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February 27    Scripture

Ancient Israel: High Priests
Jewish High Priests in ancient Israel.

Alexander the Great Bows to the Jewish High Priest It is a fascinating and worthwhile study to understand this ancient time period and its high priests. According to the Bible the high priest was the most important man in the world, for he represented the nation before God, and God before the nation. Unfortunately there were times when the priesthood became corrupt and blinded to its original intent. There were no doubt high priests in Israel’s history who sought after God. Every high priest has a story and the history of the intertestamental period is packed with adventures. One interesting story is related in the Talmud concerning Simon the Just: The Talmud relates that when Alexander the Great and his conquering legions advanced upon Jerusalem, they were met by a delegation of elders, led by the High Priest Shimon Ha Tzaddik (Simon the Righteous). When Alexander saw Shimon approaching, he dismounted and prostrated himself before the Jewish Sage. To his astonished men, Alexander explained that each time he went into battle, he would see a vision in the likeness of this High Priest leading the Greek troops to victory. In gratitude, and out of profound respect for the spiritual power of the Jews, Alexander was a kind and generous ruler. He canceled the Jewish taxes during Sabbatical years, and even offered animals to be sacrificed on his behalf in the Temple. Unfortunately, history would prove that Alexander's heirs failed to sustain his benevolence.

Annas the High Priest Annas, who’s name means "The grace of Jehovah" was the son of Seth and appointed high priest of the Jews in 6 A.D in his 37th year. He was high priest from 6 to 15 A.D. but as long as he lived he was the virtual head of the priestly party in Jerusalem. He was chosen to the high priesthood by Quirinius, the imperial governor of Syria; obliged to give way to Ismael by Valerius Gratus, procurator of Judaea, in the beginning of Tiberius' reign, 14 A.D. Eleazar, the son of Annas, followed Ismael; then Simon; then Joseph Caiaphas, son-in-law of Annas (John 18:13). In the time of Christ high priests were appointed and removed at the command of the Roman governors. Although removed from office, Annas' power and influence was so great that five of his sons, as well as his son-in-law Caiaphas and his grandson Matthias, also became high priests. Years afterward he lost the high priesthood, but even then he was popularly considered as still in office and was called "high priest"; even after Pentecost his name appears first in the list of priestly leaders: Acts 4:5-7 "And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes, as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. " In John 18:19, 22 the high priest is undoubtedly Annas, although in vs. 13 and 24 Caiaphas is mentioned as the high priest. Annas is referred to in connection with the beginning of John the Baptist's ministry, which took place "in the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas" (Luke 3:2 ), as though father and son-in-law were joint holders of the office. It seems clear that due to his ability and force of character he was virtually high priest, although Caiaphas had the title. When Jesus was arrested, He was first brought before Annas (John 18:13). It was apparently Annas who questioned Him about His disciples and His teaching, and who gave orders to one of the officers standing by to strike Jesus with his hand (18:19-22). After the questioning, he sent Jesus "bound" to Caiaphas. John 18:19-24 "The high priest then asked Jesus about His disciples and His doctrine. Jesus answered him, "I spoke openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where the Jews always meet, and in secret I have said nothing. Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me what I said to them. Indeed they know what I said." And when He had said these things, one of the officers who stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, "Do You answer the high priest like that?" Jesus answered him, "If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why do you strike Me?" Then Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest." He was undoubtedly the ruling voice in the council that condemned Jesus, although nothing is said about his part in the proceedings that followed the preliminary questioning. He was present at the meeting of the Sanhedrin before which Peter and John defended themselves for preaching the Gospel of the Resurrection (Acts 4:6). Annas is called "high priest," Caiaphas, John, and Alexander are called "of his kindred." He lived to old age, and he had five sons apointed as high priests. Also see Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews, XVI11. ii. 1, 2; XX. ix. 1

