Joseph Caiaphas, known simply as
Caiaphas (Hebrew: יוֹסֵף
בַּר קַיָּפָא; Greek: Καϊάφας) in the New
Testament, was the Jewish high priest who is said to have organized
the plot to kill Jesus.
Caiaphas is also said to have been involved in
Sanhedrin trial of Jesus. The primary sources for Caiaphas'
life are the
New Testament and the writings of Josephus. Outside of
his interactions with Jesus, little else is known about his tenure as
1 Historical accounts
Caiaphas and Miriam ossuaries
1.2.2 Miriam ossuary
1.3 New Testament
1.3.1 John: relations with Romans
1.3.2 Matthew: trial of Jesus
1.3.3 Political implications
1.3.4 Acts: Peter and John refuse to be silenced
1.4 Other historical sources
3 Literature and arts
3.3 Film portrayals
6 External links
The 1st-century Jewish historian
Josephus is considered the most
reliable extra-biblical literary source for Caiaphas. His works
contain information on the dates for Caiaphas' tenure of the high
priesthood, along with reports on other high priests, and also help to
establish a coherent description of the responsibilities of the
Josephus (Antiquitates Judaicae 18.33-35)
Caiaphas became a high priest during a turbulent period.
He also states that the proconsul Vitellius deposed his father in law,
Annas. (Antiquitates Judaicae 18.95-97). Josephus' account is based
on an older source in which incumbents of the high priesthood were
According to Josephus,
Caiaphas was appointed in AD 18 by the Roman
prefect who preceded Pontius Pilate, Valerius Gratus.
Joseph was the son-in-law of
Annas (also called Ananus) the son of
Annas was deposed, but had five sons who served as high priest
after him. The terms of Annas, Caiaphas, and the five brothers are:
Ananus (or Annas) the son of Seth (6–15)
Eleazar the son of Ananus (16–17)
Caiaphas - properly called Joseph son of
Caiaphas (18–36), who had
married the daughter of
Annas (John 18:13)
Jonathan the son of Ananus (36–37 and 44)
Theophilus ben Ananus (37–41)
Matthias ben Ananus (43)
Ananus ben Ananus
Ananus ben Ananus (63)
Caiaphas and Miriam ossuaries
In November 1990, workers found an ornate limestone ossuary while
paving a road in the Peace Forest south of the
Abu Tor neighborhood of
Jerusalem. This ossuary appeared authentic and contained human
remains. An Aramaic inscription on the side was thought to read
"Joseph son of Caiaphas" and on the basis of this the bones of an
elderly man were considered to belong to the High Priest
Caiaphas. Since the original discovery this identification has
been challenged by some scholars on various grounds, including the
spelling of the inscription, the lack of any mention of Caiaphas'
status as High Priest, the plainness of the tomb (although the ossuary
itself is as ornate as might be expected from someone of his rank and
family), and other reasons.
Main article: Miriam ossuary
In June 2011, archaeologists from
Bar-Ilan University and Tel Aviv
University announced the recovery of a stolen ossuary, plundered from
a tomb in the Valley of Elah. The
Israel Antiquities Authority
declared it authentic, and expressed regret that it could not be
studied in situ. It is inscribed with the text: "Miriam, daughter
of Yeshua, son of Caiaphas, Priest of Ma’aziah from Beth ‘Imri".
Based on it,
Caiaphas can be assigned to the priestly course of
Ma’aziah, instituted by king David.
Christ before Caiaphas". The High Priest is depicted tearing his robe
in grief at Jesus' perceived blasphemy (Giotto, Life of Christ,
Scrovegni Chapel, Padua)
John: relations with Romans
Annas, father-in-law of
Caiaphas (John 18:13), had been high-priest
from A.D. 6 to 15, and continued to exercise a significant influence
over Jewish affairs.
Caiaphas may have sympathized with
the Sadducees, a religious movement in Judaea that found most of its
members among the wealthy Jewish elite. The comparatively long
eighteen-year tenure of
Caiaphas suggests he had a good working
relationship with the Roman authorities.
