11:47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees 1 called the council 2 together and said, “What are we doing? For this man is performing many miraculous signs. 11:48 If we allow him to go on in this way, 3 everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away our sanctuary 4 and our nation.”
11:49 Then one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said, 5 “You know nothing at all! 11:50 You do not realize 6 that it is more to your advantage to have one man 7 die for the people than for the whole nation to perish.” 8
2 tn Or “Sanhedrin” (the Sanhedrin was the highest legal, legislative, and judicial body among the Jews). The συνέδριον (sunedrion) which they gathered was probably an informal meeting rather than the official Sanhedrin. This is the only occurrence of the word συνέδριον in the Gospel of John, and the only anarthrous singular use in the NT. There are other plural anarthrous uses which have the general meaning “councils.” The fact that Caiaphas in 11:49 is referred to as “one of them” supports the unofficial nature of the meeting; in the official Sanhedrin he, being high priest that year, would have presided over the assembly. Thus it appears that an informal council was called to discuss what to do about Jesus and his activities.
3 tn Grk “If we let him do thus.”
4 tn Or “holy place”; Grk “our place” (a reference to the temple in Jerusalem).
5 tn Grk “said to them.” The indirect object αὐτοῖς (autois) has not been translated for stylistic reasons.
6 tn Or “you are not considering.”
7 tn Although it is possible to argue that ἄνθρωπος (anqrwpo") should be translated “person” here since it is not necessarily masculinity that is in view in Caiaphas’ statement, “man” was retained in the translation because in 11:47 “this man” (οὗτος ὁ ἄνθρωπος, outo" Jo anqrwpo") has as its referent a specific individual, Jesus, and it was felt this connection should be maintained.
8 sn In his own mind Caiaphas was no doubt giving voice to a common-sense statement of political expediency. Yet he was unconsciously echoing a saying of Jesus himself (cf. Mark 10:45). Caiaphas was right; the death of Jesus would save the nation from destruction. Yet Caiaphas could not suspect that Jesus would die, not in place of the political nation Israel, but on behalf of the true people of God; and he would save them, not from physical destruction, but from eternal destruction (cf. 3:16-17). The understanding of Caiaphas’ words in a sense that Caiaphas could not possibly have imagined at the time he uttered them serves as a clear example of the way in which the author understood that words and actions could be invested retrospectively with a meaning not consciously intended or understood by those present at the time.