Chapter 12 | Table
of Contents | Chapter 14
The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
THE CROSS AND THE CROWN
BEFORE ANNAS AND CAIAPHAS
PETER AND JESUS
(St. John 18:12-14; St. Matt. 26:57,58; St. Mark 14:53,54; St. Luke 22:54,55; St. John 18:24,15-18; St. John 18:19-23; St. Matthew 26:69,70; St. Mark
14:66-68; St. Luke 22:56,57; St. John 18:17,18; St. Matthew
26:71,72; St. Mark 14:69,70; St. Luke 22:58; St. John 18:25;
St. Matthew 26:59-68; St. Mark 14:55-65; St. Luke 22:67-71,63-65; St. Matthew 26:73-75; St. Mark 14:70-72; St. Luke
22:59-62; St. John 18:26,27.)
IT was not a long way that they led the bound Christ. Probably
through the same gate by which He had gone forth with His disciples after the
Paschal Supper, up to where, on the slope between the Upper City and the
Tyropœon, stood the well-known Palace of Annas. There were no idle saunterers
in the streets of Jerusalem at that late hour, and the tramp of the Roman guard
must have been too often heard to startle sleepers, or to lead to the inquiry
why that glare of lamps and torches, and Who was the Prisoner, guarded on that
holy night by both Roman soldiers and servants of the High-Priest.
If every incident in that night were not of such supreme
interest, we might dismiss the question as almost idle, why they brought Jesus
to the house of Annas, since he was not at that time the actual High-Priest.
That office now devolved on Caiaphas, his son-in-law, who, as the Evangelist
significantly reminds us,1
had been the first to enunciate in plain words what seemed to him the political
necessity for the judicial murder of Christ.2
There had been no pretence on his part of religious motives or zeal for God; he
had cynically put it in a way to override the scruples of those old Sanhedrists
by raising their fears. What was the use of discussing about forms of Law or
about that Man? it must in any case be done; even the friends of Jesus in the
Council, as well as the punctilious observers of Law, must regard His Death as
the less of two evils. He spoke as the bold, unscrupulous, determined man that
he was; Sadducee in heart rather than by conviction; a worthy son-in-law of
John xviii. 14.
No figure is better known in contemporary Jewish history than
that of Annas; no person deemed more fortunate or successful, but none also
more generally execrated than the late High-Priest. He had held the Pontificate
for only six or seven years; but it was filled by not fewer than five of his
sons, by his son-in-law Caiaphas, and by a grandson. And in those days it was,
at least for one of Annas' disposition, much better to have been than to be High-Priest.
He enjoyed all the dignity of the office, and all its influence also, since he
was able to promote to it those most closely connected with him. And, while
they acted publicly, he really directed affairs, without either the
responsibility or the restraints which the office imposed. His influence with
the Romans he owned to the religious views which he professed. to his open
partisanship of the foreigner, and to his enormous wealth. The Sadducean Annas
was an eminently safe Churchman, not troubled with any special convictions nor
with Jewish fanaticism, a pleasant and a useful man also who was able to
furnish his friends in the Prætorium with large sums of money. We have seen
what immense revenues the family of Annas must have derived from the Temple-booths,
and how nefarious and unpopular was the traffic. The names of those bold,
licentious, unscrupulous, degenerate sons of Aaron were spoken with whispered
referring to Christ's interference with that Temple-traffic, which, if His authority
had prevailed, would, of course, have been fatal to it, we can understand how
antithetic in every respect a Messiah, and such a Messiah as Jesus, must have
been to Annas. He was as resolutely bent on His Death as his son-in-law, though
with his characteristic cunning and coolness, not in the hasty, bluff manner of
Caiaphas. It was probably from a desire that Annas might have the conduct of
the business, or from the active, leading part which Annas took in the matter;
perhaps for even more prosaic and practical reasons, such as that the Palace of
Annas was nearer to the place of Jesus' capture, and that it was desirable to
dismiss the Roman soldiery as quickly as possible - that Christ was first
brought to Annas, and not to the actual High-Priest.
In any case, the arrangement was most congruous, whether as
regards the character of Annas, or the official position of Caiaphas. The Roman
soldiers had evidently orders to bring Jesus to the late High-Priest. This
appears from their proceeding directly to him, and from this, that apparently
they returned to quarters immediately on delivering up their prisoner.4
And we cannot ascribe this to any official position of Annas in the Sanhedrin,
first, because the text implies that it had not been due to this cause,5
and, secondly, because, as will presently appear, the proceedings against
Christ were not those of the ordinary and regular meetings of the
further reference whatever is made to the Roman guard.
read (St. John xviii. 13):'For he was father-in-law to Caiaphas.'
No account is given of what passed before Annas. Even the fact
of Christ's being first brought to him is only mentioned in the Fourth Gospel.
As the disciples had all forsaken Him and fled, we can understand that they
were in ignorance of what actually passed, till they had again rallied, at
least so far, that Peter and 'another disciple,' evidently John, 'followed Him
into the Palace of the High-priest' - that is, into the Palace of Caiaphas, not
of Annas. For as, according to the three Synoptic Gospels, the Palace of the
High-Priest Caiaphas was the scene of Peter's denial, the account of it in the
must refer to the same locality, and not to the Palace of Annas, while the
suggestion that Annas and Caiaphas occupied the same dwelling is not only very
unlikely in itself, but seems incompatible with the obvious meaning of the
notice,8 'Now Annas
sent Him bound unto Caiaphas the High-Priest.' But if Peter's denial, as
recorded by St. John, is the same as that described by the Synoptists, and took
place in the house of Caiaphas, then the account of the examination by the
which follows the notice about Peter, must also refer to that by Caiaphas, not
Annas.10 We thus
know absolutely nothing of what passed in the house of Annas - if, indeed,
anything passed - except that Annas sent Jesus bound to Caiaphas.11
John xviii. 15-18.
hence also that of the two disciples following Christ.
