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Joseph ben Caiaphas (c. 14 BC – c. 46 AD), known simply as Caiaphas (Hebrew: יוֹסֵף בַּר קַיָּפָא‎ Yōsēf bar Qayyāfāʾ; Greek: Καϊάφας) in the New Testament, was the Jewish high priest who, according to the gospels, organized a plot to kill Jesus. Caiaphas_sentence_0

He famously presided over the Sanhedrin trial of Jesus. Caiaphas_sentence_1

The primary sources for Caiaphas' life are the New Testament and the writings of Josephus. Caiaphas_sentence_2

Outside of his interactions with Jesus, little else is known about his tenure as high priest. Caiaphas_sentence_3

Historical accounts Caiaphas_section_0

Josephus Caiaphas_section_1

The 1st-century Jewish historian Josephus is considered the most reliable extra-biblical literary source for Caiaphas. Caiaphas_sentence_4

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 high-priestly office. Caiaphas_sentence_5

Josephus (Antiquitates Judaicae 18.33–35) relates that Caiaphas became a high priest during a turbulent period. Caiaphas_sentence_6

He also states that the proconsul Lucius Vitellius the Elder deposed Caiaphas (Antiquitates Judaicae 18.95–97). Caiaphas_sentence_7

Josephus' account is based on an older source, in which incumbents of the high priesthood were listed chronologically. Caiaphas_sentence_8

According to Josephus, Caiaphas was appointed in AD 18 by the Roman prefect Valerius Gratus who preceded Pontius Pilate. Caiaphas_sentence_9

According to John, Caiaphas was the son-in-law of the high priest Annas, who is widely identified with Ananus the son of Seth, mentioned by Josephus. Caiaphas_sentence_10

Annas was deposed after the death of Augustus, but had five sons who served as high priest after him. Caiaphas_sentence_11

The terms of Annas, Caiaphas, and the five brothers are: Caiaphas_sentence_12


  • Ananus (or Annas) the son of Seth (6–15)Caiaphas_item_0_0


  • Caiaphas_item_1_1
    • Eleazar the son of Ananus (16–17)Caiaphas_item_1_2
    • Caiaphas, properly called Joseph son of Caiaphas (18–36/37), who had married the daughter of Annas ()Caiaphas_item_1_3
    • Jonathan the son of Ananus (spring 37)Caiaphas_item_1_4
    • Theophilus ben Ananus (37–41)Caiaphas_item_1_5
    • Matthias ben Ananus (43)Caiaphas_item_1_6
    • Ananus ben Ananus (63)Caiaphas_item_1_7

Caiaphas and Miriam ossuaries Caiaphas_section_2

Caiaphas ossuary Caiaphas_section_3

Main article: Caiaphas ossuary Caiaphas_sentence_13

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. Caiaphas_sentence_14

This ossuary appeared authentic and contained human remains. Caiaphas_sentence_15

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. Caiaphas_sentence_16

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. Caiaphas_sentence_17

Miriam ossuary Caiaphas_section_4

Main article: Miriam ossuary Caiaphas_sentence_18

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. Caiaphas_sentence_19

The Israel Antiquities Authority declared it authentic, and expressed regret that it could not be studied in situ. Caiaphas_sentence_20

It is inscribed with the text: "Miriam, daughter of Yeshua, son of Caiaphas, Priest of Ma’aziah from Beth ‘Imri". Caiaphas_sentence_21

Based on it, Caiaphas can be assigned to the priestly course of Ma’aziah, instituted by king David. Caiaphas_sentence_22

New Testament Caiaphas_section_5

John: relations with Romans Caiaphas_section_6

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_sentence_23

Annas and Caiaphas may have sympathized with the Sadducees, a religious movement in Judaea that found most of its members among the wealthy Jewish elite. Caiaphas_sentence_24

The comparatively long eighteen-year tenure of Caiaphas suggests he had a good working relationship with the Roman authorities. Caiaphas_sentence_25

In the Gospel of John (John 11), the high priests call a gathering of the Sanhedrin in reaction to the raising of Lazarus. Caiaphas_sentence_26

In the parable related in the Gospel of Luke (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_sentence_27

Caiaphas considers, with "the Chief Priests and Pharisees", what to do about Jesus, whose influence was spreading. Caiaphas_sentence_28

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_sentence_29

Caiaphas’ fame hinges here on the gospel writer’s use of dramatic irony. Caiaphas_sentence_30

What the high priest says is not what he intends, but it is what the writer of the Fourth Gospel intends. Caiaphas_sentence_31

In the Gospel of John (John 18), Jesus is brought before Annas, whose palace was closer. Caiaphas_sentence_32

Annas questioned him regarding his disciples and teaching, and then sent him on to Caiaphas. Caiaphas_sentence_33

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. Caiaphas_sentence_34

Similar ideas can be found in Rabbinical discussion in Talmud and Midrash. Caiaphas_sentence_35

Afterward, Jesus is taken to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea. Caiaphas_sentence_36

