In John 18:19 the "high priest" Annas questioned Jesus and yet in verse 24 Jesus was sent by Annas to Caiaphas the "high priest." Is this not a contradiction?


No. In John 10:35 it states that “the Scripture cannot be broken,” and so we must look for another explanation.

In John 18:13 Jesus was described as being brought to Annas, who was the father-in-law of the high priest at that time–Caiaphas. According to Josephus, Annas had been deposed of the high priesthood in 15 CE by Valerius Gratus, and Caiaphas was the high priest from 18 to 36 CE. However, other sources, as quoted below, state that Annas was dismissed as high priest in AD 23.

There are those who have suggested re-arranging the order of events, as described in the book of John, but this is not supported by the majority of manuscripts. Rather, it is indeed correct that both Annas and Caiaphas are quite legitimately referred to as “high priest” in the Bible, and for important reasons.

The New Bible Commentary states:

“Jesus is bound and taken before Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas (Annas had been deposed from the High Priesthood by Valerius Gratus, Pilate’s predecessor as procurator, but continued to exercise control from the background). The account of this examination before Annas is not given in the synoptist narrative, and it was probably an informal inquiry at Annas’ house.”

In Matthew Henry’s Commentary, these comments are made:

“This Annas was father-in-law to Caiaphas the high priest; this kindred by marriage between them comes in as a reason either why Caiaphas ordered that this piece of respect should be done to Annas, to favour him with the first sight of the prisoner, or why Annas was willing to countenance Caiaphas in a matter his heart was so much upon. Note, acquaintance and alliance with wicked people are a great confirmation to many in their wicked ways… The power of Caiaphas intimated (v. 13). He was high priest that same year. The high priest’s commission was during life; but there were now such frequent changes, by the Simoniacal artifices of aspiring men with the government, that it was become almost an annual office, a presage of its final period approaching; while they were undermining one another.”

These comments show that the high priest’s commission was during life but were subject to “Simoniacal artifices”–which are defined as “the skill in the crime of buying or selling ecclesiastical preferment; the corrupt presentation of any one to an ecclesiastical benefice for money or reward.” When a minister in the Church of God today is ordained, that ordination is not to be taken lightly nor discarded at a later date. It is a lifetime appointment in the service of God and “no one having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God.” As this applies to our calling, it can also be correctly applied to the ministry. Of course, a person can disqualify himself–or can be dismissed–from a ministerial office for biblical and scriptural reasons.

And so, Annas, a former high priest, could also still have that title applied to him. Annas, his five sons, and his son-in-law Caiaphas, all held the Jewish High-Priesthood during the first century AD.

In Luke 3:2 it states that “Annas and Caiaphas being high priests…” And Acts 4:6 reads, “as well as Annas, the high priest, Caiaphas, John and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem.” Luke, who authored both of these verses, referred to both Annas and Caiaphas as “high priests,” for the reasons explained above.

As a similar example today, in the United States’ governmental elections in 2008, Mr. Obama was elected President while Mr. George W Bush was still in office. One man was still President while the other was President-elect. Mr. Bush is one of a number of ex-Presidents still alive at this time, and he is still being referred to as “President Bush” today, even though he is no longer fulfilling the functions of a President. The same is true for President Carter or President Clinton or President Ford or President Bush Sen.–and we even refer to those men who have died by now as Presidents, such as President Washington or President Lincoln or President Reagan.

The Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge comments:

“Annas was dismissed from being high priest, A.D. 23 after filling that office for fifteen years; but, being a person of distinguished character, and having had no fewer than five sons who had successively enjoyed the dignity of the high-priesthood, and the present high priest Caiaphas being his son-in-law, he must have possessed much authority in the nation. It was at the palace of Caiaphas where the chief priests, elders, and scribes were assembled the whole of the night to see the issue of their stratagem.”

Caiaphas was actually in office as High Priest, but it appears that his father-in-law, Annas, being a former High Priest, either held the title for life, or was still viewed by the Jews as “high priest,” even though not in a functioning capacity. It therefore appears that the answer to this conundrum that has provoked so much controversy and discussion over many years is that Annas was still seen as a high priest even though his son-in-law Caiaphas now occupied that position.

Lead Writer: Brian Gale

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