the Fourth Week of Lent
Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature
Anani´as (same name as Hananiah, whom Jehovah hath graciously given), son of Nebedaeus, was made high-priest in the time of the procurator Tiberius Alexander, about A.D. 47, by Herod, king of Chalcis, who for this purpose removed Joseph, son of Camydus, from the high-priesthood. He held the office with credit, until Agrippa gave it to Ismael, the son of Tabi, who succeeded a short time before the departure of the procurator Felix, and occupied the station also under his successor Festus. Ananias, after retiring from his high-priesthood, 'increased in glory every day,' and obtained favor with the citizens, and with Albinus, the Roman procurator, by a lavish use of the great wealth he had hoarded. His prosperity met with a dark and painful termination. The assassins, who played so fearful a part in the Jewish war, set fire to his house in the commencement of it, and compelled him to seek refuge by concealment; but being discovered in an aqueduct, he was captured and slain.
It was this Ananias before whom Paul was brought, in the procuratorship of Felix (Acts 23). After this hearing Paul was sent to Caesarea, whither Ananias repaired, in order to lay a formal charge against him before Felix, who postponed the matter, detaining the apostle meanwhile, and placing him under the supervision of a Roman centurion (Acts 24).
Ananias, a Christian belonging to the infant church at Jerusalem, who, conspiring with his wife Sapphira to deceive and defraud the brethren, was overtaken by sudden death, and immediately buried. The Christian community at Jerusalem appear to have entered into a solemn agreement, that each and all should devote their property to the great work of furthering the Gospel and giving succor to the needy. Accordingly they proceeded to sell their possessions and brought the proceeds into the common stock of the church. Thus Barnabas (Acts 4:36-37) 'having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.' The apostles then had the general disposal, if they had not also the immediate distribution, of the common funds. The contributions, therefore, were designed for the sacred purposes of religion (Acts 5:1-11).
As all the members of the Jerusalem church had thus agreed to hold their property in common, for the furtherance of the holy work in which, they were engaged, if any one of them withheld a part, and offered the remainder as a whole, he committed two offences—he defrauded the church, and was guilty of falsehood: and as his act related not to secular but to religious affairs, and had an injurious bearing, both as an example, and as a positive transgression against the Gospel while it was yet struggling into existence, Ananias lied not unto man, but unto God, and was guilty of a sin of the deepest dye. Had Ananias chosen to keep his property for his own worldly purposes, he was at liberty, as Peter intimates, so to do; but he had in fact alienated it to pious purposes, and it was therefore no longer his own. Yet he wished to deal with it in part as if it were so, showing at the same time that he was conscious of his misdeed, by presenting the residue to the common treasury as if it had been his entire property. He wished to satisfy his selfish cravings, and at the same time to enjoy the reputation of being purely disinterested, like the rest of the church. He attempted to serve God and Mammon.
With strange inconsistency on the part of those who deny miracles altogether, unbelievers have accused Peter of cruelly smiting Ananias and his wife with instant death. The sacred narrative, however, ascribes to Peter nothing more than a spirited exposure of their aggravated offence. Their death, the reader is left to infer was by the hand of God; nor is any ground afforded in; the narrative (Acts 5:1-11) for holding that Peter was in any way employed as an immediate instrument of the miracle.
Ananias, a Christian of Damascus (Acts 9:10; Acts 22:12), held in high repute, to whom the Lord appeared in a vision, and bade him proceed to 'the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth.' Ananias had difficulty in giving credence to the message, remembering how much evil Paul had done to the saints at Jerusalem, and knowing that he had come to Damascus with authority to lay waste the church of Christ there. Receiving, however, an assurance that the persecutor had been converted, and called to the work of preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles, Ananias went to Paul, and, putting his hands on him, bade him receive his sight, when immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales; and, recovering the sight which he had lost when the Lord appeared to him on his way to Damascus, Paul, the new convert, arose, and was baptized, and preached Jesus Christ.
Tradition represents Ananias as the first that published the Gospel in Damascus, over which place he was subsequently made bishop; but having roused, by his zeal, the hatred of the Jews, he was seized by them, scourged, and finally stoned to death in his own church.
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Ananias'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature". https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​kbe/​a/ananias.html.