - almost, at times, abused. (ab-used). This section in Acts has been used to support all sorts of ‘directed preaching’, such as you allude towards. Some have even tried to ‘emulate’ the ways of the ‘first’ church, and followed this practice.

The truth is much simpler, and makes far more sense. They had been warned that Jerusalem was to be annihilated. The key contextual aspect is that this (possession selling) only occurred in Jerusalem.

MARK 13:2 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”

LUKE 21:20 But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her.

So, why not sell up while ‘the going is good’ - and use the money effectively? They were not going to have their possessions much longer - they were set to lose everything.

I am not suggesting that there isn’t any alternative worthwhile message to be ‘read’ out of this story, because there is …

… As Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35). To give of one’s own prosperity to help another is one of the greatest ways of showing that love (1 John 3:17).

It would appear that the believers still retained their homes by virtue of the fact that they met daily from house to house (Acts 2:46). But, it would also appear that this was not a long-term arrangement.

But, back to my point… There is no indication in Scripture that this type of communal living was repeated in other places where large numbers were converted to Christ. In fact, just a few years later, Paul took up a collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem (Romans 15:26), but note … this was not in Jerusalem.

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  • You said (re. the-then forthcoming A.D.70 destruction) "So, why not sell up while ‘the going is good’ - and use the money effectively? They were not going to have their possessions much longer - they were set to lose everything." That made me think of the forthcoming destruction of Babylon the Great in Revelation, and the pouring out of the final plague before Jesus returns in judgment. Wow. Pause for thought, indeed.
    – Anne
    Oct 10 at 13:05
  • I would say scripture never says there is an "obligation" to give everything you have to the poor. But Jesus did strongly call people to do this as he did to the rich young ruler where he said doing this would make him "perfect" Eg: Mark 10:21 Looking at him, Jesus showed love to him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have (F)treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”. It is a voluntary act - but where your treasure is .... Your heart will be also. The act of giving all to the poor means greater treasure in heaven
    – Marshall
    Oct 11 at 3:36
  • @xmarshallx Thanks for your comment. Yes. The rich young ruler had approached Jesus as a Rabbi, and was seeking eternal life via Torah (the Law). So Jesus spelt out what that would mean, and that that was impossible, as no one could/can keep the Law to its fullest extent. So using this passage to ‘attack’ being ‘rich’ (having money) is using it right out of context.
    – Dave
    Oct 11 at 18:30
  • @Dave - ok but I never attacked being rich - nor is there anything at all in the law requiring to give away all your money. So this action is not to do with Jewish law. I said it was a voluntary choice Jesus "challenged" the rich ruler to do and then come follow him. Jesus clearly didn't think this was impossible as it's the same thing he asked of his apostles and in the very next verse he commends the apostles for having already done this and states they will have greater reward - 100 times as much back for forsaking all and following him and the crown of eternal life.
    – Marshall
    Oct 14 at 1:41
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    @xmarshallx Mmm, the concept of being able to get ‘higher’ than the Law would have the Rabbis scratching their head. But I do accept the sermon on the mount took the Law to its ‘highest level’. That’s what I was trying to say. Interpretation is pivotal to Torah, in fact in some ways that’s what it is all about - but, it’s clear we’re not going to agree on this, and I have no issue with that - Cheers!
    – Dave
    Oct 14 at 2:56
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Was a common pooling of property and possessions obligatory by then?

No. Here is a case in point, Acts 5:

1Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

3Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal?

The pooling of property was entirely voluntary.

What is the meaning behind Acts 2:44-45?

The practice was probably inspired by Matthew 19:

21 Jesus told him, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me."

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What is the meaning behind Acts 2:44-45?

Does this introduce communal ownership of property? Was a common pooling of property and possessions obligatory by then?

NO, it was only a voluntary arrangement.

On the day of the Pentecost an unusual situation arose, about three thousand Jews and proselytes accepted the Word and joined the Christian congregation. Many of them that came to the Festival traveled long distances and stayed longer to learn more about the faith. Many that had properties, belongings, chattels, sold some or all and handed the proceeds to the Apostles for distribution to the needy.

It was a voluntary arrangement, this is evident from Peter's question to Ananias. " While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? (Acts 5: 4a)

Acts 5:4 NASB

4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not [a]under your control? Why is it that you have [b]conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men, but to God.”

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