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Ancients assembled, we naturally understand that he is speaking of Caiphas, who was the High Priest of that year, at whose house the members of the Sanhedrim met. That they met there we learn from St. Matthew's statement, and also from other passages in the Gospels.
St. Luke's narrative also we naturally, though not necessarily, interpret as meaning that they led Him to Caiphas, the High Priest of the year. St. John, however, writing much later, and with a view to supplying some details omitted by the other Evangelists, and clearing up some obscurities, mentions distinctly the fact passed over in silence by the other three Evangelists, that they led Him first to Annas. He adds in verse 24: And Annas sent Him bound to Caiphas the High Priest.
There can be no doubt that St. John's account is the more complete one. All commentators agree that our Saviour was led first to the House of Annas.
But at this point, a question arises with regard to which their opinions differ.
How long did our Lord remain there, and what incidents took place in the house of Annas ? Some of the ablest and most esteemed interpreters, such as Father à Lapide, and Father Toletus, S.J., afterwards Cardinal, think that no stay at all was made at the house of Annas; that the Priests and Ancients took Jesus to his door, or sent Him thither closely guarded, while they went to make preparations for their Council, merely in order that Annas, who was the arch-enemy of Jesus, and the guiding spirit of this attack upon Him, might have the satisfaction of seeing Him a prisoner.
These interpreters consider that the words of St. John, Annas sent Him bound to Caiphas, need not necessarily be considered to stand exactly in the context to which they belong. Historians sometimes, they say, write parenthetically a sentence of this kind: "I should have mentioned that Annas sent Him bound to Caiphas”. They consider that this is St. John's meaning. They quote, too, a passage which we have already considered, namely, the words of St. Matthew and St. Mark, where, after relating that Judas came with the armed multitude, St. Matthew adds: Fle that betrayed Him gave them a sign, but St. Mark writes: He that betrayed Him Had given them a sign. Here, they argue, it is evident that the Evangelists, whether they say gave or had given (dedit, dederat, čowkev, dedóket), do not mean to fix exactly the moment when Judas determined on this signal. So now, too, they say, St. John when he writes, Annas sent Him bound to Caiphas, does not intend to fix the moment when Annas sent Him, but only to state the fact that he did send Him. Conse. quently the words may mean, Annas had already sent Him. So then, according to this view, Annas after just satisfying his eyes by looking at Jesus in chains, sent Him on at once to Caiphas and the members of the Sanhedrim. Cardinal Toletus, who is a careful and very learned commentator, adduces in confirmation of this opinion the fact that St. Cyril evidently quotes from a copy of the Gospel in which this passage differed from our Vul. gate, as the words in question, Annas sent Him bound to Caiphas, occur immediately after the words, They led Him first to Annas.
These commentators who thus depart from the more obvious and natural interpretation of St. John's narrative, do so because they find it difficult to reconcile what comes after in St. John's account with what is written by the other Evangelists. For St. John seems to record the first denial of St. Peter as taking place in the house of Annas; whereas the other Evangelists represent all the denials as taking place in the house of Caiphas. Add to this, that St. John uses the expression, The High Priest asked Jesus of His disciples and of His doctrine. They take for granted that this title, the High Priest, signifies Caiphas, and no other.
Against this interpretation, however, there is this weighty argument, that we are so often told by our guides and masters that St. John is more exact in fixing time than the other Evangelists are; and that he aims more than they do at preserving the right chronological order.
Then with regard to the title, the High Priest, it is quite clear that St. John gives the title_to others besides Caiphas. Thus, chapter xix. 6, though our English version has these words: The Chief Priests cried, Crucify Him, whereas it gives to Caiphas the title High Priest; yet in the Greek and Latin text we find no such distinction. Caiphas is the Pontifex, apxiepeús; and the Priests who cry “Crucify” are Pontifices, åpxlepels. The only difference that St. John makes when he speaks of Caiphas, is that he calls him the High Priest (Pontifex, åp xlepevs) of that year.
From what we have already seen it is clear that in consequence of the despotic tyranny of Herod the Great, and of the Romans who deposed several High Priests, and would not permit them to hold the office for life as their predecessors had done, there were now in Jerusalem many who kept the title of High Priests.
When for instance St. John writes: The High Priests and servants cried, Crucify Him, these words certainly imply that there were present a considerable number of High Priests.
Among these deposed High Priests Annas was eminent; because he had been rightly appointed, and had held the office for some years, and was still considered the High Priest de jure. Moreover, he was learned in the law, and a man of authority. When therefore St. John writes that the High Priest questions Jesus, there is no reason why we may not suppose that he is speaking of Annas, and not of Caiphas.
With regard to St. Cyril's text of the Holy Gospels, it is enough to say that Holy Church has preferred the Vulgate, which seems to state clearly that our Lord remained some time in the house of Annas.
Then lastly, with regard to the difficulties which arise out of the denials of St. Peter, one suggestion found in the writings of Euthymius, and adopted by some modern commentators, seems to offer a satisfactory solution.
