The Passion Narrative, 18:1-20:31

1. The arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus, 18:1-19:24

ii] The pretrial and Peter's denial


The detachment of soldiers and Temple police arrest Jesus and take him to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas. Peter and another disciple follow on, gaining entry to the high pries't courtyard where they are able to keep an eye on proceedings from a distance. It is while they are in the courtyard, warming themselves by a fire, that Peter first denies his association with Jesus. Jesus is examined by Annas before sending him off to Caiaphas. During this questioning Peter denies Jesus two more times.


Peter represents the failings evident in every believer.


i] Context: See 18:12-27.


ii] Background: The historicity of John's account is called into question by some commentators. Bultmann suggests that John's sources have mistakenly represented Annas as high priest instead of Caiaphas. Annas was deposed as high priest by the Roman authorities in 15AD, but it is very likely that he retained his title (the position was regarded as a lifetime appointment), and most probably his influence. Five of his sons served as high priest, and at the time of Jesus' arrest, his son-in-law Caiaphas was the official high priest. Note Luke 3:2 and the singular mention of both Annas and Caiaphas, indicating that Annas was likely the power behind the throne, irrespective of Rome's interference in Israel's religious affairs.


iii] Structure: Jesus' pretrial and Peter's denial:

Jesus appears before Annas, v12-14;

"It was to their advantage that one man should die ....", Rieu.

Peter's denial of Jesus, v15-18;

Jesus is questioned about his disciples and teachings, v19-24;

"I have spoken openly to the world"

Peter denies Jesus two more times, v25-27;


iv] Interpretation:

John encapsulates the passion narrative with the words of Caiaphas "it would be good if one man died for the people", v14, and so in the midst of flawed humanity, a good man sets out to do just that. Stibbe argues that the passage is primarily a critique of Peter, of what is not meant by the verb akolouqew, "to follow", Jesus (the verb leads v15). Yet, the weighted content of this episode is more an apology for Peter's failings than a critique. The contrast between Jesus' claim to have "spoken openly to the world" and Peter's decision to keep it a "secret", is an interesting observation by Klink. Peter's failings are laid bare: Jesus speaks openly; Peter keeps shtum.


Although Caiaphas was the official Hight Priest for that year, Annas was still viewed as Israel's real High Priest, given that his removal was at the hand of the Roman governor, an illegitimate authority as far as most Jews were concerned. So, in John's record of events, Jesus' ecclesiastical trial takes place before Annas as well as Caiaphas. In fact, John only records Jesus' examination by Annas and tells us nothing of what happened when Jesus was sent "bound to Caiaphas the high priest." It is possible that the ecclesiastical trial of Jesus takes place before Caiaphas (as recorded in the synoptic gospels, although only Matthew mentions Caiaphas) and that what takes place before Annas is a pre-trial informal inquiry.

Peter and "the other disciple" follow on behind the arresting officials. They gain entrance to the High Priest's courtyard because the "other disciple" is known to the High priest (or possibly just to his servants). It is the "other disciple" who gets Peter into the courtyard. John seems to be supplying the background information which explains how Peter gets himself into a situation where he feels compelled to deny his association with Jesus. The third suggestion that Peter is one of Jesus' disciples is put to him by a relative of Malchus. This only heightens the danger that Peter finds himself in, and further explains why Peter denies Jesus. As such, the record gives his behavior a human context - we would be tempted do the same in a similar situation!

John tells us that the examination of Jesus by Annas focused on "his disciples and his teaching." The synoptic gospels bring out the theological issues, whereas John seems content with revealing the improper nature of the inquisition. The reference to the disciples may indicate a desire on the part of the authorities to gain evidence of a political nature. It would be advantageous to be able to show the Roman authorities that Jesus and his disciples are a band of revolutionaries, rebels guilty of sedition. If this is implied, then Jesus makes the point that he has always "spoken openly"; he has not conspired against anyone in secret. The slap on the face is just the first of many insults. It is interesting to note that Jesus takes umbrage at his improper treatment (what happened to turn the other cheek?), but John is keen to show that the proceedings are a farce and so moves quickly to the main event - Jesus' meeting with Pilate.

