John 11:49
And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all,
Jump to: AlfordBarnesBengelBensonBICalvinCambridgeChrysostomClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctExp GrkGaebeleinGSBGillGrayGuzikHaydockHastingsHomileticsICCJFBKellyKingLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWMeyerParkerPNTPoolePulpitSermonSCOTeedTTBVWSWESTSK
(49) And one of them, named Caiaphas.—Comp. Notes on Matthew 26:3; Luke 3:2. His proper name was Joseph, and the name Caiaphas is the Syriac form of Cephas. He, like Peter, took the name of “Rockman,” as a title to indicate his work! For the succession of high priests at this time, see Jos. Ant. xviii. 2, § 2. Caiaphas himself was priest from A.D. 26-36.

Being the high priest that same year.—The words occur again in John 11:51 and in John 18:13. They are used with a solemnity of meaning to express “that fatal and decisive year.”

Ye know nothing at all.—There had probably been various suggestions made by different members of the Sanhedrin which seemed to him to miss the mark, or to fall short of the one means which would have a successful issue.



John 11:49 - John 11:50

The resurrection of Lazarus had raised a wave of popular excitement. Any stir amongst the people was dangerous, especially at the Passover time, which was nigh at hand, when Jerusalem would be filled with crowds of men, ready to take fire from any spark that might fall amongst them. So a hasty meeting of the principal ecclesiastical council of the Jews was summoned, in order to dismiss the situation, and concert measures for repressing the nascent enthusiasm. One might have expected to find there some disposition to inquire honestly into the claims of a Teacher who had such a witness to His claims as a man alive that had been dead. But nothing of the sort appears in their ignoble calculations. Like all weak men, they feel that ‘something must be done’ and are perfectly unable to say what. They admit Christ’s miracles: ‘This man doeth many miracles,’ but they are not a bit the nearer to recognising His mission, being therein disobedient to their law and untrue to their office. They fear that any disturbance will bring Rome’s heavy hand down on them, and lead to the loss of what national life they still possess. But even that fear is not patriotism nor religion. It is pure self-interest. ‘They will take away our place’-the Temple, probably-’and our nation.’ The holy things were, in their eyes, their special property. And so, at this supreme moment, big with the fate of themselves and of their nation, their whole anxiety is about personal interests. They hesitate, and are at a loss what to do.

But however they may hesitate, there is one man who knows his own mind-Caiaphas, the high priest. He has no doubt as to what is the right thing to do. He has the advantage of a perfectly clear and single purpose, and no sort of restraint of conscience or delicacy keeps him from speaking it out. He is impatient at their vacillation, and he brushes it all aside with the brusque and contemptuous speech: ‘Ye know nothing at all!’ ‘The one point of view for us to take is that of our own interests. Let us have that clearly understood; when we once ask what is “expedient for us,” there will be no doubt about the answer. This man must die. Never mind about His miracles, or His teaching, or the beauty of His character. His life is a perpetual danger to our prerogatives. I vote for death!’ And so he clashes his advice down into the middle of their waverings, like a piece of iron into yielding water; and the strong man, restrained by no conscience, and speaking out cynically the thought that is floating in all their minds, but which they dare not utter, is master of the situation, and the resolve is taken. ‘From that day forth’ they determined to put Him to death.

But John regards this selfish, cruel advice as a prophecy. Caiaphas spoke wiser things than he knew. The Divine Spirit breathed in strange fashion through even such lips as his, and moulded his savage utterance into such a form as that it became a fit expression for the very deepest thought about the nature and the power of Christ’s death. He did indeed die for that people-thinks the Evangelist-even though they have rejected Him, and the dreaded Romans have come and taken away our place and nation-but His death had a wider purpose, and was not for that nation only, but that also ‘He should gather together in one the children of God that are scattered abroad.’

Let us, then, take these two aspects of the man and his counsel: the unscrupulous priest and his savage advice; the unconscious prophet and his great prediction.

I. First, then, let us take the former point of view, and think of this unscrupulous priest and his savage advice. ‘It is expedient for us that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.’

Remember who he was, the high priest of the nation, with Aaron’s mitre on his brow, and centuries of illustrious traditions embodied in his person; set by his very office to tend the sacred flame of their Messianic hopes, and with pure hands and heart to offer sacrifice for the sins of the people; the head and crown of the national religion, in whose heart justice and mercy should have found a sanctuary if they had fled from all others; whose ears ought to have been opened to the faintest whisper of the voice of God; whose lips should ever have been ready to witness for the truth.