Brief History from Alexander the Great to Herod Alfred Edersheim. The political connection of the Grecian world, and, with it, the conflict with Hellenism, may be said to have connected with the victoriuos progress of Alexander the Great through the then known world (333 B..C.). [1 We do not here discuss the question, whether or not Alexander really entered Jersalem. Jewish legend has much to tell of him, and reports many supposed inquiries on his part or discussions betweem him and the Rabbis, that prove at least the deep impression which his appearance had made, and the permanent results which followed from it.] It was not only that his destruction of the Persian empire put end to the easy and peaceful allegiance which Judaea had owned to it for about two centuries, but that the establishment of such a vast Hellenic empire. as was the aim of Alexander, introduced a new element into the world of Asia. Everywhere the old civilisationgave way before the new. So early as the commencement of the second century before Christ, Palestine was already surrounded, north, east, and west, with a girdle of Hellenic cities, while in the interior of the land itself Grecianism had its foothold in Galilee and was dominant in Samaria. But this is not all. After continuing the frequent object of contention between the rulers of Egypt and Syria, Palestine ultimately passed from Egyptian to Syrian domination during the reign of Seleucus IV. (187-175 B.C.). His successor was that Antiochus IV., Epiphanes (175-164), whose reckless determination to exterminate Judaism, and in its placeto substitute Hellenism, led to the Maccabean rising. Mad as this attempt seems,it could scarcely have been made had there not been in Palestine itself a party to favour his plans. In truth, Grecianism, inits worst form, had long before made its way, slowly but surely, into the highest quarters. For the proper understanding of this history its progress must be briefly indicated...

Caiaphas the High Priest Caiaphas, who’s name means "searcher" was appointed high priest (after Simon ben Camith) by the procurator Valerius Gratus, under Tiberius, 18 A.D.. He continued in office from A.D. 26 to 37, when the proconsul Vitellius deposed him. He was the president of the Jewish council (Sanhedrim) which condemned the Lord Jesus to death, Caiaphas declaring Him guilty of blasphemy. Caiaphas was the official high priest during the ministry and trial of Jesus (Matt 26:3, 57; Luke 3:2; John 11:49; 18:13, 14, 24, 28; Acts 4:6). It was Caiaphas who, unknowingly, made the incredible prophecy concerning God’s plan of sacrificing Jesus for the sins of the nation and even the whole world: John 11:49-50 And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish." The Romans made sure that they had total control over the all the affairs of Judea, they reserved the right to appoint not only the civil ruler but also the religious leader of the Jews, the high priest. Josephus relates that "Joseph who was also called Caiaphas" was made high priest by the Procurator Valerius Gratus (18 A.D.) and that he was removed by the Procurator Vitellius (36 A.D.). His successor was "Jonathan the son of Ananus," (Annas of the NT) (Antiq. XVIII. ii. 2; iv. 3) . Thus the high-priesthood of Caiaphas lasted some eighteen years, standing in marked contrast to the rapid changes in the office both before and after him. He was shrewd and adaptable enough to appease the Romans. According to John 18:13 he was the son-in-law of Annas, who had been deposed as high priest in A.D. 15 by Valerius Gratus. Neither Caiaphas nor his father-in-law is named in the gospel of Mark. John 18:13 "And they led Him away to Annas first, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas who was high priest that year." Caiaphas is first mentioned in the New Testament in the Gospel of Luke at the beginning of John the Baptist's ministry: Luke 3:1-3 "Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, while Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.." It is interesting that Luke phrases his statement, "Annas and Caiaphas were high priests" (sing.) The expression indicates an abnormality. Conservative scholars hold that it fittingly reflects the real situation. As high priest and head of a powerful family, Annas continued to exercise great influence through his son-in-law Caiaphas who was the official high priest. The fact that Annas did continue to exert great influence after he was removed seems evident from the fact that he was able to obtain appointment to the office for five of his sons. After Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, the Sanhedrin met to discuss what to do about Jesus and ultimately plotted Jesus’ death: John 11:47-54 "Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, "What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation." And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish." Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad. Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death." The proposal of Caiaphas was accepted by the Sanhedrin. John remarks that the words of Caiaphas were prophetic; they had a higher meaning than he realized. The suggestion to sacrifice Jesus to save the nation expressed the mystery of God's plan of salvation for all men through Christ's death. When Jesus was first arrested He was first taken to Annas who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year" (John 18:13) John 18:19-24 "The high priest then asked Jesus about His disciples and His doctrine. Jesus answered him, "I spoke openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where the Jews always meet, and in secret I have said nothing. Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me what I said to them. Indeed they know what I said." And when He had said these things, one of the officers who stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, "Do You answer the high priest like that?" Jesus answered him, "If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why do you strike Me?" Then Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest." Next Jesus was taken "bound to Caiaphas the high priest." John's gospel does not recount the night trial before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin, but it is found in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark (cf. Matt 26:57-68; Mark 14:53-65): Matt 26:57-68 And those who had laid hold of Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. But Peter followed Him at a distance to the high priest's courtyard. And he went in and sat with the servants to see the end. Now the chief priests, the elders, and all the council sought false testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none. Even though many false witnesses came forward, they found none. But at last two false witnesses came forward and said, "This fellow said, 'I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.' " And the high priest arose and said to Him, "Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?" But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, "I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!" Jesus said to him, "It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven." Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, "He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy! What do you think?" They answered and said, "He is deserving of death." Then they spat in His face and beat Him; and others struck Him with the palms of their hands, saying, "Prophesy to us, Christ! Who is the one who struck You?" Ultimately in the morning they handed Jesus over to Pontius Pilate the Roman governor: Matt 27:1-2 "When morning came, all the chief priests and elders of the people plotted against Jesus to put Him to death. And when they had bound Him, they led Him away and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate the governor." As a Sadducee and opposed to the teaching of the resurrection, Caiaphas took a leading part in the persecution of the Early Church. The final appearance of Caiaphas in the New Testament was in Acts 4:6 he is named second among the Sadducean leaders who assembled to try Peter and John: Acts 4:5-12 "And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes, as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, "By what power or by what name have you done this?" Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the 'stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.' Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." Caiaphas is no doubt that same "high priest" mentioned in Acts 5:17-21, 27; 7:1; 9:1 as the bitter persecutor of the Christians. Acts 5:17-18 "Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation, and laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison."

