The Palace of Annas the high priest

Justin Taylor, with whom I worked on the ESV Study Bible, is co-authoring, with Andreas Köstenberger, a volume entitled  Jesus’s Final Week: An Easter Chronology and Commentary. His interview with me concerning the High Priestly Palace can be seen on his blog:

He [Leen] has tentatively identified the “Palatial Mansion” (or “Herodian Mansion”) as the place of residence for Annas the high priest. If this is correct, then this would be a “look inside” the first phase of Jesus’s Jewish trial. And it may explain things like where the courtyard was located and how Jesus could look at Peter though they were in two different locations (Jesus inside and Peter outside, warming himself by a charcoal fire).

The Palatial or Herodian Mansion. © Reconstruction by Leen Ritmeyer

In this photograph, my daughter-in-law Clare stands in the place where Peter would have stood when Jesus looked at him from the centre of the Reception Room.

The place where Peter stood when he met Jesus' eyes. Photo: Nathaniel Ritmeyer

18 thoughts on “The Palace of Annas the high priest”

  1. Your suggestion Leen is very exciting. When we went to the Palatial Mansion it was amazing to consider that this could of been the very place the trial of Christ began. It does have all the qualifying features – courtyard, huge Jewish priestly house, viewpoint from inside the house to the courtyard, etc. and so it seems to me very reasonable to assume that, without a better fit, this would of been the house of the high priest at the time of Christ before it was destroyed in AD70. Amazing.

  2. Thanks, Leen. I would love to see your view in more detail why the “house of the high priest” (Luke 22:54) refers to Annas’ home and not to Caiaphas.’ Thanks for posts.

  3. Wayne,
    The gospels record that, after his arrest in Gethsemane, Jesus was brought to the palace of the high priest (Matth. 26.3; Mark 14.54; Luke 22.54). Which high priest? John gives more specific detail, as he knew the place better than any other disciple, for he “was known to the high priest”. John is therefore the only one who mentions that Jesus was led to Annas first (John 18.13). Although Caiaphas was the acting high priest, he was also son-in-law to Annas.
    Annas was high priest from 6-15 AD and was succeeded by five of his sons and then by his son-in-law. It is interesting to note that in Luke 3.2 both Annas and Caiaphas were called high priests. It shows that Annas still had considerable influence and that he was the one who was actually calling the shots behind the scenes, through his five sons and also through his son-in-law. Why would Jesus be first led to Annas? I believe that Annas wanted to show his authority, but also that he had a grudge to settle.
    When Jesus drove out the money-changers (Matth. 21.12-13), the sons of Annas were apparently among them, if not the most important ones. This money changing business normally took place in the Royal Stoa, but it would appear that, on this occasion, the market had spilled over from the Stoa beyond the soreg or balustrade into the holy area, and so profaned it. When Jesus in that same passage quoted God’s words through Isa. 56.7 and Jer. 7.11, “My house shall be called a house of prayer”, he would not have referred to the Royal Stoa, but to the sacred 500 cubit square precinct (Mishnah Middot 2.1). As to Jesus’ accusation that the merchants had made it “a den of thieves”, there is abundant confirmation in the sources of the extortionate prices charged to those who bought sacrificial animals or who needed to change their money to pay the Temple tribute. Who would have had permission to do so inside the area of the soreg, if not the sons of the high priests exclusively. The high priestly family of Annas was very powerful and Annas used nepotism to get his sons in the most important offices of the Temple, thereby controlling the Temple treasures as well. The Talmud calls some of these priests “great hoarders of money”.
    So, John tells us that Jesus was led to Annas first, but also that soon after that, the chief priests, scribes and elders of the people were assembled in the same palace (Matth. 26.3; Mark 14.53; Luke 22.66). After this interrogation, Annas sent Jesus to Caiaphas (John 18.24).
    It is doubtful if this meeting with Annas would have taken place in the house of Caiaphas. Only the large palace of Annas would have been able to accommodate so many people and only Annas could have afforded a wealthy mansion such as the one excavated by Avigad.
    Compare, for example, the tombs of Annas and Caiaphas. I believe to have correctly identified the “Monument of Annas” at the mouth of the Hinnom Valley, just below the city walls of Jerusalem, which was prime property (Ritmeyer, L. and K. “Potter’s Field or High Priest’s Tomb?” in Biblical Archaeology Review 20.6, (1994), 22–35, 76–78). This was a splendid tomb that only a very wealthy man, such as Annas, could afford.
    The tomb of Caiaphas has also been found, far away from Jerusalem, in the Peace Forest. Although the ossuary was of excellent quality and beautifully decorated (perhaps paid for by the house of Annas?), the tomb itself was a miserable affair, reflecting on the lack of wealth compared with that of Caiaphas. The house of Caiaphas has, of course, not yet been found. Even Magen Broshi who excavated a dwelling on Mt. Zion, that was initially identified as the house of Caiaphas, doesn’t believe that any more.
    Although the identification of the Palatial Mansion with the Palace of Annas must remain tentative, the fact that one can visualize the whole scene of Jesus standing before Annas first in that magnificent Reception Room and Peter denying the Lord, while standing in a corner of the courtyard, where he would gone to in any case if he wanted to leave the palace, makes a visualization possible. Especially the fact that there is only one place where Jesus could have seen Peter makes this event very special, as I am sure that the meeting of their eyes was a very private affair, meant to be seen by Peter only. Jesus loved Peter and would not have wanted to publicly denounce him as a traitor, knowing that he would repent afterwards.

