Ananias — a common Jewish name, the same as Hananiah. (1.) One of the members of the church at Jerusalem, who conspired with his wife Sapphira to deceive the brethren, and who fell down and immediately expired after he had uttered the falsehood (Acts 5:5). By common agreement the members of the early Christian community devoted 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 offence 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.) 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.) 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 shall smite thee, thou whited wall.” Being reminded that Ananias was the high priest, to whose office all respect was to be paid, he answered, “I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest” (Acts 23:5). This expression has occasioned some difficulty, as it is scarcely probable that Paul should have been ignorant of so public a fact. The expression may mean (a) that Paul had at the moment overlooked the honour 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 from defect of sight Paul could not observe that the speaker was the high priest. In all this, however, it may be explained, Paul, with all his excellency, comes short of the example of his divine Master, who, when he was reviled, reviled not again.