Caiaphas (High Priest)

Referenced in the Bible:

• Matthew 26:3

• Matthew 26:57

• Luke 3:2

• John 11:49

• John 18:13-28

• Acts 4:6

Key Verse:[1]Sources:,,,, and

John 11:49-53
Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. So from that day on they plotted to take his life.(NIV)

Matthew 26:65-66
Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” “He is worthy of death,” they answered. (NIV)

Introduction:[2] (By Jack Zavada).

Caiaphas – High Priest of the Jerusalem Temple, Co-Conspirator in Jesus’ Death

Joseph Caiaphas, high priest of the temple in Jerusalem from 18 to 37 A.D., played a key role in the trial and execution of Jesus Christ. Caiaphas accused Jesus of blasphemy, a crime punishable by death under Jewish law.

But the Sanhedrin, or high council, of which Caiaphas was president, did not have the authority to execute people. So Caiaphas turned to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, who could carry out a death sentence. Caiaphas tried to convince Pilate that Jesus was a threat to Roman stability and had to die to prevent a rebellion.


The high priest served as the Jewish people’s representative to God. Once a year Caiaphas would enter the Holy of Holies in the temple to offer sacrifices to Yahweh.

Caiaphas was in charge of the temple treasury, controlled the temple police and lower ranking priests and attendants, and ruled over the Sanhedrin. His 19-year tenure implies that the Romans, who appointed the priests, were pleased with his service.


Caiaphas led the Jewish people in their worship of God. He performed his religious duties in strict obedience to Mosaic law.


It is questionable whether Caiaphas was appointed high priest because of his own merit. Annas, his father-in-law, served as high priest before him and got five of his relatives appointed to that office. In John 18:13, we see Annas playing a major part in Jesus’ trial, an indication he may have advised or controlled Caiaphas, even after Annas was deposed. Three high priests were appointed and quickly removed by the Roman governor Valerius Gratus before Caiaphas, suggesting that he was a shrewd collaborator with the Romans.

As a Sadducee, Caiaphas did not believe in the resurrection. It must have been a shock to him when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. He preferred to destroy this challenge to his beliefs instead of supporting it.

Since Caiaphas was in charge of the temple, he was aware of the money changers and animal sellers driven out by Jesus (John 2:14-16). Caiaphas may have received a fee or bribe from these vendors.

Caiaphas was not interested in the truth. His trial of Jesus violated Jewish law and was rigged to produce a guilty verdict. Perhaps he saw Jesus as a menace to Roman order, but he also may have seen this new message as a threat to his family’s rich way of life.

Life Lessons:

Compromising with evil is a temptation for all of us. We are especially vulnerable in our job, to maintain our way of life. Caiaphas betrayed God and his people to appease the Romans. We need to be on constant guard to stay faithful to Jesus.


Caiaphas was probably born in Jerusalem, although the record is not clear.


High priest of God’s temple in Jerusalem; president of the Sanhedrin.

2.0 Joseph Caiaphas[3]

Known simply as Caiaphas (Hebrew: יהוסף בר קיפא);(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 the Sanhedrin trial of Jesus.[4]Metzger & Coogan Oxford Companion to the Bible, 1993. p 97 According to the Gospel accounts, Caiaphas was the most hostile enemy of Jesus.



The 1st-century Jewish historian Josephus is considered the most reliable literary source for Caiaphas.[5]Bond, Caiaphas, pp. 18-19. 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. Josephus (Antiquitates Judaicae 18.33-35) relates that Caiaphas became a high priest during a turbulent period. He also states that the proconsul Vitellius deposed him (Antiquitates Judaicae 18.95-97).[6]Bond, Caiaphas, p. 86. Josephus’ account is based on an older source in which incumbents of the high priesthood were listed chronologically.[7]Josephus’ source is mentioned in Antiquitates Judaicae 20.224-51 and Against Apion 1.36; see Bond, Caiaphas, p. 163, n. 2.