It is around 3am when Annas sends Jesus off to Caiaphas.


v] Synoptics:

As Dodd argues, it seems likely that the gospel of John draws on its own independent tradition, most likely a tradition laid down by John the apostle and used by the author-editor to form the gospel as we know it. In fact, it has often been suggested that the alloV maqhthV, other disciple", who "was known to the high priest", is an obtuse reference to John the apostle, "the beloved disciple." In the record of events, the synoptics and John have two trials, one ecclesiastical and the other civil, but the events are described quite differently, eg., Jesus meeting with Annas is not recorded in the synoptics.

In Mark the trial is held before the high priest (unstated), presumably in an official meeting of the Sanhedrin. Witnesses are heard, Jesus is cross-examined and then he is sentenced to death. At daybreak the Sanhedrin meets again to formalize a charge to present to Pilate, the Governor. In Luke, Jesus is brought to the home of the high priest (unstated). Luke records Peter's denial at this point. First thing in the morning the Sanhedrin meets and proceeds with a formal trial. John may be harmonizing the two accounts, but it seems more likely that he skips the details, takes time to record Peter's denial, and then focuses his attention on the following scene - Jesus' conversation with Pilate. As usual, John runs his own race.

So, the likely series of events is as follows:

Jesus' arrest;

An informal hearing before Annas;

A formal gathering of the Sanhedrin led by Caiaphas;

Formal charges are dispatched by delegation to Pilate;

Interrogation by Pilate;

An appearance before Herod;

Final appearance before Pilate and verdict.

The undue haste, prompting meetings by night, was necessary if Pilate was to deal with the matter on Friday morning (Roman officials only working in the morning) and for the execution to be carried out before the commencement of the Sabbath on Friday evening (executions were not permitted on the Sabbath).

Text - 18:12

Jesus' pretrial and Peter's denial, v13-27. i] Jesus appears before Annas, v13-14. There is no external evidence that Annas was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, but there is no reason why he couldn't be. Dodd suggests that the phrase "who was high priest that year" indicates that John wrongly assumes that the high priest was appointed yearly, as in many secular religions, but the phrase doesn't necessarily read that way.

oun "Then" - therefore [the cohort and the tribune]. Inferential, establishing a logical connection, "So the band of soldiers", ESV. As already noted, a "cohort" amounts to 600+ Roman auxiliaries, but this full number would not be used to assist in the arrest of a small group of renegades. The "tribune" is an officer in charge of up to 1,000 men.

twn Ioudaiwn gen. adj. "Jewish [officials]" - [and the servants, assistants = temple police] of the jews [took jesus and bound him]. The adjective serves as a substantive, the genitive being adjectival, limiting "servants," A rather roundabout way to arrive at an attributive, as NIV, so the word is possibly being uses for the arcwn twn Ioudaiwn, "the rulers of the Jews", the religious authorities, members of the Sanhedrin, in which case the genitive is verbal, objective; "the officials / temple police who serve the Jewish authorities", so Novakovic. "Jesus was apprehended and put in fetters by the detachment of soldiers with its commanding officer, and by the Jewish officers of the law", Cassirer.


Note the textual variant where v24 is placed in this verse. This prompts Moffat to reorder the verses, 13-14, 19-24, 15-18, 25-27. He does love reordering the NT, usually without warrant!

prwton adv. "first" - [and they led him toward annas] first. Adjective serving as an adverb, here temporal, sequential time. The first in the sequence of official investigations into Jesus is before Annas, the Rector Emeritus. The next will be before Caiaphas, cf., Matt.26:57. John's lack of interest in the whole process is interesting. For John, the proceedings are a farce and not worth detailing.

proV + " to [Annas]" - toward [annas first]. Spacial, expressing movement toward.

gar "who [was]" - for [he was]. More reason than cause, introducing an explanatory note on Annas, as NIV. "They began by taking him to Annas. Annas was the father-in-law of Caiaphas who in that year was High Priest", Barclay.

tou Kaiafa (as a) gen. "[the father-in-law] of Caiaphas" - The genitive is adjectival, relational.

tou eniautou (oV) gen. "[that] year" - [who was high priest] of [that] year. The genitive is ablative, of time.


