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Acts 5:7-10 (NIV):

"About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.

Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?” “Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”

Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”

At that moment she fell down at his feet and died."

In this passage above, we see that before pronouncing Sapphira's sin of telling a lie, Peter did a kind of test by asking her for how much she and her husband had sold the land. It was only after she stated that the sum of money laid at the apostle's feet was exactly the sum of money she and her husband had acquired (which was not true) that Peter declared her act of lying.

However, we don't read in the verses earlier that her husband Ananias had also been given such a test:

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

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.

Then 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?

Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God!

When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died..” (Acts 5:1-5)

We don't have even a single word spoken by Ananias. If so, then how was it a lie? After all, Ananias could have said something like, "But I never said I brought ALL the money that I received, so I didn't lie."

One may say that that was an act of lying to the Holy Spirit, but then it is not clear why Ananius' wife, unlike her husband, was still "given a chance" later to lie, that is, before her sin of lying could be pronounced by Peter. Actually, I wonder what would have happened to her if she had said the truth instead, that is, something like "No, this is not the whole sum. We decided to put aside some for some other needs."

Unless the act of putting money at the apostles' feet explicitly meant putting ALL the money that you had (like in the previous chapter we read: "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." Acts 4:32) I can't find any explanation to that.

And even then, though, I still don't get it when then Sapphira didn't die right away like her husband, but was given a chance to be exposed in her lies first.

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  • Lying words are not all that can be involved with lying. Deception is what this account is about, and a couple were working together in order to deceive the apostles, to give the false impression that they had been more generous in their financial giving than was actually the case. But because the Holy Spirit cannot be deceived, even if no words are spoken (for he reads hearts and minds) the couple were miraculously exposed and 'dealt with' for having lied to God. Humans can pull the wool over others' eyes, but never God's.
    – Anne
    Jul 15, 2023 at 16:42

2 Answers 2

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In the tragic incident of Acts 5:1-10, only the highlights are recorded - some details are obviously missing. From the available facts we may reasonably deduce the following:

  • Annanias and Sapphira had presumably decided to sell a piece of land and had promised to give the entire proceeds to the church. If they had decided to give (say) half the proceeds to the church and had done so, then, no trouble would have occurred. However, whatever the details, Annanias and Sapphira had decided to give less than the amount they had promised.
  • Peter was a divinely appointed apostle who enjoyed the gift of inspiration. He was divinely revealed the details of the short-changing in the gift of Annanias and Sapphira.

Thus, Peter could correctly speak to reveal that Annias had purposed to break his promised gift to God without Ananias having to say anything. That is, the fact that Ananias had brought the total sum of money that was less than he had promised was a silent "lie" to God.

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  • "only the highlights are recorded - some details are obviously missing" - And that is what's surprizing because for some reason we are given the details on Ananias's wive, but not on himself. This begs the very question that I asked: why then describe the test given to his wife if the test given to him was ommitted? In fact, it would have been then more logical to provide no details at all and only mention that one couple named Annanias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit by hiding away from the money they had received and for doing that they lost their lives.
    – brilliant
    Jul 15, 2023 at 7:14
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    @brilliant - the inspired text is what it is. There is enough to understand what went on without recording all the details. I am sure there was far more dialogue before and after these stories and during them as well. However, we have the details we have.
    – Dottard
    Jul 15, 2023 at 7:22
  • "However, we have the details we have" - You've misunderstood my question. You seem to be saying that we don't have many details, but the ones that we have are enough for us to understand what we need to understand. What I say, however, is that at one point - at the description of how Sapphira died - we have too many details. Why were those details needed then if just saying that she died for the same reason as her husband would already have been enough?
    – brilliant
    Jul 15, 2023 at 7:27
  • @brilliant - I think you have misunderstood my answer.
    – Dottard
    Jul 15, 2023 at 10:42
  • Please, tell me what points I have misunderstood.
    – brilliant
    Jul 15, 2023 at 10:52
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The fact that Ananias didn't say anything in defence, means that he has already lied about the full sum of money, as his wife did. He could simply say he was giving some portion of the property, but they lied and wanted to appear as charitable as the others. The verse 3-4 are clear that the lie is keeping some portion to himself. "Lie... to retain some portion".

Act 4:36 says, "Joseph, having a field, sold it, and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet" 5:1-2 "But a certain man named Ananias, with Sappirah, his wife, sold a possession, and kept back part of the price, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part, and put it at the apostles' feet".

Verse 4 implies there was no rule that the donation should be the whole amount of what you sold or that anyone is compelled to sell anything; it was a voluntary donation. Thus, the sin was to lie about the amount of the proceeds. He must have stated this, otherwise, the accusation of lying does not fit in the context. The question to his wife also confirms that it was about the amount of proceeding. We should not expect to see minute details in the text according to today's standards of writing.

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  • Well, as much as I would want to accept your explanation, it still begs the question then why Peter didn't exposed Anania's lie at the very first instance and instead waited till the instant described in Acts 5:1-4. Besides, we must admit then that "Annania's lied before" is our own addition to the Scriptures because the Scriptures don't describe that event.
    – brilliant
    Jul 15, 2023 at 7:06
  • He did expose by the accusation. He lied, verse 3-4. He was exposed and accused of lying
    – Michael16
    Jul 15, 2023 at 7:20
  • Verses 3-4 are not the description of Annanias' lying, but rather already the accusation. We don't have a word spoken by Annanias as opposed to the description of his wive's lying in Acts 5:8 ("“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”")
    – brilliant
    Jul 15, 2023 at 7:31
  • Youre right, the claims of Ananias are implied by the context of the narrative. You shouldn't treat this text as if a transcript of judiciary court proceedings of a trial of the modern times.
    – Michael16
    Jul 15, 2023 at 8:30
  • "You shouldn't treat this text as if a transcript of judiciary court proceedings of a trial of the modern times." - I'm not. I am just trying to understand why in case of Sapphira the claims are fully described while in case of Annanias they are only implied. It would be natural to have it the other way around.
    – brilliant
    Jul 15, 2023 at 8:44

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