And see what he is! A crafty schemer, as blind as a mole to the beauty of Christ’s character and the greatness of His words; utterly unspiritual; undisguisedly selfish; rude as a boor; cruel as a cut-throat; and having reached that supreme height of wickedness in which he can dress his ugliest thought in the plainest words, and send them into the world unabashed. What a lesson this speech of Caiaphas, and the character disclosed by it, read to all persons who have a professional connection with religion!

He can take one point of view only, in regard to the mightiest spiritual revelation that the world ever saw; and that is, its bearing upon his own miserable personal interests, and the interests of the order to which he belongs. And so, whatever may be the wisdom, or miracles, or goodness of Jesus, because He threatens the prerogatives of the priesthood, He must die and be got out of the way.

This is only an extreme case of a temper and a tendency which is perennial. Popes and inquisitors and priests of all Churches have done the same, in their degree, in all ages. They have always been tempted to look upon religion and religious truth and religious organisations as existing somehow for their personal advantage. And so ‘the Church is in danger!’ generally means ‘my position is threatened,’ and heretics are got rid of, because their teaching is inconvenient for the prerogatives of a priesthood, and new truth is fought against, because officials do not see how it harmonises with their pre-eminence.

It is not popes and priests and inquisitors only that are examples of the tendency. The warning is needed by every man who stands in such a position as mine, whose business it is professionally to handle sacred things, and to administer Christian institutions and Christian ritual. All such men are tempted to look upon the truth as their stock-in-trade, and to fight against innovations, and to array themselves instinctively against progress, and frown down new aspects and new teachers of truth, simply because they threaten, or appear to threaten, the position and prerogatives of the teachers that be. Caiaphas’s sin is possible, and Caiaphas’s temptation is actual, for every man whose profession it is to handle the oracles of God.

But the lessons of this speech and character are for us all. Caiaphas’s sentence is an undisguised, unblushing avowal of a purely selfish standpoint. It is not a common depth of degradation to stand up, and without a blush to say: ‘I look at all claims of revelation, at all professedly spiritual truth, and at everything else, from one delightfully simple point of view-I ask myself, how does it bear upon what I think to be to my advantage?’ What a deal of perplexity a man is saved if he takes up that position! Yes! and how he has damned himself in the very act of doing it! For, look what this absorbing and exclusive self-regard does in the illustration before us, and let us learn what it will do to ourselves.

This selfish consideration of our own interests will make us as blind as bats to the most radiant beauty of truth; aye, and to Christ Himself, if the recognition of Him and of His message seems to threaten any of these. They tell us that fishes which live in the water of caverns come to lose their eyesight; and men that are always living in the dark holes of their own selfishly absorbed natures, they, too, lose their spiritual sight; and the fairest, loftiest, truest, and most radiant visions {which are realities} pass before their eyes, and they see them not. When you put on regard for yourselves as they do blinkers upon horses, you have no longer the power of wide, comprehensive vision, but only see straight forward upon the narrow line which you fancy to be marked out by your own interests. If ever there comes into the selfish man’s mind a truth, or an aspect of Christ’s mission, which may seem to cut against some of his practices or interests, how blind he is to it! When Lord Nelson was at Copenhagen, and they hoisted the signal of recall, he put his telescope up to his blind eye and said, ‘I do not see it!’ And that is exactly what this self-absorbed regard to our own interests does with hundreds of men who do not in the least degree know it. It blinds them to the plain will of the Commander-in-chief flying there at the masthead. ‘There are none so blind as those who will not see’; and there are none who so certainly will not see as those who have an uneasy suspicion that if they do see they will have to change their tack. So I say, look at the instance before us, and learn the lesson of the blindness to truth and beauty which are Christ Himself, which comes of a regard to one’s own interests.

Then again, this same self-regard may bring a man down to any kind and degree of wrongdoing. Caiaphas was brought down by it, being the supreme judge of his nation, to be an assassin and an accomplice of murderers. And it is only a question of accident and of circumstances how far that man will descend who once yields himself up to the guidance of such a disposition and tendency. We have all of us to fight against the developed selfishness which takes the form of this, that, and the other sin; and we have all of us, if we are wise, to fight against the undeveloped sin which lies in all selfishness. Remember that if you begin with laying down as the canon of your conduct, ‘It is expedient for me,’ you have got upon an inclined plane that tilts at a very sharp angle, and is very sufficiently greased, and ends away down yonder in the depths of darkness and of death, and it is only a question of time how far and how fast, how deep and irrevocable, will be your descent.

