Luke 22: 54-71 – Trial of Jesus by Jews

With the account of the arrest of Jesus the narrative of the Passion moves into a new phase. The arrest is followed by a two-fold trial, the Jewish trial (Lk 22: 54-71) and the Roman trial (Lk 23: 1-25). It is to be understood that no evangelist gives us a full and detailed description of these trials. Evidently, the gospel writers were not interested in reporting all that took place. They retained only those events which the early Church, in the light of faith, considered as being more influenced the choice of the details but also coloured their presentations.

As we know that the ‘Passion’ chronology of the synoptic is at variance with that of gospel of John (For further reading see Passion Narrative of Jesus – Luke 22: 1 – 24: 53). Now in their accounts of the Jewish trial the synoptic themselves do not present a uniform picture. Although they narrate the same events, they differ in the order of events and in details of contents. Besides, the data found in the narrative of the Jewish trial in Mark and Matthew raise problems of a historical and legal nature. let us begin with the Lukan account in Luke 22: 54-71 and compare it with its parallel in Mark 14: 53-72.

The Lukan narrative of the Jewish trial (Lk 22: 54-71) consists of the following incidents:

1)      Peter’s denials and his repentance – Luke 22: 54-62.

2)      The mocking of Jesus by the soldiers – Luke 22: 63-65.

3)      The interrogation by the Sanhedrin in the morning – Luke 22: 66-71.

Gospel of Mark also reports the same events but the sequence of events is quite different in Mark and Matthew. According to Mark, the Jewish trial of Jesus is held in the night immediately after the arrest and the verdict is given (Mk 14: 53-64). The trial is followed by the mocking of Jesus (Mk 14: 65) and Peter’s denials and repentance (Mk 14: 66-72). Mark also reports a morning session of the Sanhedrin before Jesus is delivered to Pilate (Mk 15: 1). The Markan order of events is retained by Matthew, including the reference to a morning session of the Jewish Council (cf. Mt 27: 1-2). The only difference in Matthew is that he alone explicitly mentions the name of the high priest (Mt 26: 57).

The gospels of Mark and Matthew data of the Jewish trial raise several questions: is it likely that the Sanhedrin would have been readily available for a session in the night? Did the Jewish law allow trials at night? If Jesus was tried and condemned at the night session what was the purpose of the morning session of the Sanhedrin? Within the limited scope of these articles we cannot attempt to answer here these and other historical and chronological questions connected with the Jewish trial (and Roman trial). (For an understanding of the Passion chronology, see our discussion of Preparations for the Passover Meal – Luke 22: 7-13).

In comparison with the gospels of Mark and Matthew data of the Jewish trial the Lukan sequence of events seems to be more plausible. According to Luke, Jesus was taken to the high priest’s house (Lk 22: 54) and there Peter’s denials take place (Lk 22: 55-62) and the guards mistreat Jesus (Lk 22: 63-65). The trial of Jesus by the Sanhedrin takes place only the next morning (Lk 22: 66-71). Thus Luke reports only one session of the Sanhedrin, in the morning, whereas gospel of Mark records two sessions of the Sanhedrin – one in the night (Mk 14: 53-64) and the other in the morning (Mk 15: 1). Not only gospels of Mark and Matthew but the Johannine narrative too suggests a two-fold trial. John 18: 13 say that Jesus was first led to Annas who was the father-in-law of Caiphas the high priest. Gospel of John also reports the interrogation of Jesus by the “high priest” (Jn 18: 19-23). Here the title “high priest” is used by or for Annas probably as a mark of deference to the head of the high priestly family. Annas was high priest for nine years and several of his sons became high priests and Caiphas his son-in-law was a high priest from 18 CE to 36 CE. But John 18: 24 says, “Annnas then sent Jesus to Caiphas the high priest.” But John does not report about the trial by Caiphas. It is therefore possible that the Jewish authorities held two sessions of the trial, an unofficial trial in the night which is reported by gospels of Mark, Matthew, and John, and the official trial in the morning reported by Luke.

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