The Bridge / Intro:
While Peter and John were speaking to the people, they were confronted by the priests, the captain of the Temple guard, and some of the Sadducees. These leaders were very disturbed that Peter and John were teaching the people that through Jesus there is a resurrection of the dead. They arrested them and, since it was already evening, put them in jail until morning. But many of the people who heard their message believed it, so the number of believers now totalled about 5,000 men, not counting women and children.
The next day [the council of all] the rulers and elders and teachers of religious law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, along with Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and other relatives of the high priest. They brought in the two disciples and demanded, “By what power, or in whose name, have you done this?”Acts 4:1-7
I have grouped the questions I gave you in the last Gems into two groups. The ones below I will deal with now. Those remaining I will address in a later Gem.
- Why does Luke make the statement that the confrontation happening while Peter and John were speaking?
- Why doesn’t he just tell us that they were confronted by the priests and the Temple guard?
- Why does Luke use the terms that he does?
- Why does he list all the players in detail?
- Why doesn’t he tell us what he told us in his gospel that they were brought before the Sanhedrin?
- What is this Council that is mentioned? Why is it council and not Council?
- What is the difference between the Council and the Sanhedrin?
- Why does Luke list the priests, captain of the Temple Guard and Sadducees?
- What was it that disturbed the leaders?
- Why was the “resurrection of the dead” a problem?
- Is the council the next day different from the leaders gathered the day before?
- Why the distinction between all the rulers, elders, teachers of religious law?
- Who are Annas, Caiaphas, John and Alexander?
- What were the relatives of the high priest doing there? Is this a family affair?
This introduction strongly links the confrontation with the priests, the captain of the Temple guard and some of the Sadducees to what Peter was telling the crowd. They can’t afford to allow Peter to finished his speech. These particular leaders were disturbed by what Peter was teaching. Everything connected with Jesus contradicted their doctrinal stand. The things He taught, what Peter was now teaching concerning the Messiah and His ministry and the most important claim of all – that Jesus had risen from the dead. In the middle of Peter’s speech they came to interrupt what He was teaching. There is strong reason to believe the Captain of the Temple was not there on his own. Most experts believe that the Captain of the Temple guard would not have appeared without a detachment of guards. It is not likely they were brought forward at the first instance, but likely lurked in the background waiting for the moment they were needed.
What is the council referred to and why is it spelt with a small “c”. What is going on here? There is no word in the Greek text for Council as such. The NLT translation is the only version which uses the council. The only words in the Greek the text used are those listed by Luke as the players involved – namely the priests, the captain of the Temple guard, and some of the Sadducees. In other words, the rulers, elders and teachers of religious law in conjunction with the priests who came on the day of the healing. It is not likely that Annas and Caiaphas were there the day before but joined the proceedings the next day, along with John, Alexander, and others of Annas’ relatives. There is no actual council mentioned. But there was a collection of the members of the Sanhendrin. The Sanhedrin were the ruling religious leaders of the Jews in Jerusalem. They were largely self appointed as the representatives of Judaism to the Roman authorities. They were made up of the rulers, including the priesthood and the teachers of the Law. These included Annas, the former High Priest and his son-in-law Caiaphas, the one who held the office at the time of this event. John is likely to be Jochanan, or John ben Zaccai, a famous Jewish Rabbi, who lived at this time until after the destruction of Jerusalem. John ben Zaccai was part of Caiaphas’ wider family. However John ben Zaccai was said to be a Pharisee and not a Sadducee. The other possibility is that this John is Jonathan as recorded in the Bezae manuscript and likely refers to an earlier high priest who remained in the priesthood for forty years and in the end became a Sadducee. The text of the Beza manuscript goes on to say of Alexander in a footnote “whose surname was Lysimachus and had the title of “Alabarcha”. How reliable this reading is, is unclear. After Alexander the Great visited Jerusalem, many were named Alexander. The name Rabbi Alexander often appeared in the Jewish writings of this period. But it is impossible to evaluate the accuracy of just who these two men were. It is most likely that they were both indeed members of Caiphas’ family. However the word [genos] can mean “family member” or it can mean a “countryman”, a fellow, even a fellow priest.
Having said all of that what is clear is this was a loosely connected group of people and not official as to constitute a Council of Sanhedrin. Rather it appears to be a grouping of like-minded priests and teachers of the law, some of whom were Sadducees. The Sadducees were members of a distinct grouping of priests who specifically denied the concept and the teaching related the resurrection of the dead. Most of the priestly families belonged to this group. This group was strongly represented in the Sanhedrin and vocally made their views heard. They had vested interest in maintaining their position within the ruling religious body in Jerusalem. They rejected any belief in the spirit world or individual immortality or at the least the notion what anyone would be able to rise from the dead. Therefore they made it their duty to stamp out this new teaching related to Jesus and the events that had taken place in Jerusalem over the past month. Luke spells this out clearly to his readers by adding “These leaders were very disturbed that Peter and John were teaching the people that through Jesus there is a resurrection of the dead.” This is the reason they move quickly in their attempt to end Peter’s teaching.
Therefore it is most likely that this group was not official but a gathering of like minded priestly rulers and religious teachers who opposed any suggestion that Jesus could have risen from the dead. Irrespective of whether this was official or not, they could not have conducted an official hearing at night. It was forbidden by Jewish law. Hence the group reconvened again the next day to discuss this issue. We will look at the nature of that meeting in the next Gem and discuss some other aspects of what was going on here. As usual this Gem has grown and so I will cut it off at this point and leave the following matters to be dealt with in following Gems. As the council adjourned and continued the next day with some added people so too will we. Not only will we stop here but we will have a new class of Deeper Bible students joining us in receiving the Gems.
Some people come and go. Others stay and leave footprints on our hearts and we are never the same.Ian Vail
Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe, even if it means you are standing alone.Marny Suntono
Sometimes the only way you can tell who you are, is to look at who you hang with!Anon
Whatever you focus on grows within you and whatever grows within you, you become. What are you focusing on?Ian Vail