My aim in this series is simply to demonstrate an example of how the Gospel of John can contribute to the solution of problems of historical detail in cases where the synoptics offer conflicting or confusing reports of events in the life of Jesus – in this case the events occurring after the arrest of Jesus and before he is brought to Pilate.
For analysis of the synoptic side of the problem I am glad to have Matthew D. Larsen’s three recent posts on the Jewish trials only a click away.
Larsen illustrates the matter and degree of Luke’s divergence from Mark and Matthew in his account of this night’s events, and offers an explanation of this divergence on the basis of the synoptics alone. For my part, I wish to show that the Fourth Gospel narrative holds a key to a better explanation of Luke’s differences.
Modern criticism has long taken note of the uncanny similarities between Luke and John in some particulars of their accounts following Jesus’ arrest. The point is not that Luke follows John here (hardly possible), but rather that John, knowing the work of all three predecessors, lends support to Luke’s version by contributing to the story a key fact to which he alleges himself an eyewitness.
I will start with the first two particulars of the Luke-John resemblance and continue with some others in my next post.
1a. In Luke 22:54 Jesus is brought after arrest ‘into the high priest’s house’ (Caiaphas is not named by Luke) with Peter following afar off, but there is no report of an official trial until Jesus is moved to a different location.
1b. In John’s narrative (Jn18:13), ‘they led him away to Annas first’ (the former high priest), with Peter (and John) following him there. There is no report of an official trial at this first location (only an interview between Annas and Jesus). From here Jesus is taken to a different location (to Caiaphas).
2a. In Luke, it is at this (unnamed) high priest’s house that Peter’s denial takes place, and not in a location associated with a trial.
2b. In John it is the walled courtyard (Jn18:16) of the house of the high priest Annas (not any place associated with a trial) that Peter’s denial of Jesus takes place.
The Johannine tradition of Peter’s denial separates it spatially and temporally from the trial before Caiaphas. If Luke has also heard of this two-location tradition, and judged it closer to the truth, it would explain his stubborn rejection of Mark’s single-location setting for Peter’s denial and the official trials and abuses, etc., of Jesus.
[to be continued]
Part 1 of this series can be found here