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a common Jewish name, the same as Hananiah

Ananias was the name of three biblical men:

  1. Ananias was one of the members of the church at Jerusalem, who conspired with his wife Sapphira to deceive the Christian brothers, and who fell down and immediately died after he had uttered the falsehood (Acts 5:5).

    The members of the early Christian community agreed to devote their property to the work of furthering the gospel and of assisting the poor and needy. The proceeds of the possessions they sold were placed at the disposal of the apostles (Acts 4:36-37). Ananias might have kept his property had he so chosen; but he professed agreement with the brethren in the common purpose, and had of his own accord devoted it all, as he said, to these sacred ends. Yet, he retained a part of it for his own ends, and thus lied in declaring that he had given it all. “The offense of Ananias and Sapphira showed contempt of God, vanity and ambition in the offenders, and utter disregard of the corruption which they were bringing into the society. Such sin, committed in despite of the light which they possessed, called for a special mark of divine indignation.”

  2. Another Ananias was a Christian at Damascus (Acts 9:10). He became Paul’s instructor; but when or by what means he himself became a Christian we have no information. He was “a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt” at Damascus (22:12).

  3. Ananias was also the name of the high priest before whom Paul was brought in the procuratorship of Felix (Acts 23:2, 5, 24). He was so enraged at Paul's noble declaration, “I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day,” that he commanded one of his attendants to smite him on the mouth. Smarting under this unprovoked insult, Paul quickly replied, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall!” Being reminded that Ananias was the high priest, to whose office all respect was to be paid, he answered, “I did not realize, brothers, that he was high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a leader of your people’” (Acts 23:5, NRSV).

    This expression has produced some confusion, since it is hard to believe that Paul would have been ignorant Ananias' position. The expression may mean (a) that Paul had at the moment overlooked the honor due to the high priest; or (b), as others think, that Paul spoke ironically, as if he had said, “The high priest breaking the law! God’s high priest a tyrant and a lawbreaker! I see a man in white robes, and have heard his voice, but surely it cannot, it ought not to be, the voice of the high priest.” (See Dr. Lindsay on Acts, in loco.) (c) Others think that Paul had poor eyesight and could not see that the speaker was the high priest. In all this, however, it may be explained that Paul, with all his excellency, comes short of the example of his divine Master, who, when he was reviled, reviled not again.