Caiaphas the High Priest
Jewish Spiritual Leaders in Jerusalem
Caiaphas, whoís 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 Godís
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
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
(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
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 Jesusí 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
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."
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