Introductory note from Jason Pratt: see here for the previous entry; and see here for the first entry of the series. (It explains what I'm doing, and how, and contains the Johannine prologue.)
The plotnotes continue factoring heavily for this entry; so I am continuing to blockquote them for ease of distinction between them and actual text.
Into the Trials
(The storytellers continue together in harmony, complementing and overlapping each other...)
So the squad and the captain and the deputies of the Jews arrested Jesus, and bound Him, and led Him away--first to Annas, for he was father-in-law of Caiaphas who was high priest that year.
Now Caiaphas (the Evangelist reminds his audience) was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better for one man to die on behalf of the people.
But Simon Peter was following Jesus at a distance... and so was another disciple (says the Evangelist).
Now that (other) disciple was known to the high priest, and entered with Jesus into the court of the high priest--but Peter was standing at the door outside.
So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the doorkeeper, and brought Peter in as far as the high priest's courtyard; and after they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter came over, and sat down with the servants to see the outcome, warming himself in the firelight.
So the high priest (meaning Annas, the real high priest), questioned Jesus about His disciples and about His teaching.
Jesus answered him:
"I have spoken openly to the world. I always was teaching in the synagogue and in the Temple, where all Jews come together. Why do you question Me? Question those who have heard what I spoke to them; behold!--they know what I said!"
[Trialnote: Jesus knows He is hardly obligated to answer questions put to Him by Annas here: this isn't even a trial yet! More to the point, He knows that Annas probably knows--and others who certainly know will soon be available if they are not here already!--what Jesus did say on the occasion of some private meetings with Pharisees and with Sanhedrin members. While those meetings may not have been in front of the general population, they were hardly 'hidden' from His accusers.]
But when He had said this, one of the officers standing by gave Jesus a blow, saying, "Is that the way you answer the high priest?!"
Jesus answered: "...If I have spoken wrongly, bear witness of the wrong. But if rightly--
"--then why do you strike Me?"
Annas therefore sent Him bound to Caiaphas (across the courtyard to the next house over)--where all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes are gathering together.
Now as Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, one of the high priest's servant-girls came along--the one who kept the door (clarifies the Evangelist)--and seeing Peter warming himself she came to him and stared intently at him, and said, "You were also with the Galilean, Jesus!"
But he denied before them all, saying, "Woman, I have no idea what you are talking about!"
And he went out onto the gateway porch.
...and a rooster crowed.
[Note: this verse concerning the rooster appears in late copies of the Follower's text; but although it is most likely a late addition, it could be technically correct--this happens roughly around midnight.]
Now the chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, in order that they might put Him to death; but even though many false witnesses came forward, they found nothing--for their testimony was not consistent.
[Trialnote: and here we see the result of Jesus' evasive and colorful speeches--people can remember their gist, but not the precise wording, which for testimony in a Jewish capital trial is an absolute necessity. (Even the Gospel authors rarely report the wording exactly enough to be considered valid evidence at a capital trial...!)
Add to this, two other important facts. First, even though Jesus went ballistic on the religious authorities recently in the Temple, He hasn't really said anything during the past week that would be clearly capital blasphemy. The last time He said anything of that sort was several months ago; and He reminded them at the time that they would be hard put to hold what He said validly against Him!
Second, this 'trial' was thrown together at the last minute, after Judas warned the conspirators on the Council that Jesus knew of the planned betrayal. Among other things, this means they haven't even had time to coach collaborative testimony.
More precisely, the obvious lack of even conspiratorial collaborative testimony (after several hours of this, as Jesus' ministry is gone over in detail) shows some degrees of honesty even on the part of Caiaphas and his coterie, and/or that the convicting testimony had to pass strong elements of dissension among the Council who were keeping this illegal/informal trial as fair as possible.]
Now the slaves and officers were standing there (probably in the gateway porch, where it is somewhat darker than by the light of the big fire in the middle of the courtyard), having made a charcoal fire (probably in a standing brazier), for it was cold and they were warming themselves; and Peter was also with them, standing and warming himself. (The charcoal fire gives some heat, but little light...)
Now when Peter had gone out to the gateway porch, another maid saw him, declaring to the others standing there, "This man was with Jesus the Nazarene!"
And the first girl came up again, saying (in agreement), "He is one of them!"
But again he denied, with an oath, "I do not know the man!"
Yet another (man) saw him and said, "You are too of them!"
But Peter said, "Man, I am not!"
Now later on (several hours after Jesus' arrival for the informal trial in the house of Caiaphas, but within an hour after Peter's second renouncement), two came forth, standing up to bear false witness.
And one said, "This man stated, 'I am able to destroy God's Temple and to then rebuild it three days later'!"
(and another said) "We heard Him say, 'I will destroy this Temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another Temple made without hands'!"
But not even in this respect was their testimony valid!
[Trialnote: ironically, I picked up these two variants from two different authors reporting one testimony in the same scene... The Disciple does mention that there were two testimonies here, though he only reports one.
Interestingly, the claim being variously reported here is similar to, but crucially different from, a similar claim made by Jesus two years earlier during His previous Passover visit to Jerusalem, after the first cleansing of the Temple--a visit reported in GosJohn, although this charge is not...]
Now the high priest (having basically lost his patience in an increasingly dangerous situation for him and his party...) stood up and forward, saying to Him, "Do you make no answer?? What is it that these men testify against you!?"
But Jesus answered not a word.
[Trialnote: Caiaphas is desperately trying to get Jesus to convict Himself by His own testimony in front of witnesses. He cannot legally ask for it; nor can he technically prompt for it in this leading fashion. Jesus is still under no obligation to incriminate Himself; although even if He did answer, His testimony probably would not be considered legally damning.
