Sapphira (fl. 1st c.)

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Sapphira (fl. 1st c.)

Woman of the Bible. Flourished in the 1st century ce; married Ananias.

According to Luke in the Acts of the Apostles, it was customary for the wealthy in the newly inaugurated Christian movement to liquidate their assets and to cede all of the money thereby raised to the apostles for the upkeep of the whole Christian community. Sapphira and her husband Ananias apparently sold a property in or near Jerusalem to do just this, but instead of turning over all of the profits from the sale, they surrendered only a portion of the total. When the apostle Peter confronted Ananias about his deceit and berated him for attempting to cheat God, it is attested that Ananias dropped dead at his feet. About three hours later, Sapphira (in on the fraud but ignorant of Ananias' fate) also met with Peter who asked her how much money she and her husband had received for their property. After Sapphira maintained the lie, Peter rebuked her, pointed out the men who had just finished burying her husband, and predicted that they would do the same for her. Immediately after Peter uttered his prophecy, Sapphira too dropped dead. She was buried with her husband, with Luke noting the awe inspired within the Christian community by God's power and vengeance.

William Greenwalt , Associate Professor of Classical History, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California

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