Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol I:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Church History of Eusebius.: Chapter X
Chapter X.—The High Priests of the Jews under whom Christ taught.
1. It was in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, 172 according to the evangelist, and in the fourth year of the governorship of Pontius Pilate, 173 while Herod and Lysanias and Philip were ruling the rest of Judea, 174 that our Saviour and Lord, Jesus the Christ of God, being about thirty years of age, 175 came to John for baptism and began the promulgation of the Gospel.
2. The Divine Scripture says, moreover, that he passed the entire time of his ministry under the high priests Annas and Caiaphas, 176 showing that in the time which bep. 97 longed to the priesthood of those two men the whole period of his teaching was completed. Since he began his work during the high priesthood of Annas and taught until Caiaphas held the office, the entire time does not comprise quite four years.
3. For the rites of the law having been already abolished since that time, the customary usages in connection with the worship of God, according to which the high priest acquired his office by hereditary descent and held it for life, were also annulled and there were appointed to the high priesthood by the Roman governors now one and now another person who continued in office not more than one year. 177
4. Josephus relates that there were four high priests in succession from Annas to Caiaphas. Thus in the same book of the Antiquities 178 he writes as follows: “Valerius Gratus 179 having put an end to the priesthood of Ananus 180 appoints Ishmael, 181 the son of Fabi, high priest. And having removed him after a little he appoints Eleazer, 182 the son of Ananus the high priest, to the same office. And having removed him also at the end of a year he gives the high priesthood to Simon, 183 the son of Camithus. But he likewise held the honor no more than a year, when Josephus, called also Caiaphas, 184 succeeded him.” Accordingly the whole time of our Saviours ministry is shown to have been not quite four full years, four high priests, from Annas to the accession of Caiaphas, having held office a year each. The Gospel therefore has rightly indicated Caiaphas as the high priest under whom the Saviour suffered. From which also we can see that the time of our Saviours ministry does not disagree with the foregoing investigation.
5. Our Saviour and Lord, not long after the beginning of his ministry, called the twelve apostles, 185 and these alone of all his disciples he named apostles, as an especial honor. And again he appointed seventy others whom he sent out two by two before his face into every place and city whither he himself was about to come. 186
Luke iii. 1. Eusebius reckons the fifteenth year of Tiberius from 14 a.d., that is, from the time when he became sole emperor. There is a difference of opinion among commentators as to whether Luke began to reckon from the colleagueship of Tiberius (11 or 12 a.d.), or from the beginning of his reign as sole emperor. Either mode of reckoning is allowable, but as Luke says that Christ “began to be about thirty years of age” at this time, and as he was born probably about 4 b.c., the former seems to have been Lukes mode. Compare Andrews Life of our Lord, p. 28.96:173
Luke says simply, “while Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea,” and does not mention the year, as Eusebius does.96:174
See the previous chapter.96:175
Eusebius reckoning would make Christs birthday synchronize with the beginning of our Christian era, which is at least three years out of the way.96:176
Luke 3:2, John 11:49, 51, John 18:13Luke iii. 2 compared with John xi. 49 and 51, and xviii. 13.
Stroth remarks: “Had I not feared acting contrary to the duty of a translator, I should gladly, for the sake of Eusebius honor, have left out this entire chapter, which is full of historical inaccuracies and contradictions. Eusebius deduces from Josephus himself that the Procurator Gratus, whom Pilate succeeded, appointed Caiaphas high priest. Therefore Caiaphas became high priest before the twelfth year of Tiberius, for in that year Pilate became procurator. In the fifteenth year of Tiberius, Christ began his work when Caiaphas had already been high priest three years and according to the false account of our author he became high priest for the first time in the nineteenth year of Tiberius. The whole structure of this chapter, therefore, falls to the ground. It is almost inconceivable how so prudent a man could have committed so great a mistake of the same sort as that which he had denounced a little before in connection with the Acts of Pilate.”
The whole confusion is due to Eusebius mistaken interpretation of the Gospel account, which he gives in this sentence. It is now universally assumed that Annas is named by the evangelists as ex-high-priest, but Eusebius, not understanding this, supposed that a part of Christs ministry must have fallen during the active administration of Annas, a part during that of Caiaphas, and therefore his ministry must have run from the one to the other, embracing the intermediate administrations of Ishmael, Eleazer, and Simon, and covering less than four years. In order to make this out he interprets the “not long after” in connection with Ishmael as meaning “one year,” which is incorrect, as shown below in note 9. How Eusebius could have overlooked the plain fact that all this occurred under Valerius Gratus instead of Pilate, and therefore many years too early (when he himself states the fact), is almost incomprehensible. Absorbed in making out his interpretation, he must have thoughtlessly confounded the names of Gratus and Pilate while reading the account. He cannot have acted knowingly, with the intention to deceive, for he must have seen that anybody reading his account would discover the glaring discrepancy at once.97:177
It is true that under the Roman governors the high priests were frequently changed (cf. above, chap. 6, note 19), but there was no regularly prescribed interval, and some continued in office for many years; for instance, Caiaphas was high priest for more than ten years, during the whole of Pilates administration, having been appointed by Valerius Gratus, Pilates predecessor, and his successor being appointed by the Proconsul Vitellius in 37 a.d. (vid. Josephus, Ant. XVIII. 2. 2 and 4. 3).97:178
Josephus, Ant. XVIII. 2.2.97:179
This Valerius Gratus was made procurator by Tiberius, soon after his accession, and ruled about eleven years, when he was succeeded by Pilate in 26 a.d.97:180
Ananus (or Annas) was appointed high priest by Quirinius, governor of Syria, in 6 or 7 a.d. (Josephus, Ant. XVIII. 2. 1), and remained in office until a.d. 14 or 15, when he was deposed by Valerius Gratus (ib. §2). This forms another instance, therefore, of a term of office more than one year in length. Annas is a familiar personage from his connection with the Gospel history; but the exact position which he occupied during Christs ministry is difficult to determine (cf. Wieselers Chronology of the Life of Christ).97:181
Either this Ishmael must have held the office eight or ten years, or else Caiaphas that long before Pilates time, for otherwise Gratus period is not filled up. Josephus statement is indefinite in regard to Ishmael, and Eusebius is wrong in confining his term of office to one year.97:182
According to Josephus, Ant. XX. 9. 1, five of the sons of Annas became high priests.97:183
This Simon is an otherwise unknown personage.97:184
Joseph Caiaphas, son-in-law of Annas, is well known from his connection with the Gospel history.97:185
See Matt. x. 1–4; Mark iii. 14-19; Luke vi. 13-1697:186
See Luke x. 1
Next: Chapter XI
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