Caiaphas

Joseph, surnamed Caiaphas: the Jewish high priest between 18 and 37 CE, best known for his role during the trial of Jesus of Nazareth. The name Caiaphas is Greek and renders the Aramaean Qayyapâ or Qapâ'; his real name was Joseph.

Nothing is known about Caiaphas' early career, but we can assume that he was a member of a wealthy family, because he married a daughter of the high priest who is called Annas, Ananus or Chanan (6-15 CE). Even when he was no longer in function, he was extremely influential. According to the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, five of his sons were high priest;note we may add his son-in-law.

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. It is possible that Caiaphas was a member of the embassy that went to Rome in 17 to discuss fiscal matters.note

In 18, the Roman governor Valerius Gratus appointed Caiaphas as high priest in Jerusalem. The two men must have had an excellent working relation, because Caiaphas remained in office exceptionally long. Gratus' successor Pontius Pilate retained the high priest in office.

As high priest, Caiaphas was chairman of the high court (Sanhedrin). After the Temple guard had arrested Jesus of Nazareth, Caiaphas organized a hearing and accused him of blasphemy. Because Jesus could not (or refused to) refute the accusation, the high priest handed him over to the Roman authorities, who found him guilty of treason (i.e., claiming to be king of the Jews).

In December 36, Pilate's career in Judaea came to an end (more). The governor of Syria, Lucius Vitellius, intervened in the Jewish affairs during the Passover festival of 37 and removed Caiaphas from office. The man who had ruled the longest of the nineteen high priests of the first century CE, was succeeded by his brother-in-law Jonathan, a son of Annas.

Caiaphas' family tomb has been excavated by archaeologists in November 1990. They contained the bones of a man of about 60 years old, a woman, two children and two infants. When the researches were finished, the bones were reburied.

It is possible that Elionaeus, who was appointed high priest by king Herod Agrippa (c.44), was a son of Caiaphas.

This page was created in 2002; last modified on 30 July 2015.