Luke 3:2
Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.
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(2) Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests.—Strictly speaking, there could be only one high priest, and the office was filled at this time by Caiaphas. Annas had been appointed by the Roman Procurator Quirinus, A.D. 7. In A.D. 14, he had to give way to Ishmael, who was appointed by Gratus successor to Quirinus; then followed Eleazar and Simon, and then, in A.D. 25, Joseph Caiaphas, who had married the daughter of Annas (John 18:13). It was natural that this relationship should involve the restoration, as far as possible, of his old dignity, and either as the Nasi or President of the Sanhedrin, or as the Sagan or deputy of the high priest, he may have acted as a coadjutor, as in our Lord’s trial, and come to be spoken of as still high priest. Five of his sons, it may be noted, filled the Pontifical office in succession. In Acts 4:6, he is named as distinctly the high priest. In St. John, as above, he shares the judicial authority with Caiaphas. St. Matthew and St. Mark do not name him.

Unto John the son of Zacharias.—This description of the Baptist is peculiar to St. Luke.

(2) As we go further back the names are all different till we come to Zerubbabel; and the list in St. Luke from Zerubbabel to Joseph contains twenty names, inclusive, while those in St. Matthew are only thirteen.

(2) The difference in the number of names presents no real difficulty. We have seen (Note on Matthew 1:9) that St. Matthew omits three names in the list of kings in order to adapt it to the memoria technica of fourteen names in each group, and what he did in one case he may well have done in another for the same reason.

3:1-14 The scope and design of John's ministry were, to bring the people from their sins, and to their Saviour. He came preaching, not a sect, or party, but a profession; the sign or ceremony was washing with water. By the words here used John preached the necessity of repentance, in order to the remission of sins, and that the baptism of water was an outward sign of that inward cleansing and renewal of heart, which attend, or are the effects of true repentance, as well as a profession of it. Here is the fulfilling of the Scriptures, Isa 40:3, in the ministry of John. When way is made for the gospel into the heart, by taking down high thoughts, and bringing them into obedience to Christ, by levelling the soul, and removing all that hinders us in the way of Christ and his grace, then preparation is made to welcome the salvation of God. Here are general warnings and exhortations which John gave. The guilty, corrupted race of mankind is become a generation of vipers; hateful to God, and hating one another. There is no way of fleeing from the wrath to come, but by repentance; and by the change of our way the change of our mind must be shown. If we are not really holy, both in heart and life, our profession of religion and relation to God and his church, will stand us in no stead at all; the sorer will our destruction be, if we do not bring forth fruits meet for repentance. John the Baptist gave instructions to several sorts of persons. Those that profess and promise repentance, must show it by reformation, according to their places and conditions. The gospel requires mercy, not sacrifice; and its design is, to engage us to do all the good we can, and to be just to all men. And the same principle which leads men to forego unjust gain, leads to restore that which is gained by wrong. John tells the soldiers their duty. Men should be cautioned against the temptations of their employments. These answers declared the present duty of the inquirers, and at once formed a test of their sincerity. As none can or will accept Christ's salvation without true repentance, so the evidence and effects of this repentance are here marked out.Annas and Caiaphas being highpriests - There was, properly speaking, but one high priest of the Jews; yet the name of high priest continued to be given to those who had been in that office, and especially when they still possessed some civil office after they had left the high priesthood. In this case it appears that "Caiapas" was high priest, and Annas "had been," but had been dismissed from the office. It is highly probable that he still held an office under the Romans, and was perhaps president of the Sanhedrin. He is mentioned before Caiaphas because he was the father-in-law to Caiaphas, and probably was the eldest, and had been longest in office. Instances similar to this may be found in Josephus.

There is one remark to be made here about the manner in which the gospels are written. They have every mark of openness and honesty. An impostor does not mention names, and times, and places particularly. If he did, it would be easy to ascertain that he was an impostor. But the sacred writers describe objects and people as if they were perfectly familiar with them. They never appear to be "guarding" themselves. They speak of things most minutely. If, therefore, they had been impostors, it would have been easy to detect them. If, for example, John did not begin to preach in the 15th year of Tiberius - if Philip was "not" tetrarch of Iturea - if Pontius Pilate was not governor of Judea, how easy would it have been to detect them in falsehood! Yet it was never done. Nay, we have evidence of that age, in Josephus, that these descriptions are strictly true; and, consequently, the gospels must have been written by people who were personally acquainted with what they wrote, who were not impostors, and who were "honest" people. If they were "honest," then the Christian religion is true.

2. Annas and Caiaphas … high priests—the former, though deposed, retained much of his influence, and, probably, as sagan or deputy, exercised much of the power of the high priesthood along with Caiaphas (Joh 18:13; Ac 4:6). Both Zadok and Abiathar acted as high priests in David's time (2Sa 15:35), and it seems to have become the fixed practice to have two (2Ki 25:18). (Also see on [1547]Mt 3:1.)

word of God came unto John—Such formulas, of course, are never used when speaking of Jesus, because the divine nature manifested itself in Him not at certain isolated moments of His life. He was the one everlasting manifestation of the Godhead—The Word [Olshausen].