John xviii. 19-23.
this argument we lay little stress on the designation, 'High-Priest,' which St.
John (ver. 19) gives to the examiner of Christ, although it is noteworthy that
he carefully distinguishes between Annas and Caiaphas, marking the latter as
'the High-Priest' (vv. 13, 24).
to our argument, St. John xviii. 24 is an intercalated notice, referring to
what had previously been recorded in vv. 15-23. To this two critical objections
have been raised. It is argued, that as apesteilen
is in the aorist, not plu-perfect, the rendering must be, 'Annas sent,' not
'had sent Him.' But then it is admitted, that the aorist is occasionally used
for the pluperfect. Secondly, it is insisted that, according to the better
reading, oun should be inserted
after apesteilen which Canon Westcott
renders: 'Annas therefore sent Him.' But notwithstanding Canon Westcott's
high authority, we must repeat the critical remark of Meyer, that there
are 'important witnesses' against as well as for the insertion of oun, while the insertion of other
particles in other Codd. seems to imply that the insertion here of any particle
was a later addition.
On the other hand, what seem to me two irrefragable
arguments are in favour of the retrospective application of ver. 24. First, the
preceding reference to Peter's denial must be located in the house of Caiaphas.
Secondly, if vv. 19-23 refer to an examination by Annas, then St. John has left
us absolutely no account of anything that had passed before Caiaphas - which,
in view of the narrative of the Synoptists, would seem incredible.
Of what occurred in the Palace of Caiaphas we have two
accounts. That of St. John12
seems to refer to a more private interview between the High-Priest and Christ,
at which, apparently, only some personal attendants of Caiaphas were present,
from one of whom the Apostle may have derived his information.13
The second account is that of the Synoptists, and refers to the examination of
Jesus at dawn of day14
by the leading Sanhedrists, who had been hastily summoned for the purpose.
John xviii. 19-23.
Westcott supposes that the Apostle himself was present in the audience
chamber. But, although we readily admit that John went into the house, and was
as near as possible to Christ, many reasons suggest themselves why we can
scarcely imagine John to have been present, when Caiaphas inquired about the
disciples and teaching of Jesus.
Luke xxii. 66.
It sounds almost like presumption to say, that in His first
interview with Caiaphas Jesus bore Himself with the majesty of the Son of God,
Who knew all that was before Him, and passed through it as on the way to the
accomplishment of His Mission. The questions of Caiaphas bore on two points:
the disciples of Jesus, and His teaching - the former to incriminate Christ's
followers, the latter to incriminate the Master. To the first inquiry it was
only natural that He should not have condescended to return an answer. The
reply to the second was characterised by that 'openness' which He claimed for
all that He had said.1516
If there was to be not unprejudiced, but even fair inquiry, let Caiaphas not
try to extort confessions to which he had no legal right, nor to ensnare Him
when the purpose was evidently murderous. If he really wanted information,
there could be no difficulty in procuring witnesses to speak to His doctrine:
all Jewry knew it. His was no secret doctrine ('in secret I spake nothing'). He
always spoke 'in Synagogue and in the Temple, whither all the Jews gather
together.'17 If the
inquiry were a fair one, let the judge act judicially, and ask not Him, but
those who had heard Him.
John xviii. 20.
cannot think that the expression tw
kosmw 'to the world,' in ver. 20 can have any implied reference to the
great world in opposition to the Jews (as so many interpreters hold). The
expression 'the world' in the sense of 'everybody' is common in every language.
And its Rabbinic use has been shown on p. 368, Note 3. Christ proves that He
had had no 'secret' doctrine, about which He might be questioned, by three
facts: 1. He had spoken parrhsia
'without reserve;' 2. He had spoken tw
kosmw to everybody, without confining Himself to a select audience; 3.
He had taught in the most public places - in Synagogue and in the Temple,
whither all Jews resorted.
according to the better reading and literally.
It must be admitted, that the answer sounds not like that of
one accused, who seeks either to make apology, or even greatly cares to defend
himself. And there was in it that tone of superiority which even injured human
innocence would have a right to assume before a nefarious judge, who sought to
ensnare a victim, not to elicit the truth. It was this which emboldened one of
those servile attendants, with the brutality of an Eastern in such
circumstances, to inflict on the Lord that terrible blow. Let us hope that it
was a heathen, not a Jew, who so lifted his hand. We are almost thankful that
the text leaves it in doubt, whether it was with the palm of the hand, or the
lesser indignity - with a rod. Humanity itself seems to reel and stagger under
this blow. In pursuance of His Human submission, the Divine Sufferer, without
murmuring or complaining, or without asserting His Divine Power, only answered
in such tone of patient expostulation as must have convicted the man of his
wrong, or at least have left him speechless. May it have been that these words
and the look of Christ had gone to his heart, and that the now
strangely-silenced malefactor became the confessing narrator of this scene to
the Apostle John?
2. That Apostle was, at any rate, no stranger in the Palace of
Caiaphas. We have already seen that, after the first panic of Christ's sudden
capture and their own flight, two of them at least, Peter and John, seem
speedily to have rallied. Combining the notices of the Synoptists18
with the fuller details, in this respect, of the Fourth Gospel,19
we derive the impression that Peter, so far true to his word, had been the
first to stop in his flight and to follow 'afar off.' If he reached the Palace
of Annas in time, he certainly did not enter it, but probably waited outside
during the brief space which preceded the transference of Jesus to Caiaphas. He
had now been joined by John, and the two followed the melancholy procession
which escorted Jesus to the High-Priest. John seems to have entered 'the court'
along with the guard,20
while Peter remained outside till his fellow-Apostle, who apparently was well
known in the High-Priest's house, had spoken to the maid who kept the door -
the male servants being probably all gathered in the court21
- and so procured his admission.
