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ANANIAS (ăn'a-nī'ăs, Gr. form of Heb. hănanyâh, Jehovah has been gracious)

Husband of Sapphira (Acts.5.1-Acts.5.11). He and his wife pretended to give to the church all they received from a sale of property but kept back part. When Peter denounced his deceit, Ananias fell down dead. The generosity of others (Acts.4.32-Acts.4.37) accentuates the meanness of Ananias. Yet lying to the Holy Spirit, rather than greed, was the sin for which he was punished. That his was the first gross act of disobedience within the church justifies the severity of the punishment. Peter prophesied rather than decreed his death, which was a penalty God inflicted.A disciple at Damascus who, obeying a vision, was the means of healing the sight of Saul of Tarsus and of introducing him to the Christians of Damascus (Acts.9.10-Acts.9.19). In Acts.22.12-Acts.22.16 Paul recalls Ananias’s part in his conversion and speaks of him as “a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living” in Damascus.A high priest before whom Paul was tried in Jerusalem (Acts.23.1-Acts.23.5). Paul, whether because of poor eyesight or momentary forgetfulness or Ananias’s unpriestly behavior, reviled him, was rebuked, and promptly apologized. Ananias came down to Caesarea in person to accuse Paul before the Roman governor Felix (Acts.24.1).——ER

ANANIAS ăn’ ə nī’ əs (̓Ανανίας; WH ̔Ανανίας, G393; Gr. form of Heb. חֲנַנְיָ֔ה, Jehovah is gracious). A name common among the Jews. A number of men in the OT and Apoc. bear the name in its Heb. form. See Hananiah.

1. KJV form for HANANIAH, one of Daniel’s three companions (S Th Ch, v. 66).

2. KJV form for ANNIAS (1 Esd 5:16), head of a family returning to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel.

3. KJV form for HANANI, son of Immer (1 Esd 9:21; cf. Ezra 10:20), a priest who put away his foreign wife.

4. KJV form for HANANIAH, son of Bebai (1 Esd 9:29; cf. Ezra 10:28), a Levite who had married a foreign wife.

5. KJV form for ANAIAH, one of those standing up with Ezra as he read the Law (1 Esd 9:43; cf. Neh 8:4).

6. KJV form for HANAN, one of the Levites who explained the Law to the people (1 Esd 9:48; cf. Neh 8:7).

7. The father of Azarias (Tobit 5:12). The angel Raphael identified himself to Tobias as the son of Ananias, Tobias’ kinsman.

8. A son of Gideon, an ancestor of Judith (Judg 8:1).

9. Husband of Sapphira, an early member of the church in Jerusalem who was punished with sudden death for his attempted deception (Acts 5:1-10). He and his wife coveted the approbation which the church bestowed on those who generously sold their possessions for the relief of the poor (4:32-37). Selling a piece of property, they agreed to contribute part of the proceeds under the pretense that it was the total amount received. The sin was not in retaining part, but in pretending that they were giving all, a deliberate attempt to deceive both man and God. When under separate questioning Sapphira reaffirmed her husband’s pretense, she also fell dead under the divine punishment (5:7-10).

10. A Christian at Damascus who was commissioned by the Lord to minister to Saul of Tarsus following Jesus’ appearance to him on the Damascus road (Acts 9:10-19). He was not a refugee from Saul’s persecution, but had heard of his activities and knew the purpose of Saul’s visit to Damascus. Upon being informed by a vision of Saul’s praying and the divine purpose for Saul, Ananias put aside his fears and carried out his commission. He addressed Saul as a Christian brother, explained to him the significance of his experience on the road (22:12-16), and assured him of recovery of sight and filling with the Spirit (9:17). Saul’s immediate recovery of sight was followed by baptism and a period of fellowship with the Christians at Damascus.

In his speech to the Jerusalem mob, Paul described Ananias as “a devout man according to the law,” having the full approval of the Jews at Damascus (22:12). Paul did not refer to Ananias in the account of his conversion before Agrippa II (ch. 26).

Later tradition makes Ananias one of the Seventy, bishop of Damascus, and a Christian martyr.

11. The high priest who presided over the Sanhedrin meeting called to interrogate Paul following his arrest in Jerusalem (Acts 22:30-23:5). Because of his insolent command to strike Paul on the mouth, Paul called him a “whitewashed wall” (23:3). Paul’s assertion that he did not know that Ananias was high priest has been variously explained (see comm. in loco.). He appeared in person in Caesarea to support the charges against Paul in the trial before Felix (24:1).

Ananias, the son of Nebedeus, was appointed high priest by Herod, king of Chalcis (Jos. Antiq. XX. v. 2), in a.d. 48. Quadratus, legate of Syria, sent him to Rome in a.d. 52 to answer charges of cruelty, but he was acquitted by Claudius through the efforts of Agrippa the Younger (Antiq. XX. vi. 2-3). He retained office until a.d. 58.

He was a typical Sadducee, haughty, wealthy, and unscrupulous (Antiq. XX. ix. 2). He cooperated with the assassins (sicarii) to accomplish his purposes. Because of his collaborations with the Romans, he was hated by the nationalistic Jews. When the war broke out in a.d. 66, he was hunted down by the assassins and murdered (War II. xvii. 9). He has been called one of the most unworthy men to hold the office of “high priest.”