See Poole on "Luke 3:1" 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 (a), there can be but "one high priest" , "in all the world"; and besides, is contrary to their canons, which were then in being, and still remain; one (b) of which runs thus, "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 (c),

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

And which is more largely expressed by one of their commentators (d),

"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 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, , "the Sagan of the priests" (f). 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 (g); which was not the "Sagan", but another priest; and even such an one was called an high priest, as appears from the following story (h).

"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", "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 (i);

"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 (k) 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 (l); 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 (m), 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.

(a) In Misn. Menachot, c. 13. sect. 10. (b) T. Hieros. Sanhedrin, fol. 29. 1. Maimon. Hilch. Cele Hamikdash, c. 4. sect. 15. (c) T. Bab. Yorma, fol. 8. 2.((d) Bartenora in Misn. Yoma, c 1. sect. 1.((e) Targum in 2 Kings 23.4. & xxv. 18. & in Jeremiah 20.1. 3. & xxix. 26, & lii. 24. (f) Misn. Shekalim, c. 6. sect. 1. T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 8. 1. Juchasin, fol. 57. 1.((g) Misn. Yoma, c. 1. sect. 1.((h) 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.((i) Hilch. Cele Hamikdash, c. 4. sect. 16. (k) T. Hieros. Yoma, fol. 41. 1.((l) Misn. Yoma, c. 4. sect. 1.((m) Ib. c. 3. sect. 9.

{a} Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.

(a) Josephus calls him Ananus.

Luke 3:2. ἐπὶ ἀρχιερέως Ἄννα καὶ Καιάφα, under the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas. The use of the singular ἀρχιερέως in connection with two names is peculiar, whence doubtless the correction into the easier ἀρχιερέων (T. R.); and the combination of two men as holding the office at the same time, is likewise somewhat puzzling. As Caiaphas was the actual high priest at the time, one would have expected his name to have stood, if not alone, at least first = under Caiaphas, the actual high priest, and the ex-high priest, Annas, still an influential senior. One can only suppose that among the caste of high priests past and present (there had been three between Annas and Caiaphas) Annas was so outstanding that it came natural to name him first. Annas had been deposed arbitrarily by the Roman governor, and this may have increased his influence among his own people. His period of office was A.D. 7–14, that of Caiaphas A.D. 17–35.—ἐγένετο ῥῆμα, etc., came the word of God to John; this the great spiritual event, so carefully dated, after the manner of the O. T. in narrating the beginning of the career of a Hebrew prophet (vide, e.g., Jeremiah 1:1). But the date is common to the ministry of John and that of Jesus, who is supposed to have begun His work shortly after the Baptist.—ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ. From next verse it may be gathered that the desert here means the whole valley of the Jordan, El-Ghor.Luke 3:2. Ἐπὶ ἀρχιερέως, under the High priesthood of, etc.) The singular number; which does not however prevent Caiaphas being included: see Acts 4:6. Just as in genealogies the usual Hebrew mode of expression is Sons in the plural number, even though only one son follows, viz. because often there are wont to be more than one: ex. gr. 1 Chronicles 23:17, “The sons of Eliezer were Rehabiah—And Eliezer had none other Sons,” etc.: So here High Priest is said in the singular number, although two men, Annas and Caiaphas, are named: (It is owing to this that the Gothic Version reads ἀρχιέρεων, which is also printed in some editions), for there was bound to be but one High priest, and the very ears were averse from the plural number.[34]—[ῬΗΜΑ ΘΕΟῦ, the word of God) It was to this that the great effectiveness of John’s ministry was due.—V. g.]—ἐπὶ, upon John [Engl. Vers. not so well, unto John]) immediately and directly [not through the mediation and instrumentality of others]. The same phrase occurs LXX. Jeremiah 1:1 [τὸ ῥῆμα τοῦ Θεοῦ ὃ ἐγένετο ἐπὶ Ἱερεμίαν, “The word of God which came upon Jeremiah.”]

[34] Rec. Text has ἐπʼ ἀρχιερέων with ac Vulg. But ABCDb have ἐπὶ ἀρχιερέως; and the canon, “Præstat ardua lectio procliviori,” favours the latter.—ED. and TRANSL.Verse 2. - Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests. The older authorities read, "in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas." The mention of two high priests arises from the fact of the legitimate high priest, Annas, having been deposed some fifteen years previously by the action of the then Roman procurator, Valerius Gratus In spite of this official deposition, he still apparently continued to be regarded as the legitimate high priest by the great majority of his countrymen. His great position and claim to the pontifical office, as we shall see, was markedly recognized at the time of the state trial of our Lord. Since his deposition by the Roman government, four high priests had been promoted in succession to the office of chief pontiff. It appears that at this time and for a long series of years, this great and powerful man, although not daring publicly to defy the Roman authority by assuming the insignia of the high priest, filled the office of Nasi, or president of the Sanhedrin. The word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. In the days of the above-mentioned rulers - pagan and Jewish, civil and ecclesiastical-came the summons to the son of Zacharias in his solitude in the wilderness. From childhood he had been designated for some great work, and he knew it; his whole early life had been a training for it; and at last the summons came. We are not told of its special form; it was doubtless a theophany, or a vision somewhat similar to the which revealed to Moses and Isaiah, to Jeremiah and Ezekiel, their special work, and the way in which that special work was to be done. Came (ἐγένετο)

Lit., arose, or came to pass.


The Synoptists introduce him under different titles. Here, the son of Zacharias ; Matthew, the Baptist ; Mark, the Baptizer.

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