ANNAS A JEWISH HIGH PRIEST (Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ)

 The name Annas means gracious, merciful in Hebrew. We get the first reference to Annas name in St. Luke in the New Testament indicating the time of the beginning of John the Baptists ministry. Annas and Caiaphas were high priests. At that time the word of God came to John, son of Zecharia in the desert (Luke 3, 2).

Annas was the son of Seth. He was appointed to the office of High Priest by the Roman Governor Quirinus at the age of thirty-seven in the year 6 AD. He held the office officially for 9 years when the then Roman Governor of Judea Valerius Gratus deposed him. Annas was succeeded by his son-in-law Caiaphas, another member of the priestly aristocracy.

Then we hear about Annas at the time of Jesus arrest. St. John says, Then the Roman soldiersarrested Jesus, bound him, and took him first to Annas. He was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was High Priest that year. (John 18, 12-13).

The house of Annas has a specious courtyard with porters at the gate and other servants around.

Jesus was first questioned in the house or rather the palace of Annas. Annas and his clan of High Priests were very rich and influential people. They did a flourishing business of sacrificial victims with in the Temple premises for the Gentiles.

Eight members of Annas family including his five sons and son-in-law held the high office of the High Priest. They exerted both religious and political influence over the Jewish people. Jesus during his public ministry did not mingle with them but they were keeping a close watch of Jesus about his movements and his teachings.

During most of the time of Jesus trial he kept mum. But when Annas questioned him Jesus told him that he has spoken in public and in the Temple and that he could question the public, as he did no secret teaching.

When one of the guards slapped Jesus for saying what he said to Annas, Jesus answered him, If I have said anything wrong, tell everyone here what it was. But if I am right, in what I have said why do you hit me? (John 18, 23). (Here Jesus indicated that we should not tolerate injustice; and that self-defense is everyones right).

It was also in the courtyard of Annas palace that Peter denied Jesus thrice and went out crying bitterly in repentance.

The last reference to Annas in Johns Gospel says, Then Annas sent him (Jesus) still bound, to Caiaphas the High Priest. (John 18, 24).

In taking Jesus first to Annas we can see that as the retired high priest, Annas exerted great influence on the priestly clan and the Jewish people.

This is also proved in the fact that, later, when Peter and John are arrested, as Luke narrates the event in the Acts, the Sanhedrin - the highest authority of the Jewish religion which we may call the supreme court met in the presence of Annas together with other high priests of the priestly class as well as others Jewish leaders. The Act says, The next day the Jewish leaders, the elders, and the teachers of the Law gathered in Jerusalem. They met with the High Priest Annas and with Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and the others who belonged to the High Priests family (Acts 4, 5-6).

The Sanhedrin discussed the case of Peter and John in their presence and also after sending them out. The two apostles were acquitted after warning them. There are no more references to Annas in the New Testament.

Dispicting the character of Annas the bible scholar and author of Whos Who the New Testament, Ronald Brownrigg says in his book: It was openly rumored in his day that, as a wealthy man, he had lent money to the Romans and was so able to blackmail them into doing as he wished. Certainly he and his family were deep in a highly successful political intrigue and were able to claim the privileges and immunity of priesthood (P.9). (contact the author : यह ईमेल पता spambots से संरक्षित किया जा रहा है. आप जावास्क्रिप्ट यह देखने के सक्षम होना चाहिए. )

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