Luke 3:2

Luke 3:2

Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests
Some difficulty here arises, how these two could be both high priests; when according to the law of God, and the usages of the Jewish nation, there was to be, and was but one high priest at a time: many things are observed by writers, to solve this difficulty: some go this way; that though according to the divine institution, and the practice of former times, there was but one high priest at a time; yet now, through the corruption of the present age, there were two high priests; or at least, which officiated alternately in the same year: but of such a corruption, no instance can be given, even in those corrupt times; and as Maimonides says F1, there can be but "one high priest" (Mlweh lkb) , "in all the world"; and besides, is contrary to their canons, which were then in being, and still remain; one F2 of which runs thus, (txak Mylwdg Mynhk ynv Nynmm Nya) "they do not appoint two high priests at once". Others suppose, that these two annually performed the office of high priests by turns; that Caiaphas was high priest one year, and Annas another: it is true indeed, that through the corruption of those times, this office became venal, hence it is said in the Talmud F3,

``because they gave money for the priesthood, they changed it every twelve months.''

And which is more largely expressed by one of their commentators F4,

``because the high priests, who were under the second temple, after Simeon the just, gave money to minister in the high priest's office, and because they were wicked, they did not fill up their years, therefore they changed every year.''

But though it is certain, that there were frequent, and sometimes annual changes in the priesthood, hence it is said of Caiaphas, ( John 11:49 ) ( 18:13 ) that he was "high priest the same year", yet it does not appear that he and Annas took it yearly by turns: for Caiaphas continued in that office some years, even till after the death of Christ: and besides, had this been the case, as one of them could be but high priest for the year being, both in one year as here, could not with propriety be said to be high priests. Others take another method, and suppose Caiaphas to be properly the high priest, as he certainly was; and Annas so called, because he had been one formerly, the same with Ananus, the son of Seth; who was put into the priesthood by Quirinius, in the room of Joazar, and was deposed by Valerius Gratus, and Ishmael ben Phabi was put into his room: but though there may be instances of persons being called high priests, who had been in that office, after they were removed from it, yet no reason can be given, why Annas should be peculiarly called so, when there were in all probability several alive, who had been in that office as well as he; as Joazar his predecessor, and Ishmael ben Phabi, who succeeded Joazar, and after him Eleazar, the son of Annas, and then Simeon ben Camhith; nor why he should be put in the annals of the high priests, in a year in which he was not one. It seems most likely therefore, that he was the "Sagan" of the priests, of which office mention is frequently made, in the Jewish writings {e}; yea, we often read of Chanina, or Chananiah, or Ananias, perhaps the same with this Annas, who is called, (Mynhk Ngo) , "the Sagan of the priests" F6. This officer was not a deputy high priest, or one that was substituted to officiate occasionally, in the room of the high priest, when any thing hindered him, or rendered him unfit for his office; as on the day of atonement, if the high priest contracted any pollution, they substituted another to minister F7; which was not the "Sagan", but another priest; and even such an one was called an high priest, as appears from the following story F8.

``It happened to Simeon ben Camhith (a predecessor of Caiaphas), that he went out to speak with the king, on the evening of the day of atonement, and the spittle was scattered from his mouth, upon his garments, and he was unclean; and his brother Judah went in, and ministered in his stead in the high priesthood; and their mother saw her "two sons", (dxa Mwyb Mylwdg Mynhk ynv) "high priests in one day".''

But the "Sagan" was not an officer pro tempore, or so much under the high priest, and one in his stead, as a ruler and governor over other priests. Maimonides says of him thus F9;

``they appoint one priest, who is to the high priest as a second to the king, and he is called "Sagan"; and he is called a ruler: and he stands at the right hand of the high priest continually; and this is an honour to him, and all the priests are under the hand of the Sagan.''

The account given of him in the Talmud F11 is this;

``in five things the "Sagan" ministers; the "Sagan" says to him, my lord, high priest, lift up thy right hand (i.e. when he took the lots out of the vessel for the goats, on the day of atonement F12; which should be slain); the "Sagan" is on his right hand, and the father of the sanhedrim on his left (i.e. when he went to the east of the court and the north of the altar F13, where were the two goats, and the vessel in which were the lots); the "Sagan" waved with the veils, or linen clothes; the "Sagan" held him by his right hand, and caused him to ascend (by the steps to the altar); and no man was appointed an high priest, before he was a "Sagan."''

Now these might be as Serojab and Zephaniah, the one chief priest, and the other second priest, ( Jeremiah 52:24 ) where the Targum and Jarchi interpret the text, the "Sagan" of the priests. And this being an office of such dignity and authority, supposing Annas in it, though he was not "the" high priest, yet being the head of the other priests, he might be called one, and be joined with Caiaphas, and set before him; not only because he had been an high priest, but because he was his father-in-law:

the word of God came to John the son of Zachariah:
a priest of the order of "Abia"; and of Elisabeth, a daughter of Aaron, and cousin of Mary, the mother of Jesus; as it had come formerly to the prophets, and particularly to Jeremiah, who was sanctified from the womb, as the Baptist was: he was blessed with a prophetic spirit, and with the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost, and with a wonderful revelation of the Messiah, and of the Gospel dispensation; and was abundantly qualified for the work he was called to, and sent to perform: and this befell him

in the wilderness;
that is, of Judea; where he had been brought up and lived, and from whence and where he came, preaching: he had lived a solitary life, and had not learnt his doctrine from men, but had his mission, ministry, and baptism, from heaven.


F1 In Misn. Menachot, c. 13. sect. 10.
F2 T. Hieros. Sanhedrin, fol. 29. 1. Maimon. Hilch. Cele Hamikdash, c. 4. sect. 15.
F3 T. Bab. Yorma, fol. 8. 2.
F4 Bartenora in Misn. Yoma, c 1. sect. 1.
F5 Targum in 2 Kings xxiii. 4. & xxv. 18. & in Jer. xx. 1. 3. & xxix. 26, & lii. 24.
F6 Misn. Shekalim, c. 6. sect. 1. T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 8. 1. Juchasin, fol. 57. 1.
F7 Misn. Yoma, c. 1. sect. 1.
F8 T. Hieros. Yoma, fol. 38. 4. Megilla, fol. 72. 1. Horayot, fol. 47. 4. T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 47. 1. Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 2. fol. 180. 3.
F9 Hilch. Cele Hamikdash, c. 4. sect. 16.
F11 T. Hieros. Yoma, fol. 41. 1.
F12 Misn. Yoma, c. 4. sect. 1.
F13 Ib. c. 3. sect. 9.