Post #2~Notes On John 18:12-27

Except for citations within quoted authors, all biblical texts are taken from the RSV translation.  See copyright notice at bottom of post.

18:12 So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews seized Jesus and bound him.
18:1 3 First they led him to Annas; for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year.
18:1 4 It was Caiaphas who had given counsel to the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.

Judas, his treacherous role now complete, disappears from the scene.  Verse 12 forms an inclusio with verse 3 which helps explain the purpose of the intervening verses (4-11); the success of the action against Jesus ultimate rests-not on Judas, or on the soldiers,-but on the will of Jesus as was pointed out several times in Post #1.

Seized Jesus and bound him.  Augustine writes: “They took Him Whom they did not draw nigh to; nor understood that which is written in the Psalms, Draw nigh to Him, and be you lightened. For had they thus drawn nigh to Him, they would have taken Him, not to kill Him, but to be in their hearts. But now that they take Him the way they do, they go backward. It follows, and bound Him, Him by Whom they ought to have wished to be loosed. And perhaps there were among them some who, afterwards delivered by Him, exclaimed, you have broken My chains asunder.”

Though Caiaphas was the High Priest in the year Jesus was crucified the band that arrested Him took Him first to Annas, the former High Priest and father-in-law of Caiaphas.  Annas had functioned as High Priest from 6 to 15 A.D., at which time he was deposed by the Romans; yet according to historians, he still exerted a great deal of influence.  Five of his sons would serve as High Priest.

The Protestant reference work The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia has the following on Annas: “an´as (Ἄννας, Ánnas; Westcott and Hort, The New Testament in Greek Hannas; Josephus Ananos, the Greek form of Hebrew חנן, ḥānān; “merciful,” “gracious”; compare Neh_8:7, etc.):
(1) A high priest of the Jews, the virtual head of the priestly party in Jerusalem in the time of Christ, a man of commanding influence. He was the son of Seth (Josephus: Sethi), and was elevated to the high-priesthood by Quirinius, governor of Syria, 7 ad. At this period the office was filled and vacated at the caprice of the Roman procurators, and Annas was deposed by Valerius Gratus, 15 ad. But though deprived of official status, he continued to wield great power as the dominant member of the hierarchy, using members of his family as his willing instruments. That he was an adroit diplomatist is shown by the fact that five of his sons (Ant., XX, ix, 1) and his son-in-law Caiaphas (Joh_18:13) held the high-priesthood in almost unbroken succession, though he did not survive to see the office filled by his fifth son Annas or Ananus II, who caused Jas the Lord’s brother to be stoned to death (circa 62 ad). Another mark of his continued influence is, that long after he had lost his office he was still called “high priest,” and his name appears first wherever the names of the chief members of the sacerdotal faction are given. Act_4:6, “And Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest.” Annas is almost certainly called high priest in Joh_18:19, Joh_18:22, though in Joh_18:13, Joh_18:24 Caiaphas is mentioned as the high priest. Note especially the remarkable phrase in Luk_3:2, “in the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,” as if they were joint holders of the office. The cases In which Josephus gives the title “high-priest” to persons who no longer held the office afford no real parallel to this. The explanation seems to be that owing to age, ability and force of character Annas was the virtual, though Caiaphas the titular, high priest. He belonged to the Sadducean aristocracy, and, like others of that class, he seems to have been arrogant, astute, ambitious and enormously wealthy. He and his family were proverbial for their rapacity and greed. The chief source of their wealth seems to have been the sale of requisites for the temple sacrifices, such as sheep, doves, wine and oil, which they carried on in the four famous “booths of the sons of Annas” on the Mount of Olives, with a branch within the precincts of the temple itself. During the great feasts, they were able to extort high monopoly prices for theft goods. Hence, our Lord’s strong denunciation of those who made the house of prayer “a den of robbers” (Mar_11:15-19), and the curse in the Talmud, “Woe to the family of Annas! Woe to the serpent-like hisses” (Pes 57a). As to the part he played in the trial and death of our Lord, although he does not figure very prominently in the gospel narratives, he seems to have been mainly responsible for the course of events. Renan’s emphatic statement is substantially correct, “Annas was the principal actor in the terrible drama, and far more than Caiaphas, far more than Pilate, ought to bear the weight of the maledictions of mankind” (Life of Jesus). Caiaphas, indeed, as actual high priest, was the nominal head of the Sanhedrin which condemned Jesus, but the aged Annas was the ruling spirit. According to Joh_18:12, Joh_18:13, it was to him that the officers who arrested Jesus led Him first. “The reason given for that proceeding (“for he was father-in-law of Caiaphas”) lays open alike the character of the man and the character of the trial” (Westcott, in the place cited). Annas (if he is the high priest of Joh_18:19-23, as seems most likely) questioned Him concerning His disciples and teaching. This trial is not mentioned by the synoptists, probably because it was merely informal and preliminary and of a private nature, meant to gather material for the subsequent trial. Failing to elicit anything to his purpose from Jesus, “Annas therefore sent him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest” (Joh_18:24 the King James Version is incorrect and misleading) for formal trial before the Sanhedrin, “but as one already stamped with a sign of condemnation” (Westcott). Doubtless Annas was present at the subsequent proceedings, but no further mention is made of him in New Testament, except that he was present at the meeting of the Sanhedrin after Pentecost when Peter and John defended themselves for preaching the gospel of the resurrection (Act_4:6).”