Matt. xxvi. 58; St. Mark xiv. 54; St. Luke xxii, 54, 55.
John xviii. 15-18.
John xviii. 15.
circumstance that Josephus (Ant. vii. 2. 1) on the ground of 2 Sam. iv 6
(LXX.) speaks of a female 'porter,' and that Rhoda opened the door in the house
of the widowed mother of John Mark (Acts xii. 13), does not convince me, that
in the Palace of the High-Priest a female servant regularly discharged that
Remembering that the High-Priest's Palace was built on the
slope of the hill, and that there was an outer court, from which a door led
into the inner court, we can, in some measure, realise the scene. As previously
stated, Peter had followed as far as that inner door, while John had entered
with the guard. When he missed his fellow-disciple, who was left outside this
inner door, John 'went out,' and, having probably told the waiting-maid that
this was a friend of his, procured his admission. While John now hurried up to
be in the Palace, and as near Christ as he might, Peter advanced into the
middle of the court, where, in the chill spring night, a coal fire had been
lighted. The glow of the charcoal, around which occasionally a blue flame
played, threw a peculiar sheen on the bearded faces of the men as they crowded
around it, and talked of the events of that night, describing, with Eastern
volubility, to those who had not been there what had passed in the Garden, and
exchanging, as is the manner of such serving-men and officials, opinions and
exaggerated denunciations concerning Him Who had been captured with such
unexpected ease, and was now their master's safe Prisoner. As the red light
glowed and flickered, it threw the long shadows of these men across the inner
court, up the walls towards the gallery that ran round, up there, where the
lamps and lights within, or as they moved along apartments and corridors,
revealed other faces: there, where, in an inner audience-chamber, the Prisoner
was confronted by His enemy, accuser, and judge.
What a contrast it all seemed between the Purification of the
Temple only a few days before, when the same Jesus had overturned the
trafficking tables of the High-Priest, and as He now stood, a bound Prisoner
before him, at the mercy of every menial who might carry favour by wantonly
insulting Him? It was a chill night when Peter, down 'beneath,'22
looked up to the lighted windows. There, among the serving-men in the court, he
was in every sense 'without.'23
He approached the group around the fire. He would hear what they had to say;
besides, it was not safe to stand apart; he might be recognised as one of those
who had only escaped capture in the Garden by hasty flight. And then it was
chill - and not only to the body, the chill had struck to his soul. Was he
right in having come there at all? Commentators have discussed it as involving
neglect of Christ's warning. As if the love of any one who was, and felt, as
Peter, could have credited the possibility of what he had been warned of; and,
if he had credited it, would, in the first moments of returning flood after the
panic of his flight, have remembered that warning, or with cool calculation
acted up to the full measure of it! To have fled to his home and shut the door
behind him, by way of rendering it impossible to deny that he knew Christ,
would not have been Peter nor any true disciple. Nay, it would itself have been
a worse and more cowardly denial than that of which he was actually guilty.
Peter followed afar off, thinking of nothing else but his imprisoned Master,
and that he would see the end, whatever it might be. But now it was chill, very
chill, to body and soul, and Peter remembered it all; not, indeed, the warning,
but that of which he had been warned. What good could his confession do?
perhaps much possible harm; and why was he there?
Mark xiv. 66.
Matt. xxvi. 69.
Peter was very restless, and yet he must seem very quiet. He
'sat down' among the servants,24
then he stood up among them.25
It was this restlessness of attempted indifference which attracted the
attention of the maid who had at the first admitted him. As in the uncertain
light she scanned the features of the mysterious stranger, she boldly charged
still in a questioning tone, with being one of the disciples of the Man Who
stood incriminated up there before the High-Priest. And in the chattering of
his soul's fever, into which the chill had struck, Peter vehemently denied all
knowledge of Him to Whom the woman referred, nay, of the very meaning of what
she said. He had said too much not to bring soon another charge upon himself.
We need not inquire which of the slightly varying reports in the Gospels
represents the actual words of the woman or the actual answer of Peter. Perhaps
neither; perhaps all - certainly, she said all this, and, certainly, he
answered all that, though neither of them would confine their words to the
short sentences reported by each of the Evangelists.
What had he to do there? And why should he incriminate himself,
or perhaps Christ, by a needless confession to those who had neither the moral
nor the legal right to exact it? That was all he now remembered and thought;
nothing about any denial of Christ. And so, as they were still chatting
together, perhaps bandying words, Peter withdrew. We cannot judge how long time
had passed, but this we gather, that the words of the woman had either not made
any impression on those around the fire, or that the bold denial of Peter had
satisfied them. Presently, we find Peter walking away down 'the porch,'27
which ran round and opened into 'the outer court.'28
He was not thinking of anything else now than how chilly it felt, and how right
he had been in not being entrapped by that woman. And so he heeded it not,
while his footfall sounded along the marble-paved porch, that just at this
moment 'a cock crew.' But there was no sleep that night in the High-Priest's
Palace. As he walked down the porch towards the outer court, first one maid met
him; and then, as he returned from the outer court, he once more encountered
his old accuser, the door-portress; and as he crossed the inner court to mingle
again with the group around the fire, where he had formerly found safety, he
was first accosted by one man, and then they all around the fire turned upon
him, and each and all had the same thing to say, the same charge, that he was
also one of the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth. But Peter's resolve was taken;
he was quite sure it was right; and to each separately, and to all together, he
gave the same denial, more brief now, for he was collected and determined, but
more emphatic - even with an oath.29
And once more he silenced suspicion for a time. Or, perhaps, attention was now
3. For, already, hasty footsteps were
heard along the porches and corridors, and the maid who that night opened the
gate at the High-Priest's Palace was busy at her post. They were the leading
Priests, Elders, and Sanhedrists,30
who had been hastily summoned to the High-Priest's Palace, and who were
hurrying up just as the first faint streaks of gray light were lying on the
sky. The private examination by Caiaphas we place (as in the Gospel of St.
