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Mark 14:53

ESV And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together.
NIV They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law came together.
NASB They led Jesus away to the high priest; and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes *gathered together.
CSB They led Jesus away to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes assembled.
NLT They took Jesus to the high priest’s home where the leading priests, the elders, and the teachers of religious law had gathered.
KJV And they led Jesus away to the high priest: and with him were assembled all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes.

What does Mark 14:53 mean?

After His arrest, the guards first take Jesus to Annas (John 18:13). Annas has five sons and one son-in-law who either have been, are, or will be high priest. Apparently, Peter first denies Jesus while Annas is interrogating Him (John 18:12–18). Annas is identified as the high priest in John 18:19, although he does not hold that position at this time. His interrogation of Jesus is recorded in John 18:19–24. Annas doesn't put Jesus on formal trial; he asks Jesus about His disciples and teaching, most likely attempting to get ahead of any political unrest. Jesus insists that all His teachings were public. If He is on trial, evidence should come from witnesses. Unable to get the information he wants, Annas sends Jesus to his son-in-law, Caiaphas, who is the current the high priest.

When Jesus is taken to Caiaphas, representatives of the Sanhedrin gather for the more formal trial. The Sanhedrin is a group of Jewish leaders who act as judge and jury when Jews are accused of breaking the Mosaic law. The council has its beginnings even before the Israelites reached the Promised Land. When Moses couldn't settle all the disputes the Israelites brought to him, his father-in-law, Jethro, suggested he find wise men to address what they could and send on only the major issues to Moses (Exodus 18:13–18). The structure of the Sanhedrin as it stands at this time was probably established around 70 BC by the then-king of Judea.

The council is comprised of several groups of different theological beliefs and social standings. The majority are Sadducees. The Sadducees are legally conservative, in that they adhere to the Mosaic law, not the oral traditions that the Pharisees love. But they are socially more liberal than the Pharisees and see no reason why Jews shouldn't enjoy those parts of Greek and Roman culture that do not directly violate the Law.

The office of "chief priest" as used here is different from what was established in the Mosaic law. Priests were those eligible men from the tribe of Levi who were direct descendants of Moses' brother Aaron (Exodus 28:1–3; Numbers 18:7). In the Old Testament, the term "chief priest" is a synonym for the high priest: a single person holding the highest position and who entered the Holy of Holies (Leviticus 16). At the time of Jesus' arrest and trials, "chief priests" seems to have become a class among the priests. It's unclear which of the priests fit this category.

The elders are not defined by their religious position, although it's likely many were Sadducees. They are the prominent businessmen of Jerusalem, and probably had a hand in setting up the vendors' tables that Jesus tore down in Mark 11:15–19. As Jews, they're not thrilled with Roman rule, but as businessmen, they profit greatly from it. Pax Romana meant the roads are clear and relatively safe, and there are no major wars to disrupt trade. If Jesus causes a riot in Jerusalem and the Roman army responds with force, the elders could lose everything.

Scribes are lawyers; doctrinally they could be Pharisees, Sadducees, or nonsectarian. The scribes of the Pharisees interpret the Mosaic law through the lens of the oral law (Mark 2:18, 24; 3:1–2; 7:1–23). The Sadducees also have scribes who reject much of the oral law and honor only what God gave directly to Moses. The Pharisees have no problem finding ways in which Jesus violates oral traditions—something He freely admits since they do not have the authority of Scripture (Mark 7:9–13). The scribes of the Sadducees need to establish that Jesus directly broke Mosaic law. This is more than difficult; it's impossible, since He didn't.

All the men involved will then have an even more difficult task: linking Jesus to a capital offense according to the Roman law.
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