The Catholic Commentary On Holy Scripture: “(The) narrative (i.e., 18:13-27) raises a difficulty which must be treated briefly here. 24 suggests that Peter’s first denial, 15-18, and the first examination of Jesus, 19-23, took place in the house of Annas, who in this hypothesis, is called highpriest in 15, 16, 19, whereas in 13 and 24 the title is given (as elsewhere in Joh_11:49) to Caiphas. As the Synoptists place Peter’s denials in the house of Caiphas, one part of the difficulty has been met by supposing that Annas lived in the same pontifical palace as his son-in-law, the Pontiff of the year. Hence the courtyard of Caiphas was also the courtyard of Annas. As there is no trace of a topographical tradition marking a distinct palace of Annas before the 14th cent., this supposition is tenable; but what of the title ‘high-priest’ being given to Annas? Luk_3:2 and Act_4:6 are appealed to, but the appeal does not clear the Johannine narrative of confusion. A transposition of 18:24 after 18:13 rectifies the situation. This transposition is not purely arbitrary, for it has the support of the Syro-Sinaitic MS, of Cyril of Alexandria, and (it is said) of a minuscule codex 226, which, however, puts 24 in the middle of 13. Certain reasons of internal criticism drawn from the omission or fluctuation of a particle (de+´ or ???) at the beginning of 24 are also alleged. However, the transposition, though not devoid of probability, does not seem to stand before the united voice of the MSS and versions. The difficulty can be satisfactorily met (even without supposing one palace), by understanding ‘high-priest’ of Caiphas only and taking 24 as introductory to a resumption of the history of Peter’s denials. The whole passage is so evidently a series of reminiscences, that 24 (though seeming to be out of its logical place) is quite characteristic of the evangelist’s style. Jn alone mentions that Jesus was brought to Annas first. It was an act of courtesy, for the old man was a political power and notoriously shrewd in managing business affairs. Called Hananus (Hananya=the Lord is merciful) by Josephus, he had attained the highpriesthood through Quirinius in 6 b.c., was deposed by Valerius; Gratus in a.d. 15, but still succeeded in having five of his sons (Eleazar, Jonathan, Theophilus, Matthias, Ananus the Younger) elevated to the highpriesthood. Luk_3:2 sets him before Caiphas (the actual high-priest) in marking the pontifical year, and in Act_4:6 he is also named first. Jn gives as reason for this present act of deference to Annas that ‘he was the father-in-law of Caiphas, the high-priest of that year’. 14. Caiphas, whose personal name was Joseph, was altogether 17 years high-priest, 18-36, and was also, as Joh_11:50 reveals him, a politician rather than a priest. Jn here cites the Pontiff’s decision of some weeks earlier, to show that the case of Jesus was prejudged.”

