gmx wrote:Probably the wrong forum for this question, but I'll ask it anyway. I'm assuming Christians are expected to interpret Acts 5:1-11 as accurate and literal history. How does the church explain away the requirement for modern parishioners to sell everything and donate it to the church? One out would be to assert that the passage is non-historical and figurative (a type of parable), but surely that wouldn't be tolerable.
I don't think that that is what the text implies.
Peter says in verse 5
... Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”
This implies that the offense of Ananias and Sapphira was not keeping some of the money for the sale for themselves, (this would apparently have been reluctantly tolerated), their offense was deceitfully pretending to be more generous than they really were.
Matthew Henry says.
The crime of Ananias was not his retaining part of the price of the land; he might have kept it all, had he pleased; but his endeavouring to impose upon the apostles with an awful lie, from a desire to make a vain show, joined with covetousness.
In general, commentators take the passage as a warning against lying and hypocrisy, rather than about a requirement to give away all ones property.
Origen in the Philocalia says
And then there is the case of Peter, who, when with the sword of his mouth he slew Ananias and Sapphira, because they sinned by lying, not to men but to the Lord, had in view not only the edification of such as seeing what was done would show more reverence towards the Faith of Christ, but also the welfare of the offenders visited with death. He wished them to depart from the body purified by their sudden and unexpected death; for they had some right on their side, inasmuch as they gave even the half of their possessions for the wants of the needy.