de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative, here to an editorial note

oJ sumbouleusaV (sumbouleuw) aor. part. "who had advised" - [caiaphas was] the one having advised, given counsel to. The genitive is usually treated as adjectival, attributive, limiting "Caiaphas", "It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jewish leaders", ESV, although technically it serves as a substantive, predicate nominative of the verb to-be.

toiV IoudaioiV (oV) dat. "the Jewish leaders" - the jews. Dative of direct object after the sun prefix verb "to give counsel to." The term "the Jews" again refers to the Jewish authorities, in particular the members of the Sanhedrin.

oJti "that" - Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what Caiaphas advised the Jewish leaders.

apoqanein (apoqnhskw) aor. inf. "[good if one man] die" - [one man] to die [is better]. The infinitive serves as the subject of the impersonal verb "it is better." The accusative subject of the infinitive is "one man."

uJper + gen. "for [the people]" - Expressing representation, "on behalf of", or advantage, "for the benefit of", or instead of anti, substitution, "instead of." Substitution seems likely, cf., 11:50, but most translations opt for advantage; "It was Caiaphas who had pointed out to the Jews that it was to their advantage that one man should die for the people", Rieu / "that one man's death would benefit the people", Berkeley.


ii] Peter's denial of Jesus, v15-18. It is often assumed that the "other disciple" who followed the arresting party to the High Priest's quarters with Peter is "the beloved disciple", presumably John the apostle. The only evidence for this is that "the beloved disciple" and Peter are often found acting together, cf., 13:23, 20:2, 21:7.

de "-" - but/and [simon peter and another disciple were following jesus] but/and [this disciple]. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.

alloV maqhthV "another disciple" - A specifying article is found in some texts, "the other disciple" implying "the other disciple whom Jesus loved", 20:2, but it is obviously an addition.

tw/ arcierei (euV ewV) dat. "[was known] to the high priest" - [was known to] the chief priest. Here the adjective gnwstoV, "known", serves as a substantive taking a dative complement, "known to" (sometimes a genitive, so Harris). Novakovic suggests the dative can also be viewed as instrumental, of agency, "known by the hight priest."

tw/ Ihsou (oV) dat. "[he went with] Jesus" - Dative of direct object after the sun prefix verb "to go in with."

tou arcierewV (uV ewV) "the high priest's [courtyard]" - [the courtyard, interior courtyard of the dwelling] of the high priest. The genitive is adjectival, limiting "courtyard", possessive, or idiomatic, "he went into the courtyard which was situated in the high priest's residence."


Presumably "the other disciple" is known to the servant (female) on duty at the entrance to the internal courtyard and so gains entry for Peter. This explains why Peter is able to get close to the proceedings and finds himself in a situation where he feels he has to deny knowing Jesus. As already noted, John the apostle is the likely candidate for the "other disciple", but suggestions like Joseph of Arimathea, or Nicodemus have been proposed over the years. They would likely be known to Annas, but the sense of "known to the high priest", may simply mean "known to the high priest's servant on duty at the gate."

exw adv. "outside" - [but/and peter had stood toward = at the door] outside. Adverb of place. Peter was standing outside near the entrance gate.

oun "-" - therefore. Inferential, drawing a logical conclusion. Seeing Peter was stuck outside, the other disciple ......

oJ maqhthV oJ alloV "the other disciple" - the another disciple. The article specifies, referring back to "another disciple" v15.

oJ gnwstoV adj. "who was known to" - the one known. The presence of the article with this adjective probably serves as a nominalizer turning the adjective into a substantive standing in apposition to "the other disciple"; "the other disciple, the high priests acquaintance, came out to speak to the porteress and brought in Peter", Berkeley.

tou arcierewV (euV ewV) gen. "the high priest" - of the high priest. We would expect a dative complement, but as Harris notes, gnwstoV can also take a genitive complement; "acquainted with the high priest." Of course, the genitive may be adjectival, possessive, as Berkeley above.

th qurwrw/ (oV) dat. "[spoke] to the servant girl on duty there" - [and spoke] to the doorkeeper, porter [and brought in peter]. Dative of indirect object. The agent of the action may be the other disciple who "brought in Peter", or the doorkeeper who "admitted Peter." The feminine article specifies that the doorkeeper is female, not unusual for a Jewish home.