According to Josephus, Caiaphas was appointed in AD 18 by the Roman prefect who preceded Pontius Pilate, Valerius Gratus.[8]Metzger & Coogan Oxford Companion to the Bible, 1993. p 97

Joseph was the son-in-law of Annas (also called Ananus[9]Josephus, Ant., Book 18 Section 26.) the son of Seth. 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 (63)


Caiaphas ossuary

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.[10]Metzger & Coogan Oxford Companion to the Bible, 1993. p 97, [11]Tomb May Hold the Bones Of Priest Who Judged Jesus 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.[12]Metzger & Coogan Oxford Companion to the Bible, 1993. p 97, [13]James H. Charlesworth, Jesus and archaeology, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2006. pp 323-329 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.[14]James H. Charlesworth, Jesus and archaeology, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2006. pp 323-329, [15]Bond, Helen Katharine (2004). Caiaphas: friend of Rome and judge of Jesus?. Westminster/John Knox Press. pp. 4–8. ISBN 978-0-664-22332-8.

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 couldn’t be studied in situ.[16]CNN Wire Staff (2011-06-30). “Israeli authorities: 2,000-year-old burial box is the real deal”. CNN. Retrieved 2011-08-26. 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.


Matthew: trial of Jesus

In the Gospel of Matthew 26:57-67, Caiaphas and other chief priests who dominated the 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) Matthew 26:64, and “I am: and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Mark 14:62 Caiaphas and the other men charge him with blasphemy and order him beaten.

John: relations with Romans

In the Gospel of John 11, the high priests call a gathering of the Sanhedrin in reaction to the raising of Lazarus.[17]Vanderkam, From Josephus to Caiphas, p. 426 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 in the Gospel of Luke 16:28-30 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.[18]e.g. Johann Nepomuk Sepp; Claude-Joseph Drioux; Whittaker, H.A. Studies in the Gospels, Biblia Staffordshire 1984, 2nd Ed. 1989 p. 495

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 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 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 Jesus was 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 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.”[19] Acts 4:19–20 NIV


According to Helen Catharine Bond, there may be some references to Caiaphas in the rabbinic literature.[20] For a discussion of Tosefta Yevamot 1.10 and other possible rabbinic references, see Bond, Caiaphas, p. 164, n. 3.


The Babylonian Talmud (Yevamot 15B) gives the family name as Kuppai, while the 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.[21] Falk, Harvey Jesus the Pharisee: a new look at the Jewishness of Jesus, 1985. p 137

The name 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

3.0 Easton’s Bible Dictionary[22]

Caiaphas the Jewish high priest (A.D. 27-36) at the beginning of our Lord’s public ministry, in the reign of Tiberius ( Luke 3:2 ), and also at the time of his condemnation and crucifixion ( Matthew 26:3 Matthew 26:57 ; John 11:49 ; John 18:13 John 18:14 ). He held this office during the whole of Pilate’s administration.

His wife was the daughter of Annas, 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” ( John 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 ( Matthew 27:2 ; John 18:28 ). At a later period his hostility to the gospel is still manifest ( Acts 4:6 ). (See ANNAS .)

4.0 International Standard Bible Encyclopedia[23]C. M. Kerr |

CAIAPHAS ka’-a-fas, ki’-a-fas (Kaiaphas; Caiaphas = Kephas (compare Dods in Expositor’s Greek Test, I, 803), and has also been interpreted as meaning “depression”):

Caiaphas was the surname of Joseph, a son-in-law of Annas (compare John 18:13), who filled the post of high priest from about 18-36 AD, when he was deposed by Vitellius (compare Josephus, Ant, XVIII, ii, 2; iv, 3). He is mentioned by Luke as holding office at the time of John the Baptist’s preaching in the wilderness (Luke 3:2).

Caiaphas took a leading part in the trial and condemnation of Jesus. It was in his court or palace that the chief priests (Sadducees) and Pharisees, who together constituted the Sanhedrin, assembled “that they might take Jesus by subtlety, and kill him” (compare Matthew 26:3,4; John 11:49). The regal claims of the new Messiah and the growing fame of His works had made them to dread both the vengeance of imperial Rome upon their nation, and the loss of their own personal authority and prestige (compare John 11:48).