Gospel of John
Gospel of John 11, the high priests call a gathering of the
Sanhedrin in reaction to the raising of Lazarus. In the parable
related in the
Gospel of Luke
Gospel of Luke 16:28-30 the likely reaction of the
"five brothers" to the possibility of the return of the beggar Lazarus
has given rise to the suggestion by
Claude-Joseph Drioux and others
that the "rich man" is itself an attack on Caiaphas, his
father-in-law, and his five brothers-in-law.
Caiaphas considers, with "the Chief Priests and Pharisees", what to do
about Jesus, whose influence was spreading. They worry that if they
"let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans
will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation."
In John 18,
Jesus is brought before Annas, whose palace was
Annas questioned him regarding his disciples and teaching
and sent him on to Caiaphas.
Caiaphas makes a political calculation,
suggesting that it would be better for "one man" (Jesus) to die than
for "the whole nation" to be destroyed. In this
Caiaphas is stating a
rabbinic quotation (Gen. R. 94:9).
Jesus is taken to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of
Judea. Pilate tells the priests to judge
Jesus themselves, to which
they respond they lack authority to do so. Pilate questions Jesus,
after which he states, "I find no basis for a charge against him."
Pilate then offers the gathered crowd the choice of one prisoner to
release — said to be a
Passover tradition — and they choose a
Barabbas instead of Jesus.
Matthew: trial of Jesus
Sanhedrin trial of Jesus
Gospel of Matthew
Gospel of Matthew 26:57-67,
Caiaphas and others of the
Sanhedrin are depicted interrogating Jesus. They are looking for false
evidence with which to frame Jesus, but are unable to find any. Jesus
remains silent throughout the proceedings until
Caiaphas demands that
Jesus say whether he is the Christ.
Jesus replies "I am: and you will
see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power, and coming on
the clouds of heaven." 14:62
Caiaphas and the other men charge him
with blasphemy and order him beaten.
Caiaphas was the son-in-law of
Annas by marriage to his daughter and
ruled longer than any high priest in
New Testament times. For Jewish
leaders of the time, there were serious concerns about Roman rule and
an insurgent Zealot movement to eject the Romans from Israel. The
Romans would not perform execution over violations of Halakha, and
therefore the charge of blasphemy would not have mattered to Pilate.
Caiaphas' legal position, therefore, was to establish that
guilty not only of blasphemy, but also of proclaiming himself the
Messiah, which was understood as the return of the Davidic kingship.
This would have been an act of sedition and prompted Roman
Acts: Peter and John refuse to be silenced
Later, in Acts 4, Peter and John went before
having healed a crippled man.
Annas questioned the
apostles' authority to perform such a miracle. When Peter, full of the
Holy Spirit, answered that
Jesus of Nazareth was the source of their
Caiaphas and the other priests realized that the two men had no
formal education yet spoke eloquently about the man they called their
Caiaphas sent the apostles away, and agreed with the other
priests that the word of the miracle had already been spread too much
to attempt to refute, and instead the priests would need to warn the
apostles not to spread the name of Jesus. However, when they gave
Peter and John this command, the two refused, saying "Judge for
yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than
God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and
Other historical sources
Ossuary of the high priest Caiaphas, found in
Jerusalem in 1990.
Israel Museum, Jerusalem
According to Helen Catharine Bond, there may be some references to
Caiaphas in the rabbinic literature.
Babylonian Talmud (
Yevamot 15B) gives the family name as Kuppai,
Jerusalem Talmud (
Yevamot 1:6) mentions Nekifi. The Mishnah,
Parah 3:5, refers to him as hakKof "the Monkey", a play on his name
for opposing Mishnat Ha-Hasidim.
Caiaphas has three possible origins:
"as comely" in Aramaic
a "rock" or "rock that hollows itself out" (Kefa) in Aramaic
a "dell", or a "depression" in Akkadian
Literature and arts
Dante Alighieri places
Caiaphas in the sixth realm of the
eighth circle of Hell, where hypocrites are punished in the afterlife.