The presence of an adjunctive kai, "also", indicates that the doorkeeper knows that the "other disciple" is a follower of Jesus and so she assumes that Peter is as well. So, there is little reason to answer "I am not." Her question is formulated to expect a negative reply, but it is probably facetious, with anqrwpou toutou, "this man", indicating some contempt toward Jesus - although not necessarily nasty; her question may be tongue-in-cheek. So, the question prompts a negative reply ("of course not, who would want to be this man's disciple"), but she expects an answer in the affirmative since Peter is a friend of the other disciple who is known to her. None-the-less, Peter says "I am not." One wonders whether John is contrasting Peter's stark "I am not" with Jesus' "I am he", v6.

oun "-" - therefore. Inferential, establishing a logical connection; "So the servant girl said to Peter...."

hJ qurwroV (oV) "-" - [the servant girl, young female servant, slave] the door keeper [says to peter]. Standing in apposition to "the servant girl."

mh "[you are]n't" - [also you] not [are from the disciples of this man]? This negation is used in a question expecting a negative answer, but see above. As Barrett notes, against convention the expected answer to the question here is a cautious "Yes". He classifies its use here as the "mh of cautious assertions", MHT 1. "Can it be that you are another of that man's disciples", Cassirer. If indeed the question is facetious, then an oblique reply like "Who me?" could have saved Peter a smidgen of pain - two and a half denials instead of three.

ek + gen. "one of" - from. Serving in the place of a partitive genitive.

anqrwpou (oV) gen. "[this] man's [disciples]" - [the disciples] of [this] man. The genitive is adjectival, relational.

kai "too" - also. Adjunctive.

tw/ Petrw/ (oV) dat. "[she asked] Peter" - to peter. Dative of indirect object.


Peter is now standing with others around a fire in the courtyard, and so puts himself in the middle of the officers who have just arrested Jesus.

pepoihkoteV (poiew) perf. part. "[a fire] they had made" - [but/and the slaves, servants and the associates = temple police] having made [a hot embers / charcoal fire were standing around it because it was cold and they were warming themselves]. Although anarthrous, the participle is possibly adjectival, attributive, "the household servants and the temple police, who had made a charcoal fire, were standing around it because it was cold", so Harris. Yet, being anarthrous the participle is more likely adverbial, probably temporal, "the household servants and the temple police, after making a charcoal fire, were standing around it because it was cold and were warming themselves" = "were standing around it warming themselves because it was cold", so Novakovic.

kai "[Peter] also" = [but/and peter] and. Adjunctive, "also", as NIV.

estwV (iJsthmi) perf. part. "was standing" - [was] having stood [with them because it was cold and was warming himself]. The participle, as with the present participle "warming himself", with the imperfect verb to be h\n, forms a periphrastic construction, the first a periphrastic pluperfect and the second a periphrastic imperfect.

oJti "-" - because [it was cold]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why they were standing around the first, namely, because it was cold. The NIV, TEV, JB, .... introduce the clause with "it was cold" "since this fact explains the actions that follow", TH.

met (meta) + gen. "with [them]" - Expressing association / accompaniment.


iii] Jesus is questioned about his disciples and his teachings, v19-24. It does seem that this preliminary hearing before Annas is a fishing expedition, an attempt to gather evidence, both secular ("about his disciples") and religious ("about his teaching"), so as to come up with an indictable offence against Jesus.

oun "-" - therefore. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.

peri + gen. "about [his disciples]" - [the high priest questioned jesus] about [the disciples of him and] about. Expressing reference / respect.

autou gen. "his [teaching]" - [the teaching] of him. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, expressing a derivative characteristic, "his teaching", or verbal, subjective, "the doctrine with which he instructed the people."