It was Caiaphas who had given counsel to the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.  See 11:50.  Without knowing it, Caiaphas had uttered a prophecy in 11:49-50~”You know nothing at all; you do not understand that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.”  The irony is that Caiaphas intended the words in a sense far different than the prophetic reality they contained.  It was Caiaphas who knew “nothing at all.”

18:15  Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. As this disciple was known to the high priest, he entered the court of the high priest along with Jesus,
18:16  while Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the maid who kept the door, and brought Peter in.
18:17  The maid who kept the door said to Peter, “Are not you also one of this man’s disciples?” He said, “I am not.”
18:18  Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves; Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.

There is a reason why the last pericope (vss 12-14) ended with a reference to the unwitting prophecy of Caiaphas.  Jesus, with full knowledge uttered a prophecy regarding St Peter’s three denials, and that prophecy begins its fulfillment here (see 13:36-38).

Peter followed Jesus…now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold…Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.

Peter is following Jesus, an act of discipleship, as if he is determined to-in spite of our Lord’s prophecy-fulfill his boast “I will lay down my life for you” (13:37 NAB).  But all is not well, as we soon see Peter denying knowledge of his Lord and standing with those who had arrested Jesus, as Judas had stood with them to betray Him.  But Peter’s fate is not the same as that of Judas; as the Gospel ends Peter will be found standing in the presence of the Risen Lord, before a charcoal fire, and he will be given the task the feeding the lamb and tending the sheep of the Lord’s flock.  His threefold denial will be reversed with a threefold confession of love (21:15-17); and his desire to follow Jesus to death will finally be realized (21:18-19), as Jesus had predicted (13:36);  and the unfallen Peter, who spent much of the second half of the Gospel playing second fiddle to the other disciple(13:21-24; 18:16; 20:4, 8) will now be followed by that disciple (21:20)-such is the paradox of the Gospel.

G.K. Chesterton: “When Christ at a symbolic moment was establishing His great society, He chose for its comer-stone neither the brilliant Paul nor the mystic John, but a shuffler, a snob a coward–in a word, a man. And upon this rock He has built His Church, and the gates of Hell have not prevailed against it. All the empires and the kingdoms have failed, because of this inherent and continual weakness, that they were founded by strong men and upon strong men. But this one thing, the historic Christian Church, was founded on a weak man, and for that reason it is indestructible. For no chain is stronger than its weakest link.”

18:19  The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.
18:20  Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together; I have said nothing secretly.
18:21  Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me, what I said to them; they know what I said.”
18:22  When he had said this, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?”
18:23  Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken wrongly, bear witness to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?”

Notice how the beginning of Jesus’ interrogation (18:19-24) is sandwiched between the first (18:17) and subsequent denials of Peter (18:25-27).  This forces the reader to see the events as closely connected.

Jesus had given His disciples an opportunity to avoid what was to befall Him, knowing that they could not withstand it at that time, but Peter, in his pride had refused to take advantage, and was now paying the price.  Meanwhile, Jesus is portrayed as defending Himself.  Father Donald Senior: “While Jesus boldly proclaims his identity and mission before the high priest, Petr crumples in fear and denies his discipleship.”

19. Questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. The Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture: “The questions of Caiphas have reference to two points—disciples whereon a political charge might be grafted, and teaching, in view of religious consequences.”

St John Chrysostom: “As they could bring no charge against Christ, they asked Him of His disciples: The high priest then asked Jesus of His disciples; perhaps where they were, and on what account He had collected them, he wished to prove that he was a seditious and factious person whom no one attended to, except His own disciples.”

20. Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together; I have said nothing secretly.

Notice that the Lord makes reference only to his teaching, not to the disciples whom He is intent on protecting.  Rather than involve them He notes the open, public presentation of His teaching and indicates that many could witness to its content, not just His disciples.  His words are a criticism of the private nature of the plot against Him, which forced Him to no longer go about in public (11:54), and perhaps also they criticize the fact that some in the room may have believed in Him but refused to acknowledge it (see 12:42-43).

