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32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 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 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet. ...

5 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With 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.

I have not found this expression in other biblical texts. A situation where someone puts something at someone else's feet. I would like to know what the exact meaning of this expression is.

Does this just mean that the apostles are responsible for the money? or does "put at the feet" imply some kind of devotion? Or a mark of respect? A hierarchical relationship? Something else ?

Why did the writer include this detail which he considers important since it is mentioned no less than three times in a row in this specific episode and he is the only one to have used this expression.

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    One thing you may like to consider is that the handing of a gift (and the taking of it) imply a person-to-person contact. Thus it could be a bribe. But the laying of a gift at the feet does not (necessarily) mean the other party actually received it. They could motion to another person to take it and use it appropriately, without ever touching it themselves. This is simply a comment to add another thought to the question. It is not intended as an answer. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Commented May 17, 2022 at 19:07
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    Commented May 17, 2022 at 22:05

2 Answers 2

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Note the helpful remarks from the Cambridge commentary on Acts 4:35 -

  1. and laid them down at the apostles’ feet A significant act, whereby it was shewn that they gave the Apostles entire control over the bestowal of these sums. For the figure, cp. Psalm 8:6, and Cicero Proverbs Flacco (xxvii. § 68), ante pedes praetoris in foro expensum est auri pondo centum paullo minus.

That is, this was an eastern expression signifying that the giver of the gift allowed the receiver to do with it as seemed best. Ellicott clarifies this:

(35) And laid them down at the apostles’ feet,—The words are a vivid picture of one phase of Eastern life. When gifts or offerings are made to a king, or priest, or teacher, they are not placed in his hands, but at his feet.

The Pulpit commentary has something similar:

Verse 35. - Laid them for laid them downs A.V.; unto each... as any one for unto every man... as he, A.V., a change without an improvement. Laid them at the apostles' feet. A significant token of the place occupied by the apostles (as later by the bishops of the Church) as the trustees and dispensers of the Church's funds as well as of the Church's doctrines. Compare "Ante pedes praetoris in fore expensum est auri pondo centum" (Cie. pp. Flacco, quoted by Alford).

APPENDIX - Similar statements

The expression "laid at the apostles' feet" occurs in Acts 4:35, 37, 5:5. There is a similar turn of phrase in:

  • Ps 8:6 - You made him ruler of the works of Your hands; You have placed everything under his feet:
  • 1 Cor 15:27 - For “God has put everything under His feet.” ...
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By laying at the apostles' feet they were acknowledging their belief in GOD and even more their belief in GOD in, with and through the apostles. The submitting at their feet was a positive assessments of the apostles management, leadership, decision making, integrity and lifestyles. We should not see the laying at the feet as an action, but as a reaction to what they have experienced spiritually through the apostles and what they have seen naturally in the apostles.

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    Commented May 31, 2023 at 13:52

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