If, according to this suggestion, we suppose that the house or palace of the High Priest was a large building, such as would have befitted the office, before it was degraded by Herod and the Romans, it would not be unnatural to suppose that Caiphas, the High Priest of the year, had his abode either in the centre of the building or in one of the wings; and that Annas, his fatherin-law, and the most eminent man among the High Priests, had his home in the other wing of the building, or in some adjacent building within the enclosure. The traditional sites still pointed out for the two houses are near enough to admit of this supposition. If we admit this conjecture, then we shall have one gateway and one courtyard (atrium) common to both houses.
Arrived then at the great gateway, we may suppose, a certain portion of the multitude disperse and go home. We are not obliged to believe that the whole Roman cohort of six hundred or a thousand men, and the whole crowd of servants and retainers all make their way into the Palace. As soon, then, as the gates are opened, a sufficient guard of soldiers, doubtless, with the servants, enter, first, into the covered hall wherein was the porter's lodge, and thence pass into the atrium or courtyard, which is surrounded by a covered colonnade or corridor, but in the centre is open to the air. Here many of the servants remain; and here St. Peter and the other disciples afterwards join them.
Meanwhile the guards, obeying the orders of Caiphas, or other Priests, lead our Lord to the wing of the building in which Annas lives. It is believed that he is now already far advanced in years, and therefore had not taken part in the proceedings at Gethsemani. He is supposed to have been disturbed from his sleep by the escort who brought Jesus to him, and by Judas, who was anxious to receive his money.
This opinion, which is adopted in the chapter that follows, avoids all difficulties arising out of St. Peter's denials. For, according to this theory, they all take place, as we shall see, in the atrium which is common to both the two houses—the house of Annas and the house of Caiphas.
They led Him away to Annas first.
From what we have already seen, it is probably about half an hour after midnight when they reach the house of Annas. Consequently, the supposition that the old man had retired to rest and is asleep is not improbable. It is fully supported by a tradition which still survives in Jerusalem, that in order to prevent all possibility of escape, the soldiers and servants in charge bound Jesus tightly to an olive-tree, while they were waiting till the High Priest was ready to receive them. An olive-tree is still pointed out, as growing on the spot where our Lord was then bound.
A. They led Him to Annas first,
We may then stay a little while to look at our Blessed Saviour bound by His own people to the olive-tree. It was at this hour of midnight that He broke the bonds of their slavery in Egypt. At this hour, too, the Word became Flesh through love for His people. At this hour He appeared in the midst of His chosen people, as a little Child, in the stable, hoping thus to win their hearts. At this hour He escaped out of the grasp of the tyrant Herod, who was their cruel enemy and murdered their children. Now they have bound Him fast to the tree, and He in His Heart is saying to Sion : Put Me in remembrance, and let us plead together, tell if thou hast anything to justify thyself (Isaias xliii.). Many good works have I showed you from My
. Father : for which of these works do you bind Me to the olive-tree?
B. What a heavenly revenge is the revenge of our Lord Jesus! Many and many a time—times without number, will He despatch His ministers in the midnight hour, to soothe with the consecrated oil of His olive-tree, the soul of the man that is about to die and go to judgment.
C. And, as He stands bound, He is remembering too, how in the years that are future to men, but present to Him, poor sufferers without number will be lying sleepless in their sick-beds, or in prison, or homeless on the frozen earth; and His image as He stands there chained, and wounded, and bruised, worn by fatigue and exhaustion, and tormented with excessive thirst, will bring grace and consolation to their midnight sorrows. For His wish is to leave no moment of the night or day without its special balm and oil, which sufferers can draw from the fountains of their Saviour.
Anima Christi, sanctifica me,
D. “Lord Jesus, bound to the olive-tree, Holy Mary is Thy olive-tree. For ever she will be with Thee, at Thy side, like the fair and beautiful olive-tree of the plain."
THE HOUSE OF ANNAS—THE INSIDE.
The High Priest therefore asked Jesus of His disciples and
of His doctrine (St. John xviii. 19). A. It was with Annas, we are told, that the traitor made his bargain. It is from him that he expects the wages of sin. Naturally, therefore, he is here with the foremost, eager to be the first, and to let his great chief know how well he has laid his plans and carried them out; and how reasonable it is to double and treble his fee. But if he expects fair words and generous gratitude from this hoary contriver and abettor of wickedness, who will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven himself, nor suffer others to enter, he will be grievously disappointed—the desire of the wicked shall perish. The venom of the asp is under the archsinner's tongue; and Judas receives in plenty curses and words of hatred for disturbing his rest.
Christ does not suffer the eye of the widow to wait for the alms she wants, but it pleases the malicious High Priest well to torture the traitor with hope deferred, and to reduce the promised wages of sin to the very least that can be.
B. After some delay, then, the hoary Chief of the Ancients is ready, and Jesus is unbound from the tree, and hurriedly dragged into the presence of the High Priest. Possibly, too, some of the ropes and cords that might hinder Him from speaking are by the command of Annas loosened, that the prisoner may be better able to answer his subtle questions. This conjecture is suggested by the words that we shall meet with presently. Annas sent Him bound to Caiphas. For these words may mean that His chains and bonds are once more adjusted and fastened before He is sent off. Some writers say that, according to