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John 18:12-14 meaning

John tells us that following His submission to arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was brought to the house of Annas first. He informs us that Annas was the father-in-law to Caiaphas, the sitting high priest, and reminds his readers that Caiaphas was the one who previously determined it was better that Jesus die than that they risk losing their place or nation. This was John's way of telling the reader that the trial's outcome was determined before it began.

There is no apparent parallel Gospel account for this event.

  • Note: Throughout this portion of commentary, each time a Jewish law was broken by the chief priests and elders as they prosecuted Jesus, we identify that rule by means of brackets—i.e. [Rule 2: Neutrality]. The numbering of these rules is according to The Bible Says series about the Religious Prosecution of Jesus.

For a complete listing of the broken rules, see The Bible Says Article:
"Jesus's Trial, Part 1. The Laws Broken by the Religious Leaders: A Summary."

As soon as the Roman cohort and the commander and the officers of the Jews arrested and bound Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, they led Him to the home of Annas, the former high priest (v 12-13a) for His preliminary trial [Rule 6: Illegal Location].

The religious authorities conducted three hasty trials for Jesus in a span of only a few hours from the moment they arrested Him in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:47-56, John 18:1-11) until they brought Him to Pilate shortly after dawn for a civil trial (Matthew 27:2, John 18:28). These three hasty trials were religious in nature. All three trials violated multiple laws from both the Torah (the written law of Moses) and the Mishnah (the oral traditions and laws).

The three Religious Trials of Jesus were:

  1. Jesus's Preliminary Trial in the House of Annas
  2. Jesus's Nighttime Trial in the House of Caiaphas
  3. The Sanhedrin's Sunrise Condemnation of Jesus

It is John who informs us that they took Jesus to Annas first (v 13) and then to Caiaphas second (John 18:24). No single Gospel discusses all three trials in detail, but together they complement each other to portray a complete picture as to what happened to Jesus in the dark hours following His arrest.

  • The narratives of Matthew and Mark do not cover Jesus's illegal preliminary trial before Annas. They focus on Jesus's illegal night-time trial in the house of Caiaphas (Matthew 26:57-68, Mark 14:53, 55-65) before briefly mentioning Jesus's sunrise trial (also illegal) which officially sentenced Him to death on religious grounds (Matthew 27:1-2, Mark 15:1).
  • Luke mentions that after they "arrested Him, they led Him away and brought Him to the house of the high priest" (Luke 22:54), but he does not specify if Jesus was brought to the house of Annas (the former high priest) or the house of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year (v 13b). Luke's Gospel skips both Jesus's preliminary trial (in the house of Annas) and His second trial (in the house of Caiaphas). But Luke details Jesus's sunrise trial before the Sanhedrin that Matthew and Mark only mention (Luke 22:66-71).
  • John alone among the Gospels details Jesus's preliminary trial in the house of Annas before mentioning that Jesus was then sent to Caiaphas the high priest (John 18:12-14, 19-24). John does not detail Jesus's second trial before Caiaphas, and he does not mention His third religious trial, in front of the Sanhedrin at sunrise.

To better understand the sequence of these events, please see:

Once again, following his account of Jesus's submitting to arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane (John 18:1-11) John writes: So the Roman cohort and the commander and the officers of the Jews, arrested Jesus and bound Him (v 12).

The reader may recall from John 18:3 that the Roman cohort and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees all came with Judas to arrest Jesus. Now this same force consisting of Romans and Jews, having arrested Jesus, were bringing Him back into the city of Jerusalem, bound for his preliminary trial [Rule 2: Neutrality].

A Roman cohort consisted of 100 troops or more. John says that the commander of the cohort was with them. The Greek term that he uses which is translated as commander, is the word: χιλίαρχος (G5506—pronounced: "khil-ee'-ar-khos" and it is transliterated as "chiliarch"). A chiliarch is the commander of a thousand troops. This term likely indicates that one of, if not the, commanding Roman military officer stationed in Jerusalem was sent with his cohort to arrest Jesus.

John's description the officers of the Jews, is his term to describe the chief priests (Sadducees), the temple police (who worked for the Sadducees), and the Pharisees.

John says that they led Jesus to Annas first.

Annas was a leading member of the Sadducees and a former high priest. He held this position from 6 A.D.—15 A.D. (Jesus's trial was sometime around 30 A.D.). He was the patriarch of a high priestly dynasty. John tells us that Annas was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the sitting high priest that year (v 13b). Additionally, Annas was the father or grandfather to no less than five high priests. Originally from Egypt, Annas came to Jerusalem at the invitation of Herod the Great. With the ruthless king as his ally, Annas quickly rose to power through cunning and ambition. He was notorious, and unpopular, but feared.