And lastly, this same way of looking at things which takes ‘It is expedient’ as the determining consideration, has in it an awful power of so twisting and searing a man’s conscience as that he comes to look at evil and never to know that there is anything wrong in it. This cynical high priest in our text had no conception that he was doing anything but obeying the plainest dictates of the most natural self-preservation when he gave his opinion that they had better kill Christ than have any danger to their priesthood. The crime of the actual crucifixion was diminished because the doers were so unconscious that it was a crime; but the crime of the process by which they had come to be unconscious-Oh how that was increased and deepened! So, if we fix our eyes sharply and exclusively on what makes for our own advantage, and take that as the point of view from which we determine our conduct, we may, and we shall, bring ourselves into such a condition as that our consciences will cease to be sensitive to right and wrong; and we shall do all manner of bad things, and never know it. We shall ‘wipe our mouths and say: “I have done no harm.”‘ So, I beseech you, remember this, that to live for self is hell, and that the only antagonist of such selfishness, which leads to blindness, crime, and a seared conscience, is to yield ourselves to the love of God in Jesus Christ and to say: ‘I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.’

II. And now turn briefly to the second aspect of this saying, into which the former, if I may so say, melts away. We have the unconscious prophet and his great prediction.

The Evangelist conceives that the man who filled the office of high priest, being the head of the theocratic community, was naturally the medium of a divine oracle. When he says, ‘being the high priest that year, Caiaphas prophesied,’ he does not imply that the high priestly office was annual, but simply desires to mark the fateful importance of that year for the history of the world and the priesthood. ‘In that year’ the great ‘High Priest for ever’ came and stood for a moment by the side of the earthly high priest-the Substance by the shadow-and by His offering of Himself as the one Sacrifice for sin for ever, deprived priesthood and sacrifice henceforward of all their validity. So that Caiaphas was in reality the last of the high priests, and those that succeeded him for something less than half a century were but like ghosts that walked after cock-crow. And what the Evangelist would mark is the importance of ‘that year,’ as making Caiaphas ever memorable to us. Solemn and strange that the long line of Aaron’s priesthood ended in such a man-the river in a putrid morass-and that of all the years in the history of the nation, ‘in that year’ should such a person fill such an office!

‘Being high priest he prophesied.’ And was there anything strange in a bad man’s prophesying? Did not the Spirit of God breathe through Balaam of old? Is there anything incredible in a man’s prophesying unconsciously? Did not Pilate do so, when he nailed over the Cross, ‘This is the King of the Jews,’ and wrote it in Hebrew, and in Greek, and in Latin, conceiving himself to be perpetrating a rude jest, while he was proclaiming an everlasting truth? When the Pharisees stood at the foot of the Cross and taunted Him, ‘He saved others, Himself He cannot save,’ did they not, too, speak deeper things than they knew? And were not the lips of this unworthy, selfish, unspiritual, unscrupulous, cruel priest so used as that, all unconsciously, his words lent themselves to the proclamation of the glorious central truth of Christianity, that Christ died for the nation that slew Him and rejected Him, nor for them alone, but for all the world? Look, though but for a moment, at the thoughts that come from this new view of the words which we have been considering.

They suggest to us, first of all, the twofold aspect of Christ’s death. From the human point of view it was a savage murder by forms of law for political ends: Caiaphas and the priests slaying Him to avoid a popular tumult that might threaten their prerogatives, Pilate consenting to His death to avoid the unpopularity that might follow a refusal. From the divine point of view it is God’s great sacrifice for the sin of the world. It is the most signal instance of that solemn law of Providence which runs all through the history of the world, whereby bad men’s bad deeds, strained through the fine network, as it were, of the divine providence, lose their poison and become nutritious and fertilising. ‘Thou makest the wrath of men to praise Thee; with the residue thereof Thou girdest Thyself.’ The greatest crime ever done in the world is the greatest blessing ever given to the world. Man’s sin works out the loftiest divine purpose, even as the coral insects blindly build up the reef that keeps back the waters, or as the sea in its wild, impotent rage, seeking to overwhelm the land, only throws upon the beach a barrier that confines its waves and curbs their fury.

Then, again, this second aspect of the counsel of Caiaphas suggests for us the twofold consequences of that death on the nation itself. This Gospel of John was probably written after the destruction of Jerusalem. By the time that our Evangelist penned these words, the Romans had come and taken away their place and their nation. The catastrophe that Caiaphas and his party had, by their short-sighted policy, tried to prevent, had been brought about by the very deed itself. For Christ’s death was practically the reason for the destruction of the Jewish commonwealth. When ‘the husbandmen said, Come! let us kill Him, and seize on the inheritance,’ which is simply putting Caiaphas’s counsel into other language, they thereby deprived themselves of the inheritance. And so Christ’s death was the destruction and not the salvation of the nation.