High Priests of New Testament Times High Priests, Introduction , List of High Priests, Leaders of Jerusalem , Annas the High Priest , Caiaphas the High Priest , Jesus Presented to Them, From Alexander to Herod, Encyclopedias , Dictionaries , Index, Conclusion

Introduction to the High Priests of Ancient Israel BKA 121 - The Jewish High Priest's During the Time of Jesus. This Bible Knowledge Accelerator program contains a very brief overview of the history of the high priesthood through New Testament times.

Jesus Before Annas and Caiaphas Alfred Edersheim. IT was not a long way that they led the bound Christ. Probably through the same gate by which He had gone forth with His disciples after the Paschal Supper, up to where, on the slope between the Upper City and the Tyropoeon, stood the well-known Palace of Annas. There were no idle saunterers in the streets of Jerusalem at that late hour, and the tramp of the Roman guard must have been too often heard to startle sleepers, or to lead to the inquiry why that glare of lamps and torches. and Who was the Prisoner, guarded on that holy night by both Roman soldiers and servants of the High-Priest...

List of High Priests in Ancient Israel The Jewish High Priests from 200 BC to the Reign of Herod the Great
1. Simon II the Just, 220-190 B.C.
2. Onias III, 190-174 B.C.
3. Jason/Jeshua,175-172 B.C.
4. Menelaus, 172-162 B.C.
5. Alcimus, 162-156 B.C.
6. Jonathan, 153-142 B.C.
7. Simon, 142-135 B.C.
8. John Hyrcanus I, 134-104 B.C.
9. Aristobulus I, 104-103 B.C.
10. Alexander Jannaeus, 103-76 B.C.
11. Hyrcanus II, 76-67 B.C.
12. Aristobulus II, 67-63 B.C.
13. Hyrcanus II, 63-40 B.C.
14. Antigonus, 40-37 B.C.
The Jewish High Priests from Herod the Great to the Destruction of Jerusalem
15. Ananel, 37-36 B.C. (Appointed by Herod the Great)
16. Aristobulus III, 35 B.C.
17. Jesus, son of Phiabi, ? -22 B.C.
18. Simon, son of Boethus, 22-5 B.C.
19. Matthias, son of Theophilus, 5-4 B.C.
20. Joseph, son of Elam, 5 B.C.
21. Joezer, son of Boethus, 4 B.C.
22. Eleazar, son of Boethus, 4-1 B.C. - (Appointed by Herod Archelaus)
23. Jesus, son of Sie, 1 - 6 A.D.
24. Annas, 6-15 A.D. (Appointed by Quirinius)
25. Ishmael, son of Phiabi I, 15-16 A.D. (Appointed by Valerius Gratus)
26. Eleazar, son of Annas, 16-17 A.D.
27. Simon, son of Kamithos, 17-18 A.D.
28. Joseph Caiaphas, 18-37 AD.
29. Jonathan, son of Annas, 37 A.D. (Appointed by Vitellius)
30. Theophilus, son of Annas, 37-41 A.D.
31. Simon Kantheras, son of Boethus, 41-43 A.D. (Appointed by Herod Agrippa I)
32. Matthias, son of Annas, 43-44 A.D.
33. Elionaius, son of Kantheras, 44-45 A.D.
34. Joseph, son of Kami, 45-47 A.D. (Appointed by Herod of Chalcis)
35. Ananias, son of Nebedaius, 47-55 A.D.
36. Ishmael, son of Phiabi III, 55-61 A.D. (Appointed by Herod Agrippa II)
37. Joseph Qabi, son of Simon, 61-62 A.D.
38. Ananus, son of Ananus, 62 A.D.
39. Jesus, son of Damnaius, 62-65 A.D.
40. Joshua, son of Gamal iel, 63-65 A.D.
41. Matthias, son of Theophilus, 65-67 A.D.
42. Phinnias, son of Samuel, 67-70 A.D. (Appointed by The People)

