Annas the High Priest

Jewish Spiritual Leaders


Annas, who’s name means "The grace of Jehovah" was the son of Seth and appointed high priest of the Jews in 6 A.D in his 37th year. He was high priest from 6 to 15 A.D. but as long as he lived he was the virtual head of the priestly party in Jerusalem. He was chosen to the high priesthood by Quirinius, the imperial governor of Syria; obliged to give way to Ismael by Valerius Gratus, procurator of Judaea, in the beginning of Tiberius' reign, 14 A.D. Eleazar, the son of Annas, followed Ismael; then Simon; then Joseph Caiaphas, son-in-law of Annas (John 18:13).

In the time of Christ high priests were appointed and removed at the command of the Roman governors. Although removed from office, Annas' power and influence was so great that five of his sons, as well as his son-in-law Caiaphas and his grandson Matthias, also became high priests. Years afterward he lost the high priesthood, but even then he was popularly considered as still in office and was called "high priest"; even after Pentecost his name appears first in the list of priestly leaders:

Acts 4:5-7 "And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes, 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. "

In John 18:19, 22 the high priest is undoubtedly Annas, although in vs. 13 and 24 Caiaphas is mentioned as the high priest. Annas is referred to in connection with the beginning of John the Baptist's ministry, which took place "in the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas" (Luke 3:2 ), as though father and son-in-law were joint holders of the office.

It seems clear that due to his ability and force of character he was virtually high priest, although Caiaphas had the title. When Jesus was arrested, He was first brought before Annas (John 18:13). It was apparently Annas who questioned Him about His disciples and His teaching, and who gave orders to one of the officers standing by to strike Jesus with his hand (18:19-22). After the questioning, he sent Jesus "bound" to Caiaphas.

John 18:19-24 "The high priest then asked Jesus about His disciples and His doctrine. Jesus answered him, "I spoke openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where the Jews always meet, and in secret I have said nothing. Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me what I said to them. Indeed they know what I said." And when He had said these things, one of the officers who stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, "Do You answer the high priest like that?" Jesus answered him, "If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why do you strike Me?" Then Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest."

He was undoubtedly the ruling voice in the council that condemned Jesus, although nothing is said about his part in the proceedings that followed the preliminary questioning. He was present at the meeting of the Sanhedrin before which Peter and John defended themselves for preaching the Gospel of the Resurrection (Acts 4:6).

Annas is called "high priest," Caiaphas, John, and Alexander are called "of his kindred." He lived to old age, and he had five sons apointed as high priests.

Also see Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews, XVI11. ii. 1, 2; XX. ix. 1