John) between the first and second denial of Peter; the first arrival of
Sanhedrists immediately after his second denial. The private inquiry of
Caiaphas had elicited nothing; and, indeed, it was only preliminary. The
leading Sanhedrists must have been warned that the capture of Jesus would be
attempted that night, and to hold themselves in readiness when summoned to the
High-Priest. This is not only quite in accordance with all the previous and
after circumstances in the narrative, but nothing short of a procedure of such
supreme importance would have warranted the presence for such a purpose of
these religious leaders on that holy Passover-night.
expression 'all the council' must evidently be taken in a general, not literal
sense. No one would believe, for example, that either Nicodemus or Gamaliel was
present. I would not, however, attach any great importance to this. The
reference to the 'Elders' (in St. Matt.) is spurious.
view be taken, thus much at least is certain, that it was no formal, regular
meeting of the Sanhedrin. We put aside, as à priori reasoning, such
considerations as that protesting voices would have been raised, not only from
among the friends of Jesus, but from others whom (with all their Jewish hatred
of Christ) we cannot but regard as incapable of such gross violation of justice
and law. But all Jewish order and law would have been grossly infringed in
almost every particular, if this had been a formal meeting of the Sanhedrin.31
We know what their forms were, although many of them (as so much in Rabbinic
accounts) may represent rather the ideal than the real - what the Rabbis
imagined should be, rather than what was; or else what may date from later
times. According to Rabbinic testimony, there were three tribunals. In towns
numbering less than 120 (or, according to one authority, 23032)
male inhabitants, there was only the lowest tribunal, that consisting of three
jurisdiction was limited, and notably did not extend to capital causes.34
The authority of the tribunal of next instance - that of twenty-three35
- was also limited, although capital causes lay within its competence. The
highest tribunal was that of seventy-one, or the Great Sanhedrin, which met
first in one of the Temple-Chambers, the so-called Lishkath haGazith -
or Chamber of Hewn Stones - and at the time of which we write in 'the booths of
the sons of Annas.'36
The Judges of all these Courts were equally set apart by ordination (Semikhah),
originally that of the laying on of hands. Ordination was conferred by three,
of whom one at least must have been himself ordained, and able to trace up his
ordination through Joshua to Moses.37
This, of course, on the theory that there had been a regular succession of
ordained Teachers, not only up to Ezra, but beyond him to Joshua and Moses. The
members of the tribunals of twenty-three were appointed by the Great Sanhedrin.38
The members of the tribunals of three were likewise appointed by the Great
Sanhedrin, which entrusted to men, specially accredited and worthy, the duty of
travelling through the towns of Palestine and appointing and ordaining in them
the men best fitted for the office.39
The qualifications mentioned for the office remind us of those which St. Paul
indicates as requisite for the Christian eldership.40
is also the conclusion of the calmest and most impartial Jewish historian, my
lamented friend, the late Dr. Jost (Gesch. d. Judenth. i. pp. 402-409).
He designates it 'a private murder (Privat-Mord), committed by burning
enemies, not the sentence of a regularly constituted Sanhedrin. The most
prominent men who represented the Law, such as Gamaliel, Jochanan b. Zakkai,
and others, were not present.' The defence of the proceedings as a right and
legal procedure by the Sanhedrin, as made by Salvador (Gesch. d. Mos.
Instit. [German Transl.] vol. ii. pp. 67-79) is, from the critical point of
view, so unsatisfactory, that I can only wonder the learned Saalschütz
should, even under the influence of Jewish prejudice, have extended to it his
protection (Mos. Recht, pp. 623-626). At the same time, the refutation of Salvador
by M. Dupin (reproduced as App. to vol. iii. of the German translation
of Salvador) is as superficial as the original attack. Cohen's
'Les Déicides' is a mere party-book which deserves not serious consideration. Grätz
(Gesch. d. Juden, iii. p. 244) evades the question.
Sanh. i. 6, the reasons for the various numbers are given; but we can scarcely
regard them as historical.
modern writers have of late denied the existence of tribunals of three. But the
whole weight of evidence is against them. A number of passages might here be
quoted, but the reader may be generally referred to the treatment of the
subject in Selden, de Synedriis, ii. c. 5, and especially to Maimonides,
the case of a Mumcheh or admitted authority, even one Judge could in
certain civil cases pronounce sentence (Sanh. 2 b; 3 a).
Jerusalem there were said to have been two such tribunals; one whose locale
was at the entrance to the Temple-Court, the other at that to the inner or
is a mistake to identify these with the four shops on the Mount of Olives. They
were the Temple-shops previously described.
2 a; Maim. Sanh. iv. 1-3.
2 a; 15 b.
88 b; Maim. u. s. ch. ii. 7, 8.
Tim. iii.; Tit. i.
Some inferences seem here of importance, as throwing light on
early Apostolic arrangements - believing, as we do, that the outward form
of the Church was in great measure derived from the Synagogue. First, we notice
that there was regular ordination, and, at first at least, by the laying on of
hands. Further, this ordination was not requisite either for delivering
addresses or conducting the liturgy in the Synagogue, but for authoritative
teaching, and especially for judicial functions, to which would correspond in
the Christian Church the power of the Keys - the administration of discipline
and of the Sacraments as admitting into, and continuing in the fellowship of
the Church. Next, ordination could only be conferred by those who had
themselves been rightly ordained, and who could, therefore, through those
previously ordained, trace their ordination upwards. Again, each of these
'Colleges of Presbyters' had its Chief or President. Lastly, men entrusted with
supreme (Apostolic) authority were sent to the various towns 'to appoint elders
in every city.'41
The appointment to the highest tribunal, or Great Sanhedrin,
was made by that tribunal itself, either by promoting a member of the inferior
tribunals or one from the foremost of the three rows, in which 'the disciples'
or students sat facing the Judges.
