Should Believers Hold All Things in Common?
The book of Acts makes the matter of fact record, that the very first believers in Yeshua as Messiah, held all things in common:
44 And all those who had faith, were as one, and everything that they had, was held in common.
45 And those who had a possession, sold it, and distributed to each man according to whatever was needed.
(Acts 2:44-45 HRV)
32 And the assembly of men who believed, had one nefesh and one mind. And not a man from them, said about the possessions that he owned, that they were his, but everything that they had, was held in common.
33 And with great power the emissaries testified, concerning the resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah, and great favor was with all of them.
34 And there was no man among them who was needy. For those who owned fields and houses, sold them, and brought the price of what was sold,
35 And placed it at the feet of the emissaries, and it was given to each man according to what was needed.
36 And Yosef, who was called Bar-Nabba by the emissaries, which is interpreted, son of encouragement, a Levi from the region of Cyprus,
37 Had a field. And he sold it and brought its price, and placed it before the feet of the emissaries.
(Acts 4:32-37 HRV)
1 And one man--whose name was Chananyah, with his wife, whose name was Safira-- sold his field,
2 And kept from its price, and hid it, while his wife was aware of it. And he brought a portion from the money, and laid it before the feet of the emissaries.
3 And Shim’on said to him, Chananyah, why is it that HaSatan has so filled your heart, that you should lie by the Ruach HaKodesh, and hide some from the money of the price of the field?
4 Was it not yours before it was sold? And after it was sold, again you were in control concerning its price. Why have you decided in your heart to do this thing? You have not lied to sons of men, but to Eloah.
5 And when Chananyah heard these words, he fell down and died. And there was a great awe among all those who heard.
6 And those who were young among them, rose up and gathered him up, and took him out and buried him.
7 And after three hours had passed, his wife also entered, while not knowing what had happened.
8 Shim’on said to her, Tell me if you sold the field by this price? And she said, Yes, by this price.
9 Shim’on said to her, Because you have conspired to tempt the Spirit of YHWH, behold, the feet of the grave diggers of your husband are at the door, and they will take you out.
10 And in that same hour, she fell before their feet and died, and those young men entered and found her while dead. And they gathered her up, took her away, and buried her beside her husband.
(Acts 5:1-10 HRV)
These accounts are all found in the first five chapters of Acts, which is all within the first year after Yeshua’s death. The practice of holding all things in common is never again mentioned after this first year.
These accounts indicate that the practice at the time was voluntary. In fact Acts 5:4 we read “Was it not yours before it was sold? And after it was sold, again you were in control concerning its price.” emphasizing that the practice was voluntary. In Acts 5 it was the deception violation of the vow that resulted in the judgment of Elohim, but Chananyah and his wife were free before making the vow, to retain ownership of the property or the money.
The Scriptures only give us a matter of fact account of the fact that that this practice occurred during this first year, but no where do the Scriptures give us an account of a directive to share all things in common.
There is no commandment in Torah to hold all things in common, even in the Oral Torah. And we are prohibited from adding commandments to the Torah (Deut. 4:2 & 12:32).
So if there is no commandment in the Torah, nor in the “New Testament” to hold all things in common, why were the first followers of Yeshua doing so, on a voluntary basis, during the first few months after Yeshua’s death?
The reason is that the very first believers in Yeshua were from an Essene background and as such, this was their custom. As Josephus writes of the Essenes:
"This is demonstrated by that institution of theirs, which will not allow anything to hinder them from having all things in common; so that a rich man enjoys no more of his own wealth than he who has nothing at all."
"These men are despisers of riches, and so very communicative as raises our admiration. Nor is there any one to be found among them who has more than another; for it is a law among them, that those who come to them must let what they have be common to the whole order, insomuch, that among them all there is no appearance of poverty or excess of riches, but everyone's possessions are intermingled with every other's possessions,…"
And as we read in the Dead Sea Scrolls:
"All who volunteer for his truth are to bring the full measure of their knowledge, strength, and wealth into the Yahad of God. Thus will they purify their knowledge in the verity of God's laws, properly exercise their strength according to the perfection of his ways, and likewise their wealth by the canon of His righteous counsel."
So the very first followers of Yeshua inherited this practice from their Essene background. However they only practiced holding all things in common as a voluntary practice. It was not commanded in Torah, nor was it commanded in the “New Testament”. Soon Nazarene Judaism began to spread to Hellenist (Stoic) Jews (Acts 7) and to the Pharisee majority like Paul (Acts 9; 23:6) and the practice of holding all things in common seams to have disappeared by then, as it is never mentioned after Acts 5.
In the early settlement of America, the Virginia colony tried “holding all things in common”. The colony nearly died of starvation until they abolished the practice after which they lourished. There is no commandment in Torah to hold all things in common, and there is no directive in the “New Testament” to hold all things in common. The very first believers in Yeshua inherited this practice from their Essene forefathers, but appear to have ended it within just a few months.
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