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Unger's Bible Dictionary - Caiaphas



CA'IAPHAS (ka'ya-fas). A surname, the original name being Joseph (Josephus Ant. 18.2.2); but, the surname becoming his ordinary and official designation, it was used for the name itself. Caiaphas was the high priest of the Jews in the reign of Tiberius Caesar, at the beginning of the Lord's public ministry (Luke 3:2) and also at the time of His condemnation and crucifixion (Matt 26:3,57; etc.). He was appointed to this dignity through the curator Valerius Gratus (probably A.U.C. 770-88 or 789, Meyer, Com., on Luke) and held it during the whole procuratorship of Pontius Pilate, but was deposed by the proconsul Vitellus, A.D. about 38. Caiaphas was the son-in-law of Annas, with whom he is coupled by Luke (see below). His wife was the daughter of Annas, or Ananus, who had formerly been high priest and who still possessed great influence and control in sacerdotal matters.

After the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead Caiaphas advocated putting Jesus to death. His language on this occasion was prophetic, though not so designed: "You know nothing at all, nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish" (John 11:49-50). After Christ was arrested He was taken before Annas, who sent Him to Caiaphas, probably living in the same house. An effort was made to produce false testimony sufficient for His condemnation. This expedient failed; for, though two persons appeared to testify, they did not agree, and at last Caiaphas put our Savior Himself upon oath that He should say whether He was indeed the Christ, the Son of God, or not. The answer was, of course, in the affirmative, and was accompanied with a declaration of His divine power and majesty. The high priest pretended to be greatly grieved at what he considered our Savior's blasphemous pretensions, and appealed to His enraged enemies to say if this was not enough. They answered at once that He deserved to die, but, as Caiaphas had no power to inflict the punishment of death, Christ was taken to Pilate, the Roman governor, that His execution might be duly ordered (Matt 26:3,57; John 18:13,28). The bigoted fury of Caiaphas exhibited itself also against the first efforts of the apostles (Acts 4:6-21). What became of Caiaphas after his deposition is not known.

The expression in Luke 3:2, "In the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas," has led some to maintain that Annas and Caiaphas then discharged the functions of the high priesthood by turns; but this is not reconcilable with the statement of Josephus. Others think that Caiaphas is called high priest because he then actually exercised the functions of the office, and that Annas is so called because he formerly filled the position. But it does not thus appear why, of those who held the priesthood before Caiaphas, Annas in particular should be named, and not others who had served the office more recently than Annas. Meyer (Com., ad loc.) says: "Annas retained withal very weighty influence (John 18:12, sq.), so that not only did he continue to be called by the name, but, moreover, he also partially discharged the functions of high priest." Edersheim (life and Times of Jesus, 1:264): "The conjunction of the two names of Annas and Caiaphas probably indicates that, although Annas was deprived of the pontificate, he still continued to preside over the Sanhedrin" (cf. Acts 4:6).


BIBLIOGRAPHY: F. F. Bruce, Commentary on the Book of Acts, New International Commentary on the New Testament (1954), pp. 97-98; W. Hendricksen, Gospel of John, New Testament Commentary (1954), 2:162-65, 384-98; C. J. Barber, Searching for Identity (1975), pp. 108-19; C. K. Barrett, Gospel According to John (1978), pp. 404 ff., 483-92, 515-51.

(From The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)

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