Shammai and Hillel In the period before 70 A.D. most of the training was centered in the ‘schools' of Shammai and Hillel. After 70 A.D. that of Hillel had a dominant position. Shammai is usually thought to have been more conservative and Hillel more liberal. Hillel came from Babylon to Jerusalem as an adult, while Shammai spent his whole life in Judea. Otherwise very little is known about them and their work. Many of their apparent views come from accounts by their followers from the time after 70 A.D. and it is far from certain that these are always authentic. In Pirqe Aboth (m.Aboth I,II) Shammai and Hillel are the fifth and most famous pair of those who handed down oral teaching from the time of Moses to their own day.

The Duties of the High Priest in the New Testament As in ancient times, the high priest was the head of the priesthood. After the time of Herod the Great the high priest was no longer the political leader of the people. However, he did remain president of the Sanhedrin. This function, and the fact that the high priest was always chosen from one of the leading aristocratic families in Jerusalem, meant that he still had some influence in the political sphere. As had been customary from Persian times, the high priest was nominated by the foreign power in control, in this period the Romans. The most well-known high priest in the time of Jesus was Joseph surnamed Caiaphas, who held this office from about 18 to 37 A.D. The high priest was supported by the priests who from Persian times had been divided up into twenty-four courses. Each of these courses served in the temple for one week (from Sabbath to Sabbath). Thus Zachariah belonged to the course of Abijah (Luke 1.5; cf. I Chron.24.10). Each of the courses was in turn divided into ‘father's houses’, each of which did service in the temple on a particular day. The leadership of these courses and ‘father’s houses' was in the hands of some prominent families in Jerusalem. Members of these priestly families benefited greatly from the offerings brought to the temple. The priests of a lower grade usually lived in the country and had to earn a living, generally by working some kind of a craft.

The Duties of the Priests in the New Testament The main task of the priests was to offer sacrifices in the temple. They were helped by the Levites, who apparently also served as singers and musicians in the temple.

The Paradox of the Priesthood Heart Message. The priesthood under Annas and Caiphas was part of the fullness of times (Gal. 4.4) and it's pride, power and false piety reached complete fruition in their phony trial of the Son of God. Yet what they meant for evil, God the Father meant for good. The high priest tore his garments and fulfilled the calling of his office, as the Aaronic priesthood functioned for the last time in offering up the Sacrifice that would end all offerings. Caiphas, declared by the Holy Spirit the great intercession that one man should die for the nation. Christ was then made the scapegoat, and carried sin outside the city gates. The blemishless Passover Lamb was placed on the altar of the cross and His precious blood was shed, that the spirit of death would pass over all who spiritually placed that blood on the doorpost of their own hearts. Sunday morning, on the feast of Firstfruits, Christ became the Firstfruits back from the dead in the most stunning defeat of evil ever accomplished. The veil in the in the temple was rent from top to bottom, declaring that God would no longer be restricted to the temple and priestly system that He Himself instituted through Moses and Aaron. From now on, the temple of God would be the bodies of those who accept this once for all Sacrifice and the most holy place would be their hearts where He would intimately commune with them. The condemning power of the law was replaced by grace and truth that would be administered by a new priesthood handed to all believers, the very common folk that Annas and Caiphas despised. Christ the true High Priest, according to a new order, would make true intercession in compassion, rather than judgment, as God always intended. God actuated His redemptive plan for Israel and the world through His priesthood that day in Jerusalem, shining His grace and true love for all of mankind - including the priests and all the religious leaders who conspired against Him.

The Scribes and Rabbis in the New Testament One important group at this time was that of the sopherim. The sopher (originally scribe) was the man of the book, the scholar whose task it was to expound and study the message of God. The scribes are mentioned in an earlier period (cf. Neh.8.2; Sirach 38.24-39.14), but only in the first century A.D. do they come into prominence especially after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. In the time of Jesus the scribes still formed a group distinct from the Pharisees, though there was a great kinship between the two. Many scribes were also Pharisees, but not all of them. After 70 A.D. the scribes and the Pharisees formed the group of rabbis.

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