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

The name was common among the Jews. In its Hebrew form it is frequently found in the Old Testament (e.g. 1Ch 25:4; Jer 28:1; Da 1:6).

See Hananiah.

1. A Disciple at Jerusalem:

Husband of Sapphira (Ac 5:1-10). He and his wife sold their property, and gave to the common fund of the church part of the purchase money, pretending it was the whole. When his hypocrisy was denounced by Peter, Ananias fell down dead; and three hours later his wife met the same doom. The following points are of interest.

(1) The narrative immediately follows the account of the intense brotherliness of the believers resulting in a common fund, to which Barnabas had made a generous contribution (Ac 4:32-37). The sincerity and spontaneity of the gifts of Barnabas and the others set forth in dark relief the calculated deceit of Ananias. The brighter the light, the darker the shadow.

(2) The crime of Ananias consisted, not in his retaining a part, but in his pretending to give the whole. He was under no compulsion to give all, for the communism of the early church was not absolute, but purely voluntary (see especially Ac 5:4) Falsehood and hypocrisy ("lie to the Holy Spirit" Ac 5:3), rather than greed, were the sins for which he was so severely punished.

(3) The severity of the Judgment can be justified by the consideration that the act was "the first open venture of deliberate wickedness" (Meyer) within the church. The punishment was an "awe-inspiring act of Divine church-discipline." The narrative does not, however, imply that Peter consciously willed their death. His words were the occasion of it, but he was not the deliberate agent. Even the words in Ac 5:9 are a prediction rather than a judicial sentence.

2. A Disciple at Damascus:

A disciple in Damascus, to whom the conversion of Saul of Tarsus was made known in a vision, and who was the instrument of his physical and spiritual restoration, and the means of introducing him to the other Christians in Damascus (Ac 9:10-19). Paul makes honorable mention of him in his account of his conversion spoken at Jerusalem (Ac 22:12-16), where we are told that Ananias was held in high respect by all the Jews in Damascus, on account of his strict legal piety. No mention is made of him in Paul’s address before Agrippa in Caesarea (Ac 26). In late tradition, he is placed in the list of the seventy disciples of Jesus, and represented as bishop of Damascus, and as having died a martyr’s death.

3. A High Priest at Jerusalem:

A high priest in Jerusalem from 47-59 AD. From Josephus (Ant., XX, v, 2; vi, 2; ix, 2; BJ, II, xvii, 9) we glean the following facts: He was the son of Nedebaeus (or Nebedaeus) and was nominated to the high-priestly office by Herod of Chalcis. In 52 AD he was sent to Rome by Quadratus, legate of Syria, to answer a charge of oppression brought by the Samaritans, but the emperor Claudius acquitted him. On his return to Jerusalem, he resumed the office of high priest. He was deposed shortly before Felix left the province, but continued to wield great influence, which he used in a lawless and violent way. He was a typical Sadducee, wealthy, haughty, unscrupulous, filling his sacred office for purely selfish and political ends, anti-nationalist in his relation to the Jews, friendly to the Romans. He died an ignominious death, being assassinated by the popular zealots (sicarii) at the beginning of the last Jewish war. In the New Testament he figures in two passages.

(1) Ac 23:1-5, where Paul defends himself before the Sanhedrin. The overbearing conduct of Ananias in commanding Paul to be struck on the mouth was characteristic of the man. Paul’s ire was for the moment aroused, and he hurled back the scornful epithet of "whited wall." On being called to account for "reviling God’s high priest," he quickly recovered the control of his feelings, and said "I knew not, brethren, that he was high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of a ruler of thy people." This remark has greatly puzzled the commentators. The high priest could have been easily identified by his position and official seat as president of the Sanhedrin. Some have wrongly supposed that Ananias had lost his office during his trial at Rome, but had afterward usurped it during a vacancy (John Lightfoot, Michaelis, etc.). Others take the words as ironical, "How could I know as high priest one who acts so unworthily of his sacred office?" (so Calvin). Others (e.g. Alford, Plumptre) take it that owing to defective eyesight Paul knew not from whom the insolent words had come. Perhaps the simplest explanation is that Paul meant, "I did not for the moment bear in mind that I was addressing the high priest" (so Bengel, Neander, etc.).

(2) In Ac 24:1 we find Ananias coming down to Caesarea in person, with a deputation from the Sanhedrin, to accuse Paul before Felix.

D. Miall Edwards

(Apocrypha), an-a-ni’-as:

(1) Ananias, the Revised Version (British and American) Annis, the Revised Version, margin, Annias (1 Esdras 5:16). See Annis.

(2) A son of Emmer (1 Esdras 9:21) = Hanani, son of Immer in Ezr 10:20.

(3) A son of Bebai (1 Esdras 9:29) = Hananiah in Ezr 10:28. The two last are mentioned in the list of priests who were found to have strange wives.

(4) One of those who stood by Esdras while he read the law to the people (1 Esdras 9:43) = Anaiah in Ne 8:4.

(5) One of the Levites who explained the law to the people (1 Esdras 9:48) = Hanan in Ne 8:7.

(6) Ananias the Great, son of Shemaiah the Great; a kinsman of Tobit, whom Raphael the angel, disguised as a man, gave out to be his father (Tobit 5:12 f).

(7) Son of Gideon, mentioned as an ancestor of Judith (Judith 8:1).

(8) Another Ananias is mentioned in The So of the Three Children (Azariah) (verse 66).

D. Miall Edwards