A high priest of the Jews, the virtual head of the priestly party in Jerusalem in the time of Christ, a man of commanding influence. He was the son of Seth (Josephus: Sethi), and was elevated to the high-priesthood by Quirinius, governor of Syria, 7 AD.
At this period the office was filled and vacated at the caprice of the Roman procurators, and Annas was deposed by Valerius Gratus, 15 AD. But though deprived of official status, he continued to wield great power as the dominant member of the hierarchy, using members of his family as his willing instruments.
That he was an adroit diplomatist is shown by the fact that five of his sons (Ant., XX, ix, 1) and his son-in-law Caiaphas (Jn 18:13) held the high-priesthood in almost unbroken succession, though he did not survive to see the office filled by his fifth son Annas or Ananus II, who caused Jas the Lord's brother to be stoned to death (circa 62 AD).
Another mark of his continued influence is, that long after he had lost his office he was still called "high priest," and his name appears first wherever the names of the chief members of the sacerdotal faction are given. Acts 4:6, "And Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest." Annas is almost certainly called high priest in Jn :19,22, though in 18:13,24 Caiaphas is mentioned as the high priest. Note especially the remarkable phrase in Lk 3:2, "in the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas," as if they were joint holders of the office.
The cases In which Josephus gives the title "high-priest" to persons who no longer held the office afford no real parallel to this. The explanation seems to be that owing to age, ability and force of character Annas was the virtual, though Caiaphas the titular, high priest.
He belonged to the Sadducean aristocracy, and, like others of that class, he seems to have been arrogant, astute, ambitious and enormously wealthy. He and his family were proverbial for their rapacity and greed. The chief source of their wealth seems to have been the sale of requisites for the temple sacrifices, such as sheep, doves, wine and oil, which they carried on in the four famous "booths of the sons of Annas" on the Mount of Olives, with a branch within the precincts of the temple itself.
During the great feasts, they were able to extort high monopoly prices for theft goods. Hence, our Lord's strong denunciation of those who made the house of prayer "a den of robbers" (Mk 11:15-19), and the curse in the Talmud, "Woe to the family of Annas! Woe to the serpent-like hisses" (Pes 57a).
As to the part he played in the trial and death of our Lord, although he does not figure very prominently in the gospel narratives, he seems to have been mainly responsible for the course of events. Renan's emphatic statement is substantially correct, "Annas was the principal actor in the terrible drama, and far more than Caiaphas, far more than Pilate, ought to bear the weight of the maledictions of mankind" (Life of Jesus).
Caiaphas, indeed, as actual high priest, was the nominal head of the Sanhedrin which condemned Jesus, but the aged Annas was the ruling spirit. According to Jn 18:12,13, it was to him that the officers who arrested Jesus led Him first. "The reason given for that proceeding ("for he was father-in-law of Caiaphas") lays open alike the character of the man and the character of the trial" (Westcott, in the place cited).
Annas (if he is the high priest of Jn :19-23, as seems most likely) questioned Him concerning His disciples and teaching. This trial is not mentioned by the synoptists, probably because it was merely informal and preliminary and of a private nature, meant to gather material for the subsequent trial. Failing to elicit anything to his purpose from Jesus, "Annas therefore sent him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest" (Jn 18:24 the King James Version is incorrect and misleading) for formal trial before the Sanhedrin, "but as one already stamped with a sign of condemnation" (Westcott).
Doubtless Annas was present at the subsequent proceedings, but no further mention is made of him in New Testament, except that he was present at the meeting of the Sanhedrin after Pentecost when Peter and John defended themselves for preaching the gospel of the resurrection (Acts 4:6).
The above is quoted from ISBE Bible Dictionary