The latter sat in a semicircle, under the presidency of the Nasi
('prince') and the vice-presidency of the Ab-beth-din ('father of the
Court of Law').42
At least twenty-three members were required to form a quorum.43
We have such minute details of the whole arrangements and proceedings of this
Court as greatly confirms our impression of the chiefly ideal character of some
of the Rabbinic notices. Facing the semicircle of Judges, we are told, there
were two shorthand writers, to note down, respectively, the speeches in favour
and against the accused. Each of the students knew, and sat in his own place.
In capital causes the arguments in defence of and afterwards those
incriminating the accused, were stated. If one had spoken in favour, he might
not again speak against the panel. Students might speak for, not against him.
He might be pronounced 'not guilty' on the same day on which the case was
tried; but a sentence of 'guilty' might only be pronounced on the day following
that of the trial. It seems, however, at least doubtful, whether in case of
profanation of the Divine Name (Chillul haShem), judgment was not
Lastly, the voting began with the youngest, so that juniors might not be
influenced by the seniors; and a bare majority was not sufficient for
and after him Schürer (Neutest. Zeitgesch.) have denied the existence of
this arrangement, but, as I think, on quite insufficient grounds. They have
been answered by D. Hoffmann (see the very able ed. of the Pirqé
Abhoth, by that learned and accurate scholar, Prof. Strack of
Berlin, p. 9, notes). Comp. also Levy, Neuhebr. Worterb., s. v. Schürer
has to account for other passages besides those which he quotes (p. 413) -
notably for the very clear statement in Chag. ii. 2.
These are only some of the regulations laid down in Rabbinic
writings. It is of greater importance to enquire, how far they were carried out
under the iron rule of Herod and that of the Roman Procurators. Here we are in
great measure left to conjecture. We can well believe that neither Herod nor
the Procurators would wish to abolish the Sanhedrin, but would leave to
them the administration of justice, especially in all that might in any way be
connected with purely religious questions. Equally we can understand, that both
would deprive them of the power of the sword and of decision on all matters of
political or supreme importance. Herod would reserve to himself the final
disposal in all cases, if he saw fit to interfere, and so would the
Procurators, who especially would not have tolerated any attempt at
jurisdiction over a Roman citizen. In short, the Sanhedrin would be accorded
full jurisdiction in inferior and in religious matters, with the greatest show,
but with the least amount, of real rule or of supreme authority. Lastly, as
both Herod and the Procurators treated the High-Priest, who was their own
creature, as the real head and representative of the Jews; and as it would be
their policy to curtail the power of the independent and fanatical Rabbis, we
can understand how, in great criminal causes or in important investigations,
the High-Priest would always preside - the presidency of the Nasi being
reserved for legal and ritual questions and discussions. And with this the
notices alike in the New Testament and in Josephus accord.
Even this brief summary about the Sanhedrin would be needless,
if it were a question of applying its rules of procedure to the arraignment of
Jesus. For, alike Jewish and Christian evidence establish the fact, that Jesus
was not formally tried and condemned by the Sanhedrin. It is admitted on all
hands, that forty years before the destruction of the Temple the Sanhedrin
ceased to pronounce capital sentences. This alone would be sufficient. But,
besides, the trial and sentence of Jesus in the Palace of Caiaphas would (as
already stated) have outraged every principle of Jewish criminal law and
procedure. Such causes could only be tried, and capital sentence pronounced, in
the regular meeting-place of the Sanhedrin,4546
not, as here, in the High-Priest's Palace; no process, least of all such an
one, might be begun in the night, not even in the afternoon,4748
although if the discussion had gone on all day, sentence might be pronounced at
night.49 Again, no
process could take place on Sabbaths or Feastdays,50
or even on the eves of them,5152
although this would not have nullified proceedings, and it might be argued on
the other side, that a process against one who had seduced the people should
preferably by carried on, and sentence executed, at the great public Feasts,53
for the warning of all. Lastly, in capital causes there was a very elaborate
system of warning and cautioning witnesses,54
while it may safely be affirmed, that at a regular trial Jewish Judges, however
prejudiced, would not have acted as the Sanhedrists and Caiaphas did on this
Zar. 8 b.
is truly not a tittle of evidence for the assumption of commentators, that
Christ was led from the Palace of Caiaphas into the Council-Chamber. The whole
proceedings took place in the former, and from it Christ was brought to Pilate
(St. John xviii. 28).
ordinary Court-hours were from after morning-service till the time of the meal
(Sabb. 10 a).
K. 113 a.
civil cases at least no process was carried on in the months of Nisan and
Tishri (comp. Bloch, Civil Process-Ordnung).
xi. 4; Tos. Sanh. xi. 6.
details on these points are given in most commentaries. (Comp. the Tractate
Sanhedrin and the Gemara on it.) In a capital cause not only would the formal
and very solemn warning charge against false testimony have been addressed to
the witnesses, but the latter would be tested by the threefold process known as
Chaqiroth, Derishoth, and Bediqoth; the former two
referring to questions on the main points, the third or secondary points in the
But as we examine it more closely, we perceive that the
Gospel-narratives do not speak of a formal trial and sentence by the Sanhedrin.
