Caiaphas: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Christ Before Caiaphas, by Matthias Stom.

Yosef Bar Kayafa (Hebrew יוסף בַּר קַיָּפָא, pronounced [josef baʁ qaiːofoʔ]) (which translates as Joseph, son of Caiaphas[1]), also known simply as Caiaphas (Greek Καϊάφας) in the New Testament, was the Roman-appointed Jewish high priest between AD 18 and 37. In the Mishnah, Parah 3:5 refers to him as Ha-Koph (the monkey), a play on his name for opposing Mishnat Ha-Hasidim.[2] According to two New Testament gospels, Caiaphas is involved in the trial of Jesus after his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane.

The Gospels of Matthew and John (though not those of Mark and Luke) mention Caiaphas in connection with the trial of Jesus. Because he was the high priest, Caiaphas was also chairman of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high court. According to the Gospels, Jesus was arrested by the Temple guard and a hearing was organized by Caiaphas and others in which Jesus was accused of blasphemy. Finding him guilty, the Sanhedrin took him to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, where they further accused him of sedition against Rome.


In the New Testament

"Christ before Caiaphas". The High Priest is depicted tearing his robe in grief at Jesus' perceived blasphemy (Cappella Scrovegni a Padova, Giotto di Bondone, Life of Christ).

Matthew: trial of Jesus

In Matthew 26:57-26:67, Caiaphas, other chief priests, and the Bet Shammai dominated Sanhedrin of the time 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 "You have said so" (Σὺ εἶπας)26:64, and makes an allusion to the Son of Man coming on the clouds with power. Caiaphas and the other men charge him with blasphemy and order him beaten.

John: relations with Romans

In John 11, the high priests call a gathering of the Sanhedrin in reaction to the raising of Lazarus [3] Later Caiaphas and the chief priests extend this decision to also include Lazarus himself 12:10. The parallel with the reaction of the "five brothers" to any raising of Lazarus in the account 16:28-30 has given rise to the suggestion that the "rich man" is itself an attack on Caiaphas.[4]

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." 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 John 18, Jesus is brought before Annas and Caiaphas and questioned, with intermittent beatings. Afterward, the other priests (Caiaphas does not accompany them) take Jesus to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, and insist upon Jesus' execution. 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 Jews the choice of one prisoner to release — said to be a Passover tradition — and the Jews choose a criminal named Barabbas instead of Jesus.

Political implications

Caiaphas was the son-in-law of Annas by marriage to his daughter and ruled longer than any high priest in New Testament times.[5] For Jewish leaders of the time, there were serious concerns about Roman rule and an insurgent Zealot movement in Beit Shammai to eject the Romans from Israel. The Romans would not perform execution over violations of Jewish law, and therefore the charge of blasphemy would not have mattered to Pilate. Caiaphas' legal position, therefore, was to establish that Jesus was guilty not only of blasphemy, but also of proclaiming himself the messiah, which was understood as the return of the Davidic king. This would have been an act of sedition and prompted Roman execution.

Acts: Peter and John refuse to be silenced

Later, in Acts 4, Peter and John went before Annas and Caiaphas after having healed a crippled man. Caiaphas and 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 power, Caiaphas and the other priests realized that the two men had no formal education yet spoke eloquently about the man they called their saviour. 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 heard." [6]

Caiaphas in other historical sources

Caiaphas' term in office was recorded by the first-century Jewish historian Josephus. He was appointed in AD 18 by the Roman prefect who preceded Pilate, Valerius Gratus.[1]

The terms of Annas, Caiaphas, and the five brothers are:

  • Annas ben Seth (6–15)
  • Eleazar ben Ananus (16–17)
  • Joseph ben Caiaphas (18–36), who had married the daughter of Annas (John 18:13)
  • Jonathan ben Ananus (36–37 and 44)
  • Theophilus ben Ananus (37–41)
  • Matthias ben Ananus (43)
  • Ananus ben Ananus (63)

In 1990, two miles south of present day Jerusalem, 12 ossuaries in the family tomb of a "Caiaphas" were discovered[7]. One ossuary was inscribed with the full name, in Aramaic of "Joseph, son of Caiaphas", and a second with simply the family name of "Caiaphas".[1] After examination the bones were reburied on the Mount of Olives.

Caiaphas in literature and arts

Caiaphas is mentioned in the 16th 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"

Which is strange because the kiss that betrayed Jesus (the subject of the verse) is Judas, not Caiaphas.

Caiphas is mentioned throughout the works of William Blake as a byword for a traitor or Pharisee.

Fictional portrayals

Caiaphas was portrayed by Mattia Sbragia in Mel Gibson's controversial 2004 film The Passion of the Christ, by Anthony Quinn in the television miniseries Jesus of Nazareth, directed by Franco Zeffirelli, and by Bob Bingham in the 1973 film Jesus Christ Superstar.

Caiaphas and his ossuary are the subject of Bob Hostetler's book The Bone Box (Howard Books, 2008).

He is also mentioned in "The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri" in the 6th realm of the 8th circle, hypocrites. His punishment, according to Dante, is to be eternally crucified across a path that the hypocrites walk along (Bantam Books, 1980).


The name Caiaphas has three possible origins:

  • "as comely" in Aramaic
  • a "rock" or "rock that hollows itself out" (Keipha) in Aramaic
  • a "dell", or a "depression" in Chaldean


  1. ^ a b c Metzger & Coogan (1993) Oxford Companion to the Bible, p97.
  2. ^ The Babylonian Talmud (Yavamot 15b) gives the family name as Kuppai, while the Jerusalem Talmud (Yevamot 1:6) mentions Nekifi.
  3. ^ Vanderkam, From Josephus to Caiphas, p426
  4. ^ e.g. Whittaker, H.A. Studies in the Gospels, Biblia Staffordshire 1984, 2nd Ed. 1989 p495
  5. ^ "Annas and Caiaphas". Julian Retrieved 2010-03-07. 
  6. ^ Acts 4:19–20 NIV
  7. ^ [ " Tomb May Hold the Bones Of Priest Who Judged Jesus"]


External links

Preceded by
Simon ben Camithus
High Priest of Israel
Succeeded by
Jonathan ben Ananus
Preceded by
c. 20–30
Succeeded by

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

Joseph, called Caiaphas, was the Jewish high priest (A.D. 27-36) at the beginning of Jesus' public ministry, in the reign of Tiberius (Lk 3:2), and also at the time of his condemnation and crucifixion (Mt 26:3, Mt 26:57; Jn 11:49).

His wife was the daughter of Annas (Jn 18:13), who had formerly been high priest, and was probably the vicar or deputy (Heb. sagan) of Caiaphas.

He was of the sect of the Sadducees (Acts 5:17), and was a member of the council when he gave his opinion that Jesus should be put to death "for the people, and that the whole nation perish not" (Jn 11:50). In these words he unconsciously uttered a prophecy. "Like Saul, he was a prophet in spite of himself." Caiaphas had no power to inflict the punishment of death, and therefore Jesus was sent to Pilate, the Roman governor, that he might duly pronounce the sentence against him (Mt 27:2; Jn 18:28). At a later period his hostility to the gospel is still manifest (Acts 4:6).

He held this office during the whole of Pilate's administration, and was deposed by Vitellius, governor of Syria.

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

what mentions this? (please help by turning references to this page into wiki links)


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address