“First they led him to Annas; for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year.  It was Caiaphas who had given counsel to the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people” (Catholic edition RSV, John 18:13,14)

Annas had been deposed from the office of high priest by the Romans 14 years before, but though he had lost his position he had retained his power.  A Jewish writer of the time recorded this note about him: “Now the report goes, that this elder Ananus (Annas) proved a most fortunate man; for he had five sons, who had all performed the office of high priest to God, and he had himself enjoyed that dignity a long time formerly, which had never happened to any other of our high priests…”. (1) And we learn from St John that Caiaphas himself, the official high priest, was a son-in-law of Annas.

The family of Annas was the richest in the country, their wealth being largely derived from their profiteering in what were called the shops of the sons of Annas.  These shops – there were four on the Mount of Olives and a fifth in the Temple courtyard itself – were run by the high priest’s family and relations and they provided at exorbitant prices the offerings needed for both public and private sacrifices.

Thus the high priestly monopoly in the requisites of religion had been converted into a gigantic racket.  And the profits were swollen still further by their control of the exchange of money in the Temple.  The sacrifices could be bought only with Temple money, which was not in general circulation.  People who wished to offer a sacrifice had first to change their ordinary currency into Temple coinage for which a high exchange rate was charged.  We can therefore understand why Our Blessed Lord told the chief priests that they had made the House of prayer into a robbers’ den.

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