His punishment is to be eternally crucified across the hypocrites'
path, who eternally step on him.
Caiaphas is mentioned throughout the works of
William Blake as a
byword for a traitor or Pharisee.
Caiaphas and his ossuary are the subjects of Bob Hostetler's novel,
The Bone Box (2008).
Caiaphas is mentioned in the 19th verse of The Ballad of Reading Gaol
by Oscar Wilde:
He does not stare upon the air
Through a roof of little glass;
He does not pray with lips of clay
For his agony to pass,
Nor feel upon his shuddering cheek
The kiss of Caiaphas
Oscar Wilde, The Ballad of Reading Gaol
He is also shown as influencing
Pontius Pilate in passing the death
The Master and Margarita
The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov.
Christ Before Caiaphas, Antonio della Corna. Walters Art Museum.
Actors who have portrayed
Rudolph Schildkraut in
Cecil B. DeMille's film King of Kings 1927,
Guy Rolfe in Nicholas
Ray's film King of Kings (1961), Rodolfo Wilcock in Pier Paolo
Pasolini's film The
Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964), Martin
Landau in George Stevens' film
The Greatest Story Ever Told
The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965),
Bob Bingham in Norman Jewison's film
Christ Superstar (1973),
Anthony Quinn in Franco Zeffirelli's television miniseries
Mattia Sbragia in Mel Gibson's film The Passion of
Adrian Schiller in the TV miniseries The Bible
(2013) and the film Son of God (2014), both by same production team,
Richard Coyle in NBC’s miniseries by Mark Burnett and Roma
Downey A.D. The Bible Continues.
^ a b c d Metzger & Coogan Oxford Companion to the Bible, 1993. p
^ Bond, Caiaphas, pp. 18-19.
^ Bond, Caiaphas, p. 86.
^ Josephus' source is mentioned in Antiquitates Judaicae 20.224-51 and
Against Apion 1.36; see Bond, Caiaphas, p. 163, n. 2.
^ Josephus, Ant., Book 18 Section 26
^ "Tomb May Hold the Bones Of Priest Who Judged Jesus"
^ a b James H. Charlesworth,
Jesus and archaeology, Wm. B. Eerdmans
Publishing, 2006. pp 323-329
^ Bond, Helen Katharine (2004). Caiaphas: friend of Rome and judge of
Jesus?. Westminster/John Knox Press. pp. 4–8.
^ CNN Wire Staff (2011-06-30). "Israeli authorities: 2,000-year-old
burial box is the real deal". CNN. Retrieved 2011-08-26.
^ Reilly, Wendell. "Joseph Caiphas." The
Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 3.
New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 31 March 2017
^ Ledering, Jona. "Caiaphas", Livius, July 30, 2015
^ Vanderkam, From
Josephus to Caiphas, p. 426
^ e.g. Johann Nepomuk Sepp; Claude-Joseph Drioux; Whittaker, H.A.
Studies in the Gospels, Biblia Staffordshire 1984, 2nd Ed. 1989 p. 495
^ Gottheil, Richard and Krauss, Samuel. "Caiaphas", Jewish
^ "Caiaphas", Jewish Virtual Library
^ Acts 4:19–20 NIV
^ For a discussion of
Yevamot 1.10 and other possible rabbinic
references, see Bond, Caiaphas, p. 164, n. 3.
^ Falk, Harvey
Jesus the Pharisee: a new look at the Jewishness of
Jesus, 1985. p 137
^ Hostetler, Bob (2008). The Bone Box. Howard Books.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the
public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Joseph Caiphas".
Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.
Metzger, Bruce M. (ed) (1993). Michael D. Coogan, ed. The Oxford
Companion to the Bible. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
ISBN 0-19-504645-5. CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list
Bond, Helen Catharine (2004). Caiaphas: Friend of Rome and Judge of
Jesus?. Louisville: Westminster John Knox.
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