Matthew 26:3
Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas,
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(3) Then assembled together.—We learn from John 11:49-50. that the plan, as far as Caiaphas was concerned, had been formed before, immediately after the raising of Lazarus. What had happened since—the kingly entry, the expulsion of the money-changers, the way in which our Lord had baffled their attempt to entrap Him in His speech—would all work as so many motives to immediate action. The meeting now assembled may have been either a formal session of the Sanhedrin, or an informal conference of its chief members prior to the regular meeting. The former seems, on the whole, the more probable. The “chief priests” were the heads of the twenty-four courses; the elders of the people were the representatives—how elected or selected we do not know—of the citizens of Jerusalem. St. Mark and St. Luke name “scribes” instead of “elders.” These two bodies may have been identical, but more probably the scribes of the Council represented the whole class of interpreters of the Law, who bore that name in its wider sense.

The high priest, who was called Caiaphas.—The name was a distinctive one added to his proper name of Joseph. Of his previous history we know that he had married the daughter of Annas, who had filled the office of high priest before him (John 18:13), and who still occupied, possibly as Nasi or President, an influential position in the Council and retained his titular pre-eminence. (See Note on Luke 3:2.) He had been high priest from the commencement of our Lord’s ministry, and had, therefore, watched His ministry in Jerusalem with a jealous fear. We may probably trace his influence in the mission of the scribes from Jerusalem, whom we have seen as opponents of that ministry in Galilee (Mark 3:22; Luke 5:17). The meeting in his house implied a coalition of parties commonly opposed, for Caiaphas and his personal adherents were Sadducees (Acts 5:17), and as such, courted the favour of their Roman rulers (John 11:48), while the scribes were, for the most part, Pharisees, and assertors of national independence.

Matthew 26:3-5. The chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders — They together constituted the sanhedrim, or great council, which had the supreme authority both in civil and ecclesiastical affairs. Assembled together unto the palace of the high-priest — Namely, to deliberate how they might take Jesus, and put him to death; and consulted how they might take him by subtlety — Privately, by some artifice, without giving an alarm to his friends. But they said, Not on the feast-day — This was the result of human wisdom. But when Judas came, they changed their purpose. So the counsel of God took place, and the true paschal Lamb was offered up on the great day of the paschal solemnity.

26:1-5 Our Lord had often told of his sufferings as at a distance, now he speaks of them as at hand. At the same time the Jewish council consulted how they might put him to death secretly. But it pleased God to defeat their intention. Jesus, the true paschal Lamb, was to be sacrificed for us at that very time, and his death and resurrection rendered public.Then assembled ... - This was a meeting of the great council or Sanhedrin.

See the notes at Matthew 5:22.

The palace - The original word properly denotes the Hall or large area in the center of the dwelling, called the court. See the notes at Matthew 9:1-8. It may be understood, however, as referring to the palace itself.

The high priest - Holding the office that was first conferred on Aaron, Exodus 28. The office was at first hereditary, descending on the oldest son, Numbers 3:10. Antiochus Epiphanes (160 BC), when he had possession of Judea, sold the office to the highest bidder. In the year 152 BC, Alexander, King of Syria, conferred the office on Jonathan (1 Macc. 10:18-20), whose brother Simon was, afterward created by the Jews both prince and high priest, 1 Macc. 14:35-47. His posterity, who at the same time sustained the office of kings, occupied the station of high priest until the time of Herod, who changed the incumbents of the office at pleasure - a liberty which the Romans ever afterward exercised without any restraint. The office was never more fluctuating than in the time of our Saviour. Hence, it is said that Caiaphas was high priest "for that year," John 11:51. Persons who had been high priests, and had been removed from office, still retained the name. Hence, more than one high priest is sometimes mentioned, though strictly there was but one who held the office.


Mt 26:1-16. Christ's Final Announcement of his Death, as Now within Two Days, and the Simultaneous Conspiracy of the Jewish Authorities to Compass It—The Anointing at Bethany—Judas Agrees with the Chief Priests to Betray His Lord. ( = Mr 14:1-11; Lu 22:1-6; Joh 12:1-11).

For the exposition, see on [1361]Mr 14:1-11.

See Poole on "Matthew 26:5".