Pilate tells the priests to judge Jesus themselves, to which they respond they lack authority to do so. Caiaphas_sentence_37

Pilate questions Jesus, after which he states, "I find no basis for a charge against him." Caiaphas_sentence_38

Pilate then offers the gathered crowd the choice of one prisoner to release—said to be a Passover tradition—and they choose a criminal named Barabbas instead of Jesus. Caiaphas_sentence_39

Matthew: trial of Jesus Caiaphas_section_7

Main article: Sanhedrin trial of Jesus Caiaphas_sentence_40

In the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 26:56-67), Caiaphas and others of the Sanhedrin are depicted interrogating Jesus. Caiaphas_sentence_41

They are looking for false evidence with which to frame Jesus, but are unable to find any. Caiaphas_sentence_42

Jesus remains silent throughout the proceedings until Caiaphas demands that Jesus say whether he is the Christ. Caiaphas_sentence_43

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." Caiaphas_sentence_44

(Mark 14:62) Caiaphas and the other men charge him with blasphemy and sentence him to corporal punishment for his crime. Caiaphas_sentence_45

Political implications Caiaphas_section_8

Caiaphas was the son-in-law of Annas by marriage to his daughter and ruled longer than any high priest in New Testament times. Caiaphas_sentence_46

For Jewish leaders of the time, there were serious concerns about Roman rule and an insurgent Zealot movement to eject the Romans from Israel. Caiaphas_sentence_47

The Romans would not perform execution over violations of Halakha, and therefore the charge of blasphemy would not have mattered to Pilate. Caiaphas_sentence_48

Caiaphas' legal position, therefore, was to establish that Jesus was guilty not only of blasphemy, but also of proclaiming himself to be the Messiah, which was understood as the return of the Davidic kingship. Caiaphas_sentence_49

This would have been an act of sedition and prompted Roman execution. Caiaphas_sentence_50

Acts: Peter and John refuse to be silenced Caiaphas_section_9

Later, in Acts 4, Peter and John went before Annas and Caiaphas after having healed a crippled man. Caiaphas_sentence_51

Caiaphas and Annas questioned the apostles' authority to perform such a miracle. Caiaphas_sentence_52

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_sentence_53

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. Caiaphas_sentence_54

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. Caiaphas_sentence_55

For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard." Caiaphas_sentence_56

Other historical sources Caiaphas_section_10

According to Helen Catharine Bond, there may be some references to Caiaphas in the rabbinic literature. Caiaphas_sentence_57

Etymology Caiaphas_section_11

The Babylonian Talmud (Yevamot 15B) gives the family name as Kuppai, while the Jerusalem Talmud (Yevamot 1:6) mentions Nekifi. Caiaphas_sentence_58

The Mishnah, Parah 3:5, refers to him as hakKof "the Monkey", a play on his name for opposing Mishnat Ha-Hasidim. Caiaphas_sentence_59

The family name Caiaphas קַיָּפָה has three possible origins: Caiaphas_sentence_60


  • from קוּפָּה 'basket', 'tub', verbalized as קִיֵּף , whence קַיָּף meaning 'basket maker', or a worker utilizing baskets such as to sell spicesCaiaphas_item_2_8
  • "as comely" in AramaicCaiaphas_item_2_9
  • a "dell", or a "depression" in AkkadianCaiaphas_item_2_10

Literature and arts Caiaphas_section_12

Literature Caiaphas_section_13

In Inferno, Dante Alighieri places Caiaphas in the sixth realm of the eighth circle of Hell, where hypocrites are punished in the afterlife. Caiaphas_sentence_61

His punishment is to be eternally crucified across the hypocrites' path, who eternally step on him. Caiaphas_sentence_62

Caiaphas is mentioned throughout the works of William Blake as a byword for a traitor or Pharisee. Caiaphas_sentence_63

Caiaphas and his ossuary are the subjects of Bob Hostetler's novel, The Bone Box (2008). Caiaphas_sentence_64

Caiaphas is mentioned in the 19th verse of The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde: Caiaphas_sentence_65

Arts Caiaphas_section_14

He is also shown as influencing Pontius Pilate in passing the death sentence against Jesus in The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. Caiaphas_sentence_66


  • Caiaphas_item_3_11

Film portrayals Caiaphas_section_15

Actors who have portrayed Caiaphas include 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 (1965), Bob Bingham in Norman Jewison's film Jesus Christ Superstar (1973), Anthony Quinn in Franco Zeffirelli's television miniseries Jesus of Nazareth (1977), Christian Kohlund in Jesus (1999), David Schofield in The Miracle Maker (2000), Mattia Sbragia in Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ (2004), Bernard Hepton in Son of Man, Adrian Schiller in the TV miniseries The Bible (2013) and the film Son of God (2014), both by same production team, Rufus Sewell in Killing Jesus (2015) and Richard Coyle in A.D. Caiaphas_sentence_67 The Bible Continues, an NBC miniseries by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. Caiaphas_sentence_68

See also Caiaphas_section_16


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