After Annas was replaced as the high priest, he expanded his influence through his sons' and Caiaphas's tenures. For instance, Luke records that John the Baptist began his ministry during "the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas" (Luke 3:1-2). Luke seems to be suggesting that Annas was the real power behind Caiaphas, his proxy. This suggestion is bolstered by the fact that Jesus was first brought to Annas's house upon His arrest.

Annas also remained a powerful figure through his financially lucrative Temple connections.

The Jewish Talmud records a poem or song denouncing the House of Annas for being infamous slanderers,  corrupt and greedy priests (Talmud. Pesachim 57a:8). This last charge infers that Annas was one of the main profiteers of the Temple booths that extorted worshippers through the money changers and through selling sacrificial animals (presumably at high prices) (Matthew 21:12, John 2:13-22).

To learn more about Annas and/or Caiaphas, please see the Bible Says' article:
"Jesus's Trial, Part 2. The Jewish Law and the Political Actors who Condemned Jesus."

From this we can infer then that when Jesus cleared the Temple, it was largely Annas who was responsible for turning God's Temple into a robber's den, and therefore whom Jesus was chastising (Matthew 21:13). If this was the case, Annas's coffers likely suffered the biggest loss when Jesus did this. Annas's disdain for Jesus might then have been both personal and financial. The elderly Annas might have taken great satisfaction when Jesus was arrested and first brought to his house for a preliminary trial in the middle of the night [Rule 2: Neutrality; Rule 5: Illegal Timing; Rule 6 Illegal Location].

One of the main reasons they led Jesus to Annas (the former high priest) first, instead of to Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, was likely because the Jews were neither ready nor expecting to try Jesus at this moment.

Matthew tells us that they were plotting to wait until after the Passover/Feast of Unleavened Bread festival was over in order to avoid a riot (Matthew 26:2) [Rule 1 Conspiracy]. When Jesus's disciple Judas agreed to betray Him to them, they began looking for a good opportunity to arrest Him (Matthew 26:16) [Rule 4: Bribery]. The night of Passover was almost certainly not that time.

But Jesus apparently forced their hand, as it were, when He identified Judas as His betrayer during their Passover Seder (John 13:26-27). Judas then "went out immediately" and informed the chief priests (John 13:30). This likely alarmed them greatly, because not only was the plot spoiled, but now they risked being exposed to the people for trying to murder the Man many hoped and believed was the Messiah. If the truth of this spread, they would be ruined.

Therefore, they acted quickly and quietly. The high priest, Caiaphas requested a Roman cohort from the governor Pilate to arrest Jesus. His request was granted. During or after Jesus's arrest, the priests and elders gathered in the home of Caiaphas to come up with a charge to accuse Jesus with and to produce witnesses so they could convict and execute Him [Rule 7: Lack of a Charge; Rule 9: Lack of Evidence].

By bringing Jesus to Annas first, it gave Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin time to gather and prepare for a midnight trial none of them were previously expecting to conduct. Bringing Jesus to Annas first also gave the former high priest, a notorious slanderer and seasoned accuser (Talmud. Pesachim 57a:8), an opportunity to interrogate Jesus [Rule 12: Improper Prosecution] and possibly manufacture or find the deadly charge they desperately desired.

Before going on to describe Peter's first denial (John 18:15-18), John adds an interesting reminder:

Now Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was expedient for one man to die on behalf of the people (v 14).

John said this in reference to what he shared earlier when the Sanhedrin council first conspired to kill Jesus (John 11:47-53) [Rule 1 Conspiracy]. The Sanhedrin was worried that if they let Jesus "go on like this, all men will believe, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation" (John 11:48). It was Caiaphas who advised them that it was expedient (for them) for Jesus to die rather than for Israel to lose its semi-sovereign status as a province of Rome (John 11:49-50). Caiaphas then prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation (John 11:51).

John's reference to Caiaphas as the son-in-law to Annas, and his reminder of Caiaphas's murderous advice are his way of telling us that not only was there an illegal conspiracy to kill Jesus—a conspiracy that went all the way to the two most powerful men in the Sanhedrin: Annas the former high priest, and Caiaphas, the sitting high priest [Rule 1: Conspiracy]—but also that the trial was fixed [Rule 3: Rigged Trial]. In other words, the verdict was predetermined and the sentence of death was already decided before they even had a crime of which to charge Jesus [Rule 7: Lack of a Charge].

John will describe Jesus's preliminary religious trial in John 18:19-24, but first he tells us about Peter (John 18:15-18), who followed the cohort and officers to Annas's house after Jesus submitted to arrest and told him to put down his sword (John 18:10-11).

For a detailed explanation of the principles that were broken during Jesus's trial, see The Bible Says Article:
"Jesus's Trial, Part 4. The Judicial Principles that were Violated."

For a detailed explanation of the other laws that were broken during Jesus's trial, see The Bible Says Article:
"Jesus's Trial, Part 5. The Laws of Practice that were Violated."



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