Such references as to 'the Sanhedrin' ('council'), or to 'all the Sanhedrin,'
must be taken in the wider sense, which will presently be explained. On the
other hand, the four Gospels equally indicate that the whole proceedings of
that night were carried on in the Palace of Caiaphas, and that during that
night no formal sentence of death was pronounced. St. John, indeed, does not
report the proceedings at all; St. Matthew55
only records the question of Caiaphas and the answer of the Sanhedrists; and
even the language of St. Mark does not convey the idea of a formal sentence.56
And when in the morning, in consequence of a fresh consultation, also in the
Palace of Caiaphas, they led Jesus to the Prætorium, it was not as a prisoner
condemned to death of whom they asked the execution,57
but as one against whom they laid certain accusations worthy of death,58
while, when Pilate bade them judge Jesus according to Jewish Law, they replied,
not: that they had done so already, but, that they had no competence to try
Matt. xxvi. 66.
Mark xiv. 64: 'condemned Him to be worthy of death.'
John xviii.29, 30.
Luke xxiii. 2; St. Matt. xxvii. 12.
John xviii. 31.
4. But although Christ was not tried and sentenced in a formal
meeting of the Sanhedrin, there can, alas! be no question that His Condemnation
and Death were the work, if not of the Sanhedrin - yet of the Sanhedrists, of
the whole body of them ('all the council'), in the sense of expressing what was
the judgment and purpose of all the Supreme Council and Leaders of Israel, with
only very few exceptions. We bear in mind, that the resolution to sacrifice
Christ had for some time been taken. Terrible as the proceedings of that night
were, they even seem a sort of concession - as if the Sanhedrists would fain
have found some legal and moral justification for what they had determined to
do. They first sought 'witness,' or as St. Matthew rightly designates it,
'false witness' against Christ.60
Since this was throughout a private investigation, this witness could only have
been sought from their own creatures. Hatred, fanaticism, and unscrupulous Eastern exaggeration would readily misrepresent and distort certain sayings of
Christ, or falsely impute others to Him. But it was altogether too hasty and
excited an assemblage, and the witnesses contradicted themselves so grossly, or
their testimony so notoriously broke down, that for very shame such trumped-up
charges had to be abandoned. And to this result the majestic calm of Christ's
silence must have greatly contributed. On directly false and contradictory
testimony it must be best not to cross-examine at all, not to interpose, but to
leave the false witness to destroy itself.
Pharisaic Law of witness was very peculiar. Witnesses who contradicted each
other were not considered in Rabbinic Law as false witnesses, in the sense of
being punishable. Nor would they be so, even if an alibi of the accused
were proved - only if the alibi of the witnesses themselves were proved
(comp. Bähr, Gesetz u. Falsche Zeug., pp. 29, &c.). Thus the 'Story
of Susanna' is bad in Jewish Law, unless, as Geiger supposes, it
embodies an earlier mode of procedure in Jewish criminal jurisprudence.
Abandoning this line of testimony, the Priests next brought
forward probably some of their own order, who on the first Purgation of the
Temple had been present when Jesus, in answer to the challenge for 'a sign' in
evidence of His authority, had given them that mysterious 'sign' of the
destruction and upraising of the Temple of His Body.6162
They had quite misunderstood it at the time, and its reproduction now as the
ground of a criminal charge against Jesus must have been directly due to
Caiaphas and Annas. We remember, that this had been the first time that Jesus
had come into collision, not only with the Temple authorities, but with the
avarice of 'the family of Annas.' We can imagine how the incensed High-Priest
would have challenged the conduct of the Temple-officials, and how, in reply,
he would have been told what they had attempted, and how Jesus had met them.
Perhaps it was the only real inquiry which a man like Caiaphas would care to
institute about what Jesus said. And here, in its grossly distorted form, and with
more than Eastern exaggeration of partisanship it was actually brought forward
as a criminal charge!
John ii. 18, 19.
also this is of interest. The first Purgation of the Temple is not related by
the Synoptists, but they here confirm St. John's account of it. On the other
hand, St. John's account of the Temple purgation confirms that of the
Temple-purgation which St. John does not relate. And the evidence is the
stronger, that the two sets of accounts are manifestly independent of each
other, and that of the Fourth Gospel younger than that of the Synoptists.
Dexterously manipulated, the testimony of these witnesses might
lead up to two charges. It would show that Christ was a dangerous seducer of
the people, Whose claims might have led those who believed them to lay violent
hands on the Temple, while the supposed assertion, that He would63
or was able64
to build the Temple again within three days, might be made to imply Divine or
A certain class of writers have ridiculed this part of the Sanhedrist plot
against Jesus. It is, indeed, true, that, viewed as a Jewish charge, it might
have been difficult, if not impossible, to construe a capital crime out of such
charges, although, to say the least, a strong popular prejudice might thus have
been raised against Jesus - and this, no doubt, was one of the objects which
Caiaphas had in view. But it has been strangely forgotten that the purpose of
the High-Priest was not to formulate a capital charge in Jewish Law,
since the assembled Sanhedrists had no intention so to try Jesus, but to
formulate a charge which would tell before the Roman Procurator. And here none
other could be so effective as that of being a fanatical seducer of the
ignorant populace, who might lead them on to wild tumultuous acts. Two similar
instances, in which the Romans quenched Jewish fanaticism in the blood of the
pretenders and their deluded followers, will readily recur to the mind.66
In any case, Caiaphas would naturally seek to ground his accusation of Jesus
before Pilate on anything rather than His claims to Messiahship and the
inheritance of David. It would be a cruel irony if a Jewish High-Priest had to
expose the loftiest and holiest hope of Israel to the mockery of a Pilate; and
it might prove a dangerous proceeding, whether as regarded the Roman Governor
or the feelings of the Jewish people.
the same time neither this, nor even the later charge of 'blasphemy,' would
have made Jesus what was technically called either a Massith, or a Maddiach.
