The high priest, Ananias - There was a high priest of this name, who was sent a prisoner to Rome by Quadratus, governor of Syria, to give an account of the part he took in the quarrel between the Jews and the Samaritans; see Joseph. Antiq. lib. xx. cap. 6, s. 8; but whether he ever returned again to Jerusalem, says Dr. Lightfoot, is uncertain; still more uncertain whether he was ever restored to the office of high priest; and most uncertain of all whether he filled the chair when Paul pleaded his cause, which was some years after Felix was settled in the government. But Krebs has proved that this very Ananias, on being examined at Rome, was found innocent, returned to Jerusalem, and was restored to the high priesthood; see Joseph. Antiq. lib. xx. cap. 9, s. 2; but of his death I find nothing certain. See Krebs on this place, (Observat. in Nov. Testament. e Flavio Josepho), who successfully controverts the opinion of Dr. Lightfoot, mentioned at the beginning of this note. There was one Ananias, who is said to have perished in a tumult raised by his own son about five years after this time; see Jos. Antiq. lib. x. cap. 9. War, lib. ii. cap. 17.
To smite him on the mouth - Because he professed to have a good conscience, while believing on Jesus Christ, and propagating his doctrine.
And the high priest Ananias - This Ananias was doubtless the son of Nebedinus (Josephus, Antiq., book 20, chapter 5, section 3), who was high priest when Quadratus, who preceded Felix, was president of Syria. He was sent bound to Rome by Quadratus, at the same time with Ananias, the prefect of the temple, that they might give an account of their conduct to Claudius Caesar (Josephus, Antiq., book 20, chapter 6, section 2). But in consequence of the intercession of Agrippa the younger, they were dismissed and returned to Jerusalem. Ananias, however, was not restored to the office of high priest. For, when Felix was governor of Judea, this office was filled by Jonathan, who succeeded Ananias I (Josephus, Antiq., book 20, chapter 10). Jonathan was slain in the temple itself, by the instigation of Felix, by assassins who had been hired for the purpose. This murder is thus described by Josephus (Antiq., book 20, chapter 8, section 5): “Felix bore an ill-will to Jonathan, the high priest, because he frequently gave him admonitions about governing the Jewish affairs better than he did, lest complaints should be made against him, since he had procured of Caesar the appointment of Felix as procurator of Judea. Accordingly, Felix contrived a method by which he might get rid of Jonathan, whose admonitions had become troublesome to him. Felix persuaded one of Jonathan‘s most faithful friends, of the name Doras, to bring the robbers upon him, and to put him to death.”
This was done in Jerusalem. The robbers came into the city as if to worship God, and with daggers, which they had concealed under their garments, they put him to death. After the death of Jonathan, the office of high priest remained vacant until King Agrippa appointed Ismael, the son of Fabi, to the office (Josephus, Antiq., book 20, chapter 8, section 8). It was during this interval, while the office of high priest was vacant, that the events which are here recorded took place. Ananias was then at Jerusalem; and as the office of high priest was vacant, and as he was the last person who had borne the office, it was natural that he should discharge, probably by common consent, its duties, so far, at least, as to preside in the Sanhedrin. Of these facts Paul would be doubtless apprised; and hence, what he said Acts 23:5 was strictly true, and is one of the evidences that Luke‘s history accords precisely with the special circumstances which then existed. When Luke here calls Ananias “the high priest,” he evidently intends not to affirm that he was actually such, but to use the word, as the Jews did, as applicable to one who had been in that office, and who, on that occasion, when the office was vacant, performed its duties.
To smite him on the mouth - To stop him from speaking; to express their indignation at what he had said. The anger of Ananias was aroused because Paul affirmed that all he had done had been with a good conscience. Their feelings had been excited to the utmost; they regarded him as certainly guilty; they regarded him as an apostate; and they could not bear it that he, with such coolness and firmness, declared that all his conduct had been under the direction of a good conscience. The injustice of the command of Ananias is apparent to all. A similar instance of violence occurred on the trial of the Saviour, John 18:22.
“But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question. AA 411.1
“And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.” The two parties began to dispute between themselves, and thus the strength of their opposition against Paul was broken. “The scribes that were of the Pharisees’ part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God.” AA 411.2
In the confusion that followed, the Sadducees were eagerly striving to gain possession of the apostle, that they might put him to death; and the Pharisees were as eager in striving to protect him. “The chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle.” AA 412.1Read in context »