And yet, it was true that He died for that people, for every man of them, for Caiaphas as truly as for John, for Judas as truly as for Peter, for all the Scribes and the Pharisees that mocked round His Cross, as truly as for the women that stood silently weeping there. He died for them all, and John, looking back upon the destruction of his nation, can yet say, ‘He died for that people.’ Yes! and just because He did, and because they rejected Him, His death, which they would not let be their salvation, became their destruction and their ruin. Oh! brethren, it is always so! He is either ‘a savour of life unto life, or a savour of death unto death!’ ‘Behold! I lay in Zion for a foundation, a tried Stone.’ Build upon it and you are safe. If you do not build upon it, that Stone becomes ‘a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence.’ You must either build upon Christ or fall over Him; you must either build upon Christ, or be crushed to powder under Him. Make your choice! The twofold effect is wrought ever, but we can choose which of the two shall be wrought upon us.

Lastly, we have here the twofold sphere in which our Lord’s mighty death works its effects.

I have already said that this Gospel was written after the fall of Jerusalem. The whole tone of it shows that the conception of the Church as quite separate from Judaism was firmly established. The narrower national system had been shivered, and from out of the dust and hideous ruin of its crushing fall had emerged the fairer reality of a Church as wide as the world. The Temple on Zion-which was but a small building after all-had been burned with fire. It was their place, as Caiaphas called it. But the clearing away of the narrower edifice had revealed the rising walls of the great temple, the Christian Church, whose roof overarches every land, and in whose courts all men may stand and praise the Lord. So John, in his home in Ephesus, surrounded by flourishing churches in which Jews formed a small and ever-decreasing element, recognised how far the dove with the olive-branch In its mouth flew, and how certainly that nation was only a little fragment of the many for whom Christ died.

‘The children of God that were scattered abroad’ were all to be united round that Cross. Yes! the only thing that unites men together is their common relation to a Divine Redeemer. That bond is deeper than all national bonds, than all blood-bonds, than community of race, than family, than friendship, than social ties, than community of opinion, than community of purpose and action. It is destined to absorb them all. All these are transitory and they are imperfect; men wander isolated notwithstanding them all. But if we are knit to Christ, we are knit to all who are also knit to Him. One life animates all the limbs, and one life’s blood circulates through all the veins. ‘So also is Christ.’ We are one in Him, in whom all the body fitly joined together maketh increase, and in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth. If we have yielded to the power of that Cross which draws us to itself, we shall have been more utterly alone, in our penitence and in our conscious surrender to Christ, than ever we were before. But He sets the solitary in families, and that solemn experience of being alone with our Judge and our Saviour will be followed by the blessed sense that we are no more solitary, but ‘fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God.’

That death brings men into the family of God. He will ‘gather into one the scattered children of God.’ They are called children by anticipation. For surely nothing can be clearer than that the doctrine of all John’s writings is that men are not children of God by virtue of their humanity, except in the inferior sense of being made by Him, and in His image as creatures with spirit and will, but become children of God through faith in the Son of God, which brings about that new birth, whereby we become partakers of the Divine nature. ‘To as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.’

So I beseech you, turn yourselves to that dear Christ who has died for us all, for us each, for me and for thee, and put your confidence in His great sacrifice. You will find that you pass from isolation into society, from death into life, from the death of selfishness into the life of God. Listen to Him, who says: ‘Other sheep I have which are not of this fold, them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice: and there shall be one flock’ because there is ‘one Shepherd.’