Jesus' answer is interesting as "speaking openly to the world" (does this mean "speaking openly to everybody", Harris?) seems more related to the secular issue of seditious behavior than religious heresy. Still, Jesus main point is that "the heart of what he preached was in the public arena", Carson, so if Annas has any questions he can ask the thousands who heard him speak.

autw/ dat. pro. "-" - [jesus replied] to them. Dative of indirect object.

egw pro. "I" - Emphatic by position and use.

parrhsia (a) "openly" - [i have spoken] in boldness = in openness. The Dative is adverbial, modal, expressing manner, "boldly". "I have always spoken publicly to everyone", TEV.

tw/ kosmw/ (oV) "to the world" - Dative of indirect object. "To everyone", TEV.

pantote adv. "[I] always" - [i] always [i taught]. Temporal adverb.

en + dat. "in [synagogues]" - in [a synagogue and in the temple]. Local, expressing space.

o{pou "where" - where [all the jews came together]. Spacial conjunction, identifying place. "Where all our people come together", CEV.

en + dat. "[I said nothing] in [secret]" - in [secret i spoke nothing]. Adverbial use of the preposition, modifying the verb "to speak", modal, expressing manner, "secretly". Note 7:4; "No one hides what he is doing if he wants to be well known", TEV.


In many a television crime drama the accused brings the matter to a head by saying "charge me, or let me go." Jesus may be confronting his accusers in a similar vein. They certainly react by slapping him in the face, v22. In the Jewish legal system a person's own testimony in defence of a charge carries little weight, but also, for the prosecution of a charge, it would be improper to try to extract a statement of self-incrimination. A charge proceeds on the testimony of two credible witnesses (in the synoptic account two not so credible witnesses will be called later during the hearing before Caiaphas). So, Jesus is virtually saying "Why question me? If you think I've taught heresy, produce your witnesses; hundreds know what I said." "My teachings have all been aboveboard", Peterson.

ti pro. "why" - what = why [do you question me]? Interrogative causal construction with dia, "because", assumed; "because why" = "why ........."?

touV akhkootaV (akouw) perf. part. "[ask] those who heard" - [hear = ask] the ones having heard [what i said to them]. The participle serves as a substantive.

ide "surely" - behold, look, pay attention [these ones know what things i said]. Interjection.


The rJapisma, "sharp blow with the flat of the hand", is administered by an official who regards Jesus response as offensive.

eipontoV (legw) gen. aor. part. "when [Jesus] said [this]" - [he] having said [these things]. The genitive participle with its subject, the genitive pronoun autou, "he", forms a genitive absolute construction, best treated as temporal, as NIV.

twn uJphretwn (hV ou) gen. "[one] of the officials" - [one] of the attendants, assistants. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.

paresthkwV (paristhmi) gen. perf. part. "nearby" - having stood beside. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting ei|V, "one". "One of the temple police who was standing by gave him a slap across the face", Barclay.

tw/ Ihsou (oV) dat. "[slapped] him" - [gave a slap] to jesus. Dative of indirect object. "Slapped Jesus in the face."

eipwn (legw) aor. part. "-" - having said. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "slapped"; "slapped Jesus and said ..."

tw/ arcierei (euV ewV) dat. "the high priest" - [in this way, manner, do you reply] to the high priest? Dative of indirect object. "Is this the way to answer the high priest?", Berkeley.


Jesus goes to the heart of the matter. If his teaching is heretical then Annas needs to produce witnesses to support the charge. On the other hand, if the assault just perpetrated by the High Priest's servant is to be allowed, then it must be shown that Jesus' response to Annas was a willful affront to his authority. For John, the proceedings are a sham and nothing more needs to be said.

ei "if" - [jesus replied to him] if, as is the case for argument sake, [i spoke wrong, then testify, give witness about the wrong, evil, but/and] if, as is the case, [i spoke good, rightly, well, then why do you hit me]? Introducing two correlative conditional clauses, 1st. class, where the proposed conditions are assumed to be true, the first true only for argument sake.

kakwV adv. "wrong" - badly, severely, wrong, evil. Adverb of manner.

autw/ dat. pro. "-" - [jesus replied] to him. Dative of indirect object.

peri + gen. "as to what is [wrong]" - about [the wrong]. Expressing reference / respect.

de "but [if I spoke the truth]" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the dialogue. The two conditional clauses are correlative, not adversative / contrastive, so de is best left untranslated; "If I have said anything wrong prove it; if I said what was true, why strike me?" Moffatt.