The former is described as an individual who privately seduces
private individuals into idolatry (Sanh. vii. 10; Jer. Yeb. 15 d), it
being added that he speaks with a loud voice (in praise of some false god) and
uses the Holy (Hebr.) language (Jer. Sanh. 25 d). On the other hand, the
Maddiach is one who publicly seduces the people to idolatry, using, as
it is added, the language spoken commonly by the people. The two Talmudic stories,
that witnesses had lain in wait to hear and report the utterances of Christ
(Sanh. 67 a), and that forty days before His execution heralds had
summoned any exculpatory evidence in His favour (Sanh. 43 a), may be
dismissed without comment.
other movements, we refer here specially to that under Theudas, who led out
some 400 persons under promise of dividing Jordan, when both he and his
adherents were cut down by the Romans (Jos. Ant. xx. 5. 1). At a later
time an Egyptian Jew gathered 3,000 or 4,000 on the Mount of Olives, promising
to cast down the walls of Jerusalem by the breath of his mouth (u. s. xx. 8,
6). Another impostor of that kind was Simon of Cyprus (u. s. xx. 7. 2), and, of
course, Bar Kokhabh.
But this charge of being a seducer of the people also broke
down, through the disagreement of the two witnesses whom the Mosaic Law
required,67 and who,
according to Rabbinic ordinance, had to be separately questioned.68
But the divergence of their testimony does not exactly appear in the
differences in the accounts of St. Matthew and of St. Mark. If it be deemed
necessary to harmonise these two narratives, it would be better to regard both
as relating the testimony of these two witnesses. What St. Mark reported may
have been followed by what St. Matthew records, or vice versâ, the one
being, so to speak, the basis of the other. But all this time Jesus preserved
the same majestic silence as before, nor could the impatience of Caiaphas, who
sprang from his seat to confront, and, if possible, browbeat his Prisoner,
extract from Him any reply.
haSh. ii. 6.
Only one thing now remained. Jesus knew it well, and so did
Caiaphas. It was to put the question, which Jesus could not refuse to answer,
and which, once answered, must lead either to His acknowledgement or to His
condemnation. In the brief historical summary which St. Luke furnishes, there
is an inversion of the sequence of events, by which it might seem as if what he
records had taken place at the meeting of the Sanhedrists69
on the next morning. But a careful consideration of what passed there obliges
us to regard the report of St. Luke as referring to the night-meeting described
by St. Matthew and St. Mark. The motive for St. Luke's inversion of the
sequence of events may have been,70
that he wished to group in a continuous narrative Peter's threefold denial, the
third of which occurred after the night-sitting of the Sanhedrin, at
which the final adjuration of Caiaphas elicited the reply which St. Luke
records, as well as the other two Evangelists. Be this as it may, we owe to St.
Luke another trait in the drama of that night. As we suppose, the simple
question was first addressed to Jesus, whether He was the Messiah? to which He
replied by referring to the needlessness of such an enquiry, since they had
predetermined not to credit His claims, nay, had only a few days before in the
to discuss them.72
It was upon this that the High-Priest, in the most solemn manner, adjured the
True One by the Living God, Whose Son He was, to say it, whether He were the
Messiah and Divine - the two being so joined together, not in Jewish belief,
but to express the claims of Jesus. No doubt or hesitation could here exist.
Solemn, emphatic, calm, majestic, as before had been His silence, was now His
speech. And His assertion of what He was, was conjoined with that of what God
would show Him to be, in His Resurrection and Sitting at the Right Hand of the
Father, and of what they also would see, when He would come in those clouds of
heaven that would break over their city and polity in the final storm of
seems, to say the least, strange to explain the expression 'led Him into their sunedrion' as referring to the regular
Council-chamber (St. Luke xxii. 66).
the same time I confess myself in no way anxious about an accord of details
and circumstances. When, admittedly the facts entirely agree -
nay, in such case, the accord of facts would be only the more striking.
Matt. xxii. 41-46.
Luke xxii. 67, 68; the clause 'nor let Me go' is spurious.
They all heard it - and, as the Law directed when blasphemy was
spoken, the High Priest rent both his outer and inner garment, with a rent that
might never be repaired.73
But the object was attained. Christ would neither explain, modify, nor retract
His claims. They had all heard it; what use was there of witnesses, He had
'blaspheming.' Then, turning to those assembled, he put to them the usual
question which preceded75
the formal sentence of death. As given in the Rabbinical original, it is:76
'What think ye gentlemen? And they answered, if for life, "For life!" and if
for death, "For death."'77
But the formal sentence of death, which, if it had been a regular meeting of
the Sanhedrin, must now have been spoken by the President,78
was not pronounced.79
vii. 5 Moed K. 26 a.
designations for it are Chillul haShem, and, euphemistically, Birkhath
this does not seem to me to have been the actual sentence. In regard to the
latter, see the formalities detailed in Sanh. iii. 7.
76. Myyxl Myyxl M) Myrmw) Mhw wnrm yrbs html htyml M)w
Piqqudey, ed. Warsh. i. p. 132 b.
President of the Judges said: "Such an one, thou ... art guilty"' (Sanh. iii.
There is a curious Jewish conceit, that on the Day of Atonement
the golden band on the High Priest's mitre, with the graven words, 'Holiness
unto Jehovah,' atoned for those who had blasphemed.80
It stands out in terrible contrast to the figure of Caiaphas on that awful
night. Or did the unseen mitre on the True and Eternal High-Priest's Brow,
marking the consecration of His Humiliation to Jehovah, plead for them who in
that night were gathered there, the blind leaders of the blind? Yet amidst so
many most solemn thoughts, some press prominently forward. On that night of
terror, when all the enmity of man and the power of hell were unchained, even
the falsehood of malevolence could not lay any crime to His charge, nor yet any
accusation be brought against him other than the misrepresentation of His
symbolic Words. What testimony to Him this solitary false and ill-according
witness! Again: 'They all condemned Him to be worthy of death.' Judaism itself
would not now re-echo this sentence of the Sanhedrists. And yet is it not after
all true - that He was either the Christ, the Son of God, or a blasphemer? This
Man, alone so calm and majestic among those impassioned false judges and false
witnesses; majestic in His silence, majestic in His speech; unmoved by threats
to speak, undaunted by threats when He spoke; Who saw it all - the end from the
beginning; the Judge among His judges, the Witness before His witnesses: which
was He - the Christ or a blaspheming impostor? Let history decide; let the
heart and conscience of mankind give answer. If He had been what Israel said,
He deserved the death of the Cross; if He is what the Christmas-bells of the
Church, and the chimes of the Resurrection-morning ring out, then do we rightly
worship Him as the Son of the Living God, the Christ, the Saviour of men.