Then assembled together the chief priests,.... About the same time, two days before the passover, that Jesus said these things to his disciples, as is plain from Mark 14:1. By "the chief priests" are meant, either such who had been high priests, or such as were the heads of the twenty four courses of the priests; or rather, the principal men of the priesthood, who were chosen out of the rest, to be members of the great sanhedrim:

and the Scribes; the doctors, of the law, who wrote out copies of the law for the people, and interpreted it to them in a literal way: this clause is left out in the Vulgate Latin, and in Munster's Hebrew Gospel, and in the Arabic and Ethiopic versions, and in the Alexandrian copy, and some others, but is retained in, the Syriac version; and no doubt, but these men had a place in this grand council:

and the elders of the people; these were the civil magistrates; so that this assembly consisted both of ecclesiastics and laymen, as the sanhedrim did, of priests, Levites, and Israelites (t): these came

unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas; his name was Joseph, but his surname Caiaphas; a word not of the same original with Cephas, as Camero thought; for these two words begin with different letters, nor are the rest the same. Now, though a king of Israel might not sit in the sanhedrim, yet an high priest might, provided he was sufficiently qualified with wisdom (u). The president of this grand council at this time, should be Rabban Gamaliel, Paul's master; unless it was Caiaphas, at whose house they were: how they came to meet at the high priest's palace, deserves inquiry; since their proper and usual place of meeting, was a chamber in the temple, called Gazith (w), or the paved chamber: now let it be observed, that according to the accounts the Jews themselves give, the sanhedrim removed from this chamber, forty years before the destruction of the temple (x); and which, as Dr. Lightfoot conjectures, was about a year and a half before the death of Christ; and as others say (y), four years; at least three years and a half before that time: but then, though the sanhedrim removed from the paved chamber, they met at Chanoth, "the sheds", which was a place within the bounds of the temple, in the mountain of the house; and the question still returns, how came it to pass they did not meet there? To me the reason seems to be, that they chose not to meet there, but at the high priest's palace, because of privacy, that it might not be known they were together, and about any affair of moment; and particularly this: the high priest's house was always in Jerusalem, and he never removed from thence; nor did he go from the temple thither only in the night, or an hour or two in the day; for he had an apartment in the temple, which was called the chamber of the high priest, where he was the whole day (z).

(t) Maimon. Hilch. Sanhedrin, c. 2. sect. 1.((u) lb. sect. 4. (w) Misn. Middot c. 5. sect. 3.((x) T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 15. 1. Avoda Zara, fol. 8. 2. Sanhedrin, fol. 41. 1. Maimon. Hilch. Sanhedrin, c. 14. sect. 13. Juchasin, fol. 21. 1.((y) Edzard. not. in Avoda Zara, c. 1. p. 236. (z) Maimon. Cele Hamikdash, c. 5. sect. 7.

Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas,
Matthew 26:3-5. Τότε] i.e. at the time that Jesus was saying this to His disciples. Fatal coincidence.

εἰς τὴν αὐλὴν τοῦ ἀρχ.] It is usual to understand the palace of the high priest, in direct opposition to the use of αὐλή[22] in the New Testament (not excluding Luke 11:21). We should rather interpret it of the court enclosed by the various buildings belonging to the house (see Winer, Realw. under the word Häuser; Friedlieb, Archäol. d. Leidensgesch. p. 7 f.), such courts having been regularly used as meeting-places. Comp. Vulg. (atrium), Erasmus, Castalio, Calvin, Maldonatus. This meeting is not to be regarded as one of the public sittings of the Sanhedrim (on the probable official meeting-place of this body at that time, the so-called taverns, see Wieseler, Beitr. p. 209 ff.), but as a private conference of its members.

τοῦ λεγομ. Καϊάφα] who bore the name of Caiaphas. Comp. Matthew 2:23. This was a surname; the original name was Joseph (Joseph. Antt. xviii. 2. 2); but the surname having become his ordinary and official designation, it was used for the name itself: hence λεγομένου, not ἐπικαλουμένου or ἐπιλεγομένου. Caiaphas (either = בַּיְפָא, depressio, or כֵּיפָא, rock) obtained his appointment through the procurator Valerius Gratus, and, after enjoying his dignity for seventeen years, was deposed by Vitellius, Joseph. Antt. xviii. 2. 2, 4. 3.