There is one adjuration, though, that even in the later rabbinic period (2nd century onward) is agreed to be absolutely binding on any Jew to answer: even to stand silent under it, is considered to be an admission of damning guilt. Jesus' silent stance under question may be what suggests the final tactic to Caiaphas: let Him stand silent under this, then!
Even answering to this oath would not technically be admissible in court--probably--but Caiaphas is probably betting on it carrying enough of a religious weight with Councilors on all sides of the 'Jesus question', that it might effectively trump 'mere' legal process.]
Now the high priest said to Him:
"I charge you under oath by the living God: you be telling us if you, being the Anointed King, are the Son of God the Blessed!"
Jesus said to him:
"As you say. (the polite agreement of grave or sad importance...)
"More than this I tell you: hereafter, you shall see 'the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power' and 'arriving on the clouds of heaven'!" (quoting a Psalm and Daniel the prophet)
Then the high priest tore his outer garments, saying: "He has blasphemed! What more need do we have for witnesses!? Behold!--now you have heard the blasphemy!
"What do you think!? How does it seem to you!?"
They answered and said: "He is deserving of death!" And they all condemned Him.
Then some began to spit in His face, and to cover His face, and beat Him with their fists; and officers slapped Him (or possibly 'struck Him with rods', i.e. their clubs); and said, "Prophecy to us, you 'Christ'--who is the one who hit you?!"
[Trialnote: the adjuration Jesus must not stand silent under was 'I charge you under oath by the living God': the Oath of the Testimony. Caiaphas was taking a huge gamble--misuse of this adjuration would probably be a capital crime in itself!
Technically, it is disputable whether even the Oath might count as a mistrial procedure in a capital case--and 'disputable' usually means 'mistrial' under Jewish capital law. But the Oath carries its own traditional weight, and Caiaphas is counting on the blasphemous answer itself to overweigh matters in his favor even with dissidents in the Court.
What is the blasphemy?
From the evidence, I gather one or both of two things.
First, Caiaphas knows that most of the Council knows what kind of claims Jesus has been making to them, concerning His own meaning of the title Son of God. They may not be able to pin Him on it exactly via witnesses, as to wording, but Jesus made quite sure there was no ambiguity about what He meant by the phrase.
Consequently, even if it was granted that the Messiah might in some legitimate fashion be 'the Son of God' by allegory, they were not expecting Him to be literally the Son of God, much less (as Jesus claimed previously) essentially equal to God Himself. But they know this is what Jesus means, even if they have not exactly prompted it from Him even by the Oath. Ironically, they are condemning Him by the spirit of His word, not by the letter--right in contravention to what He Himself has previously denounced them for typically doing.
(I will point out that this interpretation does not stand entirely on evidence from GosJohn: any close reading of certain claims made publicly in the presence of witnesses from the Sanhedrin, as reported in the Synoptics, will show the exact same claim being implied. The implications of what Jesus meant by them are inescapable, once the contexts of the claims are accounted for. They cannot be used against Him in court, for their parabolic delivery makes any valid testimony impossible--this is what the authors mean by 'false testimony', not that the witnesses were necessarily being malicious--but even if we discount GosJohn as being reliable history, we are left with plenty of other things that would count just as well in the minds of the Court. Ironically, their parabolic character, as well as a lack of appreciation of story-contexts, hinders readers today from understanding what is being claimed in them...)
The second possible blasphemy would also be implied by the situation, but does not rely on the Court being previously familiar with claims of divinity by Jesus (directly or indirectly). It is the same essential principle that would count heavily in the minds of the general population, once a certain point is reached:
if Jesus was really the Messiah (much moreso the Son of God, however anyone interprets that)... would He be letting Himself be condemned like this? Especially in a trial which He clearly shows He knows is illegal procedure??
Would the Messiah, of all people, let such an injustice and defeat happen to Him?
("Prophecy, you 'Christ'!" cry the Temple guards as they strike Him blindfolded--applying their own less subtle test on the same principle...
"If you are a Son of God... if you are the Son of God..." whispered Satan, during the temptation in the desert...
show it... show it... show it...)
Yet a little later, after about an hour had passed, the bystanders came up and another man began to insist, saying to Peter: "Surely you are also one of them--for your Galilean accent makes you evident! And he is a Galilean, too!"
One of the slaves of the priest, being a relative of the one whose ear Peter cut off, said, "Did I not see you in the garden with him...?"
Then Peter started cursing and swore with an oath against himself:
"I do not know the man you are talking about!!"
...and immediately, a rooster crowed the second time (sunrise being near).
...and the Lord turned and looked at Peter (as He was being taken to the Temple from the house of Caiaphas--through the gateway porch).
...and Peter remembered the word that Jesus had said:
"Before a rooster crows the second time, you will deny Me thrice."
And he ran out... and wept, bitterly...
Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty silver shekels to the elders and chief priests, saying: "I have sinned by betraying an innocent man!"
Yet they said, "What is that to us? See to that yourself!"
But he threw the pieces of silver into the Temple and departed.
And he went away... and hanged himself.
Now the chief priests took the pieces of silver and said, "It is not permitted to put them (back) into the Temple treasury, since it is the price of blood."
But they counseled together and with the pieces they bought the Potter's Field as a burial place for strangers.
So (says the Disciple) that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet (actually he is quoting Zechariah) was fulfilled, saying, 'And I took the thirty silver pieces, the price of one whose price was set' by the sons of Israel, 'and I gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord directed me.'
[Next time: The King of Trials]