But Caiaphas pointed a way out of their dilemma:

let them bide their time till the momentary enthusiasm of the populace was spent (compare Matthew 26:5), and then by the single sacrifice of Jesus they could at once get rid of a dangerous rival and propitiate the frowns of Rome (compare John 11:49,50; 18:14).

The commentary of John upon this (John 11:51,52) indicates how the death of Jesus was indeed to prove a blessing not only for Israel but also for all the children of God; but not in the manner which the cold-blooded statecraft of Caiaphas intended.

The advice of the high priest was accepted by the Sanhedrin (John 11:53), and they succeeded in arresting Jesus. After being led “to Annas first” (John 18:13), Jesus was conducted thence in bonds to Caiaphas (John 18:24), According to Mt He was led immediately upon His arrest to Caiaphas (Matthew 26:57). Mr and Lu do not refer to Caiaphas by name.

His conduct at this preliminary trial of Jesus (Matthew 26:57-68), its time and its procedure, were almost entirely illegal from the standpoint of then existing Jewish law (compare JESUS CHRIST, THE ARREST AND TRIAL OF; and A. Taylor Innes, The Trial of Jesus Christ).

False witnesses were first called, and when Jesus refused to reply to their charges, Caiaphas asked of Him if He were “the Christ, the Son of God ” (Matthew 26:63). Upon our Lord’s answering “Thou hast said” (Matthew 26:64), Caiaphas “rent his garments, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy: what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard the blasphemy” (Matthew 26:65). Upon this charge was Jesus found “worthy of death” (Matthew 26:66). Caiaphas is also mentioned in Acts 4:6 as being among those who presided over the trial of Peter and John.



Remains of Caiaphas Found: In 1990, archaeologist Zvi Greenhut entered a burial cave in Jerusalem’s Peace Forest that was discovered during construction work. Inside were 12 ossuaries, or limestone boxes, which were used to hold the bones of deceased people. A family member would go to the tomb about a year after death, when the body had decomposed, gather the dry bones and put them in the ossuary.

One bone box was inscribed “Yehosef bar Kayafa,” which translated to “Joseph, son of Caiaphas.” The ancient Jewish historian Josephus described him as “Joseph, who was also called Caiaphas.” These bones of a 60 year old man were from Caiaphas, the high priest mentioned in the Bible. His and other bones found in the tomb were reburied on the Mount of Olives. The Caiaphas ossuary is now displayed in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.


1.0) Source:

2.0) Source:

3.0) Source:

4.0) Source:

5.0) Source: | Tittle: “A Guide to Key Events, Characters and Themes of the Bible”

Related: Biblical Overviews List of Key Old Testament Characters


1 Sources:,,,, and
2 (By Jack Zavada).
4, 8, 10, 12 Metzger & Coogan Oxford Companion to the Bible, 1993. p 97
5 Bond, Caiaphas, pp. 18-19.
6 Bond, Caiaphas, p. 86.
7 Josephus’ source is mentioned in Antiquitates Judaicae 20.224-51 and Against Apion 1.36; see Bond, Caiaphas, p. 163, n. 2.
9 Josephus, Ant., Book 18 Section 26
11 Tomb May Hold the Bones Of Priest Who Judged Jesus
13, 14 James H. Charlesworth, Jesus and archaeology, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2006. pp 323-329
15 Bond, Helen Katharine (2004). Caiaphas: friend of Rome and judge of Jesus?. Westminster/John Knox Press. pp. 4–8. ISBN 978-0-664-22332-8.
16 CNN Wire Staff (2011-06-30). “Israeli authorities: 2,000-year-old burial box is the real deal”. CNN. Retrieved 2011-08-26.
17 Vanderkam, From Josephus to Caiphas, p. 426
18 e.g. Johann Nepomuk Sepp; Claude-Joseph Drioux; Whittaker, H.A. Studies in the Gospels, Biblia Staffordshire 1984, 2nd Ed. 1989 p. 495
19 Acts 4:19–20 NIV
20 For a discussion of Tosefta Yevamot 1.10 and other possible rabbinic references, see Bond, Caiaphas, p. 164, n. 3.
21 Falk, Harvey Jesus the Pharisee: a new look at the Jewishness of Jesus, 1985. p 137
23 C. M. Kerr |

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