The Historicity of Jewish High Priest Caiaphas

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Like Pilate, Caiaphas is a well established historical figure attested to in several historical sources.

From the canonical gospels one learns that he was the “high priest that year” Christ was crucified (John 11:49), and that after being arrested Christ was taken to him (Mark 14:53, Matthew 26:57, Luke 22:54) where Caiaphas “questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching” (John 18:19). One also learns from Matthew that Caiaphas and others “plotted together to seize Jesus by stealth and kill Him” (Matthew 26: 4). There is also the vivid imagery of Caiaphas, after taking offense at Christ’s reply in Matthew 26:64, tearing his clothes and accusing him of blasphemy. It is clear that Caiaphas is portrayed as a chief villain in the gospels because of his part in the plot to kill Christ.

The book of Acts, also authored by Luke’s writer, deems it important to mention Caiaphas in the early history of the Christian church. Acts says that Caiaphas was “gathered together in Jerusalem” with others of “high-priestly descent” (4:6). On this occasion John and Peter were taken before him after having healed a crippled man.

The 1st century Jewish historian Josephus Flavius writing in 96 AD, in his Antiquities of the Jews, says that it was a tumultuous time when Caiaphas became a high priest, and that he was appointed in 18 AD by the prefect Valerius Gratus (see 18.33-35). According to some historians Flavius provides the “most valuable source for Caiaphas” (1).

Additional pieces of evidence are the Miriam ossuary and the ossuary of Caiaphas. The Miriam ossuary is a chest made of limestone for storing human bones which was discovered by a team of Israeli archaeologists (2). The ossuary was stolen from a tomb in the Valley of Elah belonging to the family of Caiaphas. It has been deemed authentic by the Israel Antiquities Authority and refers to the High Priest Caiaphas (the grandfather of Miriam). The ossuary of Caiaphas was a 1990 discovery of an ossuary containing the remains of two infants, two teenage boys, a woman and a man (thought to be Caiaphas) of about 60.

Taking all of the above mentioned evidences there is certainly persuasive corroboration of Caiaphas as a historical figure. In fact, if one only had the testimony of Josephus Flavius or the gospel accounts it would likely be enough to support Caiaphas’ historicity. Thus, that Caiaphas is attested to in Mark, Matthew, Luke, John, Acts, Antiquities, and in the ossuaries is more than what most historians would consider sufficient evidence.

References.

1. Bond, H. 2004. Caiaphas: Friend of Rome and Judge of Jesus? p. 18.

3. Ronen, G. 2011. House of Caiaphas Ossuary is Authentic. Available.

 

 

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2 responses to “The Historicity of Jewish High Priest Caiaphas

  1. “According to one lecturer in New Testament Studies at the University of Edinburgh in England”. Edinburgh is in Scotland.

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