St John Chrysostom: “To establish the matter, however, upon superabundant evidence, He adds, Why ask you Me? ask them which heard Me what I said to them; behold, they know what I said to them: as if He said, you ask Me of My disciples; ask My enemies, who lie in wait for Me. These are the words of one who was confident of the truth of what He said: for it is incontrovertible evidence, when enemies are called in as witnesses.”

22. When he had said this, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?”

Was this man one of those whom the Pharisees (and apparently the chief priests as well) had previously sent to arrest our Lord (7:32-35)?  They had not done so, a fact which caused the Pharisees and chief priests to question and castigate them (7:45-49).  This contingent of temple officers are mentioned in the same context as one of the authorities who secretly believed in Jesus, Nicodemus (see 3:1; 7:50; 19:39; also recall my note on the authorities mentioned in verse 20).  Theophylactus attributes the officer’s action to such a motive: “When Jesus had appealed to the testimony of the people, an officer, wishing to clear himself, and show that he was not one of those who admired our Lord, struck Him: And when He had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answer you the high priest so?”

Alcuin: “Here is fulfilled the prophecy, I gave my cheek to the smiters. Jesus, though struck unjustly, replied gently: Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smite you Me?”

23. Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken wrongly, bear witness to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?”

Theophylactus suggests another possible motive for the officer’s action besides the one quoted earlier: “As if to say, If you have any fault to find with what I have said, show it; if you have not, why do you rage? Or thus: If I taught any thing unadvisedly, when I taught in the synagogues, give proof of it to the high priest I but if taught aright, so that even you officers admired, why smite you Me, Whom before you admired?”

Father  Lapide: “S. Augustine (in loc.) having enumerated many punishments which a slave deserved, says, “But which of these could He not have commanded (to be inflicted on the one who struck Him) by His power (since the world was made by Him), unless He preferred to teach us patience by which the world is overcome?” See on Mat_26:59. Moreover, Christ turned not the other cheek, lest He should appear to admit His fault. As S. Paul, too, when smitten unjustly said, in his zeal for justice, “God shall smite thee, thou whited wall” (Act_23:3). “He offered not,” says S. Augustine, “His other cheek to the smiter, but made His whole Body ready for being nailed to the Cross, in order to confirm His own teaching, by His example” (Mat_5:39).”

18:24  Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
18:25  Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They said to him, “Are not you also one of his disciples?” He denied it and said, “I am not.”
18:26  One of the servants of the high priest, a kinsman of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?”
18:27  Peter again denied it; and at once the cock crowed.

Jesus, bound not only by tethers, but also by the truth, stands in marked contrast to Peter who is free to roam among the enemies of his Lord, and free to deny Him two more times.

As Jesus is led away, the once ambitious Peter, who had bragged he would lay down his life for His Lord, remains standing by the fire; a nuance not lost on St John Chrysostom: “He means that the once fervid disciple was now too torpid, to move even when our Lord was carried away: showing thereby how weak man’s nature is, when God forsakes him. Asked again, he again denies: They said therefore to him, Are not you also one of His disciples? He denied it, and said, I am not.”

27. Peter again denied it; and at once the cock crowed.

St Augustine: “Lo, the prophecy of the Physician is fulfilled, the presumption of the sick man demonstrated. That which Peter had said he would do, he had not done. I will lay down my life for your sake, but what our Lord had foretold had come to pass, you shall deny Me thrice.”


The [New] Revised Standard Version Bible may be quoted and/or reprinted up to and inclusive of five hundred (500) verses without express written permission of the publisher, provided the verses quoted do not amount to a complete book of the Bible or account for fifty percent (50%) of the total work in which they are quoted. Notice of copyright must appear on the title or copyright page of the work as follows:

“Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1952 [2nd edition, 1971] by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

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One Response to Post #2~Notes On John 18:12-27

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for Good Friday of the Passion of the Lord | stjoeofoblog

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