John 11:49-52. One of them, named Caiaphas, &c. — While some of the council seemed apprehensive of the danger of attempting any thing against Jesus, and, as is probable from John 12:42, urged the unlawfulness of what was proposed to be done, from the consideration of Christ’s innocence and miracles, Caiaphas, who, among the many sudden revolutions which happened in the government about that time, was high- priest that year — That memorable year in which Christ was to die; said unto them, Ye know nothing at all — Of what the present urgency of affairs requires. He reproves their slow deliberation in so clear a case; and treats them as persons unacquainted with the nature of government, which, he signified, required that certain acts of injustice should not be scrupled at, when they were expedient for the safety of the state: and that they might easily find out a remedy for their present perplexity in the death of this Jesus, who occasioned such an alarm. It is justly observed by Dr. Campbell, that it was not with ignorance of the subject about which they were deliberating, the doctrine and miracles of our Lord, nor with ignorance of the law, for the punishment of offenders of all denominations, that Caiaphas here upbraids them, but with the want of political wisdom. They were in perplexity; he signified, they knew not what to resolve upon, or what measure to adopt in a case which was extremely clear: namely, “that though their putting Jesus to death could not be vindicated by strict law or justice, it might be vindicated from expediency and reasons of state; or, rather, from the great law of necessity, the danger being no less than the destruction of their country, and so imminent, that even the murder of an innocent man (admitting Jesus to be innocent) was not to be considered as an evil, but rather as a sacrifice every way proper for the safety of the nation. May we not reasonably conjecture, that such a manner of arguing must have arisen from objections made by Nicodemus, who, as we learn from John 7:50, &c., was not afraid to object to them the illegality of their proceedings? or, by Joseph of Arimathea, who was also one of them, and concerning whom we have this honourable testimony, (Luke 22:50-51,) that he did not concur in their resolutions?” It is expedient that one man should die for the people — Doubtless, Caiaphas said this from a principle of human policy; nevertheless, the evangelist assures us, that his tongue was overruled by God to speak these words, and that, in uttering them, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation — The nation of the Jews; and that he should gather together in one — Namely, in one church; the children of God that were scattered abroad — Through all nations and ages. That is, as God was wont anciently to communicate his oracles to the high-priest, clothed with the pontifical garments; so he inspired these words into Caiaphas, who now bore that office, though he was not sensible himself of the inspiration, and meant what he said in a different sense from what God intended should be signified by it. And thus Caiaphas gave, unawares, as clear a testimony to the priestly, as Pilate did to the kingly, office of Christ.

11:47-53 There can hardly be a more clear discovery of the madness that is in man's heart, and of its desperate enmity against God, than what is here recorded. Words of prophecy in the mouth, are not clear evidence of a principle of grace in the heart. The calamity we seek to escape by sin, we take the most effectual course to bring upon our own heads; as those do who think by opposing Christ's kingdom, to advance their own worldly interest. The fear of the wicked shall come upon them. The conversion of souls is the gathering of them to Christ as their ruler and refuge; and he died to effect this. By dying he purchased them to himself, and the gift of the Holy Ghost for them: his love in dying for believers should unite them closely together.Caiaphas - See the notes at Luke 3:2.

Being high-Priest that same year - It is probable that the office of high priest was at first for life, if there was no conduct that rendered the person unworthy the office. In that case the incumbent was removed. Thus Abiathar was removed by Solomon, 1 Kings 2:27. Subsequently the kings, and especially the conquerors of Judea, claimed and exercised the right of removing the high priest at pleasure, so that, in the time of the Romans, the office was held but a short time. (See the Chronological Table.) Caiaphas held the office for about 10 years.

Ye know nothing at all - That is, you know nothing respecting the subject under consideration. You are fools to hesitate about so plain a case. It is probable that there was a party, even in the Sanhedrin, that was secretly in favor of Jesus as the Messiah. Of that party Nicodemus was certainly one. See John 3:1; John 7:50-51; John 11:45; John 12:42; "Among the chief rulers, also, many believed on him," etc.

47-54. What do we? for this man doeth many miracles—"While we trifle, 'this man,' by His 'many miracles,' will carry all before Him; the popular enthusiasm will bring on a revolution, which will precipitate the Romans upon us, and our all will go down in one common ruin." What a testimony to the reality of our Lord's miracles, and their resistless effect, from His bitterest enemies! The high priest by the Divine law was to be but one, and he the eldest son of Aaron’s house; nor was he to be for a year, but for his life, as appeareth by a multitude of texts in the books of Moses: but all things were now out of order in the Jewish church; they were under the power of the Romans; all places, especially that of the high priest, were bought and sold amongst them: some say they had two high priests, others say but one, only he had an assistant, called by that name, that had a partnership in the honour. After Herod’s time there was no regard to the family of Aaron, or the Asmoneans, but the Romans made what high priest they pleased; so as Josephus tells us, that the Jews, who had but thirteen high priests from Aaron’s to Solomon’s time, which was six hundred and twelve years; nor more than eighteen in four hundred and sixty years after, to the captivity of Babylon; nor more than fifteen from thence to the time of Antiochus, which was four hundred and fourteen years; had twenty eight between the time that Herod began to reign and Jerusalem was destroyed; of which this Caiaphas was one, and certainly the chief, (if there were two at this time), and consequently the president of their great court, whom all attended to, and his words went a great way with the rest. He charges the rest of the council with folly, as not considering what was fit to be done.