It is very unlikely that John wants to leave us confused as to who is the high priest, either Annas or Caiaphas, so as to have us recognize Jesus as the legitimate high priest, so Klink. As noted above, the account does differ from the synoptic record, although it doesn't clash with it. There is nothing unusual about Annas still retaining his title while Caiaphas serves as the officially appointed hight priest. Nor would it be unusual to hold a preliminary hearing before the trial proper conducted by Caiaphas. Although this gospel is more a reflection of Jesus' words and works than a record of them, its prime source may well be an eye witness, whereas the synoptic gospels are a compilation of apostolic oral tradition.

oun "then" - therefore. Probably transitional, as NIV, but possibly inferential, establishing a logical connection, "so ...."

dedemenon (dew) perf. mid./pas. part. "[sent him] bound" - [annas sent him] having been bound [toward caiaphas the high priest]. The participle is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of Jesus' sending. "So Annas sent him, still in fetters, to Caiaphas the high priest", Cassirer.


iv] Peter denies Jesus two more times, v25-26. All gospels agree that a female servant asks the first question. For the second question John has "they" = someone among those standing around the fire warming themselves. Mark has the same servant girl, Matthew another female servant, and Luke has "someone else." As Brown notes, John is contrasting the testimony of Jesus, who stands up to his questioners and denies nothing, to that of Peter who denies everything.

de "meanwhile" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.

estwV (iJsthmi) perf. part. "was still standing there [warming himself]" - [simon peter was] having stood [and warming himself]. This participle, as with the one following, "warming himself", with the imperfect verb to-be h\n, forms a periphrastic construction. The first a periphrastic pluperfect, and the second a periphrastic imperfect; "Peter was standing and warming himself beside the charcoal fire."

oun "so" - therefore. Inferential, drawing a logical conclusion, as NIV.

autw/ dat. pro. "[they asked] him" - [they said] to him, Dative of indirect object. Obviously "one of their number said to him", with the one representing the whole.

mh "[you are]n't" - not [and = also you]. This negation used in a question implies a negative answer. The presence of an adjunctive kai may imply a cautious assertion, as in v17, implying some doubt in the question, some "suspicion", Schnackenburg. "'You're not another one of that bloke's disciples are you?' Peter replied, 'No way mate; not me!'" So, the servant girl at the entrance probably presumed that Peter was one of Jesus' disciples, whereas those gathered around the fire suspect that Peter may be one of Jesus' disciples.

ek + gen. "[one] of [his disciples]" - [one] from [the disciples of him. that one = he answered and said, i am not]. Serving in the place of a partitive genitive.


For the third denial John identifies the questioner as a relative of Malchus, so heightening the danger Peter finds himself in. Luke indicates an unidentified man, while Matthew and Mark have those around the fire asking the question. The important aspect of John's account is the gentle way he records Peter's denial. There is no mention of the curses, or Peter bursting into tears, cf., Mk.14:71-72. This is a kindly record of a brother's failure to honor his Lord, a failing we all know too well.

ek + gen. "[one] of [the high priest's servants]" - [one] from [the servants of the high priest]. The preposition serves in place of a partitive genitive.

w]n "-" - being [a relative of whom peter cut off the ear, says]. The participle is best taken as adjectival, attributive, limiting "relative"; "one of the high priest's slaves, who was a relative to the man whose ear Peter had cut off", Rieu.

ouk "[did]n't [I see you]" - [did i] not [see you in the garden]? This negation is used in a question which assumes an answer in the affirmative; "Did I not see you in his company in the garden?" Cassirer.

met (meta) + gen. "with [him]" - Expressing association / accompaniment.


In a Roman barracks, the end of the third watch, 3am, is signaled by a trumpet. It is known as the "rooster's crow." This may be the intended sense here, but if a literal sense is intended then we are talking about dawn, around 5am (although I have owned roosters that have no sense of time!).

palin adv. "Again" - [therefore = so] again [peter denied]. Sequential adverb, expressing repetition. Note that there is no stated object for the verb "to deny"; "Again, Rocky denied being his follower", Junkins.

euqewV adv. "at that moment" - [and] immediately [a cock called out = crowed]. Temporal adverb expressing immediate action, "immediately, at once." "Just then a rooster crowed", Peterson.


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