Yoma 44 c.
5. It was after this meeting of the Sanhedrists had broken up,
that, as we learn from the Gospel of St. Luke, the revolting insults and
injuries were perpetrated on Him by the guards and servants of Caiaphas. All
now rose in combined rebellion against the Perfect Man: the abject servility of
the East, which delighted in insults on One Whom it could never have
vanquished, and had not even dared to attack; that innate vulgarity, which
loves to trample on fallen greatness, and to deck out in its own manner a triumph
where no victory has been won; the brutality of the worse than animal in man
(since in him it is not under the guidance of Divine instinct), and which, when
unchained, seems to intensify in coarseness and ferocity;81
and the profanity and devilry which are wont to apply the wretched witticisms
of what is misnomered common sense and the blows of tyrannical usurpation of
power to all that is higher and better, to what these men cannot grasp and dare
not look up to, and before the shadows of which, when cast by superstition,
they cower and tremble in abject fear! And yet these insults, taunts, and blows
which fell upon that lonely Sufferer, not defenceless, but undefending, not
vanquished, but uncontending, not helpless, but majestic in voluntary
self-submission for the highest purpose of love - have not only exhibited the
curse of humanity, but also removed it by letting it descend on Him, the
Perfect Man, the Christ, the Son of God. And ever since has every noble-hearted
sufferer been able on the strangely clouded day to look up, and follow what, as
it touches earth, is the black misty shadow, to where, illumined by light from
behind, it passes into the golden light - a mantle of darkness as it enwraps
us, merging in light up there where its folds seem held together by the Hand
we advanced much beyond this, when the Parisian democracy can inscribe on its
banners such words as 'Ecrasez l'Infâme' - and, horrible to relate it, teach
its little children to bring to this its floral offerings?
This is our Sufferer - the Christ or a blasphemer; and
in that alternative which of us would not choose the part of the Accused rather
than of His judges? So far as recorded, not a word escaped His Lips; not a
complaint, nor murmur; nor utterance of indignant rebuke, nor sharp cry of
deeply sensitive, pained nature. He was drinking, slowly, with the
consciousness of willing self-surrender, the Cup which His Father had given
Him. And still His Father - and this also specially in His Messianic
relationship to man.
We have seen that, when Caiaphas and the Sanhedrists quitted
the audience-chamber, Jesus was left to the unrestrained licence of the
attendants. Even the Jewish Law had it, that no 'prolonged death' (Mithah
Arikhta) might be inflicted, and that he who was condemned to death was not
to be previously scourged.82
At last they were weary of insult and smiting, and the Sufferer was left alone,
perhaps in the covered gallery, or at one of the windows that overlooked the
court below. About one hour had passed83
since Peter's second denial had, so to speak, been interrupted by the arrival
of the Sanhedrists. Since then the excitement of the mock-trial, with witnesses
coming and going, and, no doubt, in Eastern fashion repeating what had passed
to those gathered in the court around the fire; then the departure of the
Sanhedrists, and again the insults and blows inflicted on the Sufferer, had
diverted attention from Peter. Now it turned once more upon him; and, in the
circumstances, naturally more intensely than before. The chattering of Peter,
whom conscience and consciousness made nervously garrulous, betrayed him. This
one also was with Jesus the Nazarene; truly, he was of them - for he was also a
Galilean! So spake the bystanders; while, according to St. John, a
fellow-servant and kinsman of that Malchus, whose ear Peter, in his zeal, had
cut off in Gethsemane, asserted that he actually recognised him. To one and all
these declarations Peter returned only a more vehement denial, accompanying it
this time with oaths to God and imprecations on himself.
37 b, top.
The echo of his words had scarcely died out - their diastole
had scarcely returned them with gurgling noise upon his conscience - when loud
and shrill the second cock-crowing was heard. There was that in its harsh
persistence of sound that also wakened his memory. He now remembered the words
of warning prediction which the Lord had spoken. He looked up; and as he
looked, he saw, how up there, just at that moment; the Lord turned round84
and looked upon him - yes, in all that assembly, upon Peter! His eyes spake His
Words; nay, much more; they searched down to the innermost depths of Peter's
heart, and broke them open. They had pierced through all self-delusion, false
shame, and fear: they had reached the man, the disciple, the lover of Jesus.
Forth they burst, the waters of conviction, of true shame, of heart-sorrow, of
the agonies of self-condemnation; and, bitterly weeping, he rushed from under
those suns that had melted the ice of death and burnt into his heart - out from
that cursed place of betrayal by Israel, by its High Priest - and even by the
is not any indication in the text that, as Commentators suppose, Christ was at
that moment led bound across the Court; nor, indeed, that till the morning He
was at all removed from near the place where He had been examined.
Out he rushed into the night. Yet a night lit up by the stars
of promise - chiefest among them this, that the Christ up there - the
conquering Sufferer - had prayed for him. God grant us in the night of our
conscious self-condemnation the same star-light of His Promises, the same
assurance of the intercession of the Christ, that so, as Luther puts it,
the particularness of the account of Peter's denial, as compared with the
briefness of that of Christ's Passion, may carry to our hearts this lesson:
'The fruit and use of the sufferings of Christ is this, that in them we have
the forgiveness of our sins.'
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