  4. Leen,
    I know I’m about 8 months behind on this conversation, but I just noticed that Ronny Reich in his Sept/Oct 1992 article tentatively connects the name Caiaphas to Qatros. Could that imply that the Palatial Mansion is actually Caiaphas’ house (at least it’s very close by)? I know that was a while ago; maybe scholars don’t connect Qatros to Caiaphas anymore?

  5. Clearly from scripture Jesus was first taken to Annas Caiaphas father in law & then led to Caiaphas home. If the Palace was as large as has been suggested and some have claimed they both lived in the same large Palace grounds then this does not discredit scripture.
    Whilst at Annas place or palace Caiaphas was taking the opportunity to assemble the Sanhedrin who clearly did not meet at their normal place of assembly.
    The photograph is very interesting but not conclusive. The above is only my supposition from the research of the many sources on this subject.

  6. I do the stations of the cross each day. Mary Jesus mother did them every day also and I also went to Jerusalem and walked the Via Dolorosa with a Prayer Group. I was interested in where Annas house was and found it mentioned in the Passion of Jesus Christ by Anne Catherine Emmereich. I hope to get back to Jerusalem again and walk the way of Jesus again going from the Upper Room to Getsemanee and then to Annas house and to Ciaiphas house and then to the Fortress Antonia and the Via Delorosa. God Bless: hugh

  7. May I offer something this late in the dialogue?

    If you read the Synoptics and compare with John, some interesting facts come out: In the Synoptics, Peter is sitting. In John, Peter is standing. Also, everyone is warming themselves by a fire.

    There was such a place and the location is known. It is the “Chamber of the Hearth” and “Chamber of the Flames”: . See also: , “Priestly Guard”.

    You cannot sit in the “Chamber of the Flames” and Peter made it into the Chamber of the Flames. Also, only Priestly Types can get into the Chamber of the Flames. There appears to be something to the Story that has been hidden. I’ll leave it to others to smooth out the details…

    Thank you for your time,


  8. Charles,
    Jesus was in the palace of Annas the High Priest which was in the Upper City of jerusalerm and not on the temple Mount. As non-Levites, neither Jesus not peter would have been allowed in any of the buildings that surrounded the temple.

  9. Thank you very much, Leen Ritmeyer!
    Sometimes I get reminded of just how far down a certain road I’ve traveled. I am claiming precisely that Peter was of the Mishmarot Priesthood, of the Mishmarot Group “Immer” (1 Chronicles 24) and that he was from the Settlement “Jabnit”, down the road from Meiron, home of the Hasmoneans. (BTW, Immer thought that the Hasmoneans came from them).
    Peter WOULD HAVE BEEN allowed into the Priestly Chamber of the Flames but that part of the Story has been hidden.
    Not convincing to you in any manner but that’s OK.

    Thanx again,


  10. You mention that Caiaphas’ house has not been found. What of the structure commonly claimed as his house at Gallicantu? What evidence is there for and against that designation? (History buff here. Enjoyed your 30 AD book immensely).

  11. Thomas, the house at Gallicantu dates from the 1st century, but that is all we know. The house has a cellar that some people think was a prison, hence the connection with Caiaphas’ house, but, without an inscription, that cannot be proven.

  12. Leen,
    Have you read the Urantia Book which purports to be a celestial revelation of the events of Jesus’ life? In it is written:
    “Peter’s entire experience occurred in the courtyard of the palace of Annas on Mount Olivet. He did not follow Jesus to the palace of the high priest, Caiaphas. That Peter was brought to the realization that he had repeatedly denied his Master by the crowing of a cock indicates that this all occurred outside of Jerusalem since it was against the law to keep poultry within the city proper.”
    In the last couple years the foundation of such a palace has been excavated. Do you have any thoughts on this?

  13. Doug, the Urantia Book is a modern publication. Locating the palace of Annas on the Mount of Olives doesn’t make much sense, as it has been located in the Jewish Quarter of the Old Cityv of Jerusalem,

  14. Are there any as-yet-un-excavated buildings in the area around the palatial mansion that could be that of Caiaphas? Also, I am having trouble comparing your Josephus references to the Whiston chapter-and-paragragraph reference method. What translation of Josephus do you recommend?

  15. Without going into the reasons or references, I have thought that Pilate occupied Herod’s palace, adjacent to the three pillars, as he was the reigning authority, and that was the most imposing structure outside the temple; that Herod Antipas (when in town) would have occupied the palace near Wilson’s arch, given his wealth and political pedigree and history, since that was the third most imposing structure after the other two; that Annas’ palace was elsewhere in the wealthy Upper City; and that Caiaphas’ house was in the Essene Quarter. What evidence am I missing? I cannot imagine Pilate being headquartered with the garrison at Antonia.

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