And one of them, named Caiaphas,.... See Gill on Matthew 26:3, See Gill on Luke 3:2, See Gill on John 18:13.

being the high priest that same year; the high priesthood originally was not annual, but for life; but towards the close of the second temple, it came into the hands of the king, to appoint who would to be high priest (o); and it became venal; it was purchased with money; insomuch that they changed the priesthood once a twelve month, and every year a new high priest was made (p) now this man being in such an high office, and a man of no conscience, and of bad principles, being a Sadducee, as seems from Acts 4:6, who denied the resurrection of the dead, and was unconcerned about a future state; and having no restraint upon him, in a bold, haughty, and blustering manner,

said unto them, ye know nothing at all; ye are a parcel of ignorant and stupid creatures, mere fools and idiots, to sit disputing and arguing, pro and con about such a fellow as this; what is to be done is obvious enough, and that is to take away this man's life, without any more ado; it matters not what he is, nor what he does; these are things that are not to be considered, they are out of the question; would you save the nation, destroy the man; things are come to this crisis, that either his life must go, or the nation perish; and which is most expedient, requires no time to debate about.

(o) Misn. Yebamot, c. 6. sect. 4. (p) T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 8. 2. Juchasin, fol. 139. 1.

{7} And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all,

(7) The raging and angry company of the false church persuade themselves that they cannot be in safety, unless he is taken away, who alone upholds the Church. And the wisdom of the flesh judges in the same way in worldly affairs, which is governed by the spirit of giddiness or madness.

John 11:49-50. Caiaphas, however, solves this question of helplessness, censuring his colleagues on account of the latter, since the means to be adopted had been clearly put into their hands by circumstances.

εἷς τις] unus quidam. Comp. Mark 14:47; Mark 14:51, et al.; Bernhardy, p. 442. This one alone was a man of counsel.

Καϊάφας] see on Matthew 26:3; Luke 3:2.

τοῦ ἐνιαυτοῦ ἐκείνου] He was high priest of that year. The previous and following time is left out of consideration, not, however, negatived, but simply that remarkable and fatal year is brought into prominence. Comp. John 18:13. The supposition of an annual change in the office cannot be ascribed (against Bretschneider, Strauss, Schenkel, Scholten) even to a Pseudo-John, considering his manifest acquaintance elsewhere with Jewish affairs; but to appeal to the fact that the high priests were frequently changed in those times, and that actually before Caiaphas several were only a year in office, Josephus, Antt. xviii. 2. 2 (Hengstenberg), is least of all applicable in the case of Caiaphas, who was already in office, A.D. 25. Again, the assumption of an alternative holding of the office by Annas and Caiaphas, in virtue of a private agreement (comp. on Luke, loc. cit.; so Baur, ascribing this view to the Pseudo-John, and Maier[95]), is as purely arbitrary (see Bleek, p. 257) as the pretended allusion to the change of Asiarchs (Gfrörer).

ὑμεῖς] you, people.

οὐκ οἰδατε ΟὐΔΈΝ] that you can still ask: ΤΊ ΠΟΙΟῦΜΕΝ.

ΟὐΔῈ ΛΟΓΊΖ.] (see critical notes): nor do ye consider that, etc. The proud, discourteous style of this address evinces passionate feeling generally, not exactly the manner (Josephus, Bell. ii. 8. 14) of Sadduceeism (Hengstenberg, Godet); from Acts 5:17 it is by no means clear that Caiaphas was a Sadducee.

ἡμῖν] for us Sanhedrists.

In ΣΥΜΦΈΡΕΙ, ἽΝΑ, as in John 16:7, the conception of divine destination is expressed: that it is of advantage to us that one man must die, etc.

ὑπέρ] in commodum, in order that the people may be preserved from the destruction which threatens them, John 11:48.

ἀπόληται] through their subjugation, and the overthrow of the national independent existence.

Observe the interchange of ἜΘΝΟς (the people as a nation) and λαός (the people as a political, here theocratic, community).

The principle itself, which regarded in itself may be moral and noble, is expressed in the feeling of the most ungodly and selfish policy. For similar expressions, see Schoettgen and Wetstein. To refer the scene to a legend afterwards current among the Christians (Weizsäcker), is opposed to the earnest narrative of the evangelist.

[95] Here, too, belongs the supposition of Ebrard (apud Olshausen), that the two alternated with each other in the offering of the annual sacrifice of atonement. And that John means to say that in that year this function fell to Caiaphas. But he does not say so.