ΣΥΝΕΒΟΥΛΕΎΣΑΝΤΟ, ἽΝΑ] they consulted together, in order that they, John 11:53.

μὴ ἐν τῂ ἑορτῇ] namely: let us arrest him, and put him to death! For the absolute ΜΉ, comp. on Galatians 5:13. The reference is to the entire period over which the feast extended, not to the place where it was celebrated (Wieseler, Chronol. Synops. p. 367). It is true no scruple was felt, especially in urgent and important cases (comp. on Acts 12:3 f), about having executions (Sanhedr. f. 89. 1) during the feast days (although most probably never on the first of them, on which, according to Mischna Jom tob v. 2, the trial took place; comp. on John 18:28, and see, above all, Bleek’s Beitr. p. 136 ff.), and that with a view to making the example more deterrent (Deuteronomy 17:13). But the members of the Sanhedrim dreaded an uprising among the numerous sympathizers with Jesus both within and outside the capital (a very natural apprehension, considering that this was just the season when so many strangers, and especially Galilaeans, were assembled in the city; comp. Joseph. Antt. xvii. 9. 3; Bell. i. 4. 3), though, by and by, they overcame this fear, and gladly availed themselves of the opportunity which Judas afforded them (Matthew 26:14). “Sic consilium divinum successit,” Bengel. To regard μὴ ἐν τῇ ἑορτῇ as meaning: previous to the feast! as though, during the feast itself, the execution were to be considered as already a thing of the past (Neander, p. 678; Hausrath), would be quite in keeping with John’s statement as to the day on which the crucifixion took place (comp. on Mark 14:2); but it would not suit the connection as found in Matthew and Mark, because, according to them, the consultation among the members of the Sanhedrim had taken place so very shortly before the Passover (Matthew 26:2) that the greater part of the multitude, whose rising was apprehended, must have been present by that time.

[22] Of course αὐλή is used as equivalent to βασιλειον (see, for example, the passages from Polyb. in Schweighäuser’s Lex. p. 101), not only by later Greek writers (Athen. Deipn. iv. p. 189 D; Herodian, i. 13. 16, frequently in the Apocr.), but also by Homer (see Duncan, Lex., ed. Rost, p. 181), Pindar, and the Tragedians, etc. Never, however, is it so used in the New Testament. Even in John 18:15, αὐλὴ τοῦ ἀρχιερ. is undoubtedly the court of the house.

Matthew 26:3. τότε, two days before Passover.—συνήχθησαν points to a meeting of the Sanhedrim.—εἰς τὴν αὐλὴν denotes the meeting place, either the palace of the high priest in accordance with the use of αὐλή in later Greek (Weiss), or the court around which the palatial buildings were ranged (Meyer) = atrium in Vulgate, followed by Calvin. In the latter case the meeting would be informal. In any case it was at the high priest’s quarters they met: whereupon Chrys. remarks: “See the inexpressible corruption of Jewish affairs. Having lawless proceedings on hand they come to the high priest seeking authority where they should encounter hindrance” (Hom. lxxix.).—Καϊάφα, Caiaphas, surname, Joseph his name, seventeen years high priest (vide Joseph. Ant., 18, 2, 2; 4, 3).

3. the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders] i. e. the Sanhedrim or Synedrion (Greek), or Sanhedrin (the later Hebrew form of the word), the supreme council, legislative and administrative, of the Jewish people.

A. The history of the Sanhedrin. Many learned Rabbis endeavoured to trace the origin of the Sanhedrin to the council of 70 elders whom Moses, by the advice of Jethro, appointed to assist him. But it is improbable that this council existed before the Macedonian conquest. (1) The name is Greek, not Hebrew. (2) It finds its equivalent among the political institutions of Macedonia. Finally, (3) no allusion to the Sanhedrin is to be found in the Historical Books or in the Prophets.

B. Constitution. The President or Nasi (prince) was generally, but not always, the high priest; next in authority was the vice-president or Ab Beth Dîn (father of the house of judgment); the third in rank was the Chacham (sage or interpreter). The members were 71 in number, and consisted (1) of the chief priests or heads of the priestly “courses” (see Luke 1:5); (2) the scribes or lawyers; (3) the elders of the people or heads of families, who were the representatives of the laity.

