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Who Is Ananias the High Priest? (Acts 23:2) – ESV Study Bible and NLT Study Bible

I was studying Acts 23 for our Sunday morning Bible class and came across Ananias the high priest, who holds a trial against Paul (Acts 23:2). What do we know about this high priest and when did he rule?

NLT Study Bible:

Ananias was the Jewish high priest from AD 47 to 58. – slap him: He apparently assumed that Paul was lying and tried to intimidate him.

ESV Study Bible:

Acts 23:3 Paul, like Jesus, used the metaphor of whitewash for hypocrisy (see Matt. 23:27). Ananias was a particularly bad high priest. For the illegality of Ananias’s action, see Lev. 19:15.


I was surprised that ESV Study Bible did not give us any information about Ananias. At least the NLT Study Bible gives us the dates of his rule. Ananias is a fairly interesting person. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary states:

Ananias the son of Nedebaeus reigned as high priest from A.D. 48 to 58 or 59 and was known for his avarice and liberal use of violence. Josephus says he confiscated for himself the tithes given the ordinary priests and gave lavish bribes to Romans and also Jews (cf. Antiq. XX, 205-7 [ix.2], 213 [ix.4]). He was a brutal and scheming man, hated by Jewish nationalists for his pro-Roman policies. When the war with Rome began in A.D. 66, the nationalists burned his house (cf. Jos. War II, 426 [xvii.6]) and he was forced to flee to the palace of Herod the Great in the northern part of Jerusalem (ibid., 429 [xvii.6]). Ananias was finally trapped while hiding in an aqueduct on the palace grounds and was killed along with his brother Hezekiah (ibid., 441-42 [xvii.9]).

I think any of this information would have been useful for these study Bibles. The background information helps us understand why Ananias is quickly violent toward Paul and why Paul calls him a “white-washed wall.” Ananias was evil in the core, while pretending to be the holy high priest of the Jews.

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