John 11:49. Εἷς δέ τις ἐξ αὐτῶν Καϊάφας. “But a certain one of them, Caiaphas.” Winer (p. 146) says that τὶς does not destroy the arithmetical force of εἷς. This may be so: but the use of εἷς in similar forms is a peculiarity of later Greek. Caiaphas (Matthew 26:3) is a surname = Kephas, added to the original name of this High Priest, Joseph. He held office from A.D. 18 to 36, when he was deposed by Vitellius.—ἀρχιερεὺς ὢν τοῦ ἐνιαυτοῦ ἐκείνου, “being High Priest that year,” not as if the writer supposed the high priesthood was an office held for a year only, but desiring to emphasise that during that marked and fatal year of our Lord’s crucifixion Caiaphas held the position of highest authority: as if he said “during the year of which we speak Caiaphas was High Priest”. “Non vocat anni illius pontificem, quod annuum duntaxat esset munus, sed quum venale esset transferretur ad varios homines praeter Legis praescriptum.” Calvin. And Josephus (Ant., xx. 10) reminds us that there were twenty-eight high priests in 107 years.—Ὑμεῖς οὐκ οἰδατε οὐδέν. “Ye [contemptuous] know nothing at all,” οὐδὲ λογίζεσθε, “nor do ye take account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and the whole nation perish not”. The ἵνα clause is the subject of the sentence, “that one man die for the people is expedient”; as frequently, cf. Matthew 10:25; Matthew 18:6, John 16:7, 1 Corinthians 4:3. On the use of ἵνα in this Gospel see Burton’s Moods and Tenses, 211–219. Caiaphas enounced an unquestionably sound principle (see Wetstein’s examples); but nothing could surpass the cold-blooded craft of his application of it. He saw that an opportunity was given them of at once getting rid of an awkward factor in their community, a person dangerous to their influence, and of currying favour with Rome, by putting to death one who was claiming to be king of the Jews. “Why!” he says, “do you not see that this man with His eclát and popular following, instead of endangering us and bringing suspicion on our loyalty, is exactly the person we may use to exhibit our fidelity to the empire? Sacrifice Jesus, and you will not only rid yourselves of a troublesome person, but will show a watchful zeal for the supremacy of Rome, which will ingratiate you with the imperial authorities.”

49. Caiaphas] This was a surname; ‘who was called Caiaphas’ Matthew 26:3 (where see note on the Sanhedrin). His original name was Joseph. Caiaphas is either the Syriac form of Cephas, a ‘rock,’ or, according to another derivation, means ‘depression.’ The highpriesthood had long since ceased to descend from father to son. Pilate’s predecessor, Valerius Gratus, had deposed Annas and set up in succession Ismael, Eleazar (son of Annas), Simon, and Joseph Caiaphas (son-in-law of Annas); Caiaphas held the office from a. d. 18 to 36, when he was deposed by Vitellius. Annas in spite of his deposition was still regarded as in some sense high-priest (John 18:13; Luke 3:2; Acts 4:6), possibly as president of the Sanhedrin (Acts 5:21; Acts 5:27; Acts 7:1; Acts 9:1-2; Acts 22:5; Acts 23:2; Acts 23:4; Acts 24:1). Caiaphas is not president here, or he would not be spoken of merely as ‘one of them.’

that same year] This has been urged as an objection, as if the Evangelist ignorantly supposed that the highpriesthood was an annual office,—a mistake which would go far to prove that the Evangelist was not a Jew, and therefore not S. John. But there is no ‘same’ in the Greek (comp. John 1:33, John 4:53, John 5:9; John 5:11), and ‘that year’ means ‘that notable and fatal year.’ The same expression recurs John 11:51 and John 18:13. Even if there were not this obvious meaning for ‘that year,’ the frequent changes in the office at this period would fully explain the insertion without the notion of an annual change being implied. There had been some twenty or thirty high-priests in S. John’s lifetime.

Ye know nothing at all] An inference from their asking ‘What do we?’ It was quite obvious what they must do. The ‘ye’ is contemptuously emphatic. The resolute but unscrupulous character of the man is evident.