C. Authority and functions. The Sanhedrin formed the highest court of the Jewish commonwealth. It originally possessed the power of life and death, but this power no longer belonged to it; John 18:31, “It is not lawful for us to put any man to death,” a statement which agrees with a tradition in the Talmud, “forty years before the temple was destroyed judgment in capital causes was taken away from Israel.”

All questions of the Jewish law, and such as concerned the ecclesiastical polity, religious life of the nation and discipline of the priests fell under the jurisdiction of the Sanhedrin.

D. Place of meeting. In the present instance the Sanhedrin met at the high priest’s house; from ch. Matthew 27:6 we may conjecture that the Temple was sometimes the place of meeting, but their usual house of assembly at this particular epoch was called the “Halls of Purchase,” on the east of the Temple Mount (Dr Ginsburg in Kitto’s Encyc. Bib. Lit. and Lightfoot’s Hor. Hebr.).

Caiaphas] Joseph Caiaphas, the son-in-law of Annas, was appointed high priest by the Procurator Valerius Gratus a. d. 26, and was deposed a. d. 38. The high priesthood had long ceased to be held for life and to descend from father to son; appointments were made at the caprice of the Roman government. Annas who had been high priest was still regarded as such by popular opinion, which did not recognise his deposition. St Luke says, “Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests.”

Matthew 26:3. Συνήχθησαν, were gathered together) Thus also in Matthew 26:57, and ch. Matthew 27:1; Matthew 27:17; Matthew 27:27; Matthew 27:62; cf. Luke 22:66; Matthew 28:12; Acts 4:5; Acts 4:26-27.—οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς, the chief priests) They took the principal part in that matter; they were supported, however, by the scribes, the lawyers, and the elders of the people, who formed the remainder of the Jewish council.—τοῦ λεγομένου, who was called) St Matthew wrote for readers of times and places, in which the names of Caiaphas and Judas (see Matthew 26:14) would not be known from any other source.[1110]

[1110] This remark holds good rather of the present Greek translation, subsequently written for more general circulation, than of the original Hebrew Gosp. of St Matthew, written especially for the Jews, to whom the names Caiaphas and Judas would be familiar.—ED.

Verses 3-5. - Conspiracy of the Jewish rulers. (Mark 14:1; Luke 22:2.) Verse 3. - Then. While Christ was announcing his approaching death, the rulers were plotting its accomplishment. He was certain; they were in doubt and perplexity about it. The chief priests (see on Matthew 16:21). The office of high priest had originally been held for life; but of late the civil power had often deposed one and appointed another, so that there were at times many who had held the post, and who, as well as their deputies, and the heads of the courses, claimed the title of chief priest. These were all members of the Sanhedrim And the scribes, These words are omitted on very good authority by many modern editors. They are not found in the Vulgate, though they occur in the parallel passages in the other synoptists. If genuine, they, in connection with "elders" and "priests," would signify that all the elements of the Sanhedrin were present at this council. The palace (αὐλὴν) of the high priest. This, then, was not a formal meeting, or it would have been held in the hall Gazith, "the hall of hewn stones," on the south side of the court of the priests. It was assembled in the court of the high priest's house, because it comprised persons who were not Sanhedrists, such as temple officials, and connections of the high priest, forming what was known as the priestly council, which was the official medium between the Roman authorities and the people. Who was called Caiaphas. Josephus ('Ant.,' 18:02. 2) speaks of him as "Joseph, who is also Caiaphas;" hence the way in which he is introduced in the present passage. He had been elevated to his high post by the Romans, who found in him a submissive tool. His father-in-law. Annas had been appointed by Quirinius, but after nine years had been deposed; he was succeeded in turn by Ismael, Eleazar son of Annas, Simon, and fourthly by Caiaphas, who superseded his immediate predecessor by the favour of the procurator Valerius Gratus, the tenant of the office before Pontius Pilate. The ex-high priest, Annas, was counted still by some rigorists as holding the office, and he appears to have possessed high authority (see John 18:13; Acts 4:6). Matthew 26:3Palace (αὐλὴν)

But the word never means palace in the New Testament. It is the court, the open court or hall, forming the centre of an oriental building, and often used as a meeting-place. Rev., court. Wyc., hall.

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