John 11:49. Τοῦ ἐνιαυτοῦ ἐκείνου) in that year, a memorable one, as being that in which Jesus was about to die. It was the first and chiefest year in the seventy weeks [Daniel 9], the fortieth before the destruction of Jerusalem, and one celebrated also in Jewish history for various reasons. Even before this year, and after it, Caiaphas was high priest. At the time that John was writing his gospel, it was remembered, how great and how remarkable that year had been, and what a leading part Caiaphas had taken among the opponents of the Gospel. Thrice the Evangelist notes the high priesthood of Caiaphas as being in this year: in this passage, and at John 11:51, and at ch. John 18:13. Comp. Acts 6:6, “Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest.”—ὑμεῖς, ye) The high priest reproves the slowness in resolve of his fellow-counsellors, and, sure in his purpose, affirms that the matter can be most easily accomplished: that it is not the people who should be attacked; but that it is Jesus alone, who must be taken out of the way. Caiaphas abuses the strength of mind, which arose from prophecy,[304] for the purpose of a mere political affirmation.

[304] Given him supernaturally as high priest.—E. and T.

Verse 49. - But a certain one of them, (named) Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all. Among the divided interests and irresolute fears of the Pharisees, who had not made up their minds as to the right course to pursue, "one of them," i.e. of the council, a man of firm will and hectoring disposition, had a clear though devilish purpose of political expediency, and a stern resolve, if he could, to repress the inconvenient manifestation of religious earnest-ness - Caiaphas. We know that Annas is spoken of as ἀρχιερεὺς in John 18:15, 19. And Annas and Caiaphas are both said to be "high priests" (Luke 3:2). In Acts 4:6 Annas is spoken of as high priest, Caiaphas being associated with "John and Alexander." This becomes more comprehensible when we learn from Josephus ('Ant.,' 18:02. 2 and 4. 3) that Valerius Gratus (in the year A.D. ) had deprived Annas (or Hanan, Ananias, Ananas) of the office, "when he had held it for seven years." So great, however, was the influence of Annas, that, either to consult his temper or that of the people, who would consider him the legal high priest, the office was conferred upon members of his family in succession, first on Ishmael, then on Eleazer the son of Ishmael, then on Simon his son, and finally on Joseph Caiaphas (who is declared by St. John (John 18:13) to be the son-in-law of Annas, thus explaining his appointment on the one hand, and the continued influence on the other of the unscrupulous Annas, who was high priest de jure). Joseph Caiaphas held the office from A.D. to A.D. , and thus throughout the ministry of Jesus. The apostle's remark (repeated John 18:13) that he was "high priest that same year" has been set down by Strauss, Scholton, and others to ignorance on the part of the writer of the Hebrew law of the priesthood. This is excessively improbable, even with a late author of the second century, who evidently knew as much concerning Judaea and its history as the author of the Fourth Gospel did indubitably possess. It is enough that the evangelist singles out "that memorable year" (Lucke, Meyer and Lunge, etc.) of the death of Christ; and remarks on the man who was holding the position at this solemn time, with obvious reference to the fact that now for many years the functions of the high priest were discharged only at the pleasure of the Roman governor, who might, as Caiaphas himself said, abolish the office altogether if he chose arbitrarily to do so. The first words of Caiaphas, "Ye know nothing at all," are brusque, rough, imperious, but are quite akin to what we know elsewhere of the manners of the man (Josephus, 'Bell. Jud.,' 2:08. 14), and of the aristocratic clique of which he was the head. John 11:49Caiaphas

A Sadducee, who held the office for eighteen years.

That year

This has been cited to show that John is guilty of a historical error, since, according to the Mosaic law, the high priesthood was held for life. The occurrence of the phrase three times (John 11:49, John 11:51) is significant, and, so far from indicating an error, goes to connect the office of Caiaphas with his part in accomplishing the death of Christ. It devolved on the High Priest to offer every year the great sacrifice of atonement for sin; and in that year, that memorable year, it fell to Caiaphas to be the instrument of the sacrifice of Him that taketh away the sin of the world. Dante places Caiaphas and his father-in-law, Annas, far down in Hell in the Bolgia of the Hypocrites:

"to mine eyes there rushed

One crucified with three stakes on the ground.

When me he saw, he writhed himself all over,

Blowing into his beard with suspirations;

And the friar Catalan who noticed this,

Said to me: 'This transfixed one whom thou seest,

Counselled the Pharisees that it was meet

To put one man to torture for the people.

Crosswrise and naked is he on the path,

As thou perceivest; and he needs must feel,


John 11:49 Interlinear
John 11:49 Parallel Texts

John 11:49 NIV
John 11:49 NLT
John 11:49 ESV
John 11:49 NASB
John 11:49 KJV

John 11:49 Bible Apps
John 11:49 Parallel
John 11:49 Biblia Paralela
John 11:49 Chinese Bible
John 11:49 French Bible
John 11:49 German Bible

Bible Hub

John 11:48
Top of Page
Top of Page